Following are some thoughts and things I have done to decrease the weight of several of my go bags over the last few years. As nice as it would be to be able to carry all the comforts of home, (basically what I would pack for a three day hiking trip), (see that post here), that’s not what these bags are designed to accomplish. Comfort while using these supplies is going to be a relative term because you probably won’t be very comfortable if you are Bugging Out. One comfort item that is included in my bag is a small copy of the King James Bible and a spare pair of reading glasses.
A well thought out Bug Out Bag, (AKA INCH Bag, 72 Hour Bag, BOB, Get Out Of Dodge Bag, SHTF Bag), should be equipped with the minimal amount of supplies for 72 hours / 3 days to get you out of harm’s way and to safety. It should contain the basic survival essentials covering food, water, shelter, fire and protection. The internet is full of lists so we won’t be covering that in this topic.
The first thing I did was evaluate the weight of the bag itself. You don’t need a 4000 cubic inches backpack for a Bug Out Bag, something around 2200 to 2400 cubic inches should be more than adequate. You can go as cheap as Walmart brands or as expensive as Mystery Ranch or Eberlestock, or something else in between, your personal choice and budget should be your guide. There are a number of bags marketed as 3 day assault bags that also fit the description, as well as military surplus to consider. My choice is a basic Black or Coyote color and not any of the camouflage patterns for more of a grey man look when I’m actually walking around with it. As good as the high end brands are, remember you are not using this one for a through hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Next was to examine what extra clothing is needed. Keep in mind that where we live in Middle Tennessee we have all 4 distinct seasons of the year so the clothes are dependent on local weather, seasonal specific and are rotated several times each year. Your location will determine your unique requirements. In the summer time I have a boonie hat, in winter time it gets changed out to a Watch cap. I don’t keep a pair of well broken in hiking boots in the bag itself, instead there is a pair in the hall closet next to my bag, and a pair in each of our cars. Coats and jackets are stored in closet and cars seasonally the same way.
Summer clothing in my bag is an extra pair of good hiking socks, a synthetic T-Shirt and change of underwear. In winter I change these over to long base layer and chose the Propper brand because it’s light weight, durable and not cotton. Remember, cotton clothing can get you killed from hypothermia if you get wet, even during the summer on a cool night. Next to be replaced was the full size, 2 piece rain suit and taking its place is a compact emergency rain poncho and a compact emergency blanket. A couple of bandannas and a pair of mechanics gloves finish out the clothing and all items are kept in zip lock bags.
Having enough food supplies is critical and needs to be considered for its storability, (i.e. heat/freezing in the of car trunk during summer/winter), and its calorie content. Consider your body’s energy needs for calorie and satisfaction if you have to hike 20+ miles over a 3 day period. Active men ages 19 and older need an average of 2,400 to 3,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight, according to the USDA (See Reference 1 Page 14). Active older men require fewer calories than younger men who lead the same type of active lifestyle. A moderately active woman needs about 2,200 calories a day up to age 25, after that around 2,000. Strenuous activity like hiking and stress will increase those requirements so plan your menu accordingly and use these caloric recommendations as guidelines. While the Military and Civilian MRE’s are a possibly good choice they are also bulky and heavy. Light weight options are freeze dried meals from Mountain House. They store fine in the heat or cold but their main drawback,( if they have one), is they require water and heat to make them eatable. Even lighter yet is Emergency Ration Bars, the calories are there and its small packing but I’m not sure how well nourish I would feel if I was eating them exclusively for 3 days.
Minimize your food prep equipment and eating equipment. If you’re packing MRE’s or Emergency Ration Bars, all you need is a metal container to boil water in. For re-hydrating freeze dried meals a metal water bottle and a metal cup to nest it all you need and the water bottle adds an additional water supply.
As nice as a tent would be for shelter the quality lightweight ones are still going to run 3 to 5 pounds and be expensive. Better option for this bag is a light weight tarp. With it you can make an adequate shelter from wind and rain, with some study and practice. Check out You Tube for lots of videos.
Three days of water is probably not an option for this bag. Basic recommendation is 8, 8 oz. glasses a day but we are way past basic needs if we are Worst Case Scenario on foot bugging out. Research on hiking forums and medical web sites suggest close to a gallon or more per day would be required if on foot. One gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds so 3 gallons = 25.02 pounds. If we have a vehicle for us and our gear then good deal, carry as much as you can. If you are in a desert region it’s even more important that you get some training on finding water sources for your region. The light weight option I chose is a Filter Straw made by Aquamira and a water bladder system for my pack that holds 70 oz. / 2 liters of water.
Headlamp, LED light weight AAA battery powered for night travel with an extra set of batteries.
A full size sleeping bag is definitely not light weight enough for this bag; instead consider a compact Survival Bivy or even a couple of contractors trash bags might do the job.
Examine any duplicate items you have as backups. 2 is 1, 1 is none is a moto to live by in most cases to keep Murphy’s law from creeping in. Sure, you can have a knife included in the bag even if you carry one on you as EDC but remember, every item adds more weight. Ounces add up to pounds and pounds add up to pain.
Handguns are part of my families EDC and are not stored in any of the bags for what should be obvious reasons but an extra magazine and some extra rounds are.
As said earlier, this is not a complete checklist of items for your Bug Out Bag contents, just ideas on trying to lighten up the load without sacrificing capabilities.
To again reiterate, this bag is for basic essentials for survival and marginal comfort and security. There is no room for a camping pillow or deck of cards; your goal is cover your basic needs at the lightest weigh possible. Decide for yourself how basic your first aid kit should be for this bag, how many different fire starting options you need, even down to the question of do I have to have a tooth brush and simplify where possible.
As always, feel free to add your comments and views below.