Bug Out Bag Review: Tactical Vs Gray Man Packs

It’s 2017 and the mass appeal for Bug Out Bags doesn’t seem to have settled. Thanks to natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, earthquakes in Mexico and widespread flooding, everyone can see the absolute need for a bug out bag. A well designed pack must have a solid foundation of survival essentials and then build upon that with first aid kits, weapons, clothing and more.

Depending on preference, the Bug Out Bag (BOB), can be packed light or heavy. Typically your BOB should not weigh more than 40lbs or 10% of your body weight, taking in account your fitness levels. My first BOB tipped the scales at a slender 25lbs but was lacking on comfort items.

For this build, I decided to focus on a Gray Man look, ditching the tactical packs for a Jansport Hatchet. Book bags are common and very forgettable, perfect for a low profile.  This bag is simple in design, but still provides a fair amount of pockets and organizer panels.

Bug Out BagAfter two rounds of repacking, I was finally able to get all my gear into the Jansport. The lack of MOLLE webbing and compression straps limited how the bag can be packed, but overall the design was solid.

Bug Out BagThe overall weight at the end of the day was exactly 26lbs. Not bad for a three day supply of food, clothes and related survival gear. Bear in mind however that this is my summer bag so I didn’t include a sleeping bag or related cold weather equipment.

Gear List

The process of choosing gear can be daunting at times. It’s always tempting to bring more which invariability leads to added weight and less room in the pack. I like to make the selection process easy by choosing gear to cover the essentials of survival – shelter, food, medical, etc.

Medical
IFAK Pouch: Vanquest Fatpak 5×7

Shelter
Bungee: Keeper 8 Pack
Stakes: TNH Outdoors Stakes
Cordage: Titan Survivorcord
Tarp: Aqua Quest Defender Tarp

Cooking & Food
Meat: Chicken of the Sea Pacific Smoked Salmon
Instant Rice: Uncle Bens Ready Rice
Energy Bars: Clif Bars Sampler Pack
Powdered Milk: Augason Farms Instant Dry Milk
Granola: Nature Valley Protein Granola
Coffee: Taster’s Choice Instant Singles
Canteen: Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel
Cup: TOAKS Titanium 450ml Cup

Electronics
Charger: Dark Energy Poseidon
Radio: Baofeng UV-5R

Apparel
Pants: 5.11 TacLite Pro
Socks: Nike Jordan Dri Fit
Shirt: Under Armour Tech T-Shirt
Underwear: The Original Boxer Briefs
Poncho: Snugpak Patrol Poncho

Tools
Multitool: Gerber Suspension
Knife: Gerber LMF II

Hydration
Water Filter: Sawyer Mini
Sillcock Key: Jones 4- Way Key
Purification Tabs: Aquatabs 100 pk
Millbank Bag: Brown Filter Bag

Fire
Flint & Steel: Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL
Tinder: Four Seasons Survival Tinder-Quik

Benefits of a Tactical Pack

After taking the Jansport for a test run in the forest, I realized with a quickness that it was not suited for my needs. Two miles into the hike, the flimsy straps started to dig into my shoulders and the lack of waist belt meant the pack floated freely on my back, making for an uncomfortable fit. Thanks to the limited compartments, the process of locating gear in the pack proved to be painful. At the end of the 4 mile hike, I found myself missing the tactical pack with MOLLE webbing and modular design.

Book bags such as the Jansport are often promoted because of their low profile look and lack of “tactical” design. These aspects are intended to enable one to be the Gray Man, blending in the crowd and not attracting attention. This concept, while applicable to some scenarios, simply doesn’t hold up for the typical situation in which the Bug Out Bag is used – a natural disaster. In the event of a fire, hurricane or other calamity, I can’t see why anyone would take notice if your pack had molle webbing or not. If there are individuals with bad intentions, they don’t care about the style of your pack. If you are alone or isolated, you are a target.

In my viewpoint, the only situation that warrants the use of a Gray Man style pack is one of occupation by a hostile force. If this is the scenario, the opposing force (OPFOR) is making profiles of possible hostile individuals based on race, gender, age, style of dress and gear.

Ukraine Civil War

Taking these factors into account, I made the decision to switch my gear to my new tactical pack, the Velox II by 3V Gear. This pack is the definition of tactical, covered in MOLLE webbing, compression straps, organizational compartments, heavily padded shoulder straps, vented back panel and all the features you would expect from a quality company like 3V Gear.

3V Gear Velox II3V Gear Velox II3V Gear Velox II3V Gear Velox II3V Gear Velox II3V Gear Velox II

Wrap Up

The most important take away I’ve have gained from this bug out bag build is not to get locked into a specific line of thought. Be flexible with your survival strategy. Be willing to modify based on the scenario and above all, be realistic! Sure it’s fun to pack your bag for a zombie invasion or an epic struggle against alien overlords, but in the end, it’s pointless. Pack your gear and choose your pack using logic and knowledge based on real world events.


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One comment on “Bug Out Bag Review: Tactical Vs Gray Man Packs

  1. Reply

    “Book bags such as the Jansport are often promoted because of their low profile look and lack of “tactical” design. These aspects are intended to enable one to be the Gray Man, blending in the crowd and not attracting attention. This concept, while applicable to some scenarios, simply doesn’t hold up for the typical situation in which the Bug Out Bag is used – a natural disaster. In the event of a fire, hurricane or other calamity, I can’t see why anyone would take notice if your pack had molle webbing or not. If there are individuals with bad intentions, they don’t care about the style of your pack. If you are alone or isolated, you are a target.”

    This might be true if the only people willing to give you a hard time were criminals looking for a target. If you did any reading of after-action reports by people who have gone through major US disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, you would realize that one of the biggest dangers to the prepared citizen can be the police and military who are attempting to keep order. Being dressed to the tactical nines is a good way to get on their radar in a very bad way. Just because you can’t imagine it would be a problem, doesn’t mean that you’re right–people who have lived through these events have a very different perspective that they’ve shared freely, and theirs has quite a bit more weight to it.

    There are quite a few hiking bags that would do much better than the Jansport you picked, that would perform just as well in cargo capacity and comfort as a tactical looking bag. There are also bags that are meant for tactical use but have the appearance of a regular “civilian” bag. Ditch the molle and tailor your gear; if you don’t need modularity it’s just extra weight.

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