HOW-TO: Choose A Bug-Out Backpack

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Without the bag you can’t carry any of the important items you need and with the wrong bag you could be painting a giant target on your back. Consider this, if you were one of the people waiting for help to arrive in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina among all the looters and criminals roving around would you want to be carrying a big bag decked out with all the tactical molle pouches and zip-on accessories that make you look like you’re about to land in Ramadi? Of course not, because that lets everyone around you know that you’ve got some stuff they probably want! You want a backpack that can hold up to the rigors you’re going to put it through, hold and organize all of your gear, and won’t stick out like a sore thumb if you were walking through the mall with it.

This is called the grey-man theory and it’s definitely something you want to adopt in an emergency or survival situation. You want to be able to blend into the crowd and not look like a threat, all while being more prepared than the people around you. I’ll break the bags down into good, better, and best categories so you can choose which bag will suit your needs and your bank account best.


A good place to start is a normal Jansport pack that every high school and college student carries their books in. They’re the most common backpack out there and won’t raise any eyebrows. The only shortcoming is the durability, capacity, and organizational options. These are a great ultralight pack if you live in a warm climate and don’t need to carry much in the way of extra layers or a more durable shelter. And at $35 it’s not going to break the bank.

The next step up from there would be something like the Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking backpack. This gives you much more storage at 35L and many more organizational options while still not looking tactical or even that much like a hiking pack and it’s actually cheaper than the Jansport at a mere $20! And it truly is lightweight at only 11.2 ounces. The only issue with this is going to be durability so you’re not going to want to really throw this thing around or you’ll want to buy multiples to practice with and get familiar with where you store things. Remember, always store things in the same place so you can access it when under duress! With the most storage of any of the bags this one is also better for people that live in colder climates that need to pack things like extra socks or a larger sleeping pad or bag. Both of these round out the budget options that will still do everything you need while looking unassuming and not hurting your wallet.

The next category is the better option out there from some of the best folks out there making bags. The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 24 is inspired by military rucksacks and given features of a camping daypack, all while looking like it’s being worn by a harmless high school student. It’s lightweight at only 2.7lbs but boasts a storage of 24L and tons of internal pockets (including a plate holder) for organization. The triple zipper allows for very fast deployment of internal items and it’s made of very durable 500D Cordura. At only $165 it’s a great deal on an incredible bag that will last you for a very very long time.

The next pack is some of the highest quality out there and is absolutely worth the cash at $167. The Vertx Ready Pack 2.0 is an all-around great pack for bug-out, a day pack, a camping pack, and an EDC pack. It won’t stick out at the office or at the mall and it’s loaded with features. There’s a weapon storage area for concealed carry, a convertible front flap that gives you access to MOLLE webbing behind a cover to keep it from looking too tactical, and adjustable waist band that tucks away when you don’t need it or don’t want it to look like a hiking pack, and a pocket that accepts armor plates. This is absolutely a great pick for a bug-out bag and gives you tons of options to mold it to your exact needs. At 20L it’s a great all-around bag for most applications no matter where you live.


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