While most people know they need to have a backpack with survival needs covered in it they don’t. It’s estimated that as much as 80% of the population don’t have enough food in their house to last more than 9 days and no other basic needs covered (e.g water).
And what happens if you can’t stay home? Severe weather often forces people out of their homes. The best survival backpack isn’t just a suggestion, your life could literally depend on it.
Human beings have 5 basic survival needs – shelter, water, warmth, food, and sleep. While sleep can be swapped with defense depending on who you talk to your bag should cover these. Often referred to as a Bug-Out Bag these need to cover your survival needs for a minimum of 72 hours.
That means food, water, shelter etc. To be prepared for an unpredictable situation you need the fundamentals to keep you alive if you have to leave. All this needs to be packed into something you can physically carry, and that won’t make you a target for the unprepared.
The Top 14 Best Survival Backpack Reviews
Most people prefer to pack their own bags, but some companies provide ready made options too. Here are several different types of survival packs you can consider.
For those that have neither the time or the inclination simply buying a ready made survival pack is ideal. These are packed with the basics of food, water, shelter and a couple of extra items. They’re not stylish, they’re not heavy on features but the contents is key.
If you’re not sure what to pack or you want to get your BOBs together quickly buying these could be the better choice for a survival bag than going it alone or building up gradually. The downside to these is they’re often cheaply made and many items are cheap quality so that you feel you’re getting quantity. They’re not necessarily everything your family will need and you may still have to adjust and edit them which defeats the purpose.
Ready America 70385 – $XX.xx
Designed to support 4 people for 3 days it has enough to keep you and your family alive packed into one small pack. The contents have been approved by the US Coast Guard and first responders.
It includes food, water, duct tape, pocket tools, a hand crank power unit, and a total of 107 items. It also covers a few non essentials like N-95 dust masks with goggles, a ready made communications plan, snap lights.
There’s also a siren, emergency radio and a host of other items. The pack itself weighs a total of 21lb which isn’t bad at all considering there’s water in there for 4 people.
- 107 Items
- 4 People/72 Hour
It’s a basic and ready packed kit, nothing special. It’s got a lot of stuff in there and is an ideal starter for a family so that you can then take a second or third pack to add extras (such as more water). This is a good starter but it’s not complete by any means. The carry bag is nice and light and doesn’t add extra weight unnecessarily.
It’s a bright red target. While the color is designed for it to be easy for you to spot and grab it’s also easy for everyone else to spot. Since the pack itself isn’t particularly impressive swap the contents into something else or consider painting or dyeing the bag so it’s less obvious.
The pack itself is not waterproof or even water resistant, the water in the pack is also not enough for 4 people unless you are sheltering in place and rationing since it’s only counting 1 liter per person over three days. The company also admits that this is merely a “guide” rather than factually able to last 4 people.
Tactical 365 6 Day Survival Bag – $XXX.xx
This kit comes in 3 stages for a choice of 1-3 day preparedness. A portion of the profits form these bags also goes to Wounded Warrior Foundation.
These have enough for 2 people to survive on for 3 days and everything is packed into a water resistant bag. There are also Molle attachments for extra bags or firearms.
The bag is certified to be stored for up to 5 years before supplies need to be replaced and they’re also approved by the US Coast Guard.
The kit includes food, water purification tablets as well as water itself, survival tools, a canteen, a solar light/radio/charge unit with hand crank, playing cards medical supplies and 113 items total.
- 113 Items
- Water Resistant bag
- Molle Attachable
- Medical Supplies
If you like the durability of an assault pack but don’t have time to put your own together this is a good compromise. It’s sturdy and gives you the Molle benefits without costing as much as a true MilSpec bag would on its own.
It’s significant;y lighter than the Ready America despite having almost the same number of items because it doesn’t have so much included water, but because it’s got more purification tablets it’s actually better, as long as you can refill the canteen or carry water that is.
It doesn’t have a lot of water already in there so unless you can find some the tablet’s won’ do you a lot of good. Wounded Warrior also doesn’t have a great reputation but that’s really a minor reason not to buy it and more of a personal choice.
Emergency Zone 840-2 Urban Survival Bag – $XXX.xx
A set of two small black packs these are designed for 4 people, the supplies have a 5 year shelf life and are approved by the US Coast Guard.
This kit is a combination of the tactical kit and the American kit, there’s similar items from both in it though the 4 person kit has a lot more duplicates rather than new items.
Each 2 person bag weighs less than 15lb which is lighter than most others.
There’s a water bladder and 5 powders to refill and purify it as well as 24small pouches of water at about a ½ cup each.
This also has a 118 piece first aid kit included and a book on emergency preparedness.
- Large first aid kit
- nondescript bag
An ideal low profile bag that does not look military at all. It’s small an compact so it’s not as noticeable as a hiking pack or military bag. It’s impressively lightweight considering the amount of items in it.
The food items can be affected by extreme temperatures which means this will not last 5 years if stored in the car.
The four person kit is really for two people with spares realistically and there are still plenty of items missing which would be useful. The quality of the bags themselves isn’t durable and they won’t last you beyond an initial bug out situation.
Lansky TASK Black – $XXX.xx
For someone that wants tools rather than items this is ideal. If you’re familiar with foraging and hunting this might be the choice you need as you can add water treatment and other items without worrying about food.
This bag is all about the blades and it’s got a selection of sharp objects and things to make them sharper, oh and one life straw because you have to have water!
It’s a 20l backpack that has a padded back panel and two large pockets, Molle straps, a water bottle holder, hip belt and compression straps.
The bag contain a flashlight, life straw, compass, firestarter, paracord, whetstone, hatchet axe, multi tool, knife and other sharpeners.
There’s tons of room leftover to add more to the pack so this is intended as a base of tools to build from rather than a complete kit.
- Lots of tools
- Molle bag
With a couple of water bottles, some shelter and food this is a ready to go bag. It’s contents fit inside the pouches and leave the bags interior free which is ideal for adding your essentials.
It’s perhaps a little expensive for the contents included but you’re paying for convenience. The life straw is ideal once you pair it with something that holds water because it can filter 260+ gallons no matter where it comes from.
The items aren’t necessarily the best choices for the job. For example, the small axe should be ideal to cut wood, only this one is so thin bladed it won’t cut more than a small branch.
There’s no shelter and the 11ft of paracord is a joke. You won’t get a lot of survival from this bag’s contents alone and should expect to pack it yourself and perhaps replace some items for functionality.
Wise Foods 5 Day Survival Backpack – $XX.xx
A 5 day pack that has everything from entertainment to water treatment.
This is a pack that is designed for the basics but rather than just giving you calorie bars it has MRA style foods and they’re actually a little fancy.
While most have just energy bars this has cereals, pasta, beans and more as well as a stove and fuel.
This is mostly a food and water pack though it has a 42 piece firs aid kit and a mylar survival blanket.
This is a basic intro to survival food but you’ll need to add shelter and tools. There’s minimal water and it’s all packed into a basic red bag.
- Gourmet Foods
- Basic Water
- Stove, bowl & utensils
As a basic amount for 5 day food it’s about on price for what you would spend putting it together yourself. The kit is by no means complete but their food is very good quality compared to most other survival bags and if you’re the fussy sort that can’t stand real MRE’s this is a compromise. This is the only kit that comes with a stove so if you have the tools to hunt this can make your life easier when it comes to getting your food cooked. If you don’t have a camp stove that is.
Asides from the food it’s not really a “kit”. It’s a bag with food. The bag itself is poor quality and you’re missing 4/5 of the basic survival needs so you’ll still be building your own kit.
Lightweight Hiking Style
A lightweight hiking bag is ideal as a survival pack because it’s made for carrying long distances and for surviving the elements. The problem with these is that it’s easy to seem too prepared which will make you a target so you do not want an expedition sized pack or anything that is too bright. Stick with a pack no bigger than 30-45l, at most 50 depending on the design. Remember you don’t want to weigh yourself down and the fabric on these packs can be quite noisome.
Teton Canyon 2100 – $XX.xx
One of the top selling packs (#2 as of November 2016) it’s cheap for the amount of features packed into it.
One of the unique features includes pass through side pockets which will fit tent poles.
It has a sturdy adjustable aluminum internal frame as well as a 3l hydration pocket.
There’s both padding and molding for comfort and it holds 2100 cubic inches.
There are six pockets on top of the main pocket as well as two sets of gear loops and three mesh pockets as well as optional hydration clips for external bottles.
This is idea fr a 2-5 day trip, though if you’re being efficient you could probably squeeze 7.
- Adjustable 19-23”
- 190T 2mm Honeycomb Ripstop Nylon
With padding in the lumbar and hip region your weight won’t feel like it’s pressing into you. The padded back is designed with holes for ventilation and the moldable strap padding means you won’t feel like you’ve got pillows on your shoulders. The straps are tuckaway which is ideal for plane use, and there are also compression straps to help squeeze it some more (not carry on sized). Here’s also a sleeping bag compartment that’s separate so you can unpack your tent and bag without having to take everything out. It’s made of nylon Ripstop which, while not being mountaineering quality, is plenty durable to suffer bumps and abrasions. The dry bag is also perfect for bad weather.
This is a really tall pack that will not necessarily be suitable for smaller heights or most women. There’s no added brain so your packing space is set, though you could potentially use the clips and bungees to attach extra items as needed. The size is supposed to adjust down to someone who is 5’1” and this is optimistic, it’s a tall pack and unless you’ve got a long torso 19” is going to be huge. The bag is also rather bright orange so you’ll probably have to dirty it to camouflage it with paint or dirt.
Osprey Exos 58 – $XXX.xx
It’s a popular hiking bag, and while it’s a little on the large side for a 3 day BOB it’s going to appeal to someone who wants to pack themselves out in the event of it being longer.
This has a layered foam and mesh design which makes it good for hot climates and anywhere you might sweat.
There’s also an internal hydration sleeve which fits a 3l bladder.
The frame is a lightweight aluminum with cross strut stability. The 58l is a good size for a BOB but there’s also 3 similar sized packs also offered by Osprey.
The top pocket is removable though so 6 out of 58l can be taken away for a smaller size.
There’s also a key clip and inside zippered mesh pockets.
The nylon construction isn’t ballsitic or HD but it is water resistant and you can get a gray or green raincover which will make it both waterproof and less eye catching.
There’s enough room to fit bear cans into it and there’s an external pocket and bungee for clipping extra items on.
- Lightweight Frame
- Hydration system
The 6l removable top pocket is ideal for someone who knows they will have last minute stuff to add to the pack allowing it to shrink and grow with your needs. The straps are a bit rubbery but they’re strong and comfortably padded for long wear with mesh venting so they don’t feel sweaty.
There’s a trekking pole holder which can also be used to attach a med bag and the external hydration pocket is useful for refilling. The backpack is lightweight for its size because of the materials and since the inner fabric color is different it’s easier to see inside when getting items out.
The compression strap system works well to pack the bag down and give it a low profile.
The nylon isn’t durable and since it’s not Ripstop it’s not good for heavy loads. The straps are narrow which means it stops being comfortable at 30lb. Heavier weights will cause the frame to buckle as well.
The design hasn’t got many pockets which makes organizing difficult. The hip strap is also not very adjustable (about 3” total so there’s no way to tighten it up if you’re slimmer though you can add an extended to make it bigger.
Arcteryx Altra – $XXX.xx
The Altra is a good choice for someone who wants a usable hiking pack that they can stick survival gear into when needed. It’s a very functional hiking pack with plenty of straps to lower the profile and extend parts of the body.
The shoulder and hip straps are also fully adjustable and the pack frame is expandable so it can fit a variety of different weights and sizes of torso.
The pack is darned expensive, but this is going to be the price of a sturdy pack that could be used for survival as well, it needs to do double the jobs so it needs to be tougher.
This is water resistant and light thanks to a composite construction of nylon and aluminum. There’s an external hydration attachment point and you’ve got the option of 50l for a 72 hour BOB or a larger pack that’s almost identical to the Altra.
- 14-23” sizing choice
- Short weight – 2.4kg/Tall – 2.45kg
- Water resistant
- Gear carrying system
- Hydration Sleeve Accessible
- Nylon/Aluminum construction
The reason this is a good option for survival is that it’s packable with plenty of pockets and dividers like the front shove kangaroo pocket. The top lid is double chambered and there’s a carry system designed for picks, poles or whatever you can think to attach there for a BOB. The weight distribution and suspension design make this comfortable for long periods.
It’s a simple, roomy design that has enough adjustment to make most people happy and to fit a variety of bodies, though you’ll want to opt for the gender specific version if you’re a female and consider a strap extender for the hips as they run narrow.
As with Osprey you have to pay extra for the rain cover, and if you want your only survival supplies to stay dry this is an essential. It’s enough of a price difference in what’s an already expensive pack to make it an almost prohibitively expensive pack without a lot of bonuses for buying it. The price is really what should make you pause about buying this.
Aircee 45l Multi-use – $XX.xx
One of the cheapest packs it’s a great compromise between military and hiking.
It’s designed as a hiking pack but there’s also some Molle straps on the front and it uses slightly more durable construction than your average hiking pack.
There’s a lot of extra straps and loops to hang stuff on to despite the bag itself being a reasonable size.
The shoulder straps have padding for comfort and there’s also padding on the back area too.
There are several internal pockets for organization and small gear as well as two side water bottle pockets, though there’s no hydration pocket specifically.
- very cheap
A nice, light choice this is a simple bag that almost looks like a sports backpack rather than a tactical bag. It’s a bit of a cross-over thanks to the Molle straps and it has a reasonable amount of space.
The padding doesn’t do a lot for comfort but it is better than if it wasn’t there at all. It comes in a choice of three colors and is also incredibly cheap. It has a cross strap for weight distribution and all the extra straps are great for expanding the storage capabilities.
It’s a no-name Chinese item and it’s the quality you would expect for that. This is not a durable pack by any means and while it will be alright for a few days this isn’t going to be suitable for long term use.
The zippers are poor quality and this isn’t a bag you want to overload or they will pop.
Osprey Atmos 50 – $XXX.xx
As one of the most comfortable hiking packs it obviously makes for a good choice in survival since you’ve got to carry it for 3 days or more.
It has the unique Anti Gravity suspension system which does make a significant difference in making this comfortable. There’s well designed ventilation with a contoured back pad that’s fitted in the lumbar area so that you’ll have a full range of motion even when it’s loaded down.
The torso length is fully adjustable too but it does have the Osprey hip belt issues so you’ll want to try it on since there’s only 3” of adjustment in the shoulders.
There’s foam padding on the hip belt that provides extra comfort and extends up to 6”. The backpack is made of a durable 100-210 denier nylon which is strong and there’s also two mesh pockets on the side which are perfect for water bottles.
The pack isn’t especially light but it’s no worse than average and still lighter than an assault pack. There are compression straps to lower the profile of the bag and while it’s a bit bright you can also get the gray/green raincover to camouflage it a bit.
This is a little large so it’s good for a BOB situation of more than 72 hours.
- 16-23” sizes
- Anti-Gravity suspension
- HD Nylon
This is a pretty comfortable pack to hike in and it’s got a good amount of storage space so it should transition well as a survival pack. The organization is poor since there’s a lack of pockets but you do get the entire space to work with so with careful packing it shouldn’t matter. There’s a designated space for a sleeping bag in the bottom which can be used as intended or for tying on something else.
The suspension works better than any other system which is probably why you find Osprey in almost every “best” list. It’s good at distributing the weight and you won’t even feel the full weight when it’s loaded up – it’s that comfortable. There’s also the bonus of having the water bottle pockets as well as the hydration space at the top of the pack.
There’s no rain cover (unless you want to pay extra) and their sizing can be difficult since they gauge down to an 1” difference on the belts. It’s really worth trying them on to get the padding in the right place for that suspension to sit right. It’s also a loud and obnoxious color so you’ll have to camouflage it.
Assault packs are a difficult choice for survival because on the one hand they’re extremely durable and therefore very suitable but on the other hand in a survival or TEOTWAKI situation it singles you out as being “military” and can make you into a target. These are smaller packs designed to hold a 72 hour BOB. These are also usually much heavier than hiking packs as a compromise for being extremely durable.
5.11 Rush 72 – $XXX.xx
5:11 is a well known tactical brand, and while it’s consumer grade rather than milspec it’s still functional and more durable than a hiking pack.
It’s got great organization, starting with a large “shove it” kangaroo pocket at the front and two exterior pockets and a designated hydration system pocket.
There’s some internal operator pockets designed for things like sunglasses which you can actually use for other small but readily needed items like a firestarter or sterilizer tablets.
The main pocket is pretty large. The bag is constructed of 1050 denier nylon which is PU coated both on the outside and inside so that it’s water repellent and wipe down clean.
Like the hiking bags this also has a compression strap system for giving the bag a lower profile. It also features MOLLE webbing both on the front of the bag and sides.
Unlike most assault packs the shoulder straps have some padding to them and the sternum strap helps make it more sturdy when worn. The straps can be packed away in hidden pockets too.
The inside pockets have both mesh and zippers for organizing smaller items and a thinner inside pocket to store documents and maps.
- Water Resistant
- 1050 Denier nylon
- MOLLE compatible
The front has a clamshell style zip opening so it’s easy to access what you need, plus the hydration pocket could be used for more storage while the hydration bladder is clipped externally.
The bag has attachment points at the bottom for better organization to attach a sleeping bag or tent. The bag can carry up to 60lb of weight, more than you’ll need to BOB. There’s also a semi rigid plastic backplate that can be adjusted for comfort.
The design is boxy and bulky and compared to the hiking packs woefully unpadded. As a further insult the hip belt isn’t actually height adjustable which means it might be a waist belt and therefore useless for weight distribution.
Paratus 3 Day Operator’s Pack – $XX.xx
Significantly cheaper than the Rush 72 it’s still pretty comparable.
There’s self healing zippers, 2 detachable mini packs, MOLLE attachments on the front, and it’s made of water resistant 600D Nylon with double stitched seams.
It comes in 5 different military colors and has contoured shoulder straps for comfort and D rings to hook extra items on.
There are also PAL attachment points and the main bag itself has three compartments for organization.
The straps are padded webbing and there’s padding on the adjustable waist belt too to make carrying easier.
There’s a designated compartment for a hydration bladder and it can be loaded down for up to 50+lb of carry weight.
- Molle expandable
- 600D Nylon
Despite not being a big brand name this is a very durable and quality pack. It’s got a very convenient modular design so you can shrink or add parts as needed. The option to add Molle and Pal makes it more flexible than just the Molle alone.
It has plenty of space of it’s own but it’s not limited in size unlike the hiking packs or the prepacked bags. It’s surprisingly flat at only 5.5” deep which means it helps keep your profile low.
The straps are thin and unpadded which isn’t great for long use and while it’s durable enough to last through a bug out situation it’s not durable enough for everyday wear.
This is not close to MilTec and is more of a civilian wannabe rather than true durability, it simply looks the part.
Asides from the standard styles of bags there are also some more unusual choices that may offer you advantages on your bug out. These each have a non-standard feature that will be useful when you have to get out fast.
SwissDigital Defrag– $XX.xx
Portable power offers you convenience and connectivity when you’re not at home. One of the modern anxieties you face everyday is that your phone will go dead, and when you’re away from home there’s often no way to charge it on the go.
In a survival situation you’re not going to have that option either but it may be your lifeline for apps like a gps compass, survival radio, or even a flashlight.
Not only that but just in case you can get hold of communications if you’re lost you can be rescued. A solar backpack is a little heavier than your average to accommodate a panel large enough to charge your device.
This is made of a curable 600D ripstop nylon and also features a 2l bladder. There’s a waist belt for better weight distribution with stash pockets and a USB charging port as well as a built in rain cover to keep everything dry.
There’s dual side pockets and one main pocket.
- 600D Ripstop
- 2l Bladder
Weighing no more than the hiking packs and less than the assault packs this is a decently sized bag at 20”x16”x6”. It’s a nondescript black and also has RFID protection and can hold a laptop up to 14”. the straps and back panel are padded and mesh covered for ventilation.
There’s also a bluetooth adapter for your phone so that you can hear navigation through wireless earphones or music on the go. It’s pretty comfortable and ideal for someone who needs to be desperately connected.
While it’s nice and gadgety it’s really nothing but an oversized phone charger without the durability of a pack.
You can get a small solar USB charger for less and have a better pack that will stand up to more. Plus if you’re in an EMP situation your gadgets, and this bag, will be worthless.
While it looks like a sports hiking pack this is actually an assault pack in disguise. Ideal for someone who wants the Molle/PALs and pouches for organization as well as a rifle compartment and tools loop.
It’s very inconspicuous and discreet and there’s enough room for a small barrel rifle inside as well as a pistol compartment and a large internal pocket to fill as you want.
There are two color options and the inside compartment has velcro loops to organize your internal storage.
It’s made of a light but durable nylon and doesn’t have a solid frame like some hiking packs so it can be compressed down.
- Holds rifle up to 26”
If you like the look of a hiking pack but you want to safely carry weapons then this is ideal.
It’s got enough room inside for a large laptop, change of clothes, and more gear while still leaving the secondary pocket empty for more. It’s sturdy enough that it doesn’t feel like a thin hiking pack so it’s the ideal stealth pack if you want a discreet look.
At 5lb it’s heavy for a hiking pack, though it’s light for an assault pack.
There’s not a lot going on here and it doesn’t have a lot of pockets or attachments or features (like a bladder system) so it’s almost a less functional pack, especially since many hiking packs are long enough to hold that 26” rifle too.
Survival packs come in many different shapes and sizes depending on your needs and how much you want to prepare for. Bright hiking packs are by far the lightest, but they may also be too flimsy or bright to be suitable for all situations. They do have the most comfort though. Assault packs are the most durable but they signal you out as being prepared and probably armed which will make you a target.
If you choose to go with an assault pack choose a low-key and non military marked blue or black bag. If you can’t face putting it together yourself there are plenty of ready-made options but they’re almost all incomplete so no matter what you still have to pack it up yourself. Whatever your situation the best survival backpack is something you need yesterday, but don’t feel pressured to accept the ready-made ones if you don’t think they’re suitable for your needs. Everyone in your family should have their own pack, and everyone should be involved in understanding the contents.