Home Gear Backpack Use a Surplus Ilbe Pack as Bug-Out Bag

Use a Surplus Ilbe Pack as Bug-Out Bag

I’m always on the look out for the bargain, especially for large or expedition backpacks. Using the surplus ILBE pack as a bug out bag is a great budget bug out option!

ILBE pack as a bug out bag

In 2004 mass production was started on the ILBE Packs (Improved Load Bearing Equipment). The ILBE was chosen as the successor to the MOLLE Packs (Modular Light Load Carrying Equipment), and was specially designed for the United State Marines to provide a durable, yet lightweight platform for transporting equipment, supplies and ammunition.

The ILBE main pack (rucksack) is a whopping 4500 cubic inch main rucksack, with an internal frame, and can be mated with an additional 1500 cubic inch assault pack, along with 100 ounces of liquid in a hydration bladder. This would give you 6000 cubic inches of rucksack space, on your back.

The ILBE Pack is designed to carry a load of up to 120 lbs and to distribute that weight in an attempt to make it comfortable.

The ILBE main pack’s Main compartment outer dimensions: 27″ H x 17″ W x 13″ D

Since we’ve brought home a large amount of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the ILBE packs have been flooding the surplus market, so you can get a brand new, never ILBE pack as a bug out bag geek-prepperissued for a couple hundred dollars, a gently used for around $100 or buy one that is in descent shape for $40-60ish (prices may vary, but check around).

I decided to unpack my current bug out bag and work with the ILBE and its accompanying assault pack, for a while.

I was thrilled to have 6000 cubic inches for my use. Once I filled the 4500 cubic inches in the main rucksack, it was heavy enough that I didn’t want to try to carry anything else.

The good news is that I was able to fit almost everything I could need, and quite a bit that I probably don’t need, into the 4500 cubic inches. It was great to be able to fit those larger items, like tent poles or my large topo maps, in the pack.

I know that I can optimize my pack and reduce the weight, but I wanted to see how the pack felt when fully loaded out and strapped to my back.

The pack carries very well, and does a great job of distributing the weight. I think if I wore it out on some frequent hikes, that I’d quickly adapt to having it on.

If you are a single person, and only need essentials for one person, for a short duration, then this pack may not be for you. If you need more space, plan to go on a longer trip, expedition or are bugging out and may never be returning home, then the ILBE pack might just be perfect.

The ILBE pack as a bug out bag makes perfect sense, it’s the perfect blend of military ruggedness, size and price point. The ILBE pack is very large, which makes it perfect for carrying the extra essentials that a family with children would need.


  1. I have a ALICE pack Larde that I’ve had since my military days and was looking at the ILBE and the Snugpack Rocket type packs as used by the British Army.
    I was leaning toward the Snugpack 12 liter and then I found out in Great Britain issues 2 types of the pack. A short pack for those under 6 feet and a long pack for those over 6 feet.
    The Short was made to ride on the PLCE issue webbing so the waist belt rides higher in the stomach if your larger.
    The Long rides lower and the waist belt works better for those 6 feet and over.

    The problem is the Snugpacks here in America as far as I can find is the Short so the waist belt does not help any. And you have to look long and hard for a British Military Surplus Long.

    So knowing this I’m settling for the ILBE. The Assault pack will work well for short trips.

    If I get a chance at the Long 120 liter Bergen I’ll buy it.

    Thanks for posting this.

    • The ILBE is miles away better than the British Longback Bergen, and the shortback is torture. Much too large without a real waistbelt or sternum strap.

  2. I got an ILBE rucksack and the assault pack a few years ago for only $100 and they were both new. Ebay. The pack can hold everything you want and the assault pack is good for those quick things like med kit, snacks, bug dope, etc. If you are not careful though, it does beckon to every piece of gear around to come and take a ride. Pack wisely to not have a back breaker where you cannot travel as fast as you need to.


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