Selecting a Pack for Your Bug Out Bag

March 20, 2014 by | Be the first to comment »

Selecting the right pack for your bug out bag takes a lot more than a trip to the surplus store.

You need to consider a number of factors, such as your environment, what you’ll need to carry, and even your size.

The first thing I evaluate is the current situation. In most cases, any style of pack will work just fine, but let’s imagine a scenario where could be a massive police presence on the ground—perhaps triggered by a terrorist attack or riots. In that case, you’re going to get a lot of unwanted attention from all sides, however, donning something like a USMC FILBE rucksack will likely bring you some “special” attention from the folks patrolling the streets in black jumpsuits. And we all know how frequently that ends in a tazing or worse, so don’t be that guy.

Next you need to determine the ideal size (measured by volume) of your pack by figuring out how much gear you need to carry. There is no magic formula here—the answer is different for everyone—but I can tell you how I came to my answer to offer some guidance.

I own several military-style packs but prefer civilian-style packs for my bug out bags for reasons I explained earlier. That said, when I started building my first bug out bag, I went through a lot of trial and error. I didn’t find much middle ground in terms of size; most were either too small or too big, but I did eventually find a JanSport Katahdin 70L backpack, which is the perfect size for my needs. A little background; aside from my gear, I also have to pack for two children who aren’t big enough to carry their own packs. On the plus side, living in Florida means I don’t have to pack extra clothing to stay warm.

You also need to look at the construction. I prefer a heavy-duty nylon, but also pay close attention to how the parts are put together. You want thick thread, ideally nylon, like you would find on furniture. Tug on the stress points; seams and anywhere straps attach to the pack. Do they separate a bit showing the individual threads, or do they hold firm? Under a load, especially bouncing as you walk, any separation will be multiplied and lead to failure.

Don’t forget about the configuration of the pack. Cheaper packs usually have fewer compartments, making it tough to quickly find a specific item. I like packs with at least four compartments. (Not counting the pocket for a hydration bladder.) A good example is the ALICE Pack which has three large and three small outside compartments in addition to a large radio compartment on the inside. The idea is to make sure you can get to any gear quickly without having to dump your pack.

I prefer internal frame packs for my bug out bag. They are lighter, less expensive, and more than suitable for carrying the load.

Look for comfort features, like ample padding on the shoulder straps, a hip belt, and a ventilated back pad. You aren’t going through the Marine Recon indoc so you don’t need to prove that you’re a hard ass. You’ll be grateful for these features when you’re hauling 40 pounds of gear on your back all day.

Fit is one for the most important aspects when it comes to selecting your pack. Some models offer a completely adjustable fit, but every one will fit each person differently, so if possible, take your gear to the store and try on several packs with a full load.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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