Light versus Heavy Bug-Out Bags

Though I’m not, by any means, trying to bring this particular prepping debate to an end (and there are quite a few of them), I do want to weigh in on the “lightweight versus ultra-packed bug-out bags” issue.

Spoiler alert: there is no clear winner, it’s up to you to figure out what you pack and what you leave behind. However, there are a few things to keep in mind and that’s what I want to bring to your attention today.

three backpacks a 45 liter frameless day pack a large 7-day pack, and a smaller 2-day pack
three backpacks a 45 liter frameless day pack a large 7-day pack, and a smaller 2-day pack

First, let me ask you this: are you in shape? And I’m not talking about being ripped or having the body fat of an 18 year old. I’m talking about your ability to walk, run, hike, climb, and jump, among other things.

This is one of those obvious pieces of advice which makes a lot of people say “Yeah, I knew that” but it’s also one of the biggest problems most preppers have. The “magic pill syndrome” and the “comfort zone” are the two biggest enemies when it comes to being an all-around prepper.

Speaking of which, those pre-made bug-out bags are as close to the magic pill as they can get, but they never come close to being one. They’re too expensive and they lack a lot of the things you may need in your specific situation, which is also the reason some of them are so lightweight.

Whether you’re in favor of a lighter BOB, or if you prefer one that has you covered for just about any situation, pre-packed bug-out bags are a no-no.

And now for the big question: should you remove stuff from your backpack to make it lighter? Probably so, but hear me out first. See, a lot of the times, we carry stuff we really don’t need. Who needs an e-Reader in their bag when they can just have them at their bug-out location?

Here’s what I suggest: unpack everything in your bug out bag and then put back only the items where you really, really need. This will also give you a chance to save extra space by packing everything back in a way that make sense.

Whether you decide you need most of the stuff in there or not, I suggest you go take a hike… literally. Find out just how long you can walk with that thing on your back.

Before you start filling your kitchen table with your BOB items, how about you try and find ways to get smaller versions of them? For example, you can get devices that use smaller, AAA batteries instead of the bigger and heavier AAs? Just a thought.

And what about cookware? Why not replace it with cans and pots made of uncoated titanium or anodized aluminum to shed a few ounces off your bug out bag?

Also, how about getting multipurpose items? For example, there are AM/FM radios out there that are also hand crank, they have an incorporated solar panel, a flashlight and have a built-in phone charger! It just can’t get any better than that.

OK, I’ve given you all these tips and we still haven’t answered the original question from the title. Should you go for a lighter bug out bag that’s easy to carry or a heavier one that has more stuff?

Instead of giving a straight answer, which doesn’t exist, anyway, let’s start off with a quick list of the factors that need to be considered so you can decide for yourself.

And when I say “for yourself”, I mean it. While you may be able to carry more, your spouse and kids may not.

Here we go:

  • level of fitness
  • age
  • gender
  • health problems (e.g. bad back or knees)

The only way to carry more weight is to fix your back problems and get into shape.

There’s also a third option, a trick if you will. Get a backpack that has padded hip belts.

These will distribute some of the weight on your hips and off your spine. You may want to arrange the items in your BOB in a way which puts them as close to your back as possible.

If you don’t, the entire weight will push away from it, making it uncomfortable for you to carry the whole thing.

It is going to feel like you have more weight than you do and you’ll grow tired quicker than if you packed intelligently.

Well, that’s about it. Instead of answering the question from the title, I hope I’ve got you to ask yourself even more questions, which is a good thing.

What bug out bag items have you removed from your own bug out bag? What items am I missing that are crucial? Let me know in the comments below.

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