Facebook User - April 16, 2018
I have found Maxpedition to be the best of the best. Anyone looking for any type of bag should look hard at them. Buy once.
The 5.11 is good stuff too.
John RameyStaff - April 20, 2018
Thanks for the feedback. We’re starting to collect more product research to update this guide soon, and we’re looking at the Maxpeditions.
Eric | PowerOnBagsdotCom - June 27, 2018
You just gained a new subscriber, John! Thank you for devoting time and effort to research everything in here. I think the Kelty should do the trick when everything crumbles. 🙂 ^Eric
John RameyStaff - June 27, 2018
Thanks Eric, glad it’s helpful! I plan on putting some more work into this article in the next few weeks, too.
Mitchell Lubline - October 13, 2018
My bag is my old green school laptop backpack. I have a UST tube tent yeah it’s shiny but with 3 mylar blankets and body heat pads the thing turns into a walk in oven. One thing I noticed you and many others don’t put down is the nice inexpensive baofeng uv-5r portable radio which runs around $30 and in emergencies you don’t need a liscense for. All the others I have to modify once I get a CCW. Thanks for the great jump off points to better items to cut 75% of the weight down.
John RameyStaff - February 15, 2019
Redwings are running around $100. Was just at the Kelty HQ this week picking up more of their bags for the review that will update this page soon. What size Redwing have you used for your BOB and do you think it was too big/small?
james - May 27, 2019
Nice list. Maybe sleeping bags/quilts/emergency bivy bags next?
John RameyStaff - May 28, 2019
Thanks James! We’ve already started collecting some bivy bags samples and other sleeping gear, want to tackle it this summer, so stay tuned.
ProEJockey - January 19, 2020
I’ve been waiting anxiously for this post ever since you teased it. Can’t wait to read it in depth. Huge amount of information to digest. Thank you!
Capt Coles - January 21, 2020
All great info. Glad to see Rothco was mentioned (one name I recognize). Keep up the good work!
Haus Monkey - January 21, 2020
Great guide folks, keep it up. Agreed on the top vs front loaders. I’ve lived on the streets/travelling for years with my technical top-loader pack only. Pack in itself was fine, but I utterly hated not having front access. It just makes things so much easy and less frustrating to be able to reach your stuff fron the front (as if you opened a suitcase), rather than having to take everything out into the dirt just to reach something (imagine that in a rush, or under the rain, etc).
Ripplet - January 24, 2020
My cheapo pack from Amazon just broke (zip) and need to get a new one. I’m still in need to buy something budget friendly so will check second hand shops and this guide is really helpful! Thanks!
WF654 - February 21, 2020
A big plus for simple “technical” (or preferably, hiking) packs for me is actually the comfort. Something that works for expeditions also works well for situations, if you expect to carry pretty heavy survival gear, food and water for weeks in the wilderness on your back. Few points:
1) Carrying system. Deuter, Arcteryx and other good expedition style packs are way above any tactical packs in how much better distribute the weight over your body. Even much better than most GI army packs (the old Arcteryx would be an exception). Even in 30-liter size the carrying system makes a big difference and most of the tactical packs in that size are awful compared to their civilian counterparts.
2) Front opening. I tend to disagree. It’s a common failure point. Any big front opening zipper is bound to fail and impossible to repair in the field. At most, some (Deuter Guide and others) have a simple side zipper that allows easier access inside the pack or a separate front compartment for commonly used light items. I put my first aid kit near the zipper, and I could get it out in seconds the last time I had to treat a wounded friend during a mountaineering accident. The rest is all about good organisation of your stuff.
3) A good compromise could be some of the high end army packs, Arcteryx tactical range, Tasmanian Tiger (Tatonka), Deuter Guide tactical and the cottage industry ones. But only the bigger ones that inherit their civilian carrying systems. Maxpedition, 5.11 – no. While tacticool, carrying one a whole day will hurt your back.
4) Mind the difference between types of “technical” hiking packs. Some are are ultralight and made for one purpose (climbing, UL thru-hiking, etc.). The expedition style ones are more universal, without MOLLE or PALS but plenty of strong attachment points nevertheless.
Louise Brooks - May 31, 2020
I just ended up getting arctery’x mantis 26 for my bug out bag. I’m 5’1 and weigh a little over 100 lbs so I’m hoping your that your advice will be right, I have always hated carrying bags even when hiking. The most important thing for me is to be sure I can actually CARRY the damn thing!! All the gear in the world is useless if I can’t gtfo
Joshua Daisy - February 26, 2020
I have tried many many back packs and bags. Recently, I found Vanquest and liked them so much I became a dealer for them. I know that’s a weird thing. I am not trying to say buy a bag from me but check out their bags. They are durable and easy to open. I tried 5-11, maxpeditions, and a few others. Vanquest stuck out to me online and even better in person. Thanks Josh http://www.redlineprep.net
John RameyStaff - February 26, 2020
Thanks for input, will look harder at them next time! Just got some new bags in today from LA Police Gear and a review of a Maxpedition Tiburon pack will go up soon.
Gerard A - March 1, 2020
First of all, thank you for all this deep detailed reviews, now days there are only sponsored articles and is really difficult to buy the best products. Your research saves us a lot of time and money.
Secondly, I would like to know your opinion in First Tactical brand for bug out bag backpacks, specially the TACTIX 3-DAY Plus, and also the SOG Barrage. Maybe for the next update?
Cheers and thanks again!
John RameyStaff - March 5, 2020
That Tactix 3-day looks good at first glance. I would absolutely add a hip belt though, and likely a side pouch via MOLLE for a water bottle. Will add it to list for next time.
I haven’t touched the SOG Barrage, but it looks too cheap, poor hip belt, MOLLE is too conspicuous, etc. Pass — there are better budget options.
It’s so hard to know what you can trust on the web. Doing this job/work has made us even more pessimistic about anything we see online 🙁
Lynn Daigle Powers - March 1, 2020
We have two toddlers, aged 2&4. The two year old will only walk for about a quarter mile in any given situation before he wants to be carried. What are your opinions on having a carrier – style backpack? I imagine it would make travel a lot easier, but might compromise on equipment and gear. Thoughts
John RameyStaff - March 5, 2020
I don’t know of a model off the top of my head. Anyone else? Otherwise, just be thoughtful and do the best you reasonably can on finding something that meets the requirements laid out here (eg. size range, accessibility, ability to strap shelter gear on, etc.)
Personally, I’d lean towards having a normal pack with some kind of extra setup for carrying a child on my chest. That way I can separate concerns and not sacrifice too much in a hybrid pack that doesn’t do either function well.
JAM - March 2, 2020
Why did you not include Vanquest in this list?
John RameyStaff - March 5, 2020
Because they didn’t respond to our initial requests. But they’re on the list for next updates, and I’m guessing the brands that didn’t participate before will jump in in the future.
Do you have a model you like for a BOB?
JAM - March 5, 2020
Probably one of the backpacks, but I’m just guessing. I’ll say a couple things as someone with 3 Vanquest bags – the material (1000D nylon?) is very rugged and will ruin a nice dress shirt, so be careful what you’re wearing when you use these bags.
The Skycap bag is interested because it’s sized for airline carry-on, not saying it’s perfect for BOB, but for someone who flies a lot there’s some interesting options there I think. I just know it’s a good company, they care about their customers, their products seem to be built like brick S-houses, and have lifetime warranties…
(edit: they’re also notorious for having lots of compartments)
John RameyStaff - March 7, 2020
Yeah, 1000D is overkill in most cases. 500-600 seems to be a sweet spot.
Michael Price - March 22, 2020
First, thank you. I’ve been reading more and more about prepping over the last year. You have hands down the most thought out articles I’ve read; especially for a newbie.
My question: after reading about bag selections and going through many of them and their companies; why aren’t they waterproof? Many, if not all, say water resistant but I have yet to see one that is “proof”. The only mention I saw in the article was about included rain covers not being necessary.
Dennis Finn - April 19, 2020
Thank you for the article. I was curious what you guys think of Sandpiper of California? I’ve had a few bags from these guys and they seem good, my only problem is they aren’t contrast colored on the inside and they lack advanced organization panels in the pockets.
John RameyStaff - April 20, 2020
Hey Dennis. We had reached out to SOC in September ’19 asking them to participate in this review, but they never replied, which frankly we take as a bad signal because a quality company will reply to those kinds of emails / it says something about their service culture.
We wanted to evaluate their Bugout Bag and Bugout Voyager 50L because they seemed like possible contenders on the budget end.
If you have one of their bags and are happy with it, there’s no harm in sticking with it. That said, some of the design features are a little outdated and there are better alternatives in that price range.
Hope we can do a deeper review on the SOCs someday.
Dennis Finn - April 21, 2020
Thank you for the follow-up.
Sounds reasonable. I just know they are one of the major bag sales for US military in the exchanges, so figured a lot of people would be familiar with them from their time in the military.
Thanks again for your site. I’m learning a lot.
Hunter Cox - August 22, 2020
Dennis – I’ve been issued probably half a dozen SOC bags in various sizes over the past 10 years- everything from a small ~25-30 liter bag up to around 60-70 liter bag. I would not recommend them for bugout purposes. I’ve had at least 3 bags rip, either along/near zipper seams or where shoulder straps meet the bag. I’ve also had multiple zippers break/snap (because they are absurdly poor quality zippers). Additionally, the bags that do come with belts use very cheap belts that will offer zero support. I will also caveat all of this to say that I’m not a ground pounder who is abusing this stuff in the field. It carries my equipment to and from the aircraft and on a daily basis to the office. The bags offer a lot of storage/organizational options and would likely be well suited for a light afternoon hike/picnic or even as a ‘get-home-bag’, but I wouldn’t want to rely on them in more of a ‘bug-out’ or survival situation.
Krag - April 27, 2020
Good list! Two things I would recommend. I would add Granite Gear to the mid-tier for packs. They make high quality, durable gear that also doesn’t scream TACTICAL if that is important to you. I would also move London Bridge Trading to the premium tier; they make equal (if not better gear) than Tactical Tailor.
Angela A - May 19, 2020
Have you guys seen the Xbob ( stands for extreme bug out bag). I think it’s one of the most complete bug out bags I have seen. It’s a whole Molle set up. Not just the main bag. It has the main bag, a camel bag with filter and 7 matching Molle pouches. It’s a mid blue color the Molle Webbing is black which I think sorta messes up the image of ordinary recreational bag they were aiming for. I wish the Molle straps were the same color as the bag. And now that I think about it a bright neon inside might have been better than the same blue color as the outside https://moderncombatandsurvival.com/bug-out-bag/
The video video I saw was a lot less marketing flashy.
Skate - May 28, 2020
Hi John, thank you for all your thoughtful work-I’m totally new and need to learn a lot (and quickly :/). I’m a curvy woman 5’5” and 160lb. I’m definitely looking for BOB/SHTF tactile bag. Do you have a short list of bags to start looking at? Thank you
John RameyStaff - May 28, 2020
Welcome, glad it’s helpful! Check out the women’s section in the guide above: https://theprepared.com/bug-out-bags/reviews/best-bug-out-bag-backpack/#ladies
Depending on your fitness level and what kind of BOB you want to build, you’d probably be around the 40-45 liter mark from the popular “technical” brands like Osprey and Kelty, who are known for making male and female versions of their bags.
If you specifically want a “tactical” bag, unfortunately that’s much harder to find because women tend not to be their main customers (military, law enforcement, security, etc.) You’d probably need to spend more in that category to get into the better products that have lots of body-fit customizations, like Mystery Ranch.
Skate - May 28, 2020
Great to know, thank you!
oldtennisguy - June 17, 2020
I notice that you did not include FIRST TACTICAL in any of your lists or reviews. Any particular reason for that ??
Jason - July 2, 2020
Hi. I have a question about a bag called Trekking/Travel backpack Kaikkialla Saana 65. Anyone know anything about it? The internet has pictures and websites in another language. I was wondering cause I’m looking to buy a used bag, but would like more informed. Thanks
Clare - August 25, 2020
Has anyone tried the Thule Women’s Guidepost Backpacking Pack, 65L? I’m looking to buy my first bug-out bag and can’t decide what to buy. I looked at the women’s bags suggested in the article but this one has some really good reviews. Thanks!
Carlotta SusannaStaff - August 25, 2020
Looks good! But unfortunately I haven’t tried it :/
Are you able to try it on in person before purchasing, or does it at least have a good return policy? It would make me nervous to buy without having it tried it on before.
65 L would be a bit too big for me, but I woudn’t feel obliged to fill it to the rim 😉 But the super adjustable shoulder straps and waist belt seem well thought through and well built, and the side zipper makes such a big difference – my BOB has the same and I placed some key items on the zipper side and I rarely had to open the main bag compartment when I used it. And really dig the detachable day pack – I wish my BOB had one.
But if you buy it, it would be actually great to know what you think of it!
Fran - September 20, 2020
I got the Kelty Redwing 50, last year’s model. But if I have to bug out far or for a long time I think I’d want to use my bike (push bike) if possible, so I got a front (handlebar) bag and seat bag to take some of the load off my back. These can carry 10 litres each. I put my INCH stuff in my seat bag and my tent, stove and food in the front bag. Packed bags roughly: Kelty 6.4kg, INCH 1.9kg, Handlebar bag 2.9kg. Plus water, bike tools and one trekking pole which acts as tent pole. Obviously if I was bugging out for a couple of days I’d leave the INCH bag at home. All bags and bike are black/grey for inconspicuousness, especially at night.
Lex - October 15, 2020
So i wanted to make a mention of something you said in the article.
“Laptop sleeves are generally a waste of space because you won’t have a laptop or anything of similar size/shape that justifies its own compartment.”
They do have one niche purpose 15″ laptop sleeves can fit a 10×12 armour plate if someone wants to have one on their back.
The point still stands as its unlikely anyone would want the added weight of a steel plate but maybe a UHWMPE or Composite plate might not be a bad option.
Carlotta SusannaStaff - October 15, 2020
I haven’t tried it, but that’s a good point!
JohnM - October 22, 2020
What a fine selection of backpacks. My BOB is on the smaller side, so I looked at your list of smaller bags and selected a few to scrutinize personally. Here is my report:
Mystery Ranch Scree 32
- 32 liters, 2.8 lbs
- At 25x14x11.5, satisfies airline 22x14x9 carry on limit
- Awesome hip belt and suspension
- External daisy chain instead of MOLLE, no tie points on the bottom
- Okay interior pockets
- Excellent water bottle pockets
- No laptop pocket
My assessment: Excellent hiking and travel pack
Mystery Ranch Two Day Assault
- 30 liters, 3.0 lbs
- Published measurements say it does not, but my measurements say it satisfies the airline 22x14x9 carry on limit
- Poor hip belt
- Lots of external MOLLE, tie points on the bottom
- Great interior pockets
- Laptop pocket
My assessment: I liked this the best except that the lack of a proper hip belt knocked it out of the running for me. Too bad.
Blackhawk Three Day Assault
- At $100, half the price of the others!
- 37 liters, heavy
- Way too wide for airline 22x14x9 carry on limit
- Okay hip belt
- No external MOLLE, No water bottle pockets, tie points on the bottom, includes sleeping bag straps
- Just three big pockets, no interior organization features
- No laptop pocket
My assessment: The best value. Tie points on the bottom add capacity. Very plain and gray, it looks like an overgrown school backpack.
Eberlestock Switchblade F5
- 25 liters, 3.6 lbs
- Satisfies airline 22x14x9 carry on limit
- Good suspension but no hip belt. They offer a hip belt for 40″ to 56″ waist which is too big for me, plus I don’t see where a hip belt can be attached. I asked them about it but they did not reply. Points off for customer service.
- External MOLLE, no tie points on the bottom
- Great interior pockets
My assessment: This pack is very firearms oriented. It is rather tactical looking but they have a grey version without MOLLE. The interior organization is excellent. I liked this pack but I really want a hip belt.
Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 24
- 24 liters, 2.7 lbs
- satisfies airline 22x14x9 carry on limit
- No hip belt
- No external MOLLE, no tie points on the bottom
- Inserting a water bottle into the exterior pockets consumes space inside the pack
- Great interior pockets
- Laptop pocket
My assessment: Great layout, very grey. I originally got this for the Gray Bearded Green Beret’s Ultralight Bug Out Bag. This is a really tight fit; maybe I’ll try again some time.
Originally I was thinking that I would get one high quality multipurpose backpack for travel, hiking and a BOB. That turned out to be too much of a stretch.
My bug out bag loadout does not utilize interior pockets like pen pockets. Instead I have individual pouches for fire, or signaling and navigation. That way, I can easily transfer them to another pack for say, a day hike. In storage I put heavy water bottles inside the pack because over time they stretch elastic water bottle pockets out of shape.
In the end, for my BOB, I decided on the Blackhawk because it is the most practical to keep at the ready. At $100, I do not risk overspending. I almost went for the Mystery Ranch Scree 32 for its comfortable fit and hip belt. I may yet get that for hiking or travel. It is a really fine backpack.
During this evaluation my urban EDC backpack happened to fail, so I needed yet another backpack. For EDC I do not require a hip belt, and I want lots of organization features. For urban EDC I chose the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault for its excellent interior layout, available but out-of-the-way water bottle pockets, smaller size and subdued external appearance. My second choice on this list for EDC would be the larger Mystery Ranch Two Day Assault, with its similar interior design and more dramatic, tactical look.
W3dg3 Antill3s - November 13, 2020
Been using the Osprey Far Point Trek 55 which has more than enough room for 3 season and carries great. Haven’t pushed it to the test durability wise, but so far so good. I’m finding it a bit of a snug fit with extra winter layers/ sleep system for up in New England. I have a version of the MSS which is mostly what is taking up the space, but I want to have the option of going out at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
mopdx - November 18, 2020
Thank you for this timeless resource. A Bug Out Backpack has been on my list of investments to make, and with the seasonal (“Black Friday”) offers, I invested in a new Osprey Farpoint Trek at a discounted price!
Gideon ParkerStaff - November 18, 2020
Thank you for the kind words. We are always so grateful when our articles help people out. You have selected a great bag! I’d love to see a forum post in the future of what you put in it when you get it all filled up in the future. Our kit builder allows you to see everything in your pack in a very organized fashion, what takes up the most weight, and might help you to see any room for improvement.
Sleepwalker - 3 weeks ago
In your “bug out bag list” you mention that your small children will be carrying mostly comfort items for them and lighter items as a redundancy for the adults bags. With that in mind, would a quality school type backpack work? Or do you still lean towards the higher end bags mentioned in this article?
Jay Valencia - 3 weeks ago
When my kids were littler I had used their old school backpacks from the previous year as a BOB for them. Just a few basics like a water bottle, granola bar, bandaids, blanket, change of clothes, emergency contact card, etc… Each year as they got a new backpack, I would update their BOB bag with their previous year one if it was a ‘better bag’. I judged a better bag by being larger, in better condition, more subtle (no cartoon characters), or had various pockets that could be used instead of just one large pouch area.
I think a quality school bag would be just great for this situation for young children. Once your children are old enough and skilled enough to carry more valuable gear like water filters, fire starting equipment, and other things that will really save their life then investing in a better bag would be a smart idea. But for the small child with a few comfort items like a blanket, book, and stuffed animal, even if it is a crappy junk bag if it breaks toss it and move on. You won’t be losing valuable lifesaving equipment.
That’s my two cents.
John RameyStaff - 3 weeks ago
A quality school-style backpack would be fine for smaller kids, maybe under 10-12 or so (depending on their body, maturity, etc.) They shouldn’t be carrying enough weight to necessitate a hip belt.
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