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
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!
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.
- Incredible design
- Lots of space and pockets
- Comfortable straps
- 4lbs 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. 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).
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 very heavy loads
- Not waterproof
Best For: People who want an affordable tactical backpack
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!
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 completely waterproof
Best For: People who will likely experience heavy rains, mud, snow, or flooding
BLACKHAWK Diversion Wax Canvas Rucksack
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.
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.
- Very discreet
- Quality construction
- Handgun compartment
- Lots of pockets for organization
- 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!”
What To Put In Your Survival Backpack
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.
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
- 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
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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!
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.
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 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!