Emergency SHTF Packing: How To Efficiently Pack a Bug-Out Bag

This article is a continuation and the second part of the load management series written at the request of Mr. Brent Westbrook, a ReadyNutrition Reader.  In the first part, we covered how to stagger a load by weight and pack it according to function for a vehicle.  Guess what?  Many of the basics used to emplace that load are followed here, in how to pack a rucksack (another word for a backpack).  Let’s get right down to it!

Packing a Bug-Out Bag + Gear Suggestions

For those who have been reading my articles for a while, you know that my personal preference is the large-frame Army Rucksack (also called a Large “Alice” pack) …the one from the turn of the century and thirty years before.  It has an aluminum frame, it’s made of nylon, and it can take a lot of punishment.  That being said, the mechanics and reasoning for packing it are still the same.

You must ensure with a ruck that the load is balanced, as high as possible to keep pressure and weight off your back and that you can get to your equipment in a hurry.

Items on the bottom are those rarely used

I pack at the bottom of mine stuff that I do not intend to use at all or very seldom, such as extra clothes and extra food.  Pack your clothes in a wet-weather bag ( the military issue is preferable to me, although I’m aware there are many civilian firms that follow the premise of waterproof bags).  In the middle of the ruck, you want some ammo, more clothes, and some specialty equipment that doesn’t see immediate use.  You be the judge of that.  Toward the top, I keep Gore-Tex pants and jacket, as well as an issue sleeping bag with a Gore-Tex cover in a compression bag and then in a wet-weather bag.

Keep your basic needs in mind when packing bug-out equipment

Food in various forms is “nested around the outside edges, and then the drawstring is cinched down.  At the very top, I have a poncho and a poncho liner (that I can reach and remove easily).  Over this is my ground pad (I use a thick Coleman that is good with or without inflating it), and I have a bivouac hammock in a waterproof bag.  Those are all cinched down with the straps.  In my outside pockets (and waterproofed) I have ammo, food that I can eat quickly, fire-starting equipment, and my water supply.  I use stainless steel one-quart canteens.

This with the canteens is for several reasons.  I don’t tote more than a gallon at a time.  I leave some “headspace” so if the canteens freeze and expand, they aren’t ruined.  I can place the steel ones on a fire and thaw them out to get to the water.  They also take a beating.  For myself, I don’t mind the extra pressure on my back, as (in the wintertime) my jacket and the kidney pad take care of that.  I prefer a low silhouette.  I won’t get into how much mine weighs, but you should be comfortable taking a “squat” with it, and it should not take you to the ground.

The really important thing is that you want everything as secure as much as possible.  When the load shifts, it becomes unbalanced, and the distribution of weight is uneven, making for unequal steps and an unequal load-burden on your body parts.  You also have to take into consideration all of the other stuff you’re going to tote beside the rucksack, such as a load-carrying vest, a rifle, and extra water and ammo.  This adds to the weight, as well as being necessary to have adjusted and fitted to your body correctly to facilitate a smooth, noiseless movement through the brush.

Practice packing your bags so that it becomes second nature

This is something that will require practice and experimentation on your part, as there are not too many cut-and-dry rules to follow.  You should make sure your first-aid gear, ammo, and fire-starting equipment are the most readily available items…water and food notwithstanding.  You can tailor your pack, by the way, I explained it either with more or less of the items I mentioned in an order that is at least similar to the one I present here.  Good luck, and take the time to perfect it, as it is your “home away from home” and you’ll rely on what you carry.  JJ out!


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Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published December 16th, 2017
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