What do you think the chances that your hometown will be affected by some sort natural disaster, industrial accident, or civil uprising in the next year? If you’ve been watching cable news recently you might guess ten or twenty percent chance minimum. Fortunately those fears are wildly overblown and these situations are actually quite rare.
It never hurts to be prepared for an emergency though. Having a bug out bag at the ready is a great way to prep for the unexpected; just pack it with all the supplies you’d need for spending 72 hours away from the house and you’ll have some piece of mind knowing that should everything go wrong at least you’re prepared.
|Bug Out Bag||Price||Our Rating|
|Gowara Gear Tactical Backpack||Amazon||B|
|Reebow Gear Tactical Backpack||Amazon||A|
|Orca Tactical Salish Backpack||Amazon||B|
|Gelindo Military Tactical Backpack||Amazon||B|
|Trekking King 60L Backpack||Amazon||A+|
Why You Might Need a Bug Out Bag
Despite their association with hardcore preppers and military personnel, bug out bags or “BOB bags” are not just for those of us that are worried danger could be lurking around the next corner. None of us know when disaster will strike, but we can all be prepared for when it does.
You don’t need to have everything necessary to set up your own colony when the apocalypse comes, but it’s smart to ready yourself for a few days without power or running water – which could occur after something more mundane like an earthquake or tornado. Having some gear packed and ready to go just means you’re thinking about how you’ll deal with hardship before it happens and when your decision-making capabilities are at their best.
What to Look for in Your Bug Out Bag
This will undoubtedly be your first consideration – how much stuff needs to go in your bug out bag? Your pack size will most likely fall somewhere between 30 and 60 liters, which is enough space to carry everything necessary for three days or so.
You’ll need food, shelter, materials for starting a fire, and probably some first-aid supplies. How much space that takes up probably depends on where you live; a bag packed for the mountains of Montana will be very different from one used in the flatlands of Florida.
Your experience in bushcraft will also be a determining factor – there’s a lot that can be accomplished with a good knife, a fire steel, some twine, and a plastic tarp, but if you don’t know how to MacGyver those things together, it’s all pretty useless. Make a checklist of everything that will go into the pack before deciding on a specific volume.
While the tendency is usually to follow the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”, you really don’t want to be carrying everything but the kitchen sink on your back. What goes in your bag must be considered and anything that isn’t likely to be used should be removed. Extra weight will just slow you down.
“Everything in its proper place” – the gear you pack won’t be useful to you if it’s hard to locate. A bug out bag should be equipped with multiple pockets, pouches, and zippered compartments to store all the odds and ends you’ll need for survival.
Some of the better packs have detachable pouches that can be added or removed depending on the circumstances and how much you need to carry. At the bare minimum, the pack should have a pouch for a hydration bladder, a zippered-mesh compartment for small tools, and a method for strapping accessories to the bag (usually through the MOLLE system).
While not strictly an organizational feature, it’s also a good idea to examine what options you’ll have for decreasing the size of the bag too. Typically you’ll look for some compression straps on each side of the bag that will pull everything on the pack closer to your body. This will make it more comfortable by centering the weight over your hips, and it will prevent you from running into things by eliminating some of the unruly bulk behind you.
These two factors will primarily be determined by the type of fabric the pack is made from. Almost every bug out bag will be made from 500+ denier nylon or polyester. A higher denier count means a tighter weave on the fabric, which translates into greater abrasion resistance and durability.
There’s an ongoing debate over whether nylon or polyester is superior. Nylon is heavier and more durable, but polyester is less expensive and holds its color better – which makes it a more popular choice for school backpacks and the kind you’d wear around town. Ultimately, you’ll need to consider your specific needs to figure out which is right for you.
Another thing to look at is zipper quality. YKK zippers are frequently touted as the best in the business, but overall you just want to make sure that they’re not too flimsy. Some manufacturers skimp on the zippers, which is unfortunate because when they fail, the bag is nearly useless.
While comfort is important for any backpack that you purchase, it’s one of the lesser considerations when it comes to a bug out bag. BOB bags are to be used in an emergency, not carried on weekly trips into the mountains. If there are some features that you really like about a bag but it has poor back support and the straps don’t fit quite right, it’s not as important as it would be for an EDC bag or one made for backpacking trips in the wilderness. Consider comfort, but don’t prioritize it.
Gowara Gear Tactical Backpack
Let’s start off with a no-frills pack. If you’ve never considered packing a bug out bag, you don’t need to go overboard and get the most expensive and feature-laden model. The Tactical Backpack from Gowara Gear is a great bag for emergency preparedness novices. It’s fairly inexpensive, not costing much more than a child’s school backpack, but it still has plenty of organizational pockets (one main, and three smaller accessories pouches). Depending on how much you choose to pack, compression straps on the size of the bag allow it to be cinched up and hold a slim profile for easier carrying.
No pack is perfect though, and the Gowara is no exception to the rule. It’s a bit on the smaller size with a capacity of 34 liters. If you’ve got a long checklist of must-have gear, it would be a good idea to go with a larger bag. It’s also not the most durable, some users have reported zipper failures and holes forming in the fabric after several months of extensive use. Fortunately, your bug out bag should only be coming out once in a blue moon.
A final gripe with Gowara Gear is that they chose to use non-standard MOLLE loops, the little fabric loops on the exterior of the pack that allow for easy attachment of additional accessory pouches. The loops aren’t quite the right distance apart, so be very careful when buying anything extra to attach.
Gowara Gear has made a pack that is very accessible to beginner preppers, but its small capacity, lower durability, and unorthodox MOLLE system mean those who are more experienced in emergency preparedness might be left wanting a more sophisticated bag.
- Variety of organizational pouches.
- Can expand or contract to fit your cargo.
- Non-standard MOLLE can make it hard to attach accessories.
- Smaller capacity.
- Poor durability.
Reebow Gear Tactical Backpack
Having seen the Tactical Pack from Gowara Gear, you would be forgiven for doing a double take upon eyeing Reebow Gear’s version of it. They look almost identical at first glance, with a similar pocket organization system and frame design. One place where they differ? Cost. Reebow Gear’s Tactical Backpack costs 50% more than the Gowara Gear. Why?
The simplest answer is quality. Reebow Gear uses a stronger, more durable fabric with a tighter weave that makes it a better choice for anyone wanting to use the bag more often. Unfortunately, the zippers are reportedly not very long-lasting and could separate on you with continued use.
One of the most common complaints with the Reebow Gear is that some of the buckles tend to fall off, particularly the one on the hip belt. The buckles don’t seem to create enough tension on the strap and thus slide easily, making adjustment more difficult. For some, the buckles have slid right off.
Issues aside, the Reebow holds a bit more gear than the Gowara, having a capacity of 40 liters instead of 34 liters. At the same time, it has a similar number of pockets and zippered internal pouches, which are great for holding small items.
The Reebow costs more the Gowara while looking very similar. If you need just a little more space and prefer greater durability, it might be worth it to shell out a few extra dollars.
- More durable fabric.
- Spacious at 40 liters.
- Lots of organizational pockets.
- Zippers reportedly separate with frequent use.
- Buckles can fall off their straps.
Orca Tactical Salish Backpack
Here we are again, with another similar looking backpack to the Gowara and Reebow Gear… it must just be a great design, so why change it? While the same size as the Reebow, the Orca Tactical Salish backpack costs just a bit more and is another step up in quality. The zippers tend to be a little stronger, the fabric slightly more abrasion resistant, and overall it seems to be a better choice if you plan on using it more frequently.
That being said, Orca touts their product as being made from 600-denier polyester, but your bug out bag really should be made from nylon of the same denier or higher. Polyester wears out faster and doesn’t have the same abrasion resistance as nylon.
However, it does have the same lightweight design and extensive pockets (including a padded laptop sleeve) as some of the previous packs on this list. It can also be tightened down with the compression straps if it’s not completely full and you want a slimmer profile.
For a more expensive pack though, you might expect it to be a little more comfortable. Unfortunately, the foam in the back panel is somewhat thin and might not feel great after lugging around a fully-loaded pack for a few hours. It also has the same annoying non-standard MOLLE loops that were found on the previous packs.
Of the three similarly looking packs: Gowara, Reebow, and Orca, the Orca is the most expensive and seems to made to the highest quality standards. If you like the design and want something that’s built to last and won’t fail you at a critical moment, the Orca is probably your best choice.
- Padded laptop sleeve.
- Slim design with compression straps.
- Made from polyester fabric.
- Not much back padding.
- Non-standard size MOLLE loops.
Gelindo Military Tactical Backpack
BOB bags are all about stripping things down to the essentials, only carrying what is absolutely necessary. In that case, the 35L tactical pack from Gelindo is a pretty good option. It’s not very expensive, which is important for something you’ll use very infrequently. It also has several organizational pockets including a phone pouch on the waist belt and a somewhat insulated interior hydration bladder pocket. The compression straps on the side let you tighten and get a slimmer profile if the bag’s not too full.
One of the most common complaints about this pack is its durability. If you fill this pack to the brim, it’s possible that the zippers will end up off their tracks and the fabric could stretch out. Not what you’d hope for with a tactical pack, but not a big problem if it’s only used infrequently and isn’t overloaded.
Many people choose to buy a bug out bag hoping that they’ll never need to use it. If you’re purchasing one purely for emergency situations, the Gelindo could be a good choice. It’s not particularly durable, but it’s also not very expensive and is perfectly capable of organizing all the things you need when disaster strikes.
- Compression straps for tightening down a load.
- Very inexpensive.
- Lots of organizational pouches.
- Small capacity (35L).
- Lower quality zippers.
- Not very durable, fabric can stretch out.
Trekking King 60L Backpack
Trekking King’s 60L is a great option if you need to stuff a lot of gear into your bug out bag; 60 liters is enough space to cram most of the survival gear you could possibly need for a week or more. The pack also has an innovative design with three detachable accessory pouches, which can be stored separately with gear that may not be required for all emergency situations.
The biggest issues with this bag are mostly concentrated in the straps. Some users have stated that the straps do not hold up to continued use, and if you wear it loaded down every weekend, they could fall apart fairly quickly. Fortunately, weekly use if not what bug out bags are about. It’s fairly disappointing though given that this bag costs about 50% more than some of the other packs on this list.
Additionally, when all the modular compartments are full, the pack can feel pretty bulky and doesn’t hug your body very well. Watch out for tree branches that it could get caught on too.
The Trekking King is a really durable pack, with the possible exception of the shoulder straps, and if you’ve got a lot of gear in mind for your bug-out list, this will probably be your go-to pack.
- Large capacity (60L).
- Modular pack system for extra customization.
- Very durable fabric.
- Shoulder straps are not as durable as the rest of the bag.
- Bulky shape when all compartments are full.
Our Top Choice
The most important features of a bug out bag are that it holds everything you need in a place you can find it. So we’ve weighted those characteristics a bit higher than things like durability and comfort when selecting the best bug out bag.
Given that criteria, the Trekking King’s 60L pack is our top pick. It has the potential to carry 60 liters worth of gear but can have the accessory pouches removed if you’d like something smaller and lighter. It’s good at keeping everything organized with its various pockets while also being fairly durable. The straps aren’t the best, and they could wear out if you frequently carry heavy loads, but a bug out bag isn’t meant for everyday use. If you’d prefer something smaller, we suggest the 40 liter tactical pack from Reebow Gear. It’s not as customizable or durable but otherwise is a solid choice.