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How Much Is Too Much Bug-out Gear?

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A lot of people prepare for disaster without considering the practicality of their plans. Some people pack everything they can into the biggest bag they can find and then go searching for more to put in it. But how do you handle so much bug-out gear?

In Jason Hanson’s recent article on first aid items to have on hand, David Friedman asked for some suggestions. He says “I have a 72-hour bug out bag. It weighs too much. The problem is that there are many scenarios in my region (Israel) where one would be outdoors, in dangerous conditions, for way over 72 hours.”

Attack in Israel demonstrates the need for bug-out gear

Mr. Friedman goes on to say that his pack is too heavy and asks for suggestions on how to lighten it.

I won’t list all of the bug-out gear that Mr. Friedman listed, but we’ll look at what we can do to cut his weight and be more maneuverable.

Do you need all that bug-out gear?

I don’t know exactly where you are in Israel, Mr. Friedman. So I’m going to use Tel Aviv as a general weather indicator. The average low in Tel Aviv is 10.2 (C) in the coldest month. That’s about 50F for our American audience. The record low is 2.5C (36F). I know all too well how cold that can be when the temperature drops suddenly, but it’s not deadly cold if you have just a little protection.

You mention that you have both an emergency heat blanket and a sleeping bag. Maybe you can dump the sleeping bag and replace it with something like a poncho liner to add a little insulation and comfort. You might be surprised at how well it works in conjunction with an emergency blanket or poncho.

Another thing that catches my attention is “a mess kit”. I don’t know what that includes, but I’ve lived with a canteen cup as my only cooking tool for weeks at a time. It won’t make a gourmet dish, but it’ll cook rice and soups nicely.

The final thing that really catches my eye is the duct tape. A whole roll of duct tape can be heavy and take up a lot of space. Space can significantly affect how effectively you carry the load. What we used to do in the Army was find another item that we would carry with us. This might be a pen or a canteen cup. We would wrap about 20 feet of 100-MPH (Mile Per Hour) Tape, very similar to duct tape, around that item. This way you don’t need to keep the whole bulky role, but you have enough for when you need it.

Can you cross-load?

Cross-loading is a great way to keep those potentially valuable items on-hand without weighing everyone down. In a U.S. Army Fire Team, each man will have one bandage. The team’s designated Combat Life Saver will carry the extra medical supplies for the team.

You mentioned that your wife carries generally the same stuff. Again, I don’t know your daily routine, or your bug-out plan, so this may not work for you. However, if you and your wife generally stay pretty close by, you can set up consolidation points and make sure that you meet up if you have to bug-out.

If you have a plan that includes traveling together, you can cross-load gear. Essentially, break down the items that you think will work for both of you and share the responsibility.

Do you really need two complete first-aid kits? Or will one work for the team?

You can take this to the extreme if you need to. In Afghanistan, we would designate one person per team to carry toilet paper and only have one tube of toothpaste per team. Do you need to go this far? That’s up to you.

How about caching?

Your actual bug-out plan can have a huge impact on your packing list. If you can store some of your bug-out gear at your bug-out location, you can cut a lot of it out of your bag.

One thing you can certainly offload is food. While you may want to have some jerky or other snacks to get you where you are going, you can still cache the majority of your food items.

That sleeping bag can also be cached somewhere. Or a handful of blankets can be stuffed in a bag somewhere.

Caching can be difficult because it requires a good understanding of your environment as well as a solid threat assessment. You need to have multiple cache points and plans to get to those caches based on the threat that is causing you to bug-out. But it is an option.

Can you increase your mobility?

Not long ago I wrote an article about using donkeys in Afghanistan. I’m guessing donkeys are probably out of the question. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find some way to offload that gear.

One of the most highly over-looked survival tools, in my opinion, is a bicycle. It doesn’t require any fuel. If it gets stuck you can just pick it up. Is it perfect? No, but it sure beats walking and can carry a lot of weight.

You may also want to consider a motorcycle or some other method of transportation. A while back, Jason Hanson wrote about survival motorcycles. If this is an option for you, you may want to take a look at some of the considerations he pointed out.

Bug-out Gear Infographic

Did I miss any ways to reduce the bug-out gear weight?

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or further thoughts. I’ve done my best to give some worthwhile ideas, but there are certainly more out there.


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  • Robert Schultz says:

    what would a infantryman carry into country in their ILBE when thier unit is frst into a unknow country ie: start of Afghanq(Desert Stroem) etc. I would think extra underwear socks MARPATS but what else ammo would be on the plat vest

    • Jason Crawford says:

      Hey Robert,

      I had to Google MARPATS. I was an Army Infantryman, so Marine Corps specific terms aren’t my strong point.

      So there is a “standard” combat load. This would consist of two canteens, 210 rds. 5.56 for a rifleman, a bandage, and whatever the unit’s standards are for additional items such as grenades or flashbangs. Then there would be items specific to individuals. This might include maps and compasses, 40mm grenades for grenadiers, radios for leaders, etc. This would be about it on the vest itself.

      Everything else would go into a rucksack or assault pack. This would include your spare socks, uniforms, food, and so on. I stopped wearing underwear under my uniform on my first major training exercise and I don’t know anyone else that wore them.

      Beyond that, everything depends on the mission and the environment. If it’s a cold environment, cold weather clothing. If it’s a hot one, maybe additional t-shirts and socks to keep you dry from the sweat. If you’re going to be on foot for long periods of time, you might pack claymore mines. There are just too many considerations to give an exact list.

      Prior to any mission, the leaders will get together and decide what needs to be packed based on their best understanding of the mission and the environment. The military is historically bad about making these “first-in” determinations, so we generally end up over-packing. But things tend to work themselves out as the soldiers get to know the environment and threats better.

      • vocalpatriot says:

        “The military is historically bad about making these “first-in” determinations, so we generally end up over-packing.”
        That says it all. Given the military is people, then the mistakes made would be made by civilians as well.
        My first..first in pack WAS way too heavy. The second time I was called saw my pack MUCH lighter…I ignored the standard packing suggestions and brought only what I knew I’d need.
        The point being: experience and a mindset of a spartan will do more for your pack weight than any advice found online..or even by the company commander.

        • Jason Crawford says:

          Hey VocalPatriot,

          Hopefully I’m providing good advice online. It’s hard to tell someone what to pack. They need to have the information available to make their own decisions, as you point out. That’s why I only ever say “you need these very basic things and the rest depends on your situation”. Hopefully, it’s helpful to people. I do see a lot of sites online giving specific packing lists. I also know that a lot of these sites are from armchair quarterbacks who’ve never done these sorts of things.

          Glad to have your input!

  • vocalpatriot says:

    Not a big fan of the caching idea…there is little security in the notion of relying on something needed that is not in to speak.
    This discussion about bugging out is based on the premise that it will be on foot, which I strongly oppose if possible, so…
    Cross loading works especially well with larger groups, The key would be to have a smaller, faster and more mobile group take point and clear the path as the larger portion of the group follow up with the bulk of the gear. That’s when carts and bike trailers begin to become very useful. Much of the bulky/heavy extras, like ammo and water can hauled on these. /

    • Jason Crawford says:

      Hey VocalPatriot,

      I’m not going to disagree with you, but I would like to point out a couple of things.

      First, with regards to the caching, I only recommended that additional resources be cached. These shouldn’t be, and weren’t in the post, absolute necessities. Fore example, I recommended stuffing a sleeping bag or extra blankets in a cache. Maybe I should have been clearer, but that’s in addition to my recommendation of the emergency blanket and poncho liner to be carried. The emergency blanket and poncho liner are enough to keep you alive. The extra blankets are comfort items. At least given the scenario I was presented with. That would change in northern Canada.

      The other thing is that I completely agree that going in a vehicle should always be your first option. Again, the question presented by Mr. Friedman was about bugging out in a situation where you can’t have your vehicles. Whenever possible using a vehicle is the best option. But it’s not a bad idea to have a foot plan and practice it as well.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  • Aceontheline says:

    Very good article and much appreciated!!

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