As most of you know I have done videos on my light-weight bugout bag recommendations on YouTube. In this blog, I will discuss exactly what is in my 18-pound bugout bag. In any sort of a bug-out scenario when your main goal is to put distance in between yourself and whatever the incident it is that you’re running from, the key is to be lightweight and fast while still being able to provide for all of your immediate needs.
Those immediate needs are; Maintaining your core body temperature, consuming water to stay hydrated, and consuming calories for energy to be able to cover ground quickly without wearing yourself out. In addition, you need to be able to take care of any life-threatening injuries that you may have sustained during the incident or since you have left the incident. You need to be able to effectively and efficiently navigate from point A to point B.
With this in mind, it’s important that you really streamline your kit and only carry what’s absolutely necessary, as well as allowing for some redundancy for some of the more important things to allow for contingencies that you didn’t see coming.
While it may be tempting to carry as many modern conveniences as you possibly can to make your life easier, the simple fact is that the heavier this pack is the slower you’re going to move, the more water you’re going to need to consume to stay hydrated, the more calories you’re going to burn, and therefore more calories you need to consume to keep your energy levels up.
All three of those things go against your main goal, which is to put distance between you and whatever the incident is as quickly as possible. You should never plan on carrying a bag that is more than 20% of your actual body weight. This of course also has a lot to do with your overall body weight and whether your conditioning is poor. If you are a 350 lb. person, that does not mean you would be ok carrying a 70 lb. pack. The 20% estimate, like most other things, has some common-sense variables to it.
A better goal would be to have a bag that is 10% of your body weight as it will make you that much faster and that much more efficient. So long as you are still able to provide for all your basic needs. My bag weighs in at just 18 pounds. That is a little less than 9% of my total body weight. This allows me to move extremely fast and cover longer distances without getting tired and still provides for all my needs.
This bag would need to be tailored to your skill-level and environment. The takeaway from this is what the actual needs are that you are trying to provide for: Core Temperature Control, Hydration, Calorie Consumption, and Rest while being able to cover ground and protect yourself.
The items used to provide for those needs may vary and there may be other items you prefer. These are my gear recommendations and what I chose. Tailor your bag to fit your “needs”, but make sure it fits one of those categories of actual needs so you don’t weigh yourself down with “wants” and “nice-to-haves” that will weigh you down.
My personal ultralight bugout bag starts with a good durable backpack, and like my clothing choices, I prefer natural colors that blend well in a Woodland environment. I do not want a true camouflage pattern that is going to stick out in an urban environment. I also try to avoid clothing and equipment that has too much of a tactical look to it. This is another thing that allows me to be a little more inconspicuous regardless of where I find myself.
I may plan on bugging out to the wilderness, but I may have to start my bug-out from an urban location. I may have to go through an urban location, or I may have to come back into an urban location to resupply at some point. So, I do not want anything that makes me stick out. The foliage colored 5.11 Covrt 18 backpack is a good choice, along with Mystery Ranch packs.
So, let us talk about what is in my pack. As far as my immediate needs are concerned, I need to maintain my core body temperature, especially within the first 24 hours or so. In the beginning of a bugout scenario when I am not sure whether it is going to be a permissive or a non-permissive environment, I am going to be extremely careful. So, fire is not going to be something that I am going to do if I do not have to.
The primary function of my body thermoregulation, which is maintaining my body’s core temperature, falls on my shelter kit. Every good shelter kit consists of something to sleep under, something to sleep on, something to sleep in, and some cordage to hold it all together. For something to sleep under I prefer a military poncho. It takes the place of both a rain jacket and a tarp, so it is multi-functional.
When I am moving, I could use a military poncho in place of a rain jacket because it is large enough to protect me from the rain, drape over the back of my equipment, as well as keep my equipment dry. It also has grommets that I can use to tie up that are simple and effective.
As far as this being camouflaged, I do not necessarily mind my shelter system being camouflaged because most of the time this is going to be packed up in my bag and not seen. One of the benefits of having this camouflage pattern is when I do stop and I do put up a shelter, this camouflage pattern offers me a little bit of concealment.
When it comes to something to sleep in, it is hard to beat a military poncho liner for something that is lightweight and extremely packable. It also saves me time when I go to pack up because I do not have to worry about a stuffed sack or any tent straps, etc. It can be crammed into all the voids in your pack rather quickly.
Most of our body heat is lost to conduction from our bodies being in direct contact with the ground. In my opinion, thermal mattresses are a little too bulky and they catch on too many things. They stick out from the sides of your pack a lot of times, and they catch on a lot of things in the woods. For that reason, I like to carry a simple bivy sack.
A bivy sack can be stuffed with leaves and debris to make what is called a browse bed mattress to sleep on. It is also waterproof and windproof. So, if I do not feel like putting up a poncho shelter, I can tuck myself inside my bivy sack, along with my poncho liner, and use this as a standalone shelter and be fairly protected from the elements.
As far as cordage goes, I prefer Titan SurvivorCord for several reasons. Titan SurvivorCord is high quality, true MIL-SPEC paracord that has the outer sheath and it has the seven inner strands. It has three additional strands. One is a copper utility wire, one is a monofilament fishing line, the other is a waxed jute strand that I can fluff up and use for emergency tinder. This prevents me from having to carry an extra spool of wire for use in trapping.
Titan SurvivalCord also prevents me from carrying an additional spool of fishing line for food procurement. On top of giving me an additional emergency tinder source for fire starting. True MIL-SPEC paracord has a breaking strength of 550 pounds and this Titan SurvivorCord, which is true MIL-SPEC plus three strands, has a breaking strength of 660 pounds, so it is going to hold whatever I need it to hold.
Lastly, I carry six lightweight aluminum tent stakes. This is something that is more of a convenience. When I do finally settle in for the night to throw up a shelter, I want it to go up as quickly as possible. Although, I can make these in the field, there is one more thing that consumes time and energy that I can eliminate without adding much weight to my pack.
In most cases, I am trying not to be found. One of the quickest ways I can signal my location is to have a roaring fire. The flames and the smoke can be seen day or night and it can be smelled from a long way off. It is not something I would likely need in the beginning and not something I want unless I absolutely must.
So, I have built the rest of my kit to ensure it is not an immediate need. However, I may need it for thermoregulation, I may need it to boil water, may need it to cook food, etc. I need to be able to make a fire as quickly as possible in all types of weather.
Fire is an extremely critical skill overall, so it deserves some redundancy. A lighter is the easiest method since it has sure flame and keep in mind that is not the same thing as sure fire. I will normally keep the lighter in my pocket so that if I am separated from my pack for some reason, whether that is voluntarily or involuntarily, I still have a chance of having an emission source.
The main problems with the lighter are that they are challenging to use in the wind and the rain, and that is likely when you are going to need it the most. The other problem is the fuel can leak out if the button is being depressed in your bag, or if it’s in your pocket, or in your kit, and if they get wet you have to dry them out before using them. Also, they have got a lot of small moving parts that can break, so I normally carry my lighter in an Exotac FireSLEEVE to prevent all of this.
To conserve what little resources I have; I like to have a couple more durable and longer lasting redundancies. For those I choose a Fresnel lens, and Ferrocerium Rod, better known as a “ferro rod”. If the sun is out, I can quickly start a fire with little effort using solar techniques that take nothing away from my kit.
If that is not possible, I will normally choose to use the Ferrocerium Rod. A Ferro Rod is a larger version of the same sparking device that is found within a lighter. I can expect the ferro rod that I carry, which is one and a half by six inches, to start thousands upon thousands of fires and last several years before wearing out. While a bic type lighter may only provide hundreds of fires and lasts a year or so. That is something that is important to consider when you may not be able to resupply.
I can normally source dry natural tinder in any weather condition to use for starting a fire, but it is worth carrying some manmade emergency tinder to use when dry material is scarce or not convenient to go look for. I like to use TinderQuick fire tabs because 10 of them take up little space and weigh next to nothing. I can pull each tab apart to make three fires each. They also work well with a lighter that is out of fuel and worked great with the larger Ferro Rod as well.
On top of emergency tinder, I generally like to carry at least three beeswax candles. The candles I carry are 12-hour candles. In addition to be a good, useful tool for getting a fire going, especially in wet weather, I can also use them as a low-key source of light around my campfire. That does not put off as much light and is less likely to give me away in the event I am using them. If I had to, I could boil water with these candles as well. It would take a little while, but each one of these candles burns for 12 hours. So, I have got 36 hours of light in every three pack.
The next challenge in a bug-out scenario will be remaining hydrated. Normally a person needs one half gallon, which is 64 ounces per day. The need is much greater when the weather is hot, the area you’re working in is especially dry, or if there’s a lot of physical exertion happening, like you will be when you’re carrying a pack great distances across difficult terrain, under stress, and possibly injured.
Water is heavy. It weighs about eight pounds per gallon. We’ve already discussed that carrying extra weight will require more water consumption, so for me, I would rather rely on resupplying at every opportunity than attempt to carry a full day or a few days of water, which could be several gallons. I should also mention that I am not anywhere near the desert and I do not plan on going anywhere near the desert. If you are in the desert, you may want to carry more containers of water from the start.
For a container, I prefer a single walled stainless steel, 32-ounce water bottle. Single walled so that I can boil water in it to disinfect if needed. 32 ounces for a couple of reasons. One, that is half of my normal daily water requirement and it is roughly one liter, which is what my water purification tablets are meant for.
The nesting cup allows me to have a secondary container and allows me to char material for fires if needed. Again, if you’re in a desert or extremely hot or dry weather environment, or freshwater sources are a little bit fewer and farther between in your area than they are for where I am planning on being, I would highly recommend carrying at least two containers of water instead of just one. An additional 32 ounces would only add two pounds to your total pack weight.
I also love the Grayl Geopress, which is just under 1 pound. You could even replace your stainless set for the 64 oz. Geopress since it filters out viruses as well as bacteria and is extremely easy to use.
I also pack a cotton shemagh. A shemagh is useful for several reasons, but it is part of my water kit to act as a pre-filter for my water bottle to keep debris out when I am filling it. I can also wet it and wrap it around the bottle and take advantage of evaporative cooling if the water’s too hot to drink. This would also keep your water and you cool in a hot environment should you need to.
Since I do not want to start a fire unless I must, I may also carry a small lightweight water filter. I prefer the Sawyer Mini. It filters down to a 0.1-micron level and it is rated for a hundred thousand gallons. If I were to drink two gallons a day, which is way above my requirement, I could expect this filter to last me almost 137 years.
The Sawyer Mini comes with a couple of other accessories, one of which being a large syringe that you can use to flush the filter periodically. It also doubles an irrigation syringe for wounds, so this super lightweight filter and its accessories are also part of my first aid kit.
In addition to my filters and stainless-steel containers I carry 20 water purification tabs. While my primary means would be to use the water filter and whenever possible to boil to save resources, there could be situations where I could drop one of these tablets in 32 ounces of contaminated water and let them do the work for me while I continue to move.
An example that comes to mind is crossing the stream during movement that I don’t have time or this situation doesn’t allow me to stop to actually take the time to filter it, I can just fill the bottle at a crossing and keep moving. These tablets alone will give me about 10 days of my normal water requirement.
Food is not necessarily as an immediate need; however, it is a metabolic need and you are going to be burning calories and an extremely high rate. You cannot afford to completely let yourself tank mentally or physically and you likely do not have time to trap, fish or hunt right away. I carry emergency rations in my bag to make sure I have some calories to bring in that I do not have to work for.
My goal is to create distance as quickly as possible and that requires energy. I prefer the SOS Emergency Rations because they are individually wrapped once you open the main pack, and they taste rather good. Each pack has nine individually wrapped bars that are about 400 calories each for a total of 3,600 calories. So that is 3,600 calories that I do not have to work for that do not take any time. I can eat them on the move and never stop.
Once the emergency rations run out and as opportunities present themselves, I want to be equipped with at least some basic supplies to procure food that do not add much weight and take up little space in my pack.
I had mentioned monofilament fishing line and utility wire that are found in the survivor cord earlier, and I also carry a Readyman Wilderness Survival card and this has hooks, arrow points, and improvised fish, frog, spear point, and some snare locks as well as a couple of little tools.
This coupled with the monofilament fishing line and the utility wire that I can double over and use a snare wire inside the survivor cord, gives me a nice little kit to be able to fish or trap when the opportunity presents itself.
It would no doubt be a highly dangerous event that pushes you to bugout, and while not all would involve gunfire, sharp metal, or explosions, there are some that we can all likely think of that might. If you become injured at the start of an incident or somewhere along the way, you need to be able to take care of it to the best of your ability.
I like to carry a kit that can handle injuries sustained from things like gunshot wounds or lacerations to the extremities, torso, or head. I would consider the MFAK or TORK IFAK’s from North American Rescue as the baseline, then I add a couple of things to that based on my experience my competency level. This allows me to take care of major bleeding, sucking chest wounds, tension pneumothorax, manage airways, and other types of trauma. That could be either for myself or the people that are with me. Of course, I like to keep my IFAK somewhere where I can get to it quickly.
You need to have the ability to navigate from where you are to where you are going as efficiently as possible. You have got extremely limited resources at your disposal, so you need to make time quickly. Hopefully, you are moving towards a well-stocked, much safer location. Having said that, you may not be able to take the route you originally planned on taking and you need to be able to adjust on the fly based on circumstances.
I like to have a map of the entire area I expect to be going through, along with some waterproof paper and mechanical pencils for recording information and route planning. As far as campuses, I prefer the Suunto MC-2 Compass because it is got a sighting mirror that I can also use for signaling. It has a small magnifying lens that I can use as a backup fire starting method, as well as built-in scales that I can use in place of a protractor or coordinate scale.
I also keep pace beads so that I can easily keep track of distances traveled, which is extremely important in the event I must change routes on the fly. Knowing what distance, I had moved from the last known point before changing direction allows me to better pinpoint where I might be.
There a few tools that I feel are essential for every bugout bag. The first one being a headlamp with extra batteries. The second being a good Full Tang Fixed Blade Belt Knife. The third being a multi-tool.
I prefer the headlamps that you can put a physical filter on like a red lens filter, or a light that has it as a button option. If I am trying to sneak and be as concealed as possible without compromising my position, the last thing I want to do is hit the wrong button and flash a white light instead.
I also carry three or four sets of extra batteries, which should be more than enough to get me where I’m going, especially if I’m trying not to use light at all when I’m traveling or when I’m working around camp at night. I prefer the longer-lasting lithium style batteries for this option.
In my opinion and experience, the best fixed blade knife for the money is the Mora Carbon Garberg. It is Full Tang, maintains a good sharp edge, has a good 90 degrees spine, a Scandi Grind that is easy to sharpen in the field, and this thing can take a beating.
The Mora Garberg will do everything you need to do in the field and then some. Lastly, my choice for the multi-tool would be a Leatherman. As far as the model, I am just looking for one that has pliers, wire cutters, has an awl for stitching and repair, and has a good saw on it. In addition to all that, I want it to have a good blade so that I have a backup.
Of course, depending on your situation and your experience level and what you plan for, you may want to add certain tactical gear and personal security items as needed. It is going to increase the overall weight of your pack and slow you down, but it is also going to greatly enhance your security in an uncertain situation, but that is a conversation for another day. This Bugout bag or “go-bag” has been developed to take care of all your immediate needs, and at only 18 pounds it will not weigh you down.
It does not really fit another category well but having a change of socks is also a great idea for most folks. Do you need extra clothes other than that? I do not. I routinely wore the same uniform in the field for a week or more. Do you need toilet paper and wipes in a forest full of natural TP? I do not. Just do not wipe with the poison ivy.
Stay safe out there!