A “Survival Backpack” is different than a Bug Out Bag. Where a Bug Out Bag is meant to keep you alive for about 2-5 days while you flee to safety, a survival backpack will contain everything you need to survive for an indefinite amount of time until civilization can get on its feet again.
The Best Survival Backpacks Are
- Durable: They must hold up against whatever conditions nature throws at them.
- Suited for Your Body Size: You need to be able to comfortably hold gear while tromping through the wilderness. Packs too large or wide will get snagged on branches or upset your center of gravity.
- Have Adequate Storage: It is a good idea to make a survival backpack checklist before buying a pack. Then you can see how much space you need.
Learn about the different types of backpack here.
Best Survival Backpacks Reviewed
5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Backpack
Type: Tactical | Capacity: 47l | Material: 1050 denier nylon
Waterproof: No; nylon is water-resistant | Attachments: MOLLE
The Rush72 has an amazing design with many pockets, compartments, and zippers. The stitching is tough, and the pack can withstand the toughest survival conditions. No wonder the pack has a 5-star rating on Amazon!
The only real downsides of the Rush72 survival backpack are the same ones you’d expect of any quality pack. Its high denier means the pack is quite heavy when empty. It also doesn’t have an internal frame, so it will not be so comfortable if you load it up with more than 30lbs of weight.
- Incredible design
- Lots of space and pockets
- Comfortable straps
- 2.6lbs when empty
Best For: Survivalists who want the best tactical survival pack
Osprey Stratos Backpack
Type: Hiking | Capacity: 34-36l | Material: 210 denier ripstop nylon and 420hd nylon pack cloth
Waterproof: No; comes with integrated rain cover | Attachments: Ice axe attachment, straps
If you have decided on a hiking-style pack for your survival backpack, the Osprey Stratos is one of the best picks. I like that it is more discreet than other hiking packs (which tend to come in bright colors and have reflective tape all over them).
As far as comfort goes, the Stratos has an internal frame and compression packs that allow you to keep heavy loads close to your body. Osprey is one of the best-known brands in hiking backpacks, so you can expect a quality product.
- Multiple size options
- Internal frame
- Load stabilization straps
- Sleeping bag compartment
- No external tie-downs
Best For: People with back problems or who will be carrying heavier loads.
Condor 3-Day Assault Pack
Type: Tactical | Capacity: 50l | Material: 1000 denier nylon
Waterproof: No | Attachments: MOLLE and D-rings
The Condor, 3-Day Assault Pack, is one of the most popular survival backpacks. The 1000 denier nylon is much more durable than the 200-500d nylon used on most other tactical backpacks.
For its durability, the Condor is surprisingly lightweight. The empty pack weighs about 2lbs, compared to 5+ lbs of other packs. Those extra pounds make a big difference when packing for survival!
Note that this survival backpack isn’t waterproof. You’ll want to get a cover for it or store all your gear in waterproof bags.
- Large capacity
- Heavy-duty construction
- Seven pockets for organizing gear
- Hydration pack compatible
- Designed for comfort
- Not discreet
- May be too long for short backs
- Zippers start to fail under weighty loads
- Not waterproof
Best For: People who want an affordable tactical backpack
Skog A Kust BackSak
Type: Dry Bag | Capacity: 35l | Material: 500D PVC with welded seams
Waterproof: Yes; can be submerged underwater briefly | Attachments: D-rings
Here’s the survival backpack you want if you will have to go through severe weather conditions. The 500 denier PVC with welded seams is entirely waterproof. You could even put it completely underwater briefly and still keep your gear dry. Oh, and it floats!
Compared to other dry bag packs, the BackSak is much more comfortable and has more pockets for organization. I just wish it didn’t have reflective trim, in case you don’t want visibility in times of chaos.
- Large size for dry pack
- Reflective trim
- Exterior pockets not entirely waterproof
Best For: People who will likely experience heavy rains, mud, snow, or flooding
What To Put In Your Survival Backpack
My survival backpack has a stainless steel water bottle (Amazon link) plus the Sawyer Mini water filter (Amazon link), which is only 2oz and good for 100,000 gallons of water.
It isn’t going to clean water of radioactive materials, but it will completely filter bacteria from water in rivers, creeks, and even puddles, so it is safe to drink.
Read more about how to purify water here.
Tent and Sleeping Bag
If your survival skills are in order, you won’t need these because you will be able to quickly make a shelter out of debris and stay warm by wrapping leaves or dirt around you.
But you’ll probably be more comfortable with a tent and sleeping bag 😉
Recommended Reading – How To Choose The Best Survival Tent
A knife has lots of uses, including:
- Cutting branches for shelter
- Creating weapons
- Cutting rope
- Cutting bandages
- Digging small holes
- Hunting food
Since your knife is one of the essential items in the survival backpack, you better make sure it is a good one! Also, follow good knife maintenance, such as always drying it thoroughly before closing it.
Read the Top Survival Knives for Under $100
Cord is another survival item with so many possible uses:
- Creating emergency shelters
- Making splints for a broken arm
- Tying poles together
- Fishing or trapping
- Tying supplies to your bag
- Hanging food away from wild animals
- Mending a broken bootlace
- Climbing and rescuing
A paracord bracelet (Amazon link) is an excellent way to keep a lot of cordage on you at all times.
If you are confused about paracord, read this Ultimate Guide to Paracord
Or check out these other awesome Paracord Projects
Tarp or Plastic Sheeting
Why do you need a tarp in your survival backpack? Some of the many uses for a tarp include:
- Making an emergency shelter
- Collecting rainwater
- Wrapping around yourself to protect from rain
- Creating an improvised stretcher to carry an injured person
- Making a hammock for sleeping above ground
- To cover your tent if it starts to leak
- To put on wet ground so you can sit
- For hiding supplies and equipment
- For hauling items
- For use as a floatation device (yep, you can build a raft out of a tarp!)
Read our guide to survival tarps.
Fire made us human; without it, we’d probably return to beastliness quickly. I hope you have mastered the most critical survival tactics, including making a fire (including making fires in wet and snowy conditions).
I include matches in my survival backpack and a match-less fire starter in case the matches get wet or I run out of them.
Compass and Map
Ensure your survival backpack includes topographic maps of the nearby region and other areas you might flee to. And I should add that it isn’t enough to have a map and compass – you better know how to read the map too!
First aid kit
They should include latex gloves, tweezers, plenty of bandages, painkillers, antidiarrheals, sutures, needles, antiseptics, and safety pins.
Here’s what’s in my wilderness first aid kit.
You could forage or eat chunks of raw meat torn from prey – but you will end up with diarrhea and some weird parasites. Pack a good lightweight camping cook set (Amazon link) in your survival backpack. Mine also includes a folding knife/spoon/fork.
Change of Clothes
Most people pack too many clothes in their survival backpack. You need clothes, but one change will be enough (plus a few changes of socks because wet socks are a disaster for your feet!).
Make sure they are quality materials that dry quickly. And don’t forget a waterproof jacket and a hat with a brim to keep rain and sun out of your face.
Sure, you can survive without a flashlight (Amazon link) – but your chances of survival significantly increase when you have light.
For example, imagine you want to explore a cave to use as a possible shelter. Without a flashlight, you might not notice the gaping hole in the ground and fall to your death.
Remember when Aron Ralston used his generic leatherman (Amazon link) to cut off his arm when trapped under a rock? Need I say more about why you need this tool?
Recommended Reading – How To Choose The Best Multitool For Survival
Bandanas protect your head from the sun; they can be put over your mouth to keep out dust and used as slings or signaling devices. Yes, pack a bandana in your survival backpack!
We are about long-term survival here, so you will want a sewing kit to repair your clothes, tent, sleeping bag, and even emergency first aid.
If you want to survive in the long run, how do you propose building a shelter without a shovel (you’ll need to dig underground or at least dig drainage trenches around the shelter)? Or how about how you will dig a latrine or fire pit?
Recommended: 10 Top Survival Shovel Reviews
If you have to survive in the long term, chances are you will not be in the wild. You will be in some populated place. That crowbar will come in handy to open up locked doors, where you can raid for supplies and get shelter. A crowbar also makes a pretty damn good weapon.
You can also get cool mini EDC crowbars (Amazon link). This way, you’ll always be prepared!
Are you prepping for long-term survival in the wilderness? Let us know your insights!
Leave a comment
i don’t mean to be a smart ass here, but if you’re homeless, what good will a map and compass do? please let me know.
Map and compass will help you navigate unknown territory.
I got kicked out of my house for 3 days for staying out to long and I was to embarrassed to ask a friend if I could stay so I lived in the woods it was really fun and I used my last bit of battery looking at this article with 200 spare dollars in my pocket I was good to go but I thought the same as you and didn’t get a compas and a map and I actually spent a couple more hours in the Forrest than I wanted to because I couldn’t find my way back that’s why it could be useful also it was a pain in the ass to look for a water source so the map could also come in handy there
Well some people might be homeless and some can be lost so they might need a compass
I was homeless back in the early 90s and the maps I had also had bus schedules and locations for the bus stops on different routes so maps can bed helpfully in different ways.
A map could help you find a cave, or at least high ground, so you don’t get flooded out. The compass will help you stay on course for those areas.
I have wax coated, strike anywhere matches in my fire kit. . .but I never use them so I never run out of them. Instead I use my primary fire starters which are:
1.) A 4x magnification Fresnel lens or a
2.) Flint & Steel or a
3.) Magnesium Block & Firesteel conbo
which I use in that order to produce an ember in an Altoids tin of char material. I keep a short straw in my kit through which I can blow air into my mini-coal forge to produce a hot coal to light my tinder bundle…https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_3931514255&feature=iv&src_vid=5-F8g3hb938&v=6H0YcuO8Xcw
Altoids can is a great idea!!
Make sure when making a survival kit,it is for outdoor survuval kits,or indoor disasters kits,when putting together,both need different things.
Another good thing to have in your bag is either a pencil or some sort of pen so when you are mapping your way you kniw where you have been and when scavaging as well. I perfer a medical marker because it also is useful if you have to do any kind of procedure the ink is meant for skin…..tools and whatnot almost everyone has so scavaging for those will be easier then finding some of the other things mentioned in this article..
A large plastic bag with a hole cut in one corner makes an instant waterproof shelte. It is inexpensive and light to carry. Sets up in one second.
Also, a battery and some steel wool or a gum wrapper is a fire starter you can use with one hand, or your foot if necessary.
shouldnt you pack string?
Could be useful for many things. All kits should be personalized to your own needs.
I recently used this article to build my survival bag. I know this is meant to be a serious thing but I used the article to create a bag that me and a couple of my buddies all made and took out and stayed in the woods for three days. We came out fine and it was a great experience, recommend doing that and using this article to prepare also
Thanks Sam, these are the kind of comments that make it all worthwhile!
Put your personalised kit together and pack it in your rucksack, then go out and test it for a few days (that’s what weekends are for?) Back home get (or borrow) a rucksack that is smaller (about 5litres) and repack your kit. See what you don’t need and test it again.
In my BOB I also carry extra supplies for at least two people. I.E. the trash bag rain protection, I carry one for my wife and one for myself. The same holds true for most of the expendable supplies. Even if my wife doesn’t use them I know that I have a second pair of gloves etc to replace anything I’ve lost or destroyed.
I am concerned with how so many worry about a few pounds here or there. If you do your hikes and jogs with a full pack filled with rocks (good old military strength/endurance training method) you will get used to the weight which means you can pack more gear and not get wore out. 60l military style pack is what I use. Because if I have to bug out for an extended period of time, I am not going back to the towns and cities where they have already been looted and desperate ones will wait for you to come around so they can get survival/barter items and what food or medicine you have. I will take what I need to live in the wilderness for years setting up winter, spring, summer, fall camps that I use in each season.
good idea my father is a marine
Why don’t you pack an axe,bow/arrow,lint from your dryer (makes a great fire starter.),swiss army knife,binoculars,pocket saw,and anyone else think of this a CANTEEN.
I wouldn’t recommend packing an axe (unless weight isn’t a factor) since foldable saws are much more efficient at cutting wood.
But, an axe can chop more than wood. Attackers, prey, notches in sticks, all easier by chopping, than sawing, I’m so.
Pocket chainsaw. 2.96 lbs.
Personally, I don’t care for BOBs. I prefer to travel fast and lite. If it doesn’t fit in my blanket roll, or on my web belt (two canteens, bolo knife, holster, and a couple of pouches,) then it’s not necessary.
I prefer to travel at night and larger up in the daylight hours. I prefer a cold camp. Fire is a sure indication that someone is within 2-400 M (or more) of your position, remembering that wind and temperature changes play funny tricks in wooded areas.
I think that if going from where you are to where you want to be takes more than three days afoot, then you need to reexamine the tactical situation.