By Dan Sullivan
What’s a modular bug out bag, you may ask? It’s a standard BOB except most items are stored and organized in smaller pouches. The idea is that if, at some point during the bug out, you’ll find yourself unable to continue with your heavy backpack, you can just take one or more of the smaller packs and leave the rest behind.
There are a couple more advantages to doing this, including quicker access to your survival items and the ability to strap the pouches to the back of the bag or even to another bag (provided they are MOLLE compatible).
What do I mean by quicker access? The bags of most preppers have all the items scattered around. Sure, they might be in Ziplocs or airtight plastic containers but it still takes forever to find them.
What if you could group them into categories, and each pouch would have everything pertaining to one aspect of survival? You could have:
• a first aid pouch,
• a fire starting bag,
• a water purification kit
• …and an electronics kit
Hint: if you have a larger, INCH bag, instead of a bug out bag, you’ll want even more pouches to keep secure the various items you decide to pack, such as:
• a tools pouch,
• a self-defense pouch (which can also hold your ammo)
• …and even a personal hygiene bag.
Another thing you can do once you have one or two of these pouches is to get some straps. These will weigh you down a bit more but, they will allow you to keep your hands free as you’re walking or running.
Which pouches to get?
You can find a million and one on Amazon from companies like Condor, Unigear and Maxpedition but the ones you should look out for are the ones that are also waterproof. If the ones you like don’t have this feature, you can always put the items inside Ziploc bags first.
You definitely need this kind of protection because you never know when your bag will land in a body of water. Needless to remind you that your meds, your electronics and your fire starting kit should be kept waterproof at all times.
As far as size is concerned, it depends on what you want to place inside. If your BOB already has everything you think you’ll need, you can better approximate the size of your pouches. Even if you end up not using one or two of them, you can give them to your spouse, your kids or even use it to store supplies for your pet. And don’t worry about leaving extra space inside of them. You can always add more stuff later and besides, it’s always good to have extra room in your backpack for things you may wish to pick up along the way.
Where should you place your pouches inside the backpack?
Theory goes that heavier items such as your tent, tarp and sleeping bag go at the bottom. On top of those you should put your cooking pots and stove, as well as the pouches you may not use that often, such as your fire starting kit or your electronics kit.
Next, either on top of those or either in an external pocket or even attacked by means of MOLLE webbing you should put the pouches you’ll use more often, such as the first aid kit.
Here’s the thing… if you need to abandon your bug out bag and can only grab one or two pouches from it, would you choose your electronics pouch? Probably not, because that won’t help your immediate survival. You might choose your first aid kit because, if things really got that bad, you’re most likely to get cuts and bruises.
But what if you have a bug out bag within your bug out bag? I’m talking about another pouch that would be a lot more useful on its own… A bag that should only have items of strict necessity. This mini-BOB pouch could be the one you choose to salvage along with your first aid kit when you decide carrying everything is not an option anymore.
Some of the things to consider adding to it include:
• a few basic medication
• a folding knife
• an emergency/space blanket
• a flashlight, of course, plus extra batteries
• a few waterproof matches, blastmatches or anything else you like to start a fire with
• a few water purification tablets or a small, personal water filter
• a couple of energy bars
• a really small tarp
• a whistle
• …and anything else you think may be critical
You really want to pack as much stuff in it as you can and, at the same time, to keep the weight down. This is why you’re gonna wanna look into mini versions of the most common survival items. Also, before figuring out what makes the shortlist, keep in mind the items you’ll already have on your person inside your pockets or on your belt. For example, if you already have a folding knife on you most of the time, you may not want to add a second one to this bag. Up to you.
Having this pouch inside your BOB is also a great way to double the items you already have. Remember the old saying: two is one and one is none? Well, if you happen to lose your electronics pouch, for instance, all your spare batteries are gone. If your fire starting kit gets stolen, you’re left with no way of making one, which means you’ll have to use your bushcraft skills to do it.
But with this special pouch, you’ll always have back-up, whether it’s an emergency related to food, water, shelter or security.
Should you color code your pouches?
You could. If the bags are of different sizes and colors, you’ll eventually get used to them and know which is which. You could mark them with colored duct tape or even topstitch them with colored threads. Totally up to you.
Are there any downsides to modularizing a bug out bag?
The biggest problem is that all of these pouches add weight to the bug out bag. Of course, there are ways to make the whole thing lighter, such as:
• removing items from your bag (if you’re a newbie, I can almost guarantee you packed things you probably won’t need)
• replacing certain items with smaller (yet quality) equivalents
• packing multi-purpose items
• and making sure you only have items that you’ll really need
What I mean by this last thing is, not all bug out bags are the same. If you live in a small town and you know you’ll bug out through the woods, the items you take with you are going to be different than what a city dweller might add to his bag.
The other downside is that these pouches will take up space. If you already have an urban bug out bag and that bag consist of a smaller backpack (not a hiking one), it’s hard to fit too many pouches in there. Consider smaller pouches
If you think the idea of getting too many pouches all at once is too much or expensive, why not start with just one? Figure out the items inside your bag that are scattered right now (such as your electronics), get a pouch for them and experiment! Despite the two disadvantages (weight and extra space), I think modularized bug BOBs are definitely the future of bug out bags.
Dan Sullivan is Editor in Chief for SurvivalSullivan.com