The key to prepping an effective emergency Bug Out Bag or any other survival kit 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 quickly and efficiently (even in the dark) without spilling the whole thing open or rummaging endlessly.
Items should be grouped together by function into kits: a fire making kit, a sleep kit, cooking kit, etc.
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 might find that your needs have changed, and that those snack-bars on the bottom of your emergency bag have gotten old!
Organize Inside Your Emergency Kit
Think "compartmentalization" when you think about how to organize bags.
For our case it means having smaller sacks inside your pack so that you can use to group items together by usage.
If you are using a backpack or a common suitcase there wont be something like a bag organizer insert system to keep your stuff organized.
Having sacks in different colors helps you figure out which is which and what's inside, or use clear plastic bags like Ziploc bags so you can see right in there (and keep the contents waterproof as well.)
You can also get compression sacks: great for clothing and sleeping bags, they pack the items down as to take up less space.
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Basic Packing Cubes
Typical Price: $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 compared to the amount of time they save.
Sea to Summit Compression Dry Sacks
Price: $33 - $53
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 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.
Magpul Daka Pouches
Price: $20 - $40
Read our review here. These are the coolest pouches and small wallets 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!
If you have ever been on a long backpacking trip you know what having too much weight on your back can do to your mobility and stamina.
This is especially true with a survival kit, given the fact that most people are not training to carry lots of weight for extended periods of time.
Even a 20 lb backpack can become difficult even just after a few minutes for many of you.
So if you can afford to pay a little bit more get the ultralight options of any kit you carry.
Osprey Ultralight Pack Organization
Osprey makes some of the best camping gear on the planet, hands down. Their organizing packs and travel essentials are no exception. Durable, ultra-light, huge variety of styles, and color coded so you can organize exactly the way you want to. Free shipping and returns on almost all items.
Organize Outside Your Emergency Kit
There's a zillion different options available for you to add organizational tools to the outside of your bag.
The advantages of doing so is to have quick and easy access to those things you use frequently, and to expand the capacity of your overall kit.
Don't go overboard! You still want to be able to move...
Most camping style backpacks have a few loops on them you can hang stuff on.
The military inspired bags usually have MOLLE.
If you have a military styled pack, or one that borrows elements from them, then you might find it has MOLLE system (pronounced "molly".)
Here's what it looks like on the outside of the 5.11 Rush 24.
5.11 has a good explainer on it, but for brevity's sake we'll just say that they allow you to attach things securely to the outside (or inside) of your pack fairly easily in a semi-permanent way.
Here's a video which walks you through the attachment process you should give a quick watch, it requires a little bit of finesse.
You can also use MOLLE off-pack as well. You can DIY a wall or vehicle mounted MOLLE organizer, or purchase a pre-cut kit.
I've seen them made out of metal shelving units mounted flush to a wall, and I've seen them made out of strips of wood and thin PVC.
5.11 HEXGRID System
5.11 has improved upon the traditional MOLLE system with their unique HEXGRID mounting system. It uses your standard MOLLE pouches, but allows you to mount them at an angle as well as the traditional vertical orientation.
They've incorporated this system into bags, vests and into a panel you can mount on a seat. It's also covered in hook and loop (aka velcro) so you can attach all manner of items on it. Pretty cool concept.
Vehicle Ready Hexgrid® Seat
The HEXGRID Seat is a vehicle ready seat panel multi-angle load bearing platform for accessory arrangement and modular pouch management. The panel features a full loop face and provides placement for an assortment of hook and loop and Gear Set™ attachments.
Best MOLLE Attachments & Pouches
Here are a few of our favorite styles of pouches, and ones that we have found the most useful over the years.
3V Gear MOLLE Pouches
Typical Price: $6 - $15
3V Gear makes a large variety of MOLLE compatible pouches at very reasonable prices. They are made from 600 Denier PVC with backed polyester construction for waterproofing. A cost-effective way to start adding space to the outside of your kits.
5.11 6 x 6 Pouch
Typical Price: $25
Lightweight and water-resistant. This is a good durable general use pouch that you can stuff all manner of items into. 6" H x 6" W x 3" D
Condor EMT Pouch
This is a basic and inexpensive pouch which you can add on to the outside of your bags for quick access. Holds a bunch of stuff, can be used as a great first aid kit. 7" H x 5" W x 2 1/2" D.
Condor H2O Pouch
Typical Price: $17
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.
MOLLE Smartphone Holster
We have one of these on the outside of each of our emergency backpacks so we can have quick and easy access to our cell phones. Fits large phones like iPhone X Max (snugly, wouldn't go bigger than that.) You can pass a 90 degree charging cable through the bottom and route to a backup battery.
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 but not perfect.
If its really warm outside that poncho is going to get hot and sweaty.
There is plenty of room for the water to blow in from underneath and you and your pack could 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 wet, even with good ponchos on.
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. Make sure to get the right sized one for your bag.
aLOKSAK Water & Sand Proof Dry Bags
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.
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 easy 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)
Price: $12 - $14
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 but that's just not as fancy.
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 Web Dominators 4 Pack
These are must have items, very useful. You can wrap up any extra slack from your shoulder straps or any other straps on your bag. You can also use them to hold down all kinds of items to the outside of your kit.