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10 Survival Go-Bags that Could Save Your Life

by Joseph von Benedikt   |  August 8th, 2013 25

There are many names for that pack of just-in-case supplies—go-bag, bug-out bag, survival go-bag, grab bag, get-out-of-Dodge-gear. Whatever name your run-for-it bag wears, its contents are a vital part of surviving a super volcano, financial meltdown, hostile government takeover, zombie apocalypse or whatever brand of nightmare your anticipated disaster is.

Meant to get you through the first few days of chaos following a civilization-changing event, your go-bag should contain items that sustain the foundation of life, not luxury. Lightweight food, water, water purifiers, medication, documents, rudimentary shelter and sophisticated weaponry are just a few items to pack away. Other necessary preps include clothing, fire, communication and the most useful tool known to man: a blade.

Most folks choose their go-bag food carefully, and they purchase a quality water filter. Clothing is chosen for durability, warmth and often for an inconspicuous appearance. Then it all gets thrown into your teenager’s cast-off school pack, or a $13 Walmart special that will literally come apart at the seams during the first hard run for your life.

Some folks use a duffel or an airline-approved carry-on bag. Though fairly durable, such bags limit mobility. Personally, I want a bag that I can run with, ride a bike or motorcycle with, and even fight in if necessary. Those tasks limit one’s options to a backpack or sling pack of some sort.

In order to take lost-world abuse, provide easy accessibility and offer comfort during long hikes or bike rides, a pack has got to be quality. Zippers should be heavy, pockets generous, carry straps robust and stitching durable. Weight of a quality pack won’t be light, but will preferably be as light as possible without compromising durability. With all those heavy meatball MREs, a Bowie knife Crocodile Dundee would be proud of, and a box or two of ammo, you’ll be fully aware you’re lugging your life with you when you sling that puppy across your physique and head for the hills.

Excellent go-bag choices can be had from nearly every manufacturer of quality tactical, mountaineering or hunting packs. Dozens of models are available with about every option someone could want. So shut off Red Dawn, lay aside the tomahawk you’re sharpening, and peruse this list for a little inspiration. And afterward, if you know of a pack that deserves to be on the hot list, let us know. Here are 10 great survival go-bags that could save your life some day.

  • Bryan Klinger

    Medium-sized surplus Alice pack w/ frame can be purchased for under $75, is field proven and is the most comfortable pack when used with the frame.

  • Bill Tallant

    I’m amazed this list doesn’t include SPEC-OPS T.H.E. Pack, which is the best bang for the buck you can get, and equal to any of these other packs. It is certainly superior to the 19th century style top-loading LL Bean pack they choose here as one of the Top 10. Even with the optional pack frame which SO recommends, you can still get the whole rig for right around $140. It is loaded with MOLLE fasteners, has excellent YKK zippers, has a big compartment for a hydration bladder, and they sell all sorts of assorted bags that can be added to it. Comes in 5 colors including ACU, multicam, digital desert camo, coyote brown and black, plus they have others (under a different sku, those are the $100 ones) in tan and forest green. Over 2500 cubic inches. Do yourself a favor and take 5 minutes to Google it and read the reviews. These recommended here are all fine packs, but they missed a bet not including the SO pack.

    • LankyDeuce

      agreed…the thing is incredible…i have 2: one for when SHTF and another for
      carrying all my range gear…they’re a little pricey now, but i got mine
      for under $120 a couple years ago.

  • Rudy

    Maxpedition didn’t make the list?

  • Bruce Fleming

    One of the best is a Mil surplus AcU Assault pack. They are available for about $30, and outshine all of these.

  • Don Moore

    The best backpack I have ever used bar none is made by Sandpiper of California, simply known as SOC est 1980. I own and use Blackhawk, Maxpedition, and all kinds of surplus packs, but in my humble opinion S.O.C is the best. I have traveled all over the world and have never had a failure, worth checking out.

  • Bcboy101

    You definitely have all of the major commercial brands covered, but Maxpedition and Mystery Ranch have far better bags and a larger variety.

  • SamF1911

    FirstSpear Hotel 23 Pack System.

  • Matt Stanfield

    I’m surprised that most of these are decidedly “tactical” in appearance. The last thing I want in a bug out scenario is unwanted attention…

  • Larrry

    Ditto!!! I’ve SPEC-OPS T.H.E. Pack as a Full Time Police Officer & Tactical Ops team leader. It is my GO TO heavy bag. 7 years old & on duty, looks new! 5.11 Rush 24 is my light bag. 5 years and running.

  • Jeffrey Missal

    I have tactical BOBs and civilian versions of them…they are for different purposes. If I could only choose one; however, its one of my civilian versions (an Osprey expedition pack from REI) for a LOT of reasons…and durability is only one of them. Capacity, camouflage and function are the others. BOBs don’t have to be, and in many cases SHOULDN’T be “tactical”. People choose those for the wrong reasons…to be tacti-cool. Don’t get me wrong, I have a BOB that is based on a Camelback military platform…but it serves a much different purpose than my “go to” BOB.

  • Matt

    Another option to consider: the line-gear packs that wildland firefighters use. There are several companies such as Nargear, Mystery Ranch and Nimrod (to name the three I have used) that make high quality, rugged packs. These packs do a good job of distributing the bulk of the weight to the hips while providing excellent mobility to the wearer, and are built to handle years of abuse. There are a bunch of available options for fitment and pack configuration. None of these packs are lightweight or inexpensive, but when the apocalypse occurs, I’m not sure I want to depend on a cheap, light pack.

  • W. Miller

    Missing the GORUCK GR1. Utterly bombproof.

  • K. Barden

    I think e GORUCK Gr2 should be on this list… Great gear made in the USA!

  • Jeff Scates

    What maxpedition not on list you people r nuts my monsoon will be goin strong when all that other crap is in need of needle and thread

  • Jeff Scates

    U want people to know u r not to be messed with so the more agro u look the better in the end of world reallity

  • Dale Bailey

    One question. Where is your backpack going to be when it hits the fan and you are at the theater,or supermarket,or church.Do you include a crystal ball so you are sure to have it with you at the time you need it?


      UH, you keep it with you wherever you go…. would think that’d be obvious.

    • atm

      Mines in my car, which is with me when I’m at the theater, or supermarket, or church.

    • jbrown

      Well actually, I have one in each of my automobiles. Hopefully I can make it to them.

  • LankyDeuce

    not sure how you missed Spec Ops Brand “T.H.E. Pack”…the thing is incredible…i have 2: one for when SHTF and another for carrying all my range gear…they’re a little pricey now, but i got mine for under $120 a couple years ago..

  • Redlander

    Grunden’s Gage 30 Liter Rum Runner Backpack is waterproof, durable, and cheaper than any of the bags listed.

  • antifederalist

    GORUCK didn’t make the list? You want something tough, get a GORUCK–comes with unbeatable scars warranty.

  • go

    How do I get rid of the ad’s that block the descriptions of the items displayed in the pictures of products? right side of screen

  • Jeff

    You should see the Go-Bags these guys have put together.

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