Emergency Bags Every Prepper Needs to Have

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2027
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Editor’s Note: This post has been contributed by Daniel. 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 the Prepper Writing Contest today.


Prepping is not an easy job as you always have to be prepared for the worst. Still, while everyone talks about the supplies you need to carry no one actually specifies what to carry all this stuff in. Your emergency bag is just as important as the supplies inside it, so pay close attention to what you are buying.

The good news is that there are tons of bags out there that will do well as emergency bags. The bad news – it can often be intimidating when deciding which one to choose. This is why we’re going to go over the basics of emergency bags with you, so you know exactly which type you should purchase for different situations.

The Features You Should Be Looking For

Make sure your emergency bag has the following properties:

Lightweight: The importance of an emergency bag’s weight cannot be over-stressed. You don’t know how long you’ll be carrying it around, so you need something which is lightweight and thus will not hinder your movement. You need to put a lot of survival gear in there, so the bag itself should not add much to the weight.

Some bags can weigh as much as one-third of your body weight, once filled. While these bags are spacious and you can pack a lot of supplies in them, they are difficult to haul around for a long time. It is better, therefore, to choose a lighter model.

Subtle is Best: Sure, pink or orange is your favorite color, but when it comes to choosing an emergency bag, go for a dull, solid color. Your bag should not be screaming, “Look at me!” Black works perfectly because it is not visible at night, and also it does not draw attention to itself. In an emergency situation, you do not want people to focus on your gear and blending in with the surroundings is your best bet.

Internal Frame: An internal frame backpack is a better option because it lets you move freely. You can walk, run, jump or climb without the bag hindering your progress. This kind of bag hugs your back and thus feels more comfortable.

Waterproof: Make sure your bag is waterproof. After all, you do not want all your supplies to get wet when it rains or snows.

Size: Don’t go for something which is too big. Again, it draws too much attention to itself and you might find yourself in trouble as people try to rob you thinking you have a ton of supplies in there. Also, the larger the size, the more difficult it will be to carry the bag. At the same time, the bag should be spacious enough that it lets you carry everything inside.

Rush 24 by 5.11 – Great option for a Go Bag.

A good idea is to measure your own height from shoulders to the torso. Your bag should be around this big. If it is bigger, it will ride below your hips and thus bang against them every time you move. If it is smaller, it will be too high up on your back and will not feel comfortable.

Durability: The bag you buy should be built to withstand the elements. If a zip breaks, or a strap tears, you will be in huge trouble. Never compromise on the durability of a bag, even if you need to spend more. The fabric of the bag should also be tough.

Compartments: Bags which have many zippered compartments are easy to handle as you can organize your goods. That way, whenever you need anything, you do not have to turn all the contents topsy-turvy to find it. It also lets you prioritize your stuff so you know where the important things are.

Comfort Level: Your emergency bag is something you will be wearing for extended periods of time, as in a bug out situation you will constantly be on the move. Before you purchase your bag, wear it to see if it adjusts well to your body shape and structure. The straps should be adjustable and comfortable; they should not dig into your shoulders and waist. The bag should lie comfortably across your back and not bounce around too much when you move.

It should also be easy to wear and remove your bug out bag. You don’t want to spend ages putting it on and adjusting the straps every single time.

Types of Bags

Gerber and Maxpedition make smaller but tough as nails bags to hold plenty of survival gear

Let’s talk about the different types of emergency bags in the market, and which one will suit your specific needs.

Go Bag or 72- Hours Bag

This bag will sustain you for three days, and is best used in case of a natural disaster, when help might be on the way. The go bag is only large enough to carry three days’ worth of food and water supplies. You can also pack some essential tools (like a knife) and a first aid kit, but that is basically all you need.

Car Bag

This kind of bag is meant for people who travel via car a lot. The bag will have tools and supplies to repair your car, like a jumper cable and tire repair tools, so if you are stranded on the road, you can fix your vehicle and get going. The bag should also have other essential items, like food and water which will sustain you for about a day, in case you cannot fix your car and thus have to wait for help.

Bug Out Bag

A bug out bag is something which will sustain you for a long time. This bag is meant to carry supplies which will help you survive in any dangerous situation. The bag not only has food and water, it also has supplies which will help you make it on your own in the wilderness.

If the situation gets so bad that you need to leave your house and go to the wild to survive, alone, you need this bag. Here, you will have cooking supplies, hunting gear, change of clothes, fire starters, a knife, medical kit and other goods which will help you.

Duffel Bag

A tactical duffle is another option to quickly store a lot of gear.

A duffel bag can be used as an emergency bag if you have nothing else at hand. It is spacious and large and thus you can fit a lot of your gear inside. However, keep in mind that it is not the ideal option. You cannot compartmentalize the goods in a duffel bag, and just have to stuff everything in the same big space. This can prove to be rather cumbersome if you need something which you packed in the bottom of your bag.

Get your Emergency Stuff Ready

You never know when disaster might strike, so there is no time like the present to prepare yourself. Get a great bug out bag and pack your supplies so you can be ready to leave in a few minutes, if you need to. Remember, surviving in the wild is difficult, but not impossible. If you have the right equipment, you can certainly make it.

Do you have any particular bag you want us to know about? Let us know your preference in the comments section.

About the Author: Daniel Carraway knows everything there is to know about survival, hiking, camping and backpacking materials. If you want a review of any gear, he would totally be the best person to ask and he can also tell you a lot more about the best bug out bag backpack. Daniel learned a lot from attending REI Outdoor School, and one day he hopes that all his knowledge will help him in climbing the highest peak in the world.

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42 Comments on "Emergency Bags Every Prepper Needs to Have"

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Christian Gains
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This is a REALLY WELL DEVELOPED Article…But, I’d like to make a couple of points: Frankly, (in relation to “EMERGENCY GO” bags), the DUFFLE is only REALLY viable, when you have transportation…AND…is basically your “TAC” bag, in which you camouflage your weapons, [principally you long guns] & other TACTICAL EQUIPMENT. It has also been determined that a deep blue is less obvious than even a black bag…tho, BOTH are the best inconspicuous colors…your choice. Also, NEVER attach your essential light sources, or ANY item that is an essential, to the FRONT of, [which, when it is worn, is the back]… Read more »
JD
Guest

I’m sorry, but I can’t hold it any longer. I have to take this article with a barge full of salt due to the first sentence in the, about the author, paragraph in the end. Anyone who claims they know everything there is to know about anything, has tended to know the least. In my experience anyways. Just sayin… Maybe it’s satire, but it sure doesn’t come across as that.

Huples
Guest
INCH bag? Bags need skills to use. Bags should blend with the location and look almost empty not stuffed full in a real scenario. Duffle bag? Why not just a plastic tote or a back packing ruck? Just redone our car bags. Need a lot more food in case China (unlikely has half of our population speaks Mandarin) or the USA (we have oil!) nukes Toronto while we are at work. Have no water purification tablets but 3litres between both bags. That’s nowhere near enough so tablets for each bag and some flat packed water bottles is on the shopping… Read more »
BobW
Guest
Dang it! I just had a long talk with my bob, and he is utterly devoid of skills. Said that wasn’t his problem. Something about laying there until the next person picks him up…F’er. No love. As for the article, what is this really? Satire? Misinformation? Real information? While the 5.11 bags are very cool, even the Rush 24 weighs twice what my bob weighs, and is barely half the size, and less than 1/2 the capacity. I’m a yuuuge fan of the 5.11 bags (we have three), but all that compartmentalization adds a ton of weight. Super sexy, a… Read more »
Huples
Guest
Bob, I assume you are an expert on this area given your name? 🙂 As a general rule I do not figure to tie anything to the outside of my vehicle as too easily stolen or makes me a very obvious target. Duffle bags are great but a major pain as you say even if gasoline transport is guaranteed which it won’t be. I think it depends on who you are, where you live, and what you intend the bag to do for you. As an intro article this one is not so bad. I’m guessing it from another means… Read more »
BobW
Guest
Not me, Huples. I claim to know nothing about BOBs. I know they can be useful. Thats about it. Each person is really on their own to figure out what the right BOB is for them. I have to disagree with your contention that it is an OK article. I don’t like the idea of telling newbie preppers that you need a $170 5.11 Tactical bag to start making your BOB. Heaven forbid some newbie reads this and buys duffle bags for each of his family members to haul. When filled, a duffle bag is argubly the worst feeling bag… Read more »
Huples
Guest

Just punning on you name Bob!
My first was from groupon. Failed first use so I got a Canadian army monster one for winter time. Internal frame. Not an Alice!
I really really want a tacticool bag but have restrained myself so far.
Most Bob should be a sturdy hiking back pack. If single use, mine is, to go from home to a specific bugout location that’s all you need.
My get home bags in the car cost me $20. They’ll work fine.

I’m turning over a new leaf so I’m being kind whenever possible 🙂

BobW
Guest
Good stuff, Hup. I’d hope by now, that you can see when I’m doing anything more than poking fun. Don’t under-estimate the power or the Alice Large ruck. You really can live out of it, and its durable has heck. I purchased my own as a louie back in the day, and as I left one unit, the supply sergeant traded me a brand new one for my beat up one. It never got used again, so perfect back-up plan. I”ve got one of those transitional packs from post-Alice, and pre-Molle eras. It blows chunks. Carried that turd to Iraq.… Read more »
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

Agreed on all – I started my BO/GH/SHTF builds with the small and large Alice systems I had stashed away with the rest of my camping gear. They’re very functional, hold an immense mount of “stuff’, and are cheap at goodwill and the like. On the con side: they’re miserable to carry for any distance, very little internal organization capabilities, and using Alice clips for add-ons sucks.
So it’s all evolved into real live 72l trekking packs, a bunch of the infamous duffles for sleeping gear, tents, and the like, and my smallest 5.11 rucks for GHBs.

BobW
Guest
Yup. Agree with all. I spent a lot of time under a large Alice Ruck, and there were a few small tweaks that really helped make it bearable. Enhanced kidney belt was a must. Ergonomic shoulder straps (look like modern trek pack straps) helped a lot. Proper loading of the bag was important as well. It all comes down to what you want to do with it. As for organization, most of the backcountry hiking packs I looked at had one large main body, a side entry to the main, a long side pouch along the main, maybe a small… Read more »
Bolofia
Guest
I have to agree with commenters on their observations about bags, including duffles. The last thing I would ever do is tote a full size duffle bag – anywhere. Its purpose is best served as a means of storing clothing inside vehicle, (as long as the vehicle remains operable). For the record, I have eight backpacks which serve specialized purposes. Three are totally non-descript “gray man” bags, while the other five (including 5.11’s) are clearly tactical in design and capable of surviving the worst treatment and conditions imaginable. I also have two tactical vests and several attachable pouches that serve… Read more »
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
On the tac vest – it is now the very first thing one finds when grabbing any of my GHBs. I rolled it up, stuffed in a vacuum bag, and stuck it under the side compression straps of my 5.11-12 ruck. A word of wisdom I heard once says to stash all your critical bits in the vest, eg; weapons, blades, water purification & stowage, fire, some food, basic shelter, and so on. Stuff you absolutely must have even if you’re forced to abandon your ruck, or other “stuff”. And the duffle bag? Think 33 gal garbage bag with handles.… Read more »
BobW
Guest
I guess I look at it like this: The army STILL uses duffle bags for deployment for a reason. They stay at base camp, while rucks and 3-day style packs go into the field. A good duffle bag will hold far more weight reliably than anything I can think of at or near the same weight. Sure, you can pack everything into Pelican cases, but they weigh a ton before you put stuff in them. A mil-surplus (not mil-spec) duffle bag is cheap, and can be a valued addition to a preppers arsenal. The stack easily, leave less wasted space… Read more »
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

I can go along with everything you’ve stated regarding a high quality duffle. I do have a few I use to stash the sleeping gear and tents. They are wonderful for what they “should” be used for.

That said I STILL have bad memories of having to trek around carrying two sea-bags containing all my worldly possessions……

BobW
Guest
HA! Exactly. No one who’s carried one ever wants to carry one again. Everything for its own purpose. Or something like that. From a prepper’s perspective, they are good for bulk storage. For a strong backed man, they aren’t bad to move from vehicle to house, and the like. THey can also be had on the cheap at places like Salvation Army, Good WIll and other type stores. No one wants them. That makes them potentially a good value. With mil surplus, it pays to be picky. There are enough good ones out there to not get trapped into buying… Read more »
Huples
Guest

Just made me do a count up of my bags!
-two small backpacks in the car for GHB
-One EDC back pack for GHB or shelter in place and then GHB
-One Winter BOB
-Two Summer BOBs. GF takes the Summer one in the Winter as well
Thats six.
I’ve been looking at the idea of a tactical vest. Has anyone done an article on them? Perhaps Daniel might? xo xo

NRP
Guest

Leapers Men’s Sportsman Tactical Scenario Vest – PVC-V568
Works for me without spending $5,000.
NRP

BobW
Guest
I would caution all of you to strongly consider a more modular setup for a ‘tac’ loadout. Side arm on the chest rig means you leave it behind or carry it in your belt when you have to eject from that sucker. I know, no one would leave it behind, but what happens when you are jumped while getting water from the creek, and left your chest rig on a stump to cool off? Consider a belt holster and double mag carrier on your belt. I’m strongly considering making my own battle belt to be used in conjunction with a… Read more »
Bolofia
Guest

Good points, BobW.
I never carry my sidearm on my tactical vest, it is either secured in a shoulder holster or carried in a regular belt holster. In both cases, with extra mags.

Bolofia
Guest
Here are two links with numerous variations on tactical vests: http://www.lapolicegear.com/vests.html also, http://www.tacticalgear.com I’m not offering these sites as an endorsement, but will say all of their gear is of good quality in my experience. There are a number of other web-based merchandisers that provide comparable products. The key issue is determining what you will be using a tactical vest for and what type of kit you will place in or attach to it. As you will see, there is a dizzying array of configurations. As DeVille duly notes, the value of a tactical vest is that it allows you… Read more »
BobW
Guest

Way too many to bother counting. Most aren’t prepped out right now. Hiking packs get used for, well, hiking. The 3-day style packs are typically school/work packs. My Rush 72 is GHB and work bag.

I guess its time to get my behind back in gear on getting those straightened out.

Thinking of using an old (but new condition) Alice small pack as the big first aid kit. Truck stuff is in the truck’s storage. Bag in there, in case I want to load it up and leave the truck carrying 20lbs of tools.

BobW
Guest

Hup, If you are really looking at tac vests, consider AR-500 out of Texas. They make Tier 3a body armor chest rigs at under $200. Comparables I’ve seen go for $300+.

NRP
Guest
TPJ does a LOT of really GREAT articles, this one, maybe not so much, I hate to say it to much, but I agree with the commenters more than the article on this one. There are a LOT of good ‘bags’ out there (and uses), do a little more research. Ohhhh and I sure hope the Author did not write his own —- ‘ About the Author: Daniel Carraway knows everything there is to know about survival, hiking, camping and backpacking materials.’ Really????? everything? Sorry Daniel. TPJ did not help you out with that at all. I don’t know nada… Read more »
JD
Guest

I’m glad i wasn’t the only one that wondered about this!

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

Nope. You weren’t…..

NRP
Guest

I would like to add, I appreciate your writing the article, and posting it here, did not really mean to come off quite so harsh. I know we all have different ideas on this and that, and you tossed yours out there and maybe got stomped on a little. My Bad. Tis good ya got people thinking though, never a bad thing.

Thanks, but I’ll still run away from anyone that knows everything…. LOL

NRP

Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks for your comments NRP.

I give authors all over the world a chance to write about the subjects contained in the pages of the Prepper Journal. Some are hits and others aren’t. The bio is not something I wrote but each post is a learning experience. Sometimes all around.

Pat

Bolofia
Guest
Pat, One of the great things about TPJ is that you allow space for people to cut through the malarkey that sometimes appears in a post. There are a lot of very knowledgeable authors and commenters on your site, and I think it is appropriate from time to time to respond to posts that may mislead or confuse readers who are just getting started in the discipline of Prepping. No one, including the most experienced members of the TPJ community knows everything. We all (myself included) constantly learn from the observations and real world experiences of others. Regarding this article,… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

Bolo,

I completely agree and you know I welcome virtually all moments and discussion on any article that is posted here. If you or anyone disagrees, the comments offer a nice venue for hashing that out. Sometimes I know that is coming and leave content as is. Hopefully you and everyone else will always call it like you see it.

Pat

JD
Guest
I have some thoughts about the myth of tactical looking bags during a crisis. Lots of folks think to stay away from tactical type bags with molle straps or pals ladders on the outside of them because they look ‘tactical’. And that in a situation, others may see your tactical looking bag and say “hey they have stuff lets get it!” I don’t follow this line of thinking. If things are bad, and people are wearing packs carrying everything they may need to see themselves through or to get to their bug out location, it’s not gonna make a difference… Read more »
Huples
Guest

Once a year I agree with you JD! My Winter bag and my EDC are military surplus. I want the superior design for them. Sure camo is a bit odd but I’m a bit odd and people are used to me carrying it everyday. I’ll take the capacity, waterproofing, resilience, and compartments over a normal bag. If things are that bad why are you bugging out and they would take ALL bags anyhow

BobW
Guest

Hup, if its mil surplus, the waterproofing is suspect at best. Drug through the dirt, thrown around, generally beat up are calling cards of mil surp bags. Consider applying some Nixwax to those packs to improve the water barrier.

Huples
Guest

Thanks Bob. Both are surplus but unused. Thanks Canada! I’m going to get some nixwax but the smaller day pack works great as is and the big one basically I’d only use in the winter. It’s very heavy when loaded but I need to carry a stove, tent, fuel, food, and a great sleeping system if bugging out in the winter. I’d do my best not to do it then but I prep worst case always

BobW
Guest

Sounds good. Those unused packs are out there, just have to hunt for them. I have several NOS Alice packs.

Interesting. I was just thinking about philosophy, and was thinking about a fairly simple article on prepper philosophy. Not how to think, but the way I think. I’d love to see a series of articles on general prep philosophy where some of the salty posters here expounded on their strategy.

Bolofia
Guest
JD, I agree, and attribute this myth to a lack of critical thinking (or the over application) of the gray man theory. The truth is, if you are forced to abandon your home or workplace following a SHTF situation, everyone will be vulnerable regardless of the type of backpack they are carrying, whether they even have a backpack, or their style of clothing. An example I have used recently is a mass evacuation from the central core of a large city. Most people would be dressed in business attire, so if you are wearing a suit, that makes you “gray”… Read more »
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Your last sentence exemplifies my philosophy in GH routes as well as the bag and gear. If S does indeed Hit the Fan, I will most assuredly not be on the paved roads along with everyone else. Number one, they will become parking lots in less than ten minutes, assuming it’s not an EMP that disables all the modern vehicles, and number two, they will become very ripe picking grounds for the normal thugs in the first 72 hours post event. Not to mention that said parking lots could be a dream come true for some ISIS group with longs… Read more »
Huples
Guest

If you have a plan, if you have thought through events, then I can see no reason why’ve a small mil pack would not send a strong message. Now a huge overloaded one is clearly a take me signal.
Inside my small mil is a couple of molle water bottle holders with shoulder straps containing the essentials. I’d drop the main pack and run if I had to and still likely be carrying too much stuff to get home from work

BobW
Guest

It all depends on your market. A mil style backpack out here is pretty common. Seems like 1/2 the students on the local college campus have some mil or faux-mil pack.

Now bugging out of Berkley, Cali, its a mark for a lot of people.

It all comes down to knowing your community, the communities you may have to walk through, and the like. For me, it would be a direct movement, down the highways home. Not much traffic on rural highways, and the ones I would find, are either dope growers, or neighbors. Either way, not much traffic.

Josh
Guest

Has anyone mentioned the fact that most people see tactical bags and think, “military”? I would see someone with a lot of tactical gear as a target to avoid, as opposed to an easy one.

DougO
Guest

Everyone without a well stocked Bug Out Location of their own (could be group owned) or very clear agreement with a friend or relative living in a BOL-like setup to come stay with them if the SHTF only needs a GMTTNFCB (“Get Me To The Nearest FEMA Camp Bag). Most preppers I have met spend 95% of their time buying crap to perfect their BOB but have nowhere to go and haven’t tried to figure that out.

Anthony Rios
Guest
I found this article to be very useful, like a few of the other comment writers on here. I have been experimenting with various bags and kits lately, so at the moment I have three main ones: a shoulder (72hr) bag that I keep in a closet, a car bag small enough to hide in the tire well of my trunk under the spare. and a backwoods backpack that is perennially stocked with those NASA nutrient bricks and water in case of an earthquake or fire (SoCal can be dangerous like that). While the setup I have now is working,… Read more »
Outdoors Time
Guest
I found this article to be very useful, like a few of the other comment writers on here. I have been experimenting with various bags and kits lately, so at the moment I have three main ones: a shoulder (72hr) bag that I keep in a closet, a car bag small enough to hide in the tire well of my trunk under the spare. and a backwoods backpack that is perennially stocked with those NASA nutrient bricks and water in case of an earthquake or fire (SoCal can be dangerous like that). While the setup I have now is working,… Read more »
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