Online you'll find an almost endless amount of recommendations for your bug out bag. I know, I've written a couple myself. Because a bug out bag is one of the most important things you can prepare, but if you get it wrong you may end up carting around far too much useless gear.
- Gear which slows you down as you evacuate
- Gear which limits how far you can hike
The goal of your bug out bag is a simple one. To give you water, food and supplies as you make your escape to your bug out location. That's it. It's designed for 72 hours of use, and after being a survivalist for many years, I can tell you this is one area people continually make mistakes.
You see, they want to bring more in their bag. They pack the wrong items. They pack for more than they actually need. Which creates problems once the SHTF. So follow these steps, and make sure you're not making any of these mistakes.
Don't overload your bug out bag
It can be tempting to start throwing different pieces of gear into your bug out bag because there's so many "what if's" when it comes to a disaster. But this is totally wrong. Your bug out bag isn't designed to cater to every scenario. It's a small, lightweight kit that has the bare essentials you need to make it to your bug out location. It doesn't need to sustain you forever.
My advice is to keep your bag as light as possible. You'll be more agile, cover more ground, and make it to your secure bug out location far faster. As a rough rule of thumb, hikers never carry more than 25 percent of their bodyweight in a backpack. To me, this is overkill. I'm almost 90kg, and my bag weighs just 12kg. Because otherwise I'm too overburdened.
You can try it for yourself. Pack everything you think you need in your bug out bag and go on a hike. But not just a stroll around the block. Take it on a proper trek and cover at least 5 miles. When you settle down for the night use everything you had, and once you get home consider if there's anything you didn't need. I guarantee you there will be things you can eliminate. Like a sleeping bag. Or even a tent. I swapped out my axe for this survival saw and cut my weight by almost 3 pounds. Depending where you live, some items are totally unnecessary.
Don't try to carry 72 hours of water
The average person needs about a gallon of water a day. Hence the problem. 72 hours on the road would require 3 gallons of water, which weighs about 24 pounds (10 kg). That's far too much weight to carry on your back; unless you're in an arid area where there's no water to be found. You'd be much better off learning how to collect and purify your water needs from your local environment. That way, you can rehydrate as you need, without being weighed down. I only take about a quart of water in my pack, as the route to my bug out location crosses a number of streams so I can replenish this in one of about 4 different locations. If I lived out in Nevada, I'd recommend carrying more, or find a way to take the weight off your back (like outfitting a mountain bike with saddlebags).
Don't make it obvious you've prepared
In a real crisis the last thing you want to do is stand out. Your local authorities may be looking to confiscate supplies to feed the "common good," and any local thugs may want what you have for themselves. Walking around with a military-issue backpack, a rifle over your shoulder, and head-to-toe in camo gear paints a target on your back that you don't want. Because you look like a prepper. Your goal is to stay hidden. Swap the rifle for a pistol. Your military surplus clothing for pants and a shirt. My bug out bag is an old canvas backpack that I've had for years. It's comfortable, light, and doesn't immediately draw attention. Normal rules no longer apply in a crisis, and desperate people will do almost anything to keep their families alive. Don't risk it being obvious you've prepared.
Don't stuff just anything in your bug out bag
When selecting what to put in your bug out bag it's important to ensure that each item serves a purpose. But more than that, you need to be very comfortable using everything you've packed. A fire-steel is useless in a pinch if you've no idea how to start a fire. Or a fancy water filter could get you sick if you're using it wrong. Take the time to actually learn how to use everything you're packing in your bug out bag. Because once the SHTF it's too late to start learning. Or realize you can't stand the taste of your Beef Stew MREs. Start training now. Learn how to string up a lean to with just a tarp. Practice fire-starting in the rain. Know how to actually use your fishing kit. And if you're not comfortable using anything, it shouldn't be going in your bug out bag.
To me, your bug out bag's entire objective is to help you evacuate. It's a set of supplies to help you to make a swift escape from a dangerous location. It's not everything you think you need to survive in the wild for years on end. So, don't pack it that way. I'd much rather give up a few luxuries for a little haste, especially if my life is on the line. Pack smart everyone.