Hopefully this is acceptable. I figure this could be relevant as my bug out bag is essentially what I would bring on a camping trip (first aid, fire starters, some food, shelter materials, mess kit, survival knife, cordage, etc.) but my 'camping bag' is more of a stand-by for emergencies. So you can use substitute "bug out bag" with "camping pack" if you feel so inclined.


  • How do you manage larger survival bags?
    • Since I don't use it every day and don't really have time to drill with it or whatever people do, I have an Excel spreadsheet so I can remember exactly what I have and where it is (not to be used in an actual emergency)
  • Also looking for improvements to current design (I know what works for some, may not work for others)
  • Noticeable flaws with my design? (aside from complexity)
  • Is it generally better to have a modular system (such as mine) or multiple packs for different purposes? Money is a factor else I'd have seperate bags (24 hr, 72 hour, camping, urban get home, etc)

It's supposed to be a general bag, mainly a 72-hr SHTF pack but can also double for camping.

In my spreadsheet, I have info such as:

  • Categories and subcategories (e.g. Water: Purification or Water: Storage)
  • Brands/Models/Description/Features/Directions (e.g. Snugpak Jungle blanket, 24"x36" rated to 36 deg F, polyester, compressed to 6"x6")
  • Item weight (in 0.00lbs) so I can track the overall net weight of the bag (using a postal scale)
  • Expiration dates if applicable and a field that tells if item should be replaced soon (I have set to 90 days), plus another sheet that notifies if items expire within <1 year, <6 months, and <90 days which I aim to compress to one spreadsheet
  • Item $ cost (for personal reason)
  • Location within bag (I'm reworking this but maybe have a picture of the bag with each compartment labeled by a number, maybe with a color and buy the colored dots used for yard sales to I know where each item goes)
  • Retailer (with link if applicable) where I purchased said item (for replacement or additional feature descriptions

A bit overkill but so far works. Does anyone else do something like this? Aside from not doing it, and I know most people don't do this, I'm looking for improvements/alternatives to make it easier.

My Current Setup:

  • I'm using two bags: A 5.11 Tactical RUSH 24 main bag with the RUSH tier system attaching a 5.11 MOAB 10
  • Bags are attachable to each other to create one large pack
  • One bag is more of a 24-hr pack, the other is a compliment to make it into a 72-hr pack
  • Well, I don't have a BOB since I'll just hunker down at home when the zombies invade. Too far from any wilderness to need such a thing. If I did do such a thing, I'd likely just use my minimalist backpack (lots of pockets just add weight). My spreadsheet is nowhere as comprehensive because all I really care about is weight and being to check it off to verify it's packed. Pretty much everything goes in the main compartment. Little sundries and first aid go in the front pocket. I can go out into the wilderness for at least a week.
    – topshot
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 18:18
  • 1
    The complexity of your solution seems to be driven mainly by using your gear for too many different things. For backpacking the backpack is the BOB. For overlanding I have a small duffle bag for the BOB with a separate set of gear in it. It gets looked through before leaving. Build them up over time (and using sales) and you will get complete, separate BOBs for your different activities.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 18:39
  • 2
    I think this question is rather too broad. Could you narrow it down to one of the questions listed at the top? And maybe split it up and ask separate questions for the the other open points?
    – fgysin
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 10:47
  • GabrielC It's a matter of being ready. If you're not ready when you need to be, you're screwed. I don't blame you and I don't doubt it. It's more of a hobby anyways. In my case, I believe I have more than most EDC bags, which increases the complexity at the benefit for resourcefulness. I've definitely scaled back and continue to scale back. fgysin I supposed the simplest question would be "Management tips for larger bug out bags?" Will revise.
    – Greg
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 13:34
  • @tripleee please do not do minor edits (basically one word with a few extras thrown in to meet the minimum edit requirement) on questions that are several years old and have no current value. I will reject all as 'no improvement' as the bump these questions get from the edit is out of proportions with the value of the edit.
    – Willeke
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 19:48

3 Answers 3


You are overthinking this.

First: The dates on food, don't mean they are expired, they are the date the manufacture wants to you buy a new one if you haven't eaten it yet.

Are Dates for Food Safety or Quality?

Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law. Source

Second: One EMP and your excel sheet is useless. Depending on your tolerance for risk, plan regular hands on check and inventory. This might be monthly, quarterly or annually.

Thirdly: You want stuff that is going to be there when you need it. If you have items that need to be changed every 3 months, how much value will they be if you have to count on them for an event that happened the day before your planned to change them?

Fourthly: Your Excel sheet is crutch that might cost you your life. You need to KNOW where your supplies are, you need to be able to find and identify them in the dark.

Finally speaking to scope. It doesn't matter if it is a Bug Out Kit, or an emergency preparedness kit. One day your going to be outdoors with just what you have. It doesn't matter why you built, just that you have it with you.

What types of food make for good emergency rations that I can store in a car?

  • 1) I know about the expirations, but I want to make sure they are close to fresh and effectiveness (so not years out of date). 2) I'm using the spreadsheet more as a preliminary management tool, to keep my bearing, know what I have (while building and revising the bags), so ideally, I will get to a point where I know where everything is but it's more helpful to have exact info on as much as I can. EMP would be worst case scenario of course. 3) Hence per #1, why I want to keep them fresh even if they are not expired. Expirations for items range from like 9 months (e.g. Jerky) to several
    – Greg
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 19:23
  • 3 cont'd) years (e.g. medicines/MREs). I think the perishables are less important as it's not like the food supply I have in these bags are a long-term supply 4) I know, I know. I am working on making the most logical order to my bag, which the sheet helps organize and plan, hopefully ultimately creating a finalized bag that I am 100% comfortable with. 5) I'm working on this too. I usually keep the bags in the car since I'm almost always near my car. Thanks for the link. I have the dried ration bars and MREs in my car, swapping every couple of years (due to climate being hot)
    – Greg
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 19:30

In my experience when people are trying to inventory personal gear with a checklist or spreadsheet it comes from inexperience with using the gear.

It you use it enough you will know which gear you need and which is just extra weight and what gear you might need.

At the start a checklist can be useful but after a while you will have a mental one because you know what gear you have used and therefor need and then any extra gear can be left behind.

Just store it in the same place in your backpack to make it easier to remember where you put it.

  • Do you simply drill with your bag? This isn't something I would use every day so I'd have to set time aside for this specific purpose, which i can do. I know generally what I have and where I have it, but remembering everything isn't something I can reliably do. I keep important items near the exterior and less important items deeper. I won't use the sheet in an emergency, but it's more for keeping it stocked and fresh. I'm also working on cutting down more weight. And maybe it's a bad idea, but combined, they're more of a general purpose emergency bag, not exactly ideal for long hiking.
    – Greg
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 19:34

Maybe this is an obvious thing, but does your BOB have to be completely prepacked? (Or even, is it?) I.e. do you expect to need to grab this bag and have less than 60? 30? 10? seconds to get out the door? How much different would it be to have a packed bag of essential gear with open containers ready (but empty) to grab perishables / other kits? When I was a working EMT-P, we needed kits that we could grab in literally seconds. This required checking them before every shift. Which might be the kind of problem you now feel you're up against: how often do I check that gear is where I want it, repack for improvements / replacements, throw away expired consumables, etc.

If you expect that you will have even a few minutes to supplement a basic kit, you can have most common necessities (clothing, duplicate gear) pre-packed in a designated bag and then add in the exact additional things you plan on needing. Depending on your available living / storage space, one solution might be to have a designated, partially pre-packed BOB in the center of a well-organized, easily-accessible, and suitably-laid-out collection of survival / camping gear. This gives the benefit of having your emergency gear as part of your normal 'checking on / using camping gear' routine. Do you have a closet or wall you can designate as your camping gear space and organize accordingly?

This will change the constraints of needing to have a list of consumables you have to remember to check; the checking becomes part of your normal routines. This also means that your BOB doesn't need to be prepacked for every contingency (which may also be complicating your decision process).

  • I prefer it to be. I keep it in my vehicle since I'm typically never far from it. I live in a major metropolitan area, somewhere I def don't wanna be if something bad happens so timing for me is critical especially since my closest family is in the opposite direction of areas I would avoid, and by a few hours. I have some shelter-in-place items but I wouldn't take those in a flee scenario. The perishibles I have are limited to medicine and like MREs.
    – Greg
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 13:51

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