> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Go Bag vs. Bug out Bag



Go Bag vs. Bug out Bag

We often tend to use the terms "bug out bag" and "go bag" synonymously, when you get down to it, they're slightly different ways to solve similar problems.

If you actually Google "go bag", you'll actually come up with a bunch of messenger/shoulder type bags, with some smaller backpacks thrown in for good measure.

Soldiers, spec ops and especially contractors operating out of vehicles often like to have a bag of gear with them in case they need to ditch the vehicle and E&E back to safety. The size of the kit is obviously limited - it needs to fit in the nooks and crannies of a vehicle and it needs to be a manageable enough size to grab out of a burning vehicle in the middle of a gun fight and run for the hills.

A go bag's gear is usually a supplement to the operator's on-person gear--more mags, smoke grenades, IFAK stuff, comms, some spare batteries and E&E gear with snivel gear mixed in.

There's not much of a focus on wilderness survival stuff - ain't much bush crafting to do in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the cavalry will probably show up fairly quickly. Instead, the focus is on breaking contact with the enemy, evading back to safety and/or signalling for rescue.

Here's one example of what I'm talking about: NOLATAC: Operational Go Bag.

In contrast, bug out bags, as least amongst typical survivalist circles, are typically larger, multi-day packs, with a focus on food, water, shelter, fire starting and similar. They're usually more geared towards wilderness survival and heavier in weight. 72 hour kit type stuff.

Which kit is going to be more useful to you will depend on your area, plans and the particular disastrous situation you find yourself in. Like most, the best answer is probably to have both - more options.

Thoughts? Which makes more sense to you - go bag or bug out bag? Regardless of what you call it, has anyone gone down the path and built what they would call a "go bag" like we're talking here?


  1. My EDC backpack (North Face Recon) is more of a go bag. For me that makes more sense as a three day "bug out bag" would be too bulky, heavy, and impractical. My "go bag" includes a Glock fun stick, Sabre pepper spray, blow out kit, and a Mora knife to complement my EDC gear and assorted snivel items. My kit is geared towards urban E&E and is as small and lightweight as possible to make room for useful everyday stuff. However my bag started as a BOB but has since become a go bag because of size and weight restrictions.

  2. And let's not forget the ever important Get Home Bag. Being that I work from home, I tend to concentrate more on my GHB than anything else. It's not as big as my BOB but has enough supplies to sustain me in the event that I'm away from home and need to get back in an emergency.

  3. I have a Get Home Bag in my which is geared toward getting me home (40 miles) from work in case of some "event" which makes driving (or getting a ride) home not possible. I figure it is a 2 day journey spending most of the time walking, not fishing/camping/hunting, etc. The food is mostly nuts and granola bar type stuff.
    The definition of a Bug Out Bag that I have used is I am leaving home never to return. I'm not sure I have that one done yet.
    A Go Bag I would consider a 72 hour bag.

  4. AnonymousMay 14, 2013

    That is a pretty fine distinction you made above, the Go Bag gets you out of immediate harm, the Bug Out Bag for overnight and longer.

    String packs may be a good possibility for the GB. Very commonly seen so you can pretty much carry it anywhere where metal detectors aren't used. 1 qt. canteen w/ cup and cover, some lightweight snacks, good multi-tool, bandanna, pair of folded contractor bags, extra large T shirt and a small flashlight will keep most of your bases covered. Be great if you had some way to keep a good pair of hiking boots too, but thats getting in bulky range.

    Interesting concept - looking forward to reading the comments on this topic. Thanks.

  5. Day TripperMay 14, 2013

    I have 3 bags that I use for different scenarios. I have my EDC that holds minimal gear and work related stuff and would be suitable for an overnight trip. I also have a GHB/72 bag that I normally keep in my vehicle or close at hand for traveling more than a day or so. I can easily strip out a few of the EDC gear pieces (leatherman, flashlight, charging cords, etc.) and put into the GHB/72 bag in addition to the more specific gear I keep in there for travel needs (bigger FAK, personal hygiene items, water/food, etc). I also keep a more heavy duty emergency BOB/72 bag that holds all my camping and survival gear as they seem to be much of the same stuff.

    I really like this set up as it gives me options depending on my needs at the time. I can swap the EDC for the GHB if needed and break out the BOB too. I also like keeping all my camping gear in the BOB because it gives me an excuse to get the BOB out and dirty and makes me actually use the stuff in it instead of just sitting there in the closet all the time.

  6. I had a lot of thoughts. Enough for them to end up in their own post http://tslrf.blogspot.com/2013/05/lines-of-gear-and-go-bags-assault-packs.html

  7. riverriderMay 15, 2013

    well for me edc is every day CARRY, so its on my body and yes minimalist, keyring and pockets. ghb is a small maxpedition sling bag, not a pack, that resides in my truck with MINIMAL gear to get me home from town. no sleeping, camping, food gathering, etc. just flat out hauling butt. i'm bugging in so the bob is still being built. if i have to bug, it'll likey be with the preloaded camper, not on foot. now, i do have a go bag. its just guns,mags(loaded) and ammo. its for that time that may occur that i need to rush to a neighbors aid or tptb are already coming in my front door and i was caught off guard. the go bag goes in the truck if i'm going long distance. i've hunped a ruck many hundreds of miles and learned only one thing..... go light!

    1. riverriderMay 15, 2013

      and pepperspray grenades to cover my six.

  8. While I agree that theoretically they are not same but, for me they are. My work stuff has to cover living a way from home for a bit food, personal hygiene, and mp3 player (for entertainment and sleeping in a busy environment). It also has to include spare mags (LEO), radio, backup flashlight, and minimal PPE. Small electronics package to cover data needs, charging, headphones, and digital evidence recovery. All the regular multitools, trash bags, and tape are included as well. All of the items that are non-TSA compliant are in one maxpedition organizer and can be pulled out for air travel quickly. There is enough room for a change of clothes or a lightweight hammock left over. The whole package comes in at 14 pounds in a maxpedition sitka gearslinger. I understand different bags for different purposes but, I think its better to invest in a small amount of good quality equipment that is always close at hand. In my vehicle I do carry some additional equipment that can be swapped out should the need arise but, not another whole bag. Go light. Most people would be crushed under the weight of their equipment on a multi-day hike.

    1. I'm with you 100% - I find that my EDC bag does 85% of what I need. It's those extras that I DON'T need on a daily basis, but would want at hand in an emergency/disaster that are a bit harder to integrate.

  9. AnonymousMay 16, 2013

    As a civilian (i.e., no military experience), my GHB is my primary go-to-bag and is rarely far from my person. My BOB is at home and supplements or adds to what's already in my GHB. My GO bag (capitalized as, for me, it stands for Get-Out) sits next to my bed and has just enough stuff in it so I don't have to stand in the street in my underwear in the event that my house burns down or caves-in from an earthquake...

  10. AnonymousMay 16, 2013

    What's in a name?

    I try not to get twisted up with the name of a system like these BOB's/GHB/INCH et., rather I do my best to design my gear serve a specific function or set of functions. I use a modular system that addresses needs that are specific to what I am doing when I walk out the door on any given day.

    To that end I have modules of medical/first aid kits. One might be a base camp kit that serves a dozen people under harsh conditions, but components can be broken down to serve as a modest kit that is carried in my breif case, day pack, or daily vehicle bag. I also have modules for Shelter, food gathering, water manufacturing, signaling, and fire making. I might use or mix these modules as needed for backpacking, hunting, day trips, and potentially extraordinary events.

    I try to keep handy a very basic kit that I can use to get home if I have to abandon my vehicle or are otherwise left on foot in town or in the woods. For that purpose I use a North Face brand fanny pack that has everything I need to build shelter, build fire, take care of modest level trauma and disease, manufacture clean water and carry things that are useful around TEOTWAWKI (including: extra cord, a couple of Surefires & extra batteries, check book, lock picks, business cards and Magazines for the Gock or speedloaders/speed strips for the "J" frame). These components can easily be switched into another pack or case as appropriate depending where I'm going and who I'm going with.

    I've also made a decision to not look like an ex-LEO, ex-Military, or in any way "tactical". I just want to look like the guy shuffling along with decent but not overtly noticeable gear. I don't want the Chris Dorners of the world to decide to stop and search me. Not everyone has our interests at heart when times get interesting. I don't want anybody to try to take my gear and leave me like Les Stroud in an Zombie apocolypse. I keep it down low and simple but definately "prepared".

    I hope these comments will help others think through how to gear up effeciently and always be ready.


  11. AnonymousMay 18, 2013

    I always considered a go bag and EDC to be almost the same, with the exception that some people use go bags for work (paramedics/first responders) so theirs will be tailored for on call events where they just grab their bag and run out the house/car. Civilians can make a go bag for emergency situations like you mentioned or can treat their EDC as one if they plan accordingly.

    I personally have my EDC tweaked to work as a go bag as well with a 72 hour bug out bag at the house (one for every family member) for extended emergencies. The EDC/go bag works well enough that it can supplement the bug out bag so if I wanted to, I can bring it along as well without adding too much weight (Hill People Gear compression kits work wonders).