With a recent brace of severe hurricanes in the Southeast and a series of wildfires in the West, many Americans have had to face the reality of evacuating their homes, not knowing if they’d have a place to come back to afterwards. The idea of “bugging out” is one with which many people are familiar, but not many are prepared for. But as the necessity of bugging out has become more apparent, so has the necessity of building a bug-out bag. Here are some tips for picking the best bug-out bag for your needs.
1. Determine How Long Your Bag Needs to Support You
There are many different types of bug-out bags that you can build. There are bags for the workplace when you have to flee because of an active shooter; a bug-out bag for your car in the event of a natural disaster or car breakdown that requires you to walk home; a bug-out bag when you have to leave your house when it catches on fire; or a long-term bug-out bag that may have to support you for up to a week or two away from home.
The length of time you expect to be gone influences the size of the bag. A bag you keep in your car only needs enough to support you overnight: some water, energy bars, a basic first aid kit, an extra pair of socks and shoes, and a space blanket or something else to keep you warm. Expect to stay away for three days or more and you might need to start looking at hiking bags that can store food, water, changes of clothing, and sleeping bags.
2. The More Pockets the Better (Within Reason)
A bag that has just one large compartment, or a couple large compartments, is pretty much useless. You won’t be able to organize your things and everything will end up a jumbled mess. You’ll want to look for a bag that has multiple pouches to store small items such as batteries and first aid kits but also has a large enough space to fit bulky items like sweaters, blankets, or shoes. If you have too many pockets, you may forget what you put where.
3. Your Bag Needs to Blend In
This means no neon colors and no garish logos or designs that will attract attention. On the other hand, you also don’t want camouflage patterns or anything that looks too “tactical” – that might attract unwanted attention from people who think you have guns, ammo, or supplies that they might want to steal. Look for something that wouldn’t look out of place at an airport or on a commuter train.
4. Comfort Is Key
You may have to carry this bag for a while, so make sure it’s comfortable. If it’s a smaller bag, make sure the carry handles are comfortable and don’t dig into your hand. Even better would be a shoulder strap to carry it over your shoulder. If you have a full-size hiking backpack for longer-term bugging out, make sure it has a frame to help distribute the load over your back, and a wide, padded hip belt that puts much of the load on your hips rather than your shoulders.
5. Pack Light, Freeze at Night
Each bug-out bag will have to be packed with the gear needed to sustain you for the amount of time you expect to need it. But it should have everything you need and then some, just in case something goes wrong. When you have to bug out, it’s better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it. Just make sure that what you have is something that you might need, not just something that’s nice to have.