3 Day Survival with 20 pounds Bug-out Bag

In this article, you will check out exactly what you should have in your 18 pounds bug-out survival gear bag. In any sort of a bug-out scenario, your main goal is to put distance in between yourself and whatever the incident is. At this point, the key is to be lightweight and fast while still being able to provide for all of your immediate needs:

  • maintaining your core body temperature

  • consuming water to stay hydrated

  • consuming calories for energy

  • to be able to cover ground quickly without wearing yourself out

In addition, you need to be able to take care of any life-threatening injuries that you may have sustained during the incident, or since you’ve left the incident. And you need to be able to effectively and efficiently navigate from point A to point B.

The Bag and Related Survival Gear

With this in mind, it’s important that you really streamline your kit and only carry what’s absolutely necessary, as well as allowing for some redundancy for some of the more important things, to allow for contingencies that you didn’t see coming.

It may be tempting to carry as many modern conveniences as you possibly can to make your life easier. The simple fact is that the heavier this pack is the slower you’re going to move. The more water you’re going to need to consume to stay hydrated, and the more calories you’re going to burn. Therefore more calories you need to consume to keep your energy levels up.


All three of those things go against your main goal which is to put distance between you and whatever the incident is as quickly as possible. You should never plan on carrying a bag that is is more than 20% of your actual body weight. A better goal would be to have a bag that’s 10% of your body weight. It’ll make you that much faster, that much more efficient, so long as you’re still able to provide for all your basic needs. Your bag should be weighing in at almost 18 pounds, that’s a little less than 9% of your total body weight. This allows you to move extremely fast and cover longer distances without getting tired and still provides for all of your needs.

The bag starts with a good durable backpack, and like your clothing choices, you may want to prefer natural colors that blend well in a woodland environment. But you don’t want a true camouflage pattern that’s gonna stick out in an urban environment. In addition, you should also try to avoid clothing and equipment that has too much of a tactical look to it. This is another thing that allows you to be a little more inconspicuous regardless of where you find yourself. You may plan on bugging out to the wilderness but you may have to start your bug-out from an urban location.

Items Inside the Bug-out Bag

As far as your immediate needs you need to maintain your core body temperature and especially within the first you 24 hours or so at the beginning of a bug-out scenario. When you’re not sure you know whether it’s going to be a permissive or a non-permissive environment, you’re going to be extremely careful. So fire is not going to be something that you’re going to do if you don’t have to. So the primary function of your body’s thermoregulation, maintaining the body’s core temperature, falls on your shelter kit. Every good shelter kit consists of something to sleep under, something to sleep on, something to sleep in, and some cordage to hold it all together.


For something to sleep under you may prefer a military poncho, it takes the place of both a rain jacket and a tarp so it’s multifunctional and when you’re moving you could use this in place of a rain jacket. It’s large enough to protect you from the rain and also drape over the back of your equipment and keep your equipment dry.

It also has these grommets that you can use to tie up simple and effective poncho shelters when you’re stationary; and as far as this being camouflaged, you don’t necessarily have to mind your shelter system being camouflaged. Because most of the time this is going to be packed up in your bag and not seen. One of the benefits of having this camouflage pattern is that when you do stop and you do put up a shelter, this camouflage pattern offers you a little bit of concealment.

When it comes to something to sleep in, it’s hard to beat a military poncho liner for something that’s lightweight and extremely packable. It also saves your time when you go to pack up because you don’t have to worry about a stuff sack or any cinch straps or anything. It can be crammed into all the voids in your pack rather quickly. The majority of our body heat is lost to conduction from our bodies being in direct contact with the ground. The fact is thermal mattresses are a little too bulky and they catch on too many things. They stick out from the sides of your pack a lot of times, they catch on a lot of things in the woods, and for that reason, you would like to carry a simple bivy sack.


This bivy sack can be stuffed with leaves and debris to make what’s called a browse bed mattress to sleep on. Besides, it’s waterproof and windproof. So if you don’t feel like putting up a poncho shelter you can tuck yourself inside here with my poncho liner. You can use this as a standalone shelter and be fairly protected from the elements as far as cordage goes. For a number of reasons, TITAN SurvivorCord is high-quality true mil-spec paracord that has the outer sheath and it has the seven inner strands.

In addition, it has three additional strands. One is a copper utility wire. The other one is a monofilament fishing line. And the last one is a waxed jute strand that you can fluff up and use for emergency tinder. This prevents you from having to carry an extra spool of wire for use in trapping. And carrying an additional spool of the fishing line gives me an additional emergency tinder source for fire-starting.

True mil-spec paracord has a breaking strength of 550 pounds in this Titan survivor cord which is true mil-spec plus three strands have a breaking strength of 660 pounds. So it’s going to hold whatever you need it to hold. Lastly, you would carry six lightweight aluminum tent stakes. This is something that’s more of a convenience when you do finally settle in for the night to throw up a shelter you want it to go up as quickly as possible. Although you can make these in the field, this is one more thing that consumes time and energy. So you can eliminate it without adding much weight to your pack.


How to start a fire?

In most cases, you can signal your location by having a roaring fire. The flames and smoke can be seen day or night and it can be smelled from a long way off. It’s not something you will likely need in the beginning and not something you want unless you absolutely have to. So, you may need it for thermal regulation, to boil water may, or to cook food, etc.

So, you need to be able to make it as quickly as possible in all types of weather. Fire is an extremely critical skill overall, so it deserves some redundancy. A lighter is the easiest method since it’s pure flame and keep in mind that it’s not the same thing as surefire. The main problems with a lighter are that they’re pretty challenging to use in the wind, in the rain. And that’s likely when you’re going to need it the most. The other problem is the fuel can leak out if the button is being depressed in your bag. In addition, if they get wet you have to dry them out before using them. Also, they’ve got a lot of small moving parts that can break. So, our suggestion is to carry your lighter in an Exotac fireSLEEVE to prevent all of this.

In an effort to conserve what little resources you have you like to have a couple more durable and longer lasting redundancies. For those, you should choose a Fresnel lens and a ferrocerium rod. If the Sun is out, you can quickly start a fire with little effort. These solar techniques take nothing away from your kit. If that’s not possible, you should choose to use the ferrocerium rod. A Ferro rod is a larger version of the same sparking device that’s found within a lighter. You can expect six inch Ferro rod to start thousands of fires and last several years before wearing out. While a lighter may only provide hundreds of fires and a year or so. And that’s something that’s important to consider when you may not be able to resupply.


In addition, it’s worth carrying some man-made emergency tinder to use for when dry material is scarce and you’re not convenient to go look for. These fire tabs take up very little space and weigh next to nothing. You can pull each tab apart to make three fires each. They also work really well with a lighter that’s out of fuel and work great with the larger Ferro rod as well.

On top of emergency tinder, you would like to carry at least three beeswax candles. In addition to being a good useful tool for getting a fire going especially in wet weather, you can also use this as kind of a low-key source of light. Besides, you could boil water with these candles, but it would just take a little while. Yet each one of these candles burns for 12 hours, and you will have enough light.

How to drink clean water?

The next challenge in a bug-out scenario will be remaining hydrated. Normally a person needs one-half gallon about 64 ounces per day. And the need is much greater when the weather is hot if the area you’re working in is especially dry. Or if there’s a lot of physical exertion happening. It is possible when you’re carrying a pack great distances across difficult terrain under stress and possibly injured.

Water is heavy it weighs about eight pounds per gallon. We’ve already discussed that carrying extra weight will require more water consumption. So you should rather rely on resupplying at every opportunity then attempt to carry a full day or a few days worth of water which could be several gallons. If you are not anywhere near the desert, you should consider choosing a single walled stainless steel 32-ounce water bottle.

Single-walled, so that you can boil water in it to disinfect if needed. And 32 ounces for a couple of reasons. One that’s half of your normal daily water requirement. And second, it’s roughly one liter which is what your water purification tablets are meant for. The nesting cup allows you to have a secondary container. Also, it allows you to char material for fire if needed.


A cotton shemagh is useful for a number of reasons but it’s part of your water kit. Because it will act as a pre-filter for your water bottle to keep debris out when you’re filling it. You can also wet it and wrap it around the bottle and take advantage of evaporative cooling if the water’s too hot to drink. This would also keep your water and your self cool in a hotter environment.

You need to carry a small lightweight water filter that filters down to a 0.1-micron level and it’s rated for a hundred thousand gallons. If you were to drink two gallons a day which is way above your requirement, you could expect this filter to last you almost 135 years.

Finally, you should have water purification tabs. There could be situations where you cannot use previous methods. So you could drop one of these tablets in 32 ounces of contaminated water. Let them do the work for you while you continue to move.

How many calories should I need?

Food is not necessarily an immediate need. However, it is a metabolic need and you’re going to be burning calories and an extremely high rate. You can’t afford to completely let yourself tank mentally or physically. And you likely don’t have time to trap fish or hunt right away. You can carry emergency rations in your bag. This prevents you from some extra work. Your goal is to create distance as quickly as possible and that requires energy.

You can use the SOS emergency rations because they’re individually wrapped. Once you open the main pack and they taste pretty good. Each pack has nine individually wrapped bars that are about four hundred calories each for a total of 3600 calories. So this is 3600 calories that you don’t have to work for that don’t take any time. You can eat these on the move and never stop once those runouts and as opportunities present themselves. You want to be equipped with at least some basic supplies to procure food that doesn’t add much weight and take up very little space.


We had already talked about the monofilament fishing line and the utility wire that is found in the survivor cord. You also need to carry a ReadyMan Wilderness Survival Card. This has hooks, arrows points, an improvised fish frog spear point, and some snare locks with a couple of little tools. So this coupled with the monofilament fishing line and the utility wire that you can use. A snare wire inside the survivor cord gives you a nice little kit to be able to fish or trap.

What first aid kit is suitable?

In nature, there is always a chance to get injured, so you need to be able to take care of yourself to the best of your ability. Using the Black Scout Survival Individual First Aid Kit, you will have a chance to do it.


How to find your way?

You need to navigate between places as efficiently as possible. Actually, you’ve got very limited resources at your disposal. So having a map of the whole area, pencils, waterproof papers, and a compass is the best option. In this set, you can choose the Suunto MC2 compass. Because it’s got a sighting mirror and a small magnifying lens and built-in scales to use with your map. If you don’t know how to use a compass, check out our article on this.


You should also keep pace beads so that you can easily keep track of distances traveled which is important to change routes on the fly knowing what distance you had moved. For example, Wazoo survival gear DIY ranger beads are suitable for this.

What else do you need to survive?

There are a few more tools that are essential for every survival gear. First, having a headlamp with extra batteries such as PETZL TACTIKKA XP. And the second one is having a good full tang fixed blade belt knife. You can check the Morakniv Carbon Garberg. Finally, you must have a multi-tool that has pliers wire cutters, has an awl for stitching or repair, and has a good saw on it.


Special thanks to the great Joshua Enyart the Gray Bearded Green Beret