Best Survival Backpacks
Selecting a survival backpack (also called a bug out bag) is a lot different than buying a backpack for a leisurely one-day hiking trip or for your teenager to take to school. Purchasing a high-quality emergency backpack to hold all your survival gear may spell the difference between life and death in natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, and mudslides—or if you get lost in the wilderness on what was supposed to be a dream camping trip.
Most people look at basics such as fit, capacity, weight, durability, and price when purchasing a general-use backpack. While some of those features are also considerations for survival backpacks, experts suggest assessing the following 10 components.
Weight: The backpack should be lightweight but sturdy enough to hold essentials, which likely means it will have an adequate internal frame. The best backpacks ideally balance weight and functionality.
Padded Hip Belt: A cushioned hip belt stabilizes and softens the impact of a backpack, preventing sore spots on your hips and lower back that can impair mobility and survival.
Padded Shoulder Straps: Gear can get heavy very quickly after walking several miles. Adequate padded straps help distribute weight and lower the impact on your shoulders so you can keep on going.
Waterproof Materials: All that work you expended putting together your survival backpack may be for naught if rain ruins the contents. You don’t want to run the risk of moldy equipment and soggy food. The best backpacks are made of waterproof materials with proper ventilation.
Internal Frame: Backpacks are frameless or have external or internal frames. The latter is the best choice overall because the internal frame provides excellent load-support and the ability to transfer the load to your hips.
Capacity: This feature is important because you don’t want to run out of supplies, but also don’t want to overestimate and be weighed down with an untenable load. The rule of thumb is 30-50 liters capacity for 3 nights, 50-80 liters for up to 5 nights, and 70+ liters for extended trips.
Rain Cover: Some professional hiking and survival backpacks have separate, detachable rain-covers. While most packs already offer waterproof coating, some moisture often slips through zippers and small openings. You should buy an inexpensive rain cover if you anticipate wet weather.
Ventilation: Although most survival backpacks are waterproof and made from modern nylon and other strong materials, they make you sweat. High quality backpacks feature ventilation technology (e.g. a mesh back panel) to keep you cool and comfortable even in high temperatures.
Pockets: Outer and inner pockets are a necessity if you want to avoid rifling around in a massive backpack for loose items. Quick access to a flashlight, survival knife, and other small emergency supplies can come in handy in many situations.
Hydration Sleeve: A hydration reservoir is useful if you want to carry water in an internal, refillable bottle and drink it through a tube without having to open your backpack. Although this is not essential, it is a nice option.