Bug out Bags and Survival Vests

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Mike Turner. For those of you who don’t remember, Mike won second place in the last round of our writing contest and he has turned in another great article for your consideration. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


A Bug Out Bag, Survival Vest or Both

As preppers we all spend a lot of time looking at, revamping and assessing our bug out bags (BOBs). Even once you think you have a great setup a new idea comes along and gives you a whole new perspective.

So why do we use bags, granted they can carry a lot of our gear and supplies and can be very comfortable but do they offer the best option for both urban and wilderness preppers?

In this article we will be looking at the pros and cons of using a combined tactical vest and bug out bag system to offer maximum comfort, optimization, safety and conserve the maximum amount of energy possible when on the move.

So, first things first, why have a survival vest at all? Wearing a vest can give you better personal protection from knives, gunshots and physical trauma. They can also aid in distributing the weight of your gear over your body and allowing you to carry more (if you need/want to) and have instant access to certain pieces of kit.

On the other hand a vest will add additional weight to your setup and can be difficult to move around in / wear with a pack. The next thing you will need to think about it what are you using it for?

Here are some points that you should consider before buying a vest:

  • Does the maximum storage allow you to carry more gear in weight than the vest itself?
  • Have you optimized access to important gear in your pack already? Once you have, will moving that equipment to a vest make things easier?
  • What are you putting in it?
  • Is it worth it compared to just storing everything in your bag?
  • Are you carrying weapons? Where will you be storing munitions? Do you need quick access to shells, magazines or loose rounds?

So You Decided To Suit Up

So, you are getting a vest. Which one do you want? There are many different types of tactical vest available designed for a range of climates, objectives and load outs. If you are going to buy a vest make sure you try it on first with your pack, check that it is breathable and adaptable. By adaptable I mean, can the pockets be removed, replaced or upgraded? Can the vest have a tactical belt attached or detached? Does the vest have additional webbing or facilities for attaching

UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest

further gear? Do you want a built-in pistol holster or will you be using a hip or drop leg holster?

A good vest to start out with for maximum customization would be a basic Molle web vest. This allows you to attach your own pockets and facilities where ever you want and what ever size you want. The downside here is the webbing itself. The pockets can detach, be ripped off or the webbing itself tear and come loose.

To avoid this a basic commando vest could be a better way to go. This kind of vest allows the best of both worlds by having built-in pockets around the midsection about the size of an AR-15 single stack magazine, a medium sized dump pocket on one side of the chest and pistol magazine sized pockets on the other side. This type of vest can also come with a pistol holster and radio pocket depending on the brand. These vests usually also have molly webbing along the sides and back for carrying additional gear when not wearing your pack. Certain grenadier vests will also have a tactical belt laden with pockets that could be used for a variety of gear. A kind of prepper Bat-belt. Just remember what is in each compartment.

The down side to these vests is that they can limit maneuverability and get very hot when fully stocked with equipment. Finding one with mesh padding as opposed to leather or thick material is preferred.

The last type of vest we will look at is a heavy protection vest such as the U.S. army`s Interceptor body armor. These usually have a crotch guard and padded shoulder and arm plates that come down to the elbow joints. These vests have limited storage space and a significantly heavier and hotter than other types of vest. As they are built for heavy combat they can withstand gunfire and knife blows so they do offer the most protection of the three. The Interceptor vest, for example, was tested to stop a 9×19mm 124-grain FMJ bullet at 1,400 ft/s with minimal back face deformation, and it has a V-50 of roughly 1,525 ft/s. This means that the bullet in question must travel faster than 1,525 ft/s for it to have more than a 50% chance of penetration. (An unlikely prospect, given the muzzle velocity of a typical 9mm handgun or sub-machine gun) This vest weighs up to 33.1 pounds (15kgs) unloaded.

What are you packing?

Elite First Aid Kit – USAF Issue IFAK – Black

The contents of every prepper’s BOB will be different, so it makes perfect sense that the contents of the vest would also be different. But what do you choose to keep on your person at all times? A simple and easy way to decide what gear you should choose is to play out a survival scenario and what ever gear you will need as a bare minimum is. Here is a basic example of items you could store in your vest.


Keeping a miniaturized survival kit on your person at all times may also be worth putting together or spreading over the space of the vest compartments.

In conclusion…

A vest can be either a great help or a great hindrance. The best way to find out if it is going to help you or not is to test out a range of configurations and scenarios. Above all, remember that your setup will have to be suited to all the yearly conditions that you will be faced with.

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  • BobW

    Curious. The cheap charlie L3 AR500 plates+carrier tip the scales at ~17lbs. Understand this isn’t light, but its a far cry from the ‘lightweight Army gear’ the IBAS was.

    I’ve been looking at the Brokos style belt systems for use with a basic carrier system. What are your thoughts on these systems?

    • mturner7878

      Hey Bob. I have looked at those too and think they are interesting but haven’t had the chance to try one on.

  • Super Steve

    This article though informative causes me great concern, the average civilian prepper dressing up with all milspec gear is just painting himself as a target, the specific kit choice is first rate, but LBVs and tactical packs is just one great big advertisement saying ” I’ve got kit and supplies come and take it” . Personally though others surely will disagree but if I see a dude wandering around with an LBV and other milspec gear I will treat him as a threat and react accordingly. I strongly advise people to consider the Grey man approach to kit and clothing loadouts.

    • BobW

      I agree to an extent. I haven’t seen any level 3 carrier kits that lend well to the grey man philosophy. Situational awareness is key to knowing when to gear up, and when to look like a Syrian refugee. When its already bedlam out there, going full tactical any moving in darkness isn’t a bad way to be. Strolling down your street like John J. on day 1 might well be foolish.

      Consider Ponchos or those mexican blanket pull-overs as ways to reduce profile when on the move and being grey is a concern. Seek out creative ways to carry what you need while minimizing your profile.

      • mturner7878

        Great advice with the blanket or poncho there Bob. Wish i could add that into the article now.

    • mturner7878

      Hey Steve. I would have to agree with Bob but the grey man is an interesting topic. I suppose the ultimate grey man method would be geo cashing and a minimalistic approach. Cant take what they dont have on them. In regards to being a threat i think that is down to the country you are in and how you present yourself. Just being black or white can make you a threat in some countries. Any thoughts on how to grey man a vest setup?

      • Super Steve

        I use geologists multi pocket vest UNDER a loose fleece or waterproof so I have the gear about me but I just like a bit overweight. Some people don’t use vests at all instead they use multi concealed pocket jackets like the Schott range. My rucksack is 100% civilian but good quality but if I need to cammo it up I have an elasticated cammo pull over cover for it so I just look like a dude with a backpack in town but I can disguise it out in rural areas

        • mturner7878

          Sounds like a good setup Steve.

        • Thomas Paine in the butt

          I was going to suggest a vest like that over a tactical vest. And I use surplus ILBE gear as my EDC. It’s all over eBay and is pretty ubiquitous

  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    Interesting article, I personally have toyed with the “idea” of a vest in addition to my standard back pack I’ve had for eons(doubled as my book bag while in school). I’ve added modular compartments that I can take out as needed.
    However, getting older(subjective) I LOVE the idea of a “bat belt” or similar gear I can use in addition to my standard hydration back pack.
    I’ve picked up larger hydration backpacks for the older grandkids which we are taking to them in two months.(feel strongly that they will need them)
    Both my wife and I have soft body armor we use and wear as needed(take with when ever we do a road trip as well) I am choosing to opt of using ballistic plates over carrying more supplies we might need. Just a “sixes” type of choice for us.

    • Thomas Paine in the butt

      I use radio pouches to organize my bag.

  • John

    Scottevest standard vest is fairly comfortable in hot climes, holds a lot and does not look like you are carrying a bunch of stuff. Avoid the Quest vest though, too many pockets on top of each other, so it sags badly.

  • Bolofia

    I concur with the author (Mike) about the utility of tactical vests. First, they are the best way to keep important items, such as ammo magazines, binoculars and radios, at easy reach. Second, they distribute the weight of items much more effectively. Third, if you drop your pack for a rest break or in an emergency, your critical gear is still on you. The only thing I want to have in my hands at all times is my M-15. When seconds count, a tactical vest is the only way to go.