There are a lot of backpacks in the market, and picking the best bug out backpack, from all the varieties available, can be a challenge. The kind of pack you choose is more than its physical aesthetics. It is more about how well it is suited for storing your bug out kit for emergencies.
Statistical data shows that a large percentage of Americans prefer to rely on local government agencies in the event of a disaster, which gives them a false sense of security. In such circumstances, local agencies are usually overwhelmed with utilities broken down or shut off.
You can give yourself a better chance of surviving a disaster by having a well-kitted bug out bag ready to grab and go should the need arise.
What You Should Know Before Buying Bug Out Backpack
This buying guide will provide you with all the features and details that matter when choosing the best bug out backpack for your emergency kit. From capacity and durability to material and fit, the guide will help you understand why a tactical pack is better than an ordinary hiking backpack when it comes to choosing a bug out backpack.
When it comes to bug out backpacks, their size will depend on how much survival gear you want to put in. Emergency agencies recommend that you pack at least three days’ worth of survival items. However, the backpack should also be as compact as possible for easy portability.
You can get a decent-sized backpack in the 30L to 50L range, which gives you enough space for a single person survival kit and a few personal items. It also helps you to blend in better, and it is not heavy to carry on your back.
In terms of shape, stick with the basic box and tube shapes that will fit comfortably on your back. Most backpacks will have an internal frame that gives it structure and also helps to distribute the weight evenly.
The denier of the material is the easiest way to know if a backpack is of good quality. A low-value denier is lightweight and will tear easily, while a higher-value denier provides tear-resistance and durability.
Fabric in the 400D – 600D denier range is preferable as it will be tough enough to handle the stress of an emergency evacuation without falling apart while being lightweight for easy portability.
Nylon is the most common fabric for backpacks and also the best option because it offers water-resistant properties and is affordable. Polyester is also commonly used for cheap backpacks, but it is lightweight with a low-value denier and therefore not durable.
Cordura is a premium quality fabric used in military-grade backpacks because it offers high abrasion and tear-resistance. Ballistic Nylon is also a thick, high-quality fabric that is typically in the 840D -1680D range, which makes it excellent for an emergency bag.
The price of the bug out backpack you choose will determine its quality, durability, and effectiveness during an emergency. Cheap backpacks will have a low build quality that will fall apart, will have poor-fitting, and little comfort. Premium quality bags will prioritize the material used with double stitching on the seams to handle heavy loads.
The zippers and the buckles are also big stress points, and good quality bags will have branded zippers such as YKK zippers that are smooth and solid for frequent use.
Backpacks with multiple compartments offer better organization for your bug out gear, which helps you keep track of small items that you need quick access to like a flashlight, compass, whistle, knife, or a multi-tool.
The organization setup is where tactical bags excel in features over technical and hiking backpacks, which usually do not have external pockets. Tactical backpacks also come with external attachment points such as MOLLE webbing and velcro.
While these attachment points might be useful, consider how well your bug out backpack will blend in with the people around you. Avoid conspicuous looking packs because it can make you a target for people who did not prepare for the emergency.
Also, avoid backpacks with laptop sleeves and hydration compartments because it is unlikely that you will need your laptop or a hydration bladder in an emergency evacuation. Your bug out gear will include water pouches and water filters, which makes the hydration bladder unnecessary.
What do you really need in a bug-out backpack?
- 3-Day supply of water, including water purification, and food,
- Shelter such as emergency tube tents,
- First Aid Kit,
- Clothing and covering,
- Navigation tools such as compass,
- Communication tools such as your cell phone and radio,
- Lighting with a flashlight or solar lanterns,
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air,
- Hygiene and sanitary items like bath wipes and toilet paper,
- Survival items like a knife, whistle, and paracord
What’s the Best Bug Out Backpack?
In this section, I review the top five bug out backpacks from my research, and I give you some of the pros and cons of each pack, beginning with my favorite. At the end of the reviews, you will find some FAQs to help answer any questions you may have. Also, please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below, and I’ll be happy to answer them as best as I can.
Capacity: 27 Liters
Weight: 3.1 lb (1.4 kg)
See it in your local store:
This 2-Day Assault Pack is the smaller civilian version of their hugely successful military-grade 3-DAP, and it is the best bug out backpack on my list. It comes with all the fantastic features of the 3-DAP, such as their signature 3-Zip opening and exceptionally comfortable shoulder straps.
This backpack comes with adjustable shoulder straps to fit most body types. Although it does not feature a waist strap to balance the weight, the pack is still exceptionally comfortable to carry when fully loaded. It is generous with space, and though it doesn’t have the typical box shape of most bags, its tube shape allows you more capacity at 27L than you would get with a comparable box shape backpack of the same size.
The side pockets are bulky, possibly designed to carry large water bottles. On the upside, the pack features compression straps to keep the contents compact to reduce the size of the load.
The most defining feature of this backpack is the signature 3-Zip opening that gives you convenient access to the main compartment. Inside it are two internal mesh pockets, two pouches, and a padded hydration/ laptop compartment with external side access. It comes with MOLLE webbing on the front and is very discreet to help you blend in.
Overall, it is an exceptional backpack in regards to design and function. It features 500D Cordura construction with YKK zippers that give it durability and an attractive aesthetic finish.
- Exceptional build quality and comfort,
- Adjustable shoulder straps,
- Generous main compartment and pockets,
- Easily accessible main compartment with a tri-zip system,
- Extra padding on the lower back for a comfortable fit
- Compression straps do not secure the bottom,
- Does not come with a waist strap
Capacity: 50 Liters
Weight: 3 lb (1.4 kg)
Size: 22 x 17 x 11 in (55.9 x 43.2 x 27.9 cm)
See it in your local store:
The Condor 3-Day Assault Pack is one of the larger backpacks on my list, and it is a good option if you are assembling a 2-person survival kit because of all the space that it offers. It features a generous main compartment with two mesh pockets and compression straps to secure the contents. With large front and back pockets, side pockets, and a hydration bladder compartment, the backpack provides seven organization spaces, including external MOLLE webbing, for all your gear.
I like the padding on the back and shoulder straps that provides comfort while carrying it. It is a heavy bag when full, and the designers included chest and waist straps to help fit comfortably on the back. The pack features good quality construction that uses Cordura Nylon, a premium fabric used in military-grade and premium end backpacks.
- Excellent weight distribution and stability,
- Durable with high-quality construction,
- Generous compartments and side pockets,
- Adjustable harness to fit most body types
- Poor zipper and zipper flaps design,
- Poor internal structure
Capacity: 37 Liters
See it in your local store:
The 5.11 Rush-24 is a highly rated tactical backpack and also one of the best bug out bags available in the market. The Rush-24 is the smaller version of the Rush-72 military-grade pack, and it is significantly popular with civilians.
The Rush-24 is a multipurpose pack, but its tactical design makes it perfect for a bug out backpack. It features a 1050D nylon construction with YKK zippers and MOLLE webbing.
1050D Nylon is also known as Ballistic Nylon and what is great about this fabric is the heavy weave that gives it a high tear-resistance, a slick texture that is water-resistant and makes the rucksack easy to blend in.
For a bug out backpack, it comes with a generous main compartment for emergency supplies with multiple side and front pockets for your other gear. On the downside, the pockets expand internally, which constricts the internal space of the main compartment.
However, the 5.11 MOLLE and SlickStick compatible webbing allows you to attach compatible pouches to your pack to give you extra space for your gear. For comfort, the backpack comes with a thickly padded back and contoured shoulder straps, as well as a sternum strap and compression straps to keep the pack compact.
- Compact but with generous internal space,
- High-quality design and construction,
- Comfortable to carry when full,
- Designed to blend in with the urban environment
- Organizational pockets expand internally,
- Does not include a waist strap
Capacity: 50 Liters
Weight: 3 lb (1.3 kg)
See it in your local store:
The Osprey Stratos-34 is a 34L hiking backpack which I think would make an excellent bug out bag. Although it does not come with tactical features such as MOLLE webbing, the Stratos-34 is a versatile backpack with plenty of storage for your survival kit.
One of the outstanding features that I liked about this backpack is the dual zipper panel access to the main compartment. Like the Mystery Ranch backpack, the panel opening gives you much more convenience compared to a top access backpack. However, its tube frame constricts the interior spaces and does not expand outwards like the Mystery Ranch pack.
The Stratos-34 features adjustable shoulder straps and waist strap to help you find the perfect fit. The waist strap also features two zippered pockets where you can keep small items that you need on the go.
The pack has a high-quality construction that features 420HD Nylon fabric, which provides a high level of tear resistance and waterproof abilities. Another positive is the well-ventilated mesh back panel and a lightweight air suspension frame that helps to support the weight of the bag and makes it comfortable to carry.
- Easy access panel opening to the main compartment,
- Excellent weight distribution and comfort,
- High-quality construction and design
- Its narrow frame limits the interior spaces,
- Expensive for limited use
Capacity: 28 Liters
Weight: 2.1 lb (1 kg)
Size: 17.7 x 11.8 x 7.1 in (45 x 30 x 18 cm)
See it in your local store:
Mardingtop is an affordably priced tactical backpack, and it is an excellent option for your bug out gear. The Mardingtop comes in three sizes, and I would go with the 35L pack for emergency preparedness. It features good quality construction and multiple compartments that give you a convenient way to organize your survival gear.
The backpack features 600D polyester fabric construction, which for a tactical backpack, is cheap quality. The upside of polyester is that it holds colors well, which is why the Madingtop is available in several attractive colors, but it is also easy to tear and does not resist water at all.
In contrast, the zippers and buckles are high quality with sponge padding on the shoulder straps and waist belt. The pack also features adjustable sternum straps to balance the shoulder straps and MOLLE webbing and bottom straps to attach extra storage items.
- Great value for the price,
- Available in attractive colors,
- Features multiple compartments for organization,
- Durable sponge padding on the back and straps
- Poor quality construction fabric,
- Includes a hydration compartment
Bug out bags help you to stay prepared for any emergency that would require you to evacuate or survive for a couple of days outside of the normal. Therefore, you would need a reliable and durable backpack such as the Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack that offers exceptional quality in construction and material.
This backpack also provides generous spaces in the compartments to store your emergency gear while at the same time remaining compact for easy portability. It comes in a variety of colors that blend in smoothly and are very comfortable to carry, and it is the best bug out backpack that I can recommend.
Questions and Answers About Bug Out Backpack
Are bug out bags necessary?
Yes, they are. A bug out bag is essentially a survival kit prepared in advance to help you get through an emergency such as a hurricane, earthquake, or wildfire that may cause you to evacuate your home for some time. These disasters often affect and disrupt utility services such as the water supply, electricity, and access to medical attention, which means that you will have a better chance of survival with a bug out bag.
How big should a bug out backpack be?
Your bug out bag should be easy to grab and go at a moment’s notice, and therefore should not be heavy. For simplicity, a 72-hour bug out backpack should be within the 30L- 50L range. A smaller bag will be lighter to carry but also limiting with space, while a larger bag will be too heavy and cumbersome. If you have other people in your household, you may want to consider splitting the load into two or more backpacks, depending on the number of people in consideration.
How many days should you be prepared to survive on your own using your emergency kit?
Government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency regularly advises people to prepare a bug out bag that has enough emergency supplies to get each person in your household through the first 72 hours of the disaster.