How to Test your Bug Out Bag

As a prepper, your bug out bag is the most vital piece of equipment you own. It’s your lifeline when SHTF, or in any disaster. This is why it’s very important to know your BOB, and what it’s capable of.

A big mistake that many preppers make with their bug out bags, is not testing them out. Imagine actually having to use your BOB, and finding out that you failed yourself when you picked it out.

This is why testing your BOB is imperative. Prepping alone is a stressful hobby to do, but having the added confidence in your BOB (and BOB plan) can alleviate some unnecessary stress. While you don’t have to go on a long expedition to test your bag, it’s recommended. You should train like it’s real life, that way when real life situations happen, you’re ready.

A lot of people will pack their BOB in the comfort of their own home and then put it on to “test the weight”. This is a critical mistake with BOBs, because they are not really feeling the long-term effects of the weight over long distances or extreme terrain. After you pack your BOB, you’ll want to plan a hike to really test how well your BOB works.

Planning Your Trip

Once you’ve acquired your fresh, new bug out bag, you’ll want to test it out. However, you don’t want to go out into the wilderness without a plan, right? You’ll want a primary plan, along with at least two alternates.

Never wonder into the unforgiving wilderness without backup plans, testing your bug out bag isn’t worth dying over. Make sure you tell at least two people each of your plans, this way somebody knows what you’re doing in case anything happens to you.

If you have an electronic GPS (Global Positioning System) bring it, but only as an emergency method of navigation. There’s a reason you call yourself a prepper, so using electronics while you prepare seems ironic. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with basic land navigation before you take off trekking through the wilderness. To do this, you’ll need a topographical map of your location, a grid protractor, a piece of string (for your protractor), and a Lensatic compass.

If you don’t know how to navigate with these items, that’s okay. I’ve included a reference HERE so you can either learn, or refresh your land navigation skills. If you don’t already know how to navigate using this method, I highly recommend learning how to soon. You never know when disaster might strike, and even if electronics still work after a disaster, batteries eventually run out. A prepper should never rely on electronics unless they absolutely must.


Once you’ve refreshed your skills with land navigation, now it’s time to plan your routes. When you’re picking a destination, you’ll want to take the most rugged, difficult routes so you can put your new bug out bag to the ultimate test. Some terrain that you’ll want to include (if possible) in your route plan are:

  • Rivers
  • Cliffs
  • Hills
  • Dense foliage

You might be wanting to just take a nature hike with your bug out bag to see if it’s comfortable, but what good will that do? To really put your bag to the test, you’ll want to throw the worst that mother nature has to offer at it. In the process, you might actually put yourself to the test as well. Navigating through these types of terrain is not easy, but it’s better to practice it now instead of doing it for the first time when SHTF.

Remember when I talked about alternate routes? This is why. Terrain predictions on a map may look very differently in real life. If you come across a piece of terrain that’s legitimately dangerous, don’t risk your life if you’re not experienced. Navigate around it to one of your alternate routes. If something happens to you along the way, you’ve already told other people where you’ll be so they can come find you in case of an emergency.

Dan’s note: you might as well take it around town or around your city. You obviously need to know


For an added test for you and your BOB, plan your expedition during inclement weather. This adds a dramatic increase to the stress that you’ll place on your bag, as well as yourself. Use common sense though, pack accordingly with the weather you’ll be facing. Don’t be that guy that runs out into the wilderness in the middle of a blizzard with one hand warmer and one change of socks. Stupidity kills.

When SHTF, you won’t be able to control the weather. Murphy’s Law (whatever can go wrong, will go wrong) will more than likely take place when SHTF, so prepare for shitty weather while you can control the outcome. This way when real life strikes, you’re more prepared.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. If you practice only on sunny days when the weather is nice, you’re in for a rude awakening when you have to bug out for real in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Make a mental note of how your BOB feels when it’s wet, and when it’s dry. Waterproofing works well when your bag sits comfortably at home, the real test is in the unforgiving wilderness.

Mother Nature takes pity on no one, and you’re not special. Take your BOB out when it rains, cross bodies of water with it, expose it to moisture. Really put it to the test, this way you know what waterproofing method works the best for your bag.

During Your Trip

While you’re on your expedition, make a mental note of multiple things about your bug out bag. In fact, you should be thinking of questions that pertain to your bug out bag specifically. After all, that is why you’re out here in the first place.

Your bug out bag should be tailored to your needs for the environment that you’re facing. Here’s a list of questions that you should ask yourself as you use your bug out bag on your expedition:

  • How comfortable is it?
  • How does it hug your back?
  • Is it easy to cinch close to your back, while remaining high up on your shoulders?
  • How easily can you access small, necessary items?
  • How easily can you navigate over, and around obstacles?

When you bed down for the night, make sure you have the proper materials to keep you safe. You should have almost every piece of equipment with you that you would take if you were to bug out for real. This expedition shouldn’t be limited to just testing your bug out bag, but also testing your equipment. Never assume something works well just because somebody says it does. You don’t want to find yourself in situations where your life depends on an item that doesn’t work.

Bodily Effects

Even as Infantrymen, we still get fatigued when we put weight on our backs and walk long distances. Remember, this expedition is only meant to test your BOB, and how well your body responds to your packing list.

Don’t injure yourself because you feel like you have something to prove. If you’re not generally extremely active, don’t go trekking through 12 miles of dense wilderness with 8 0lbs on your back. Start light, and with short distances.

Another thing to remember is hydration. You need to keep your body well hydrated through hot, and cold weather. Cold weather injuries are generally worsened by dehydration just like heat injuries. Have at least two quarts of water for every 10 miles you walk to sustain yourself. Never forget, if you walk 10 miles out into the wilderness, you still have to walk back 10 miles.

Never judge distance by the amount of time you’re walking. More than likely, you’ll cover more distance on your initial trek into the wilderness in 30 minutes than on your way back (because you’ll be fatigued). Keep a pace count, the average stride will cover one yard every two steps. Set a pre-determined distance before you walk, your legs will thank you later.

Always make sure you stretch before, and after you walk through rugged terrain with your BOB. Lower body injuries are mostly prevented by stretching, and wearing proper footwear. Like I said before, you’re doing this to test your BOB and how you can carry it, not to kill yourself. Safety should be your primary concern above all else.

Wrap Up

Every time you acquire a piece of equipment, you should test it out. Whether it’s a bug out bag, or even a simple two-way radio. When you test your bug out bag, you need to make sure you put it through rugged situations. Don’t just simply take a short nature walk with the bag and call it good, that proves nothing. Pack your bag with heavy weight, put it on, and walk through shitty terrain. This is the only real way to tell if your bag will hold up well for you when SHTF.

About Reaper

I’m an active-duty infantryman with the U.S. Army, and I’ve served a combined-service of over 5 years. Throughout my career, I’ve learned various survival techniques, as well as self-defense techniques. I specialize in weapons, long-range reconnaissance, distance shooting, and long-term isolation survival. I’m a very conservative, very “to the point” kind of person.


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    If you want to test the weight and fit of your BOB wear it while mowing the yard. This may help tell you how much is too much for a long haul on the go.You may be surprised by how quick you tier out, and you haven’t even gone anywhere yet.

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    Are there any advantages to using a backpack withan internal frame versus an external frame?

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    Thanks for the article and pointing out a huge issue in the prepping community. The term bug out bag has never set right with me. Most bug out bag builds are full of worthless weight. My advice for a build is get on the minimalist hiking forums. People who use there bags weekly, know how to “nest” items. After spending the summer in and out of the woods my bag has changed completely.

    Terry- this is just my opinion

    I am looking at getting an external frame because i plan to carry more weight. The alice pack i had in the infantry was a small external frame but to bulky in its width. The new long frames work well for me. If you dont plan on strapping a jerry can to the frame at some point there are some very comfortable internals on amazon. I have small children i hile with so i carry there gear to. Its the only reason i need such a large bag. The cheap tan Amazon bags have held up to alot of abuse for $30 dollars.

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    I load my ruck-sack with bottles of water for weight when running or hiking for exercise. I always have more than enough water for staying well hydrated and I can lighten the load by pouring some of the water out.

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    I completely agree with your statement, my article is mostly geared toward the preppers who have already completed that step. Moving through rugged terrain is much different than just your yard, that’s why I suggest you test it out.

    You brought up a good point, I might just write an article on that for you to research more in-depth with. For now, I will say it depends on what the contents and weight of your bag will be. I personally prefer external frame bags, because they tend to sit higher on your back, which can help you carry more weight comfortably.
    If you plan on carrying less weight, and smaller items, there won’t be much of a notable difference in comfort. At that point, it’s simply user’s preference.

    Look out for my article “How to Build a BOB for $500/$750/$1000” that I recently submitted. It should be published sometime in the near future. I feel like that article will solve a lot of the qualms you have with some ideals in the prepping community. I completely agree with your point that some preppers have useless weight, hence the reason conducted hours of research, paired with my personal experience as a grunt to write it. Let me know what you think of it when it’s published! Also, thanks for your service, brother. Always nice to see a fellow grunt as a prepper. If you were brought up on ALICE, I don’t recommend using the MOLLE setup. You won’t like the flex-frame if you’re used to the fixed-frame.

    That’s exactly what I do, keep it up!

    Stay safe,

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