How to Pack a Bug-Out Bag Like an Expert Survivalist

When chaos ensues, the last thing you want to worry about is whether your bug-out bag is ready to roll. By taking a little time to ensure you packed your bag correctly, you can save yourself from having to unpack and pack every time you need something out of it.

But how do you pack a bug-out bag properly?

Your bug-out bag should allow for quick access to essential items. Ensure the bag is compressed as much as possible and leave room for things you can collect along the way – don’t overpack! Keep the heavier items closest to the spine and balanced throughout the bag.

There are many things to consider for packing and keeping your bug-out bag up to date. In the article below, we will cover how to find the right bag, how you should pack it, and what you should have in it at all times! Additionally, we will go over some tips that can help you get your set up in the right place.

Choosing the Right Bag for You

Many of these tips will be useless if you don’t have a bag to handle them. Your bug-out bag is your lifeline in a crisis and the foundation of your setup. So, choosing the right bag for you is a critical first step. Below are some things you should pay attention to when shopping for your next B.O.B.

Size Matters

Your B.O.B. should be big, but not too big! Anything less may not be big enough to fit all of your stuff, and anything more could be unnecessary weight. Typically, a good-sized bag will be right in the 45-55 liter range. Additionally, if your load is over the 35L range, it should always include a hip strap for support.

Pick the Right Colors

Contrary to popular belief, camo may not be the best color for your bag. The color of your B.O.B. should blend in with whatever your surroundings are. This means avoiding bright colors or colors that would look out of place.


One of the biggest pain points with B.O.B.’s is effortlessly accessing the items within it. A front loader bag is excellent for accessing the entirety of your pack but may not be suitable for you. There are top loader bags that come equipped with side zippers. These can be an excellent option for compressing your stuff down but still getting to them without ripping everything apart. Make sure the option you choose is the most convenient and functional for you.


An ideal pack will have a variety of compartments. Look for one with a mix of larger main compartments, smaller exterior compartments, and small pockets in the bag’s interior. This will simplify the packing process and be more convenient when retrieving items from the pack.

Look for Quality

There are plenty of stores and online markets to buy bags at a discounted rate. But when you are relying on your B.O.B. to survive, will you appreciate the top quality you invested in or the money you saved on a bargain bag?

Finding something well made, durable, and convenient will give you a little peace of mind when the time comes to shoulder it. It can also save you money in the long run by not having to buy a new one when your cheaper, poorly made bag malfunctions.

ALWAYS choose quality when purchasing gear you will depend on. If you don’t have the funds to purchase a good-quality bag that is brand new, consider finding one that is gently used. This will serve you better than a brand new bag of poor quality.

Proper Fit

When SHTF, your B.O.B. will likely be on your shoulders for extended periods. If your bag is not the right size for you, it can cause extreme discomfort and even injury. It is recommended that you go to a store and get measured to see what size packs fit correctly.

This will give you the ability to test a few bags out and take them for a walk around. Even if you plan to buy online, doing this first will give you an idea of what brand, size, and style of bag will work before placing an order.

Organizing Your Bug Out Bag

When it comes to organizing your B.O.B., everybody is different. But there is a good standard to follow for making sure your weight is distributed evenly, gear is easy to access, and you have everything you need to survive at your fingertips.


The best way to keep all of your things organized is by breaking them out into containers. The goal is to save weight, so the containers you choose should reflect that. Additionally, you want to ensure that your containers are waterproof or, at the minimum, water-resistant. Not all containers are created equal, and there are things to consider before purchasing them.

A good pro tip is to choose transparent containers that you can see through. This will help you clearly identify what you are looking for and save you a lot of time. It is also good if they are durable and puncture-proof!

Main Compartments

The main compartment of your B.O.B. will be the largest one or two sections of the pack. This is where you will keep the majority of your stuff. You will need to prioritize your items before packing them into this section.

Back to prioritization, your most essential items should be the easiest to access, whether at the top for a top-loaded bag or on the side for a side zip. You should be familiar enough with your pack to determine placing your top priority gear in convenient locations. Generally speaking, your main compartment will store things like tents, sleeping systems, large containers, food, water, and any of the other heavier objects.

Outside Pouches

After extensive research on what others prefer to do with their outside pouches, two suggestions pop up continuously.

The first suggestion was to keep items you will frequently be getting out and putting away in your outside pouches. In addition to that, it is also intelligent to keep items that you will need to have quick access to. This refers to things like:

Think of the things you believe will be used the most or need to be accessed in a hurry!

The second suggestion is to consider each pocket as its own bug-out bag. Would you have the bare essentials needed to survive if you separate that one pouch from the rest of your gear? You can do this by breaking your stuff out into smaller storage or freezer bags. Each bag should hold the minimum you need to keep yourself alive if it’s all you have. It is good to ensure these items are stored in a waterproof bag to prevent damage.

What Should You Have In a Bug Out Bag?

Everyone is different, and everyone’s B.O.B will contain their own personalized touch. However, some items should never be left out! Generally, your bug-out bag should have everything you need to sustain yourself in the event of a crisis.

  • Multi-purpose tools and knives
  • Water filtration and purification tablets
  • Three day supply of food and water
  • Cooking tools and utensils
  • Water bottle
  • Self-defense and hunting weapons
  • Fishing gear
  • First Aid kit
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Tarp or poncho
  • Transparent containers
  • Flashlight
  • Space Blanket
  • Map
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Cash
  • Handbooks on survival
  • And much more

We could go on and on with the items you need or require for your B.O.B. The most important thing to remember is to keep things that YOU will need to survive. What works for one does not work for all!

Bug Out Bag Packing Tips

Through trial and error and deep research on the topic of survival bags, there are a few pro tips that can help with the packing and maintenance of your B.O.B.

Rotating Food and Water

A crucial consideration for your B.O.B. is to ensure supplies are rotated upon expiring. You don’t want to be on the move only to find all your food or medical supplies expired three years ago. Bottled water is typically good for three years, and you will need to rotate medical supplies often! There are plenty of resources online for choosing food with a long shelf life.

Choose Quality over Quantity

We have mentioned this earlier in the article, but it cannot be stressed enough! If you buy low-quality gear, you will get low-quality performance. With a bit of investment, you can feel confident that your kit is ready for whatever comes your way.

Another important tip is to avoid throwing money at every survival gadget and tool you come across. There is a lot of junk you can accumulate, and typically, a good quality, the multi-purpose tool will have all the functionality you need compared to a cheaply made one-trick pony!

Keep Backups

Want to know something better to have than a B.O.B. in an emergency?

Multiple bug-out bags!

There are many benefits to keeping more than one bag, and it is ideal if you can swing it. The most significant consideration is that we don’t know what “emergency” is coming. If you need to escape your home in a hurry, having B.O.B.’s in separate locations of your house will ensure that you can access one quickly on your way out.

Another benefit of multiple packs is that you can customize each one for different situations. Additionally, if you have others to support on your way to a bug-out location, you can equip each with their own separate bag. We can go on and on with the perks of having additional setups, but you get the point!

Test Your Setup

Take the guesswork out of the equation and test your setup. An emergency is not the time to learn how your bag works or if you placed things in the proper locations. Go on some extended camping or hiking trips. Do some drills to find out what is working and what isn’t!

Always Be Prepared

You should have all the information you need to create an excellent setup for your bug-out bag. Now it is time to get to work on building it! Ensuring that your B.O.B. is not only filled with the correct items but packed the right way will save you a lot of heartaches when it comes time to grab your pack and hit the road!