Go-Bag Pitfalls: Top 3 Mistakes That Novice and Experienced Preppers Alike Make

As a prepper, you know that one of the most important tools in your arsenal is your bugout bag. In its simplest form, a bugout bag — also known as a “go-bag” — is a bag of the survival gear you will need to overcome whatever obstacles post-apocalyptic life throws your way. Though preparing a bugout bag is one of the first and most basic of all the prepping steps, even the most experienced preppers get it wrong. On one end of the spectrum, you have preppers who overthink things and end up packing way too much. On the other end, you have the over-confident preppers who pack too little. It’s important that you learn from both types of preppers’ mistakes and get your bag just right. Below are the top three go-bag mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: Packing Too Little Food or Water

The amount of food and water you will need depends on how far from your bugout location you are, in days. A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water and 3,500 calories of food per day per adult. Though water is non-negotiable, if you know that there is a fresh water source along the route, you may be able to get away with slightly less than one gallon per day. However, carry along with you collapsible water bottles for extra storage and a water purification system.

As for food … Try to select foods that have a high caloric content but that take up very little space. Think protein bars, MREs, dehydrated meats and nuts. Food items should also have long shelf lives and be easy to prepare.

Mistake #2: Stuffing Your Bag With Unnecessary Items

Overpacking a bugout bag with non-essentials is one of the biggest mistakes that both novice and experienced preppers make. When packing, follow the rule of the five Cs:

  • Combustion: Pack a portable stove, lighter, lighter fluid and fire starters.
  • Cutting: Carry a knife for both tactical reasons and self-defense.
  • Cover: Pack a form of shelter and enough clothing to protect yourself from extreme weather conditions.
  • Cordage: Paracord — preferably 550 strength — can be used for everything from pitching a tent to hanging a hammock.
  • Container: Multi-purpose containers will come in handy for water storage, cooking and more.

Other than food items and items that fall within one of the above five categories, the only other essentials you will need are personal and legal documents. Keep these documents safe in a waterproof bag.

Mistake #3: Picking the Wrong Bag

When it comes to the bugout bag itself, there are several mistakes you want to avoid. The first is buying a bag before you gather its contents. Identify what you need first and then select a bag big enough to hold just those items. If you buy a bag that has room to spare, you will be tempted to overpack it, as many preppers are.

The second mistake is buying a bag that is too conspicuous. Much of your survival will boil down to your ability to blend in so as not to attract unnecessary attention. Though tactical and camouflage bags are best suited for survival situations, they may draw attention in urban areas. Consider your surroundings and select a bag based on what you know about them.

Finally, make sure that your bag, once full, does not weigh more than 25% of your body weight. If it does, re-evaluate its contents and either eliminate items or trade them out for lighter alternatives.

Getting your bugout bag just right will greatly increase your odds of success in a survival situation. Though much more goes into preparing your go-bag than what is mentioned here, avoiding the aforementioned mistakes is a great start.