Best Bug Out Bags of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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Published Sep 11, 2023 3:00 PM

A bug out bag is often thought of as something only hardcore preppers and survivalists would put together in case the world ends. While that line of thinking persists to some degree, an increasing number of experts recommend everyone have an emergency or survival kit of some kind—and not necessarily because they believe a zombie apocalypse is incoming either.

In truth, a bug out bag will be most useful for real world disasters. Wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods are just a few of the scenarios where a pack full of supplies might just save your life one day. Keeping that in mind, we tested several bags to evaluate their effectiveness as just such a kit. Whether you plan to build your own from scratch or want something pre-made, we tested some of the best bug out bags available to find what will be most useful in any emergency.

How We Picked the Best Bug Out Bags

While it gets a little bit difficult to test individual items in pre-packed kits–especially first aid supplies—I personally tested a few of the bags on this list. I’ve collected and used enough of this gear over the years that it’s easy for me to tell when bandages are quality and when they are cheap. I made sure to hike a little with every one of these bags to test them for fit and comfort. Because transportation may not be available in every emergency scenario, I wanted to know how easy it would be to hoof each bag over great distances.

I also made sure to test things like knives, emergency matches, and other small gadgets to ensure they work as advertised. Additionally, I considered the following factors when choosing a bag for each category:

  • Weight: How mobile is the bag? Is it easy to grab and run with?
  • Comfort: Do the shoulder straps dig in while walking? How comfortable is the waistband?
  • Durability: Can the bag withstand being buried under rubble in a natural disaster like an earthquake? How will it handle periods of prolonged use?
  • Value: Are the contents of a pre-packed kit of a high quality? Does the price point match what’s included? Do any single items add more value to the bag?

Best Bug Out Bags: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Decked/Uncharted D-Bag Pro

Best Overall

Best Bug Out Bags

Specs

  • Dimensions: 19” x 16” x 9”
  • Weight: 19.8 lbs
  • Material: 900-denier TPU-coated nylon
  • Pre-Packaged: Yes
  • Most Useful Item: Empire knife

Pros

  • Very rugged construction
  • Diverse range of contents
  • Great value for contents

Cons

  • Not the most comfortable to ruck around
  • Expensive

When it comes to pre-packaged survival kits, this collaboration by Decked and Uncharted Supply Co is the most impressive I’ve ever seen. It’s excellent peace of mind just because of the variety involved. Before I even get to the contents, I have to highlight the impressive Decked D-Bag that houses it all. This bag retails for $200 all by itself. Made of a super-tough 900-denier TPU-coated nylon, it isn’t super comfortable to ruck with, but boy can it take some serious abuse. Rocks, dirt, wood, mud, and metal are no match for it.

Survival Gear photo
This kit covers everything from first aid and firestarting to jump starting a vehicle. Travis Smola

While there’s great value in the bag itself, the contents shine even more. This bag comes packed with Uncharted Supply Co’s Seventy2 Pro survival system, which is designed to keep two people alive and supplied for 72 hours. The kit alone retails for $589. That means you’re getting roughly $800 worth of gear for only $650.

Best Bug Out Bags
The full tang Empire knife is of superior quality and a standout in this kit. Travis Smola Travis Smola

Additionally, the contents of that survival kit are most excellent. The big highlight is the full tang Empire knife. It has a great handle and backbone suitable for a variety of bushcraft tasks. This kit also includes Uncharted’s popular Zeus portable jump starter and USB charger, which is an incredibly useful device I’ve utilized many times keeping my electronics going while off the grid. And I don’t even have time to go into all the great first aid, water purification, fire starting, and shelter supplies that are included. This kit is a tremendous bargain and is filled with top notch survival equipment.

Best With Rifle Holder: Badlands MRK 3

Best With Rifle Holder

Best Bug Out Bags

Specs

  • Dimensions: 27” x 12” x 12” (Medium), 29” x 12” x 12” (Large)
  • Weight: 6 lbs 12 oz (Medium)
  • Material: N/A
  • Pre-Packaged: No
  • Most Useful Item: N/A

Pros

  • Can haul heavier items utilizing pontoon storage
  • Two rifle hauling methods
  • Two different sizes

Cons

 If you’re planning to bug out with a rifle, you need a bag that’s capable of packing your firearm safely and securely. The nice thing about the MRK 3 is that Badlands built in two different ways to secure the firearm depending on your preference. This storage area keeps the weight centered and against the frame, making it easy to handle bigger loads. The included suspension system will keep the butt of the rifle off the ground.

This is technically a hunting day pack that’s designed with a rather unique “pontoon” storage system area. Essentially, the two storage areas fold out of the way to allow a hunter to pack meat from a big game animal out against the frame. This area can easily be re-utilized for carrying a variety of other emergency items.

These packs are a little on the heavy side. But there’s a whole host of storage compartments to hold smaller items like your emergency shelter, rope, emergency blankets, fire starters, and other gear. There’s also a hydration compartment that adds even more value.  

Best Rated: 5.11 Tactical Rush 100

Best Rated

Best Bug Out Bags

Specs

  • Dimensions: 28.5” x 11” x 10.25”
  • Weight: 5.7 lbs
  • Material: 500 Denier nylon (body) 1050 Denier nylon (base
  • Pre-Packaged: No
  • Most Useful Item: N/A

Pros

  • The most comfortable bag on this list
  • Tons of pockets and loops
  • Great weight

Cons

  • Waist buckle is small and tends to dig

I’ve owned the Rush for three years now and it’s an outstandingly versatile backpack. I’ve used it as a tactical pack, a hiking pack, and as an everyday rucking pack for exercise. Out of all the packs I’ve owned and tested, this one is the most comfortable by far. While it has an internal backpack frame that gives it some rigidity, I can’t feel it at all because the padding perfectly hugs the contours of my back. Even when loaded up with 35 to 40 pounds of gear, it’s very manageable.

Best Bug Out Bags
The buckles are a little small and uncomfortable, but they’re the only flaw on a great bag. Travis Smola

The only real downside I have for this pack is that the waist belt has a very small buckle that can dig in at times. But the entire waist belt is removable if you find it uncomfortable. Other than that, the padded shoulder straps, the hip straps, and the sternum straps are top-notch. I love the cushioning on the shoulders, which helps to distribute a heavy load. I’ve purposely top-loaded this bag before and the load stays evenly distributed.

Survival Gear photo
The padding on the shoulder straps and back perfectly cushions the back. Travis Smola

This pack is perfect for those who want to build their kit from scratch. This pack is MOLLE-compatible for a variety of gear attachments on the outside. There are literally dozens of pockets and gear loops all over the exterior for all your emergency essentials. I also like the way this pack opens widely to provide easy access to all the contents. It’s very easy to keep everything organized for longer periods.

Best Small: Able Carry Daily Backpack

Best Small

Best Bug Out Bags

Specs

  • Dimensions: 18.9” x 11” x 7.5”
  • Weight: 2.12 lbs
  • Material: Cordura 1000-denier nylon
  • Pre-Packaged: No
  • Most Useful item: N/A

Pros

  • Simple, unassuming design
  • Comfortable shoulder straps
  • Extremely light

Cons

This bag is designed primarily for modern office workers. But that’s why I like it as an unassuming bug out bag for city dwellers or other urban areas. It’s not going to be immediately obvious you’re fleeing the city with this bag because it’s a laptop bag. However, this bag is made of Cordura 1000-denier nylon that makes it far more rugged than your standard work bag. I feel like this would be a great choice for parents who want to put together a “just in case” bag for their college-bound children, as the bag is small enough to easily tuck away in a closet or under a bed.

Survival Gear photo
This pack has tons of individual storage pockets for organizing emergency supplies. Travis Smola

The main compartment has a nice series of internal pockets that will help keep everything nicely organized. There’s lots of little pockets for first aid kits, a water bottle, a small power bank, flashlights, emergency food, and more. I was also pleasantly surprised at the roominess of the bag’s front pocket, making it a good spot to store emergency blankets, ponchos, or hand warmers.

Survival Gear photo
The shoulder straps and back are nicely padded. Travis Smola

I decided to throw my 25-pound rucking weight into this pack to test the hauling capacity and comfort. And I was pleasantly surprised at the cushiness of the shoulder straps. It hugged my back and distributed the weight’s bulk rather evenly. My one complaint is that there isn’t a waist band with this pack. But at the same time, one can argue that would make this look too much like a tactical pack and draw unwanted attention.

Best Lightweight: Mystery Ranch 2-Day Pack

Best Lightweight

Best Bug Out Bags

Specs

  • Dimensions: 21” x 12” x 11.25”
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Material: 500-denier Cordura
  • Pre-Packaged: No
  • Most Useful Item: N/A

Pros

  • Super easy access to interior contents
  • Nicely organized internal storage compartments
  • Multiple color options

Cons

  • Tactical look is not subtle
  • Straps are a little excessive

Mystery Ranch kept the weight of this pack down to just 3 pounds, making it very easy to grab it and go in a hurry. This is a great option for anyone who likes to travel light to a more secure location. The best feature is the three-way zip on the front. It opens the interior up completely for easy access without digging. The interior pockets are also very nicely set up to keep your gear neatly organized. It only takes a couple seconds to find exactly what you need in this pack. Mystery Ranch also outfitted it with some extremely comfortable shoulder straps to help distribute the load.

This pack is better suited for people who plan to bug out in rural areas because it has a real “tactical” look to it that is not subtle at all, especially given all the MOLLE loops on the exterior. While they’re handy for hauling extra equipment, they make it obvious to everyone in a city that you’re getting out of town if things are hitting the fan.

This pack is tough enough to be tossed around quite a bit. We also like the fact Mystery Ranch went with high quality YKK zippers that are easy to open and close no matter the conditions. Available in six color schemes, the bag costs right around $200, which feels very fair given the quality of materials and the durability of this design.

Best Waterproof: Matador Seg 45 Travel

Best Waterproof

Best Bug Out Bags

Specs

  • Dimensions: 22” x 13.4” x 10.25”
  • Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz
  • Material: 420 DenierPU and DWR coated nylon
  • Pre-Packaged: No
  • Most Useful Item: N/A

Pros

  • Incredibly versatile
  • Excellent zippers
  • Easy to organize

Cons

  • Some reflective material can draw attention

If your area is prone to floods or hurricanes, you’ll want a bag that’s resistant to the weather. Matador gave this pack a serious polyurethane coating, and a DWR water-repellent coating to help shed away moisture. The company also utilized high-quality YKK zippers to help seal out water and snow. Matador further reinforced the zipper areas with 210-denier nylon for extra strength. This bag is great for protecting spare clothing and sensitive electronics such as a satellite phone or GPS unit.

Another big benefit of this bag is the versatility. It works as either a backpack or a duffle bag, allowing you to tailor it to your preferences. The top storage area of the bag is divided into sections which makes it easy to organize your first aid kit, your power supply, and food. At the same time, the different sections open individually allowing easy access to what you’re looking for without having to unpack the whole bag.

Matador built in reflective material around the zippers for visibility, which can be a downside if you’re trying to stay stealthy. But for $200, this is an extremely versatile bag that’s perfect for anyone looking to build a large, custom bug out bag.

Best for Car: 4 Patriots All-in-1 Emergency Car Kit

Best for Car

Best Bug Out Bags

Specs

  • Dimensions: 16” x 11” x 12”
  • Weight: 17 lbs
  • Material: N/A
  • Pre-Packed: Yes
  • Most Useful Item: 14000 mAh battery and jump starter

Pros

  • Good variety of car-specific gear for bugging out
  • Nicely organized
  • Jump starter and compressor are excellent

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • First aid kit is severely lacking

While this is technically more of a tote than a bag, the contents of this kit are easily transferable to a pack if needed. This pre-packed kit is packed with automobile-specific emergency gear. The big standout here is the 14,000 mAh battery and jump starter. The starter is great peace of mind in case of a dead car battery. But it also has two USB ports to help keep cell phones and other small devices powered. It also has an incredibly bright flashlight with a wide beam and a blinding strobe mode.

Survival Gear photo
The included water ratios are quite extensive. Travis Smola

The other super useful piece of equipment is a small air compressor. It will help you inflate a tire fast. This device also has a USB port. The kit is essentially divided up into three different zippered totes that can easily transfer to a backpack. One of the totes contains packets of emergency water in small rip-open bags, and nine emergency food bars. They aren’t the tastiest things in the world, but they’ll give you energy in a pinch.

Survival Gear photo
I would replace this basic first aid kit with something a little more extensive. Travis Smola

The last tote contains standard car emergency gear: glow sticks, an emergency road triangle, a screwdriver kit, handwarmers and more. I really like the small SOS signal light that has nine different modes—great for keeping other vehicles from running into you in fog or a snowstorm. First aid is the weakest part of this kit. It’s basically a small bag with some assorted bandages. There’s nothing here to treat a more serious wound. I would replace it with something that’s better stocked.

What To Consider When Choosing a Bug Out Bag

It’s important to consider the scenarios you might use a bug out bag and to choose accordingly. While the type of bag might seem trivial, not all packs are created equal. We recommend something made of an extremely rugged, high denier fabric that can take a beating. While the exact type of pack you need will depend on the scenario and preference, no one ever regrets buying something that’s durable. External pack frames are better for carrying extra gear like a tent, sleeping pad, or even a rifle. The extra storage space usually comes at the expense of comfort.

Internal pack frames are more comfortable and streamlined for long hikes. However, many lack the storage space of an external frame. Of course, you’ll also want to be careful to not over-pack your bug out bag. It’s meant to be a bag that’s grabbed in a pinch when you need to evacuate the area quickly.  

Bag Contents

We could talk about the contents of a bug out kit all day. But to keep things short, food and water, first aid, fire, first aid, and navigation should be priorities. For more specifics, check out our guide to building the ultimate bug out bag for more on contents. Think about the area where you plan to use the bag. Harsher desert environments should put a heavier emphasis on water and hydration. If prepping a bag for earthquakes, focus on first aid and possibly digging supplies for sifting through rubble.

Think about the amount of time you plan to be away from your vehicle or home when choosing supplies. Most experts recommend having enough food and water for at least 72 hours and that’s what most ready-made packs provide. Try to include enough food for at least two adults in each pack.

FAQs

Q: Are pre-made bug out bags worth it?

In my experience, it depends on the bag. There are good and bad pre-made bags. Some are packed with better items than others—although I firmly believe any survival or first aid kit can always be improved. Sometimes it’s as simple as adding some extra bandages. Other times it may call for an entirely different water filtration system. The key is to inspect the contents of the bag ahead of time to determine what to keep in it, and what to replace with something better.

Q: Where should I put my emergency bag?

The best place for an emergency bag is a place that is easy to access. You should be able to grab the bag and go at a moment’s notice. Don’t bury it under a lot of other stuff in a hard-to-reach corner of the basement or attic. A closet, preferably one near an entry or exit is preferable for making a hasty retreat out the door. It’s not a bad idea to keep a smaller bag of supplies in an easy to reach spot in your vehicle too.  

Q: What is the best color for a bug out bag?

Most experts recommend a simple natural tone that will blend in with vegetation in case you need to hide or stay undetected. Tans, browns, grey, and black are all solid choices. Brighter colors are usually discouraged. Especially if you are bugging out of a city and there’s lots of people around. You don’t want to draw attention to the fact you’re fleeing the area.

Best Bug Out Bags: Final Thoughts

At the end of the day the Decked x Uncharted kit just stands out from the other best bug out bags in terms of quality and item variety. There is very little I would add to this kit to make it better than the two companies made it. Additionally, when you start tallying up the costs of the individual items included, the value of this kit is through the roof. It’s a great investment if you’re having a hard time deciding what to buy.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.


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