Could the GB2 Ultralight Bug Out Bag lose some weight?

The Ultralight Bug Out Bag 2.0 is alive and doing well. It went over 100k views pretty quickly. If you remember, the original had somewhere close to 3 million views in the 2 years before the update was released. Over that two-year period, the number of debates I had in the comments section was of course way more than any other video I had ever done.

I used the word “Ultralight” in the title. When I used it, I used it by definition: extremely lightweight. Well, that is somewhat subjective and comparative. My Bug Out Bag is extremely lightweight compared to what I was seeing recommended in the industry.

Many in the Ultralight Backpacking community took offense because to them, 18 pounds wasn’t “ultralight”. It seems they felt they owned the actual word and decided the standards for when it could be applied. I disagree, obviously. Ultralight Backpacking and Emergency Preparedness are two quite different things.

Many were quite snobbish and less than tactful, suggesting that I had a lot to learn from their community and even going so far as to urge my followers to disregard my suggestions and experience and to seek out “through hikers” for better information.

With the release of the new updated version, of course I used the same name. Low and behold, the same conversations are being had. Rather than field them as they come, I thought I would just write a blog to give my side of the debate once and for all. Lesson learned from repetition last time.

Ultralight Bug Out Bag 2.0

I chose this person’s comments and suggestions mainly because they were quite tactful, and I honestly believe they were offering insight and a different perspective. I am glad they did. It forced me to digest and dissect those suggestions and learn what I could from them.

At the same time, it allows me an opportunity to give them a more detailed response for the benefit of the discussion, and all of you can read this debate that way. It might answer some questions for you. I highlighted their comments and suggestions in bold and followed those with my responses.

My goal with this is the mutual flow of education and encouragement of adult discussion and debate.

Remove Labels (i.e. the backpack large one) to save weight and be even more under the radar. This will maybe equal the weight of your small Bic lighter.

I have seen this whole thing with cutting tags off and cutting toothbrushes in half, etc. Here are my thoughts on that: The vast majority of Americans can stand to lose anywhere from 10-50 pounds (or more) of body weight. A Bic lighter weighs three-quarters of one ounce. Losing even one pound of unwanted and unneeded belly fat would be a much bigger savings in weight that a person has to carry.

I have always thought this was more trendy than useful, personally. “This is what you do if you really want to cut weight off your back” and “ounces equal pounds” and all that. Personally, I recommend getting in better shape to where a few ounces adding up to a couple of pounds doesn’t make or break your ability to carry it over long distances, and losing the extra body weight if you really want to cut the amount of weight you have to carry.

Take Hand sanitizer to avoid any unpleasant stomach problems, also doubles as a fire starter in emergency

At the risk of sounding like every internet troll out there with the “I’ve been in the woods for my whole life, over forty years” statement to qualify what I am about to say…. I have been in the woods for over 40 years now, but let me add that I have been in the woods professionally for over 27 years now.

Some of those “woods” include all over the United States, but also Central America and the Middle East. Not visiting, mind you, I mean professionally. It was my job to be in the woods and outside. It is my job now. I have drank the water and ate the food in all those areas, routinely eat wild edibles, and drink wild water. What I have never carried is hand sanitizer. Ever. And I have had very few stomach problems other than food poisoning, which hand sanitizer isn’t going to do anything about. Never have I ever used, or wished I had used, hand sanitizer.

I personally carry a small bar of soap in my pack instead (my hygiene kit was cut off the video that was edited for YouTube but is detailed better in the main film that is an excerpt from). I think soap and water is more effective than hand sanitizer, and I think it is a better option for other things like wound cleansing, not to mention general hygiene. In short, I would put my 1.5-ounce bar of soap up against anyone’s 2-ounce container of hand sanitizer. Matter of fact, I think my soap wins the weight category here.

Vaseline and cotton balls are the lightest cheapest fire starters, yours look good too

These are basically just two versions of the same thing. The secondary value of the GB2 Tinder Tabs I use is the container that can be used for other tasks once empty. You could keep Vaseline soaked cotton balls in a tin and they would be just as useful as mine. With that said, putting them in a tin so that they are just as useful in the bigger picture, how much weight difference are we really talking about here?

Maybe one ounce in weight difference between 10 tabs and the equivalent (in burn time, not necessarily in number) of Vaseline soaked cotton balls. I am not looking at anything to be the lightest, I am looking at everything being as durable and as useful as possible. These are often quite different lenses to look at something through. The DIY version is cheaper, no doubt. I’m not sure the weight difference is enough to even put to the scales, personally.

There is the variable of the value of your time spent making them and packaging them vs. the convenience of getting them already made and packaged, but that is something a person must decide for themselves really. It probably only takes minutes at most. I wouldn’t fault them either way. I use them a lot in teaching classes and filming videos, doing demos, etc. so I do prefer the convenience of the readymade tinder myself.

Instead of military poncho a Six Moon Design Gatewood or Mountain Laurel Poncho-Tarp would serve the same purpose (minus camouflage) for a fraction of the weight and bulk.

This setup really does interest me. The military poncho was chosen more for the versatility of many possible shelter configurations while stationary and the ability to be used as rain gear while moving. That and familiarity since I have used them for over 25 years, and they are proven to me. That and weight/bulk were never actually something I looked at when choosing items. I am at a bit of a disadvantage because I have no actual field experience with the Six Moon Design Poncho-Tarps, but what I am looking at is interesting to say the least.

The Gatewood has a couple configurations I could put it in so it does have some versatility there, and it can be used on the move, so we have a legitimate comparison here. The Gatewood weighs 11 ounces and the Helikon Poncho that I use weighs in at around 17.5 ounces. The cost to save that 6.5 ounces is pretty substantial. $155 for the Gatewood vs. $31 for my poncho, plus I still need to seal the seams on the Gatewood.

Another question I have that I can’t answer without field testing is how the 15D Silicone Coated Nylon of the Gatewood would compete in the field (off trail rugged use) vs. the coated Rip Stop Polyester of the poncho. Briars and branches and lack of a groomed trail can put a beating on any poncho, so I am genuinely curious to see how well it would do comparatively. As far as the fraction of the weight and bulk, we can easily see that we are talking about roughly 2/3rds of the weight for sure, but again at five times the price. The Mountain Laurel is even more pricey at $189 to $344 for what looks like about the same weight savings of 6-7 ounces.

The camouflage pattern for me is a non-issue. I can take it or leave it. There are natural tones available for the Gatewood, so I don’t think that even needs to be a consideration.

I think it will be interesting to keep a running total of the weight savings and how much that costs. The tag removal and the difference in weight between the soap and hand sanitizer are really a wash (pun intended). This is the first significant reduction of weight with some cost also rated with it, so I will start that here. So far, I have saved 6.5 ounces at the cost of $124.

Have I lost or gained any functionality by making any of these changes so far? Nope. Just lighter.

A poncho sleeping bag with synthetic insulation like the Mountain Laurel Designs Spirit Quilt with a poncho slit would insulate better

This suggestion is a difficult one to compare. Poncho liners have a temperature rating around 50 degrees F, so the closest “apples to apples” comparison is the Spirit Quilt 48 degree. That takes the “insulate better” portion out of the equation and evens the playing field. This is also something I have never personally field-tested versus the poncho liner (my woobie) which I have decades of experience within the field. The Spirit Quilt also has sizing options so it’s difficult to compare the weight without measuring both, but I will use the Large specs.

I would need the XL for my height, but the poncho liner is a one-size deal so it wouldn’t be as fair to pretend it was made for my height either. The large weighs 13 ounces. My poncho liner weighs about 22 ounces. That is a pretty significant weight difference, almost half. Durability isn’t really a factor since this is not something that is being used outside of sleeping in it, so we can call that a draw.

Here is where it loses me, like a lot of the gear in the ultralight industry: The Large Spirit Quilt with the Poncho Slit costs $245, whereas my woobie costs around $40. For a savings of 9 ounces (just over half a pound)?

This brings my total weight savings to 15.5 ounces (still under one pound) for the total cost of $329. Loss or gain of functionality? Zero again. Just lighter.

Zpacks Z-Line Slick Cord would be much lighter than paracord

It is a bit difficult to compare these as they are very different cordages, but I will do my best.

From what I can find, Z-line Slick Cord comes in a diameter of 2.0 mm (half the diameter of 550 paracord), with a weight of 1 ounce per yard and a breaking strength of over 200 pounds. 25 feet (which is the length of paracord I carry) would weigh somewhere around 0.8 to 0.9 ounces (compared to 1.8 ounces for the same length of paracord). Half the weight without question.

Paracord has a greater breaking strength, but I have said it before and will say it again, just because something is stronger doesn’t necessarily mean something else isn’t strong enough. That depends on what application you are using it for. So yes, paracord is stronger, but for shelter applications, do I think 200 pounds is still strong enough? It probably is in many circumstances. Let’s assume that it is so that we can continue the comparison, but the breaking strength advantage does go to the paracord.

The biggest issue I see is with function. If you are only looking at your cordage for basic tie outs on a tarp shelter and general use, its ability to hold a knot and not break are really the only things that matter. This is where the “lens” really differs between the Ultralight Through Hiker and the Wilderness Skills Instructor. Of course, I use the cordage for shelter, but that isn’t all I may need it for.

Here is where the Z-line unravels (again with the puns). Technically, it doesn’t unravel. It is braided, so you can’t take it apart meaning you lose the outer sheath and the inner strands that the paracord has. I can’t argue that the inner strands are particularly useful, but they are at least somewhat useful. The outer sheath, however, is extremely useful.

In the context of shelter, the reason I choose 25’ of paracord has more to do with the diameter of the cordage compared to the #36 bank line I use for most of my cordage. The way that I make all my tarp configurations is based on the Rapid Ridgeline with smaller diameter prusik loops that can be slid anywhere along the ridgeline to adjust the location of my shelter. I use #36 bank line which has a diameter of 2.16mm. In order for a prusik knot to function as intended, it needs to be a smaller diameter line tied to a larger diameter line. If the Slick Cord were used with my current system, I would have to drop down to a lower size bank line like a #18. That may be sufficient, but I would also drop down from a cordage with a 360-pound breaking strength to only 160 pounds. Is that enough for shelter applications? Possibly. Is that enough for all my cordage applications? That I am not so sure about.

The very name Slick Cord tells me already that it is not going to grip a spindle for an emergency bow drill fire. Yes, I carry a lighter and a number of other things to start a fire so that I don’t have to do a bow drill, but I also know how to do several versions of friction fire because it is important to me to have those backups. I am personally not willing to give up that ability to save less than one ounce on cordage weight.

How well does the Slick Cord hold up for trapping purposes? Fishing? Has anyone ever made a gill net with Slick Line and tested it out?

I already know I can’t take it apart, so I lose the ability to do an improvised wound closure technique that I often teach and sometimes use.

I actually think that the #36 bank line that I already carry is a more reasonable comparison to the Slick Line. #36 is my primary utility cordage, not paracord. Bank line is more grippy and better for bow drills than the paracord is. I have used it for trapping and know it works. It is literally “tarred mariners’ line” so it is great for fishing and making nets that will last with prolonged exposure to the water. I use the twisted bank line instead of the braided so I can take it apart and get three especially useful strands out of it. The Bank Line is stronger for a comparable diameter (2.0mm Slick Line to 2.16mm Bank Line), and the weight difference is negligible (29 feet only weighs about one ounce).

Cordage for me, and in the context of bushcraft, survival, and preparedness, is more than just lightweight guy lines on a tent.

With all of that said, let’s look at the cost of 25’ of each: Slick Line is about $7.50; paracord is about $1.50; #36 Bank Line comes in at about $1. Let’s assume I had to choose one to carry 100’ of for shelter and utility applications. Slick Line would cost $30 (3.6 ounces); Paracord would cost $6 (7.2 ounces); and #36 Bank Line would cost $4 (4 ounces).

I have to strongly disagree with this suggestion. The loss of functionality compared to paracord or bank line is a no-go from me. However, for the sake of argument, let’s ignore the loss of functionality and pretend I chose Slick Line instead of Paracord or Bank Line as suggested. I’ll even ignore the fact that the majority of my cordage is actually #36 Bank Line and choose paracord for the comparison since that was the actual suggestion. I would now be up to a weight savings of 19.1 ounces and it has only cost me an additional $353!

MSR Groundhog Mini’s are good enough at a fraction of the weight (worst case put a rock on them that one time it’s necessary)

The MSR Groundhog stakes have been a staple in my kits for years. The Mini’s are 6” long and weigh 0.35 ounces each. They come in sets of 6 (2.1 ounces). They cost about $20. The regular size that I use and recommend are 7.5 inches long, weigh 0.46 ounces each, and come in kits of 6 (2.76 ounces). They cost about $25.

For me, I use an 8-12” stake as I have found they work in most environments that I have been in. The regular size was already a bit shorter than the minimum I like to have, but barely. Of course, I can also improvise, of course I could make longer stakes if I had to, but why would I plan on improvising instead just carrying adequate? I wouldn’t. With that said, if your area and your experience show that you can get away with a 6” stake, by all means do so. In this instance, the shorter and lighter (0.6 ounces) are actually cheaper. For me, I will keep my regular size and just cut a little more off the handle of my toothbrush (kidding).

I can’t say that this would be a loss of functionality for others, 6” stakes may be plenty where they are. If I were to change for the sake of the discussion, my totals would now be up to 19.7 ounces saved and I my total cost went down to $348.

The water filter looks heavy. The Sawyer Squeeze has been extensively used by through-hikers. It’s lighter and probably more reliable and will go on ANY 28mm plastic bottle (Smart Water for example)

The Grayl GeoPress has been extensively used by Wilderness Survival Instructors (that also hike and backpack). We have also used the Sawyer Squeeze and the Mini extensively. Neither of those are really objective points, the only value they have is to the reader and the inferences they make from those.

“Probably more reliable” is also not objective. Reliable for what? Making water safe to drink? They both do that. The do it in different ways which aren’t worth getting into, but bottom line is I have used both in the field and they are both reliable so that is a wash. It’s difficult for regular folks to scientifically determine if claims about what each filter does are true, so I won’t even go down that road.

The Sawyer Squeeze weighs three ounces. The flow rate depends on what container you are using, but at best it’s about 1.9 liters per minute. Sawyer claims that with proper backflushing, these filters will last indefinitely. It comes with little pouches for water which many will tell you are less than durable and that’s why so many also recommend alternative containers that the system doesn’t come with. It does work with a variety of containers, however, and costs about $35.

The Grayl Geopress weighs 15.9 ounces. It will filter 5 liters per minute and is rated for 250L before you need to change the filter cartridge. The cost is more at $90, and they make no claim that one filter will last a lifetime like Sawyer does for the squeeze.

The Sawyer is lighter and cheaper, no question. I carried a Sawyer Mini for years and it was in the original Bug Out Bag video that I produced. What I like about the Grayl over the Sawyer is the fact that it is it’s own container and is self-contained rather than having a separate filter, separate container, backflush syringe, adapters, etc. Not the mention that container is not a flimsy bag that is going to burst on me, and I don’t have to purchase or carry an alternative container. It also has a much faster flow rate. Overall, I have found it to be a much better system in general. I also don’t have any reason to not believe any claim from either as far as what is filtered and what isn’t, and that advantage goes to Grayl, but that wasn’t a reason I chose the Grayl any more than the weight or the cost was.

But the objective suggestion is that the Sawyer Squeeze is lighter, which it is. Cheaper? Sure is. Is it more rugged and durable? I don’t think so. However, switching filters for this discussion saves another 12.9 ounces and $55 to get us out the door, maybe more if it really does last a lifetime with proper use and care. That brings the rolling total to 32.6 ounces lighter at a cost of $273.

For capacity grab an Evernew Bag (compatible with Sawyer) or a Cnoc Vecto one.

Adding this gives me more capacity for very little weight (empty), yes. I can carry an extra 2L for a weight cost of only 1.5 ounces for the Evernew ($19) or 2.6 ounces for the Vecto ($20).

I carry a filter system because I have plentiful natural water sources and don’t need to carry that much capacity. Carrying an extra 2L of water would add an additional 4.4 pounds to my pack. That is not something I would do unless I was in the desert or an area with fairly scant water resources like that. Some folks may need that, but not everyone does so it doesn’t fit the baseline bag which is what the video is meant to be. This would add the same capacity to any filter I used, including the Grayl, so it doesn’t really do anything for that debate.

I will stick with my stainless-steel container. I can char material for fires, use that for boiling water if needed, I can cook in it, I can prepare medicinal plants, etc. I can’t do that with plastic containers.

If I were to add this as suggested it would increase the weight (reduce the weight savings) back to 31.1 ounces at put the cost up $292.

One or two cotton bandanas can replace the larger cotton piece

Ohhhh, but it can’t. For wiping your nose or sweat from your brow, it could. For wiping your backside, sure. But again, that isn’t the only reason I choose the shemagh. Again, this is the different lenses we are looking through. The larger cotton shemagh can also be used for those purposes, but it’s larger size makes it more useful for other tasks.

For fire, and subsequent fires, the shemagh will give you more batches of charcloth if you can’t find natural material to char for subsequent fires. It wouldn’t be long before you used up the smaller bandana. I also understand that this isn’t really a concern for through hikers and backpackers, I’d actually be surprised if many even know what charred material is and what it’s used for (no offense meant).

For shelter purposes, I can make a larger shade than I could with a bandana, cover more exposed skin to protect it from sunburn; I can soak the shemagh in water and use it for evaporative cooling.

I can use the same technique to bring down the temperature of my water bottle that I just boiled to make it safe to drink. I have a greater capacity for gathering and carrying wild edibles with the larger piece of cotton.

The larger cotton cloth means more bandaging and splinting material for first aid. Have you ever tried to do a sling and swath to immobilize a shoulder injury using one or two bandanas? Hope for a really skinny patient, I suppose. Have you ever immobilized a leg injury with one or two bandanas? I have done that with one shemagh because it was large enough to split down into multiple strips.

If the shemagh was a bright color like orange or blue, it would be a larger signal panel that I could use in an emergency to signal for help compared to a smaller bandana of the same color.

A cotton bandana is about $5 for a 26×26” (1.5 ounces). My shemagh is 42×42” and about $12 (6.35 ounces). You would need two bandanas to have a fair comparison, so $10 vs. $12 and the weight difference would be about 3.35 ounces.

Ignoring the loss of functionality, making this change would bring the rolling totals to 34.45 ounces at a cost of $290.

I would add: Nyloflume pack liner (makes your bag waterproof)

I will start by saying the reason I choose a poncho is because it can be draped over my pack and myself when it’s raining so I like that better than having a rain jacket and a waterproof bag, and when I am stationary the bag is protected by my shelter. That and a lot of places hardly ever see rain so many don’t bother with a waterproof liner. However, some may choose to have one so let’s look at the numbers.

This is a negligible addition at 0.91 ounces and $2.50. Rolling totals 33.54 ounces and $292.50.

Maybe add a rain skirt (flat piece of Dyneema DCF or sil nylon), very versatile and keeps you alive in heavy winds

I think a statement like keeping someone alive in heavy winds may be a bit over generalized and ambitious. At best, it may prevent some convection in heavy winds which is only one of five different ways they are likely losing body heat in an emergency, but I know what you mean. It’s in addition to your shelter.

I have no information on size, weight, or cost of that, or how it would be used to save someone’s life, but I will say this for the readers: Appropriate clothing that follows the COLDER principle, adequate shelter, possibly a warming fire; these things are what are necessary for maintaining the Core Body temperature in an emergency. I think if your life were down to a small sheet of DCF or silnylon you might just lose that battle.

If you can live without the green light, the Nitecore NU25 has a default red, high CRI and regular led and weighs less than an ounce. It recharges via USB so…

I can live without the green light; it is far from critical. I might disagree with losing the Infrared also but must admit that would be useful to only a few folks. Looking at that headlamp, it has a lot of “up to” to sort through to determine how bright it is and for how long which is one of my first considerations for a headlamp. Up to 360 lumens but not for more than 30 minutes on that highest setting. Up to 160 hours but only when it’s at its lowest 1-lumen setting. I’ll pick a high setting since that is middle of the road for this headlamp: 190 lumens will run for 5 hours.

Comparing that to the High setting of the Princeton Tec Vizz that I use and recommend, the High Setting is 420 lumens for 4 hours of run time. The closest that NiteCore can get to that is 360 lumens for 30 minutes. I’ll use the non-tactical version of the Vizz for the price comparison since the NiteCore doesn’t have the IR capability or the green, so the baseline Vizz is a better comparison.

Here is why this isn’t worth it for me. It recharges by USB. I can’t carry extra batteries for it, I have to carry an additional charging solution and that is also dependent on being able to charge that charging solution so that I can replenish it as well. Any weight or space savings I gained with this headlamp would be lost to that charging capability. Not to mention it will never be as bright when I may really need it to be to for a critical task, and it won’t last very long at all.

The price of the Nitecore and the non-tactical Vizz come in the same at around $42 so that’s a wash. The Nitecore weighs 1.17 ounces, and Princeton Tec weighs 3.2 ounces, so about a 2-ounce difference.

Weight savings are now sitting at 35.54 ounces at a cost of $292.50.

…battery bank 10k mah from either Anker or Ravpower is a worthy edition

Just to make sure I am understanding this correctly: this is the 6.35 ounce battery pack that I will need to carry to charge the headlamp that only saved me 2 ounces over the one I already use and recommend? And it’s going to cost me another $22?

Granted, it can also be used to charge a cell phone which may come in handy on a lot of situations. If someone wants to carry one for that, I can see that. But for something as critical as my headlamp to have to compete with charging my cell phone? I don’t think so. There are only so many charges for one or both in this battery pack before it also needs recharged.

This isn’t something I would do. I would carry my normal 3.2-ounce headlamp and extra AAA batteries that I can change as needed on the spot. However, the suggestion brings the total weight savings back down to 29.19 ounces at a cost of $314.50.

Leukotape for blisters and Bodyglide for chafing is a must-have to ensure you can keep walking.

This is interesting to me. As a Ranger, Infantry Scout, and Green Beret, now Wilderness Skills Instructor at one of the most intense Survival Schools out there; that and being a backpacker, hiker, and Adventure Racer; I would say I have put some miles on the old LPC’s (Leather Personnel Carriers aka boots) over the last 27 years (I went in the Army in 1993). I couldn’t give an exact number of miles, but I would estimate very conservatively that I have logged at least tens of thousands of miles. I have never once used Leukotape or Body Glide, so they are far from a must to ensure someone can keep walking. However, I have used moleskin in the past and keep some of that in my personal med kit, so the intent of your statement is understood. Some people may need something for blisters and chaffing, but some won’t. It is certainly not an absolute.

A roll of Leukotape costs about $9 (3.9 ounces) and a stick of Body Glide is $10 for a 1.5-ounce stick (I am surprised you aren’t just using the Vaseline from your tinder for this).

That brings the total weight savings to 23.79 ounces at a cost of $333.50.

That’s probably 6lbs saved in weight for the same or increased functionality.

Except that it isn’t. 23.79 ounces comes out to 1.74 pounds. At a cost of $333.50 (or $191.67/lb.). “Ounces equal pounds” is true, but not many pounds…and not enough for me to change what I am doing.

The biggest concern for me is the loss of functionality. It isn’t the same, and certainly isn’t increased. It’s a loss, and I detailed those as I saw them. For what? 1.74 pounds? That is the issue with looking at things through the lens of the “Ultralight” backpacker instead of the lens of the Wilderness Survival Instructor.

That is why I spend so much time explaining to people that Ultralight Through Hikers are not the best source for information when it comes to Survival or Preparedness. Yes, they spend time in the woods and can walk great distances with little gear. There is nothing wrong with Ultralight backpacking and Through Hiking the long trails, that is some good outdoor recreation. If you are walking a groomed trail and camping at designated camp sites, you can get away with lighter but often less durable equipment. You can even stop at a store to get or replace what you need or broke along the way.

The trails are marked with blazes so you can get away with a limited amount of navigation skills and gear. You don’t have to carry much food when you can stop at every pancake house you see and eat a stack of them if you want. Resupply is easier when you can mail yourself packages to pick up at the Post Offices along the way. Trail Angels and Trail Magic are real things that help with that also. I am not taking away from them at all, other than to say that is not the same thing that I am talking about when it comes to survival or emergency and disaster preparedness, so I don’t feel they are as good a source of information for it as many think. That network isn’t something you can rely on to go “ultralight” to the same standards.

I appreciate whoever made the original comment. The tact in how this comment was delivered is what distinctly made it come off as constructive criticism and not some dime-a-dozen troll. It was an enjoyable exercise in looking at places I could possibly better my own kit. We all have things we can learn from each other if we are just willing to do so.

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