The key to having an effective Bug Out Bag is being able to quickly find and take stock of the items within it! Resist the urge to dump everything in there willy-nilly. You should be able to find each item efficiently (even in the dark) without spilling the whole thing open or rummaging endlessly.
Items should be grouped together by function. Bug Out Bag organization is an important step. Don't over look it!
IMPORTANT: Practice finding the stuff in your evacuation kits a few times once you have them stocked up, and go through them once a year afterwards to make sure everyone is familiar with what goes where.
You may also find that your needs have changed, or that those snack-bars on the bottom have gotten old!
Organize the Inside
Time to think "compartmentalization." Have separate smaller sacks inside your pack so that you can use to group items together by usage. Having sacks in different colors helps you figure out which is which.
The sacks we like using serve two additional purposes: compression and water-protection.
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Basic Packing Cubes
Price: $10 - $20
Grab some inexpensive packing cubes to help you organize your pack, and you can thank us later. Makes keeping items organized a breeze, and they don't add a huge amount of weight.
Magpul Daka Pouches
Price: $20 - $40
Read our review here. These are the coolest pouches out there. Built-to last and lots of useful features like carabiner cutouts, see-thru windows, reinforced zippers, and a paint pen dot matrix for ID marking. Love these!
Sea to Summit Compression Dry Sack
Price: $25 - $45
Compression sacks come in all sizes and can be used to shrink down light-weight and bulky items like clothing and sleeping bags. This serves helps you save the limited space in your pack. What's cool about these STS Sacks is that they offer compression and decent water protection simultaneously.
Sea to Summit Nylon Stuff Sacks
Price: $12 - $19
For non-compressible items you can use small zippered sacks or draw-string ditty bags. Get multiple colors and assort items based on color so you can identify what bag is what fast. If you don't want to get fancy, you can use Ziploc plastic bags, or make your own from extra cloth.
Water and the elements
The first step is to make sure you have a good poncho to cover you and the pack. This is the simplest approach. However, if its really warm outside that poncho is going to get hot. Also, there is plenty of room for the water to blow in from underneath and you and your pack will still get soaked.
This happened to us on a recent hike to a waterfall in a rainstorm...after about an hour we and most of our gear was completely soaked, even with ponchos.
Your second step is to purchase and use a pack cover which wraps around the outside of your pack. These are very light and easy compress down, so are easy to stash away on a small pocket on the outside of the pack.
Waterproof Ripstop Hooded Poncho
There are several things to consider when buying a poncho. Most of the ones you see are cheap and have zero-durability. A ripstop poncho can stand a few holes pokin' into it and wont fall apart on you after a few uses. You want grommets (aka eyelets) so you can attach cord or bungees to it and use your poncho as a shelter or tarp.
Backpack Rain Cover
For wet environments having an external rain cover could be a lifesaver. Especially if its brutally hot out and you don't feel like wearing a poncho. Some are made with ripstop fabric and have elastic draw strings. Get the right size for your bag.
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack
The cheap and easy way to weather-protect the inside of your Emergency Kit is to place a couple of heavy-duty garbage bags into the packs, and then put all your stuff into them. An other option is to use dry sacks. These are great because you can squish stuff into them pretty well, and they can float. 10L or smaller is probably the size you would want.
ALOKSAK Water / Sand Proof Dry Bag
Price: $12 and up
All your electronics, fire-making tools, playing cards, important documents should go into one of these bags. They are like Ziploc bags on steroids. Very durable. You can use touch screens through them. Local surf shops and sporting goods stores usually have these too, if you want to see them first.
Outside your bags
There's a zillion different options available for you to add organizational tools to the outside of your bag. The advantage of doing so is having easy access to those things you use frequently, and with some of the pouches below being able to effectively modify the whole design of your kit.
Condor EMT Pouch
This is where you can start to take advantage of the MOLLE strap system if you are using bags equipped with it. This is a great pouch which you can add on to the outside of your bags for quick access. This Condor Pouch makes for a perfect first aid kit container.
Condor Pocket Pouch
Another good addition to the outside of your emergency kit. Can be used to hold note pads, pens, money, ID, and all manner of smaller items. Some people make Every Day Carrys out of these. MOLLE straps on the back hold this to your pack or belt.
Condor H2O Pouch
Read our Review here. Here is an option for carrying a Guyot Bottle nested inside a GSI Bottle Cup/Pot. You could also put a water bladder inside of it. Can also be used as a stand-alone day bag with a strap and some attached MOLLE pouches.
In Buddhism, having too many attachments is considered an undesirable thing. In building your bug out kit, we say the the more the merrier. Take that Dalai Lama!
BLACKHAWK! Speed Clips
An option for attaching MOLLE pouches to your bags. Speed Clips are meant to replace the straps commonly used with MOLLE, and indeed they are quicker to attach and remove. This also helps with pouches which don't come with integrated straps. You may need a few different sizes to make your pouches fit correctly.
Carabiner Grimloc D-Ring
Instead of using carabiners for attaching items outside you pack, you could use these D-Rings. They are light, corrosion proof, and sturdy. You can hang a pair of wet socks with these, or really anything you can think of. Not for use as earrings.
Sea to Summit Accessory Strap with Hook Release (Pair)
These can be used to lash sleeping bags, tarps, or tents to the bottom of your pack. Variety of sizes available. You could also just use plain ol' bungees or rope.
Tactical Gear Clip - Multi purpose Fastener
American made awesomeness. One handed lever latching system for when your other hands busy holding ice cream. These are perfect for securing flashlights, hatchets, digeredoos, laser cannons, and wizard staffs to MOLLE. Get a couple, you'll love 'em.
ITW Annex Clips 6/Pack
These are kind-of multipurpose clips which we use to attach some MOLLE to non-MOLLE items we have - for example, we wrap paracord around our knife sheaths and attach small pouches to them with these clips - as learned in this great video. Thanks Mike!