At some point in your journey to assemble a bug out bag, you’ll need to begin thinking about organizing the various tools it contains. Throwing all your equipment in the bag as you would a hastily packed overnight bag courts disaster. Items will break, complementary sets will become separated and you won’t be able to find anything quickly.
Instead, the best way to organize the items in your bug out bag (which has been hinted at in previous chapters) is to pack similar items together in smaller modules. Then, you can decide on an organizational structure for all of the various modules.
There are few rules regarding the proper way to organize your bag, but there are certainly principles and strategies that generally prove effective. We’ll discuss some of these concepts below and provide some general tips for keeping your gear organized. However, you should always feel free to alter or tweak these recommendations to suit your particular needs.
There are a variety of different container types that you can use to contain individual modules. No style is perfect, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll need to carefully consider your needs when making a decision.
Organizational sacks come in a variety of forms. The simplest are little more than a nylon bag with a drawstring closure, while other types feature internal compartments and zippered closures. The very best organizational sacks include straps and pockets that will prevent the individual items from spilling out in the case of an accident.
Organizational sacks are typically best suited for modules that contain a number of small items, such as first-aid kits and toolkits. However, you could also use them for storing food, navigational tools or other tools and supplies.
Three of the leading organizational sack manufacturers include:
Many organizational sacks and other containers claim to be water-proof, but you’d be wise to view such claims skeptically. All it takes is a bit of moisture to ruin your GPS, cell phone or matches. But true waterproof bags will keep your gear dry even if completely submerged for a length of time.
You’ll obviously want to obtain a few good waterproof bags for protecting your most delicate and important items, but some survivalists will elect to use them for each and every module.
Three of the leading manufacturers of waterproof bags include:
Compression bags are used to carry flexible, pliable items, such as clothing or bedding materials. Once inserted in the bag, you’ll be able to compress the contents by tightening a belt, strap or drawstring. Because of the space-savings they provide, compression bags are very helpful for those assembling a bug out bag.
Compression bags also provide an important creature comfort, as they often make good pillows at night. Although comfort is not a survival necessity, you’ll want to do everything humanly possible to get a good night’s sleep in a survival situation, so this value shouldn’t be underestimated.
A few of the leading manufacturers of compression bags include:
Hard-shelled cases, which are typically made of either plastic or metal, are great for storing fragile items. These types of cases weigh much more than fabric or plastic bags do, so you’ll want to use them selectively, but they are invaluable for some of your survival modules.
Note that you may want to mix-and-match various container styles when organizing your gear. You may, for example, decide to go with a soft-sided, brightly colored bag for your first-aid equipment, and a hard-shelled black case for your communication supplies.
Now that you have your various modules packed neatly in their individual containers or bags, you’ll need to determine how to place them in your bug out bag. Here again, there are few hard-and-fast rules regarding organization, but you’ll want to embrace a few common-sense concepts.
Most of your bag-packing decisions will be dictated by the design and size of your bag, as well as the types of containers you select for the individual modules. Accordingly, you’ll have to blaze your own trail while devising a packing plan, but you should keep the following suggestions in mind while doing so:
- Place the heaviest items near the center of your back when using a backpack-style bag. This is the most efficient place to carry the weight and by keeping these items close to your back, you’ll reduce the tendency of your pack to swing from side to side as you walk.
- Always keep frequently used modules in easy-to-reach locations. You don’t want to be forced to put your bag on the ground and dig down to the bottom and pull out your navigational module every time you need to verify a course heading. Instead, keep these types of items in places that are easy to access. If your backpack or bug out bag has small, exterior pockets, consider using them for these frequently needed modules.
- Keep emergency items in a well-defined place, which you can find quickly (even in the dark). You always want to store your first-aid kit, at least one flashlight and any self-defense items you are carrying in places that you can find at a moment’s notice – even if you find yourself in a difficult, dark or dangerous situation. As with frequently used items, external pockets make good locations for these tools and supplies.
- Don’t be afraid to pack some items directly in your bag, instead of a module container. Some items will not lend themselves to being packed into an individual module. For example, you don’t want to put your water bottle in with your food module, as this would create a headache every time you want a sip of water. Very large items – including things like shovels, crowbars or hatchets – may also be better left loose in your bag.
- Always try to select bug out bags that feature organizational straps. Many manufacturers produce excellent bug out bags that feature molle attachments or hook-and-loop (Velcro) straps, which will help keep your gear organized. Many bags include these straps on the outside of the bags, but the very best models also provide interior straps as well.
- Be cognizant of the sound your bag will make while walking. Whether because you are trying to avoid the attention of hostile people or sneak up on a tasty animal, you may often find it desirable in a survival situation to maintain a low-profile. In such cases, you’ll be glad you took the time to separate hard items with a bit of padding. In fact, you’ll want to reduce or eliminate any movement by the items in your pack as much as is possible to help keep your bag quiet.
- Place a list on each survival indicating the supplies located inside. This will help you save time when looking for items – especially when said item could be located in several different places. These lists will also make it easier to keep your modules fully stocked. It is also a good idea to create a master list, which you can store somewhere in your bug out bag. Take the time to have the lists laminated to ensure they won’t become ruined if you’re caught in the rain.
- It is always wise to carry a few extra organizational sacks or compression bags in your bug out bag. You may face a variety of challenges in a survival situation, and some may require you to split up some of your equipment or carry new items. A few extra organizational bags will make this easier, and the additional weight they represent is negligible.