I am sure that by now you have seen those lists that show you upwards of a hundred items that should be in a bug out bag. Some lists even show a lot more.
Realistically, do you honestly believe that anyone, no matter how fit they are, could carry all that gear if they ever need to evacuate and head towards their bug out location?
Even if you had a rucksack big enough, the sheer weight alone would probably end up getting you killed. After all, your bug out bag is supposed to be portable which it definitely is not if you can hardly even pick the thing up in the first place.
Half of those items on those lists aren’t exactly needed or there are much better, and lighter alternatives. Today we want to take a look at some simple tips and advice that will allow you to reduce the weight of your bug out bag.
It is recommended that your bug out bag should have all the essentials to help you survive for the first 72 hours which to be fair I just don’t really agree with. In my opinion your bug out bag should hold everything needed to get you from point A (home) to point B (bug out location). This point B may be closer or farther than you could travel within that time.
One of the biggest weight and space savers that you can rely on is to actually take the time to brush up on some knowledge. As an example, if you know how to find AND purify water, you won’t need to carry as much, understand? OK, let’s get started…
How Much Water do You Need?
As we have used water as an example above we will start with this. It is also the most essential item considering the human body can’t survive very long without it.
One liter of water equals one kilogram or 2.2 pounds so you can see how heavy this is and how quickly it can add weight to your bug out bag. As I mentioned above, knowledge in finding AND purifying water is key here. How you go about doing this will depend on location and time of year. Some common places as a starting point for finding water include:
- Streams, rivers and lakes – these are obvious sources of water though you should always be incredibly careful.
- Rainwater – this is one of your safest options when collecting water in the wilderness.
- Plant transpiration – see our post here.
- Holes in rock faces – after rain these will usually collect the rainwater.
Once you have managed to acquire your water you next need to have the means of making it safe to drink. You have quite a few lightweight but effective options here but in my opinion, three of your best options are:
- Portable water filter – my personal filter of choice is the Sawyer Mini. This little bad boys will filter 100,000 gallons of water.
- Purification tablets – very small and lightweight.
- Boiling – boil the water for 5-10 minutes. This would require a means of fire and a container to boil the water in.
These are not your only options but are to give you a starting point. As you start researching you will find there are actually quite a few different methods of making your water safe to drink.
How Much Food do You Need?
As our bug out bags only need to get us to our bug out location where we have more food, we carry very little in our bags. In fact, the only things we include are 6 energy bars which in our kits are CLIF bars. The reason that we don’t include more than this is that the human body can survive around 3 weeks without food, unlike water which we can only survive around 3 days without. By only including these energy bars we were able to remove:
- Cooking stove and fuel
- Pots and pans
- Cutlery, etc
All of these items add a considerable amount of weight to a bug out bag.
Which Shelter Options do You Have?
Your shelter options are where a lot of the bulk and weight in your bug out bag will be. This isn’t just about having a tent but also your sleeping bag and mat. You will need to be careful here as it will depend very much so on location and time of the year.
In terms of shelter, you could ditch a tent and replace it with a lightweight tarp if conditions allow or go for natural shelters if location allows. If you do need to include a tent, try to find one that only weighs around 2-3 pounds.
We only include a sleeping bag in our kits during the colder months as it just isn’t needed the rest of the time. By the way, down-filled sleeping bags are your lightest option. We don’t include sleeping mats at all as these can easily be improvised from natural materials.
Do You Really Need All Those Clothes?
For this category the biggest weight will come from your boots which can easily be combated by packing lightweight hiking boots or running shoes. Really, all you need to be packing clothing-wise is an extra set of underwear, socks and a t-shirt. If you are packing more than this you are trying more for luxury than anything else.
When packing your clothes, choose lightweight synthetic materials over heavier clothing like cotton and denim. Not only do synthetics weigh less, they’re also more water resistant than their traditional counterparts.
Ever heard of a SKIVVY ROLL? This is a neat little way of folding your socks, underwear and t-shirt into a nice compact bundle which are easy to pack in your bug out bag. Watch the video below to see what I mean:
Have Caches Along the Route
It is common sense that the less stuff that you are carrying on your back, the quicker that you can get to where you need to be. We recommend that you set up hidden caches along your bug out route that contain essentials such as water, fire making equipment and ammo. This will cut off huge amounts of weight from your kit.
We have a post here at putting together your own survival cache which you can read here.
Through years of trial and error, ultralight backpackers have learned how to shed off the non-essential weight from their backs. We can take their mistakes and findings and use them to our own advantage. Some of these tips will only shave very small amounts but they build up possibly saving pounds from your bug out bag.
- Tent pegs – if you do need to include a tent, ditch the tent pegs and use natural materials such as rocks instead.
- Remove excess straps – while your backpack may look cool, it probably has a lot of unnecessary material that we can cut off. Compression straps, excess hip belt straps, sternum straps, shoulder straps, manufacturer’s logo, anything. If you pack your gear right, you won’t even need compression straps.
- Packing Duct Tape – duct tape has many survival uses but it can also be heavy and bulky. Instead of just throwing a roll in your bag, wrap it around your water bottle or anything else you can.
- Toothbrush – Cut off the handle.
- Multi-use items – where possible, you should remove items when you have other things that can do the job just as well. Bandanas can be used as filters, cleaning cloths, tourniquets, etc. Baseline can be used for starting a fire, shielding wounds from infection, etc. Understand?
- Cut any unnecessary extra space from your maps and other documents.
- Pack toothpowder instead of toothpaste.
For more ultralight backpacking tips, check out this post by Greenbelly.
Almost anybody, if they took a real look at their bug out bags will find that they are including unnecessary items that can be removed. Almost every time me and my partner go over our bags we are finding ways of reducing the weight further.
Remember and follow the advice given at the start:
One of the biggest weight and space savers that you can rely on is to actually take the time to brush up on some knowledge.
When it really comes down to it, you need to practice getting your bug out bag and heading for your bug out location.
Did you need anything that you didn’t have?
Did you have anything that you didn’t need?
What ideas do you have for reducing the weight of your bug out bag? Let us hear them below.