Before we delve into a lot of facts, figures, and particulars about the backpacks you will find listed below, there is one very important thing I must share with you: there’s no such thing as a perfect bugout bag.
Bugout bags are not one size fits all, nor is any one bag best for all types of lifestyles or environments.
While some sturdy rucksacks can definitely be deemed multi-use and fulfill the bugout bag, 72-hour bag, and get me home bag requirements, purchasing a backpack that fits your body, a specific need, as well as both the weather and terrain in your location may vastly enhance your survival chances.
Understanding the difference between the focus of each type of bag and the abilities and constraints of the person wearing it will help prevent the purchase of a bag that can’t house the necessary gear, it’s too large to be functional, or too weak to last from the time that it is needed to when it can be tucked away in a closet again.
A 72-hour bag is not designed to help you survive long term. It needs to be only large enough to help you carry or house the essentials you need to make it through a few days.
A 72-hour bag does not necessarily ever have to be carried. Its contents can keep you alive inside your own home, vehicle, or inside a cabin or hotel room if you become stranded or quarantined during a disaster.
Such bags typically house long term survival food, bottled water and a means to purify water, some first aid items, fire starters, and clothing.
A bugout bag (Bob) is designed to help your survive outside of your home for an extended period of time while your travel, perhaps on foot, to your bugout location.
A BOB must be durable enough to withstand rain, sleet, snow, as well as excessive heat and cold. A bugout bag will hold clothing, a survival kit with some manual tools, food, water purification device or tablets, first aid items, and hunting and/or fishing gear.
I’m Never Coming Home Bags are the largest type of survival bags. If you strap one of these bad boys on, you will need a strong back and be carrying everything you will need to survive a long term disaster “out in the wild.” INCH bags should be built upon a lightweight metal frame to help distribute their weight evenly.
Get Home Bag
A Get Me Home Bag is designed to hold a survival kit that will help you during a several hour or day-long trip home…either on foot or by vehicle. It is a somewhat of a cross between a bugout bag and a 72-hour bag.
A GMHB will house clothing to help you survive the elements (hat, gloves, rain gear, thick socks, etc.) and perhaps a single change of clothes, water and/or water purification tablets or straw filter, a little bit of survival food, a knife, extra ammunition, fire starters, maybe a tarp to use as a tent, first aid items, etc.
Pets, Children, and Small Women – Bugout or GMHBs for dogs and rugged backpacks designed multi-use purpose for children and smaller stature women unaccustomed to strenuous activity, also exist.
Giving someone a bag they cannot carry because of either their size or work/school bag restrictions will not help them survive a disaster.
Color Matters Too!
Regardless of the type of bag you are buying, choose a color that will blend in with your surrounding – or is at least dark in tone to avoid being detected at night.
Resist the urge to look full on tactical. Under no circumstances do you want a bag that will attract any unnecessary attention or appear enticing to steal.
Each survival bag on the list will include a notation indicating if it is best for an urban, suburban, or rural environment, or if the bag is equally suited for all three environments.
If you live in one type of location but will be traveling to another to reach a bugout location or during your commute home, a survival bag equally suited for multiple environments is highly recommended.
If the survival bag is a great fit for small women, the elderly, or children, that will also be noted next to each recommendation.
Top 5 72-Hour Bags
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#1. 5.11 Rush72 Backpack (Rural – Suburban)
This is the most durably constructed 72-hour bag that I have ever come across. It is as comfortable as it is sturdy…and has lots of pockets, too! The 5.11 Rush72 Backpack has a 23-inch X 13.5-inch X 8.5-inch main compartment. It also features a duel-zippered front and molded grip pulls for ease of handling.
The main compartment is large enough to hold a tightly folded change of clothes, a map, and long term storage food pouches. The tactical design of the bag along with webbing inside the pouches, will help you keep all of your survival kit items organized and at the ready.
#2. Condor 3-Day Pack (Urban – Suburban – Women – Elderly)
This survival bag boasts 7 compartments to store emergency gear, and each pocket has its own grommet for quick drainage purposes.
The main compartment of the Condor 3-Day Pack has a separate hydration compartment capable of holing up to two 3 liter hydration bladders. Both the back and sides of the bag are foam padded.
The compression straps on the sides of the bag make it extremely comfortable to pack. The side and front pockets are webbed, increasing storage and organization of your survival kit items.
The backpack’s D-ring attachments and contoured shoulder straps, sternum strap, and removable waist belt, make this a highly adjustable and form-adaptable survival rucksack.
The Condor’s dimension’s are 22 inches by 17 inches by 11 inches. It can hold 3,038 cubic inches of gear.
#3. Voodoo Tactical Mojo Bag (Urban – Suburban – Women)
This duffle style bag has an extremely large main compartment and 11 pockets around the sides of the bag. The Voodoo Tactical Mojo duffle weighs two and a half pounds and has 173 liters of survival gear storage space.
The PALS webbing on the exterior pouches create expandable survival kit storage options. This survival bag contains removable backpack straps that can turn it into a traditional backpack to allow for easy carrying during long treks.
This feature would be especially helpful if the 72-hour bag becomes a bugout bag during an emergency that becomes long term, or the wearer’s location becomes unsafe causing relocation to be undertaken quickly.
#4. Nexpak 72-hour Tactical Backpack (Urban – Suburban – Women – Elderly – older Children)
The Nexpak ML118 “Falcon” Tactical Pack is only 18 inches tall when filled, giving it a low profile, and boasts a two liter hydration compartment. The survival bag also has a padded back section, 2 front pockets with durable webbing, two side pockets with four MOLLE straps on every pocket.
The main compartment is large enough for survival food pouches and a first aid kit. The bag also has two separate compartments in the top front pocket and a heavy duty zipper.
The Nexpak 72 Hour bag has a 4,300 cubic inch capacity, is made of high density polyester with rain resistant lining. The bag is 22 inches, by 17 inches, by 11 inches.
#5. Lucky Bums Tracker II Backpack (Multi-Region – Children – Women – Elderly)
The only drawback to these durable and large yet lightweight backpacks for kids, are the colors.
The somewhat bright back colors some are currently available in will work fine if bugging in for 72 hours, but will attract too much attention if the bags are carried outdoors.
Consider covering the bags in dark-colored duct tape if they will be used outside of the home or car.
The Lucky Bums backpack, which is also advertised as being great for kids and “small adults,” boasts a hydration sleeve, four storage compartments, four exterior loops, and two water bottle holders on the side.
The bag has removable hip straps, YKK zippers, a safety whistle in the buckle on the sternum, and an adjustable sternum strap. The bag’s dimensions are 18.5 x 4 x 12 inches and it weighs less than two pounds.
Top 3 Bugout Bags (Multi-Region – Rural)
#1. Direct Action Dragon Egg Backpack
This rugged survival backpack is comprised of 500D Cordura material that makes it extremely resistant to abrasions. It has also been treat with water repellent.
Both the side and front pouches on the bag boast PALS and MOLLE webbing, making is very easy to keep gear in its place and organize your survival kits. The back of the bag has a woven mesh and foam contour to increase both air circulation and comfort.
The bag is also designed and specially treated to be almost infrared night-vision resistant. The D-rings on the outside of the bag make it easy to attach additional gear you want to keep within easily accessible reach. The Direct Action Dragon Egg Backpack has a removable waist belt.
#2. KIFARU EMR II (Suburban – Rural)
This huge survival bag has a 136 liter capacity but it can be quickly and easily compressed down to a much smaller bag that holds only 39.6 liters of emergency gear. It is comprised of 500D DWR coated Cordura nylon, making is weather resistant and durable.
The KIFARU EMR II features a full-length front zipper, two large and flexible exterior pockets, both interior and exterior PALS, is compatible with KIFARU Duplex rucksack frames, and weighs a little more than three pounds.
#3. Military Tactical Small Backpack (Urban – Suburban)
This smaller bugout bag (11 inches by 18 inches by 12 inches) feels huge when you are stuffing it full of survival gear. It easily holds about four days of clothing in the main compartment.
The MOLLE spacing on the bag is a bit unusual, ½ inch a part, but that does not attract from the overall value of this very durable and lightweight survival bag.
The Military Tactical Backpack can hold a 2 and a half liter hydration bladder. The padded shoulder straps distribute the weight appropriately and are very comfortable. The bag has utility pull cords, heavy duty zippers, and the durable and ventilated material is weather-resistant.
Top 3 Get Home Bags
1. Maxpedition Vulture II
The non-tactical looking bag is comprised of ultra-durable 1000D nylon. The Maxpedition Vulture II survival bag has a rubberized base to protect it from the elements. The MOLLE grids expand the storage options on this 34 liter bag.
It weighs about a little less than four pounds. The main compartment on the Maxpedition survival bag is 20.5 inches by 16 inches by 7.5 inches. It has a 15.5 inches by 12 inches by 2.75 inches front pouch. The slip pocket on the bag has roughly the same measurements. Multi-Region
2. TRIPLE AUGHT DESIGN FAST Pack (Urban – Suburban)
This everyday carry (EDC) backpack weighs about four and a half pounds and can hold almost 33 liters of survival gear. The dimensions and durability of this bag could easily allow it to double as a short duration bugout bag.
The Triple Aught Design Fast Pack boasts many internal and external pockets with webbing and a clam shell style opening on the main pouch to allow or easy access to the contents of the survival kit.
The roll top compartment on the bag is substantially weather resistant and is supposed to offer enough protection to house sensitive electronics.
#3. COLFAX SDP_01 STANDARD ISSUE DAYPACK (Urban – Suburban)
This 3-pound survival bag can hold up to a 2.1 liter survival kit. The material the COLFAX bag is comprised of is both tear and weather resistant.
The tear-resistant X-ply layer is backed by a laminated PET waterproof membrane. It also boasts a durable hydration sleeve , laptop style compartment, and a MOLLE style webbing system.
Top 3 INCH Bags
#1. Direct Action Ghost Tactical Backpack
This INCH bag was designed for law enforcement and military operator use. Despite its dimensions, the Direct Action Ghost Tactical Backpack has a decidedly low profile. It has a 31 liter capacity at a “Combat Vent System” that increases both air flow and comfort for the wearer.
The mesh inserts and contoured foam panels on the bag help decrease perspiration during wear on long and rugged trips.
Shock cords attach an external pocket of the survival bag to an interior organizer, that also permits rain gear to be stored between the backpack an the attached pouch.
The pouch can be detached an carried separately via a handle. The survival backpack has two front pockets and side pockets designed to carry small items or gear as large as a canteen. It also boasts a laser-cut MOLLE/PALS system.
The wide hip belt area distributes the weight of the filled bag evenly, as do the S-profiled straps on the shoulders.
The Direct Action Ghost Tactical Backpack has YKK Zippers, 4-inch detachable hip belts, and a detachable 3.5 liter external pocket. The INCH bag weighs about five pounds and is 7.1 x 11.8 x 20.5 inches. Rural
#2. Mystery Ranch 6500
This massive and durable bag boasts an interior frame to help support not just the 10 pounds it weighs, but the in-depth survival kit you can house inside.
The Mystery Ranch 6500 bag includes a removable day pack, a Speedzip Sleeping Bag Compartment, and is boy armor compatible.
The survival bag can easily carry 70 pounds of gear, but is graded to stabilize loads over 100 pounds. Rural or for those fleeing through rugged terrain to rural areas.
#3. REI Crestrail 70 (Multi-Region)
This large INCH bag feature a sculpted free flow back panel so it comfortably contours to the body and reduces perspiration, while still allowing for a stable fitting survival bag. The ActivMotion hop belt pivots to work with the natural motion of the boy and hips and to help keep the rucksack balanced.
The webbing on the hip belt can be adjusted and includes two zippered pockets. The top loading main compartment on the REI Crestrail 70 bag also has two pockets and a separate access point to a sleeping bag compartment.
The tubular aluminum frame on the perimeter of the bag is very lightweight and transfers the load to the hip area as it helps to prevent side to side swaying of the pack.
A large front pocket, bottle locking pockets on the sides of the bag, and speed hook attachments allow for ample storage and easy access to your survival kit. Compression straps keep the gear load close to the body and the floating top lid extends to permit the Crestrail to accommodate large survival gear.
The Cordura fabric the bag is comprised of make it extremely durable and moisture repellent. Water-repellent zippers eliminate the need for flaps to cover the opening, and deter simple access to the pockets.
The REI Crestrail 70 backpack inclues a hydration-ready design feature to allow for a drink tube from a your bladder to be routed over either shoulder for comfortable access.
Top 3 Survival Bags for Kids
1. Mochila Kids Military
This durable backpack can double as a school backpack for prepper children who are not homeschooled (at least, not yet) and as a Get Me Home bag.
It weights little a little less than 13 ounces and is 15 inches, by 2 inches, by 11.2 inches. The Mochila Kids Military backpack is large enough to carry to carry extra water, food, a map, flashlight, some basic first aid items, a Mylar emergency blanket, or similar items.
2. Everest Digital Camo Backpack
This small camo backpack has padded shoulder straps, a key ring attachment that would be perfect for carrying a small flashlight, a spacious front zippered pocket, and is made of durable and weather-resistant material. The bag is 16.5 inches by 13 inches by 6 and a half inches and weighs about one pound.
3. Wildkin Digital Camo
This camo bag with a lunchbox compartment should make a great covert Get Me Home Bag for the little young lady in your life. It is made of durable and water-repellent material and weighs less than one pound. The Wildkin Digital Camo bag is 9 inches by 8 inches by 7 inches.
Top 3 Survival Bags for Dogs
1. OneTigris Dog Pack
This canvas and cotton lined saddlebag set will fit medium to large dogs. It is weather resistant and can carry some food, water, and other first aid essentials. The One Tigris Dog Pack has two main pouches and two front pockets. It weighs less than three pounds and is 10.6 inches by 2.2 inches, by 9.8 inches.
2. Daypak Dog Backpack
The compression saddle bags have four pockets to hold essential survival gear for your four-legged best friend and are weather-resistant. The Daypak Dog Backpack weighs about 12 ounces. The Daypak Dog Backpack is 20 and half inches by 12.4 inches by 2.2 inches and comes with an adjustable belly strap.
3. Pettom Dog Saddle Backpack
This dog bugout bag is comprised of waterproof material and scratch-resistant covering. The lightweight mesh lining helps to keep the dog cool. The compression fit of the Pettom Dog Saddle Backpack helps to distribute the weight the animal is carrying both evenly and comfortably.
The canine saddlebags have five points of adjustment to help the bag fit small to large dogs, as well as a removable storage bag and ample expandable pockets throughout.
A dog should never carry more than 25% of its own body weight. This bugout bag for dogs is 16 inches by five inches by 10 inches and weighs a little more than 10 ounces.
Buying your survival bag in person, only after trying it on is recommended. If going bugout bag browsing is not feasible because no brick-and-mortar store selling such gear is located near you, buy from a reputable online retailer with a guaranteed and simple return policy, like Amazon.
Once you have your new bugout bag, INCH bag, get me home bag, or 72-hour bag, fill it with your survival kit and go hiking. Even a few pounds of extra weight will take its toll on your body if you do not train properly for the SHTF activity.
I regularly go for a two to three mile hike over rugged terrain several times a week with my bugout bag – dressed in whatever I am wearing at the time, to simulate a true emergency situation as closely as possible.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.