Editor’s Note: Those of you from the SF Bay Area may remember the Oakland Hills Fire in 1991. It hit fast and hard. Many people – if not most- got out with little more than the clothes they were wearing. The same thing happens every year with hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Then there are intentional, terrorist acts to consider. Don’t forgo your independence by not building a Bug Out Bag for you and your family.
Your Bug Out Bag (BOB) is likely to be a key player in your survival and emergency preparedness plans. Whether you have a set bug out location in mind, or if you know you just have to hit the road and look for a safe haven, your Bug Out Bag should be all you need for the first few days of your survival journey.
The contents of your bag will obviously help in whatever emergency situation you find yourself in, however you need a suitable bag to actually be your BOB. All the survival tools in the world are no use if you do not have a suitable method of carrying them with you. So what makes an effective bug out bag?
Type and Size
The first step in selecting the right BOB for you is to choose the type and size most suitable for your plans.
A backpack/daypack – most people have some kind of backpack or daypack. Kids may use one for carrying their school books, and you may have one for your gym gear. Any kind of backpack could potentially be a BOB. If you have a tactical backpack then these will provide more space and compartments than a standard bag.
A backpack BOB is most suitable for 1 – 2 people. If you have a larger group then a backpack will not hold enough kit to be effective. However if every member of your group has one, then you have a massive amount of gear being easily carried as you travel to safety.
A duffel bag is bigger than a backpack so provides a lot more space for taking extra kits with you to make your survival a bit more comfortable. The downside to this is that they are big, bulky and heavier than a backpack meaning they are not easy to carry.
If you are bugging out in a vehicle and have a bug out location lined up ready for your arrival, then a duffel bag is a great choice.
A hiking backpack combines the benefits of both an everyday backpack and a duffel bag. This type of bag tends to be the more common choice for a BOB, as it provides ample space for kit while still being light enough to carry on your back with relative ease. This backpack could potentially be used as a family BOB depending on needs of each family member.
One final consideration is deciding whether your chosen bag will be big enough for your plans.
- Bags under 2500 cubic inches (40 litres) make good day packs
- 2 – 3 day bags tend to be 2500 – 4000 cubic inches (40 – 65 litres)
- 4 – 7 day packs are likely to be 4000 – 6000 cubic inches (65 – 95 litres)
Once you have selected the right type of bag, you now need to think about the material it is made from.
Canvas – bags made of canvas will be tough. Most military bags are made from canvas as they can hold their shape under a heavy load. However a canvas BOB will be heavier than others.
Nylon – if you want a strong and lightweight BOB then nylon might be the option you want to choose. However nylon is not as strong as canvas and will not hold its shape as well.
Polyester – strong, lightweight and holds its shape better than nylon. I consider this to be the “middle ground” option for a BOB. Polyester bags are likely to wear quicker than other bags and their seams tend to be a weak point during heavy use.
I personally prefer a canvas BOB simply because of its strength and ability to keep its shape. This means I do not need to worry about it ripping or my kit falling out on my travels. Canvas may be the heaviest option, but its strengths make the little extra weight worthwhile.
Another consideration to be made when selecting your BOB is how useful it can be in aiding your survival. You want your bag to be an extra tool, not simply a way of carrying useful things with you.
Hydration Bladder – having a compartment for a hydration bladder will make carrying water so much easier. It will also mean you can drink on the move without having to rummage around for a bottle of water.
Waterproof – some bags will need an additional waterproof cover on to prevent water damage to contents. However some bags have a built in rain hood which is usually stored under a Velcro flap until it is needed. It can be pulled out and covers the whole bag keeping everything dry.
MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) compatibility – there are so many different accessories and packs that can be attached to a BOB. Ensuring that your bag is compatible with as many as possible means you can increase storage space, improve ease of getting to certain tools; the possibilities are almost endless so this is a big consideration.
Internal frame – a hidden metal frame (usually aluminum) supports the backpack from the inside helping it keep its shape. Bags with an internal frame tend to be slimmer than other bags.
External frame – this makes your BOB rigid and strong. Additional tools and equipment can be strapped directly to the frame as well giving you extra carrying potential. The external frame will add weight to your bag so bear this in mind when making your choice.
A good Bug Out Bag will make the stress of bugging out a little bit more bearable, so take some time and make sure you select a bag that will be the best match for your plans.