Unlike the chicken versus egg debate, this one is a rather important consideration, particularly when you’re working on a bug out bag or get home bag. Yet, at the same time, it is something about which few people give serious thought.
I’ve witnessed this scene played out over and over again. A new (or new-ish) prepper decides to follow the advice they’ve seen countless times and assemble a bug out bag. They head to the sporting goods store and buy a large backpack, maybe even going so far as to have an employee show them how to make sure it fits properly.
Prepper gets home and starts filling the bag with their food, water purification gear, tools, and all the other common accouterments. Once everything is stored away, they see they have all sorts of empty space left. Well, that just won’t do! So, they add more and more stuff, filling each and every pouch in the pack.
By the time they’re done, the pack weighs about as much as their 4th grader and they can hardly lift it, let alone hike for any length of time while it is on their back. So, they begin the arduous task of culling, pulling out the things they don’t think they’ll truly need. Soon, they’re back where it started, with a pack that’s half full. Because of all the empty space, the large pack doesn’t sit quite right when they strap it on. Eventually, they either give up or they head back to the store to get a smaller bag and try it all over again.
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A Better Plan
A far better plan is to assemble all of your gear and supplies first, then look for a pack to contain it. Without at least some idea of what you’ll be carrying, how could you possibly choose the right size pack?
Don’t get me wrong, some amount of empty space in the bug out bag is desirable. If you end up in a true bug out situation, odds are pretty good you’ll be picking up odds and ends along the way, such as wild edibles, natural tinder, and who knows what else.
Here’s my suggestion: As I said, gather all your goodies first. Food, water, shelter, tools, first aid, navigation, hygiene, fire making supplies. Then, go pack shopping and find one that is just a touch too small to carry everything you have gathered. Why? Because I guarantee that once you’ve loaded that pack the first time and walked around with it for a few hours, you’ll dump it all out and search for things you can ditch to cut the weight.