Is Your Bug Out Bag Too Heavy?

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How to Lighten Your Bug Out Bag Using the 80/20 Rule

Have you ever wondered how to lighten your bug out bag?

I certainly have. In fact, I recently took a critical look at my own 72-hour survival kit, and discovered some pretty interesting ways to save weight in the process.

In this post, I will show you what I found.

Specifically, you will learn about the 80/20 rule and how it can help you shave off 8-12 pounds of your packs weight while still having all the items you need.

Sounds interesting?

Keep reading…

Why Does Pack Weight Even Matter?

Before we get into the good stuff, let me first explain why it is so important to cut weight from your BOB.

You see, one of the problems with a heavy backpack is that it can be really painful to wear – especially over long distances.

Even if you have a fancy tactical backpack with padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, and hip straps, it’s still going to take a toll on you.

And guess what?

In a bug out scenario, you will probably have to walk a lot more than you are used to.

What’s more, a heavy bag will slow you down. Meaning, it will take longer to reach your bug out destination.

Not good. Not good at all.

But it gets worse – because a heavy load is also likely to promote fatigue, blisters, and other injuries that could turn your trip into a true nightmare.

Finally, don’t forget that the more money you spend on survival tools, the less money you will have left for other things in life.

So what can you do to cut bug out bag weight?

Well, allow me to introduce you to…

The 80/20 rule – the secret to trim the unnecessary pounds

The 80/20 rule is a principle discovered by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in the 19th century.

Pareto found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

Interesting, eh?

Funny thing is, the 80/20 rule applies to almost any aspect of life.

For example…

You will find that 80% of the crime in the country is committed by roughly 20% of the population.

You will also notice that 80% of the income is earned by 20% of the people. And that 20% of drivers cause 80% of the road traffic accidents.

And know what?

This principle applies to your bug out bag too. Meaning, roughly 20% of the items in your backpack will make up 80% of the weight.

Don’t believe me?

Look at the chart below:

Bug out bag weight

What you see is the weight distribution of all the items in my own personal bug out bag.

As you can see, 15% of the items make up 85% of the total backpack weight. So wouldn’t it make sense to focus on these 15% – and then ignore everything else?

I think so.

Question is: What are the items that make up 15% of the weight?

Well, it turns out that clothing, water, shelter, and food are the big players here.

So in the rest of this post, I am going to show you how to reduce the weight of these four categories.

Let’s jump right in…


bug out bag weight

When I looked at my clothing selection, one item stood out from all the rest.

Can you guess what it is?

Here is a hint: It was not my pants, shirts, or even my jacket.

In fact, the heaviest clothing item was…

[Drum roll, please…]

My hiking boots.

So I immediately asked myself: What can I do to reduce the weight of my footwear? Can I perhaps ditch my hiking boots altogether?

After thinking about it for a while – and doing some more research into the subject – the answer was clear: I didn’t need a pair of hiking boots for my bug out bag.

They may perform well in rough terrain. But they are also extremely heavy and clocks in at 2-3 pounds.

And while that’s bad enough, research has also shown that weight on your feet zaps 4-5 times more energy than weight on your back and shoulders.

Crazy, isn’t it?

By swapping your heavy hiking boots for a pair of one-pound trail runners instead, it will essentially feel like you just removed 5-10 pounds of weight from your backpack.

“Err… sounds good. But can I really use trail runners for my bug out bag?”

Absolutely! Not only are they lighter than a pair of boots. They are also less likely to cause blisters.

The reason? Trail shoes are very flexible, and your feet are not locked into a fixed position.

As well, don’t forget that trail runners are faster to break in, require less maintenance, and are extremely breathable.

Bottom line: Down-sizing to a pair of running shoes or light hikers will not only help you save a few pounds. It will also make your hike feel more comfortable.


water for bug out bag

Water is extremely heavy. In fact, just one liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds.

This means that if you want to reduce the weight of your water supply (and who doesn’t?), your best bet is to become good at finding and purifying water.

The more water you can find and use in the area, the less water you need to bring yourself.

But here is the thing:

If you live in a dry place where natural water sources are scare, carrying less than the recommended one liter per day could be downright dangerous.

As well, remember that carrying only a small amount of water means that you have to possess the right survival skills.

In other words, you actually need to know how to find AND purify water wherever you are.

So let’s talk about that next.

Finding water:

Finding water can be a real challenge in itself. However, if you know where to look, you can find water almost anywhere – yep, even in the desert.

Here is a list of the places that you are most likely to find water:

  1. Valleys, canyons, and culverts – basically any low spot that you can find. Yes, this includes ponds and lakes as well.
  2. Areas with plenty of green vegetation. Since plants require water to grow, it is likely that there is water under the soil.
  3. Rock faces. More often than not, rock faces have deep holes in them – and these holes usually hold a lot of water (from the rain).
  4. Damp surfaces, such as mud. You may have to dig a hole to access the water. If you don’t have a shovel, use any natural alternative you can find.

Okay. Now that you know the basics of finding water, let me show you how to make it safe to drink.

Purifying water:

There are dozens of ways to treat water. You can boil it for 5-10 minutes, use chemical treatments – such as chlorine or iodine – or a small water filter.

However, all these methods only work if you have some sort of equipment at your disposal.

But what if you are stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a water bottle?

Well, don’t worry. There is a solution. And it is both simple and easy.

Watch the video below:

Cool, eh?

You simply fill you bottle with water and let it sit in the sun for a minimum of six hours (in cloudy weather, wait at least two days).

The great thing about this method is that it kills both bacteria, parasites, and viruses. In other words, the water will be 100% safe to drink.

So what is the conclusion here?

By learning how to find and purify water, you can easily cut 1-2 pounds from your bag’s weight and still have all the water you need.

And that brings me to the next category…

Food and food preparation

bug out bag food

For years I believed that dehydrated foods were the way to go.

Boy I was wrong!

Look at the table below:

Food item Calories per gram Calories per pound
Meals ready to eat 1.6 726
Dehydrated meals 1.8 817
Energy bars 4.2 1905
SOS rations 4.9 2250
GORP/trail mix 6.1 2767

Notice that dehydrated meals only give you 816.5 calories per pound of food you pack, while GORP gives you roughly 2700 calories per pound.

That’s right: You can actually reduce the weight of your food supply with over 300% by opting for good old raisins and peanuts instead of dehydrated meals.

But it gets better.

You see, by choosing an open-and-eat meal like GORP, you don’t have to worry about food preparation gear.

In fact, you can leave both your portable stove, cooking pot, and metal cup at home. You simply won’t need it.

If you want to make your own GORP or trail mix, here is a simple recipe you can use.


  • 1 cup of peanuts
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of almonds

Simply mix these ingredients and you are good to go. No cooking or boiling required.

What you will notice is that this snack is not only delicious, but also healthy.

In fact, peanuts and almonds are rich in unsaturated fats that help improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.

Not only that, but GORP is one of the only snacks that contain fibers. And in case you didn’t know: Fibers help you keep full longer.

Bonus tip: If you pack different types of foods, make sure to eat your heaviest foods first. That way you will reduce the weight of your pack faster.

Bottom line: By choosing an open-and-eat meal you can make your bag feel a lot lighter while still being able to enjoy delicious and healthy foods.

Moving on…


bug out bag shelter

The shelter category – consisting of my primary shelter, a sleeping pad, and a sleeping bag – made up roughly 17% of the total backpack weight.

So how can you reduce the weight of these items? Is it even possible to cut out some of them entirely?

Well, let’s see…

Shelter option:

Unless you decide to build natural shelters, you need either a hammock, a tarp, or tent.

The problem is: These items are heavy and take up valuable real estate in your bag.

That’s the bad news. The good news is: You can keep the weight of your shelter to a minimum by adapting to the season.

What I mean is this:

Instead of carrying a heavy tent in the summer, opt for a hammock or tarp shelter system.

When the winter season approaches, switch back to a lightweight tent to keep you protected from rain, snow, and wind.

Ideally, your tent should weigh no more than 2-3 pounds.

Sleeping bag:

A sleeping bag is only needed in cold and freezing conditions.

In other words, when the summer arrives, you could remove the sleeping bag from your kit, and easily cut off 1½-2 pounds of your packs weight.

Then when you do need a sleeping bag, make sure to choose a down-filled model.

Down-filled sleeping bags are much lighter than synthetic fills, and will keep you warm and comfortable the whole night.

Sleeping pad:

You have two options here: A foam pad or an air-filled sleeping pad.

In terms of weight, the foam pad wins the day. However, it also takes up more real estate than an air-filled pad.

So essentially, choosing the right sleeping bag comes down to a matter of personal preferences:

Do you want to keep the weight to a minimum or make room for other valuable items?

I know what I would do 🙂

Here is what to do next

Okay. I have shown you a handful of tactics and strategies to lighten your bug out bag.

If you implement all these tips, you should be able to shave off 9-13 pounds off your pack load (depending on how far you take it).

Here are the potential weight savings by category based on the tips from this post:

Category Potential weight savings (pounds)
Clothing 1½-2
Water 1-2
Food 5-5½
Shelter 2-3½
Total 9½-13

Now knowing how to reduce pack weight is great. But it is only part of the puzzle.

You see, you also need to know which items to include in your bug out bag in the first place. And that’s why I have put together a special bonus package that contains:

A detailed bug out bag checklist that you can print out and use as a reference list when building your own survival kit.

A complete resource list of the best products and brands for all the items you need. This done-for-you catalog will literally save you hours of research.

And much more…

These bonuses are all part of the survival toolbox – a growing collection of checklists, guides, and tools to help you become more prepared for whatever may come.

The toolbox is available through this link. Thanks for checking it out.

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