Home Gear How to Efficiently Pack & Organize Your Bug-Out Bag Loads

How to Efficiently Pack & Organize Your Bug-Out Bag Loads

I recently upgraded by Bug Out Bag to an ILBE military surplus bag.

The good news is that it holds everything I need. The bad new is I now need to have a system to keep it neat and ready.

It’s very important to Keep your Bug Out Bag Organized!

Keep your Bug Out Bag Organized

It is very likely you will be cold, tired and it may even be dark when you need to reach for your survival gear. Save yourself a lot of frustration, energy and time by taking the time today to pack your bag in an organized fashion.

When it comes to packing your bug out bag it actually requires quite a bit of thought. You cannot toss items in and hope to find them in an emergency. Your bug out bag needs to be methodically organized. In a survival situation, you are likely going to be more than a little stressed. The last thing you need is to add to the chaos by trying to find a vital piece of survival gear.

A large backpack, like the ILBE rucksack, can give you thousands of cubic inches of carry space, but if you don’t organize and pack it well, you’ll may have to empty the entire bag just to find the one item you need.

Here is a combination of methods that will help keep your gear organized.

Group Items into “kits”

Separate your backpack contents into logical groups and keep each group in a dry sack, inside the of the backpack.

Colored Dry Sacks GeekPrepper

This will keep your items dry and keep them organized. You’ll be able to identify the contents of each dry sack by color, or if they are all the same color. You can label them with some type of permanent maker (or other method).

Now your gear is in 5-7 smaller kits. Each kit is in a separate dry bag, protected from water.

Backpack Load Out

Load out your backpack (bug out bag) from top to bottom:

  1. Sleeping bag goes in the very bottom of the bag. The Military 4 piece sleep system can provide you with the flexibility to sleep in any temperature, down to -30°F. The bivy sack covering is waterproof and can be used instead of a tent for shelter. Make sure to get the genuine military surplus!
  2. Tent goes next, on top of the sleeping bag. If you don’t carry a full tent or if you use a military poncho, for shelter and/or rain gear, you can skip the tent. Your military poncho shouldn’t go in this position as it will always rain when you bug out (really, why wouldn’t it), so you’ll want it towards the top.
  3. Food and Cooking gear is the next item that goes in the bag (on top of tent or sleeping bag, if you are tent-less). Keep your food in a separate dry sack, apart from your cooking gear (and fire starting).
  4. Clothing (wool socks, non-cotton shirts and pants, wicking undershirt and under garments)
  5. Cordage, tent stakes, maps, compass, headlamps, flashlights, additional fire making tools in another dry sack.
  6. First Aid Kit, right on top, in it’s own dry sack (usually a Red one).
  7. Military rain poncho on top (because it’s going to rain, trust me). The poncho is water proof, so there is no need to put the it in a dry sack.

Tent poles and really big maps can be inserted down the side of the gear inside the pack. Foam sleeping pad can be secured outside the pack, since they are typically water proof material.

Your knife and radio should already on your belt. Keep your cold steel shovel, machete, and tomahawk (or camp axe) are strapped to the outside of the pack.

Bug out bag builder tool

It essential to Keep your Bug Out Bag Organized! If you keep items sorted into quickly identifiable kits and sorted into dry sacks, you can quickly find the items you need, when you need them, keep items dry and will allow you to load and unload your gear fast.

You can watch this video to get an idea about how to pack your survival gear. Keep in mind, your bag is likely going to be a little different and may have fewer or possibly more pockets or  MOLLE straps. This strapping system is designed to be very strong and to make is easy for you to personalize your own kit.


Craig Caudill is organizes his gear bag with supplies from Dan’s Depot. He is also the chief instructor at his Nature Reliance School.


    • I actually use the Compression sack that comes with the modular sleep system. To be hones with the Bivy and 2 sleeping bags, it doesn’t compress down real small, about the size of a flipping basket ball.

  1. You failed to mention the most importnat part of your bag. “Water and Water Filtration and water storage.” Are you using a hydration bladder in your bag or separate canteen? Also I find walking sticks a great asset to help take the weight off your back and climbing or river crossings, as well as double as tent pole stakes for your tent or poncho. And don’t forget about 100 Ft of 550 paracord. So are you carrying a firearm and ammo? Snares or traps, fishing kit for food production? How about some plastic sheets for rain water catching. Solar charger for electronics and GPS? Also for dry bags bring along some zip lock bags.


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