Calories in a Bug-Out Bag: How Many Can You Really Fit?

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Author of The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices.

I’ve been thinking a lot about bugging out a lot lately, and on my backpacking trips, it is both food and water that serve as my limiting factors. Without those two variables, I can no longer stay out in the mountains. Within a bug-out situation, you’re going to face the exact same predicament. Your goal here is energy to last longer, so the question is, calories in a bug-out bag: how many can you really fit?

Without food, you starve. 

Without water, you dehydrate.

So if we’re going to be building bug-out bags, we need to be doing so with the understanding of what the logistics are here. What is the length of time we can reasonably assume that we’ll be able to survive out in the woods? 

I think the best way to get a good idea of what this number will be is to test your gear. If you don’t test it, you’ll never know what it is capable of, nor where its weaknesses lie. 

You can definitely build a bug-out bag on the fly,  and should know how to do so (I mean, it kept the characters alive in the CDC’s zombies comic), but I don’t think there’s any arguing over whether or not having gear at the ready is a better course of action here.

How big is your bag?

The first variable we need to consider is the size of your bug-out bag. Obviously, bigger bags enable you to carry more calories. If I knew for a fact that I was going to be living out in the woods for an extended period of time and had plenty of time to get from my house to my off-grid destination, I’d be taking my designated backpacking pack. 

There would be no question about it. I’d be able to take all of the essential gear I want, and beaucoup calories. The pack is huge.

However, the traditional bug-out bag typically looks like a standard backpack. So for this test, that’s what we’re going to check. 

How many calories in a bug out bag?

This is a bag that you’re liable to have in your office, the trunk of your car, or right beside your nightstand. It’s within easy access, is relatively inconspicuous, and will carry a suitable amount of goods. 

I also assume here that you’re not bugging out alone. If you’re married, odds are you’re taking your spouse with you, right? (If you criticized her cooking the night before, she may leave you to fend for yourself against zombie robots though.) So let’s assume that not only do you have yourself to think of, you have a spouse as well. Your gear will reflect that of necessity. 

Gear-wise, what I have in my bug-out bag is:

Your bug-out bag likely contains similar items. 

But how many calories can fit in a bug-out bag?

I tore my BOB apart and stuffed every little nook and cranny I could find with extra calories. My bag is 40L, just to give you an idea of the volume. By the time I was finished, stuffing as many calories in a bug-out bag as I could, I could barely get some of the bag’s zippers to work.

When it came to food, here’s what I was able to stuff in there: 

These were all foods I’ve found to be good backpacking meals that will keep you full and satisfied after a long day of traipsing about through the woods. And all in all, it came out to 9960 calories. That’s a fairly reasonable estimate of how many calories you can fit in a bug-out bag.

Let’s just assume that the 2000 calorie/day recommendation is enough to keep you alive out there (a number that I think is drastically too low). This means by yourself you can maybe stretch it out to five days with your standard BOB of food. More realistically? You’re looking at three days. Three days is all the time that your BOB is going to buy you. If you’re going to be bugging out or taking The Long Walk Home from a business conference after an EMP, that’s what you can expect to do. 

“But wait! You said this was a BOB for a couple!”

“Wouldn’t your spouse have a BOB too? Surely, it would have more food in it!”

Actually, yeah, you’re right. 

With two people present, you can pack quite a bit of extra food with you. The second person still needs to carry their water, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, weapon, ammo, and such, but they’ll still be able to carry a considerable amount of extra food. Whether you think this is foolish or not, I didn’t put a tent, water treatments, hygiene kits, and some other kit in each bag. The husband shoulders the load for his wife.

Yeah, if the husband’s bag is lost, you’re screwed, but I view it the same if you’d been going solo. If I lost my BOB while out solo, I’d be screwed as well. I’m aiming for as much food as possible here instead, seeking to give two people an extended leave from hunger.

So, grabbing another nearby BOB, I tested how much food I could shove in there along with other survival goods. 

I was able to stuff in: 

Total calorie count? 17970 calories. 

As you can see, that’s an exponential increase over the “base” BOB. That means with two people present, you would have 27930 calories with you. Again, let’s assume the lowball figure of 2000 calories/day/person. That would mean roughly 14 days’ worth of calories for a single person. One man isn’t going to be packing two BOBs with him though, and so we’re looking at about a solid week worth of food with these two peoples’ packs. 

So, what’s the bottom line? How many calories in a bug-out bag?

For starters, we know that we really can’t expect to spend much time out in the woods at all if it’s a solo trip. Bringing a second person along with their own bag of gear and food does buy both of you a bit of extra time, but for anything longer than a week you’re going to have to give some serious thought to food procurement

What are your thoughts on the situation though? If you really stuff it, how many calories in a bug-out bag can you depend on? Are there other variables to take into consideration you’d like to add? Do you think this gives a fair logistical analysis of the traditional bug-out bag? Let us know in the comments below!

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to,,, and Along with being a freelance writer, he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.


Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • i could stuff more calories in my bag…but i don’t agree on the calories needed… we underestimate how much we can go without food…most people are just overweight and would do good not having food for a week or more and come out very healthy…we always think of “calories” but if they are “empty” calories it is worhtless!
    i would have powdered “greens” in a bag for nutrition or single use bags…i use organic greenvibrance.. just add water..very light weight.. super potent with 1 serving.. think of super nutrition…if you need carbs…try powdered gatorade etc…very light weight… fats…find small mylar bags of tuna/salmon with olive oil…you can get this for $1.00 per bag….honestly i could go for 3 or more months on my bug out bag if needed…with a water source..berkey water filter. this 2,000 calorie a day is BS… email me your reply/thoughts..lets master this thing..

    • Yeah, for a prepper, he doesn’t get 7 days ded without water (3 days the effects start to be felt), 30 days ded without food. You can have all the iodine pills you want and water straws, but good luck finding a stream around big cities or even suburbs. If you have to be on foot, you are screwed either way. If you’re in a vehicle, BoBs are superfluous.

      After a long time of thought, the only successful strategy is going Ronin and living off the ppl weaker than you. No fixed based is defensible. You can’t bring enough supplies. It’s that stark and real.

      • Sorry to disagree with the second paragraph but that’s not going ronin, that’s going nobuseri. Masterless samurai sometimes had a bit of honor, bandits didn’t.

        • RedBranch,
          Regardless, those whom would live off the weaker people, like my retirees neighbors, would find themselves with a shot in the back from me, let them bleed out, and then they will feed my dogs for a few weeks.
          I am perfectly fine with that, no worries. 🙂
          I am pretty sure there are number of other regulars here on TOP, former military or LEO, whom would agree.

      • You might have some luck with that temporarily, but your luck will run out when you least expect it. Not everyone who appears weak IS weak.

      • There are many people with your mindset that are out there in the world, right now. Many more people would adopt this mindset after SHTF.
        Thanks for reminding all of us, of that fact.

        Just remember that there is always someone or some group stronger or more cunning than you are.
        So to them, YOU are the weaker one. This applies not only to Jeff Spinner, but to All of us.

        So no matter how safe or how well positioned you think you are for SHTF, you will never be truly safe and secure.
        So be vigilant at all times and do not let your guard down.

  • Here is my answer to calories in a BOB.
    Shelled sunflower seeds. Olive oil. Hard candies. These are some what heat sensitive and I change them out periodically. All of these are available at Dollar Tree.

  • If I’m carrying extra weight it will be ammo and water, a couple Datrex packs can be stretched for a week or more when necessary…eating is not the primary focus.

  • A couple of points:

    1) the 2000-2500 calories per day isn’t BS. It’s given on several medical sites, including Mercy, Mayo, and NHS-UK. Granted this is a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast one size fits all thing. But it’s not BS.

    2) The effects of dehydration will be felt long before 3 days. There are several articles covering this, including a few on this site. Some effects, such as impaired cognition, will be felt in one day.

    3) Speaking of overweight, carrying that BoB will be an issue if one isn’t fit. Carrying 40 lbs across the living room is one thing. Carrying that much weight for several days of hard hiking is quite another. The same goes for a 10 lb backpack. Losing that weight all of a sudden isn’t healthy either, and won’t improve your survival chances.

    4) Technically, given two people, there are a few more goodies that can be divided between the packs. But yeah, getting separated would be a problem for both.

    These are great things to think about and act upon, however. Every situation is different. Training matters and is best done beforehand.

    • I am not an avid hiker or backpacker, but I used to do a 3-mile run every day and I’ve lifted weights and done other exercise-equipment related exercises as part of my daily routine. And, back when I was a regular outdoor enthusiast – I used to love to taking camping trips with a few of my close friends, and on most of those trips,
      I would like to take short hikes of distances under 3-5 miles.

      In 1998, I let myself get talked into hiking the Grand Canyon. This was the first time I had ever hiked while wearing a backpack, since my group planned to stay two nights at Phantom Ranch and then hike out from the
      up to the South Rim. (We started the hike at the North rim; it was 15 miles down to the bottom, taking the Bright Angle Trail.) My backpack weighed somewhere between 40-45 pounds. For anyone who’s ever hiked the
      Grand Canyon, they will know that the trail is often filled with rocks and it can be extremely hard on your feet,
      plus there is a great deal of added stress because of the necessity to be very careful and precise with your footing, to avoid twisting your ankles or tripping over a loose pile of stones. We all had very sturdy walking sticks – not the dinky kind you can find at Walmart – but homemade ones made from very hard and sturdy wood, and each walking stick had a lanyard attached which helped to prevent any accidental loss of control which would have sent your walking stick cascading over the side of the trail and falling hundreds of feet down the canyon trail. Tip: Do not attempt to hike the Canyon without a sturdy walking stick.

      To make a long story short – We departed from the North Rim at 6am and made one stop at Bright Angel Creek about half way down to the bottom, where we pulled our boots off and soaked our feet in the creek. Of the members of my group, I was the last one to reach Phantom Ranch and did so at about 5:15 pm.

      My opinion regarding this hike? It was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done and I had no idea of how exhausting it would be to hike 15 miles with a 40-45 lb backpack on my back. And, my legs and calf muscles hurt something awful, which made me glad we had planned to stay two nights on the bottom of the canyon – so I had a little time to work out the soreness before we hiked the 8 miles up to the South rim. Oh, and everyone in my group decided to pay $100 to empty out our backpacks and put our unneeded gear into
      gunny sacks and let the Phantom Ranch mule train haul it up to the South Rim. Lightening our backpack loads made a world of difference, and the 8 mile uphill hike out of the canyon was actually more enjoyable and less stressful than the 15 mile downhill hike.

      I shared this recount of my sole experience with hiking with a backpack because it gave me a taste of what kind of physical demands would be placed on preppers who have this idea of ‘bugging out’ in a SHTF/WROL type of situation. I thought I was in pretty good physical condition before I took this hike, and I was shocked at how
      grueling it was for me. Minus the 40-45 extra pounds on my back, I think it would have far less grueling – but,
      that backpack had essential gear and supplies inside it that were necessary for the hike.

      This is something that every prepper needs to keep in mind when choosing a backpack and deciding on what needs to go inside it. And, if I had to give one piece of advice – it would be this: Do not rely upon just
      regular exercise to get into shape. You need to take hikes with a backpack fully loaded, and get a feel for how that extra weight will tax your physical endurance.

      • That’s exactly the point I’m expressing in #4. Bugging out is no small matter if you’re heading into the wild. In fact, it’s no small matter if you’re heading to a hotel to avoid a hurricane or some such! But if you’re walking, especially with all of that weight on your back, I believe most people would be very surprised at how tired they get and how quickly. In fact, Doomsday Preppers featured a woman who tried out her GOOD plan, and she discovered this very thing: it’s not as easy as it sounds! And she was a young woman, what most of us would call reasonably fit. Me? My idea of camping out involves a bed & breakfast. That’s a very far distance from fit! And I’ve read in many places to take care of those feet. Take very good care of those feet! My feet hurt just thinking about your blisters LOL

  • If one is concerned about the amount of food, then ditch the Tent and sleeping bag. You can build suitable (or even better in some cases) shelters than a tent. You can put a Dakota fire pit in a man made shelter, making it much warmer. Ditch the sleeping bag for a wool blanket.

    I would question some of the other stuff also. Not enough info to make a good determination.
    Generally less is better, simplicity over complex items, multi purpose over single purpose.

    I saw no mention of cooking pots or cups for heated food or drinks.
    I prefer a GI style canteen, snuggled in a canteen cup, in its canteen holder. it saves space and serves a multi purpose function.(the holder includes a space for water treatment pills).

    You should also add a change of socks and underwear, if not a full change of clothes, to the Bug out bag. Keeping your feet and genital areas clean, dry and happy will allow you to keep going.
    Rashes, blisters and such, is debilitating. You can wear one set, while one set is being washed and dried. With some safety pins you can pin it to the backpack and it can dry as you on the move.

    You should also never be more than a 3 day walk from a cache or BOL. That eliminates most of the need to carry excess food, etc. Which also goes to your BO plan. You better know your water ” holes”, camp spots, cashes, etc. and alternate sites, all along on the planned route or routes.
    This failure to properly plan and research out your BO plan, could get you killed.
    You could potentially even set up small underground shelter(s) along the route ahead of time.
    If properly hidden and secured, they would be there just waiting for you to arrive. you could put your cashe their also or nearby.

    • It has been raining here for the past two days, varying from thunder storms down pours, to light misting, and steady rain.
      Highs only in the 60s. Lows in the lower 50s.
      Without proper wet/cold weather gear to include a tent and sleeping bag, good way to get hypothermia.

  • how often have you stopped WITHOUT PLANNING. AND ALL THOSE YOU PLAN ON BUGGING OUT WITH PACK THREE DAYS? If you haven’t you need to.
    Go on Facebook to dirty kids ask those that travel daily what you need. I, like most, read story after story of whats needed ….. then I picked up a traveler that ended up becoming my best friend hes spent 30 years on the road I started out with 75 lbs it was very easy to pack. Then I moved to Oregon. One day I pulled into a trail head to test my BOB by the time I got to the top my bag got lighter and lighter. I picked it back up on the way back down but kept it seperate . I got home I wieghed it . I totally rethought my bag. I moved down to Cali for a job and after it was done I packed everything I owned I wanted to test it one more time. I had a cab drop me off at the trail head outside Crossville Tennessee. I hiked three days up to my sisters in Kentucky. Again my friend told me my pack was way to heavy. I weighed it at the bus station. When I got to my sisters I wieghed it guess what within 2 lbs. Of what it was in Oregon. By the way don’t be a redneck with a huge pack walking through the Daniel Boone national forest. Without a permit Specially if the cab driver thinks your nuts she calls the opossum protector, at least get a permit mr billy and young Bob find it exciting to tear your pack apart looking for the drugs they have heard are packed through DBNF .

  • Here’s an element to consider: stress. Most people haven’t been training for the bugout. They haven’t been hiking every weekend, and cross training the rest of the time. The stress of the bugout will force metabolic changes, like fight or flight.
    I’m nearly to my mid-sixties now, but when I was around 40 I was coerced to accompany my sons’ scout troop on a special patch earning trip: a 50 mile hike through the Emigrant Wilderness. It ended up being over 60 miles, which we covered in about 5 and a half days.
    I was in good “work” shape, but nothing that could be called athletic, and I hadn’t been hiking since I was about 20. I packed a 40+ pound pack, and made the mistake of thinking that the new hiking boots I’d been wearing to work for the previous month were “sufficiently broken in”. I had half-dollar sized blisters on both heels within the first half-mile, yet I willed myself to finish the hike. I felt like Frodo trying to get to Mt. Doom.
    Point is, I was giving food away, and still brought some home. I’d packed around 1900 calories per day for six days. I couldn’t eat the freeze dried entrees at all. I lived on instant breakfast (ziplock containing a packet of instant breakfast and a measure of powdered milk; add water to the bag, shake, drink from bag), trailmix,dried fruit, jerky, gatorade, and 2 cups of coffee spread throughout each day. We had katydine filters, and plenty of streams and lakes, so powdered Gatorade was used.
    I lost 8 pounds on the hike. My body decided that I needed to live on stored body fat for awhile. I wasn’t obese, but I could definitely spare the 8 pounds. And this was a planned outing. What will the stress factor be in a real life or death bugout?
    I suggest that for the average person, that 10,000 calories will actually represent a two week supply. Think of it as an appropriate time for fasting and prayer. And think of the extra ammo you can carry. An extra water filter cartridge, plus iodine tablets, are also good.
    I forget to mention one item my sons and I were glad we packed: a couple packets each of Mainstay bars. Easy to nibble a little of, and stay on your feet, even when the thought of food makes you want to puke.
    All these type of articles kinda make bugging out sound like an outing; just another day in the life. I think they must mostly be written by people who HAVE trained physically, even tactically, for that dark day. But many regular people are also thoughtful preppers, but have regular jobs and kids in school, so lack time, energy, and cash to do the kind of job of it that bloggers are apparently able to do. But I believe even the most confident of you out there are going to be nauseated at the thought of food when the real horrors of a world gone apocalyptically mad hit the fan.

  • I see that you seem to be writing from a military / city person’s view. GET OUT of that mindset and think …. frontiersman , moutain man, free trapper , native american.
    Where is your fishing kit … snare wire ? What about foraging (to extend what you have).
    If these things ” aren’t worth your time” then the sad news is you will DIE , period !!!
    There is always something to forage.

    • That means study what is forage-able in the area planned for your BO. Some notes can be kept with you. Paper is pretty light.

      All these BOB thoughts and experiences are well-expressed and sobering. Thanks to everyone for their insights. Thinking for the unfit like myself, that 20lbs. should be max. Having the best for the feet is paramount as well as being realistic about our capacities. Layering can redistribute the load of the back and feet.

      Basics are good air, warmth, hydration and calories. If you know your BOL well you should be able to calculate capacity as well as calories. Stress will require some comforts for sheer morale.

    • I am just a stupid city slicker who was originally from NYC and I do agree with you that if you are stuck in the woods for awhile without the stuff you mentioned you will die. I think most of their planning involves going to another location in the woods thinking they can then use the supplies in there, I personally think this is a naive approach. I personally would try to combine the frontiersman with SERE with more emphasis on frontier.

  • If total calories are the goal, there are calorie-denser foods than what you’ve listed. Nuts and nut butters, for example. Go with fat-dense and protein-dense foods for calorie count and also for much better satiety, fullness, from the food you eat. Carbs are not necessary to life–your body will convert proteins and fat for energy if necessary.

  • Twice a year, I fast for about a week (168 hours). Therefore, I would feel perfectly comfortable if my 72 hour bug out bag didn’t have any food at all in it. A typical person carries at least a month’s worth of fat (fuel) on their bodies at all times.

    I regularly drink water from natural sources such as springs. Again, to get myself used to living the natural life that my biology was made for. If someone was worried about germs, they could suck natural water through one of those filtering straws, or boil water, or leave it exposed to sunlight for a day.

    • yes, finally some one who understands fasting…. and how long the body can go with out food…
      everyone here seems to be talking about hiking, walking many miles… what the hell for? if your in your spot and can defend it, why move unless you have too.. save the calories… again…nutritional calories over crap… ie: empty carbs… i like FAT! and some protein…. Jerkey is one of best and light weight…tuna in olive oil.. mylar bags single serving… again..powdered “greens” super nutrient dense.. and so damn light…

      anybody talk about having their truck gased up and loaded up too? why the hell not…my truck can go 400 miles on 1 tank…camper shell and can store a years worth of food easily… water etc…

      have a spot you can meet up with your bug out buddys…

      if we have to go past say 10 months society is screwed anyway… go down shooting…

      i know where i am going the second i take my last breath here… in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…. so empty the magazines if you have to and go home…

      • Due to the risk to life there are no scientific studies on starvation aside from some Nazi and pre ww2 Japanese studies. Prisoners who go on hunger strikes tend to die after about 45 days, and they sit inside their cell not walking around much. What kills the prisoners is lack of potassium, the heart requires it, and after about 45 days the supply is exhausted and the prisoner dies.

        I’ve been 14 days without food, and I still cut firewood with an axe, drove around and shot a gun. I was functional for at least 2 weeks without eating. I lost a few kilos, but no damage. The hunger goes away after about 3 days, and it makes you euphoric, I would comment that I was a bit giddy. I’ll also note that after 14 days I felt the urge to eat a steak, and I think this was my body saying get potassium.

        As far as long term BoB rations, ziploc bag with a cup of oats, tablespoon of Quinoa, powdered milk, add water to a jar, shake and eat cold. It’s a nutritional complete meal, with carbs, fats and proteins, and I can carry a lot of them with little weight, all I need to do is find water.

        I would not carry water, at least not much, all towns and cities more than 100 years old were built on water courses. It’s why people who get lost in the wilderness baffle me, find a watercourse, follow it down stream, even if it’s dry I’m heading towards water at some point.

        • i like the potassium… besides my organic powdered greens has it but i could also have powdered electrolytes as well…. again… having high potent powdered greens takes care of all the nutritional deficiencies that would be there….

    • There was a woman Olivia Cohen who put her fast videos up on you tube, she did a 40 day fast, ate for a week, then did another 40 day fast, ate for a week and then did another 40 day fast. She has an Iron will, and a belief in god. The videos are gone now, but you can find a time lapse of them. Humans are capable of much more than we think.

    • I once starved for a month and had a lot issues with eating food decades ago, it is a very long story but anyway due to that experience I have found the human body to be far more tougher that it has been stated in both food and water, however with that said I would not try to push it especially if one has health, age, stress and/or weather issues going on like there could be in a SHTF scenario.

  • I use a modular gear system to avoid an extreme amount of equipment and supply duplication. I want some, of course, as backup and just to have more if needed.

    For an evacuation scenario where I need to head for one of my alternate locations, the gear part of the overall kit would contain shelter for one. Depending on time of year, anticipated weather, possible weather changes, and altitudes that would be being traversed, it could be a light tent, heavier tent, tarp and associate items to make a shelter, down to a quality poncho with an insulated and hooded liner.

    Each of the options is available for me to snatch and drop into the bag or tote. And it is the same for the other hardware. I have multiple choices that take only a couple of seconds to add to the kit I will be using based on the actual scenario.

    Food for this type of situation would be in the iron rations class. High caloric density foods, supplemented with highly nutritious foods and food adjuncts. My iron rations consist of my homemade jerky, which is very, very dry with only a touch of salt and that is all.

    Part two is my homemade GORP. This is made in batches of approximately three pounds. Depending on what the current packaging is at the time, 16-ounces of premium mixed nuts (no peanuts) plus 16-ounces of plain M&Ms, plus 8-ounces to 16-ounces of diced dried dates.

    Part three consists of Millinneum Ration Bars at 400-calories each.

    Part four is a combination of dehydration prevention additives for water (which also help give some taste to it to avoid the blandness of plain water being consumed all day, every day, for multiple days.); teabags or compressed tea blocks, instant hot chocolate mix, beef bouillon, sugar, Coffee Mate, honey, lemon juice concentrate or powder, butterscotch and mint hard candies, and 190-proof Everclear.

    The part four items provide me a means to make staying hydrated much easier, allows for refreshing drink and a warm drink in the evening before bed to ward off getting chilled during the night, and the means to make a hot toddy (hot lemonade, honey, & a tiny bit of the Everclear) if I feel any type of illness coming on. And it can help me fall asleep.

    If it is approaching winter or is winter when I have to leave, besides about half the jerky I would normally take, I take along some high quality, traditional pemmican. Purchased if I can find it made the way I prefer, or I make it myself. Premium very dry jerky with an equal weight of premium melted and clarified suet.

    The jerky is protein; the GORP is protein with fats, sugar, some nutritional elements, and an enjoyable taste.

    The Millennium Ration Bars provide much of the micro-nutrients, in addition to protein and carbs. They are not thirst-inducing and at only 400-calories each, there is little waste. They can be nibbled on throughout the day or eaten as part of a meal.

    The water flavorings add electrolytes and minerals that stave off dehydration that can occur even when drinking significant amounts of water. Water alone, if you are sweating it out much to speak off is taking not only the water you have been drinking, but includes those electrolytes and minerals that are required for the body to function properly.

    The tea and hot chocolate especially, but also the beef bouillon, provide a pick-me up in the morning and warmth inside you before you go to bed. By starting with a warm body, falling asleep and staying warm at night makes for much better quality sleep.

    If a person begins treating any type of illness early the illness can be dealt with much more effectively. And one of the starts for that is often keeping the mouth and throat moist and as germ-free as possible. Hot lemonade with honey and alcohol, plus keeping a peppermint disk in your mouth goes a long way to accomplishing that. And the other hard candy, butterscotch disks in my case, is something with sugar that I can consume occasionally during the day to keep my mouth moist and provide a tiny bit of energy.

    Now, there is another item that has become very difficult to find but adds a great deal to the part four items is Horlick’s Malt tablets. They were designed as a food supplement for children in depressed areas, so have significant nutrition in a small, tasty package. I keep some in my gear, but do not know where I will find more once they are gone, unless I start making my own.

    So, having from two to six vacuum packed packets of these items added to the kit, and stuffing more of the individual components in the bag or tote to take up empty space, and I can have enough food that is tasty enough to get me through at least two weeks, and if stretched or supplemented, for a month or more. With the pemmican, if it is not too cold or two strenuous, is super dense and could easily double the time. Although, unless cut up and dissolved in hot water to make a soup, it is not that palatable by itself for most people.

    That is taking the minimums for a relocation. Since it is the maximum I can carry on my back, and a strain at that, I pretty much always use a game cart. Even loading it to less than 1/3 of its capacity I can still take several times the amount of gear and supplies that even trained people that have been doing that can carry.

    Just my opinion.

  • Good article Aden.
    And thank you for bringing up the logistical aspect of prepping and bugging out. I know of a number of prepers who focus more on the things that go PEW!PEW! than logistics.
    I am of the opinion that calories and access to potable water will be more of a determining factor for survival than the tacti-cool stuff. Not ruling out firearms.

    I do think your calorie estimate of 2,000 is low, though.
    Having done a number of multi-day backpacking trips over hilly terrain, and exercises in the military, you can and do burn a lot of calories when humping with a pack.

    I know a number of so-called survivalists who will tell you, you can ditch/lighten your load and build a shelter or a fire. What they do not mention is the time and energy (aka calories) required to build that shelter or fire. Same goes for forging. If you are staying in one spot for more than a day or two, forging is doable. If you beating feet for a BOL, do you really want to prolong your time from your destination if you do not have to by way of what supplies you are carrying?

    They also always assume their particular situation/location (known as situational bias, Daisy has an article somewhere around here) applies to everyone. They always assume ideal conditions. They never take into account things like where you are, in the mountains, the weather can change in matter of minutes. You have to get that shelter up, fast and in a hurry. You need that 4 season sleeping bag. Looking out the window at the snow. In Kit Authur’s article about tracking, I mentioned about how in the winter, the snow gives you an idea of what game might be out and about. Sometimes I see deer, rabbit, fox, bobcat tracks. Other times I have not seen tracks for days. What supplies you have on hand are known. What are the chances of setting traps could supply you with food? That would be a unknown. Going to bet your life on chance?

    The food products you list, some are new to me, others (MREs, ugh!) quite familiar with. I like freeze dried foods, instant soups (especially in cold weather), GORP, and jerky that I have made as I can control the fat content (fat has a the highest calorie content per weight) and salt. Salt is the one mineral we humans cannot produce ourselves that we need to maintain homeostasis, especially when under heavy physical activity. In the winter, humping with a pack, you will sweat. I have written about how you can become a heat case, even in the winter.

    Water, I like gravity filters. I used to be fan of straw filters. Then we had a drought. A number of water sources I would depend on, dried up. The one lake water line changed to the point I would have to find another way to get to the water.
    Now, I have a 3L clean bag, and a 3L dirty bag. Does 6L weight more? Sure. But I have more water on hand, go a lot farther before having to search for a water source again.
    And, have you ever tried to fill a canteen/water bladder/bottles by the straw suck and spit method? Have at it. Not for me.
    And, how does one, if by themselves, maintain situational awareness when sucking through a straw from a body of water?
    Head down, posterior end up in the air, could make for a interesting target.

    Time, additional note.
    Setting up camp can take a degree of time. Most tents can be set up in less than 5 minutes. Multi-fuel camp stove, about 2 minutes.
    Ever try to build a shelter or a fire in a forest where it has been raining (or snowing) for 3 days? Is it possible? Yes. But it takes a lot more time and energy then pulling out the tent, or firing up the camp stove.

  • I’d also add a sillcock key, some aqua tabs, and a metal cup for boiling water or cooking raw food you might acquire.

  • Good article Aden,

    When I first fully grasped, dove into, or addicted to (LOL) the Prepper Lifestyle 12 years ago, I had certain ideas, goals, attitudes I held, but in the intervening years, reality has forced some changes on me.
    The first reality B slap was this, can I hike the 60 to 80 miles to our Bug Out location within a reasonable time frame? The answer is No. I suffered from moderately advanced Degenerative Joint Disease. Cartilage in my main joints is 80 to 90% gone. Thus even a walk around the block is an exercise in “How much pain can you handle?” The answer is, not a lot. I seriously doubt I could get enough pain medication prescribed to make the journey. So Bugging Out by foot becomes the very last option to choose. Bugging Out by vehicle, the better option, but that may/may not be possible.
    Calorie wise, I’d suggest 3,000 to 4,000 kcals per person per day, because one will be under strenuous physical and mental strain for a prolonged period of time on a Bug Out. If the weather’s incremented, 4,000 to 5,000 kcals as staying warm will burn off that much more calories over mild weather.
    Water, becomes a question because every gallon of water you carry weighs 8 and 1/3 pounds. The 3 routes I’ve earmarked for travel have water at various points along the way, but there’s still certain areas and distances where water isn’t available, so carrying some will be necessary.

    MRE’s v Dehydrated Foods.

    Having some ready to eat items are a must, survival bars, jersey, hard candy. Anything that provides calories without preparation is a choice. MRE’s have pros and cons.
    Ready to eat meal
    Can be eaten Hot or Cold
    Individually heated

    Heavy and bulky (because the food is ready to eat).
    Constipation, a steady diet of MRE’s and you’ll begin to have bowel problems (service members are convinced the military makes them that way).
    Often rather bland entrees that some may find downright distasteful. There are entrees that are very popular with the troops and some they’d rather skip the meal than eat it. When you purchase by case, you’ve no choice in selection. They’re also Fortified, so each entree has that distinct sprinkled with a one a day vitamin taste, some find it very unpalatable.

    Dehydrated Foods have their Pros and Cons too.
    Lighter, take up less space, thus you can carry more
    More selection of entrees
    Not fortified, so they don’t have the Vitamin taste MRE’s do.
    Generally, much tastier
    All require water
    All require cooking thus more time to prepare.

    The biggest drawback to Dehydrated Foods is the need for water.
    So if water is abundant on your trek, Dehydrated is the way to go.
    If Water is an issue, and conserving it a must, then MRE’s are the better option.

    I won’t survive the collapse for very long, a year maybe two tops. Once certain medications become unobtainable, it will be a matter of a few weeks before I throw a clot, and it will be over. Thus, most of my preps has gone towards making sure my progeny have a fighting chance to survive whatever comes down the pike.

    • Bemused Berserker,
      Thank you for pointing out the constipation/bowel blockage issues with MREs. I have seen that first hand, requiring medical attention of the ER kind. If one were to go the MRE route, increase the water intake. Dont mess around, seriously. A bowel blockage in a SHTF event could be a death sentence.

  • There are three things listed in order of importance to LIVE. Oxygen, water, and food (all things being equal.)

    So make sure FIRST you can breathe clean air as possible if contaminated, cloth, gas mask, filtered anything for your face. Second, then is water. As much as you can carry with portable water filters backup, then you can worry about calories.

    The best would be high-calorie food which means starches and fats, then proteins with the rest of the vitamin stuff. Your body needs all kinds of nutrients to survive. Think powder for some of your nutrients like vitamin C and liver powder. Very important and so little is needed but it will keep you energized and alive while others get sick just living off of starches and fats.

  • While thinking about bugging out on foot sounds doable, there may be other factors that may make such plans impracticable.

    For example, I live near, not in, a major city. The nearest “wilderness” areas have well marked paths that, on a normal day, are full of day hikers. In a bug out situation, those “wilderness” areas will be swarming with like-minded people, and a few not so nice people. Would such an area be a practical area for bugging out?

    In my personal situation, I’m responsible for a nonagenarian relative for whom walking one mile without a pack is not an option.

    If I were single, I would definitely consider getting something like the Extra Wheel bicycle trailer (, but changed with handles so it can be pulled while walking down a trail. Get the biggest, fattest tire that will fit. At walking speeds, it can carry two to three times its rated load.

  • I’ve been on a weight loss journey for the last two years and have learned a ton about how many calories I actually need and how much I need to work. I’ve lost 100 pounds, give or take, so I know a bit about body mechanics at this point. I’ve also spent a couple months living rough in Nevada actually living on beans and rice.

    Anyway, that said, I pretty much agree with what this person packed in the two BOBs. Though not the only solution it’s a pretty decent balance between nutritional value and calorie content.

    Also, while it’s easy to say that some people need to miss a few meals anyway so don’t necessarily need food, if a body isn’t used to dieting and goes from having everything it wants down to being asked to work hard on minimal calories, it tends to freak out and cause muscle weakness, dizziness, and all kinds of things you don’t want to have happening to you when you’re in the middle of a crisis.

    For that reason I might recommend for peppers to practice dieting a little, just to see how hard they can work on tight rations, how much they can do, etc. For example I might be able to do just fine on 1500 calories working a desk job and just doing a little light cardio. However ask me to hike all day under load and I’ll probably want at least 1,000 more calories than that, and it had better have some fat and carbs in there along with the protein.

    I personally tend to store away a lot of protein bars and such because if I can only afford to eat a little, protein stays with me longest, however that is going to vary a lot with physiology, training, and what a person is doing.

    • RedBranch,
      Thank you for that input/experiences.

      As it was meant to be, bootcamp was very physical and stressful.
      I looked forward to a hot meal. Greatly improved morale.

  • I have a small shoulder bag that I keep pacled with Mountain House meals. There are 19 meals in there. It is my grab and go food pack. I can put on my pack and sling the food bag as well.

    Once the food is gone it an be put to other uses.

    Fortunately there are a lot of creeks, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes in the area. Water is not an issue. Those are free flowing for about 6 months of the year, the other 6 months they are iced over and there’s plenty of snow to melt.

    In the winter I can pull a small sled with my pack and extra winter gear.

    Depending on where you live a game cart like Jerry suggests will take the load for you. Perhaps a small garden cart, or a bike trailer that can be used with a bike or on it’s own.

    I don’t want to be on foot if I can avoid it. Truck first, then bike and trailer, then foot and trailer.

    My other half has serious autoimmune disease / degenerative joint issues and isn’t walking far. That pretty much limits things to vehicle based travel. Fortunately our spot isnt too far and there are lots of back road options to get there. And there are places we can hole up along the way.

    If I am going to be on foot my US made Danner combat boots are going to be on my feet. They’re as comfortable as athletic shoes and well broken in.

  • As outlined in your article, the amount of calories one can carry depends greatly on several factors. Including food choices, pack size and your personal capability to carry it.
    A simple force multiplier in this arena, might involve a wagon or shopping cart to take along.

  • Put peanut butter in mixer when warm a1/3 m&m it adds calories.

    Try parboiled rice packages tilda brand or Ben’s makes so good ones you can eat cold if you have to.

    Other thing to pack is refried beans in a paste either as a tube or a pouch.

    I noticed no mineral salt or vitamin packs you will need to stop cramping from over working muscles.

    For vitamins emergan C adds flavor to water especially if you are using bleach or tablets to clean water.

    pemmican with dehydrated berries ( needs to be changed every 4 months)

    Also dont forget to forage as you go to add light weight additions to food… I carry a sling shot with whisker biscuit (fold down) with steel balls and 2 arrows one with bunny buster one with broadhead.

    I would also add instant coffee and some 5 hour energy drinks for when you need a boost.

    Having some hard candies or cough candies to suck on helps thirst and is moral boost plus if sick.

    Cough syrup… you know if you have it you probably wont need it.

  • looking at these lists here, don’t see much in the way of fiber. might want to pack some exlax or other emetic.

  • Americans are in real bad shape in several ways. Jesus walked around in the desert for 40 days with NO FOOD and so can you. No, you can’t do it cold turkey. Start slowly. Very slowly. Tons of good videos on Screw Tube. Dr. Berg is one of many I recommend. Day 2 or 3 are the hardest. After that your body adapts. You are no longer hungry , your energy increases and your mind becomes sharper. Your body knows that it hasn’t eaten in days it need to get better in hopes of getting that food it needs. The longest documented fast was over 380 days in the 1960’s IIRC. Yes, I said 380. Carrying vitamins, minerals and amino acids on a fat burning adapted body will get you through the coming famine. Remember though. On day three the average person will feel like they will starve to death and the violent rioting will commence. Wait it out in safety.

  • Your first mistake was not having a cooking set in your bug out bag list.
    Eventually you will need to cook real food or to make hot liquids to drink in winter.
    The second was in not having a good IFAK listed, not one of those little plastic ones either.
    The water problem is fixed in two ways. Either you choose a BO route that takes you near water sources, so you can resupply. Or you cashe some with some food supplies along your BO route.
    Which solves your food carrying dilemma also.
    But you should be knowledgeable in trapping game and eating wild plants. Because the food you BO with, will only last so long and there are always
    the dangers of it being lost, stolen, spoiled or otherwise made unusable.

    • Just because he does not have something listed, does not mean he does not have it on him.
      He lists ammo, but no mention of for what kind of firearm. Are you going to assume he is then just carrying ammo and no firearm?
      If I know anything about Aden from his past postings, pretty sure he also has a mess kit, a first aid kit, a fixed knife and a folder just to name a few things he did not list.

      If you are bugging out to a BOL, why would you stop and spend the time waiting for something to trap?

  • For most of us a BoB will just get us home or to a secure location. And most of us don’t commute much more than fifty miles, so could travel light and be there in two or three days.

    And in those first few days most people around won’t realise the seriousness of the situation, so you should be able to ghost to your destination without too much trouble. Some shops might even be open.

    But after a week, things will get hectic. So travel light and get home fast would be my view.

    Of course if it’s Mad Max and you are having to flee over huge distances, a BoB buys only a trivial amount of time.

  • If you have a bug out location established with supplies, you only need enough food to make it there, and you can do it on short rations. If it’s going to be a longer walk than you planned for, you will probably be able to scavenge along the way. I would worry more about water, and staying warm in winter and cool in summer.

    • Nobody You Know,
      I agree.
      While no plan survives first contact, the objective is to go from point A, to point B preferably in a short of a time period of time as possible, limiting one’s exposure.
      There could be unforeseen obstacles, such as a key bridge wiped out or even occupied by a armed force, that could force us to go from simple plan A to more complex plan B or even plan C.
      If there was a super EMP event, rendering all vehicles inoperable, and I had to hump it from town to home, it would take roughly 5 hours on foot.
      Do I bet on hope and chance that is the way it is going to be? Or do I pack the BOB with 2-3 days of food, extra clothing, tent, sleeping bag and seasonal appropriate clothing. Note, last week, we got about 2 feet of snow in 24 hours. The one morning it was 13 degrees.

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