Bugout bags are one area where the “overstocking” mentality of the average prepper can actually present a problem. After all, preppers tend to be known for buying extra food, water, gear, and just about anything else they need when it comes to stocking their retreat. When you consider what you’d actually want to put on your back and lug around for days on end though, a little bit of restraint might help keep you from snapping your spine on day two. This is particularly important when you consider that the average person does not hike around with a backpack on a regular basis, meaning that your body is going to have to get used to “bugging out” rather suddenly. Since you’re unlikely to be used to carrying so much with you all the time, it is in your best interest to minimize the weight and slough off all the unnecessary gear. Let’s look and see what you can do to shed some pounds from your bugout pack.
The key principles for eliminating items from your pack
The most obvious way to minimize weight is to get rid of unneeded items, but unless you have actively practiced with it you might wonder what constitutes a true need rather than an optional convenience. Here are some tips to help you eliminate the dead weight:
- Make sure the food matches the time you need to survive on the road. Generally speaking most bugout bags are designed to last for a specific amount of time. 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, whatever the time is make sure your food supplies fit that time limit. For example, a very short-term pack might be better served lessening weight and only include a few lightweight energy bars rather than heavy MREs or freeze-dried foods. Even 2 weeks worth of food could be much lighter if you only included a couple full high-calorie meals interspersed with lighter stuff for the majority or your journey.
- Only pack a water filter if there is a water source you could use. Remember, generally speaking bugout bags are designed to give you time to get from point A to your retreat or supply cache and not a means of surviving indefinitely. As such, unless there is a water source you could reasonably access during a disaster situation why carry a water filter that will only weigh you down and never be used?
- Consider minimizing water if you have plenty of water to filter. On the flipside, if there are small lakes, rivers, streams etc crisscrossing the area you’ll be travelling on try to avoid carting around a boatload of water and rely on your filter instead with just a bottle or two to tide you over.
- Have changes of socks and underwear, but be ready to suck it up and wear dirty clothes for a bit. Socks and underwear need to be changed frequently to avoid fungal infections, blisters and chafing, etc. but wearing a dirty shirt for a few extra days isn’t really going to hurt you much. This is particularly important during winter months where having an extra sweater and insulated pants could add multiple pounds of weight to your pack.
- If packing weapons or ammunition, remember that you aren’t trying to get into massive firefights. A single box of 50 rounds could be more than enough for short trips unless you plan on getting into firefights away from home and lacking adequate medical attention.
- Anything you question should be weighed to give you an accurate idea of what you’re carrying. Obviously I can’t know everything you put in your pack or how useful they will be to you, but putting each item on a scale can put the harsh reality in front of your eyes pretty quickly.
Once you’ve eliminated the less-than-necessary items, you’ll be surprised at just how much weight you’ve reclaimed and how much space is now available in your pack! Of course, it’s only the beginning of the weight-loss plan…
Getting mean and lean by cutting even more dead weight
Of course now that you’re down to just the most necessary items you might be wondering what else could be removed to lessen your weight. Thankfully, there are still plenty of ways to lighten-up your pack! For example, although synthetic sleeping bags are typically easier to care for (particularly in moist conditions) down feather bags are quite a bit lighter while still offering a good deal of warmth. For those who pack tents, you may be better off using a simple tarp or other waterproof fabric to make a simple shelter using sticks or string to hold it up rather than a mess of heavy pegs and supporting poles.
For long-term packs that include eating utensils, cooking pots and the like, try to use titanium items since that metal is especially light. Rather than using stoves that require heavy fuel to run, if at all possible heat your food/boil water over an open fire. Finally, regardless of what you bring always look for ways to shorten or drill out useless weight. Even a fork could easily have several holes drilled through the handle to eliminate weight without making it much more fragile!
Ditching weight quickly once you’re in the field.
There are even strategies that you can use to lessen the weight you carry as you bug out. A common trick that many campers use is to eat the heaviest meals on the first day to get the maximum calorie benefit without needing to lug it around for days on end before eating. Likewise, if you can try to make a point of drinking a large part of your water if you know when you’ll get to a lake or stream that day so that you aren’t keeping around pristine bottles of water for no reason.
Cutting down on pack weight is a big deal for reducing energy use and ensuring that you make it to your destination alive. Take the time to examine your own bugout bag and see what you can do to slim down!
Any other tips for reducing the weight of a bugout bag? Let us know in the comments below!
This article first appeared at Prepared For That: Trimming the Fat: How to Reduce the Weight of Your Bugout Bag