If you are a prepper or a survivalist, few things are as important as having a fully stocked bug-out bag by your side.
The best bug-out bag is one which is sturdy, spacious, easy to carry, resistant to harsh weather conditions, and is packed with all the essential items you might need to survive off the grid for a day or two in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the factors you should consider while choosing a tactical backpack as your survival gear and the 10 best bug-out bags available on the market today.
HOW TO CHOOSE A BUG-OUT BAG
A bug-out bag is meant to help you survive for a day or two in an unfamiliar setting in the event of an emergency. So, you cannot afford to randomly pick a bag just because it looks good or it is available at a discount. There are several vital factors you need to consider while choosing a heavy duty bug out backpack.
The ideal bug-out backpacks should not be too small or too large. If it is too small, you might not be able to pack all the essential items. If, on the other hand, it is too large, you might be tempted to pack non-essential items that you do not really need in case of an emergency.
A medium sized bag – with a capacity of around 50 to 60 liters – should be sufficient to pack all the items you need. However, if you also need to carry essential supplies for another person – your child or any other family member for that matter – you might need a larger bag.
Look for a bug-out bag which is made of a durable material (nylon is a concrete choice) and is sturdy enough to withstand a lot of abuse. The shoulder straps should be thick and strong. The last thing you want is for the material to rip or the straps to break while you are on the move. Make sure the bag is waterproof or at the very least has a waterproof compartment.
Look for a bag that contains multiple compartments – one or two main compartments and several smaller compartments – that can be closed with a zipper or a strap.
If a bag only has one or two compartments – no matter how large they are – it is of no use to you, since you will have to put all your items together and will have a hard time digging through the mess when you need something urgently.
In case of an emergency, you might probably have to carry your bug-out bag around for hours on end. So, it is very important to choose a bag that you can wear comfortably.
If you are going to be carrying a heavy load, you must choose a bag with an external frame, a sternum strap, and a hip strap, which can lower the center of gravity, distribute the weight evenly along your back, and make it easier for you to carry the load.
Make sure the bag has wide shoulder, sternum, and hip straps with thick padding. Back padding is also necessary, so that the items that you carry do not hurt you back.
Color and Appearance
Lastly, make sure the bag you choose looks ordinary and does not stand out from the crowd. When you are bugging out, the last thing you want to do is to draw attention to yourself. So, avoid bright colored bags (neon, red, orange, or yellow) and choose a dark colored bag that looks inconspicuous.
Other features you should look for include a rain hood, water bottle pockets, compression straps, water bladder, and MOLLE (molecular lightweight load carrying equipment) system.
Also, make sure the size of the bag is proportionate to the length of your torso and your overall height. If you are short, it makes little sense for you to buy a large bag, as you might find it difficult to carry it around.
You might find interesting to read our best tactical sling backpacks article.
TOP 10 BUG-OUT BAGS
#1 SANDPIPER OF CALIFORNIA BUG-OUT BACKPACK
|Size:||22″ x 15.5″ x 8″|
|Capacity:||2,900 in³ / 3,300 in³ (Expanded)|
(+) Rugged, durable exterior
(+) Very spacious
(+) Multiple compartments
(+) Padded, adjustable shoulder and waist straps
(-) Might be too large for some people
This is a large, spacious bag that can comfortably store all your essential supplies and offers multiple features. Sandpiper of California (SOC) has been in the deployment and travel gear business for more than 20 years and offers a wide range of bug-out bags and gear.
The SOC bug-out bag comes with an expandable main compartment, adjustable shoulder straps and waist band, compression straps, and aluminum back stays. It is hydration compatible and comes with a lifetime warranty.
The shoulder straps, waist band, and the sternum straps distribute the weight evenly along the back, which makes it easier to carry heavy loads. You can tuck the straps and the waist band away and convert the bag into a travel-friendly duffel bag as well.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Durability – One of the USPs of the bag is its rugged exterior, which is abrasion resistant and is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. The moment you get a feel of the material, you can instantly tell just how durable it is.
Storage Capacity – The main compartment – with a capacity of 2,900 cubic inches – is very spacious and can be further expanded into 3,300 cubic inches. The bag also has a number of compartments, side pouches, and netted pockets, which allow you to pack as many items as you want.
The downside is that at 5.7 lbs, it is a tad on the heavier side. Also, the extra-large compartments might tempt you to pack things you do not really need, as a result of which you might be forced to carry an unnecessarily heavy load.
#2 5.11 TACTICAL RUSH 72 MILITARY BACKPACK
|Size:||13.5 x 8.5 x 23 inches|
|Capacity:||3342 cubic inch / 55 liter|
(+) Sturdy material
(+) Compartmentalized storage space
(+) Can be used for different purposes
(-) Too flashy
(-) Shoulder straps might be too wide for some people
This is a versatile bag which can be used as a bug-out bag, a hunting backpack, a tactical backpack, or as an everyday outdoor or hiking pack. The brand is generally associated with law enforcement agencies, as they have a decade-long history of making clothes and gear for the men and women in law enforcement agencies.
The RUSH 72 is made of 1000D nylon, which is strong, durable, and water repellant. It has a 55L storage capacity and comes with a large, dual-zippered main compartment, multiple pockets on the sides, a built-in hydration pocket, adjustable shoulder and sternum straps, a cinching waist strap, a built-in drainage grommet, and a number of MOLLE straps.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Sturdy Material – The RUSH 72 is a solidly built bag which is designed to last a long time. It is made of 1000D nylon, which can survive the harshest of weather conditions.
Compartmentalized Storage Space – The bag has a spacious main compartment and a number of smaller compartments, which can store a large number of items. There is even a separate pocket to keep your sunglasses. The compartmentalization makes it easier to pack all your essential supplies in an organized manner.
The downside is that the bag screams ‘tactical gear’. It can certainly be a problem if you are in a situation where you have to blend in with the crowd without drawing too much attention to yourself.
The shoulder straps are nearly 10 cm wide. If you have narrow shoulders, the straps might rub against your neck skin, which can cause you a lot of discomfort, especially when it is hot and dry.
Check out our suggested survival backpacks article.
#3 CONDOR 3 DAY ASSAULT PACK
|Size:||22″ x 17″ x 11″|
|Capacity:||3038 cubic inches; 50 Liters|
(+) Multiple compartments with large storage space
(+) Comfortable to wear
(+) Affordably priced
(-) Flimsy organization pockets
(-) Flaps get in the way of the zippers
The 3 Day Assault Pack is designed for preppers and outdoor enthusiasts. With a 50L capacity, spacious compartments, and organization features, the bag can effortlessly accommodate all your essential supplies.
The 3 Day Assault Pack comes with seven compartments, body contour shoulder straps, sternum straps, waist belt, carry-and-drag handle, drainage grommet, padded back panel, integrated hydration compatibility, and MOLLE straps.
The bag can accommodate two 3L hydration bladders, which should be sufficient to keep you hydrated while you are on the move. The padded back panel ensures that there is sufficient airflow between your back and the bag.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Comfortable to Carry– The body contour shoulder straps are definitely one of the unique selling points of the 3 Day Assault Pack. The straps are wide, thickly padded, and are designed to distribute the weight evenly across your torso, rather than digging into your shoulders. So, you can carry this bag around for hours without feeling uncomfortable.
Organized Storage Space – There are seven compartments with zippers and compression straps to keep all your items neatly organized. The bag also has several rows of MOLLE straps to which you can attach additional gear.
The downside is that the organization pockets are not nearly as durable as we expected them to be. They might tear after a few months of use. Also, the protective flaps almost always get in the way of the zippers. It can make it difficult for you to open and close the compartments when you are in a hurry.
#4 REEBOW GEAR MILITARY TACTICAL BACKPACK
(+) Very affordable
(+) Subtle design
(-) Flimsy straps and buckles
(-) Short waist strap
This is an affordably priced bug-out bag which is made of a durable, waterproof 600×600 density fabric and has a 40L storage capacity. It comes with a mesh padded back panel, mesh padded shoulder straps, waist strap, heavy duty zippers, built-in hydration compatibility, multiple compartments, and MOLLE webbing for additional storage options.
It is one of the most affordably priced bug-out bags on the market today. The bag has a number of compartments, pockets, and pouches which can carry a wide range of survival supplies.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Durability – With double stitched seams, heavy duty zippers, and a rugged fabric, the bag is built to last. It is surprisingly durable for a bag in this price range.
Breathability – The shoulder straps and the back panel have mesh webbing to ensure sufficient airflow between your body and the bag. So, you can carry it around for hours without getting sweaty and uncomfortable.
Subtle Design – One of the biggest USPs of the REEBOW GEAR military backpack is that it looks like a regular backpack, which is perfect if you need to blend in with the crowd without making yourself look like a threat or a target. This is an important factor you need to consider if you are looking to buy the best bug-out bag that can give great value for your money.
The downside is that the straps and the buckles look and feel flimsy. The waist strap is shorter than we expected. So, if you are a significant body weight, you might struggle to put on the strap.
#5 3V GEAR PARATUS 3-DAY OPERATOR’S TACTICAL BACKPACK
|Size:||13 x 11.8 x 3 inches|
|Capacity:||2,420 cubic inches|
(+) High quality product
(+) Ample storage space
(-) No internal frame
(-) No hook for hydration bladder
This is a ruggedly designed bug-out bag which comes with a ton of features. Made of 600D PVC backed polyester, the bag has a 40L storage capacity, a drag-and-carry handle, padded shoulder straps, padded waist strap, sternum strap, built-in hydration compatibility, and MOLLE pouches and attachment points.
The 600D PVC backed polyester is obviously not as durable as the 1000D nylon, which is what most top-rated bug-out bags are made of, but it is still a pretty good bargain, given the bag’s price tag.
The straps are wide, thick, padded, and adjustable. There is plenty of storage space – 2,500 cubic inches – which should be enough to keep all your survival supplies. There is a padded compartment with Velcro straps where you can keep your laptop.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
High Quality – The rugged design, double stitched seams, sturdy straps, and self healing zippers showcase the fact that this is a high-quality product which is built to last a long time.
Ample Storage Space – The Paratus comes with a main backpack, a rapid deployment pack, and two ally pouches. The rapid deployment pack and the ally pouches can be attached to the main backpack or used separately. There are lots of pockets and sleeves, which allow you to keep all your things organized.
The downside is that the bag lacks an internal frame, so the weight is not evenly distributed along your torso. The hydration bladder compartment does not have a hook, so the bladder might move around while you are on the move.
#6 MAXPEDITION VULTURE II BACKPACK
|Capacity:||2810 cu. in. / 46 liters|
(+) Built-in hydration and CCW compartments
(+) Lightweight and easy to carry
(-) Average storage capacity
(-) Stiff and abrasive material
This is a solidly built bug-out bag which is tailor-made to be used in harsh conditions. It comes with a 34-liter storage capacity, adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist straps, high strength zippers, and a built-in hydration compartment.
The bag weighs around 3 lbs, which is not that heavy, especially considering the fact that some of the top-rated bug-out bags weigh as much as 5 to 6 pounds. The padded shoulder, chest, and waist straps make sure that the weight is distributed across your torso, so that your shoulders do not have to bear the entire burden.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Rugged Build – The Vulture II is the very definition of durability. It is made of 1000D nylon fabric, which is lightweight, water resistant, and abrasion resistant. All the stress points are double stitched and bar-tacked for added strength.
Hydration Compartment – There is a separate hydration compartment with a 100 ounce/ 3L capacity and a bi-directional tube port for easy access.
CCW Compartment – It is an excellent feature, as it totally makes sense to be armed while you are bugging out and rushing to a safe spot. The CCW pocket has lockable zippers and can hold a large pistol.
The downside is that the Vulture II’s 34L storage capacity might not be sufficient some of you, especially if you have a lot of gear or if you want to carry essential supplies for two people.
Also, the material is very rugged and stiff and might take you some time to break it in. The material might also be abrasive to your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin.
#7 EXPLORER US MILITARY LEVEL-3 TACTICAL BACKPACK
|Size:||19 x 17 x 3 inches|
(+) Rugged and durable fabric
(+) Easy to carry
(-) Flimsy internal fabric
(-) Flimsy straps
This bag is as tough as it looks. It is made of 1200 denier polyester, which is as durable as they come. It has two main compartments and five pockets on the sides, back, and the bottom. It has a built-in hydration compartment and multiple MOLLE attachment points.
It has padded shoulder, waist, and sternum straps and a foam-padded back panel for increased airflow and comfort.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Durable Material – The 1200D polyester is known for its durability, so the bag can take a lot of abuse.
Spacious – The main compartments and the external pockets can store a ton of items. You can expand the bag by an additional three inches, even after completely filling it up.
Easy to Carry – The padded straps make it easier for you to carry the bag on your back. You can also tuck the straps away and use it as a carry-on bag.
One of the major downsides of the Explorer is that the internal fabric is pretty flimsy and might rip after some time. It is quite surprising, given the fact that the outer fabric is extremely rugged and durable.
The same can be said about the straps as well. They tend to slip and pop out at times, especially if the bag is packed to the brim. It is not a big deal if you plan to use it as a backpack. For a bug-out bag, this is a major downside, as the last thing you want to happen when you are bugging out is for the straps to pop out.
#8 EBERLESTOCKHISPEED II PACK
|Size:||22”h x 11”w x 7.5”|
(+) Excellent lumbar support
(+) Minimalistic design
(-) Below-average storage space
(-) Lack of compartmentalization
This is a highly functional bug-out backpack with a minimalistic design. It is made of 420 denier ripstop nylon. It comes with a built-in hydration compartment, two laptop compartments, spacious, form-following pockets, and MOLLE webbing.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Lumbar Support – The bag is contour shaped and is designed to taper at the top as well as the bottom, as a result of which it stays very close to your body, which in turn makes it easier for you to carry it. The side-mounted compression straps ensure that the bulk of the weight rests on your hips, which prevents you from overstraining your shoulders.
Ventilation – The bag is also well ventilated and allows plenty of airflow against your back. This is important, as carrying a heavy bag on a hot and dry day can be very uncomfortable.
The major downside with the EberlestockHiSpeed II Pack is that the storage space of 1,800 cubic inches (approximately 29 liters) might not be sufficient for many people. Ideally, your bug-out bag should have a 40L capacity.
Also, the storage space is not compartmentalized. We would have definitely liked to see more compartments, pockets, and pouches.
The lack of small pockets, in particular, is a problem, since you have to fit all your small pieces of gear in the same place. In case of an emergency, you have to dig through the entire compartment to find what you are looking for, which can be a pain in the neck.
#9 SOG PROPHET BACKPACK
|Size:||24 x 11.8 x 9 inches|
(+) Organized storage space
(+) Snug fit
(+) Sleek design
(-) Tight laptop sleeve
This is a midsized bug-out bag which comes with a host of features including 33L storage capacity, padded shoulder, sternum, and hip straps, built-in hydration sleeve, built-in laptops sleeve, multiple organization pockets, large zippers, and MOLLE webbing.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Organized Storage Space – The 33L storage space is nicely compartmentalized. There are a number of compartments, pockets, and pouches, which can comfortably accommodate all your items. There is even an internal MOLLE loop field available for your weapon.
Snug Fit – The compression straps make sure that the bag stays close to your body and the weight is evenly distributed between your shoulders and hips. So, you can carry it for hours without hurting your shoulders. You can tuck away the straps and use it as a duffel bag as well.
Sleek Design – The bag is neatly designed, but does not have a tactical appearance. It is a good thing, because carrying hi-tech tactical gear can make you look like a threat or a target if you are in the wrong crowd.
One of the downsides of the SOG Prophet is that it is a tad expensive for a mid-sized bag. The bag is of very high quality, so most people would not mind paying a little more. If you, however, are on a budget, you might want to look at other, more affordable options.
The laptop sleeve is tight and can only accommodate a 15” laptop. If your laptop is larger in size, you might struggle to put it in and take it out whenever you need.
#10 US ARMY LARGE MILITARY TACTICAL BACKPACK
|Size:||19″ H X 15″ W x 9″ D|
(+) Sufficient storage space
(+) Padded, adjustable straps for even distribution of weight
(+) Multiple MOLLE attachment points
(-) Lack of built-in hydration compartment and drainage grommet
(-) Fabric does not feel sturdy or durable
This is a lightweight bag which comes with a 40L storage space. It comes with spacious compartments, accessory pockets, built-in laptop sleeve, padded and adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist straps, and MOLLE webbing.
The first thing you notice about the bag is the US army logo, which gives it a distinct look. The bag is sturdily built and has a minimalistic design.
WHY IT IS A GOOD CHOICE
Ample Storage Space – The 40L storage space should be sufficient for your essential supplies, water and other items. Despite its dimensions and storage capacity, the bag does not feel heavy, which is pleasantly surprising.
Even Distribution of Weight – One of the problems with regular backpacks is that you cannot carry them around for a long time, as the strain can prove to be too much for your shoulders. The US army tactical backpack solves this problem with adjustable padded straps.
The sternum and waist straps ensure that the weight you carry is distributed evenly along your torso. So, when you carry the bag, the weight essentially rests on your hips, making it easier for you to carry it for hours on end.
The downside is that the bag lacks several features that we expect from a tactical bug-out bag. These include a built-in hydration compartment, drainage grommet, and a drag-and-carry handle.
Also, the fabric does not feel rugged or durable.
THE SANDPIPER SHINES THE BRIGHTEST
Among the products listed above, the Sandpiper of California Bug-Out Backpack is the clear winner in our opinion, as it meets all our criteria for the best bug-out bag. It is ruggedly built, easy to carry, has a large storage capacity, and comes with a wide array of features.
If we have to choose a runner-up, we will go with the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Military Backpack. It is just as good as the Sandpiper of California in terms of durability, storage capacity, and other features. It is, however, more expensive and has a very ‘tactical’ appearance.
If money is not a constraint for you, you cannot go wrong with either of these products.