Planning for and understanding the delicate role the weight of our bag plays is without-a-doubt the most important thing to consider before and during the assembly of your bug out bag.
Weight is a critical factor. It’s easy to get caught up in the selection aspect of your bug out bag kit and its contents, but its important to remember that you will be carrying this fully-loaded survival gear-and-supplies anchor, most likely on foot for substantial distances and during a disaster or emergency.
You might not be nimble, but you need to be as close to spry as you can be. You must be capable of carrying your pack to your pre-planned bug out location. You must. If you are incapable of doing so, you will be forced to abandon your bag or face a very difficult journey.
Unless you are very familiar with outdoor recreation and survival, it will be very easy to underestimate how much your bag will weight and/or how much weight you can reasonably carry. Lugging around a bunch of food and survival gear will naturally be heavy. Just keep in mind the bags purpose, that you’re focusing on reasonable evacuation with preparation, and don’t forget the purpose of the bag.
Bug out bags require a delicate balance. While you do need critical survival gear and essential survival supplies, you need to balance your needs with your ability to carry the load. You only need to survival for 72 hours after most disasters.
Determine How Much Weight You Can Carry
- Determine How Much Weight You Can Carry
- You May Need to Travel On Foot
- Consider the Distance to Your Bug Out Location
- Calculating the Target Weight of Your Bug Out Bag
- Try Out How It Fits
- Practice Evacuation: Test Your Survival Bag
- Reducing the Weight of Your Bug Out Bag
Before you run off to purchase your bug-out bag essentials (or worse, a comprehensive survival kit), we recommend you determine roughly how much you are capable of carrying. Once you know this, focus on selecting bug out bag contents based upon your ability to travel with a heavy pack. Consider whether the items you’re including are truly essential to your survival.
Survival bags can weigh anywhere from ten to twenty to fifty pounds or more. You need to know that you’re ability to carry a survival pack that heavy, potentially at significant distances.
If you are a hiker, backpacker, member of the military, or participant in the survival community, you probably already have a good idea of how much you can carry.
On the other hand, if you don’t participate in many serious outdoor activities or physical training, it really is important to develop an idea of how heavy of a pack you can carry for one, two, five, or even ten miles. The best way to do this is to simulate your bag’s weight and complete a practice evacuation to your bug out location on foot, as we describe in the exercising below on testing your bag.
You May Need to Travel On Foot
As part of determining how heavy is too heavy for your bug out bag, consider your bug out location. How far do you have to walk? Where are you planning on bugging out, and how far away is it? Is this the same location you selected for your family meet-up location or your emergency plan? Are you prepared to walk the complete distance of your evacuation route if roads become unusable during an emergency?
You should determine how far you’ll need to travel if the event you need to bug out. Include a specific location in your emergency evacuation plan. It’s a good idea to include a secondary, fall-back location. Calculate the distance from your home to your office and your home/office to your bug out location.
If your bug out route is more than one or two miles, the weight of your bug out bag matters a lot.
Consider the Distance to Your Bug Out Location
Before we address the target weight of your survival bag, remember that bug out bags are specifically only intended for seventy-two hours. When building or updating your bug out bag, keep this in mind. In doing so, you’ll be able to reduce weight by avoiding or removing unnecessary items. Remember: this bag should be bare necessities.
While you should make an attempt to reduce the weight, you should also include everything you’re likely to need. This includes survival gear based on your geography and your region’s disaster-propensity. Like we said before, it’s a balance.
Your bag should not significantly limit you from reaching your bug out location. In an emergency, a heavy backpack will slow you down. In an emergency, a heavy backpack becomes a liability.
How heavy is too heavy? This depends on why you have your bug out bag, but more importantly, on the distance from your probable evacuation point(s) to your bug out location. It also depends on if you are likely to be traveling alone, the likelihood of traveling on foot, your backpacking/hiking experience, and your overall level of physical fitness.
Your survival skillset is also an important factor. The more knowledge you have of survival techniques, the less survival gear you’ll need to carry – you’ll be able to replace some of the tools by your own abilities.
Heavy packs are painful. You don’t want to waste time building a bug out bag you’ll regret. Imagine if you had to flee quickly and had to ditch your core survival items?
You’re bug out bag should be lightweight, and compartmentally packed. It should be wholesome and ready-to-go.
Note that other survival bags, such as an INCH bag, can be much heavier. This is because they serve a different purpose.
Calculating the Target Weight of Your Bug Out Bag
A good rule of thumb for determining a good bug out bag weight is to use your body weight as the primary variable. In the survival community, the general rule is that your bug out bag should be 10% of your body weight (as a ballpark target). The recommended maximum is 20% of your body weight. We discourage you from creating a BOB that weighs more than 20% of your total body weight unless you are extremely physically fit and/or have military training.
Target Weight: (Your Body Weight / 100) * 10
Maximum Recommended Weight: (Your Body Weight / 100) * 20
If you weigh 200 pounds, the target weight of your BOB should be 20 pounds. For the same person, the maximum pack weight should be 20% of your body weight. In this example, the maximum weight for the bug out bag would be 40 pounds.
It’s important to know your target BOB weight and the maximum weight for your personal bug out bag before you purchase your survival supplies. This chart gives a quick-glaze estimate at your bag size:
Target Survival Bag Weight Graphic
We also have a more advanced calculator to determine your target survival bag weight, and a tool to calculate how much your bug out will weight based upon what gear you include.
If your bag is too heavy and you’re unable to reduce the weight, consider some of these recommendations for reducing the weight of your survival or bug out bag.
Try Out How It Fits
Once you’ve received your bag or tactical backpack, it’s important that you try it out.
Firstly, make sure it fits. Try it on, test out the chest and belt straps. Make sure it fits with a firm but comfortable tension, and make sure the position of the backpack’s straps on your torso are not too high or too low. If it doesn’t fit, return it while you can.
If it seems to fit, further testing is still required.
At this point, you’ll want to build your bug out bag, include all of your bug out bag contents, if you already have them. If you haven’t purchased your survival supplies, an alternative method of testing is to simply fill your new survival bag with household contents or weights that simulate the expected weight of your bug out bag once you’ve purchased all of your critical components. You can use our bug out bag calculator to determine the expected weight of your bug-out bag based on the survival items you intend to include.
Once your bag weigh close to what it would once completed, try the bug out backpack on again. Test and re-test the strap positions until you’re satisfied. Consider the bag’s overall comfort. Walk. Bend over. Climb stairs or a hill if you can. Ensure that the bag does not significantly impact your mobility.
Practice Evacuation: Test Your Survival Bag
The best way to determine if you’re 72-hour kit’s bag is too heavy is to test it out. Doing so gives you an accurate assessment of the weight you’ll be carrying, how difficult it will be to physically bug out, and comes with the additional benefit of practicing your evacuation route.
Once you’ve built your bug-out bag with your complete survival gear, test it out for real. When you test how your bug out backpack fits and weighs, you should be traveling the same distance (and ideally the same evacuation path) as the route from your home or work to your bug out location. Simulating travel with your survival bag is hands-down the best way to both ensure you can control the weight of your pack and to prepare yourself for an actual evacuation.
Go on a 2-3 mile hike, camping trip, or go backpacking. Try to wear your bag as you would in a bug out bag situation. Cover as much variable terrain as you can. If, after a real trip outdoors, you have not encountered any significant problems with your new backpack, your body’s mobility, or exhaustion from the bag’s weight, then you’re good to go.
Note: Your bag is going to be somewhat heavy no matter what. You’re carrying water, food, and survival gear. The purpose of this exercise is to test whether you’d be able to bring your bag with you in an emergency scenario.
Reducing the Weight of Your Bug Out Bag
If after testing your bag is still too heavy, it’s time to seek ways to reduce your survival bag’s weight.
This process can present some difficult give-and-takes, but if you think it through and choose your survival supplies creatively, it shouldn’t be too difficult to reduce your bug out bag’s total weight by approximately five pounds.
When you’re trying to make your survival backpack weigh less, you have three general approaches:
- Review your bug out bag list for non-essential items
- Select light-weight alternatives or substitutes for specific survival supplies
- Learn a survival skill that removes the need for specific survival gear
Identifying and Removing Non-Essential Items
This may seem difficult, but it really isn’t. Most articles you might read about bug-out bags are trying to sell you on the 101 survival items you need. While many of these items perform some function, most of them you don’t need.
Remember, we’re building a 72-hour kit. A 72-hour bag.
Our purpose is not to build a comprehensive survival bunker or an “I’m Never Coming Home Bag.” Our purpose is to safely evacuate to our bug out location and survive for seventy-two hours until aid arrives.
With the purpose of our bug out bag in mind, we can methodically review our bug out bag list, considering each item and weighing it against our fundamental survival needs, it’s importance, it’s comfort-bringing utility, and the likelihood that it might come in handy.
If you really think about what you need to survive for three days, you should be able to trim off a few pounds.
Finding Light-Weight Alternatives or Substitutions for Heavy Items
There are some survival supplies you just can’t trim. Food, basic clothing, bedding, shelter – these things are essential in most parts of the world.
This is where it’s time to get creative. Review your 72-hour kit list again. This time, consider alternatives to your essential items. Most of these essential items have some alternative or form of substitution available.
This usually means roughing it and downgrading the comfort factor, but this is about efficient survival.
Though we won’t get into our extensive list here, some reasonable alternatives for outdoor survival gear might include reducing food (and your caloric intake of the initial 72 hours), replacing your tent with tarp and parracord, or upgrading your sleeping back to a compact, ultra-lightweight sleeping bag.
Develop Survival Skills that Reduce Your Reliance on Survival Gear
For most people, there are limits to what they can go without when it comes to survival preparation. The most bare-bones survival kit can probably still be reduced, but if you’re new to prepping, such reductions might not be practical or possible.
To develop a truly bare-bones bug out bag or survival kit, learn fundamental survival skills humans have needed throughout our history on this planet.
These core survival skills will improve your chances of survival in any situation. In the case of planning a bug out backpack and reducing it to a minimum possible weight, every basic survival skill you learn – including how to make fire, how to source and purify water, how to build a shelter – will reduce the weight of your bag.
If you’re evacuating your city or you’re lost in the wilderness and you can create fire on your own, you don’t need fire-making tools.
If you’re confident in your ability to source food in your expected environment, you can confidently go without.
As someone skilled in the practice of building a survival shelter, you can travel light.
If you’re willing to build a water-harvesting and/or water-purification tool, you don’t need those either.
Giving up the manmade tools that have made survival easy for mankind for the past several hundred years will be difficult and time-consuming – but it can save you from carrying a lot of heavy survival gear.