Putting together a bug out bag is one of the first and most important steps any prepper should take. A good hard-wearing pack filled with essential supplies can be the difference between life and death if you have to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
We checked out some of the most popular bug out bags available to cut through the hype and find out what’s real and what isn’t. Keep reading to see our picks for the top ten best bug out bags you can find.
1. 5.11 Tactical RUSH24 – 37 Liter
The 5.11 Tactical RUSH24 is rugged, reliable, and optimized for tactical carry. The design was based on some of the best military bags out there to give you maximum performance without impacting your ability to move and fight if necessary.
Why we like it: The RUSH24 features some of the best tactical features available but doesn’t scream military backpack. It gives you the best of both worlds with excellent functionality and a covert appearance.
Flaws: With so much MOLLE compatible strapping on the body it can be really tempting to load it down with accessory pouches and gear. This is great from a capacity perspective but defeats the purpose of its covert design.
2. Osprey Stratos 34 – 34 Liter
The Osprey Stratos 34 is a mid-sized hiking pack designed for overnight use. That makes it just about the perfect size for a dedicated bug out bag. It includes some excellent storage and comfort features that let you carry a heavier load more comfortably.
Why we like it: The Stratos 34 is first and foremost a hiking bag and a really good one at that. Its design is focused on comfort and offers some of the best ergonomics available for a pack of this capacity.
Flaws: As a hiking first pack it offers zero tactical features. You can certainly store weapons and magazines inside it, but it doesn’t have any MOLLE compatibility or other features.
3. Goruck GR1 – 26 Liter
The Goruck GR1 is a covert tactical pack built to be fully functional as both a day pack or a tactical rucksack. It looks like a standard urban laptop backpack but includes features such as MOLLE webbing, a flatpack access design, and a material build that makes it extremely durable.
Why we like it: The GR1 combines some of the best features of EDC ready covert packs with those of heavy-duty rucksacks. It’s basically bombproof and includes excellent tactical features yet wouldn’t look out of place in a board meeting.
Flaws: One word: Price. The GR1 is significantly more expensive than comparably sized packs. It’s definitely a high-end product, but not everyone is willing to drop that much cash on a bug out bag.
4. Helikon-Tex Bail Out Bag aka BOB Backpack – 25 Liter
The Helikon-Tex Bail Out Bag was built by tactical operators, for tactical operators. It offers a truly astounding list of unique features that make it eminently suitable as a bug out bag. These include a fold-out design that allows you to use it within your vehicle as an organizational tool for magazines and other essential gear.
Why we like it: The BOB Backpack looks like your standard urban daypack yet offers excellent tactical functionality. It has integrated storage for magazines, backup weapons, and all the supplies you need to survive.
Flaws: Helikon-Tex is a Polish company, and its products are not manufactured in the U.S.A. If that’s important to you you should consider another bug out bag manufacturer.
5. Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover Sling Pack – 9 Liters
The Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rover is a compact sling pack built to be used by tactical operators and others with exacting needs. It gives you just enough space for the essentials such as an IFAK kit, spare mags, PPE, and a few protein bars or similar high energy density foods.
Why we like it: The Rover is inexpensive and reliable. It’s perfectly sized to stay with you at all times so you always have the basic gear on hand you need to get home or get out.
Flaws: While great as a get home bag and last resort disaster solution, the Rover is just too small to be a full-up bug out bag. You can’t keep a workable shelter or enough food for more than a day or so within.
6. Condor 3 Day Assault Pack – 50 Liters
The Condor 3 Day Assault Pack is a full-up combat rucksack designed for use in dangerous situations. It’s inspired by the current assault packs in use by members of the U.S. Military and includes many of the same features they depend on every day in combat situations.
Why we like it: The 3 Day Assault Pack is the mack daddy of tactical assault rucksacks. It’s got the capacity and organizational tools for a full 3-day load of tactical gear and supplies. If you think you’re going to be moving across hostile terrain and will need the weapons and ammo to handle it this is the bug out bag to carry.
Flaws: They don’t call it an assault pack for nothing. While this is undeniably one of the most functional packs out there, it totally fails on the camouflage side of things. It’s instantly recognizable as a military pack and tells potential bad actors that it’s likely to contain high-value supplies and/or weapons.
7. Maxpedition Condor-II – 23 Liter
Maxpedition has been making backpacks and rucksacks for a long time. The Condor-II is the culmination of their tactical line of bags and features one of the most rugged and ergonomically efficient designs you can find for a tactical bag.
Why we like it: The Condor-II is a beast. Everything about it, from the base materials, to the stitching, to the heavy-duty buckles, are built to last. Even more surprising is how comfortable it is to wear.
Flaws: It looks like a military bag. All the features that give it excellent functionality can also make you stand out from a crowd during an evacuation or other disaster scenario.
8. 5.11 Tactical COVRT18 – 29.5 Liter
The 5.11 Tactical COVRT18 was designed and built to be the ultimate combination of tactical functionality and covert appearance. It does a pretty good job at this, looking a lot like your standard school backpack yet including some really useful features for tactical purposes.
Why we like it: The COVRT18 does it all. It looks like your basic day pack yet has the tactical and organization features preppers crave. These include a hidden pistol pocket, Roll Down Assault Compartment (R.A.C.), and the kind of reinforced design that lets you move rapidly over rough terrain when needed.
Flaws: The lack of a hip belt or other ergonomic features can make it less comfortable to wear under a full load. It offers good padding and wide shoulder straps but it lags behind a few other bags.
9. High Sierra Loop – 33 Liter
The High Sierra Loop is a men’s and women’s backpack designed for every day and day hiking needs. It’s the epitome of the everyday pack and is utterly unremarkable in appearance or style. Despite this, it’s plenty large enough to hold basic gear and a 3 day supply of food and water.
Why we like it: The Loop is comfortable, lightweight, and affordable. It looks like a school or hiking pack and will blend in just about anywhere you find yourself. If you’re more worried about running under the radar than you are overt tactical needs it’s a great option.
Flaws: It’s a basic hiking day pack. It’s large enough to hold a bug out bag’s worth of gear but doesn’t offer any tactical features or advanced organizational help.
10. Quechua Kids Decathlon – 10 Liter
The Quechua Kids Decathlon is a tiny little backpack specifically designed for use by kids. It allows even the littlest members of your family to carry at least some of their essential supplies in the event of a bug out situation.
Why we like it: There aren’t a lot of bags out there sized and fitted for younger children. The Decathlon can be adjusted to fit children from just a few years of age on up to about 10 and is available in the kinds of colors and patterns that will get them excited about wearing it.
Flaws: There are no organizational or enhanced comfort features to speak of. It’s just big enough to hold a bit of food and water plus maybe a few comfort items like a favorite stuffed animal. This is probably fine for a kid’s bag, but we would have liked to see at least a bit more internal organization or a water bottle sleeve on the outside.
What’s new with Bug Out Bags
Who should buy a Bug Out Bag?
While the easy answer is everyone, there are some groups who should put together a bug out bag as soon as possible if they don’t already have one.
People who live in urban areas – It’s an oft-repeated aphorism in the survival and preparedness community that the first step to being prepared is to get out of the city. While it can sound like elitism from rural preppers in ready-made compounds, there’s a pretty big grain of truth in it as well.
It’s undeniable that heavily urbanized areas are more impacted by disasters, disturbances, and disruptions. Throughout history, we’ve seen that there are all kinds of things that can trigger massive riots, disruptions in basic services, and the resultant chaos (1)(2).
It doesn’t even have to be a major disaster. A few breakdowns in the supply chain could prevent food from reaching major cities for days or weeks (3).
The author Alfred Henry Lewis once said that there are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy. Many people live with almost no safety net at all. No food put away, no extra cash on hand. For a lot of people, three days without food for their children is when they reach a breaking point and social niceties go out the window.
When those hungry, desperate people who used to be your neighbors come looking to steal your supplies you want to be hundreds of miles outside the city. A well made and fully loaded bug out bag allows you to do this at a moment’s notice.
People who live in Tornado Alley – Even folks living out in the rural heartland aren’t immune to potential disaster. Tornados can form rapidly and move as fast as 60 mph across the land. In their wake, they leave utter devastation. With internal wind speeds as high as 300 mph, major tornados can rip brick buildings apart and fling cars through the air (4).
If you get word that a tornado is coming it’s time to head into your shelter with your bug out bags. They give you everything you need to survive for days without resupply and can even allow you to evacuate instantly if you’re told that a tornado is heading your way.
People who live in hurricane-prone areas – Hurricanes are some of the most powerful and potentially devastating weather conditions on the planet. Every year hurricanes do more than $50 billion in damage to homes and businesses across the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Even more sobering are the lives lost when people are caught in their path (5).
While sheltering in place is often recommended for minor to moderate hurricanes, evacuation is the only safe option for more powerful ones. Taking the time to gather up essentials and pack your vehicle can put you dangerously close to a fast-moving storm.
A pre packed bug out bag with food, clothing, documents, and cash allows you to leave your house when it’s safest without having to waste time grabbing last minute necessities.
Every serious prepper – It should go without saying, but every serious prepper should have a bug out bag. They’re the basic level of preparedness anyone should have on hand at all times. A good bug out bag can range from a 72-hour kit down to a get home bag.
All your stored food, gear, weapons, and other equipment mean nothing if you have to leave with zero notice. The last thing you want is to be forced to abandon your carefully prepared supplies in the event of a sudden disaster with nothing to show for it. Having a bug out bag ready to go makes sure you have something no matter what happens.
Whatever type or size you choose to go with you’ll have added peace of mind knowing that you’re better prepared than a huge chunk of the population.
How we ranked
We looked at six key factors when putting together our list of the best bug out bags. These were ergonomics and load support, capacity, organization, camouflage/covert design, materials, and affordability.
Ergonomics and load support- Ergonomics in a bug out bag context refers to the features designed to make the load easier to carry. They include some structural things like pack frames, the physical build of the backpack, strap size, contouring, and comfort-enhancing features.
You might think that comfort comes second to capacity or durability but you’d be mistaken. You may need to carry your bug out bag over miles of potentially rough terrain. It needs to fit comfortably and safely against your body to keep you in tip-top shape for rapid movement.
The frame and other load support components of the pack are the first things to look at. You can find both external and internal frame systems. External packs have been around a lot longer and allow you to strap additional gear to the outside. Internal frame packs are located inside the fabric of the pack and provide a closer fit to your body.
For most situations, an internal frame bug out bag is going to be a better choice. It’s lighter, more comfortable, offers a closer and more ergonomic fit, and helps distribute a heavy load much more efficiently.
Straps, contouring, and padding all contribute to how comfortable the pack will feel against your body. Ideally, a bug out bag will have wide, padded straps that help distribute the weight of the load more uniformly across your arms plus a sternum strap, hip belt, and vented backpiece.
The sternum strap keeps the shoulder straps in their proper positions and helps hold your body in a more upright posture. When combined with hip belts it allows you to keep the pack at the optimal position between your shoulders and hips (6).
Capacity – Most packs list storage capacity in either liters or cubic inches. Depending on what kind of bug out bag you’re looking to build you’ll have different capacity requirements.
A get home bag usually contains no more than survival gear like a flashlight, knife, map, basic high-calorie food, and a few other essentials. You can use almost any size bag.
You’ll need a larger pack in the 30 to 40-liter range for a full bug out bag or 72-hour kit. Too much capacity can actually be a bad thing. It’s recommended that you only carry 20% of your body weight in a pack, and 15% would really be even better.
For a 150 pound adult, that means you only have about 30 lbs of gear you can bring with you. Bags larger than 40 liters make it way too likely you’ll overload yourself without meaning too (7).
Organization – Organizational pockets, pouches, and straps allow you to distribute your gear in a way that makes it both more comfortable to carry and easier to access when needed. The last thing you want is a large pack with only a single pocket. It makes it much harder to find what you need easily and to properly distribute the load.
Practice packing your bag a few times. You should always put the heaviest items in the bottom of the bag against your back to keep them close to your center of gravity. Multiple pockets and organizational straps allow you to place every piece of gear for maximum comfort and convenience (8).
Camouflage/Covert design – During a major disaster the best and worst of humanity comes out in equal measure. If you’re moving through potentially hostile territory with your family the last thing you want to do is draw attention to your level of preparedness.
If people know what you have they may try to take it from you in times of hardship. We highly recommend you follow the way of the Gray Man when putting together your bug out bags and gear.
The gray man doesn’t stand out. The gray man wears normal clothes, has a normal haircut, and does his best to blend in with the crowd. It’s as much a mindset as it is strictly a wardrobe and gear change. Effectively embracing the gray man view makes you less likely to be singled out as a target (9).
There are some great MilSpec products out there that provide excellent performance, but they definitely draw the eye. The last thing you want is to be wearing a bug out bag that signals to bad actors “He’s probably got a gun, shoot him first”.
Materials – Bug out bag materials should be durable, lightweight, and tear-resistant. You want to look for military and hiking style bags made out of high denier Cordura nylon and other rugged synthetic fabrics. These offer excellent weight to durability ratios and are usually somewhat water-resistant to boot.
Affordability – As with anything, price is always a consideration. Our list includes both the top of the line bug out bags available and some of the best value options you can find. There are definitely great bug out bags to be had for reasonable prices.
Brands we trust – With bug out bags there are a ton of great brands out there, we chose to highlight just a few. Osprey is one of the premier makers of modern hiking packs and gear. All of their packs are lightweight, ergonomically designed, and incorporate the latest in comfort and load-bearing advances. They aren’t optimized for tactical gear, but they’re great for blending in.
If you want something with a more tactical focus it’s hard to go wrong with 5.11 Tactical. They make a wide variety of police and military gear and garb that performs well under trying conditions. Their packs combine some of the best features of military and recreational hiking tech.
Things to avoid – The biggest thing to avoid with bug out bags is ‘tacti-cool’ features. There’s definitely something to be said for tactical flexibility in an emergency, but features put there just to make a bag look more tactical aren’t useful on a bug out bag. These include things like overzealous MOLLE webbing, overly large and aggressive looking buckles, etc.
With each of these factors in mind, we rated a variety of different packs, backpacks, and rucksacks. The best of these made it onto our list.
Bug out bags combine the benefits of military rucksacks and civilian hiking packs – Purpose-built bug out bags include both the tactical flexibility of military packs and the comfort and style features of hiking packs. This gives you the best of all worlds in terms of functionality, comfort, and covertness.
If you’re forced to bug out with your family you’re going to want to be prepared to defend yourself. Whether that means modern sporting rifles and long guns or concealed weapons depends on your location and situation. A good multi-functional bug out bag includes the features that let you be prepared tactically without drawing unwanted attention.
Bug out bags allow you to evacuate at a moments notice – The whole point of a bug out bag is constant readiness. Taking the time to build a bug out bag means you’re always prepared to spend a minimum of 72 hours outside your home without resupply.
If you receive an emergency evacuation notice you won’t have to spend precious minutes grabbing food and other supplies. You won’t have to try to find that flashlight you know you put somewhere or dig out a sleeping bag for your kid.
Bug out bags provide you with peace of mind and the physical performance that allows you to move and, if necessary, fight at your best.
Bug out bags are one of the best first steps to take in the preparedness journey – FEMA, the CDC, and numerous state governments recommend that all Americans have a 72 kit of basic supplies on hand for them and their families (10). Building a well thought out bug out bag is the minimum preparedness everyone should undertake.
Not only does it mean your family will have basic supplies on hand, but it’s a great learning experience. Putting together a bug out bag means you now know how much food, water, and basic supplies your family needs for a day. It puts you in the mindset of a true prepper and makes it a whole lot more likely you’ll continue on the path.
Once you’ve got that 72 hour kit of supplies put together you’ll know how easy and inexpensive it can be to expand your stockpile of emergency goods.
Bug out bags let you get the whole family in on preparedness – Operational security is paramount in preparedness, but too many preppers exclude members of their own family when making plans. This is especially true when we’re talking about younger children.
A lot of people don’t take their younger children’s capabilities into account when planning their preps. While a small kid may not be able to carry a heavy pack, they want to feel included.
Let them pick out some aspects of the pack they’re going to carry and take their input when filling it up. This lets them know you care about their opinion and gets them in the preparedness mindset early.
If you do have to bug out it’s always to your benefit if your kids are prepared and understand what to do when you tell them it’s time to go.
Q: How to make a bug out bag?
A: Making a bug out bag is actually pretty easy. Sit down with your family and write out all the things you think you’d need to survive for a set period of time, usually 3 days. Factor in caloric and water needs, basic shelter, hygiene products, tools, first aid, clothes, etc. Once you know what your family needs to survive for a period of time you can pick out the proper size bag.
Q: What size bug out bag do I need?
A: The best size bug out bag depends on your size, weight, level of fitness, and how you intend to use it. For the average person, a 25L to 35L pack is ideal. That’s big enough to hold three days worth of food and other supplies without extra space to overload yourself. If you just want a get home back with basic gear you can get away with as little as 10L.
Q: How many bug out bags do I need?
A: Ideally you should have a bug out bag for every member of your family. It can be tempting to try and pack everything for the family into one large pack, but this leaves you vulnerable in several ways. Your family may have to evacuate while you aren’t home. Would your wife or children be able to carry a bag sized for a large man? If everyone has a bug out bag with the essentials everyone is prepared to leave at a moment’t notice.
Q: How much cash should I keep in a bug out bag?
A: This one’s tricky. The best answer is as much as you’re comfortable with. There are few things more useful in a regional disaster than cold hard cash in your hand. We recommend at least $100 in small bills, with as much more as you can. Definitely make sure you conceal your cash reserve. Break it up into multiple packs or at least multiple hidden pockets.
Q: Where to keep a bug out bag?
A: You should always keep bug out bags packed and up to date in an out of the way but easy to access location. Many preppers keep their bug out bags in a closet or hanging on a wall near their front doors. This allows them to literally grab them as they’re running out the door. It also makes it really easy to spot check your bag.
Q: What color bug out bag is best?
A: The best bug out bag colors are ones that won’t draw attention. Think neutral earth tone colors like black or gray plus the kinds of everyday school and work backpack patterns. These cause most people’s eyes to move right over you without noticing you. Definitely avoid camo patterns and other overtly military themes.
Q: How much should my bug out bag weigh?
A: Your bug out bag should be comfortable enough to carry over distance for hours at a time. That’s going to be a different weight for each person depending on their size and level of physical fitness. A hard and fast rule is to never carry more than 20% of your body weight. No matter how athletic you are that’s a recipe for injury (11).
Q: Are bug out bags necessary?
A: Absolutely. Everyone from FEMA to the CDC and local governments recommends that every American keep a basic kit of supplies on hand. For a prepper bug out bags are both your first and last line of defense. They’re there when you need them for a localized disaster or if you have to abandon your home during a major TEOTWAWKI situation (12).
Q: What is the best bug out bag for children?
A: Preppers with younger children should always try to involve them with preps where possible. Picking out a quality bug out bag that’s sized properly for a youth is a great way to do this. It allows them to carry some of their supplies and helps increase the overall gear your family can bring with you.
We recommend the Quechua Kids Decathlon as the best bug out bag for kids.
Q: What is the best non tactical bug out bag?
A: Operational security is one of the most important parts of effective preparedness. Wearing a bug out bag that’s overtly tactical can draw attention that you definitely don’t want in a disaster situation. Thankfully there are some great non tactical bags out there designed for hiking and camping that provide the same levels of performance as military-style rucksacks.
We recommend the Osprey Stratos 34 as the best non tactical bug out bag.
Bug out bags allow you and your family to evacuate with zero notice. They contain the basic supplies you need to stay alive no matter what kind of situation you’re in.
A high-quality bug out bag is durable, comfortable, and offers a mix of tactical and organizational features that make it as easy as possible to cover ground in an emergency.
For Survival At Home’s #1 Bug Out Bag recommendation, click here.
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