Last updated: June 22, 2017 at 15:25 pm

The best bug out bag and backpacks

In disaster preparedness, one of the most important tools you can own is an all-in-one survival kit that you can grab and run with. Backpack style bug-out bags have become popular among preppers, survivalists, first responders and those living in disaster-prone areas for their convenience, capacity and organization.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of packs advertised as bug-out gear available to us consumers, ranging from inexpensive to very pricey, and all over the map as far as quality and features. How do you find out which one of these offers you the best value for your money, and for your specific needs?

To take some of the mystery out of shopping this backpack for yourself, your family or your crew, we have researched and created a comparison of some of the top rated bug out bags for 2017, in a variety of sizes and price ranges. Below, I will explain the factors that went into my decision, which ones fit the criteria best, and examples of why those criteria are so important.

If you’re in a hurry, check out the ArcEnCiel 40L; It’s made out of quality materials with MOLLE webbing. It’s very versatile and that’s what it makes it our favorite.

Product Image:
Name:
Main Feature:
Price:
Our Rating:

ArcEnCiel 40L compare

ArcEnCiel 40L Waterproof

Quality materials and design, MOLLE webbing, Weather resistance
$$
9.8/10
Camelbak BFM Antidote compare

Camelbak BFM Antidote Mil-Spec

Huge water reservoir, quality materials, Versatile storage space
$$$
9.2/10
Monkey Paks

Monkey Paks

Great value for the money, Good water reservoir, Perfect size for storage
$$
9.0/10
VooDoo Discreet Raven compare

VooDoo Tactical Discreet Raven

Good size, weather resistance and materials
$$-$$$ (Varies)
9.2/10
Reebow Gear Assault compare

Reebow Gear Military Tactical Assault

Good size, weather resistance and materials
$$
9.0/10
5.11 Tactical Rush 72 compare

5.11 Tactical Rush 72

Outstanding weather resistance, rugged materials and design, organized storage space
$$$ (Varies)
9.5/10

A Backpack that Did Not Make it on My List

Tactic Shield offers a variety of packs and day bags advertised as bug-out rucksack, and at first glance, their Waterproof Full Featured Assault Pack has everything you could ask for at a moderate price point.

This product offers good padding, comfortable straps, a breathable mesh back pad, MOLLE webbing and a variety of water-resistant sections to help the user stay organized. Its water reservoir holds a generous 84 ounces, comparable to several Camelbak models. So why didn’t it make the cut?

Waterproof Full Featured Assault PackDeciding Factors

  • Tactic Shield advertises this product on Amazon as a three-day bug out bag, which unfortunately is not accurate. The compartment sizes are described as “misleadingly small” by a variety of reviewers, who largely recommended it solely for overnight use.
  • Disappointingly, the small size of everything but the water reservoir means that you can at most carry a day’s supplies for one person in it. This is not an adequate capacity for this type of bag.
  • In addition, many purchasers have come back with complaints about seams ripping, zippers catching, and straps slipping due to cheap materials.
  • It is not fully waterproof, including the document section.

This is is an example of a product which looks perfect in photos or on paper, but disappoints in person. If Tactic Shield expanded the size to a full three-day capacity and improved the quality of materials and construction, they would have an excellent product. As it is, their offering falls short.

Our Top 6 Bug Out Backpacks Reviewed and Compared

The following products are very suitable for the creation of a three-day bug-out bag for at least one person. They vary somewhat in size, allowing smaller individuals to find a rucksack that they can carry without strain.

ArcEnCiel 40L Waterproof Tactical Military MOLLE Assault Backpack

ArcEnCiel’s pack hits the mark exactly where Tactic Shield missed it: generous size and a construction and materials quality that is making reviewers sit up and take notice. The design is more waterproof, it has MOLLE webbing to attach more gear to the outside, and the product is backed by great customer service and a good replacement policy.

The verdict among reviewers is that this is a fairly sturdy and versatile backpack, although some find its flap design awkward or complain about the small amount of MOLLE webbing or individual compartments inside or out. It holds up well to inclement weather, and is medium-sized, with a larger capacity than the Tactic Shield but not huge enough to overwhelm an average-sized user.

One thing you may not like, depending on your preferences, is that this bag does not include a water reservoir or dedicated space for one. If you are in a water-poor environment, you may prefer a design with a reservoir, such as the Camelbak. Those who have the opportunity to scavenge water, and do not wish to carry their whole three-day supply on their backs, can do what many reviewers have done, and include or attach a pouch with water purification gear and collapsible canteens.

image of ArcEnCiel 40L Waterproof Military bug out bag
Design
Quality
Price

Pros:

  • Good size
  • Good weather resistance
  • Quality materials and design
  • Outstanding customer service

Cons:

  • No water reservoir or space for one
  • On the expensive side
  • Limited MOLLE webbing and dividers

Camelbak BFM Antidote Mil-Spec Backpack

The Camelbak bears a strong resemblance to military surplus MOLLE bags and are built to at least the same design standard. A big, well-made rucksack with an industry-leader design water reservoir capable of holding 100 ounces and room for at least one more, this is in all ways but a few the perfect bug out bag for those who need to carry their water with them.

Reviewers are largely impressed with this product’s construction quality, though a few made negative comparisons to Camelbak’s earlier products. Those who prefer a built-in reservoir were very happy with the enormous size of the Camelbak’s, though a few lighter-framed people found the backpack overwhelming when stuffed full.

Apparently this item, which comes with a variety of handy compartments, is capable of holding far more than expected, and certain reviewers have included long lists of everything they were able to cram into this model. There is more than enough room for one person’s supplies and water in this backpack—possibly enough for two.

The only drawback to the Camelbak is that it is clearly designed for a low-water environment, and though its fabric is weatherproofed, it is not waterproof. However, a waterproof cover is available for this model, which can also protect some items clipped to its outside.

image of Camelbak BFM Antidote
Design
Quality
Price

Pros:

  • Very good size
  • Huge well-designed water reservoir
  • Good materials and design
  • Versatile storage inside and out

Cons:

  • Not waterproof
  • Expensive
  • Holds more than small users can carry

Monkey Paks Tactical Backpack

This tactical bug out rucksack resembles a smaller, lower-capacity cousin to the Camelbak, with a similar design, lots of MOLLE webbing, an 80-ounce water reservoir and a medium size. It is moderately priced, is often sold with additional MOLLE bags, and is large enough to hold one person’s supplies.

Reviewers were impressed with the overall design, but less than impressed with the quality of construction. Most who liked this design noted its similarity to mil-spec packs issued for similar purposes. As bargain tactical backpacks go, many gave the Monkey Pak high ratings for its roominess, versatility and how much bag they got for their money, as well as for good company customer service.

One complaint that was made about this product, besides its not being fully waterproofed, was that the water bladder is sometimes defective and leaks or has problems with its valve. It can be easily returned for a replacement, however, or the space used for another brand of 80-ounce reservoir.

image showing Monkey Paks backpack
Design
Quality
Price

Pros:

  • Fairly good size
  • Good sized water reservoir
  • Great bag for the price
  • Good customer service

Cons:

  • Limited internal compartments
  • Water reservoir sometimes defective
  • Plastic strap hardware is less durable
  • Seams can wear out

VooDoo Tactical Discreet Raven Pack

The Raven Pack differs from other bug out bags that we selected in that it is a low-profile product that resembles a standard urban backpack for college or work use. This can be useful for urban survival, as a mil-spec look such as MOLLE webbing or a camouflage design will advertise the bag’s likely purpose, possibly making it a target of theft. Like many of VooDoo’s offerings, it is moderately priced, of good quality, and though not as roomy as some of our other offerings, can easily fit three days of supplies for one person.

Reviewers loved the combination of good build, good quality, a built-in reservoir holder, internal MOLLE webbing and low profile, all for less than a third of some comparable packs. It was described as comfortable to wear, and has been field tested by some users on three-day excursions with good results. The VooDoo Discreet line has received rave reviews for its durability.

Although this is a lot of backpack for the price, it has no external MOLLE webbing, which means it can be organized more internally but cannot have much strapped to it externally. On the other hand, the lack of MOLLE webbing helps the bag keep that essential low profile. It also does not come with a reservoir for its holder, but the user can get a high-quality water bladder for the backpack for not much.

a brand new VooDoo Discreet Raven pack
Design
Quality
Price

Pros:

  • Fair size
  • Some weather resistance
  • Very rugged materials and design
  • Low profile

Cons:

  • No water reservoir
  • Limited external storage
  • Not fully waterproof

Reebow Gear Military Tactical Assault Pack

Another well-reviewed, affordable option, this pack returns to the more common MOLLE bag format, but comes in two sizes for larger or smaller users. Either one is capable of holding enough supplies for one person. This Pack is very rugged, has a pocket built for an 80 ounce water storage bladder, and has plenty of internal organization.

Reviewers gave this item very high marks for organized storage capacity and sheer toughness. Comments were made that the MOLLE webbing was not standard size, but there were few complaints about this. Some larger reviewers complained that the straps were too short for them. Some bags arrived with missing or defective zippers, but were quickly replaced thanks to the company’s good customer service.

Because of the short but comfortably designed straps, this is not the best product for larger users in either size. However, women, teens and those with lighter builds should find this backpack just about perfect in size, strap length and the weight it can carry.

image showing Reebow Gear Assault
Design
Quality
Price

Pros:

  • Fair size
  • Some weather resistance
  • Very rugged materials and design
  • Great customer service

Cons:

  • No water reservoir
  • Backpack straps somewhat short
  • Not fully waterproof
  • Some arrive with defective zippers

5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack

A higher-end pack with a price to match, the Tactical Rush is one of the gold standards to which reviewers compare other bags. It has nearly everything on my list, aside from not coming with a water reservoir to go in its compartment. It is also more water-resistant than most models, although it is not submersible.

Reviewers loved the build quality, roominess, and the pack’s many internal compartments, including specialized ones like an insulated reservoir compartment and a fleece lined sunglasses pocket. Some complained that the backpack straps did not distribute weight properly on larger wearers, causing strain on the neck and back.

This pack has two issues which get mentioned by users. One, the webbing on the outside of the pack is “MOLLE compatible”, not true MOLLE, and is held in place by stitching, which may wear out eventually. Two, the back and neck yoke carries most of the weight of the pack, as the waist belt’s design does not work well with larger, longer-bodied users. If you have a shorter torso, however, or carry a lighter load, this pack may well be perfect for you.

Product image of 5.11 Tactical Rush 72
Design
Quality
Price

Pros:

  • Good size
  • Above average weather resistance
  • Very rugged materials and design
  • Many internal compartments including specialized ones

Cons:

  • No water reservoir
  • Shoulder yoke tight on larger users
  • Not fully waterproof
  • Some may find waist belt unsupportive
image showing hiking boots and tactical backpack on the floor

Bug Out Bags for Everyone: How to Pick One That Works For You

When choosing the best bug out tactical backpack for yourself or your family, your choices will be heavily influenced by who you are, any special needs you have, and where and how you live. This product for a single person in an urban environment in earthquake country will be smaller and have some different items in it than a bag chosen for a four-person family that lives on a ranch in a storm-prone watershed. Your situation influences your supplies, and your supplies influence your decision on what size of this bag you should use to carry and protect them.

When determining what design and contents are right for you, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Who is the bag for? How many adults? Children? Infants? Pets?
  • How many days of supplies does it need to hold? The standard is three per person.
  • Does anyone in the group have special dietary or medical needs? Baby formula, medications, prescription glasses or contacts are some examples.
  • What items will you absolutely have to bring? Many survival oriented sites have lists of items to include in a standard bug out kit. Your list may vary according to your needs, but remember that the basic rule is that if it’s not essential, you don’t pack it.
  • What environment will you need to survive in? Is it urban? Suburban? Wilderness?
  • Do you need to hide your rucksack in plain sight by using a “stealth” or less military-looking design, to avoid theft?
  • What climate are you living in, and how much fresh water is available?
  • What hazards are local to your area? Crime, riots or terrorism? Earthquakes? Snowstorms? Hurricanes? Floods? Power outages? Food shortages?
  • How much weight can you comfortably carry long distance? Can the load be split between more than one person? Is it more feasible to have everyone have their own supplies packed, or for one or more adults to carry a multi-person bag?

Check out this video made by BlackScoutSurvival

Must Have Supplies For Bugging Out Quickly

Ideally, a bug out bag list consists of enough food, medication, water or purification gear, and supplies to last everyone in the group at least two to three days. Other essential gear, such as a compass, survival knife, means of communication and light source, must be chosen carefully to round out the bag without adding too much weight or bulk.

When choosing which specific good-quality backpack you want, it might be useful to gather examples of all the gear and supplies you will be using. You can then see for yourself how much room they take up, and which items you would want handy in outer pockets or clipped to the outside of the pack. Otherwise, working from a supplies list will help you determine what you absolutely must have with you on a three-day trek.

To avoid frustrations or even disaster when the time comes to use your gear, make certain that you field test your new pack within its return period, and return it for another model if it does not meet your specific needs. Problems with fit, comfort or storage should be shaken out well before you need to rely on your backpack in the field. Take the extra time and effort to make the right decision. You may be very glad of it later.

a man hiking on a hill

Major Considerations and What to Look For in a BugOut Bag

What type of backpack makes the best bug-out bag? Personal need and the volume, weight and type of supplies included will heavily influence this choice, but all good products have certain things in common. Ideally, a this type of backpack has all of the following qualities:

Waterproof or weatherproof/water-resistant:

A waterproof pack can be completely submerged without letting water into it. A weatherproof or water-resistant rucksack is made of waterproof materials, but is not as well sealed and will eventually let water in if submerged. Weatherproofing can be improved with a cover or waterproofing spray, but a truly watertight pack is the gold standard.

Well padded and comfortable to wear:

Properly wide and padded straps, padding for the hips, a sternum strap, breathable mesh padding and/or a back frame to let air circulate between you and the backpack, and a good balance are all important factors to keep you on the road with a minimum of discomfort.

Large enough, but not too large:

A good bug out bag must have enough capacity to carry three days’ supplies for at least one person, without overly encumbering them.

Well organized enough:

Sometimes you need to know exactly where a specific piece of equipment is, and be able to get at it quickly, whether the equipment is your flashlight, your umbrella or your weapon. A good pack for emergency purposes will have a variety of outside pockets, loops and straps for holding or attaching gear.

Tough Enough:

A plain nylon book bag or similar cheaply-made urban rucksack will NOT do for a bug-out bag. Military specification or high end hiking backpacks are built to last, and will not split a seam or snap a strap in the middle of bug-out.

A built in Hydration System or a place to install one:

Camelbak style water bladders with drinking straws are a popular accessory for both hiking and survival gear. Some of my favorite designs either incorporate a water bladder, or have a pocket and loops available to install your own.

MOLLE style expandability:

The Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment design was created for military excursions, and is compatible with a variety of clip-on accessories such as additional mini-bags. This lets you be better organized, and carry more gear, at least up to your weight limit. Since its creation, it has become the go-to military surplus bag style for conversion to a bug out bag. Other non-military packs designers have emulated its system, creating even more versatility for the consumer.

Because you will need to modify your bug-out bag according to factors such as medical needs, urban or rural environment, season, and whether you are carrying for more than one person, the roomier and more versatile your base backpack is, the better. But why are these factors important? Let’s look at a pack that missed the mark on suitability for a three-day bug-out, and you can start to see why.

In Conclusion

These packs are not one-size-fits-all items. Everything from your frame to your personal needs will make certain designs fit you better than others. Have a look at the offerings I have listed here. Compare, contrast, and think about which design, size and price range is right for you and yours. Then have a look for yourself. For me personally, ArcEnCiel 40L proved to be the ultimate bug out bag for almost anyone’s needs. I know I’m happy with it.

Happy hunting, and may the disaster you’re preparing for never happen.

Sources and References

  1. Why your bug-out bag should be smaller than you think – PAT MCLENE on WND
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Doomsday Prepping – MICHAEL MCGRATH on GQ
  3. Bug-out bag – on Wikipedia
  4. 10 essentials for your bug out bag – FRANK BATES on Personal Liberty

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