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Compartmentalizing Your Bug Out Bag

Posted by on 1/24/2013 to Emergency Preparedness

Why and How You Should Organize Your BOB into 'Smaller Kits'
A common problem among preppers is the seemingly simple task of organizing their bug out bags. I've seen many kits just filled with all sorts of random tools and gear without any rhyme or reason for their particular assortment. 

Without having actually used their kit, a lot of people might not realize the inconvenience and hassle of going through their supplies when the time of need actually arrives. Thankfully, I made this realization when I started bike-packing (and backpacking). The same principles can apply for backpackers and campers.

Identifying the items in your kit

This article isn't meant to discuss what you should carry in your kit, but we assume a Box Kitstandard assortment of gear and supplies that cover the main priorities of survival. It is up to your personal preference to determine the contents of your BOB.

Separate your supplies into categories

Categorizing your items can be more difficult than you think, only because there are several different ways you can separate your items into categories.

Potential Ways to Categorize:
  • By type (ex: bladed tools, fire starting, cookware, food, first aid, etc...)
  • By Use frequency (ex: things you use regularly, emergency only supplies, night time only, camp set up, 1 time use, etc...)
  • By size, shape, and weight (ex: large/bulky items, soft goods, containers, small piece items, etc...) 
The truth is, you should utilize all three of these factors to compartmentalize your gear. Another issue is that the pack you are using can largely determine how you organize everything.

An Example and Rationale of My Personal Bug Out Bag

The "sub-kits" are divided into these categories as follows: These "sub-kits" are made with respect to all 3 aspects of categorizing as well as the design of my pack which is discussed below.

  • Fire Starting Kit
    • Fire starter, tinder, matches, lighter (whatever you desire)
    • All items contained within small, watertight pouch about 4"x4"x2"
  • First-Aid Kit
    • Personally I use this AMK Kit, it's already contained, and compact.
  • Emergency Kit
    • This kit contains items I expect, or hope, to not ever use. Includes:
    • Signaling devices (whistle, mirror, flare)
    • Backup heating source, body warmer, emergency blankets...
    • Water purification tablets, water filter, and anything else you want for emergency situations.
    • All these items are sealed within a non-watertight pouch, only because nothing is particularly vulnerable to moisture.
  • Tools
    • It is advisable to carry your knife on a belt sheath or outside of your pack for quick access.
    • Other tools can be strapped to outside of pack to preserve room inside 
  • Cookware
    • These items are often oddly shaped and can be bulky so I keep them in a pouch of their own.
    • I keep them in one of the side pouches of my pack, to avoid them from putting any pressure on my back
  • Food
    • All food, MRE's, and snacks go in the lower front pouch by themselves. They are easily accessible and won't suffer from pressure of other gear.
  • Sleeping bag, clothing, soft goods (If desired)
    • Sleeping bag goes on the bottom of main compartment since it is the largest. This will prevent back pressure as well as utilize space.
    • Other soft goods that are used for shelter, protection, and warmth can go over top the sleeping bag.
    • If possible, tent and sleeping pad should be inside pack, otherwise attach to outside
  • Water
    • A large, flexible water bag is kept within the reservoir pouch, backup sources of water are kept with the food pouch
  • Hunting/Food Procurement:
    • A small pouch consists of the following:
    • Yo-Yo- Fishing Reel, Snare-vival, Emergency fishing kit, backpacker blowgun.
Read the following to determine where each "sub-kit" is placed.

The main pack of my BOB includes:

--One main compartment w/ divider
  • Sleeping bag, soft goods, clothing, pad, tarp, etc.Wenzel Backpack
--Lower pouch
  • Food and secondary water containers
--2 side pouches
  • Cookware in pouch 1
  • First-aid kit and hygiene kit in pouch 2
--Water reservoir pouch
  • Main water source
--Dual mesh bottle holders
  • Emergency kit in 1
  • Survival hunting kit in 2
--Cell phone holder
  • Cell phone or miscellaneous item (GPS device, wallet, etc...)
--Diasy chains, external straps:
  • Tools and accessories
Each one of these compartments is utilized according to the smaller kits within.

Use Your Own Personal Preference.

The point of this is not to tell you exactly what to do!! It's just an example to help get your own thoughts going so you can come up with your own system of organizing your gear.

It's important to know where everything is and you want to have easy, efficient, and quick access to anything in your BOB when you need it.

Thanks for reading this far! Share your thoughts and comments!

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Skip's Recommended Survival Gear: Survival Kit - Crossbow - Tactical Boots
Cliff's Recommended Survival Gear: Matches - Bandana - Leatherman Surge

Got a product request for Skip and Cliff? Let them know! 
Blog Comments
Matt Date 1/24/2013
Great article! My BOB blows compared to yours. Time to do some shopping!
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