8 Common Bug Out Bag Mistakes That You Must Avoid

Written by Guest Author, Peter Betts of The Survival Hacks

The bug out bag is basically a portable kit that contains all the necessary items that a person would need to stay alive for at least 72 hours. It’s a bag of items that is aimed to help you stay alive when you are required to bug out.

Most preppers often make the mistake of delving too much into their escape plan without giving much time to developing their bug out bag basics. ‘Bug out bag basics’ include developing basic bug-out skills such as building a survival fire and understanding what are the basic items you need to carry for a bug-out scenario.

Although the ultimate aim of having a bug out bag is to ensure your survival, you shouldn’t pack the bag until it gets as heavy as a stone.

Before looking into the bug out bag mistakes, let’s consider the aim of having a bug out backpack.

Why should you have a bug out bag?

Generally, the bug-out bag is a survival kit that is made to get you through a bug-out situation and help to keep you alive at least for 72 hours. The tools in the bag are meant to give you an upper hand when disaster strikes.

A good bug out bag will save time when seconds count during those crucial moments. If you have your go-bag ready, you can grab your pre-packed bagpack and evacuate immediately. This allows you to focus all your time, energy, and attention on getting to safety.

8 of the Most Common Bug Out Bag Mistakes

After understanding the reasons why you should have a bug out bag, let’s look at how people make mistakes that render

Mistake #1 – Selecting the Wrong Bug Out Bag

Most people agree that the ideal situation is to spend less but to get the most out of things. However, spending a reasonable amount of money and TIME for safety is definitely worth it.

If you carelessly choose your bug out bag, you will likely pick a bag that is not suitable for your personal needs. Your bag may be too heavy, have too little room for necessities, or the overall appearance may be unsuitable.

Getting a bag that is inadequate will reduce your chances of survival in a bug out situation. To find out which is the best bug out bag for your needs, I would recommend reading this article. After reading a proper review for each bag, you will get a better idea of which bag can fit your needs by evaluating the design, construction material, and cost.

You may want to check out 8 Best Bug Out Bag to Get in 2019 (Review) at TheSurvivalHacks.com

Bug Out Bag Weight

The bug out bag should be designed for you. It must not be too heavy. A good rule is that the bag should not weigh more than 25% of your body weight.

Here are some tips to help you avoid making the mistake of building a bug out bag that is too heavy for you to carry.

Stick to the Essentials

In a bug out scenario, the essential items are often summarized as The 5 C’s of Survivability Rule:

  1. Cutting (knife)
  2. Combustion (fire)
  3. Cordage (paracord)
  4. Container (water/filter)
  5. Cover (shelter)

I’ll elaborate on each of these later in the post.

Extreme Weather Clothing

Be prepared to brave extreme weather conditions if you live in a climate that has the possibility of dangerously harsh weather. Pack appropriate clothing and shelter designed specifically for the weather you may face.

Understand How Much You Can Physically Carry

Decide whether the bug out bag is meant to carry 24 hours of supply, 48 hours of supply or 72 hours of supply. Generally, for a 72-hour bug out bag, the volume of the bag is 40 litres or 2,500 cubic inches for an adult.

Remember to be flexible too. If you are bugging out with your family members, you can share the load with other family members and carry fewer items (or more if you are well-built).

Buy your bagpack only after thoroughly trying it out.

Although reviews are meant to help you choose the most suitable bug out bag, I would highly recommend that you thoroughly try out the backpack first before purchasing.

You can try them out by visiting a local sporting goods store. Just get a salesperson to get you a bag after you explained your requirements clearly.

When evaluating the bag, it is a good idea to place weights into the bag and walk around with it for a while. You can ask the store assistant to give you some bean bags so that you can simulate a bug-out situation.

If you have the luxury of time, you can carry it around the store for 15 minutes to better evaluate the fit and see how you feel. If you carry it long enough, you will bound to find out whether the bag is a good one.

Mistake #2 – Purchasing a Bag that Does Not Blend In or That Stands Out

When you are bugging out, your goal should be to not look like you are prepared or well-supplied. It is better to blend with the crowd, carrying what people would normally carry (at least on the surface). If you get a bag with striking colors, you will tend to attract unnecessary attention.

Of course, the design of your backpack depends on your preference as well. You may like your bag to look tactical or camouflaged. If you like to keep your things organized, you may want to get a backpack with many pouches.

You can accommodate some of your preferences but it is more important that your bag blend in with your surroundings. Some types of bags may seem cool in certain locations, but outlandish in others.

Mistake #3 – Packing Unnecessary Equipment and Items

When your life hangs in the balance, it is vital that you ensure that everything you do would promote your survival. This means getting rid of unnecessary equipment and making yourself nimbler.

The 5 C’s of Survivability Rule

One rule of thumb is to follow when packing your bug out bag is to follow the 5C’s which are Cutting, Combustion, Cordage, Container and Cover.

Cutting (Knife)

It is a good idea to store a boot knife. A knife is important because it’s essential for self-defense and for tactical reasons. Tactical reasons would include creating a survival fire or even digging a hole.

If you are short on space, you can pack multi-tools that contain saw, scissors and knife in one device.

Combustion (Fire)

I would recommend that you bring portable stoves and lighters. Portable stoves enable you to cook food and boil water, making them consumable. For lighters, you can use gas lighters or Ferro rods to promote combustion.

Cordage (Paracord)

I suggest getting the 550 paracord because they are the handiest. With a paracord, you can use it in many different ways such as making a paracord hammock or even setting up a tent.

Container (Water/Filter)

You must carry a container for storing clean drinking water or food. Besides food and water that you can immediately consume, a portable water filter is a valuable tool.

Cover (Shelter)

Shelter is a critical piece of equipment. You must have the ability to protect yourself from extreme weather. Appropriate clothing is a necessity as well. Make that you plan for an outer, mid, and inner-layer of clothing.

Generally, your bag should not be more than one-third of your total weight. This rule is important because people tend to overpack. This is another reason why you should plan your bug out bag contents and avoid packing unnecessary items.

Carrying an overweight backpack is also bad for your back. Imagine carrying a bag weighing 40 pounds for a few kilometres, which would give you an uneasy feeling.

Remember to give a lot of thought as to what items you need to carry in your bag. You should always question yourself on whether that item is really necessary to help you survive.

A great resource with a list of potential items can be found at Bug Out Bag List Made Simple– Essential Items You Need to Survive.

Mistake #4 – Packing Too Little Food or Water

One fatal mistake is packing too little food or water, especially when your surroundings have limited food and water resource.


It is customary that every prepper should pack at least one gallon of water for an adult per day. Unless you are very sure that there will be water supply along the route to your bug out location, one gallon per day is a must.

Other tips include using collapsible water bottles so that you can have more storage. Remember to include a proper water purification system so that you can filter water when the need arises.


A recommended ration of 3500 calories is a minimum for a medium-sized adult expending a fair amount of activity. The food you choose should give you enough energy to help keep your body going. I recommend getting energy bars or backpack meals because they tend to pack more calories.

Mistake #5 – Forgetting Important Documents

When you leave your home, there are certain documents that you must take with you. These documents should also be brought along when you are bugging out.

I thought it would be helpful to list out the important documents that you need to consider packing:

Personal Documents

(a) Passports
(b) Homeowner’s insurance policy
(c) Vehicle (or motorcycle) title
(d) Insurance policy
(e) Driver’s license
(f) Personal ID
(g) Copies of your credit cards
(h) List of important phone numbers
(i) Medical card

Legal Documents

(a) Original Will
(b) Revocable Trust Document
(c) Documentation for land ownership (or Land Title)

Identification documents are vital for government authorities to verify your nationality. It helps them decide whether they should give you protection.

Even if you lost your wallet along the way, you can furnish your identification documents to the authorities so that it’s much easier for them to assist you.

The medical card is important especially if you want to go to a medical checkup right after bugging out. With one glance, the doctor can read your medical history and prescribe suitable drugs and treatment.

Mistake #5 – Lack of Hands-On Training

As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. One cannot deny that bugging out successfully would require a lot of skill, such as building a survival fire, building a proper survival shelter and even knowing how to filter water resource.

If your bag is filled with tools that you don’t know how to use, it would be a pointless endeavor. The items that you bring in your bug out bag has to be SIGNIFICANT for your survival. The only way the item can prove to be significant is only when you know how to use them properly.

I recommend making the on-hands training fun, so it does not feel like a chore. For example, you can plan a weekly camping trip to the woods with your family. If your kids find it fun, they will learn the skills much faster too.

Do bear in mind that the aim of these practice sessions is to familiarize the gears you have in your bug out bag. If you have the skills to use the items you have effectively, your chances of survival will increase dramatically.

Mistake #7 – Failing to Pack Supplies to Repair the Bug Out Bag

Most people make the mistake of finding out later that their bug out bag is not as durable after all. Most people assume that they would only need to carry their backpack or 72 hours before going back to their comfy home. The bag must withstand constant pressure for at least 3 days and it should be able to take a toll further than that.

To solve this conundrum, I suggest that you bring a sewing kit in your bag so that you can repair your bag when the need arises. Although it would be great to have a speedy stitcher sewing awl, a needle and some thread would work fine as well.

Even if your bag is durable, I would still recommend that you bring a sewing kit with you. During a bug out situation, you are forced to go through various obstacles which may require you to fix your bag or repair something else.

This is vital because you NEED a bag to carry all your supplies. If you have packed all the necessary supplies, you don’t want to just leave them behind just because you can’t carry them.

Another tip to bear in mind is to protect your backpack really carefully. Since your bag contains all the essential supplies, it would only make sense if you protect your bag really carefully.

You can even constantly check the quality of the sewing, check how the inner shell of the bag is doing and whether any water has leaked into the bag. You have to do your due diligence to ensure that your bag and the items inside it are safe.

Mistake #8 – No Proper First Aid Kit or Medical Supplies

When you are deprived of water and electricity supply, chances are you will also be deprived of proper hygiene and health. Also, since you are exposing your body to the outside filth, you tend to come into contact with viruses and bacteria.

I highly recommend that you prepare for hygiene-related sicknesses such as vomiting or diarrhea. I recommend packing something for mobility injuries too.

To overcome this problem, you need to prepare all the necessary first aid and medicine.

Some important first aid items you can consider include tourniquets, roller bandage, and antibiotic wound ointment. Antiseptic wipes would be important to help get rid of bacteria when there is an injury.

Some over-the-counter medicines which you can consider would be ibuprofen, aspirin, Immodium, throat lozenges, Bismuth Tabs and cranberry extract.


After going through the 8 common bug out bag mistakes, I hope that it is sufficient to inspire you to take action. Another resource you may want to look at is Comprehensive Guide for Bugging Out Survival.

All of these mistakes are made mainly because you have not given enough thought in understanding what a bug out scenario might be like.

Giving enough thought would include knowing which item to use in which situation, how to use each item and how exactly each item can help you reach from point A to your bug out location.

Any prepper can build a bug out bag but what distinguishes the men from the boys is the amount of effort and thought put into building it. Everything you put in your bag should be deliberate and not compulsive.

Written by Peter Betts from TheSurvivalHacks.com

I have been an active prepper since 2016. Although it’s only been a few years, I have learned a lot along the way. I have spent hours reading before purchasing gear. Also, I have spent hours practicing survival skills such as building a lean-to shelter or getting an A-Frame fire kindling.

Before my venture into prepping, I was in the military. This means that learning survival skills and getting the best survival gears are part and parcel of my job. If we did not cultivate these skills properly, it may cost us our life.

However, I wanted a life which gives me more free time. That is when I decided to retire from the military after my contracted period. I blog in order to share the information I have learned to help everyone get prepared.

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