Bug-Out Bag Essentials survival items
A sampling of some of the most important components of your bug-out bag.

The actual packing of your bag is an extremely crucial process to keep both the overall weight of the pack low and the weight properly distributed. Remember, no single system works for everyone, but the five steps below can get you started.

Lay out all your survival items on the ground. Create groups according to the various weights of the items, from heaviest to lightest. This is also the time to eliminate any excess weight, including unneeded packaging, bulky containers, extra-long handles on tools, as well as substituting heavier metal items in favor of stronger and lighter ones.

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Even though your bug-out bag is meant to sustain you for 72 hours, some items you will need immediately upon bugging out, while others can wait until you set up camp or take a break from traveling. Start a new pile that includes such items as snack bars, a rain poncho, a small flashlight, maps, pocket knives and bottled water. These and others essential items will be categorized as “first-used,” and as such will be packed separately from the bulk of your supplies.

When you begin loading your bag, layer your goods based on weight and the approximate “use time” of the items. Keep your heavy items, such as tents, tarps, some tools and fuel cans, at the pack’s lowest fill point and close to your body. Keep lighter items like clothing, a simple tarp, cordage and your foldable camp stove further away from your back. Continue loading upward through the pack, stuffing lighter items closer to the back of the pack and throughout the heavy equipment to prevent shifting and an off-balanced load. At the top of your bug-out bag, load your essential goods that may be needed within hours of bugging out.

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Most packs on the market come equipped with multiple side pockets, zippered compartments or small auxiliary pouches. Utilize these spaces for easy access to essential goods that may be needed quickly or in a pinch. Simple fire-starters, a water filter straw, snack bars or trail mixes, glow sticks and similar items belong here.

Once your pack is fully loaded, it’s time to try it on. Immediately assess the comfort level of the pack as a whole. Notice any “pulling back” effect that you may feel or if the pack feels off-balance as you walk around. Isolate the issue and adjust the item (or items) accordingly, and continue your evaluation. Only through constant trial and error will you attain a properly filled, lifesaving survival pack.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Winter 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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