Cutting your backpacks weight

When putting a Bugout Bag together one thing some survivalists fail to take into account is the weight of their pack. It’s tempting to fill your bag with loads of gear, but before you go stuffing it to the brink of exploding, you may want to take a couple of things into account.

  1. How much weight can you reasonably carry?
  2. Is the gear absolutely essential to your survival?
  3. Is there a lighter alternative?
  4. Can your gear be used for multiple tasks?

Before the SHTF

  • Go on a trial run – Don’t let an emergency be the first time you carry your pack. Put yourself through a realistic test and see how long you can comfortably carry your bag at full weight.
  • Start with the Pack – If you really want to lower your weight don’t buy a monster backpack. Realistically,  you probably don’t need a huge pack with monster metal supports. Look for an ultra-lite pack. The newer packs are made with lightweight materials that hold up just as long as the older ones, and can carry more weight comfortably than their older heavier counterpart.
  • Multiple uses. How much of your equipment can be used for multiple tasks? Try to choose gear that can be used for multiple purposes.
  • Take an inventory of your gear, it all Adds up – It might sound a little bit crazy but a good way of calculating your weight is with a computer spreadsheet and a postal scale. Seeing everything on the screen will help you evaluate what you can and can’t get rid of.
Shirts of Liberty
The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide


  1. I have a couple military issue ALICE Pack Medium with frames… I know there are lots of better choices out there, but I have grown accustomed to these things and know them inside out – equipment familiarity (use, repair, capacities, etc.) was the trade-off for me. I went with something I knew.

  2. I think the larger the backpack across your back and body, the more spread out the weight is, which makes it easier to carry. Though I haven’t done any serious backpacking since I was a teenager. We have our emergency bug out bags, but we live semi-countryish, so hopefully we would be able to stay in our home.

  3. This is a really good point. Also, be realistic about what your kids can carry and have a backup plan to carry their packs when they’re wiped out.

  4. Good suggestions – weight is something that I am always thinking about. I have several smaller “bug out” or “get me home” bags and every item that I place in it – I ask the same question: Is there a lighter and smaller alternative.

    One thing I really need to do is go on a trial hike with one of my packs. I figure I will throw one on and walk around the nighborhood a couple times an give everyone somethingg to talk about.

    Take care –


  5. Everyone should try their pack out in real world condItions.grab a fishing pole and take your bob on a trial run for a couple of days.this will let you know what you really need and don’t line and hooks can feed you very well.and oh a hook and line wwill catch birds and animals as well as fish!!!

  6. also keep in mind the ultra-light hiking mantra cut it if u don’t need it meaning you will be amazed at how much wieght u can cut from gear/packs by removing tags,unused straps and stings,zipper pulls excess strap when pack is fitted properly cut off 1/2 pound on a pack by doing just that

  7. Mid carrier in the USMC, I hiked from the rim of the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch (bottom and back – 8000 feet or so). I started with about a 60-70lb pack, not incl water. I was in the best shape of my life and it about wasted me! I was about crippled for about a week and didn’t fully recover for about two. Get rid of excess weight. You will burn huge amounts of energy, dehydrate quickly and risk potential injury hauling around a bunch of stuff you probably do not need.

  8. I’d like to expand on Curtis’ comments. I think everyone should go on several practice runs with everytone they’re going to take with them. The last thing you want to do is gather everyone up and leave only to find out that noone else is mentally prepared. It’s one thing to say you’re ready…it’s another to prove it. I have several excursions planned this year to take my wife out into the woods and teach her survival skills. And most importantly…don’t plan them during only the “nice weather” times…go as often as you can…especially when the weather is not so nice. The first time I did overnights in the freezing rain, I learned how hard it is to keep morale up.

  9. I’ve got the Med. Alice as well. I have it hung on the wall in my bed room. With it being there it seem to be gathering more and more items I may need in a survival situation, it has to be over 50 lbs. by now!
    I’m planing a “Bug Out” trip this week! We shall see!

  10. I think a good way to go if you’re having trouble cutting weight is modular. I don’t own anything bigger then a large school type backpack. I decided to go with 3 bags I already own for now, instead of waiting til I could afford bigger ones. So I have a large fanny pack with 2 water bottle pouches that I consider absolutely essential stuff. In a bug out scenario it would never come off. Then the backpack with clothing, more food and water, and back up/bigger versions of the fanny pack stuff. Then I have the medium sized sports duffle with a shoulder strap. I have mostly “comfort” gear in here. Stuff mostly for making camp a happier, and cleaner place to be. If I have to walk for any length of time I can drop a less essential bag fast without having to worry about if I still have all the necessities for survival.

  11. I have been wondering this myself. And i guess the load out is really up to the weather in some ways. If there are three feet of snow outside, you will need warming layers, and extra food (you burn about 50% more calories in a cold weather environment than you do in a warm one, at least that was what they told me in cold weather training in the Marines). Also how much you take depends on what your situation is. If you have infants, you need infant things (diapers, bottles, etc.) which is going to add weight. i agree with multi use items, they save weight, and space. I try and find multi use anything, and if their is no multi use equivalent, than i get the smallest most compact version i can find. Materials that your items are made of can make an impact as well. Alkaline batteries are heavier than Lithium, and the lithium’s generally last longer (at least in my experience.) Good points brought up by all. enjoy this sight, keep it coming.

  12. Alot of great suggestions,But Natives of this land (before all came)went real light.Look at native (or if the word works)”primitive” peoples who still live in the old ways.Light means fast =survival.REALLY cut down multipal things to high quality multi tasking items.Really focus on “what you can make “when you need it”Your pack is your “House” don’t fill it with stuff you wont use on a regular bases.In a nut shell keep items simple.Keep the pac light and fill the head with “Knowlage of skills and crafts”.If you Have family distibute NEEDED items,IE survival tools or the most important items.No duplicates. This could go on forever with lists and sugestions.The fact your here means your already ahead in the Idea’s of ‘Being prepard”I don’t use survival becuase life already is a survival

  13. I too am prior service military…U.S. Army trained. I can remember those long 14 mile forced marches with full battle rattle. Carrying around 90-130lbs total. I still have my CFP-90 Main Backpack. Its a monster but has room enough for all. I will use this as my BOB. I like this bag for one good reason. It has a compartment for the 4 part sleep system we use in the service. Those Sleeping bags are better then anything i have come across yet. Plus i have a send sleeping bag for my son. It just as warm as the military version but doesnt have a gortex bivvy cover(plan on purchasing one for him). Other then that i have went back and forth on what to pack trying to find the lightest or multi-use tools to bring down what I carry. Its comes down to what you’ll need. i decided to keep the larger pack as I have a 7 year old and will need the extra room to carry his things too. He has my old Alice pack but its not heavy and has mostly comfort stuff for him in it. things like a few books, a stuffed animal, a few matchbox cars, A flashlight, a whistle, a fleece cars blanket, and some snacks. It also has 2 quart canteens for water. As he gets older and stronger I will add more for him to help carry what we need.
    I have read so many of these with guys spouting off about how they have 4 guns (rifle,shotgun, and 2 pistols) along with 800 rounds for all…i ask this. Do you store all that next to your one can of food and 20oz bottle of water? lol A smart man if seeing danger would avoid it all together or go around. If you get into a gun fight and need 700-800 rounds your in deep shit! a smart man would be invisible and stay as far away from others that might pose a threat as possible. I know I would! What happens to my son if i get killed in a completely avoidable altercation?

  14. Your pack should never be more then a quarter of your body weight, if you’re in good shape. Less if you’re not. Don’t strap it on your back, walk around the block and tell yourself you can handle it! After 5 miles that 50 pounds might as well be 200! It’s better to have only a few essentials then to have it all and be unable to continue from exhaustion! I’m 6’10” 250lb in good shape and my pack is 35 lbs and can sustain me indefinitely. Knowledge is lightweight!

  15. There is a lot of good lightweight backpacking information out there to be found. I am not going to plug brand names or URLs, but Don Ladigin, Allen O’Bannon, and Mike Clelland have authored some good lightweight backpacking books with humorous illustrations increasing the levity to the project at hand of lightening your load.

    As a scout leader we go on many backpacking trips in all seasons and my current base-weight pack (not including food and water) is right at 12 pounds. That includes pack, shelter and bag (quilt), aka the big three, plus other gear. My BOB, or my INCB (I’m Never Coming Back) contains a few more more-durable items and some additional tools and its base-weight (not including food and water) is 22-26 pounds depending on the season. Food and water are expendable weights as they diminish as the days go on. Also remember in Winter… “Cotton Kills!”

    For the longest time, I would show up with new gear and the other leaders would jokingly ask ‘how many grams does that weight?’ Soon enough, they too got into the lightweight packing method that we continue to teach scouts today.

    Utilize multiple use gear as much as possible, and searching for lighter gear that can do the same purpose as replacements. Yes, I am a ‘gram-weenie’ in that I cut off labels, excess webbing, searching for lighter alternatives; titanium versus aluminum, down versus synthetic, sil-nylon versus plastic or canvas, wood-stove versus gas stove… each have their pros and cons, so your situation and budget needs to be considered.

    Going lighter can, but does not always mean more expensive, but I can attest to the fact that before I started going lightweight, my week long pack was at 45 pounds before expendables were added on. My knees are so much more appreciative now.

  16. Great thoughts so far by all. I spent many happy days bushwalking out ofAlice Springs and Katherine in the Northern Territory, Australia in my youth. One of the things I learnt during these times was to pick the difference between the things you can cut back on, and the things to go a bit heavier on.
    For example, when I was in Katherine, many of my walks were done with a crew made up of various doctors who were in Katherine for their internship. Many of them were addicted to their ultralight gear, handles cut off toothbrushes, etc.
    I carried my food in very light, very robust containers made from pvc water pipe and end caps, with a rubber band cut from a pushbike tube around the joint to make it waterproof. They would pick on me a bit for the rustic nature of my equipment, until their fancy foil meal packets were pierced and leaked everywhere in their packs.
    I used to carry an Aus army foam roll to sleep on, which was a bit bulky,and they would often give me a bit of cheek about the size and weight of it. Until four days into the walk, when they were all raggedy assed from lack of sleep, and I was as fresh as a daisy!
    Then dinnertime would come, and I would knock up a luverly stew made from dried vegetables, with a bit of gravy mix, and then added some jerky, which would reconstitute into beeeeuutiful tender beef in the stew! They would be drooling as I ate it, while they sucked down their tasteless space meals.
    I know that technology is of great value ( have four gps navigation devices for my 4wd expeditions, and know how to use them all), but it is easy to forget that often the basic stuff that works the best because it is simple and robust. I still use pvc pipe containers in an army ammo pouch to carry tucker in, and can easily feed myself quite well for three or four days out of a web belt with two ammo pouches, a canteen with metal cup, and a good knife. Add a blanket and tarp and you are good to go. Did many three day solo bushwalks in the Alice Springs, and Katherine gorge regions with just this kit, and a few odds and sods in my pockets.(compass, maps, folding knife, first aid kit, whistle, firestarting kit).
    Had a bandolier style thin leather strap from the web belt over one shoulder, with the blanket and tarp rolled around it. Very light, very easy to load and move with.
    The Aborigines didn’t carry 50 pounds of gear with them everywhere, and they survived for 40,000 years in the harshest and most calorie and water lean continent on the planet!
    Keep it multifunction, don’t pine for luxuries, and learn heaps of stuff about your area first, and you will be fine. If it’s cold, learn how to stay warm, In Oz, learn how to find water (warm is generally not a problem over here!), etc, etc. You get the gist. Talk to the oldest person you can find about how they did things, do your best to find a local native person who is still close to the land, respect them, don’t look down on them because you think you are better than them, and ask them to help you and teach you what they know, and amzing things will happen. (sitting around a campfire at a settlement out of Pine Creek, NT discussing the prophecies of Daniel with a wise old Aboriginal elder, while a kangaroo simmers directly on the coals in front of you! Tasted great by the way, and I’m not sure what the sauce was made of, but it great too!)
    I better shut up now…….I must stop drinking whiskey and reading survival forums!

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