Every serious prepper needs a survival bag. After all, what good does all that gear do you if you can’t carry it?
When choosing a bag, it must be tailored to the person and the environment in which it will be used. For instance, wilderness survival requires a different set of tools (and consequently, a different bag) than bugging out in an urban setting.
Is it really so complicated?
It doesn’t have to be. Let’s step back and put some common sense back in emergency preparedness. If you have a survival bag (any bag - even a zip lock bag) packed with a bare assortment of supplies scrounged from the back of your junk drawer, it is still better than nothing.
You don’t need top-of-the-line this or designer that to be a prepared survivalist. After all, survival is about resourcefulness and improvisation, not company logos. That said, buying quality will always be a good investment. It’s just not necessary, especially if you’re just starting out in the prepping world.
So what survival bag to choose? There are so many different styles, accessories and ratings. And they can be expensive. How do you know what’s right for you?
There are two options to consider. If you camp or hike frequently, it makes sense to buy a good quality pack. These are the kind sold by sporting goods or camping stores.
They typically have a sturdy internal frame, are made of rip-stop nylon (tough and moisture resistant), and have gazillions of pouches and pockets to organize your gear.
Some higher-end packs (read: expensive) provide superior lumbar support, ergonomic straps and a lifetime warranty. Manufacturers like Gregory fit this category, but you’ll pay for it - around $300. Teton makes a popular, more affordable model for around $80, but durability issues exist. There are even packs manufactured specifically for small-framed women. The creatively-named Arc'Teryx Altra 62 is a high-end bag designed to disperse weight evenly on the hips. It retails for around $450.
Outdoor packs like these are designed to carry the weight around your waist, not on your shoulders. They must have a quality waist belt and extra-wide clasps to handle the load. Try on the pack before you buy; remember that you’ll be carrying this for days, usually over rough terrain. Not a time to skimp on quality or fit.
Day Pack. The second option is a small survival bag you place in a day pack for impromptu excursions. Even if you’re only planning on hiking a few hours on a well-blazed trail through a bustling national park, you still should prepare for the worst.
This does not mean you have to pack the flares and emergency beacon, but at least include the basics. Pocket survival kits are not only good for tossing into a day pack, they’re great for automotive use too.
They contain items like fire tinder, flint fire starter, compass, knife, flashlight, whistle, signal mirror, fishing hooks and line, a sewing kit, paracord, and wire.
SOL makes a pocket kit that retails for around $40, which also comes in a waterproof plastic container (a good bonus). Though the included folding knife appears chintzy - the blade is short and not suited to the rigors of pounding or prying - it is still, again, better than nothing.
If building your own mini survival bag, using a zippered toiletry bag works well. To make it water resistant, enclose it in a gallon-sized zip lock bag or Tupperware container. To really ensure your gear stays dry, vacuum sealing it will do the trick. But at the very least, enclose some fire tinder and matches inside an old plastic 35mm film case (remember those?) or a watertight screw top money holder sold at water parks.
Survival in a bug out situation is more than just braving the elements. Often, people - your neighbors, even the authorities and rescuers - can be your biggest threat. That’s why it’s more important to blend in, rather than carry the best pack possible.
Think cheap. Bug out bags are not designed for long-term use. They may sit for years collecting dust until they’re yanked out of the closet and tossed in a car trunk.
Most people will not be prepared. Look at your neighbors. How many of them would you expect to be ready for a disaster? The vast majority of people will panic and grab whatever bag is handy. You want to look like them.
Want more on bug out bags? Read the article Build a Bug Out Bag - How to Blend In and Travel Light