Working On My Bug Out Bag

The other day, I took a look at my bug out bag.  Yeesh!  I really shouldn’t have done that.

OK, yeah, I should have.  Otherwise, I’d have found out just how bad life could be the hard way.  You see, I put together my bug out bad with the belief that I’d continue to add stuff to it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.  I put a bunch of stuff in there — it was a good start, make no mistake — but then I backed off.  The result is that my BOB was horribly incomplete.

First, almost no clothing.  Second, no food.

Oh yeah, I was a hard-charging survivalist there, wasn’t it?

To make matters worse, my bad didn’t really have the room for either of those things.  It was a small pack, which is good, but it was really too small.


Old bag, now empty. I’ll find use for it, I’m just not sure where yet.

The other night, after looking around, I pulled the trigger on a new bag.  This one is about 50L.  It’s an inexpensive model that had some decent reviews on Amazon, but I’m also fully prepared to reinforce straps and whatnot.

The new bag, with most of my gear transferred.

The new bag, with most of my gear transferred.

Most of the gear I have in the smaller back has transferred to the new bag. Next, it was examined to make sure it’s what I really need.  Let me be honest, I was stupid on some of this gear.  I went to Walmart and picked up items in stock that would meet the basic needs.  Fire, shelter, water.  Everything but food.

However, some of that gear is less than spectacular.  I need to make use of it and see if it’s salvageable.  If so, awesome.  If not, I’ll post the review and get something else.  (Yes, I plan on actually showing people I paid money on crap stuff.  Go me.)

More importantly, I’ll be showing how I’m rebuilding my bag step by step.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to help someone else put one together.

In addition, I need to build bags for my wife and daughter who don’t have one.  Luckily, my son has one already from a Boy Scout merit badge class he took.  It was fairly complete, so we’ll need to inventory it, add things in (underwear and socks, food, etc.) and make sure it’s not too uncomfortable to ruck with.

More following the jump, because this bad boy is LONG!

Let’s take a quick look at the bag itself.  I’m not deluding myself on this bag.  I bought it because the price point wasn’t too shabby.  However, it seems to be fairly well made for the price, with double stitching on key points.  The waist strap feels a little short, but that’s also because I have too much waist.

One of the thing that attracted me to this particular bag was how modular it was.  The bag has one large main compartment, another compartment with similar dimensions but less depth, and three MOLLE-type bags attached.  One of the MOLLE bags can actually be rigged to serve as a fanny pack, which has its uses.

This is one of two identical MOLLE bags that run on the outside bottom of the bag. These can be moved as desired, though I'm leaving them there for the time being.

This is one of two identical MOLLE bags that run on the outside bottom of the bag. These can be moved as desired, though I’m leaving them there for the time being.

Central MOLLE compartment. This one can be rigged to run as a fanny pack if desired.

Central MOLLE compartment. This one can be rigged to run as a fanny pack if desired.

Personally, I like the setup.  I don’t forsee running a fanny pack all that often, in part because it introduces weakness to the snaps that connect that particular bag to the rest of the pack.  The other two use velcro, which I’d be far more comfortable swapping out regularly.

Now, let’s look at what I had for that central compartment.  For me, since this could be a fanny pack, it made sense to put some basic survival gear in here.  Sort of.  I’m not kidding, folks.  This is bad.

A rough overview of the central pack contents.  Clearly visible are my compass, a GI pocket knife, and bug spray.

A rough overview of the central pack contents. Clearly visible are my compass, a GI pocket knife, and bug spray.

Now, let’s look in some more detail here and what I’ve got and what I don’t.

Dried lint.  Fire tinder for free.

Drier lint. Fire tinder for free.

The drier lint is something I need to get more of.  I like the idea of something that will help catch a fire quick, fast, and in a hurry.  Unfortunately, I’ve never tried it myself, which I hope to change in shortly.

Along the lines of fire, I also have these two items:

Cheap Coleman ferro rod-like item.  It'll spark nicely, though I haven't really tried lighting anything with it.

Cheap Coleman ferro rod-like item. It’ll spark nicely, though I haven’t really tried lighting anything with it.

Wind and waterproof matches.  I've never had any luck with these things, and I've tried.

Wind and waterproof matches. I’ve never had any luck with these things, and I’ve tried.

Yeah, I’ll probably replace the matches with something I can trust a bit better.  Probably some strike anywhere matches in a plastic bag.

Now, the good and the bad.

The good is I have two separate ways to get fire.  Throw in a lighter, and I’ve got three.  Awesome.

The bad is that one of these I don’t trust and both are in the same compartment.  If I lose that somehow, I’m SOL.  Not a warm and tingly feeling.

Along the lines with fire, however, I also have these:

Trioxane, baby.

Trioxane, baby.

This is to help make sure I get a fire.  If a BOB is for 72 hours, and I have three full trioxane tabs, I’m in good shape on this.  Go me!

Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the bag’s contents.  First, I have two separate water treatment tablets.

Two different water treatment tabs, both with separate active ingredients.

Water treatment tabs, both with separate active ingredients to accomplish two different things.

Not pictured is the knock-off Lifestraw filter I picked up as well.  That’s three ways to treat water.

FWIW, I tend to prefer to use chemical treatment for water due to weight.  I used to be an ultralight backpacker, and some habits die hard.  However, I’m not crazy about these tabs.  I’ll replace them with something I trust a good bit more…and that’s assuming I don’t go filter just for peace of mind.

Now, to round out that compartment is the most important item one can stock in a BOB.

You don't think about how important it is until you ain't got any.

You don’t think about how important it is until you ain’t got any.

Now, the only issue I have with this is that I’m not sure it’s enough.  I have IBS and…well, I’m not sure this is enough.  Let’s just leave it there.

OK, let’s take a look at the side compartments.  One is just my first aid kit, and I didn’t feel like pulling all of that out.  The other is my “shelter” bag.  Sort of.

It has this in it:

A small backpacking tarp and a mylar blanket.

A small backpacking tarp and a mylar blanket.

This will be a tight fit, but I can swing it well enough if needed (more later).  The mylar blanket is handy for emergency warmth and since the weight so little…well, why not?

Also in there is this:

550 Paracord

550 Paracord

The paracord’s uses could be a blog post all on its own.  However, it’s in this pocket because it’s key in making shelter.  Period.  This is 50 feet.  If I revisit this, it’ll be to buy more of the stuff.  It doesn’t weight too much, and it’ll be invaluable should I need it.

Next, let’s take a look at the shallow compartment in the main part of the pack.  I’ve got a few things in there right now.

First, some fishing gear:

Down and dirty fishing gear.

Down and dirty fishing gear.

Ugh.  Can you see the flaw here?

If you said no fishing line, you win a prize!  That’s right, all the fishing line I have in the pack.  Since it’s all pictured, don’t be checking the mailbox to hard.

I’m not sure WTF I was thinking here.  Fishing isn’t an overly labor intensive activity, but there are issues that need to be addressed even with the presence of line.  For one, while I’m fishing, I’m not doing anything else.  That’s great if you’re trying to relax, but it’s a nightmare if you’re trying to survive.

Now, the easiest solution is to run a trot line, which is probably what I would do.  Bait it with something (there are BOB friendly items to look into) and then come back later and look.

Also, I need to get some snares and learn how to use them.  Like a trot line, you can gather other foods and come back later and check them.

Of course, none of that overrides actual FOOD.  That’ll be my next BOB focus.

Back to the compartment contents, for just a moment, I also have this in there:

GI Mess Kit

GI Mess Kit

There are some advantages to these, but overall I’m not a fan.  They’re heavy one use items that only work moderately well for that one use.

Mine contains these:



I literally dislike almost everything about these.  Heavy, noisy, and the spoon is freaking massive.

I’m thinking I need to raid my backpacking gear for replacements.

Onward to the main compartment of the pack.  In there I have a water resistant bag with a GI issue poncho liner (the most beloved piece of military equipment in history) and a spare set of pants in a hunting camo pattern.

Now, what good is a poncho liner without a poncho?  Well, here it is:


Truth be told, this is my primary shelter right now, with the smaller tarp serving as a ground cloth.  It’ll be a fair bit larger, possibly large enough for me and my wife.  The kids?  Well, the eldest spawn has his own tarp, though at the rate he’s growing that 7′ length will be way, way too short in about a week and a half (I’m only slightly joking).  My daughter will necessitate alternatives.

Also in that bag is my shemagh.


I’m not going to lie.  I love these.  They’re comfortable, they made decent pre-filters for water, they make good ersatz headgear, and soak them and wear them around your neck and they’ll help keep you cool.  What’s not to love.

What’s missing?

First, let’s address food.  Yes, I have some things that are supposed to help me get food, but they’re incomplete and insufficient.  I need some actual food in there.

Additionally, while I have ways to treat water, there’s a profound lack of water containers.  Not cool.

I’m also missing additional clothing.  While pants are just fine and dandy, underwear and socks are vastly more important.  Shirts and, in winter, cool weather gear as well.  All of that is lacking.

Food prep gear is sorely lacking as well.  The mess kit is…well, a mess.  I need a better pot for cooking and there’s no cup (which can be a pot all on its own).  Again, probably time to raid my backpacking gear, which I should also grab an alcohol stove.  At least then I can heat water.

Now, I didn’t picture any knives save the GI pocket knife.  However my Mora knife should probably go in the bag as well.  I also need to get a decent multi-tool to throw in there as well.

What’s Not There By Design?

The prime thing that isn’t here on purpose is ammo.  I’m still debating about which weapon to take.  Some suggest pistol only in the bag, but I’m not so sure that’s wise.

Right now, that’s an item of internal debate that I’ll be delving into.


And there you have it, my BOB as it stands right now.  I welcome all feedback, obviously.  Many eyes will see what one set will not and all that jazz.  However, with a few gapping holes, it’s not necessarily awful.  It’ll help as a decent basis for building upon in the future.


4 thoughts on “Working On My Bug Out Bag

  1. tom, you had fishing line all along. the inner strands of the 550 cord. that said i carry spyder wire fishing line, but remove it from the big spool it comes on and put it on sewing machine bobbins. you can get many yards on each. it can be used for thread and trip wire too, as it is very thin yet very strong. they sell automatic fishing reels, called yo-yo reels, on the net. they too have many uses besides fishing while you’re busy with other pursuits. i have just about given up 550 in favor of bankline. …. one needs to envision how you would use the bob, not just have one b/c everybody says so and taylor it to your needs. for instance, if its a bag to get you to that new bug out location, that you have stocked already, you might forgo cooking gear and use ready-to-eat chow to save weight and time. when i was in the recon platoon of the infantry, we often went on two week missions with not much else besides a poncho and liner, some food, and extras pairs of socks in our packs. we weren’t camping out, constantly on the move save for a couple hours of sleep leaning against a tree. the bob is an ever evolving thing, even this many years into it. good luck and i enjoy your posts. if i wear out my welcome just say so, or if i can be of service too.


    • You’re right, I didn’t even think of the inner parts of 550. Still going to get actual fishing line. Good tip on the bobbins though. I hadn’t thought of that.

      I’ve seen the yo-yo reels, and want to experiment with those as best I can before I get them, but they look interesting and aren’t expensive.

      As for the stove situation, getting to the new BOL will take a few days on foot. At least. My thoughts on cooking food is more of a comfort thing. I’ll be going with my wife, a now almost 15-year-old son, and a four-year-old daughter. A hot, cooked meal has psychological factors that I’m banking on for them.

      If it were just me, I’d throw a few MREs in the bag and call it a day. 🙂

      I’m glad you’re enjoying things here. I do like to entertain. No worries about wearing out your welcome. Not for a while, anyways. 😀


  2. haha, one can’t overestimate the value of comfort food or familiar items to the little ones or the misses for that matter. i tend to forget that at times. i have to redo my bag again myself as i just came to realize i can’t jog 25 miles over a mountain like i once could across flat land. it’ll take me much, much longer than planned, more so if i have to avoid the roads for whatever reason. keep up the good work.


    • No, one really can’t.

      And I hear you one reevaluating your bag. I think that’s something far too many people fail to do. They build a bag that’s good for one point in their lives, then fail to adjust when their life changes.

      It’s kind of easy to do since a lot of people do their BOB first, then get started on a thousand other things…which are NEVER done. 🙂


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