Have you ever owned a backpack that you wish would break so you could ditch it and buy a better one? Perhaps you realize it’s not up to par for your wild outdoor adventures nor a serious bugout endeavor when SHTF.
I get you. And that’s not the kind of backpacks we’ll talk about today.
If you’re the type of prepper, hiker, backpacker, or whoever that’s on the quest for the backpack you can rely on in both war and peace, then you’re in the right place.
Read on to discover the best backpacks for outdoor trips and bugging out and what makes them so.
Say goodbye to backpacks that suck and say hello to backpacks that rock!
What makes a great outdoors/bugout backpack?
First off, notice that I use the word “backpack”. And it’s for a reason ⸺ backpacks have two shoulder straps.
Why is this important?
Balanced weight distribution, for one. Better comfort, another. But most of all, a backpack can accommodate all your backpacking and survival loadout given you choose the right size (we’ll elaborate on this feature later).
Hence, handheld and single-strap bags like slings, messengers, and satchels are out of the criteria.
We’ll focus on function over fashion. So, skip the designer bags section and “tactical” knock-offs planet, and go straight to the Spartan’s and Amazona’s realm.
And while you’re there, here are the top features to consider:
Whether you’re hiking miles away from civilization, or bugging out deep in the mountains, your backpack and everything in it is your lifeline.
That said, backpack durability is a priority. It should be able to withstand the elements, abrasion with rocks and trees, impacts, and even outlast the apocalypse.
- ≥500Denier density weave Cordura, Cuban fiber (Dyneema), nylon, or polyester fabric.
- Double or even triple stitching especially on high-abuse parts like shoulder straps, top grab handle, and the backpack base.
- Little to no loose threads (inspect by turning inside out).
- YKK zipper is king. No YKK? It’s ok. As long as the zipper’s teeth are big and solid and it’s a trusted backpack company, you’ll be fine.
The backpack’s capacity is measured in liters. For a multi-day outdoor trip or bugout ordeal, 40-65 liters is the sweet spot.
Go way over that and you risk overloading your backpack and potentially hurting yourself. Go below and you’ll have to cherry-pick every content which limits your options and capabilities.
Now, here’s the exception. Ultimately, it depends on the weather, your physiology, and your survival skills.
For instance, in wintertime, you may need around 80L as you’ll be carrying more and thicker insulation, sleep system, and shelter.
On the other hand, if you’ve mastered bushcraft (or you’re Wim Hof), then a smaller backpack will suffice ⸺ the more you know, the less you need.
- Buy your backpack after you’ve got your shelter and sleep system. That’s because those two take the biggest space inside your backpack. Then, by laying down other smaller items, you’ll get an accurate estimate of how big your backpack should be.
- Avoid backpacks with greater depth than width. They’re not efficient at carrying heavy loads because the center of gravity is pulled away from your body.
What good is a backpack if it’s constantly digging into your bones?
Focus on two things ⸺ ergonomics and airflow.
Your outdoors and bugout backpack must have padded shoulder straps and a back system that snugly embraces your body.
And for utmost stability, a sternum strap keeps shoulder straps in place while the hip belt distributes the weight onto your hips (where most of the load weight should be).
Then there’s airflow. This is vital in the back system to help dissipate the heat away from your back and prevent that sweaty sticky feeling in hot weather.
- Wider shoulder straps + bigger hip belt = better load distribution = better comfort.
- Your torso length (C7 vertebra or neck’s bony hump up to your Iliac crest or top of the hip bone) determines your ideal backpack fit.
Backpack with functional design
While subjective, there are universally beneficial backpack features. That includes water-resistant material; external lash points for quick access tools; and compression straps to keep items from shifting and throwing you off balance.
Fair warning. Having bazillions of compartments is a double-edged sword ⸺ better organization yet heavier pack due to more material.
Same goes with a backpack that screams military ⸺ you’re either feared or you become the prime target for standing out.
Backpack without frills
Get this… complexity is the enemy of execution.
At the end of the day, all you really need is a no-nonsense idiot-proof backpack. Good luck with cryptic locks and fidgety buckles before solving a maze of internal chambers and dividers to get what you need in an emergency.
Keep it simple. Let’s leave rocket science backpacks to the astronauts, shall we?
Best backpacks for outdoor trips and bugging out
In the spirit of transparency, we’ll go over both the pros and cons so you can scrutinize the tradeoffs and make the final call.
Ready? Let’s see what my long and scientific quest has found (in no particular order).
- Sturdy 600D ripstop and Oxford Canvas shell
- Padded shoulder straps and back panel with a channeled airflow
- Adjustable torso length
- Multipoint adjustments and compression straps
- Integrated rain cover
- Lifetime warranty
- A bit on the heavier side at 4.5lbs or 2.05kg
- Abrasive shoulder straps padding (might be irritating for sensitive skin)
- All the good stuff as its smaller brother, the 3400, but with more capacity of 65L
- Same as the 3400 but heavier at 5.1lbs or 2.3kg
- Esteemed company in the tactical world and the RUSH72 stands for 72hours
- Made with heavy-duty and water-resistant 1050D nylon
- Padded shoulder straps and hip belt
- Padded and ventilated back panel
- Multiple organization pockets with YKK zippers
- MOLLE webbings throughout that let you mount gears and pouch organizers to extend the backpack’s capacity
- Has a bit of military aesthetics (but the all-black design mitigates that)
- Not lightweight at 5.5lbs or 2.5kg (a tradeoff to its thick denier fabric with reinforced stitching and multiple compartments)
- Top brand in the outdoors community and boasts their “All Mighty Guarantee”
- The main body is made of 600D polyester while the bottom part is reinforced with 1000D nylon
- AirSpeed back panel (excellent airflow) with adjustable torso length
- Padded hip belt with 3D zippered pockets (won’t lose capacity when tightened)
- Integrated removable rain cover (ditch and replace with a poncho if you want)
- Adjustable sternum strap with rescue whistle (very useful)
- External cord loops and compression straps not just for cinching down but also for securing quick-access tools
- Large meshed side pockets with side opening (no more dislocating your arm to grab your water bottle while the pack is on)
- Lightweight for its size at 3.5lbs or 1.6kg
- No front stuff pocket (not a problem to those who prefer organizing gears using color-coded packing cubes or wanna tie shock cords instead)
- German company renowned globally for making groundbreaking and eco-friendly gears and backpacks
- Woven from 600 Denier polyester yarn with thick PU coating making it resistant to water, weather, tear, abrasion, and deterioration
- Aircomfort back system, mobile hip belt (with pockets), and ActiveFit shoulder straps enable loads to be carried comfortably, with zero load-wobble, and maximum airflow
- Comes with an SOS label (as with all Deuter backpacks)
- Attachment loops and compression straps with a big stretchy front pocket
- Integrated removable rain cover
- PFC-free with bluesign® certified materials (minimal carbon footprint and strict consumer safety adherence)
- Comes with “Deuter’s Promise” warranty
- The trampoline-style back system is great for summer but not in winter since it’s a passage for cold drafts and may accumulate snow
- Also, the air gap (inch or two wide) makes the load not sit flush on your back
Backpack with the best backpack on your back
There you have the best backpacks for your outdoor trip and, God forbids, bugout ordeal.
Note that while there are more great backpacks I hate to not mention, these are the best available at the time of writing. And before they also join the long “out of stock” list, check them out and make the swift right call.
You know, having a fully loaded backpack (with QUALITY survival tools under $20 in it) ready to conquer the outdoors and disasters feels reassuring.
And when things go south and you don’t like where you are, grab your backpack and move… you’re not a tree, are you?