The carrying weight of your Bug Out Bag can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the bag needs to be lightweight enough so that you can move quickly while carrying it. And on the other hand, the bag needs to have enough supplies (including heavy things like water and food) to last you a few days or even a few weeks in a pinch.
Since every ounce counts, let’s look at some constructive ways to make the best use of the weight you need to carry.
Assuming the standard Bug Out Bag contains shelter, water, first aid, food, clothes, and other supplies, you should consider losing weight from each group of gear. My personal BOB weighs 40 to 45 pounds, depending on the season. It’s about as lean and mean as I dare to make it.
To lighten up in the shelter category, you could always shift from a backpacking tent to a tarp. This could easily strip 4 or 5 pounds from your BOB. Another shelter shift would be to switch from sleeping bag to a thick fleece blanket. This could save you a pound or two, depending on the bulk of your sleeping bag. But a word of caution: Your shelter system is your home away from home. Bad weather could leave you inadequately sheltered with just a tarp and blanket, especially in cold weather. With this in mind, you could ditch the sleeping pad while keeping your ultra-light tent and sleeping bag. Pile up a mound of leaves or grass in your campsite; and then set your tent on top of it to make up for your lack of a sleeping pad.
In the water department, you could shift from a heavy water filter to lightweight purification tablets. You should still have a minimum of two quarts of water to start out with, and a spare container or two when bugging out into dry country. If you’re bringing a cooking pot anyway, you could switch to a “boil water” strategy for bugging out. But time and trouble required to boil water can run counter to the whole concept of the bug out.
The first aid supplies are typically very lightweight items. You’d better leave this section alone. Gauze, tape, Band-Aids and Neosporin don’t weigh very much. These could also be potential life savers, if medical care is in short supply because of the disaster that led to your bug out.
Food is usually the only category that I advise people to add more weight to, but make that weight worthwhile. Your food supply should provide you with at least 100 calories per ounce, and you should be planning at least one pound of food per person, per day. Double that weight if cold weather is a factor. Even counting the lightweight freeze-dried food, you should still have 10 pounds of food if your BOB is going to last you one week. Fifteen to 20 pounds would be needed for a week in sub-freezing weather.
To save weight on clothing, avoid redundancy. Take one great set of outdoor clothes for the coldest weather you could encounter. Make sure you have a warm hat, gloves, and a spare set of socks in your BOB. That should be it. Count the clothes you are wearing as your spare set.
In the gear and supplies section, cut all the weight you can. Ditch the hatchet. Swap out your handsaw for a lighter backpacking saw. Bring rope or cord, but consider downsizing the diameter while keeping the length. Throw out your fork; you just need a spoon. A Bug Out Bag is packed for your needs, not for your wants.
What does your BOB weigh? And what’s in it? We’d be glad to hear about it in the comments.