Bug Out Bag Confusion: The 72-Hour Kit Vs. Sustainability Kit

With the popularity of prepping at an all time high, it’s common to see folks succumb to those old clever marketing tactics.  Purchasing gear for a bug out bag can be quite a daunting task, especially given the fact that we most likely have never been in such a situation to have needed it.  We are often haunted by the question that when we get out there in a real crisis scenario: what is that one thing that we should have packed?  It’s unnerving enough to keep us awake at night (trust me, I know).medium_5220546857

Clever marketers know this, and they use this to their advantage because you aren’t completely certain that you won’t need that piece of gear, which they are attempting to sell you.  These slick salesmen will try to sell you everything from tooth picks to an industrial sweeper, “because your survival depends on it!”  …Right.

The B.O.B Balance

Especially for putting together a bug out kit, it is important to ask yourself what sensible balance is acceptable of several ratio-type questions.  For instance, what is the balance between time and comfort?  Or, what is the balance between mobility and preparedness?


If you want to be able to outsmart those clever marketers, then it is important to know these balances, so that you can have a clear picture of why you need this particular kit and how to adequately supply it.  Usually, these balances boil down to the compilation of two of the most common types of B.O.B kits: the 72-hour bag and the sustainability kit.

Keep in mind that these two types of kits are worlds apart!

Time and Comfort

One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is: how long are you preparing to utilize this kit?  3 hours?  3 days?  3 months?  This is perhaps the most obvious difference between a 72-hour bag and a sustainability kit.


A 72-hour bag is purposed exactly the way it was named: it should be crafted to get you through a 72-hour survival scenario.  The reason why many survivalists pick the 3-day window is because in most cases, you will be rescued and back in civilization by the third day.  Also, packing for 72 hours is rather easy, as there are a few categories of provisions that you can survive without over the course of 3 days. Any amount of time beyond that, and you’re going to need to pack differently.

The 72-hour kit is supposed to be highly mobile, lightweight and packable, meaning that your sheltering system may be below par, you may not have packed those tasty MRE’s (but rather settled for a granola bar or two), and most of the items in there are either cheap or disposable.  Why?  The answer is simple: there’s no sense in spending all that cash and load all that weight for a three-day pack.  In summary, consider these two main points:

  • The reason why we’re looking at time vs. comfort is because the less time for which you are preparing, the fewer creature comforts that will be in your pack.
  • If the pack is designed for a week or a month, then you’re going to need more gear that adds to your comfort and sustainability.

However, this balance does not address the medical and first aid aspect of your 72-hour kit.  In fact, you might even be compelled to overdo your kit’s medical supplies, especially because if you are stuck in a 3-day survival scenario, then there’s a good chance you’ve already sustained injuries.  Do yourself a solid favor and go heavy on first aid and medical supplies!

Mobility and Preparedness

The other balance to cover is mobility vs. preparedness.  In essence, the more prepared you are, the heavier your pack (or packs) will be, resulting in the loss of mobility.  On the flip-side of that coin, the lighter your pack, the more distance you can cover, meaning that you will be able to get out of harm’s way much faster; However, this also means that your preparedness factor goes down.


This particular balance is probably best addressed in the sustainability kit.  In this sense, a sustainability kit is starkly different from the 72-hour bag for the simple fact that it’s not designed for a 3-day scenario –it’s designed for a 3-week to 3-month scenario.

In a 72-hour kit, it might be smart to pack a pocketknife or an inexpensive fixed blade knife just to get you through.  For a sustainability kit, you’re going to need a drop-point, full-tang, high-carbon, 3”-5” blade that will do the job every single day without fail, in addition to a solid multi-tool (Leatherman, Gerber, etc) and a high-carbon steel camp axe.  Also, you may want to bring animal traps (food), better sheltering systems (hiker-grade tarp system) and other comfort provisions to assist in rural wilderness living.

In a sustainability kit, you are going to want all materials to be borderline bulletproof, meaning leather, canvas and steel.  Stay away from lightweight fabrics and plastics, as these just won’t have the same level of durability that a sustainability pack requires, especially in the bitter cold.  However, bear in mind that the more sustainable your pack is, the heavier it will be.  This will limit your mobility and speed, and it will make you more tired by the end of a day of trekking.

Ultimately it is important that you take away these two basic points:

  • You need to figure out your mobility vs. preparedness balance, as this will have a very pronounced effect on how you pack.
  • For a 72-hour kit, you can certainly get away with cheap disposable gear.  For a sustainability pack, you simply cannot.

However: the balance of mobility vs. preparedness can actually be cheated with the presence of bushcraft and survival knowledge.  For example, if you knew how to hunt, trap and forage for wild edibles and medicinal herbs, trees and plants, then you might only need to bring a week’s worth of food, just incase.  Without this presence of knowledge, you might have to pack a month’s worth of food and heavily ration it, as you continue to learn how to survive and acquire food sources.

Perhaps the biggest point to understand is that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ pack that will work for every single scenario.  This is the one of the biggest common misconceptions that preppers often have, and it’s to the detriment of their peace of mind and bank accounts.  It is best to have several packs for different purposes, allowing you to have more numerous, more accessible and more complete options when you may come to need them.  When you’ve prepared beforehand, survival is a whole lot easier!

Source: americanpreppersnetwork.com

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