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The Best Survival Backpack and What To Put In It


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Last Updated: September 30, 2020

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 needs to contain everything you need survive for an indefinite amount of time until civilization can get on its feet again (and hopefully not mess things up this time around!).

The Best Survival Backpacks Are

  • Durable: They need to hold up against whatever conditions nature throws at you.
  • Suited for Your Body Size: You need to be able to comfortable hold gear while tromping through the wilderness. Packs that are 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 really need.

Best Survival Backpacks Reviewed

5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Backpack

5.11 Tactical RUSH72

Type: Tactical | Capacity: 47l | Material: 1050 denier nylon
Waterproof: No; nylon is water-resistant | Attachments: MOLLE

The Rush72 has an amazing design with lots of pockets, compartments, and zippers. The stitching is tough and the pack can hold up in the toughest survival conditions. No wonder the pack has a 5-star rating on Amazon!

Check Prices on Amazon

The only real downsides of the Rush72 survival backpack are the same ones you’d expect of any quality pack. It’s high denier means the pack is quite heavy (4lbs) 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.

Pros

  • Incredible design
  • Lots of space and pockets
  • Comfortable straps

Cons

  • Pricey
  • 4lbs when empty

Best For: Survivalists who want the best tactical survival pack

Check On Amazon


Osprey Stratos Backpack

Osprey Stratos

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. The main reason I like it is because it is more discreet than other hiking packs (which tend to come in bright colors and have reflective tape all over them).

Check on ​Amazon

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.

Pros

  • Multiple size options
  • Lightweight
  • Internal frame
  • plus-circleLoad stabilization straps
  • plus-circleSleeping bag compartment

Cons

  • Pricy
  • No external tie-downs

Best For: People with back problems or who will be carrying heavier loads.

Check On Amazon


Condor 3 Day Assault Pack

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.

Check on ​Amazon

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.

Pros

  • Large capacity
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Seven pockets for organizing gear
  • Hydration pack compatible
  • Designed for comfort

Cons

  • Not discreet
  • May be too long for short backs
  • Zippers start to fail under very heavy loads
  • Not waterproof

Best For: People who want an affordable tactical backpack

Check On Amazon


Sak Gear BackSak

Sak Gear 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 completely waterproof. You could even put it completely underwater briefly and still keep your gear dry. Oh, and it floats!

Check on ​Amazon

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.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Large size for dry pack
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Ref​lective trim
  • Exterior pockets not completely waterproof

Best For: People who will likely experience heavy rains, mud, snow, or flooding

Check On Amazon


BLACKHAWK Diversion Wax Canvas Rucksack

BLACKHAWK Diversion

Type: Tactical | Capacity: 25l | Material: 10.10 oz wax canvas
Waterproof: Lid and side zippers; not rated | Attachments: Loops provided

This survival backpack looks like a schoolbag, but don’t let that fool you.  The pack is really sturdy and has a lot of integrated features which make it suitable for a survival backpack.

Check on ​Amazon

The key feature is the handgun storage compartment along the back. It takes some practice to reach there but, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to access your handgun very quickly.

Pros

  • Very discreet
  • Quality construction
  • Handgun compartment
  • Lots of pockets for organization

Cons

  • A bit small for a survival backpack
  • No hip or sternum straps
  • No side pockets for water bottles

Best For: Survival minimalists who want a pack that doesn’t scream, “I’ve got lots of gear to steal!”

Check On Amazon

What To Put In Your Survival Backpack

Hydration System

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 for water from rivers, creeks, and even puddles so it is safe to drink.

Read more about how to purify water here.

water bottlesawyer mini

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 ReadingHow To Choose The Best Survival Tent


Knife

A knife has lots of uses including:

  • Cutting branches for shelter
  • Creating weapons
  • Cutting rope
  • Cutting bandages
  • Digging small holes
  • Self defense
  • Hunting food…

Since your knife is one of the most important 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

Cordage

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 boot lace
  • Climbing and rescuing…

A paracord bracelet (Amazon link) is a good 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
paracord bracelet

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 rain water
  • 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 using as a floatation device (yep, you can really build a raft out of a tarp!)

Fire Starter

Fire is what made us human, and without it we’d probably go back to beastliness pretty quickly. I hope you have mastered the most important survival tactics which include making a fire (including making fires in wet and snowy conditions).

I include matches in my survival backpack as well as a match-less fire starter (Amazon link) in case the matches get wet or I run out of them.
fire starter

Compass and Map

Make sure your survival backpack includes topographic maps of the nearby region, as well as other regions you might flee to. And I should add that it isn’t enough to have the map and compass – you better know how to read the map too!

First aid kit

They should include latex gloves, tweezers, plenty of bandages, pain killers, anti-diarrheals, sutures, needles,  antiseptics, and safety pins.

Here’s what’s in my wilderness first aid kit.

Cooking Equipment

You could just eat raw forage and 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.
solo stove

Change of Clothes

Most people pack too much clothes in their survival backpack. You do need clothes, but 1 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 which dry quickly. And don’t forget the waterproof jacket and a hat with a brim to keep rain and sun out of your face.

Flashlight

Sure, you can survive without a flashlight (Amazon link) – but your chances of survival greatly increase when you have light in some situations. 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…
flashlight

Multi tool

Remember when Aron Ralston used his generic leatherman (Amazon link) to cut off his own 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


Bandana

Bandanas protect your head from the sun, they can be put over your mouth to keep out dust, they can be used as slings, or for a signaling device. Yes, pack a bandana in your survival backpack!

Sewing Kit

We about long term survival here, so you will want a sewing kit to repair your clothes, tent, sleeping bag, and even for emergency first aid.

Shovel

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
shovel

Crowbar

If you have to survive in the long term, chances are you aren’t going to be in the wild. You will be in some populated place. That crowbar will come in handy to open up locked doors, where you will then be able to raid for supplies and get shelter. A crowbar also makes a pretty damn good weapon…

There are also cool mini EDC crow bars (Amazon link) you can get. This way, you’ll always be prepared!

Are you prepping for long-term survival in the wilderness? Let us know your insights!

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Leave a comment

    • 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

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  1. 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

    Reply
  2. Make sure when making a survival kit,it is for outdoor survuval kits,or indoor disasters kits,when putting together,both need different things.

    Reply
    • 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..

      Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
  4. 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

    Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
  6. Great Information!
    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.

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply

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