If you've found your way to this magazine, you undoubtedly are familiar with the concept of bug-out and get-home bags. Having the foresight to prepackage and preposition supplies and tools to help you through disaster is a prudent thing to do. Bug-out bags are typically packed to keep a single person supplied for up to three days with food, medical supplies, tools, and other essentials. They are stopgap measures, stored in places where they can be reached at a moment's notice, wherever you may be when an emergency arises. If you've already prepared a bug-out-type bag, congratulations, you're already ahead of the curve — but you shouldn't stop there.

Disaster Strikes

What if you're at home when a disaster strikes? What do you do when you make it home right after a disaster occurs? Depending on the situation, you might shelter in place or decide to evacuate. If an emergency takes place when you're at home, consider yourself lucky. You have access to all the provisions and equipment that you've been storing for just such an occasion. If you decide that staying at your place is untenable and it's time to leave your fortress to head for a safer location, it's a good idea to bring more than just your bug-out bag with you. For that, you will need larger bags — and a plan.

The Plan

If you have the time and opportunity to escape your home with more than just the clothes on your back, you will want to make the most of it. Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that a disaster is coming so we can prepare for it, such as an oncoming tropical storm, and sometimes disasters happen without warning, such as an earthquake. With this in mind, building an escape plan according to your particular needs and environment is critical. Do you live by yourself or do you have a family? Is your region prone to tornadoes? Floods? Earthquakes? Do you or someone in your family require special medications? All these factors should be taken into consideration as you develop specific contingency plans.

Contingency Loads

How much time you have to evacuate, distance to your objective, and mode of transportation are determining factors of what you can and should bring with you. Because oftentimes emergencies happen when we least expect them, the time you have to grab what you need varies — you might have only seconds or several days, but you won't know until it happens. Having the use of a vehicle or heading out on foot also determines what you can bring with you. Because of this, weight is a big factor, along with who will be carrying it. A way to balance all of these needs is to break the bags up into layers of contingency loads.

By packing disaster-specific bags, you can choose which bags are a must in a split second. For example, if an earthquake hits your area, you can grab your “basics” and “earthquake” bag and leave your “NBC” (nuclear/biological/chemical) bag behind if time and space are limited.

Special Needs: If you or someone in your family or group requires special medications or equipment, a bag should be prepared or made ready for packing with this in mind. Insulated, cold storage bags are available for items that need to stay cold such as insulin. According to the FDA, “Insulin products contained in vials or cartridges supplied by the manufacturers (opened or unopened) may be left unrefrigerated at a temperature between 59°F and 86°F for up to 28 days and continue to work. However, an insulin product that has been altered for the purpose of dilution or by removal from the manufacturer's original vial should be discarded within two weeks.” Having a cold storage bag with an ice substitute can help buy you a few extra days or more.

Grab-and-Go Bags

Bug-out bags are typically built around medium to large backpacks, usually called “three-day” packs, which commonly have capacities in the 30-liter range. For the purposes outlined in this article, we need more space. In this guide, we look at duffle bags that are large enough to fit more gear, but are still somewhat easy to handle. We find that bags in the 40- to 70-liter range work pretty well for us, but this will vary depending on what you need to fit in your bags.

Some things to keep in mind: bags that feature more than one way of carrying them are a plus. For example, if you have to abandon your vehicle, a duffle that can be converted into a backpack or that can be wheeled can come in handy. Put some thought into who will be carrying the bag as well, and be mindful not to overload your bags. Some people with petite spouses or children prefer wheeled bags in the event that they will be depended on to help haul a load heavier than they would otherwise carry. However, consider the terrain in your area too — wheeled bags work better on pavement than dirt and rocks.

Durable, high-quality bags that can take the abuse and rigors of unforeseen circumstances are recommended for use as your grab-and-go bags. After all, the last thing you need is for your bag to self-destruct as you're trying to escape the river of lava spewing from the volcano that just erupted. Because quality bags often come at a high cost, having several contingency loads packed and ready to go can mean a lot of money spent on just the bags themselves, never mind the gear that's in them.

A way around this is to invest in a couple of heavy-duty bags and to load your contingency loads into less expensive, temporary, light-duty bags. When it hits the fan, grab your nice bags and the contingency loads you need and go. Be sure the temporary bags you choose are sturdy enough to hold your gear for a moderate amount of time and wear. When time and opportunity permits, transfer your loads into the heavy-duty bags.


Having all your contingency loads clearly marked and easily accessible makes them quicker to grab. We like having them on a shelf in the garage for quick loading. Remember to check them periodically for items that should be rotated out before they expire. For more on that, see “For a Limited Time Only” elsewhere in this issue.

So give some thought to your requirements and what sort of go-bags you need to prepare. Then browse the following pages and weigh your options before breaking out the plastic. Because there are more bags on the market than pages in this magazine, this guide only covers a few types of bags and points out some great features to look for when you are searching for your perfect bag.

Basic Load

Start with a bag for basics that you will need regardless of emergency. Things such as clothing, a first-aid kit, food, water, toilet paper, and other personal hygiene items are necessities in any kind of disaster, so it's a good idea to pack a bag for these basic needs. It's not necessary to spend a lot of money on this. Pack some clothing that has rotated out of your daily wear selection, you'll be glad you have fresh clothes even if they are out of date.

Disaster / Climate Specific

Depending on the type of disaster, you'll probably need specialized items. It's a good idea to pack separate bags for distinctly different disasters and climates so that you're not lugging around unneeded items. For example, if you live in an area that can get clobbered with snow during the winter, but is dry as a bone during the summer, you might want to create separate hot and cold weather bags with weather-specific clothing and supplies. That way, if an emergency happens during the summer and you need to travel light, you know you can leave the winter bag behind to reduce your burden.

Ice Alternativesigloo-maxcold-natural-ice-and-maxcold-small-block-ice

Igloo Maxcold Natural Ice

Make & Model – Igloo Maxcold Natural Ice
Notable Features –

  • Made of pure water
  • Sealed in durable reinforced plastic
  • Sheets remain flexible when frozen

Quantity Per Pack – 2 x 4 sheets of 8 cubes sheets
Outer Dimensions – 12 in L x 11.5 in W x 10 in H
Weight – 6.4 oz
MSRP – $1
URL – http://www.igloo-store.com
Notes – Keep these ice cube sheets frozen in your freezer for any kind of disaster or emergency. The sheets of water-filled plastic ice cubes are flexible and can also be cut to fit any shape or size that you need.

Igloo Maxcold Small Block Ice

Make & Model – Igloo Maxcold Small Block Ice
Notable Features –

  • No mess ice
  • Reusable
  • Non-toxic

Quantity Per Pack – 1
Outer Dimensions – 4.25 in L x 5 in W x 0.74 in D
Weight – 6.9 oz
MSRP – $2
URL – http://www.igloo-store.com
Notes – The block shape and gel material of this ice alternative helps keep it colder for longer than the ice cube sheets. Throw them into an insulated bag, and you have an instant icebox to help keep things cold for longer. Block Ice is available in different sizes.

NOTE: All measurements are approximate. Items shown in bags are for demonstration purposes only and are not included.

Large Bags

  • BLACKHAWK! Diversion Range Bag

    Make & Model - BLACKHAWK! Diversion Range Bag
    Capacity - 36 L
    Outer Dimensions - 20.5 in L x 13 in W x 12 in H
    Weight - 3 lbs, 13 oz
    Colorway - Gray/Black (shown), Black/Red, Gray/Blue
    MSRP - $150
    URL - http://www.blackhawk.com
    Notes - Constructed of durable 420 velocity nylon, the Diversion Range Bag is designed for shooters who want a lower profile when carrying their firearms about. As someone who may be moving around an unstable or potentially non-permissive environment, you may want to be low-key as well. You also needn't use this bag just for firearms — it has hook and loop panels throughout, making it extremely customizable for any type of load.
    Notable Features - Large main compartment with adjustable dividers
    Two end pockets with hidden handgun compartments
    Two side pockets with customizable hook and loop pouches

    Check out the BLACKHAWK! Diversion Range Bag, with a large main compartment and adjustable dividers to best suit your bug-out needs.

  • Kelty Bremen (Large)

    Make & Model - Kelty Bremen (Large)
    Capacity - 45 L
    Outer Dimensions - 22 in L x 14 in W x 9 in H
    Weight - 2 lbs, 12 oz
    Colorway - Chestnut (shown), Raven
    MSRP - $155
    URL - http://www.kelty.com
    Notes - The Bremen's wide-mouth opening is large and provides quick access to the main compartment. Its expandable side compartments allow the bag to take on more gear. The bag's walls are well cushioned and its bottom is shielded with a durable, hard-use material. It has grab handles all over so you can hoist it any which way that works best for you. It also gives you a hands-free option by converting into a backpack with cushioned shoulder straps. This bag comes in different sizes to suit your specific needs.
    Notable Features - Wide "U" opening
    Padded exterior
    Expandable sides

    The Kelty Bremen's wide-mouth opening is large and provides quick access to the main compartment.

  • Maxpedition Fliegerduffle Adventure Bag

    Make & Model - Maxpedition Fliegerduffle Adventure Bag
    Capacity - 39 L
    Outer Dimensions - 24 in L x 15.5 in W x 11.5 in H
    Weight - 3 lbs, 13 oz
    Colorway - Khaki (shown), Black, Foliage Green, OD Green
    MSRP - $200
    URL - http://www.maxpedition.com
    Notes - The Fliegerduffle has a fantastic, easily accessible main compartment. It can be carried by its carry handles, slung with its included shoulder sling, or worn as a backpack. It features multiple zippered compartments to help keep small items well organized. PALS webbing is found all over the bag and will accept MOLLE attachment pouches for endless customization options.
    Notable Features - Triple polyurethane coated for water resistance
    Multiple zippered compartments
    PALS webbing

    The Maxpedition Fliegerduffle Adventure Bag has a fantastic, easily accessible main compartment and can be carried by the handles or slung over your shoulder.

  • Mechanix Wear Gear Bag

    Make & Model - Mechanix Wear Gear Bag
    Capacity - 45 L
    Outer Dimensions - 22.5 in L x 13.5 in W x 10.5 in H
    Weight - 3 lbs, 3 oz
    Colorway - Black/Yellow (shown)
    MSRP - $90
    URL - http://www.mechanix.com
    Notes - The Mechanix Wear Gear Bag is co-created by trusted bag maker OGIO. Its shoulder straps can be used as backpack straps or as duffle bag handles. We really like this bag's specialized compartments. The built-in hard case will keep fragile items such as glasses protected while an insulated drink bottle pouch is accessible when it is in backpack mode. The bottom of the bag not only keeps wet items separate from your dry items, but it also can be unzipped for venting.
    Notable Features - Protection hard case for sensitive equipment
    Vent-able wet compartment
    Separate shoe and water bottle compartments

    The Mechanix Wear Gear Bag was co-created by trusted bag maker OGIO and has specialized compartments to keep all your stuff organized and safe.

  • Mystery Ranch Spandura Duffle — Large

    Make & Model - Mystery Ranch Spandura Duffle — Large
    Capacity - 115 L
    Outer Dimensions - 31.5 in L x 12 in W x 15 in H
    Weight - 2 lbs, 8 oz
    Colorway - Coyote (shown), Black, OD Green
    MSRP - $180
    URL - http://www.mysteryranch.com
    Notes - Unlike traditional duffles, the Spandura Duffle has a stiff foam shell, similar to a yoga mat, hidden in its skin that helps it keep its shape as well as provides some protection to its contents. Much of the bag is comprised of a material that is made of Spandex threads wrapped in Cordura. Called Spandura, this amazing fabric has the durability of Cordura yet stretches like Spandex. Lining each side of the main zipper with this fabric allows the bag to be packed to its limits with ease. This bag comes in different sizes.
    Notable Features - Light Weight
    Foam liner keeps the bag's shape
    Constructed of Spandura material

    Unlike traditional duffles, the Mystery Ranch Spandura Duffle has a stiff foam shell, similar to a yoga mat, hidden in it's skin that helps it keep its shape as well as provides some protection.

  • Osprey Sojourn 25″

    Make & Model - Osprey Sojourn 25"
    Capacity - 60 L
    Outer Dimensions - 25 in L x 14 in W x 13 in H
    Weight - 7 lbs, 11 oz
    Colorway - Steel Blue (shown), Metal Gray, Patina Green
    MSRP - $290
    URL - http://www.ospreypacks.com
    Notes - Osprey's Sojourn features an ample 60 liters of
    Capacity - along with its StraightJacket compression system and plenty of internal mesh pockets and straps that help to keep everything in place. This soft bag has a rigid chassis and can be carried by its two oversized carry handles or rolled like traditional carry-on luggage with its telescoping handle. Additionally, it also converts into a backpack — but unlike the others in this guide, it is adjustable for proper torso fit. This is critical when carrying heavy loads over long distances. This bag comes in different sizes.
    Notable Features - Rolling wheels
    Highly organizable
    Adjustable for torso length

    The Ospery Sojourn 25" is the perfect rolling bag with an ample 60 liters of capacity along with its Straight Jacket compression system and plenty of internal mesh pockets.

  • Patagonia Black Hole Duffle 60L

    Make & Model - Patagonia Black Hole Duffle 60L
    Capacity - 60 L
    Outer Dimensions - 23.5 in L x 13 in W x 11 in H
    Weight - 2 lbs, 2 oz
    Colorway - Black (shown), Eclectic Orange, Feather Gray, Glass Blue, White
    MSRP - $119
    URL - http://www.patagonia.com
    Notes - The Black Hole Duffle's main strength is its resistance to water. It is made of 14.7-ounce, 50-percent solution-dyed 1,200-denier polyester with a TPU film laminate and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. That's fancy talk for super-duper water resistance. Its zippers are also protected from water. The bag can be held by its carry handle or worn as a backpack with its removable shoulder straps. It has split, zippered mesh compartments inside its cover and a single outer compartment. This bag is available in different sizes.
    Notable Features - Highly water resistant
    Easy access U-shaped access
    Padded bottom panel

    The Patagonia Black Hole Duffle has a 60L capacity, but it's main strength is its resistance to water.

  • Tactical Tailor Rolling Duffle Bag

    Make & Model - Tactical Tailor Rolling Duffle Bag
    Capacity - 142 L
    Outer Dimensions - 39 in L x 16 in W x 10 in H
    Weight - 11 lbs, 14 oz
    Colorway - Black (shown), ACU, Coyote Brown, MultiCam
    MSRP - $425
    URL - http://www.tacticaltailor.com
    Notes - The largest bag in our guide, the Tactical Tailor Rolling Duffle pulls no punches in any category. It is capable of carrying a whopping 142 liters of gear in its very generous main compartment along with two spacious side compartments. It's even long enough to swallow up many long guns (or a small child) without needing to break them down. It is equipped with plenty of compression straps inside and out to keep the load from shifting about. The 1,000 denier Cordura used for its fabrication is extremely tough and wear resistant. To carry its massive load when fully packed, it sits on a removable, heavy-duty aircraft aluminum frame capable of supporting weight's up to 150 pounds. The frame is finished in tough industrial powdercoating and features one-piece, smooth-rolling, shatterproof rubber wheels. We figure if push comes to shove, the bag can be removed from the frame and used as an impromptu hand truck if need be.
    Notable Features - Mil-spec 1,000 denier Cordua nylon
    Shatterproof rubber wheels
    Heavy-duty aluminum frame

    The Tactical Tailor Rolling DUffle pulls no punches in any category, and is capable of carrying a whopping 142 liters of gear!

  • The North Face Base Camp Duffle (Medium)

    Make & Model - The North Face Base Camp Duffle (Medium)
    Capacity - 72 L
    Outer Dimensions - 24 in L x 15 in W x 15 in H
    Weight - 3 lbs, 8 oz
    Colorway - Red (shown), Azalea Pink/Fire Brick Red, Black, Burnt Olive/Safety Green, Cone Orange/Zinnia Orange, Cosmic Blue/High Rise Gray, Fire Brick Red/Jaiden Green, Flashlight Green/TNF Black, Storm Blue/Cone Orange, Summit Gold/TNF Black
    MSRP - $135
    URL - http://www.thenorthface.com
    Notes - A no-nonsense duffle, The North Face's Base Camp Duffle is made for rugged adventures from the peaks of mountains to the high seas. Suffice it to say, it's well suited for your get-out-of-town-in-a-hurry plan as well. The bag is tough and weather resistant, is made of Phthalate-free TPE fabric laminate, 840D Jr. ballistics nylon. We can't say that out loud without spitting everywhere, but we're certain that it's ass-kicking stuff. It has super-duty zippers, handles on both ends, a standard carry handle, and can be worn as a backpack. This bag comes in different sizes.
    Notable Features - Rugged construction, double stitched
    Weather resistant
    Large interior space

    A no-nonsense duffle, The North Face's Base Camp Duffle is made for rugged adventures from the peals of mountains to the high seas.

Insulated Bags

  • Igloo Maxcold X Fit Hard Liner Cooler (24 can)

    Make & Model - Igloo Maxcold X Fit Hard Liner Cooler (24 can)
    Capacity - 27 L
    Outer Dimensions - 14 in L x 12 in W x 10 in H
    Weight - 2 lbs, 1 oz
    Colorway - Black (shown)
    MSRP - $31
    URL - http://www.target.com
    Notes - It's easy to associate Igloo with the good times of tailgating and fishing trips, but they also make plenty of products that would make surviving a disaster scenario possible too. Its Maxcold line of coolers can not only keep beer and adult beverages cold, but also other important items such as insulin, or even milk for a baby, fresh. This particular bag has a removable hard liner that makes for easy cleaning if the need arises. It also has some useful exterior pockets, although we wish that it had a carry handle in addition to its shoulder strap. This bag comes in different sizes.
    Notable Features - Insulated
    Removable hard liner
    Front and side pockets

    Check out the Igloo Maxcold X Fit Hard Liner Cooler that can fit 24 cans, perfect for your bbq, party, or tailgate.

  • Rothco Large Insulated Bag

    Make & Model - Rothco Large Insulated Bag
    Capacity - 20 L
    Outer Dimensions - 12 in L x 11.5 in W x 10 in H
    Weight - 1 lb, 12 oz
    Colorway - Woodland Camo (shown)
    MSRP - $39
    URL - http://www.rothco.com
    Notes - Made to hold either hot or cold items, we would add pre-frozen ice packets or ice alternatives and use this bag in an emergency situation to store medicines and other essentials. Depending on the situation, the extra cold storage time that this bag buys can helps you outlast an emergency or get to a safer place.
    Notable Features - Insulated
    Removable plastic liner
    Hot or cold storage

    Made to hole either hot or cold items, we'd pack icepacks in our Rothco Large Insulated Bag and use it in an emergency situation.

Light-Duty Bags

  • Ikea Frakta

    Make & Model - Ikea Frakta
    Capacity - 76 L
    Outer Dimensions - 13.75 in L x 11.75 in W x 11.75 in H
    Weight - 6.3 oz
    Colorway - Blue (shown)
    MSRP - $3
    URL - http://www.ikea.com/us/en/
    Notes - As suggested in the main article, you can keep your contingency loads in less expensive bags such as the $3 Ikea Frakta. Then you can grab only the ones you need according to the type of disaster and transfer them into more rugged bags when you have a chance. Made of a polypropylene weave, this bag is incredibly durable, water, and tear resistant. It can be held with its top carry handles or even worn as a backpack. When not in use, it folds flat and is easily stored for later use. Did we mention this bag is only $3?
    Notable Features - Extremely light weight
    Water resistant
    Folds flat

    For only $3, the Ikea Frakta is a great bug-out bag that is extremely light weight, water resistant, and folds flat!

  • Outdoor Products Deluxe Duffle (large)

    Make & Model - Outdoor Products Deluxe Duffle (large)
    Capacity - 75 L
    Outer Dimensions - 30 in L x 14 in W x 14 in H
    Weight - 7.8 oz
    Colorway - Navy (shown), Navy, Royal Blue
    MSRP - $21
    URL - http://www.outdoorproducts.com
    Notes - Don't let the name fool you. This is the traditional, no-frills duffle that you took to the gym back in high school. This classic is made of durable water-resistant nylon, ringed with 2-inch web handles. Keep a few of these bags loaded with contingency loads, so you can grab what you need when you need it. After you stow your gear in a long-term-use bag, the Deluxe Duffle can be stored in its included storage pouch for later use. This bag comes in different sizes.
    Notable Features - 2-inch web handles
    Water resistant
    Attachment points for shoulder strap

    Don't let the name fool you. The Outdoor Products Deluxe Duffle is the no-frills duffle that you took to gym in high school.

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