5 Must-Follow Guidelines to Choosing the Best Bug Out Backpack

Comments: 0 Post Date: April 19, 2017

I think you’ll agree with me that choosing the right bug out backpack is a difficult decision. In this guide, we break down the pros and cons of many popular styles,

Along with choosing from many different styles, there’s also the difficulty of finding the perfect fit for your unique body shape.

Well, it turns out that this decision could be dramatically simpler if you take proper measurements, and understand how different features can help you with comfort and utility while bugging out.

In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to choose the perfect pack and break down the pros and cons of each.

Basics Guidelines when Choosing a Bug Out Backpack

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing the right bug out backpack for you. Primarily, you have to think about your body size and shape, how much you can carry, and how much you need to carry. There are also other considerations. Let’s take a look at each of these and cover some basic guidelines for each.

1) Comfort

The size of your body, specifically your torso, is a key consideration when choosing a bug out backpack. You could end up carrying this pack for hours at a time so it needs to be as comfortable as possible.

You need to sure that the height of the backpack is compatible with the length of your torso. Have someone measure your torso from the base of your neck to your hip bones. Then gauge the size of the backpack as follows:

  • 15 ½ inches or less: Extra Small
  • 16 to 17 ½ inches: Small
  • 18 to 19 ½ inches: Medium
  • 20+ inches: Large

Keep in mind that there are backpacks specifically designed for women and children. These are designed for shorter torsos.

When it comes to the comfort of your bug out backpack, you also need to consider the various straps. Make sure the shoulder straps are wide and the padding is thick. Plain foam padding will not hold up to hours of wearing the pack day-after-day.

You also want to ensure there are other support straps on the pack. Solid hip straps will help take some of the weight off your shoulders. They also alter the center of gravity of the pack, which minimizes the strain of the weight of the pack.

Next, a sternum strap is important because it helps protect your shoulders from constantly being pulled back by the weight of the pack.

Finally, ensure you have good back padding on the bug out backpack. And make sure there are no hard parts that can dig into you.

2) Capacity

The capacity of your bug out backpack will be limited in part to the size that fits your torso. However, there are still ways to have a high-capacity backpack, even if it is a smaller backpack.

First off, get a pack with as large a main compartment as possible. Second, get a pack that has a lot of outer compartments. This will help maximize the capacity of the pack without making it too big to fit your torso.

Having said that, you will need to keep in mind how much you can carry. It is recommended that you carry no more than 20% of your weight. So, if you are a 200-pound man, then you can carry as much as 40 pounds. But it you are a 120-pound woman, you are limited to 24 pounds. The weight should never exceed 50 pounds. Not only will this be better for you physically, you will be able to move faster when the need arises.

3) Stealth

Choose a backpack that doesn’t stand out. Something colorful will not camouflage well when you have to make your way on foot through the forest. Then again, a camo backpack filled to the brim will stand out if you are in a city crowd trying to make a break for it.

You will have to judge your environment and decide what color and style of backpack is best suited for your situation. Something neutral is ideal.

4) Accessibility

There are things you will need to access on a regular basis and you will want easy access to those items. Your pack will have a main compartment, but it should also have additional compartments. The items you don’t need to access on a regular basis need to go in the bottom of your pack. The things you need more often in the top.

Then there are the things you will need access to even when you are walking. These include things like your water, compass, knife, weapon, hat, and sunscreen. Make sure you have adequate compartments for storage so you can easily reach all these.

5) Durability

You bug out backpack could potentially go through a lot of abuse. It needs to be strong. No matter how comfortable and accessible it is, if the straps break or the material rips, it’s money wasted. Spend as much money as you can afford to get one that is high-quality and durable.

The pack needs to be made of strong, breathable material. Nylon is best. It also needs to have strong zippers. The tab and zipper should be high-quality, as should the stitching that holds the zipper in place. This is a prime area for rips to happen. Read reviews of any packs you are considering. If there are problems with the zippers, people will say so.

Finally, make sure your bug out backpack is waterproof, or has a waterproof compartment. If you have to bug out, this pack will potentially house everything you have left in the world. You want to protect the contents and that means keeping them dry.

Different Categories of Backpacks

There are different categories of backpacks for different uses. Some backpacks are relatively inexpensive and others can run as much as $600. Some have more space and pockets and some are easier to carry than others. Here is a rundown of the various categories and the pros and cons of each.

Hiking Backpack

Hiking backpacks are a go-to when people think of getting a pack for everyday use. And some people consider it for bugging out. This is a good option if you are bugging out from an urban area because it looks so plain. It is also a good option if you know you will be covering long distances.

Hiking backpacks that are made today lighter and more durable than ever before. Here are the pros and cons to the hiking backpack:


  • They look ordinary, which will help you blend in. Using a hiking backpack makes it look like you didn’t plan ahead. You just grabbed what you had on hand and ran for it.
  • They are made to carry a lot of gear.
  • They are comfortable to carry over long distances.


  • Many of them are brightly colored, so you have to choose the color wisely. Select something neutral.
  • They may not be as durable as some other types of backpacks.
  • They might not have some of the additional features of some other packs. This is particularly the case when it comes to extra compartments. This makes it more difficult to organize your preps in this type of bag.

Hunting Backpack

The hunting backpack is another alternative when considering a bug out backpack.


  • Designed for hands-free carry of a lot of hunting tools, weapons, and ammo.
  • Easy to get in camo and neutral colors.
  • Durable and easy to get water resistant or water repellent.
  • Many have a rigging system to transport hunted game


  • Not designed to easily compartmentalize and organize.
  • Most not designed to use MOLLE or ALICE systems. This is an attachment system that allows you to compartmentalize your bug out backpack. You can attach various pouches and can prioritize and organize easily.

Tactical Backpack

The tactical backpack is a great choice for a bug out backpack in certain situations. This is particularly the case if you are bugging out from a more rural area. The pros and cons of the tactical backpack are as follows:


  • They are incredibly durable.
  • They can support a MOLLE system.
  • They are more likely to come in camo or a neutral color. This is good when bugging out in nature.


  • These packs can be heavier than a hiking or hunting pack in terms of its empty weight. They are not as comfortable to carry for long periods of time.
  • They are more likely to make you stand out as being prepared if you are around other people.
  • It is easy to be duped into buying a cheap knockoff. If you do buy a tactical backpack, make sure it is genuine and trusted by the preparedness community. 
  • Less breathable than a hiking or hunting pack.

Hybrid Backpack

A hybrid backpack combines the best of the hiking and tactical backpacks. In fact, this is perhaps the ideal pack to use for bugging out. The pros and cons are as follows:


  • It will be more comfortable than a tactical backpack.
  • Allows you to organize better than a hiking backpack.
  • Color is good for urban and rural areas.
  • Durable.
  • Will accommodate a MOLLE or ALICE system.


  • Less breathable than a regular hiking pack.
  • Very expensive for high quality pack.

A Word on Alternatives

A note here about alternatives to bug out backpacks. Some people think a duffle bag is a good alternative. Yes, it can carry a large load. However, it is difficult to organize and it is very difficult to carry over long distances.

Another option is a shoulder bag. Again, this is not comfortable to carry over long distances. Chances are it doesn’t have the volume or organizational capacity you need.

Other people consider some type of rolling bag. This might be a good option for an elderly or disabled person in your group, but in general it is not a good option. The wheels are designed for a flat surface, which will limit the type of terrain you can traverse. In addition, these types of bags are bulky and prohibit organization.

However, if for some reason, you need to use a rolling pack, ensure there is a foldable backpack in it. This will allow you to remove the essential items, such as food, water, water filter, and knife, so you can make a quick getaway should the need arise.

Final Word

Ultimately, you will need to choose a bug out backpack that is right for your body and your situation. The key is to get out there and actually try them out. Go to a few different stores. Try the packs on. Test the zippers. Tug on the straps. Ask questions. Check reviews. Consider your needs and what you plan to pack.

Once you have chosen a high-quality backpack, you will be well on your way to building a bug out backpack that will give you a much higher chance of survival.

What type of bug out backpack do you use? Let us know in the comments below.

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