How to Organize Your Bug Out Bag?
In this post, I will show you how to make your own awesome Bug out Bag and organize its contents. So, in the previous post, we looked at building the 5 core survival kits in your BoB. And by building these kits as shown, you will already get a high level of organization when packing your gear.
As a result of that, you will come to appreciate this organized structure of your kits. And you definitely will, every time you need to access your BoB for gear, which can be a lot. So, while it would be nice to have frequently used gear, easily accessible in your Bug out Bag. That is not always the case, as the weight of the individual kits must be considered first.
Packing for Endurance
Therefore, the way you make your Bug out Bag has an effect on many levels and not only on accessing gear. The most important factor, is being able to comfortably carry the load over distance. As you can see from simple the image above, the heaviest items are closest to the body and shoulder blades.
Here again, the selection of your Bug out Bag will be critical in providing you with versatility in managing the weight. For example, it’s not just the weight of the gear, it’s also about stopping it from moving around. The constant shifting weight, will require you to expend more energy balancing yourself than necessary.
As a result, the Bug out Bag you choose for the build, needs to accommodate this with its design of straps and loops. Being able to tighten down the pack or remove sections to stabilize the weight, is a must. Also, eliminating the shifting weight will keep stress off of the stitching of seams and other fasteners on your bag.
Start Building Your Bug out Bag
Similar one to my bag
For this post I will use Amazon links to show you the products I chose for my Bug out Bag build. Clicking on the links will show you the product information only and nothing will be added to your cart.
I’m not even saying that you should buy these products but rather that these are the products I actually purchased or wouldn’t purchase. You can use the links to view my choices in better detail and also similar alternative options.
Just so you’re aware, if you do purchase though these links, Amazon will pay Essential Survival a small commission for that sale but even just clicking on the links is helpful, so thanks in advance if you do.
Nice bag but too small
Try to find a bag with a detachable smaller bag
Make a Bug Out Bag That’s a Survivor
This Bug out Bag is made from waterproof materials but I doubt it would be a totally waterproof bag. As a result, you need to add to this bag to create a waterproof section for items at risk from water damage. When you’re bugging out in the wilderness, the chance of a splashdown is a lot higher.
It could be a heavy downpour, that soaks your bag and gear or even having to cross a river. Whatever the reason is, you need to have a guaranteed waterproof section in your Bug out Bag. That could be done as cheaply as a heavy duty garbage bag or even individual zip lock bags for your gear.
However, this is a bag for a survivor and plastic garbage bags are just not good enough for waterproofing. It is for this reason that I purchased a smaller Dry Bag, to act as a waterproof backpack liner. All of the gear that you want to stay dry can be packed and sealed inside your Dry Bag.
Same brand as mine but in a twin pack
Better quality and comes with a Hydro pack
Load Up Your Pre Made Kits into Your BoB
Once you have your Dry Bag filled up and sealed, you can slide the heaviest kits into position. And the two of the heaviest kits are the Multifunction shovel and the urban kit, weighing 1.5kgs each. The shovel is thin in profile and can fit in comfortably between the Dry Bag and your lower back area. And the Urban kit fits nicely above that and sits nearer to the top of the Bug out Bag and your shoulders.
The Dry Bag, Urban kit and Multifunction shovel, make up over half of the entire weight of the bag. So, packing it this way has put over half of the weight in the sweet spot for carrying it. As a result of this, the remaining gear can be stored where it is most convenient for access.
You can do this now because the remining kits are all under 500g and are unlikely to affect the balance. In reality, the only remaining space in the rear compartment is above the rolled up top of the Dry Bag. So, I packed the spare footwear and goggles in there and they filled the rear section almost completely. However, there was still enough room to slip in the Hybrid knife and some flares or any other similar shaped object you want.
Lightweight Gear to the Front
Now that the rear compartment is full of the heaviest of your gear, you can look to the front compartment next. This area is reserved for your lightweight gear, no matter how infrequently you need to access it. The remaining bulky items to fit in here are the Poncho and First Aid/Toiletries kit.
Depending on the bag you choose, to build your bug out bag with, will determine how much spare space you have at this point. For instance, my bag still has two small external bags to fill as yet. In the front compartment, I fitted the Poncho, First Aid/Toiletries kit. And I managed to fit a folding bucket, gloves and a bandana in there afterwards.
Try to find equipment that can do many things, rather than just for one purpose. The Poncho that converts into a shelter is a perfect example of this kind of versatility. Don’t pack anything that cannot be used in a multiple of different ways. Again, a Bandana can provide shade, water filtration, tinder, bandage…
Can make a shelter from my choice
Have to improvise with this one
Other brands can make a shelter too
Frequently Accessed Areas
With any Bug out Bag, there are always some items that you use more than the others. It’s for this reason I have designated the last two external pockets on my BoB for those items. On the right hand side is the fire staring kit and the left side holds the water bottle and head lamp. There is plenty of space to fit in a compass, maps or whatever item you are using the most at the time.
When I pack a Bug out Bag, I follow the compass points to place the items in the bag. For example, assuming the bag is lying face up on its back, then South or the back/bottom of the bag, is the section for the heaviest items. While above them is North and the lightest items. East has the Sun rise and the fire/warmth kit and West, with the setting Sun, has the torch and water.
That just helps me remember where the hell everything is packed. I’ve also seen colour coded ribbons and zip ties attached to the zipper for this purpose as well. However, keeping your gear in a few, small specialized kits helps with this too.
Sorry, This Bug Out Bag is Full
That’s all the gear I wanted to pack and there’s still some room to spare for small items. Only items like a flare or clothing, like socks, will pack easily at this stage of your Bug out Bag build. For instance, I fitted a half used roll of duct tape in, as the full roll is too big and heavy. However, there is some other gear that you may wish to attach to the outside, such as a tent. Unless you have a cabin or other permanent structure to bug out in, you’re going to need more than just a Poncho.
Fortunately, my bag of choice has plenty of loops and straps to attach a bed roll or tent to the outside of the bag. I have options to lash bedding to the top of the bag, sitting behind my neck or tied on below the 72 hour kit. As these items are usually fairly lightweight, that where ever you tie it, won’t greatly affect the balance of your pack.
Great bed but it weighs in at 32 lbs, the entire BoB weighs 28 lbs
Even better…if you’re carrying it for me
6 lbs is more like it and bug out with family
For the one man bug out
One each for the family bug out members
Only 3 lbs
Personal Choices for Products
I didn’t purchase any of these tents, the links above are examples of getting it right and getting it wrong. For what it’s worth, if I was to buy any of them, it would be the Coleman 2 person. The price and design are good and a 2 person sized tent, is really the perfect size for 1 person.
When you get down to the size of a one man tent, it is hard and unwise to recommend any one tent to purchase. As I have said previously, things like this are a personal choice for you to make. For example, I don’t think I could physically fit into some of those single man Bivi’s, not comfortably anyway.
And they look like a coffin! These are just two of the problems other people may have with your recommendation to buy a personal item. Which is why my recommendations are about physical size and the practicality of the items. So, if I were to recommend you to buy a tent, it should be around the size and weight of the Coleman 2 person above.
Even if you have a family to bug out with, you’re not going to carry a family sized tent very far. Some of those tents come in a bag with wheels attached to manage the weight! In reality, you may need to buy several smaller tents to provide shelter for all of your family members.
The last items to deal with are the Misc items that you may think worthy of packing in your BoB. They could include things like a sewing kit and a fishing kit or even a bottle opener, if you can’t find one on your tools! Whatever your misc items are, keep up the style of making a small kit or container to store them in. Then attach a small bag to the outside of your BoB to hold these misc item kits, keep them out of the main compartments.
Urban/Wilderness Bug out Bag Weigh In
That’s heavier than I wanted but right around where I thought it would be, especially with an Urban kit inside. You could instantly remove 1.5kgs from the total by removing the Urban kit and just take a multitool instead. There is of course many variables and options you can take with your gear, to lower the total weight.
However, as my bag has been packed correctly, that makes it no problem to carry on my back at this weight. It actually sits quite comfortably on my shoulders, with the weight close to my natural centre of gravity. As a result, a lot of the pack’s weight is transferred through the hips, rather than on the shoulders alone. All of your choices with your bag, will come into play when you finally get to strap it on your back, full of gear.
Survival Fitness in a Bug Out Bag
So good is this bag’s set up, that I could add 3 more kilos and still comfortably manage that size load. And managing the weight is this reason you should choose a bag like this, with its detachable pieces and individual kits. For example, to better distribute the weight over a long journey or adapt to changing scenarios:
Adaptability built into your Bug out Bag
- you can detach the 72 hr kit and sling it diagonally across your shoulders and tighten to your chest. Instantly transferring almost 2 kgs to the front, to help balance the weight on your back.
- Smaller bags attached to your BoB or packed inside, can also be transferred to your belt or hung off the 72 hr kit in front. There is a spare belt inside this BoB for this purpose. You could also detach the bags and stash them in your pants or jacket pockets to distribute weight.
- In a complete SHTF scenario, you can discard the entire BoB and then pack or attach gear/bags to the 72 hr bag and travel super light.
- In a scenario where the main bags construction fails, such as a strap tearing off. You can transfer your essential items into the Drybag back pack and discard the damaged main bag.
- The Drybag, if sealed correctly, will keep you and the bag afloat for quite a while.
- Break the BoB down to a more Urban low profile style bag, so as to not attract attention in populated areas. The discarded sections of your BoB can be packed in your Drybag and stashed in the woods until you return.
- Empty out your Drybag contents and fill with water from your source. Then line the base ad walls of the water filled Drybag with thick green foliage. You can then carefully lower stones heated by your fire into the water filled bag, until the water is nice and warm. Lower in enough hot stones to boil the water and sterilize. Or, you can use your mess tin and scoop out the water for a 15 litre hot bath in the wild! If you have a suitable tube, you can hang the bag up high and siphon the water out, to hose your filthy self down!
This BoB is Doing its Job!
As I have said in previous posts, your bag needs to inspire you to want to grab it and go! And this bag is doing it for me but mostly because I built it for the things I wanted it to do. Which I think is a better kind of satisfaction, over just buying a pre made BoB online. So rather than just push products on to you. I wanted to really show you the kind of products you need and focus on their function and versatility.
How Do You Know What Makes a Good Bug Out Bag?
I know that this Bug out Bag is good and I know it because I love it! It fits everything I need, comfortable to carry and makes me want to go trekking in the woods. And I know it will be good for other people too, because they built it for their situation, that they planned for. So, while I will provide a list of the contents of my BoB, they are not necessarily the list for your BoB.
However, I will highlight the items on my list that are non-negotiable and should be packed in every Bug out Bag. Whatever other gear that you wish to pack, beside those essential items, is up to you and what you can carry. As long as you stick to the principals of your gear selection and keep it versatile and useful to your situation.
The only true way to know if it’s a good BoB, is to go out and use it as it was intended. No doubt many changes will be needed and refined to your set up but your BoB will get fitter every time. Another way that I can determine the quality of my BoB set up, is to score online competitors against mine in a spreadsheet.
For subscribers to Essential Survival, they will be able to access these spreadsheets and use them for their own Bug out Bag builds.
Wilderness-Urban Bug Out Bag Contents
Free PDF list of my Bug out Bags final checklist of contents:
BoB Essential Score checklist spreadsheet for subscribers:
Total score – 1034 pts – Essential score – 837 pts. That’s a great baseline score to use against the available online Bug out Bag kits. Look out for those future posts! It also shows that my BoB is loaded with essential gear and only a small amount of non essential. So, try putting your BoB contents into the spreadsheet and see how you go against mine.
Handing Over the Keys to Your Build
I’m not suggesting that my contents should be your contents. However, the essential items on the spreadsheet, those that scored 15+, should be in your BoB. And almost all of them should be packed into a smaller detachable kit, so that you’re never exposed without any gear.
In the end, you might choose different tools and gear than mine but you should focus on the keys to the build instead. Try to incorporate these key elements with your bug out bag build and gear selection:
- Versatility – Where possible, find and pack tools and gear that can perform many functions other than their primary use. Add to the bag with things like the Dry bag liner to again increase versatility and survivability.
- Function – Build and pack your gear so that it will function to make things easy to use/find in your BoB. Dividing gear into smaller kits helps greatly with finding things in your pack and to redistribute weight if needed.
- Adaptability – Construct your BoB to adapt in multiple scenarios, that a survival situation may dish up. You should be able to break your bag down into many bags, to overcome the ever changing conditions in the wild.
Hope this was helpful and thanks for reading! More to come on Bug out Bags in the future…
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