Planning Your Bug Out Bag (Survival Backpack For Beginners)

survival backpack

Are You Having Problems Planning Your Survival Backpack?

In a previous guide we covered the differences between a survivalist and a prepper. but if anything, the one important similarity between them is both groups believe in prepping a Bug Out Bag, for a quick escape.

Want to know more about bug out bags? Keep reading…

Pay close attention because what you are about to learn in this Living Obscure guide could save your life.


You need to have your bug out gear ready to go for two main reasons, which we’re going to cover.

The first reason, you need to eat to stay alive. So having a portable supply of several days worth of food and water is important for your survival.

And second, you need necessities if your home becomes unfit to live in. So having the right combination of survival gear (non-food items) are also important.

The goal here is simple, in the event of an emergency be it natural or man-made, always be ready to grab your backpack and go.

Rules for how to pick a backpack for a bug out bag.

You want a good quality bag with double stitching that has plenty of compartments to keep everything organized.

Survival Bag for BabiesEvery member of the family should have a backpack of their own because you can’t carry enough for every member of the family in one or two bags. (Read this again until it sinks in!)

You should even have a bag for babies and toddlers in the family. While infants can’t carry the bag themselves, it’s wise to have all their formula, diapers, wipes and clothes packed and ready, too.

In a crisis you don’t want a hungry crying baby making you do anything stupid because you didn’t plan.

Children and teenagers, however, can carry their own backpack and it will make them feel safer knowing that they have their own supplies.

How big should my backpack be?

The sizes and weights of these backpacks vary.

Backpack can be purchased so that they’re the right fit for children and adults.

Also for children, you’re going to want sturdy, yet lightweight material. Also, you’ll want backpacks that are waterproof.

For teenagers, you can get the backpacks with the frames but you might not want to do this for younger children because of the added weight of the frame. These backpacks can be purchased with internal or external frames.


Children’s survival backpacks are a smaller version of the adult sized ones and some of them have pockets that you can access without having to stop and take the bag off. Many people find this added convenience helpful.

Some backpacks also have padded straps for the shoulders and are made of water resistant nylon. And most backpacks also come with multiple pockets and hooks for storing important gear and supplies.

Almost every backpack comes with expandable straps and some come with a hydration pocket. Look for ones that are hydration compatible if you want that feature but be warned that any unnecessary features add weight that could be problematic on a long hike away from the crisis area.

Bottom line:

You can buy backpacks in all sizes, shapes and colors, but remember, bug out bags are not to be mistaken for use when going camping. These backpacks need to fully packed and stocked at all times and left alone until they are needed for a quick escape.

What Survival Food Should You Pack?trail mix

There are a lot of places that sell the survival bars. These bars are good for you, packed with nutrients and can give you the calories you need to survive. But just because you need to survive doesn’t mean that all you eat are the survival bars.

BTW, survival bars can be purchased in bulk, they’re tasty and do fit easily into your backpack, but there are a lot of different survival foods that you can also include in your backpack. That said, pack 2 – 3 survival bars per day, per person.

You probably wouldn’t believe what some people pack but for this guide we’ll stick with the basics.

The goal is survival and you there are a variety of foods you can pack. Some food supplies even have a shelf life of 25 years. Hopefully if you need to bug out, your crisis won’t last that long. Although 3 days to a week could happen.

Let’s get back to our topic, survival food.

Survival doesn’t mean you have to eat cardboard-tasting food all the time. You can even have gourmet meals as your survival foods. Some folk rotate food items in and out of their backpack to keep them fresh.

The idea is to keep foods that are fresh, portable and fit easily into your backpack, ready to go.

Other example of survival food are freeze dried foods that lock in the nutrients and taste. When you’re ready to eat them, all you have to do is re-hydrate the food with water.

Trail mix, vegetables and fruits that are freeze dried can also be easily packed. You can have greens like peas, beans and broccoli. Or you can have strawberries and apple slices. There are even desserts like chocolate pudding.

Whatever your taste-buds like. You can also find survival food packets that have meat as well as packaged cheeses. Mix in 1 – 2 servings of fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese per day, per person. What you don’t eat can be traded with other groups if you run out of something important like baby formula and diapers.

Meals Ready to Eat

Besides the freeze dried foods that you can buy in bulk, you can also buy MREs. These always remind me of my days in the USMC.  Yum, nothing like eating freeze dried pork patties!

While MREs are not as tasty as the gourmet freeze dried foods, they are filling, will keep you alive, and can be easily packed in your backpack. You can order MREs in yearly supplies if you want and they last a long time as long as they are not opened.

More survival food ideas…

Things like granola bars and beef jerky are long lasting foods that pack well and will keep you alive in a pinch.

Choosing a variety of foods is also something that you can get the kids involved with. Children like picking out their own foods for their backpacks, but remember the goal is not a camping trip, it’s surviving a crisis. So plan well what goes into your survival backpack because supplies run out fast and space is a premium when you figure a fully packed backpack weighs 30 – 70 pounds.

What Else Goes Into Your Survivalist Bug Out Bag?

We’ve already covered the first item on the list which is food. And now we’ll cover everything else.

Bear with me, because I’m going to cover this section of the guide quickly…

If you’re new to survivalist training, you might not know what a bug out bag is so let’s review. Basically it’s just a backpack with all the gear you need to survival that you can grab fast and go on your way in the event of a disaster (Hence, where it gets the name “Bug Out Bag”).

If you aren’t able to purchase a backpack as describe above any sturdy nylon bag will work but keep in mind it might be harder to carry, long term.

Now, let’s keep going…

You’ll also need three days worth of water for everyone, roughly a couple of canteens or a couple large water bottles, per grown-up, per day. But you’ll want to take along something to collect water in for the days ahead. Also pack water purifying tablets. Bleach can do in a pinch, but is harder to pack and could make you sick if you use too much.


Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon and someone needs to lug it so consider your water options carefully, especially if you’re packing for children and infants.

Aside from food and water, you need a way to cook the food and boil the water. To cook the food, you’ll need a basic cooking set, which would be lightweight pots that can be used over campfires or on a portable camp stove.

Then you’ll want to pack clothes for two days. The clothes that you’re wearing when you bug out will count as your third set. And make sure you pack long pants, long sleeved shirts and other clothing that will keep you (all) warm.

You’ll want to pack long pants and shirts even if it’s summer. Long pants and long sleeved shirts will protect your skin from pests and will keep you warm if the temperatures dip at night. You’ll also want to pack extra socks and underwear. Take sturdy hiking boots along, too.

Rain gear like a poncho can be used as shelter in a pinch. Bring a hat along to keep the rain and the sun off your head. Take sunglasses to protect your eyes in case you’re out in the sun for long periods. A bandanna should be packed because it can have a multitude of uses.

Shelter materials should also go in your backpack. Take a tent or a tarp along with cording in the event you need to tie something to trees. Carry a sleeping bag or a sleeping pad along to protect you from having to sleep directly on the ground. Make sure there are enough emergency blankets for everyone.

This sounds like a lot of gear but it can be spread across each backpack.

Personal hygiene materials need to go in your bug out bag and don’t forget your first aid kit. Fire starters are necessary as are waterproof matches. Take a flashlight that uses solar power rather than batteries (We’ll cover these item in detail later on in another guide).

You’ll also want fishing gear, a knife and a multi-tool. An emergency radio and a way to charge your cell phone using solar power should be included in your bug out bag. Have sturdy gloves and a small axe that can be used to make a clearing or to get debris out of your way.

You’ll want to have a folding shovel and duct tape along, too. Bring your important papers and pack entertainment. A computer tablet is good and may come in handy for other uses.

Finally, make sure that you bring a weapon such as a gun in order to protect yourself and your family. This may sound extreme, but fathers and mothers get mighty desperate when their babies haven’t eaten for days. In worst cases, you also need to watch out for looters who will rob you of all your supplies.

Other related topics covered on Living Obscure are:

  • How to keep warm in a crisis: blankets and fire.
  • Which survival knife you should have in a crisis.
  • How to pack a first aid kit that will be useful.
  • Setting up a survival camp for the short or long term.

That concludes this guide about survival backpacks (bug out bags). There are obviously more items you’ll need to pack and we’ll cover them in other guides here on Living Obscure, so keep reading and remember to be ready to bug out…

Do you have suggestions to offer? All helpful comments will be published.

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