Cut Weight from Your Bug Out Bag with These Tips

It is exciting to pack your first Bug Out Bag. You know you are taking steps to secure your and your family’s safety. Pat yourself on the back! You should feel good about what you are doing!

But let’s get serious for a minute: the contents of your bag are what you will be relying on in an emergency survival situation.

If just one item is missing, it could mean death. But, if you pack too much, it could make your pack too heavy and slow you down… which could be a disaster in itself.

That is why this post is going to be about how to cut weight from your survival backpack.

If you don’t know what to pack in your BOB, check our bug out bag list.


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The Ideal Bug Out Bag Weight

It might seem small and lightweight when you first pack your survival bag. But I urge you to carry that pack around with you for 5 hours.

Does it still feel light?

Now I encourage you to put it on and try to run with it. How is that going for you?

Thru-hikers and backpackers use the general rule that your pack should be no more than 1/4 of your body weight.

But backpackers don’t need to flee, run, or hide. So, a Bug Out Bag should be even lighter!

I was able to get my Bug Out Bag down to just 22lbs without having to sacrifice any comfort or gear.

Here are some tips on how you can get your pack lighter too.

Every Ounce Counts!

Growing up, my dad always took us backpacking. He cut the handle off of his toothbrush to cut back on weight. At the time, I thought he was crazy.   It wasn’t even an ounce! But now I realize that there are just 16 ounces in a pound. If you cut one ounce from 16 items, you’ve shed a pound from your survival pack!

Here are some of the ways you can shave ounces from your gear:

  • Cut off your toothbrush handle or buy a camping toothbrush
  • Use toothpaste powder instead of toothpaste
  • Cut the edges off of your maps
  • Cut the labels off your clothes and gear (seriously! This all adds up!!!)
  • Tear covers off of any guide/survival books you carry
  • Remove the cardboard from toilet paper
  • Repackage sunblock, bug spray, etc., in plastic bags or smaller containers
  • Repackage medications in plastic bags instead of the prescription bottles
  • DRILL HOLES IN STUFF. Seriously. If you can drill a hole in something without destroying its functionality, do it!

You Don’t Need That Many Clothes

I’ve seen some people pack 3 days’ worth of clothes in their survival bags. I know that we sometimes call them “72-hour bags,” but it doesn’t mean you’ve got to have clothes for 3 days!

All you need is ONE CHANGE OF CLOTHES. And this is only in case your original set of clothes gets wet. You don’t die if you wear the same underwear for 3 days in a row.

The one exception to this rule is socks. I always bring an extra pair of socks with me.

Having wet feet means you are going to get blisters.

Blisters mean you won’t be able to stay mobile well.

Immobility could be your death.

So I pack two pairs of wool camping socks (or other fast-drying socks) in my survival bag.

Pack the Right Survival Food

One of the biggest mistakes I see with Bug Out Bags is that people load them with canned food. Yes, canned food does have the benefit of being nonperishable, but it is heavy as heck! It is also usually loaded with water, which means lots of extra weight.

A 16oz (1lb) can of beans only has about 300 calories, which is only about 1/6 of what you should consume in a day. You’d have to pack 18 cans of beans – 18 lbs – to feed yourself on canned food for 3 days.

First, let me clarify: YOU DON’T REALLY NEED FOOD IN YOUR SURVIVAL BAG! The human body can go up to a month without food.

But no one wants the stress of being hungry when SHTF, so go ahead and pack some survival food in your pack. Just make sure you pack the right stuff!

When choosing survival food, look for these qualities:

  • Caloric Density: Divide the number of calories by the number of ounces. You want to find the foods with the most calories per ounce. Nuts are particularly good. So is jerky.
  • Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Food: Did you know you can dehydrate foods like refried beans, pasta sauce, and even marmalade? With the moisture removed, you can carry a lot of dehydrated food without a lot of weight.
  • Fast Cooking: If food has to cook for a long time (like dried beans or rice), you will have to carry more fuel and water. Instead, choose foods that can be made instantly, like these instant survival meals (Amazon Link), which are cooked in the pouch by adding boiling water.

Here’s a list of the best bug out bag food.

And here’s some more in-depth information on emergency food.

Swap Your Tent for a Tarp

A tarp is my ultimate favorite multipurpose survival item. You can make a survival shelter with just a tarp and some paracord. Want to learn how? Read this post about survival shelter designs.

A tarp can also be used for multiple purposes, like collecting water and making a stretcher, as a signal. You can even throw out your backpack (which probably weighs 5+ pounds) and make a Yukon Pack out of your tarp instead!

Simply swapping your tent for a tarp could save 1-6 pounds from your pack (depending on the weight of your tent).

Read about the best tarp for survival.

Choose Multi-Function Gear

Do you need a spoon and a fork when you could just pack a spork? (Amazon link)

Today, there are all sorts of multi-function survival gear available.

For example, don’t bring an emergency radio, flashlight, and charger when a gadget like this (Amazon link) does all three things.

Knowledge Instead of Gear!

With the proper knowledge, you won’t even need any gear to survive in the wilderness or a disaster situation.

Don’t wait until a disaster happens to learn survival skills.

Now is the time to learn skills like how to make your own water filter, how to make a lean-to shelter, how to identify edible plants, how to eat bugs for survival….

How much does your bug out bag weigh? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. I’ve got mine to 31 pounds (45 with my Henry .22 and AR/vest loadout) with a pelican case of ammo, a military poncho with grommets for tent or wearing, Paracord, Tom Brown Tracker, 2 fire kits with Vaseline’d cotton, Sawyer minis plus Sawyer bottle for my boy, extra socks for all of us, my boy extra clothes, small ditch kit in case I get injured and can’t carry much I still have the essentials that is 3 pounds with a small knife, fire steel, Sawyer mini, paracord, fishing kit, survival blankets, mini Fenix flashlight. I also keep a full blown INCH tub underneath if we have the chance to get out early in the truck that has 3 months worth of food, clothing, sleeping bag and tools etc to get us started til our crops start growing. I am still trying to drop weight or split some to a secondary bag strapped to my main bag in case I end up needing to carry my boy or wife I can quickly drop weight without having to quickly decide what can go.

    • It sounds like you’ve got a very well-thought out bag — especially the INCH tub. One thing I did was back up all of my photos and even take photos of mementos to back up to the cloud. If I had to leave or my home was destroyed, at least I’d have pictures of my memories.

  2. I am going for 30 lbs. max. Can be hard for the winter bag. I work 50 miles of home —- so I have to plan for overnight in freezing temps. I have found that the bag you choose is key. Don’t go cheap or 2 small on the bag.

  3. I prefer a tent, I have issues related to bug bites. Instead of spork, I carry a F.R.E.D. I believe the Aussies started them. It is a P-38 with a spoon handle.

    • Lucky you. I’m 5’1″ and 110 pounds. But I managed to get my BOB down to around 20lbs, and that includes gear for my kids too 🙂

  4. Keep in mind this was 40 years ago, I was a lot better shape as a Special Forces Medic on an A TEAM. My rutsack was 120 lbs (I was 139), plus ammo. The medical kit was 20 lbs (30 if we had the lab with us). We would be out for months, often we could get food resupplies but no always. I think for our purposes here, BUGOUT, If you figure on 10-20% of your body weight you should be balanced. A 200lb man should be able to handle 40 lbs easily. Don’t forget guns and ammo is extra. Shockwave, AR15 and/or 10-22 Breakdown, Springfield 45 handgun sidearm.

      • This is my basic 72hr/Get home list of all my bags that I keep in all my cars. Please feel free to pick it apart..any help would be great. Thanx

        Pack and Jacket was Checked and weighed 06/19. 32lbs
        Pocket Group (Red Pack)
        Engineer Compass
        25′ Paracord
        Swiss Army knife
        (Black Officers Model)
        Duracell LED Flashlight AAA
        6 AAA Batteries
        Bic Lighter
        40 Waterproof Matches
        Farrell Rod
        Back up small compass
        Micro Photon Light (Yellow)
        Survival Cards (Lee Nading 1976)
        Get Home map
        Shelter Group XX
        7’ X 9’ Tarp XX
        4 Stakes XX
        6 hanks of 12’ each 550 cord XX
        Tools (Purple)
        1 hank of 25’ 550 paracord,XX
        Sm sewing kit XX
        Space blanket
        Sillcock wrench XX
        Leatherman tool (with sheath)
        Sm Knife sharpener XX
        Water (Blue)
        One Life Straw
        Sweetwater filtration system, (#3) XX
        100 Aquatabs Water treatment tablets
        32oz Hard Water Bottle (Light Green) with 12′ each wrapped around it of Gorilla Tape and Black Electrical tape
        4 x 16.9 oz Dasani Water In bottles
        Light (Silver)
        Pelican LED headlamp AAA
        Pelican AAA flashlight with extra bulb
        1-12hr Chemical Light XX
        12 AAA Batteries
        Fire (Silver)
        15 Lifeboat Matches
        40 Waterproof Matches
        32 Strike anywhere Matches
        6 Cotton balls soaked in Petrol, Jelly
        Steel Wool XX
        4 Fire Starter
        2 Triox Fuel Fire starter
        Personal (Tan) XX
        Toothbrush XX
        Floss XX
        Toothpaste XX
        Sm bar soap XX
        1 oz insect repellent
        Bandana (Blue)
        1 oz Sunscreen XX
        2-prs. Ear plugs XX
        Small roll of toilet paper
        Spare glasses.
        Signaling/Navigation. (Orange)
        BAOFENG 5 Watt Radio RED (E205) with 2 antennas,1800 battery,2 backup Battery packs,6 AA And 6 AA batteries (Lithium) Total 12
        Sony Am-Fm radio, new 04/16 (EMP shielded) XX
        6 AA Batteries
        4 Lithium AA batteries
        Notebook XX
        Pencil XX
        Maps: XX ** NOTE** (Depending on where your location is, you can discard all of the Maps not in use.) XX
        Benton county
        Sweet Home
        Linn County
        Oregon State road map
        Willamette #15 (South) Game Management Unit Map
        Food 1 (Green)
        3- Lipton Cup a Noodles pkgs BB-06/20 XX
        3-Quaker Oats instant Oatmeal packages (Maple/Brown Sugar) BB-01/20 XX
        4-Clif Bars (Chocolate Chip)
        6-Propel Flavored Water packets XX
        SS Spoon.XX
        Food 2 (Green)
        XX 2-Mountain House Freeze dried Food packages, 1-Chicken & Mashed potatoes, & 1-Chicken Teriyaki with Rice XX
        Food Snacks (Green)
        2 Clif Chocolate chip bars BB-11/19
        3 pkgs 2.25 oz each Cashews 2 x BB-01/20 1 x BB -10/19
        2 pkgs 2.5 oz Trail mix.
        1 pkg Beef Jerky BB-12/19
        Clothing (Brown)
        Wool socks XX
        Watch cap
        PPE (Pink)
        Work gloves XX
        2 X N-100 dust masks XX
        Mosquito head net XX
        First aid kit (Red)
        Hand sanitizer,
        2 each:4×4
        mole skin
        2 each: fingertip
        knuckle Band-Aids,
        5 Band-Aids 1×3”
        1 combine dressing 8”x7”
        4x antiseptic towelettes
        6x alcohol swabs
        1x iodine pad
        5x Advil
        5x Aleve
        30 Aspirin’s
        1 oz Neosporin.
        Bandage scissors.

        Misc. Item’s
        2.5 Cup SS Pot and lid with cleaning sponge/scrubbing pad and Dawn soap XX
        Esbit Stove with 20 Fuel Tablets XX
        How to Stay Alive in the Woods. XX
        Wilderness Survival Pocket guide
        Edible Wild Plants Pocket guide XX
        Emergency First Aid Pocket guide
        Bushnell 7X25 Binoculars XX
        Camillus Titanium Carnivore Machete.(Red) XX
        SOL Escape Bivvy (Green)
        Green Columbia Jacket XX


        • That’s a pretty cool system — using XX to mark items you can leave behind.
          The list seems pretty good too. The only thing I might pick apart is the Dasani water. Don’t they use really thin plastic for their bottles? I feel like they might start leaking, especially if kept in a hot car. I’d get a better water bottle or at least some bottles made from sturdier plastic. Smart Water bottles, for example, last a really long time.


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