A Guide To Building A Rolling Bug Out Bag
Recently a friend of ours was training for a 3-day long off-trail camping adventure in Wyoming. He needed to carry a 40 pound bag and he was a little out of practice so he started training around town with a backpack full of weights.
He proceeded to walk 7 miles a day for several weeks. A few days after he started we were talking about it and he admitted that it was rough. He's in his 50's but is in excellent physical condition and always has been.
His thinking led him to looking into ultra-lite gear, but we started talking about the cost of those types of products and the numbers got really high really quick. Fine, if you can afford it...
So what about us average folk? In my experience, most people get tired even carrying around 20 lbs for an hour or so. So how in the world can we handle our crazy-heavy emergency kits, especially during a crisis?
The same way we have since the start of history, wheels!
Wheeled Emergency Kits
There are several factors to consider when we start talking about kits with wheels vs backpacks. First off, backpacks are easier in many respects to handle and get around obstacles with, since your legs are the support system. But that brings us back to the problem of weight.
Wheeled bags, like suitcases, roller-boards, and the like can make carrying heavy loads easier but are mostly useless once you take them off of a smooth paved surface. This is mainly because of the tiny, hard wheels most luggage has. So they are limited in where you can reasonably take them.
So we need to find a sweet-spot, a compromise between weight capacity and maneuverability. This can be achieved in a number of different ways:
- Standard Luggage plus backpack
- Multi-Terrain Cart or Wheeled Bag
- Bit of Both: Backpack + Wheeled Bag
Where you live will determine what your needs would be. If you are in the city or suburbs, it's likely there will be some manner of pavement in most of the areas you will be. If you are rural then you will need bigger wheels, something that can handle dirt, rocks, sand or snow.
We'll go through each of these options, it will be up to you to decide what makes the most sense for your specific situation.
Standard Luggage plus backpack: a Quick Compromise
Let's assume you already have your bug out bag(s) made. And like most, they are heavy. One option would be to throw those into any wheeled luggage you already have. Just dump them in there. Now you can put the suitcases in the car and you're good.
If things get hairy and you have to ditch the luggage then you can, and now you are carrying the packs, but at least you aren't lugging them around all the time if you don't need to.
Not suggested: don't build your primary emergency kit as just a suitcase without having all your gear inside a backpack. If the situation arises that you cant roll it, you're carrying it in your arms. That can be dangerous and will get tiring pretty quick.
If you cannot wear a backpack due to a physical condition, then try to find something that will either integrate into your transportation system (wheelchair) or that has backpack straps so that someone else may be able to carry it for you.
Multi-Terrain Cart or Wheeled Bags
Throughout history humans have searched for ways to carry their stuff around. The answer many times was to use some manner of animal for assistance, like a horse or mule. Unfortunately nowadays that's not an option for most of us.
Of course, we have motorized options which are superior in many ways. But if fuel becomes an issue then they become useless.
So this leaves us with human power to carry out loads. Off-road this this predominantly means backpacking.
Surprisingly there don't appear to be many alternatives to the backpack when it comes to all-terrain non-fuel-powered travel. One item that seems to be effective and viable is the Monowalker. It's essentially a modern-day modified wheelbarrow that has shoulder and waist rigging.
It's pretty ingenious, and looks very workable. Check out this video from Canadian Prepper. He's used his like crazy to haul 90 pound loads all over the Canadian wilderness. He has good perspective on what it can and cant do:
And though this seems to be a great idea, at $1000 a Monowalker isn't going to cut it for most people. As nuts as we are over emergency gear over here, that's even a little too steep for us.
BTW If you buy anything with the links we provide on this page we might get a small percentage of the sale. For more info click here.
All Terrain Carts
Mac Sports makes a few varieties of folding cart. Our choice would be their Heavy Duty All Terrain model. It can hold up to 150 pounds, and can fold itself up to make it a little more convenient for packing into a car or storing.
Although the wheels are of decent size, they are plastic ad somewhat smooth so you are still going to do best on hard or semi-hard surfaces. I don't see these performing well in powdery sand or mud (purchaser reviews on amazon confirm as much.)
Some complain they are noisy on pavement. On the upside they wont puncture or go flat, but once the plastic does go that's the end of it.
Also these are pull only. Being able to adjust between pushing and pulling is helpful to reduce fatigue and prevent injury.
There are a handful of manufacturers that make ruggedized rolling bags. There are a few that could be appropriate for use as an emergency kit.
Typical Price: $259 Size: 38.5 Liters
Designed for military use, the Hazard 4 Air Support has a bunch of features that will be useful for our purposes. Firstly they come with nice big wheels and a bumper reinforced back.
MOLLE attachment points adorn the front and side. This would enable us to add whatever pouches we please along the outside for organizational purposes.
I can see adding a scabbard to one side if desired. One could easily carry an axe where the compression straps connect by the buckles. You could also attach a backpack to the front side and use this to help carry it around as needed.
There are a couple of modifications I would make. Firstly I don't see the need for the long storage pouch along the top which serves as either a laptop bag or when reversed a scabbard. I would cut the pouch and resew it to make a smaller pocket.
I also am always afraid of pull out handles. I've had a few roller boards break where the handle meets the extending arms. Perhaps they could be reinforced in someway where they meet.
A bag we don't have direct experience with but is on our wish list is the Lowe Alpine AT Wheelie 60L for a handful of reasons:
First, it's both a rolling bag and a backpack! You get the best of both worlds, although I would dare to say that those straps don't look terribly comfortable for long-term use. They can be removed if not needed.
Typical Price: $325 Size: 60 Liters
Secondly I really like the wheels and handle. Those wheels look like they are fairly rugged and able to traverse different terrain types. Most importantly the handle looks really usable and durable, good for both pulling and pushing. The fabric of the pack itself looks somewhat water repellent, although not as tough as 1000D cordura would be.
The downside? The price. Floating somewhere around $325 this isn't the least expensive option in the world by a long shot. So chalk this one up to "one day."
No list on BOBB would be complete without an entry from 5.11, one of our favorite suppliers.
Typical Price: $275 Size: 90 Liters
The wheels on the will Mission Ready 3.0 handle up to 150 lbs. Moisture and weather-resistant. Skid rails for support and load displacement and fiberglass rod in the side panels. Replaceable heavy duty wheels, wheel housing, skid rails, corner protectors and U feet.
Main Compartment - 28.75"H x 16.0"L x 12.25"D
Total Capacity - 5514 cubic inches / 90 Liters
Weight - 16.09 lbs
Typical Price: $375 Size: XX-Large - 128 Liters
Pros: A high volume duffel bag with low-profile compression. The duffel is easily removable from its light aluminum frame. Comes with heavy duty, large diameter, off-road wheels. Built of double-layer, 1000D CORDURA with Teflon and PU coatings. 34.5”L x 19.5”W x 15”H - Weight - 9.8 Lbs.
Cons: Less organizing options than other options.
Folding Hand Trucks
One compact solution that is fairly versatile is a folding hand truck or cart. Many of them can carry up to 150 lbs.
You could strap a couple of backpacks to one with strong bungee cord and keep it packed away in a vehicle when not being used.
Amazon has a handful of them for under $30. There don't appear to be any made with all-terrain tires that we could find, but perhaps someone is making them.
Either way this would be helpful on paved surfaces. There are heavy duty and compact models available.
Bit of Both: Backpack + Wheeled Pack
Having a little bit of everything is probably going to be the best case scenario.
Equip a backpack with your most important gear, and try to keep it around 20 pounds. Put the rest of what you want to bring in a wheeled something or other. If you need to ditch your wheeled bag at least you have the pack on you to give you a backup.
The backpack will probably be faster to get into for small items and is probably also the best place to carry the water you are drinking at the time.