Need bug out bag packing tips

As a terrible packer, I thought I’d start this thread to collect best practices for how to maximize space in our packs. Specific tips welcome! To start us off, here is my current challenge. I bought a nice fleece as my top layer. Very comfy. But I’m a large person and the fleece is thick. It takes up a ton of room! I’ve been wondering if there is a way to compress clothing for storage in the BOB?


  • Comments (9)

    • 7

      Fleece is not very compressible, and down suffers from compression.  The best place for it in your BOB is on top of your main compartment where you push it down into all the small odd spaces, and where it will be readily accessible.

      During the coo season, you will probably wear it a lot….

    • 4

      I’m joining Hikermor regarding compression not appropriate for garments and other stuff needing “loft” that allows for warmth when worn – or slept in … like a goose down sleeping bag.

      It might be advantageous to replace your current BOB with a duffel having shoulder straps. Duffels are relatively tall relative pack sizes less the big packs.  The duffel can be worn as a pack or placed in a wagon.  Consider you’re going to get additional non-compressional stuff and this BOB matter will have to be addressed.


      • 6

        Duffels have never struck me as making very comfortable backpacks. And do they have hip belts?

      • 4



        Agree for long hikes, duffels are not comfortable.  I’ve used the best of the military packs for short and long treks over various topography.  They, too, are not comfortable. The typical comfort factor is weight. It gets technical but let me illustrate that level walking is great with a pack with external frame. Inclines require an INTERNAL frame or none at all.

        From what I gleaned from the various posts here, you’d be walking, at most, ~ 4 miles over an extended period of time. The large military packs you’d require for non-compressionable garments, etc, are expensive and inherently heavy by design (in re US military).

        Can’t answer your explicit question on hip belts.

        Glance at the above link.  It’s only for examples; not for any other reason.  Plus, web stuff can be expensive versus belonging to some type of association where some can steer you to best buys.

        Had once worked as an emergency reponder in Asia where some refugees were evacuating with heavy canvas laundry bags having shoulder straps sewn on them.  They made it to the emergency shelter.  Comfort is sacrificed for safety.

        Hopefully above has some value for research.

    • 7

      Great topic! I can’t be made a good example right now because my BOB is currently organized with ziploc bags and only one compression sack for the clothing. No real packing strategy a part from heavier stuff at the bottom, while trying to keep stuff I might need handy (IFAK, headlamp, knife, etc) at the top or in external pockets. 

      But yes, compression sacks are the way to go for clothing!

      I also thought I’d link to some other forum posts that might be helpful:

    • 9

      Yeah, I’m annoyed by the amount of space my clothes take up, too, but I want to have a full set in my BOB, so I’ve been looking at vacuum bags (the kind that you don’t need a separate pump for, and those ones on sale rn) to pack my clothes down better. I start with the flat stuff (map, note pad, important documents, photos of family members) against the back wall of the pack, then put my food bars and toiletry bag in the bottom (all pretty rectangular and solid), and then pack in various smaller ziplocs (one with fire starting stuff, one with water purification stuff, and so on) on the sides and front of the block formed by the food and toiletry bags. The clothes bag, IFAK bag, and gas mask bag go on top— IFAK for accessibility and the other two because they’re bulky and I don’t want the rigid plastic parts of the mask to be squashed under other stuff. Some things live in the various pouches on the outside of the pack for accessibility. Specifically, I want my heavy gloves and headlamp on the outside, and in the “brain” of my pack I have the super-emergency first aid stuff— the epi-pen, tourniquet, nitrile gloves, and Israeli bandage.

      This is a digression, but since it’s packing-related, I’m going to go there: I actually just recently broke up the IFAK. I realized that I was deprioritizing potentially important IFAK supplies on my “to buy” list because the bag I’ve had for like 20 years was straining at the seams, so I ordered a larger bag and a couple new items. I ended up having to return the new bag because it still wasn’t big enough, and I didn’t want to go bigger, and all my IFAK stuff didn’t fit in the bag. Then I realized that by volume, most of my IFAK stuff is for treating small wounds, blisters, twists and sprains, and common ailments like headaches and upset stomaches. And you know what? Literally nobody is EVER going to die because I had to open the top of my pack and rummage around a bit to find the ace bandage or the Pepto. It seemed logical to split the IFAK on the basis of whether or not I would need each thing in a true, profound emergency— the likes of which I hope never to experience and statistically speaking probably won’t… but it is feasible that having a tourniquet or an epi pen easily accessible could save someone’s life, which is not something I would ever say about, you know, Moleskin.

      • 6

        Speaking of IFAK, totally by chance I didn’t have a bag large enough for the whole kit, so I’ve split it into two: a smaller bag contains everything up to Level 1, and the other bag contains Level 2 and 3 (I have closely followed our recommendations). Both bags are inside the BOB, but on the top, easily reachable. The tourniquet is strapped to the outside of my BOB’s shoulder straps so, if I’m wearing the bag, I can easy reach to it without having to take off the bag etc.

        As I’ve mentioned, the choice of splitting the IFAK into two was dictated by chance, and I had originally thought that in the next reiteration I will change that. But now I actually really like the idea: it means that if I have to leave my BOB (either for a hike if I have my BOB with me when camping, or in case of an emergency to do whatever I need to do that does not require me carrying my full BOB) it means I can just strap the smaller kit to my belt or daypack and don’t have to bother with a full kit (but I’d take the tourniquet).

    • 6

      Check out this discussion that I had with another user named XKPin. In the comments to this article, he/she goes over vacuum sealing a .22lr rifle and clothes for their BOB.

      I was pretty impressed and really want to get a vacuum sealer now.

    • 4

      Jonnie do you have paracord in your BOB? Maybe roll your fleece top as tight as you can (rolled clothing takes up less room) and then with some paracord tie a slip knot and sinch it down around the roll to keep it together. Then use the tail of your paracord to wrap as tightly around your fleece roll as you can. I think this will compress it further, keep your paracord organized and wrapped around something. 

      I love fleece. So soft and warm.