Choosing a survival pack can be an overwhelming project. There are so many things to consider before purchasing, and so many options to pick from that it can be tempting just to head to the local outdoor store and grab the first bag that looks like it will hold all of your gear. However, as with most prepping gear, picking a good pack should require some patience and research before purchasing. Here are a few things I would think about before choosing a pack.
If your situation is going to require you to hike with your pack over a considerable distance, weight is one of the most important attributes you should be thinking about. The formula is quite simple: the heavier the pack, the more uncomfortable it will tend to be. As a general rule, packs made specifically for hiking (as opposed to military style packs) tend to be lighter and more comfortable.
Are you looking for a pack to get you from the office to your home in the event of an emergency? Are you looking for something that will hold a week’s worth of bug out supplies? Where you live and your proposed disaster plan will dictate which types of survival packs make the most sense for you and your family. Small packs usually work better in urban environments, while covering vast expanses of land may require larger packs and more gear.
If you’re going to invest in a good pack, it isn’t going to come cheap, and not all packs are made in the same way--for good reason. Not everyone has the same body type, and you should try several different packs and configurations to see which one makes the most sense for your physical makeup.
This is an obvious one, but as is the case with most gear, you tend to get what you pay for. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great bargains to be had if you do enough searching, but be careful with bargain basement prices. In many cases you’re buying foreign materials and construction that simply isn’t going to stand up to any real serious usage. The recommended packs on the list cost as little as about $40 and can range to as high as $500 depending on the model and accessories chosen.
Now that you’ve thought a little bit about what you want to get out of your survival pack, here are seven very different packs for your consideration, in no particular order of preference.
1. Maxpedition Mongo Versipack
I love this pack! It’s my everyday carry pack and when my little girl was a baby it also served as my “tactical diaper bag.” The Mongo Versipack by Maxpedition is a fantastic “get home” bag. You can fit enough gear in it to sustain yourself for a day’s worth of hiking, and in the right color it doesn’t necessarily scream “tactical;” a huge benefit in urban areas where looters may be a concern.
The Mongo Versipack is constructed from 1000 Denier Nylon and is Teflon coated, making it extremely durable and virtually water proof. Military webbing and buckles insure a secure carry, and hook and loop Velcro panels inside and out make it ideal for securing a concealed weapon. Molle loops are sewn throughout the bag to accommodate additional pouches and gear. This bag will run you anywhere from $80-$140 depending on colors selected.
2. Osprey Atmos AG65 Backpack
The Osprey Atmos AG65 is fantastic survival pack. You can pack a LOT of gear into this, but at only 3.9 pounds it’s one of the lightest hiking packs on the market. The AG 65 has a harness that can be adjusted to fit the user’s torso perfectly, along with adjustable waist straps, making it an excellent choice if your survival situation requires covering long distances at a time. Another great feature is a “floating” lid, which can be extended to accommodate larger loads, or removed entirely to save weight when using the AG 65 as a day pack. Plus, the bag doesn’t look “tactical,” making it ideal for preppers that don’t necessarily want to stand out in a crowd. Expect to pay at least $250 for the Atmos AG65.
3. Osprey Youth Jet 12 Backpack
If you find yourself in a true survival situation you can’t forget about the kids in the family. If they’re very small, you should plan to carry their supplies and gear as well as yours, but if they’re old enough to wear a pack of their own, you should consider getting them a bag so they can carry at least some of their own gear. The Osprey Youth Jet 12 backpack is a fantastic choice for children.
The Osprey Youth Jet 12 is built for comfort. It’s padded all around, making it easy for the kids to hike all day. It features panel load access, so it’s very simple to load and unload. External pockets and mesh pouches make it easy to store things like water bottles, sunscreen, etc. This bag will also hold a water bladder, a plus for survival situations when water could be a priority for each member of your party. Expect to pay about $50 for the Osprey Youth Jet 12.
4. The North Face Banchee 65 for Women
The North Face Banchee 65 for women is a technical pack designed specifically for females, and features 8 pockets for maximum organization. The harness and hip belt are built specifically for a woman. The pack features a breathable beaver tail compartment for drying wet gear, and also features a separate compartment specifically built for a sleeping bag. Perhaps the best feature of this bag is the weight; at only 2.5 pounds you’d have a hard time finding a lighter bag built this well. The North Face Banchee 65 will run you around $250.
5. Eberlestock V90 Battleship Pack
So far we’ve focused on packs that are light and can fly relatively under the radar in terms of looking like a piece of tactical military gear. The Eberlestock V90 Battleship is absolutely NOT one of those packs! This thing is massive, and built for tactical applications. With a capacity of 99 liters, you can pack just about any (and every) piece of survival gear you’d need into this pack. It’s covered in webbing and Molle straps so you can customize and strap even more gear to it if you need to, and it’s a piece of cake to tether a couple of weapons on the side for transport as well. If you need to haul some serious loads, the Eberlestock V90 is the bag for you, but be prepared to fork over some cash, as this bag will run you $450 or more.
6. Blackhawk 3 Day Assault Pack
The Blackhawk 3 Day Assault Pack could very well be my favorite bag on the list. I’ve battle tested this pack in combat, but it’s also non-descript enough that it won’t stand out in an urban crowd. Like most Blackhawk products, its 1000 Denier nylon construction makes it durable as hell, and 13 years after I first used it in Iraq it’s still holding up just fine. It’s not a huge pack, but in a survival situation it's large enough to pack whatever gear you’d need to go off the grid for a few days. Plus, at less than $100, it won’t break the bank.
7. One Tigris Tactical Dog Molle Vest with Pouches
OK, so you’ve got yourself, your wife and your kid covered in terms of survival packs, but what about Rover? If you happen to have a pooch that’s a member of the working dog breed, you’d be surprised how much weight they can (and in fact, like) to haul. Investing in some sort of saddle bag or vest setup is a great way for your dog to carry their own supplies, as well as extra gear for you. This setup from One Tigris is one of my favorites, as it comes with pouches, but more importantly the entire vest is covered in Molle straps and Velcro so you can customize this thing any way you want. It’s also available in multiple sizes and colors. The obvious benefit is that it frees up some space and weight in your pack, but another plus is that seeing a dog looking as if it’s ready to storm the beach at Normandy can be one heck of a deterrent to would be attackers. You should be able to find a setup like this for less than $100.
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