Packing A Backpacker's Version Of A Bug Out Bag

Packing A Backpacker's Version Of A Bug Out Bag

The Bug Out Bag concept is one of those basic preparedness ideas that are highly recommended by emergency services for people who live in disaster prone areas. The idea is simple: a readily packed bag that allows you to be self sufficient for a set period, usually 24-72 hours. This is a very good idea if you are in an area that might be evacuated quickly due to flooding, earthquakes, etc. But I'm not interested in writing about a bug out bag, there are enough great articles out there about that topic. What I want to talk about is where this bug out bag mindset meets microadventures.


If somehow you have been under a rock or something for the last five years, a British guy named Alastair Humphreys started a whole movement called microadventures, around the idea of going for quick 12-48 hours adventures close to where you live. Those adventures can include very little hiking but should include a night outdoors to qualify as a microadventure. This concept has spread like wildfire, especially in the UK but also across Europe, Australia and the US. You can read all about it on Alastair's site; he has great materials and even a book.


As I said, I want to take those two, seemingly unrelated concepts: bug out bag and microadventures, and combine them. The goal here is to have the perfect easy setup to run out the door in 10 minutes, when time permits. If you are like me and have kids, a partner you want to spend time with, full time (and some) job, social commitments and just normal life, trips require lots of planning. On the other hand, every so often you might find yourself on a Saturday afternoon with no more plans for the weekend, and a trip would be just great about now. But. Packing, gathering food, finding a place, getting maps, etc all feel like one big hassle. So, to make that spontaneous trip possible, why not sort a "go outdoors box" to allow for a 10 minute pack and go? Here is my idea:

Go Outdoors Box

First, the reason it is a box: you shouldn't store your insulation gear compressed, so instead of having the gear packed, it will all be stored in a big box and all you need is to stick in the pack. That way the gear is organized, but also will be stored properly.

Full box outside

In The Box

You probably already have the core of your gear sorted for an overnight trip in a specific season, the idea is just to keep it all together in the box and packed in zip locks for easy packing:

  • Backpack - 25-45l, you don't need more
  • Shelter - you have your pick, but make sure you have the seasonally appropriate one and keep it updated as the seasons change. Using a tarp? Don't forget to add snow stakes for winter or a bug net for summer
  • Sleeping gear - we all have our preferred system, make sure to pack your sleeping bag/quilt loosely at the top of the box
  • Food prep - set all you gear in a big ziplock to just "chuck in the bag" when you are ready to go. Make sure the fuel is sufficient for any length of time and consider having an extra container to add, if going for more then one night
  • Clothing - have your core hiking clothing ready and make sure to add/remove as the seasons and weather change
  • Emergency - first aid, fire tools, whistle, knife, etc
  • Electronics - good to have for the road or at the end of the trip is a charging brick (8-15k), a charging cable and any other electronics you use. For me that also includes a Delorme Inreach

Box with gear inside


You probably have fuel ready at hand and have some backpacking food in your kitchen. Luckily both fuel and food are not perishable, so make a few sets with marked days of food to easily put in the bag. I recommend having a big ziplock with an overnight food kit (dinner, breakfast, two lunches) and smaller bags for additional nights. Don't forget to write on them what is inside!


Where to go (aka, Navigation)

When it comes to where to go, it is really about what you feel comfortable with. I like to have a bank of trips (3-4) in stock with various difficulty levels, driving distances and length. I keep printed maps of each of those trips and just make sure to take it when I leave.

To keep your destination bag sorted, just dedicate one evening a month to some research: maps, online forums, friends' recommendations, etc.

Maps stack

Making it work

Have your box ready? Is it all well stocked? Have a few trips in mind? Now it is just waiting for the right moment where you are free for a night or so: when possible, head over to the box, pack it all up, say goodbye and head out. Just don't forget to leave a trip description with someone you trust.


Post trip

The post trip part is vital to making this box concept work - clean and dry all your gear, replace, fix and refill fuel, food stores, maps, batteries, etc. The only way for this to succeed is for you to make sure it is truly available, so don't be lazy and restock it.

What do you think, are you ready to spend more time outdoors?

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