How much can you carry? If you’ll be bugging out in a well equipped deuce-and-a-half, weight may not be an issue. If you will have to walk anywhere, weight will become a primary concern.
I have a long history of wilderness wandering. I’ve hiked most of the Appalachian trail. I’ve hiked all over New Mexico and Colorado. I spent a summer in the Boundary Waters and the Quetico, canoeing. I’ve lived for months at a time out of a backpack.
But bugging out is different. Though weight is a factor, so is convenience.
Backpacks meant for hiking can be incredibly useful if you think you’ll actually be walking. In the wilderness. The disadvantages are easy enough to see. These bags are big, which makes getting into and out of vehicles a challenge. They are usually bright colors, which can make it difficult to hide, should that be a concern.
Our imagined bug-outs often end in zombie filled postapocalyptic wilderness wastelands. But they will begin, if the need should arrive where we work and live. Where we are now.
For practical consideration, I suggest you have two bags. One, a backpack, will carry the basics. It should be modestly sized. Big enough to carry what you need, yet small enough that it won’t be too cumbersome (or too heavy). As it is a backpack, it can be taken off. Left behind, if need be.
The other bag should be closer to you. I like the big man purse designs, the modern day equivalent of the powder bag. It should keep many different things right at your fingertips. A sidearm, for example. Money. Your phone. This is the bag that you keep with you. Always. The absolute essentials. A small bag like this is more easily monitored and protected.
Two bags are better than one. They will allow you to prioritize, and to better disperse weight. Here is my choice for the perfect combination.
The Maxpedition Falcon II
As backpacks go, the Falcon II is not terribly large. It has 1,520 cubic inches of interior space. The relatively compact design is perfect for moving in confined spaces. As there may be an urban component to a good bug-out, you might need to get into and out of a car, or through doors. And a smaller backpack, even when fully loaded, will take up less room while being stored.
The Falcon II’s straps are sturdy. The pack has a waist band and chest strap. The webbing is thick, the stitching is strong, and every aspect seems perfectly designed for serious use. I’m a bit of a zipper snob, and the Falcon II’s YKK zippers are built to take abuse.
The main compartment opens completely, which allows for easy access to all of the contents. The downfall to this design, as many pack makers know, is that any weight in the outside compartments pulls on the big U-shaped zipper.
The Falcon II has two straps on each side and a Y-shaped strap that provides a secure fifth connection. These straps take the weight off of the zipper and help to compress the load, which makes the pack much easier to balance.
This pack can be synched down to almost nothing. Or, on the opposite side, the PALS straps on the outside of the bag allow for the addition of any number of smaller bags. Maxpedition offers a wide variety of add-ons that will allow for ultimate customization.
The Falcon II has an MSRP of $155, but sells for less at many places on line.
The Maxpedition Jumbo EDC (Every Day Carry)
As for the bag at your side, again I’m going with Maxpedition. The Jumbo EDC is very ergonomic. The wide shoulder strap places the bag right on your hip. My favorite feature of the EDC is the slim pocket behind the main compartment. Lined with Velcro, the pocket is the perfect place for a concealed holster.
Maxpedition makes a simple strap holster that fits most pistols and revolvers. With this hidden in the pocket, the bag becomes a convenient means of off body carry. This Beretta PX4 in 9mm is the perfect option for a bug-out pistol and fits perfectly in this holster and the back pocket.
If I have a bone to pick with the EDC, it would be that the main flap doesn’t overlap the edges of the main compartment. Though it closes securely, the flap leaves just enough of a gap along the sides that contents can get wet in a heavy rain.
But that’s it. Everything else is ideal. I like the EDC so much that it has become my daily carry bag. It keeps me organized. While the Falcon II is a small backpack, the Jumbo EDC is huge. It has an MSRP of $79.99. Not bad for this level of performance.
Something to think about…
I think too many people focus on what goes in the bag and then neglect the bag itself. I’ve hiked thousands of miles, literally. I have seen trips ruined by poor equipment. If the bag isn’t comfortable, durable and appropriately sized, it may not work. All of your preparations could be useless.
And think also about weight. You bag should be no more than 30 pounds–45 is the maximum. When I hike, I carry a pack that weighs just over 15 pounds (without food and water). Too much weight is not a problem, really, as you can always start heavy and ditch what you don’t need. But it is good to know what you can comfortably carry. Try it out. Take your bug out bag, or bags, for a spin and see how it goes.
But consider this. Whatever you pack should be able to fit inside the bag. A machete might be very useful. An AR-15 might also. But they may draw unwanted attention. Don’t become a target of opportunity. And remember that, depending on the circumstance, authorities may confiscate any weapons they can see. I’m not talking about the zombie hordes. I’m thinking more of forced evacuations than complete societal collapse. Be prepared, but be inconspicuous.
I’ll be prepared. I won’t worry at all about my equipment.