How to select a survival backpack

Tourist backpack and sleeping pad on a background of mountains, Georgia (Svaneti)

Today we’re going to discus a popular topic in zombie survival, or any survival for that matter. Selecting the right backpack. Below is a short list of the most important criteria and of course why they’re so important.

  1. Size
    The size of your backpack is the first thing you need to work out. First of all, where are you going to place it and for what kind of scenario? If it’s in your car, with emergency supplies that can get you to your shelter. It’s usually around 30 to 45 liters in capacity. And it contains enough to survive for around 3 days. So it has medical supplies, some sort of warm clothing, food, water en some other small items. This is called a bug out bag in survival terms, or a grab bag in military terms.In case this is the bag you’re going to be living out of. You need anything between 60 and 120 liters, depending on what the rest can carry and how much you can run around with. If you’re traveling with vehicles, you can of course bring more. But it’s still advisable to live out of your bag at all times. Good discipline for doing this is to put something back in there after every time you use it.
  2. Material
    Do not buy a cheap bag! You can often find good looking, large backpacks, that seem very sturdy at first. But if the price is low, there’s a chance they cut cost on materials and how it’s sewn together. This usually isn’t a problem while packing, or testing the backpack. When treated right it might even be waterproof, or come with a rain cover. It however will break the second you really need to haul ass. I’ve seen people pick up a backpack in a hurry, to have parts just snap in half. Or see someone demolish their backs because the back padding on the backpack was shitty and didn’t support the weight enough. When the price is low, you’ll pay a high price later. And of course you can get lucky with your China copied backpack, but do you really wanna take that bet?
  3. Setup
    Backpacks can be setup in very different ways. The ones we had in the army had two small bags you could zip off and turn into a smaller backpack. You’d always have food, water and clothing in there. Personally I’m a big fan of having split compartments, instead of just one big bag in the middle. It’s easier to get things in and out quickly when there are multiple compartments. Or that might just be me… Anyway, another important thing to get is a proper rain cover. Trust me you will need this and it should be in the top compartment and attached to your backpack. It needs to be deployable in seconds in cases of rain. The last thing you want to demoralize you are wet clothing, wet everything fucking wet and getting heavier. Also having the option to either attach a medic pouch or have one integrated can be useful. Preferable a detachable one that just clicks on or off easily.
  4. Support
    Any backpack you choose needs a proper waist band that puts almost if not all weight on your hips instead of your shoulders. Don’t be all Rambo and have the bag weigh down your shoulders because you want to pack a huge revolver on your belt or a knife. There are other options for carrying stuff, but the backpack has to be supported on your hips at all times. You do not carry a backpack with your shoulders, remember this. And well if you don’t, put all your gear in there, go for a hike and come back to tell me I’m right.The next part that needs to be there is a harness where your back is. Do not use your own spine to replace this, it will break at some point. The back part is usually made out of some metal or plastic construction. Usually the stiffer this is, the more comfortable the backpack will be when supporting heavier loads. The idea here is that the full weight is on your hips, where you’re able to hold much more weight than on your shoulders. The back of the pack will keep everything in place, instead of your spine and shoulders. The straps that do go over your shoulders do nothing more than just keep the backpack from falling back.

I hope this list is of help when selecting your backpack. I’m not sure what brands are available in the US that well, but going to a proper outdoor store should present you with plenty of options and additional advice. If you’re on a budget, try surplus stores. Second hand military equipment still beats cheap new crappy stuff!

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Written by Frank

Dutch guy living in Finland. Founded Zombie Guide Magazine in 2012 as a hobby project.. Which is still is to this day. Besides writing, my passions are fitness, the outdoors and good food.