10 Effective Tips to Cut Out the Weight of your Bug-out Bag

Guest post from Conrad Novak

The ultimate purpose of a bug out bag is to provide you the basic necessities to survive for roughly 72 hours while you are on the move. Before you bug out, you should check the weight of your bag. If your bug out bag is too heavy, you’ll definitely be going to regret it. According to the experts, the ideal bug out bag should be 10 percent of your total body weight and at most 20 percent. This ideal bug out bag weight ranges should be dependent upon your overall physical health and strength.

Here are some effective strategies to significantly lessen the weight of your bug out bag.

1. Pack Less Water

One of the most effective ways to reduce the weight of your bug out bag is to limit the amount of water that you carry. Since water sources are pretty much everywhere, most people should have no problem finding and disinfecting water to make it drinkable. Instead of packing three days’ worth of water, consider only carrying one full liter bottle and a high-quality water filter.

My goal has always been to find and filter water as I need it. In my honest opinion, disinfecting water with a filter sure beats boiling water or using water treatment tablets.

Along with carrying one full liter, I also pack one plastic bladder that can be used to quickly collect water. Most plastic bladders weight close to nothing, and they can fit into tiny spaces when they’re rolled up. Once the water is collected with my plastic bladder, I disinfect it with my great water filter.

2. Lighten The Food Load

When it comes to lightening the load of your bug out bag, not only should you pack less water, you should also bring less food. We learned this the hard way on our first backpacking trip into the woods. Because we only thought about eating more than our hearts desired on long hiking days, we packed all kinds of food items including big bags of trail mix, cheese/crackers, cookies, pop tarts, and tuna packets. We never ate this food, so we swore that we would never pack this much food again.

As you pack your bug out bag, make sure that you monitor the weight of the food items and remember that you don’t need to eat more than what is required to keep you alive. Basically, you need a good calorie to weight ratio.

These are some great food items that you may want to consider packing:

  • Raisins
  • Nuts
  • Freeze-dried food


For a true bug out adventure, remove the following items from your bag:

  • Pots
  • Pans
  • Silverware
  • Stove
  • Spices
  • Fuel canisters


3. Don’t Pack Unnecessary Items

Here’s another tip that you should know: Don’t pack like you’re going on vacation. The bag should only contain essential items, so leave the deck of cards, travel pillow, camping towel, and favorite tea cup at home. There are many bug out bag lists that contain a couple changes of clothes and a spare pair of boots, but these items are unnecessary because they take up lots of space and add weight to your bag.

In order to compensate for many additional items, simply put on a good pair of boots and dress in layers. It works for me. My game plan is to always pack clean underwear, a set of socks, and not much else. If it was cold outside, I would put on some base layers and probably a fleece. I also keep in mind that clothes shouldn’t be packed in place of shelter.

Plus, I roll some of my clothes into a skivvy roll to save even more room in my bug out bag. A skivvy roll consists of two, everyday clothes items rolled into a tight ball. These basic clothing items are usually a t-shirt, underwear, and a pair of socks.

Here’s how I make a skivvy roll:

  • Lay a t-shirt flat on the table.
  • Fold the underwear in half and then place it at the top of the t-shirt
  • Fold over the sleeves on the t-shirt and then fold the t-shirt again half-way
  • Place the toe-end each of the socks on the top of the shirt. They should hang out like a set of wings.
  • Next, roll the shirt tightly, from the collar of the shirt to the bottom
  • Lastly, hold the shirt tightly and pull the socks over the end of the t-shirt.


4. Trade The Tent For A Tarp

The average tent can easily weight more than five pounds, so they are prime options for reducing weight. Some great alternatives to packing a tent are a rain fly or tarp. A light tarp will provide shelter from most elements. In addition, you can use a light tarp as a blanket.

Just remember that making a tarp shelter can possibly be more time consuming than setting up a tent. One option is to set up a tarp under a pine tree with low-hanging branches. Most pine trees have pine needles underneath them, which can offer you a comfortable place to lie on.

A tarp can also be set up under rock overhangs or shallow caves. The only things you’ll have to watch for are unwanted animals.

I personally strap a lightweight backpacking tent to the outside of my bug out bag, but I still consider a tent a luxury, so a tarp is definitely the way to go.


5. Ditch The Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags are overrated and not a necessity when bugging out. If you’re bugging out during the summer, more than likely you’re not going to need a sleeping bag anyway. However, if you are in winter temperatures, you can forgo the sleeping bag for a bivvy bag.

Designed to significantly lighten your pack weight, a bivvy is a lightweight, waterproof bag that can be used without a tent or traditional shelter. In fact, the item has been shown to protect against the wind, snow, rain, and cold. Most people love the product because it can cover the body from head to toe. The bivvy bag also traps your body heat.


6. Say “No” To Camping Lanterns

Let’s face it: You don’t need a heavy-duty camping lantern. All you need is a high-quality survival flashlight.

At nighttime, you can just use the light from a fire to see your surroundings and important objects. If you plan to use fire as one of your light sources, make sure that you pack three different types of fire starters. During your bug out, you may also want to grab some kindling if you see any.


7. Leave Most of The Firearms Behind

In my experience, hunting makes it hard to move quickly during a bug out. As a result, I suggest leaving most of the firearms behind because it simply doesn’t make sense to carry around 15 pounds of firearm gear.

The only firearm I carry is a pistol for self-defense, but I don’t pack a ton of ammo. The amount of ammo that you carry is a personal choice, but keep in mind that it will probably be the most cumbersome item in your pack aside from water.


8. Every Ounce Counts

The motto of extremely lightweight backpackers is “every ounce counts,” so they will always find a way to cut an ounce from their bug out bag. Here are some of the strategies that I found:

  • Trim the edges from maps
  • Place medication in zip-lock bags instead of prescription bottles
  • Cut the tags off of tarps, clothes, food items, etc.
  • Use lightweight AAA batteries
  • Pack electronics that don’t require batteries
  • Cut toothbrush handle in half
  • Pack lightweight clothing instead of cotton
  • Use lightweight toothpaste or tooth powder
  • Use titanium mugs
  • Pack protein powder instead of bars
  • Transfer liquids into 1-ounce bottles
  • Trim unnecessary pieces from the bug out bag
  • Take the dental floss out of the roll
  • Cut down the portions of deodorant and soap


9. Pack The Bug Out Bag Right

The bug out bag will feel lightweight when it’s packed appropriately. To prevent undue stress, pack the heaviest items closest to your body. For example, the water and ammo should be packed close to your spine instead of the outside of the bug out bag.

Additionally, the stuff that you don’t use as frequently should be packed on the bottom while the most used items should be placed at the top.

Also, don’t forget that you can save your back by placing some items in your pockets, and remember that many dual-use items weigh less and take up less space for similar utility.


10. Make the Weight of Your Bug Out Bag A Priority

If you are serious about bugging out, then the weight of your bug out bag should be a top priority. In my personal experience, the most effective way to lighten your load is to just leave the unnecessary items behind. The common phrase “knowledge weighs nothing” is absolutely true, so it’s a good idea to replace gear with knowledge.

As a general rule of thumb, the more survival skills that you know, the less gear that you will need. Don’t be the guys who bug out with a heavy pack and limited survival skills. They are the ones who are forced to throw things out of their pack mid bug out just to make it, and then they are left without items they think they need to survive. Trust me, you can do better. Our guide will definitely help you pack a lightweight bug out bag so that you’ll have everything that you need for a quick and successful adventure. Don’t forget to check out this bug out bag checklist.



Bug Out Bag Weight: It Can Add Up Fast – Skilled Survival 

6 Strategies to Lighten Your Bug Out Bag – Willow Haven Outdoor

• 7 Ways to Lighten Your Bug Out Bag – The Prepper Journal


About the Author:

Conrad Novak is a proud father of two children. His journey as a prepper began when Hurricane Katrina hit and he lost his job due to the 2008 economic crisis. That made him realize that everything can change for the worst in a very short time. This experience was the detonator for him to pursue learning and becoming better prepared to face the kind of unexpected disasters that may occur at any point in our lives. You can read more of his content at SurvivorsFortress.com


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