Bugout Bag Mistakes

Assembling a Bugout Bag takes time and requires one to balance function, cost, weight, and size. There are many mistakes that people make when assembling a Bugout Bag. Here are some of the common mistakes.

Buying the Bag First

Many people will immediately buy a backpack or tactical pack based on what they think they will need. This normally results in having a pack that is the wrong one for the task. Start with a cheap pack or even a box and assembly your supplies. When you have all, or most, of your supplies then select the proper pack to carry those supplies. Make sure that the pack has amble room to carry last minute items. See my article on (Bugout packs for more details.

Relying on Tactical and Bushcraft

Some prepper videos advocate keeping equipment to an absolute minimum. I have seen “survival” kits that fit into a water bottle and watched videos where the presenter stated that you do not need to have cordage because you can always find something in the field. You may have excellent bush skills but you must also remember that using those skills requires time and energy. One video stated that you should not pack cordage because you can always find cordage in the field. First, you may not be able to find cordage in your location. Second, if you find cordage it may not be strong enough. Third, you can buy 550 paracord for almost nothing, it weighs very little, and you know that it will hold up to 550 pounds. You should also NOT build a Rambo-esque pack with lots of tactical gear. The key is to balance weight and function.

Over Packing and Under Packing

Creating a functional Bugout Bag is a balancing act. You do not want too much and you certainly do not want too little. Include practical items that are known and tested rather than relying on bushcraft. However, you also want to keep weight and size to a minimum. Look for items that can have multiple functions. For example, a heavy emergency blanket can be a rain cover, blanket, ground cover, and signal. I intentionally overpack my Bugout Bag because I try to include items that can be helpful in a variety of situations. If I needed to carry my Bugout Bag I would remove items not needed for the current situation. I cannot easily add items that I do not have. I err on the side of overpacking with the intent of lighting the load at the time of need.

Too Much Food, Not Enough Water

In a bugout situation you will need food and calories but you will not need to eat multi-course, restaurant quality meals. You should have ration bars, perhaps some freeze dried food, granola, power bars, nuts, jerky, etc. Do NOT pack a month’s worth of MREs that are heavy and bulky. You need calories to function but your body also has stored fat that you can burn. Be sure to have enough water. You can normally last about 3 weeks without food but only about 3 days without water. Have a hydration bladder and/or other water containers. Include a tested water purifier such as the Sawyer Mini.

Inferior Equipment

When assembling your kit be sure to use good quality equipment. You can get a $5 multi-tool or knife but don’t. Spend the extra money to purchase quality items that you can rely upon in an emergency. For example, I can purchase a camp lantern for about $5 on the Internet or I can spend $30 for a Streamlight Siege Lantern. I know that the Streamlight is extremely tough, will withstand multiple hard drops and is waterproof (not water resistant). I can rely on the Streamlight to last in tough conditions. Would I be able to rely on the cheap $5 imitation lantern (probably not)? Do NOT go cheap on items such as flashlight, lantern, knife, fire starter, backpack, etc. Your life may depend on your equipment so buy the good stuff. You do not have to buy the top of the line equipment but buy equipment that is reliable and durable.

Not Testing Everything

You MUST test everything in your kit. One time I purchased some waterproof matches in a waterproof container. I tested the matches and they would not light. Who would have thought that something as simple as matches would not work? If I had just added those to my kit and needed them in an emergency I could have been in a world of trouble. Test and use everything and retest everything periodically. For example, many people have the small space blankets in their kits. These blankets can deteriorate over time and they can fail on the folds. If you had your space blanket for many years you may open it to find out that it breaks into small space blanket rectangles. Remove batteries from your equipment and store them in small poly zip bags. Leaky batteries could destroy your device so store the devices without the batteries installed.

Avoid Multi-Use Gear

There are lots of items that sound very useful but are often less than practical. You may find a device with whistle, signal mirror, compass, waterproof matches, and paracord on sale on the Internet. I prefer simple devices that do their job well. Do NOT confuse multi-use for multi-purpose. A multi-purpose device is one that can have multiple functions. For example, a dry bag can keep things dry but can also carry water or fuel.

Repair Kit & Maintenance Items

Include a kit to repair your Bugout pack and other equipment. I include a patch kit, sewing kit, tape card, zip ties, nylon straps, etc. If your pack fails you should have the means to make it work. These items can also repair other equipment, clothing, and could aid in erecting shelters. Most kits will include a knife but most people will forget to include a knife sharpener (don’t make this mistake). A short checklist of miscellaneous maintenance items includes tape (duct, electrical, medical), zip ties, knife sharpener, sewing kit, nylon straps, alcohol pads, microfiber towels, etc.