It is highly likely that you have been at the grocery store and picked up a 32 count pack of bottled water. Well, that weighs 32 pounds (15 kilo). So with that in mind, could you carry three of those on your back very far? How about two of them? Our guys in uniform often carry a pack into the field that weighs in excess of 100 pounds. Those guys are super fit, young, and healthy. Are you?
That was then…
I know in my younger days before I broke my back, 100% for a fact that I could absolutely carry a good 80 pounds on my back literally forever, and never even notice it. I’m 50 now, and a few injuries I have had over the years have changed me.
I don’t think I could make but a few miles walking flat ground, much less traversing the woods, with a heavy pack like that. My old broken down body needs to keep it light. Like less than forty pounds light.
Learn from experience
When I hunt I carry a pack on my back with things I might need for my hunt and for incase I get stuck out in the woods for a couple days. That hunting pack weighs about 20-25 pounds. That pack is really close to what I would carry for a BOB except there would be more water, more food, and more ammo in it (a lot more ammo).
There would also be a blanket and maybe my sleeping bag tied to it, but they don’t weight very much. The sleeping bag is just kind of bulky though. The pack itself is supposed to be water proof, I was out in the rain all day once on a land exploration for hunting and it did stay dry inside.
I have a really amazingly warm blanket that rolls up small that is for the pack, but I don’t think that it’s waterproof. It’s made from that synthetic fleece stuff they make from the 2 liter bottles so it might be waterproof.
I imagine I would just roll it up then tie it in a garbage bag before I strap it to the pack if I was concerned about it getting wet. The garbage bag could come in handy for other things as well, like collecting drinking water in an emergency. If you don’t hunt, take an overnight or weekend hiking/camping trip with your BOB and test it out.
This guy says the same thing I said, take the bag out and try it.
Speaking of water, a hydration bladder that wears under your pack is a good way to carry water with the weight evenly distributed. This makes it easier to carry than a clunky canteen or bottle, although I still keep a stainless steel canteen. The canteen can double as a means to boil water to purify it. Your pack may have a water bladder pouch for it like mine, but I keep the machete and hatchet in there.
Weigh/pounds = pain
Actually, I was curious, and my pack is hanging on the doorknob of my bedroom with a lot of the items in it that would normally be in it. I weighed it with a fish scale and it weighs less than 12 pounds as it sits now. That leaves a lot of room for ammo.
The pack currently contains:
- A machete
- AK bayonet w/scabbard
- A hatchet (if you want to try to cut some weight here you might try one of the newer skelotonized hatchets)
- Sharpening stone (it’s good sized but only weighs a couple of ounces)
- A small first aid kit that includes band-aids, gauze bandages, crazy glue (glue is better than sutures, it’s quicker, less pain, and you get a lot more in the tube than carrying 50 sutures) various pills (aspirin, Benadryl, antibiotics), topical antibiotic ointment, alcohol and iodine wipes.
- Small binoculars (small, but powerful, keeps the weight down. I have a couple of bigger pairs too but those are not for the pack. I also have a small monocular that I carry in a different pouch or my jacket pocket. If I see something that I want a better look then I get out the binoculars because they are stronger)
- A night vision monocular with infrared
- A water filter personal hydration straw (this weighs about 2 ounces and will filter 300 gallons of water per filter cartridge, and it comes with 2 cartridges. This saves a lot of weight because you don’t have to carry as much water and the straw basically gives you 600 gallons on tap, as long as you can find some source of water)
- A couple of space blankets
- 3 magnesium fire starter sticks (I might lose one in the dark so I have three)
- A multi-caliber gun cleaning kit that’s about the size of my fist, pictured here. (This is a really nice kit. It is compact to save space and weight. It has a flexible cable that rolls up rather than rods, this saves space too. It also has clips on the back so I can clip it on the outside of the bag if I need to make room inside)
- Small pliers
- A multi-bit screwdriver (this keeps weight down because the bits store in the handle and this way I have like 12 different drivers in 1)
- A few broken shell extractors
- AR15 spare parts pack (because, you know, it’s an AR15)
- A pack of dental floss
- A length of about 100’ of masons line (that’s a nylon cord with about 150 pound tensile strength). I use this to tie off the intestines and throat of deer when I field dress them. It would also make excellent snare line.
- And there is about 50- 100 feet of paracord
Whenever you are packing your BOB, just keep in mind what they say in the military, ounces make pounds, pounds make pain. Anything you can do to shave a few ounces off here and there will add up, especially if you do it a couple of dozen times. Even if it’s something as seemingly insignificant as cutting half the handle off of your toothbrush, anything you can do to cut weight will help:
There are other ways to practice oral hygiene too. You could skip the toothbrush altogether and just use a stick to scrape your teeth clean. You can also just use a little charcoal from the fire on your finger tip; scrub it around, rinse, then spit. You can add a strip of cloth to your finger tip too. I actually use a stick on my teeth about 3 or 4 times a month, it’s just like getting them cleaned at the dentist. Of course I brush and floss twice a day as well.
Just like when you are packing ammunition in your bag, this is likely the heaviest thing you have to deal with. I’ll keep eight loaded 30 round rifle magazines and four fifteen round pistol magazines on my body, plus each gun is loaded. That’s a lot of ammo. But in a bug out situation I want a lot more. In reality you will need to have some burial tubes scattered around with ammo and other supplies stashed away.
You just can’t carry enough ammo and supplies on you at once. The military has a supply chain, you don’t. Having gear scattered and buried around your property or go to woods will definitely cut the weight of your pack. You can buy PVC pipe and glue a cap on one end, and a plug cap on the other end that has a screw in cap. It will be watertight and cheap to make. Then all you need to do is dig a shallow trench to bury it in. You could even weigh it down and sink it in a pond or lake.
This guy has a pretty good video on how to make a light weight BOB.
Back to the pack
I wouldn’t carry extra loaded magazines in my pack though, just the ammo. If you carry 500 rounds in your pack on stripper clips, and then a magazine speed loader (see picture), it keeps the weight down, takes up less space, and keeps it organized. Carrying all of those extra magazines would take up almost double the room than the ammo on stripper clips. This is because the magazine has that extra length for the spring.
For those of you that carry .38 SPCL or .357 magnum, you can keep your spare ammo on SKS stripper clips and it takes up less room and weighs less (and is cheaper) than carrying a bunch of speed loaders. It also keeps the ammo at the ready because it is easy to load the cylinder with the stripper clips.
Change of heart
While we are on the subject of ammunition, several years ago I said my bug out gun would be my FAL. That’s a 7.62×51 (.308) caliber gun. It’s a big, heavy battle rifle, and has big, heavy ammunition. Then I decided I would go with my AK47. It’s a little lighter than the FAL and the ammo is smaller (7.62×39) and a little lighter, so I figured that saves weight. Then I got even older.
I am not a huge supporter of the AR15 as a jungle weapon because, let’s be honest, it isn’t exactly a rugged rifle. That’s why I like my FALs and AK47s better. They are tanks. You just can’t hurt them. But now, as I continue to age, I hear my Vietnam veteran cousin (R.I.P David) say he switched from the AK47 to a Kel Tec PLR 16 rifle. I was like “what??” when he said that.
But then he explained about being older, (I think he was 65 or 66 when he passed) and the gun being a very lightweight polymer folding rifle. Then considering the .223 ammo being so much lighter, that he and his wife each got one to put up solely as their bug out rifle should they ever be forced to flee their land. They have 60 acres nearby that they have lived on for 30+ years, but it was much more isolated when they first moved there.
I haven’t spoken to his wife since he passed last year; I’m not sure what her plans are now in case of SHTF/TEOTWAWKI, although I know their son in law is a prepper too. But his words resonate in my mind about the ammo weight. Another factor I can’t get out of my head is that here in America we get probably about 90% of our 7.62×39 ammo imported from Russia.
Carry lighter calibers
The 7.62×39 round is not a NATO caliber, so if the SHTF/TEOTWAWKI happened it might become scarce, then what would I do for ammo? The 5.56 is a NATO caliber and so it could be “sourced”. But then the 7.62×51 is also a NATO caliber. But that caliber would bring me back to carrying that heavy FAL rifle and the heavy 7.62×51 NATO/.308 caliber ammunition again.
So, I guess I would have to take an AR15, even though it isn’t what I really want to use. But it is a lighter rifle and has smaller, lighter ammunition. My AR15 with a full 40 round magazine and a “flare” launcher on it, weighs only about one pound more than my AK 47 with a full 30 round magazine does.
So I guess that’s another mark for the AR. That “flare” launcher and extra 10 rounds on tap could come in handy. I would carry a bandolier with “flares” in it for the launcher and the hulls are reloadable so I could keep them and reload them in down time.
I have concluded that although the AR15 is not as durable of a weapon as the AK47 is, it makes up for it in the lighter gun, lighter ammo, “flare” launcher, and the fact that it doesn’t matter if it’s a .223/5.56 or a 7.62×39, I’m not aiming for center mass because it won’t do any good. They will all have body armor on. So I’m aiming for the head and the groin areas to either canoe their skull or hit their femoral artery.
Then there is the pistol ammo. I love my .45, but in a SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation I would be able to carry more 9mm ammo on me for the same weight. It weighs about double as a matter of fact. A 9mm FMJ bullet weighs 115 gr and the .45 FMJ bullet weighs 230 gr, exactly double. Then there is the case, I’m not sure if the case actually weighs double, but it’s close.
So I am losing a little power but gaining either more ammo, or less weight. With using only a FMJ there would be a huge loss in ammo effectiveness switching to the 9mm. but by using expanding ammunition that narrows the margin considerably.
This guy made some interesting points about common mistakes people make when they create their BOB.
The last thing I can think of is when you pack food use only dehydrated foods. Don’t put heavy canned goods in there. I know it might be tempting to put that beef stew in there, but that weighs a lot. Use MRE style beef stew instead. Pack nuts and dehydrated fruits too.
So that’s about it. In order to lighten your load, consider light weight options for what you want to pack. If you want something that you can use plastic or aluminum rather than steel do that. The filter straw puts water on tap (as long as you can find a source) without having to carry a ton of water.
Another thing you can do is carry gear around your waist on a belt rig with suspenders. This distributes the weight over your body and takes the brunt of the load off of your back. Just like I always say, use your head, think about it. Try various options and take test trips with your pack until you find the weight range that you are comfortable with and then adjust your load to that. You can also use a walking stick to help absorb some of the weight as you walk.
To really zero in on that ideal weight for your BOB I would suggest loading your bag as packed full as you can get it with all the gear you think you need. Put on that pack and start walking. When you get to the point that you feel that the bag is too heavy walk back home, take the pack off and empty it.
Look at everything you have and decide what you can really live without. Take those items out of the pack, put it back on and start walking. If you start feeling fatigued then you know it’s still too heavy, so go back home, empty it and reevaluate the gear again. Keep doing this until you find that sweet spot where you feel like you have enough gear in the pack, but you don’t feel like you are wearing a pack. As with anything else, experience and practice will get you there.