The Best Bug Out Bag Backpack – Finding the Optimal Tools for SHTF

A good bug out bag backpack will hold your gear and get you to where you need to go when SHTF. The best bug out bag backpack will get you there easier, smarter, and for less money. We’re going to take a look at some of the most suggested bug out bag backpacks available and examine what various preppers specifically need in a bug out bag. This will help you make a smart decision on which backpack you may need to entrust your life with. We will also give you our thoughts on the best bag that covers the most ground when it comes to functionality, but when SHTF it comes down to what you have decided to use.

Bug Out Bag Schools of Thought

There are about as many bug out bag opinions out there as there are preppers. The first argument is whether or not you need one. Preppers that live off grid and have an abundance of SHTF resources are not going to grab a bag and leave their homestead unless there is an imminent threat. Urban preppers are going to get out the city faster than green grass through a goose. Either way, when it comes down to it, having a bug out bag increases your survivability regardless of your situation.

Now that we touched on one argument, we head into the next: which backpack or bag is best for bugging out? We can split up the opinions into four categories:

  1. Tactical Bug Out Bags
  2. High Volume, Low Weight Backpacking Packs
  3. Grey Man Backpacks
  4. “Other” Bug Out Bags

Bags from these categories have their strengths and weaknesses and are better for some preppers, while worse for others. We’ll talk about these differences below and then share a few that span the most benefits with the least amount of drawbacks.

Tactical Bug Out Bags

Tactical packs are the badass, functional, versatile bags. They look great and will get you both compliments and second glances. The problem is that those second glances can keep you from blending in. Tactical bug out bags tend to be a little heavy over long distances, but are still very functional and versatile. They almost always have MOLLE and ALICE attachment points which provide the ability to make your kit modular and based on individual threats. These backpacks are best for low to mid range bug out travel without the need to blend in using the grey man concept. Your size choice should correspond to how much gear you plan to have and the distance you plan to travel. Here are a few good 72 hour choices:

5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Backpack – Your SHTF situation would not be this bags first rodeo. It is a solid choice and has received great reviews and recommendations by law enforcement and military members alike. These bags have a reputation for being as tough as a nickel steak and can take some abuse. You can find one at your local tactical supply store or online here: 5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Backpack

3V Gear Paratus 3 Day Backpack – This bag already comes with a modular load out, which means you can get to your supplies quicker when they are organized and separated. This setup increases weight, but fast access can be important in certain situations. You can find it online here: 3V Gear Paratus 3 Day Backpack

HVLW Backpacking Packs

Backpacking is a sport that is basically people bugging out over long distances for fun. The few differences are that maybe you aren’t avoiding other people and you may have a few more resources along the way, but these bags are designed for long distance travel. They keep the bags light with heavy duty but lightweight fabric. They keep it them pretty clean of straps and decorations to keep the weight down as well. Backpacking backpacks are optimal for mid to long range bug out travel. Here are some good high capacity, low weight backpacking packs:

Teton Scout 3400 Frame Backpack – 3400 cubic inches that weighs only 4.5 pounds. Add to that that it is one of the cheapest bags we are suggesting and full of five star reviews, and you have an economical winner. If your BOL is a good distance from your home, the Teton makes for a solid BOB choice. You can find one online here: Teton Scout 3400 Frame Backpack

Kelty Redcloud 110L Backpack – If you are really taking a long haul, this Kelty model offers twice the storage space of the Scout above. We mention it a little further below, but fit is very key on these backpacking packs and trying them on is preferred. If you are buying online, be sure to check the return policy first. You can find one in outdoor stores like REI, or online here: Kelty Redcloud 110L Backpack

Grey Man Backpacks

The grey man concept is nothing new, and the backpacks have been around even longer. The best bag for this is whatever would look inconspicuous on you. If you are away at college, a Jansport backpack may work well. A commuter bag works for a business man. A Thomas the Tank Engine backpack can work for a kid. Besides getting a bag that fits how you look and does not stand out, you can also use a generic dark colored bag. Picking a bag that fits “your look” is an important part of blending in. There are some dirt cheap options, and you likely have something already at home that would work as a grey man bug out bag. Picking a tactical bag with less ‘accoutrements’ on the outside or a backpacking bag in a subdued color can fit the grey man model as well. One widely available option stands out due to how cheap it is:

High Sierra Loop Backpack – $30 and a backpack is yours in the mail. No, you won’t get compliments on it. Nobody will even notice it. But isn’t that the point? Padded shoulders and a padded back combined with a 1.4 pound weight make this ideal for short-medium treks. You can find similar bags in department stores or this exact one online here: High Sierra Loop Backpack

“Other” Bug Out Bags

Roller bags (think of the airport), Pelican cases, and even the old bandana-tied-to-a-stick are all options for your bug out bag. Many of the bags/cases/boxes without shoulder straps are being used by plans that rule out bugging out by foot. Prepping for these situations can be tough when considering congested highways, EMP effects, and scarce power resources. But some have it figured out to their best of their ability and will not need to hoof it across the countryside to their bug out locations. Some preppers with extensive planning will use caches along the bug out route to minimize the gear and supplies they have to carry with them. If you find your bug out plans becoming long and convoluted, remember that keeping a plan simple is sometimes the best course.

Comparing Bug Out Bag Backpacks

Bug Out Bag BackpackPack TypeSize (cubic inches)Weight (pounds)Cost
5.11 Tactical Rush 72Tactical28944$$$
3V Gear ParatusTactical24204.45$$$$
Teton Scout 3400Backpacking34004.5$$
Kelty Redcloud 110LBackpacking68005.7$$$$
High Sierra LoopGrey Man20151.4$

These bags will all due the job, but come with varying price tags, comfort levels, capacity, and durability. The tactical bags win the durability contest with the backpacking bags coming in a close second. Backpacking bags can be tuned to fit like a glove, and are available in very high capacities. The High Sierra or that Eastpak in your closet are cheap and can still get the job done in most circumstances. All of that said, when we are asked which bag we recommend, we respond with the 5.11 Tactical Rush (sometimes in other sizes) and the Teton Scout if the extra capacity and hiking comfort is needed.

The Final Word

A bug out bag backpack and the various drawbacks of using different types may not be a big deal if you are new to prepping. Simple things such as developing a basic disaster plan, learning your local threats, and finding other preppers in your area may be a better use of your time. For those that have the basics buttoned up, it is important to stay on top of your kits and to learn what resources are available. Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Bug Out Bag Backpack - Finding the Optimal Tools for SHTF

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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