Build your bug out bag – Rural escape – Part 2 – The Main Compartment

I’m assuming by this point you have taken the time to research and decide on which pack suits you for a 72 hour BOB ( bug out bag ). If you have not, check out Part 1 of this blog: Build your bug out bag – Rural Escape – Part 1 – The bag.  Now that you physically have a pack that you like, the real difficulty will come with deciding what items and tools actually go into it. Now before you decide to try and jam your whole apartment into this bag, stop and think about what you’re doing. Remember, this bag is for you to live out of for 72 hours in case of a catastrophic event…meaning your wine and slippers DO NOT go with you. To pack in an efficient manner, it is best to designate each compartment of the bag for a specific task, rather then having your equipment all mixed together. For today we will focus on the main compartment and how to pack it. Being the largest portion of the bag, I would call this “Priority Packing“. Your sleeping gear, shelter, extra apparel, fire kit and rations go in here. Now you can pack your BOB however you see fit but there are some considerations you will have to take into account before we get into actual products.


First; when “Priority Packing” think about what you will need initially and what could stay in the pack if you had to stop and set up quickly. Think about packing from the bottom up, with what you will need immediately on top and readily accessible. Because of this, your sleeping gear will be on the bottom. You won’t be going to bed before either a fire or a shelter is built. On top of your sleeping bag will be your extra apparel. Now when I say this, I don’t mean your robe or favorite Armani shirt. Socks, underwear, thermal wear and at the very most, an extra pair of pants and a shirt. Next would be your food, consisting of Ready to Eat meals , protein bars etc. Now the last is an ongoing debate and could go either way. Fire before shelter? This will depend on your situation but in my opinion fire mostly comes first. The ability to cook food and keep warm is more important to me then comfort and getting out of the elements. The only time I could see this being reversed is in the case of heavy rain. In that situation I may opt to set up my shelter first, simply to keep the rest of my kit dry but also any semi dry wood in the area I can find until starting a fire is feasible. The fire kit will be covered in another part of this blog, but should be considered for the main compartment. However there are other spots on your pack to store the fire kit where it is readily accessible. That is up to you.

Second; everything weighs something. Don’t think that adding a whole bunch of little things to your pack won’t effect the overall weight in the long run.  I know it sounds silly but I’ve seen it time and time again. People load their bags up with very light weight items they don’t really need, thinking that because their mass is so little that it is insignificant. Wrong. Try again. Everything is significant. So really think about what you’re packing and ask yourself “Can I go without this?”.  You are taking ONLY what you need for 72 hours. Luxuries will only hinder you at this situation.

Third, everything takes up space. This ties into the second point in some ways. Always remember that compact is better. Not because it gives you the opportunity to pack more but it gives you the freedom to have your gear more accessible. This poses a lot of questions when packing, such as; Tarp or tent? How tight do they fold up? How much space do the tent pegs take up? Bungees for the tarp? Neither options are wrong, however this is something you will have to play around with on your own. There are other options as well to save on space, such as packing the majority of your extra clothes inside your sleeping bag. In saying that, it would be beneficial to store an emergency pair of underwear and socks that are accessible outside of the sleeping bag as well. Once compressed, these tips will save you space.

Fourth is water. Now this was mentioned previously in Part 1 of this blog but I decided to add it in again. If you read Part 1 you’ll know we discussed hydration bladders. If you bought a good pack it will have a dedicated compartment for this. You can consider this as a portion of the main bag, as water is 100% a priority and needs to be accessible all the time. This area is usually located in close proximity if not attached to the main compartment.

Lastly; keep everything dry! My suggestion would be to line the main part of your bag with a heavy duty garbage bag, and then dry bag everything. I know it may sound extreme, but everything in your BOB should be dry bagged and labeled. If you doubt me then ask yourself: “What good will getting water on my kit serve?”. Exactly, nothing. Water will only damage your gear. End of story.

Consider the above for a moment and we will go over what we think are the top items and essentials you need for the main compartment of your bug out bag.

Sleeping bags

One of the most important pieces of equipment you can have is a good sleeping bag. It will keep you warm when needed and allow you to have  comfortable rest while sleeping outdoors. If you are constantly moving and exerting yourself, proper rest is extremely important. You will want your sleeping bag to be compact but also have a decent range of temperature capabilities. Typically the colder you get, the larger the bag will be, which can pose a problem when selecting a sleeper as you may not be escaping to extreme cold or hot. I will usually air on the side of a little colder and then layer as needed. Fleece liners can also be added for extra warmth if need be. However, do not think a fleece liner is the be all end all. It will add a few degrees onto your temperature capability but does not replace a cold weather bag. An MSS (military sleep system) is not practical for a bug out bag. It’s simply too big and bulky. If you are one of those people that can pull off using a ruck sack as a BOB then you can probably handle an MSS. For those of you of an average fitness level, go for a smaller compact sleeping bag.

Snugpak Softie 3 Merlin


Snugpak makes a variety of good bags all with various temperature capabilities. The Softie 3 Merlin is a good quality bag that has a temperature rating of 5°C(41°F) to 0°C(32°F) making it effective in fair weather and for when it starts to get cold. As discussed, combined with a fleece liner for added warmth you can push it further. It comes with a compression sack and does shrink down to a size small enough to fit inside your BOB, rather then attaching it to the outside or bottom. All in all a very good bag from a reputable company.

Snugpak Basecamp OPS Sleeping bag


I would call this one step up from the Softie 3 Merlin. It has a temperature capability of -2°C(28°F) to -7°C(19°F), so it is a little warmer and if layered properly can be pushed to lower temperatures. Now even though the temperature difference is quite subtle the bag is significantly bigger then the Merlin. The compression sack can bring the size down quite a bit however you may want to think about attaching this to the outside of your pack in a dry  bag. Depending on your configuration, the size of your bag is and how well you’ve packed you can fit this inside your BOB. A great sleeping bag that will keep you warm in colder weather.

Woobies and Liners

As mentioned, you should have a woobie or liner to accompany your sleeping kit for extra warmth when it’s just a little colder then you anticipated. For those of you who don’t know what a woobie is, it is a blanket poncho liner that can form a waterproof sleeping bag. However, many outdoor enthusiasts use woobies as sleeping bag liners as well. The choice is yours’, there are a ton of quality liners and woobie’s out there, so have a look around and see what works for you.

Snugpak Fleece Sleeping bag liner


Since we covered two sleeping bags from Snugpak already, it is worth noting that the company does make a fleece liner for their sleeping bags. There are tons of liners out there but for ease of purchasing, if you go with Snugpak you can simply order their liner with the bag in one order, considering you should have one in your sleeping kit. It is made from polyester fleece and is a side zip opening liner. With this liner you will be able to extend your temperature range by a few degrees no problem. Now with any piece of equipment, please test the capabilities before actually having to use it in an emergency. There is no 100% right answer to how many degrees you can push with a liner.

Rothco G.I Style Poncho Liner


Rothco is another good company that has been around since 1953 and produces a wide range of quality tactical and survival equipment. They’re G.I Style Poncho liner is made of 100% Rip Stop Polyester it is a durable woobie that can supplement your sleeping kit nicely. It’s dimensions are 62″ x 82″, when stored in a compression sac this is easily packable in the main compartment of your BOB along with your other essentials. Rothco’s products are widely used by police and military personnel all over North America and definitely worth taking a look at.

Air mattress or sleeping pad

Which ever you decide to purchase, an air mattress or sleeping pad is essential. It will provide a little extra layer of insulation and keep you off the ground. Plus, if you have set up an improvised sleeping platform, your level of insulation will be even greater when applying the sleeping pad. For those of you wondering why, the answer is simple. The ground sucks in heat. Therefore if you lay on it, regardless of how many layers you have between you, to some degree it will still be stealing your precious warmth. So if you have the means and the time, construct a sleeping platform and keep yourself as far from the ground as possible.

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress Regular


This sleeping pad is highly recommended and is used by military personnel all over the world.  It is an accordion style sleeping pad that can be folded up into a compact rectangle for easy transport. Another bonus to this style is that in a emergency it can be refolded and packed away extremely quickly as it involves no deflating or rolling. Depending on your BOB it may fit inside but will more then likely have to be attached to the outside. Having carted this around in the field, we can attest to the fact that while being as durable as they come, it weighs virtually nothing, so you only need to focus on the space it will take up. It is designed with Therm-a-Rest’s own “ThermaCapture” system which essentially reflects radiant heat back into your body. This sleeping pad in our opinion is the top choice on the market today.

ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Air Pad


The ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Air Pad is another excellent choice for a sleeping pad. It is a roll up style and is self inflating. Open it up, flatten it out, open the air valve, and wait for it to inflate. With a brushed suede top this pad is definitely comfortable. When rolled it is not overly large, however like many sleeping pads, it may need to be attached to the outside of your pack. My only complaint is that with self inflating systems is that they take more time to pack up as they must be deflated, rolled and placed in a carrier. That aside, there is nothing wrong with this style of pad, it just depends on your preference. ALPS Mountaineering is a trusted brand and produces all sorts of quality outdoor products.

Tarps and Tents

When bugging out, regardless of sleeping bags and liners you still need something to sleep in that will protect you from the elements. So you’ll need to decide between a tarp style shelter or a tent and there are many pro’s and cons to both. Personally, I prefer the tarp style shelters. It doesn’t have the comfort level of the tent and it may take a little longer to set up, but its versatile and can be set up in many different types of terrain and situations. Not only that, you can set up a fire right next to them to ensure you’re warm throughout the night. They are typically lightweight and can be set up with only bungee cords if need be. With compression sacks they can also be shrunk down to a very compact size for transport. My only real complaint is that unless you want to be sleeping on the ground, you should build a sleeping platform, which requires some practice and time. However that’s all part of the journey and experimenting with different set ups. Tents on the other hand are great as well. You are completely enclosed protecting you from the elements and providing you a higher level of comfort. They can be put up quickly without too much planning. They do have a “floor” to them which does help with insulation as well. The cons being that they can be bulky and require you to carry poles with you to set up, which have weight and take up space. As well you will have to decide on a level of protection from the elements, as not all tents are good in the winter etc. So choose wisely and keep in that mind our recommendations below.

Snugpak Pro Force


The Snugpak Pro Force all weather shelter is a great choice for those that choose the tarp route. It is a versatile shape that can be set up in a variety of ways and can be transported easily as it is light weight. A huge factor to this tarp is that it is 100% waterproof and can snap together to make a bivvi in tight situations. When unpacked it is 10 feet by 10 feet and can be compressed down to under 10 inches; possibly more. Again, Snugpak maintains its high level of quality with this versatile tarp.

Stansport #T-810 Reinforced Multi-Purpose Tarp


Hell, sometimes your basic generic tarp does the trick just fine. It’s a square, reinforced, waterproof, tough tarp. Need I say more? While you can’t be as creative with it as other higher end or tactical style tarps, they are cheap to purchase, tough and are used for a multitude of jobs. If you want to buy more then one, go for it. One for the floor, attach the other 2 together for more versatility, it’s up to you. Just remember that you will not have the same versatility, so you may be limited in the set up of your sleeping area.

ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent


For those of you that have decided to go with a tent for your shelter, this is one of the best on the market today. Again ALPS Mountaineering is a high quality producer of outdoor equipment and this tent does not disappoint. Due to the fact that it is a solo tent it will compress down to a very small size and is totally packable in your BOB. The poles and stakes used in its set up are made of aluminum, making them very light. It is well ventilated and can be outfitted with a rain protection cover, which is essential and is set up in a way that it covers you when you exit the tent. A great solo tent that will fit easily in your BOB.

Snugpak Stratosphere 1 Person Tent


If you are looking for a tent that is lower profile, the Snugpak Stratosphere 1 Person Tent may be what you’re looking for. Again, Snugpak is one of the leading brands in outdoor survival equipment and has a great product line to choose from as they are very tried and tested. A 2 pole style bivvi tent, both the poles and pegs are made of very light weight aluminum making them easy for transport and packing. This tent is 100% waterproof including the groundsheet and has an attached inner mosquito netting which is a huge selling point. Again it is low profile, so entering and exiting will be different then your standard style tent. Check the list of features on this shelter, however all in all, an excellent 1 person tent for someone that may not want to be seen by others.

The Remainder

Once you’ve selected your sleeping and shelter systems, the remaining items you select are pretty up in the air. You’ll need rations, spare clothes and a hydration pack. Some would argue a fire kit would go in the main compartment, however I recommend your fire kit have its own dedicated pouch for quick access. Now I won’t tell you what clothes to pack or what food to eat etc. but here are a few ideas on what else needs to go in your BOB.

Camblebak hydration bladder


While there are a ton of hydration bladders out there of high quality, Cambelbak has become somewhat of the gold standard and is widely used by military, law enforcement and outdoor enthusiasts. It was the original brand to produce a new hands free hydration system back in the 1980’s. They have a great and fairly extensive product line that includes gear other then bladders as well. The company has been making hydration equipment for a long time now and still maintains it’s high standard of quality. If you are in the market for a bladder I would highly recommend Camelbak. At least give them a browse before making your decision.

Rocky Gore-Tex Waterproof Socks


Get a pair of Gore-Tex socks! Everyone should carry a pair of these in their BOB. If you are out in a wet or damp environment these will keep your feet dry, which is extremely important. Now before thinking that you are just going to put these on and walk for kilometres through water, think again. These are to be worn in or around your camp if it is wet or at the most somewhere close by where you will be easily able to dry your feet. These are not for trekking a long distance. If you decide to walk far with bags on your feet, what will happen? Sure, they will stop water from getting in, but they will stop all moisture from getting out as well. Walking in these will 100% make your feet sweat, and when it can’t escape, the moisture will essentially rot your feet. This is called Trench foot and trust me, you don’t want it. So please keep that in mind when using Gore-Tex socks. Other then that for keeping your feet dry in camp, these are an absolute must have as they weigh essentially nothing and call be rolled up to a compact size.



MRE’s (Meals ready to eat) are your best bet for food while bugging out. They are lightweight and typically contain around 3600 calories per day. There are tons of brands and flavours out there so this is totally up to you and your preference. However I would recommend buying them in bulk as you will save money in the long run. You can just pack the amount you think you’ll require for 72 hours and use the rest when you go camping. A few companies I would recommend are Mountain House and Happy Yak. Another option is MRE Bars. They are more compact and calorically dense but they are not a meal you can heat up. However, they work great to supplement the meals you have already.

Final Words

There are a ton of configurations for the main compartment depending on the pack you have, and yes there is a lot of information here to take in. However, getting this right could potentially save your life in a crisis. Again, please play around with this stuff; test your configuration and kit and find out if it works for you. Nothing says having a bad day like having an emergency and realizing you overlooked some important aspects. These are just our take on the essentials for your main compartment so hopefully they can assist you in making your decision. If you find something that works better for you, please use it and feel free to let us know the results.

Until next time,

Scotty Mac,

Coming Soon: Build your bug out bag – Rural escape – Part 3 – The Secondary Compartment

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