Whether you’re a hiker, traveler, or just want to be ready for anything – we’ve researched over 50 leading survival packs and selected the 10 best for you.
You never know when danger may strike and you'll suddenly be in a situation that requires survival gear. From earthquakes and tornadoes, from power outages to getting lost in the wilderness – a high-quality emergency backpack is very important. After all, it holds all your gear! In this buying guide we show you the best survival backpacks, plus share tips on what to put into your pack (more on that below). But first, here's what you need to look for when buying your survival backpack!
Weight is a hugely important factor in making your purchasing decision. In general, you want a light backpack. The very lightest pack might not be the best choice though since you also need an internal frame. We've made sure to only recommend backpacks here that have an ideal balance of weight and functionality.
A cushy, well-built hip belt is really important but often overlooked. The reason you need a good hip belt is that without it you will quickly notice sore spots on your hips and lower back. A cushioned hip belt helps to prevent that (especially with heavy gear). It helps stabilize and soften the impact of your backpack.
Padded shoulder straps offer better performance for your survival backpack. You'd be surprised how heavy your gear will start to feel after several miles of carrying it. But no worries, that's where padded straps come in: They help to distribute weight and lower the impact on your shoulders so you can keep on going!
Should your survival backpack be waterproof? Absolutely! Nothing is worse than having wet and moldy equipment, or even worse, rotten food supplies. Many modern survival backpacks offer waterproof materials that still provide ventilation so you don't sweat (for example by using mesh back panels).
There are three types of backpack frames: Internal frames are hidden inside your backpack and the best choice overall. They provide great load-support technologies that all function to transfer the load to your hips. Go with internal frames: External frames are clunky and frameless packs don't offer support.
The capacity of your backpack is pretty self-explanatory: It's how much gear your backpack can hold, usually measured in liters. Capacity is important because you want to have enough supplies. The rule of thumb is: 30-50 liters capacity for 3 nights, 50-80 liters for up to 5 nights, and 70+ liters for extended trips.
A lot of modern survival backpacks offer a special sleeve in which you can slip a hydration reservoir. This can come in handy when you want to carry water in an internal, refillable bottle and drink it through a tube without having to open your backpack. Is it required? No. Is it useful? Definitely! Get hydration reservoirs here.
Some professional hiking and survival backpacks have separate, detachable rain-covers. Most packs already offer waterproof coating but some moisture can still slip in through zippers and other small cracks. So if you expect a lot of rain or moisture, we recommend getting a cheap, optional rain cover for your backpack, see here.
Most survival backpacks are waterproof and made from strong materials such as modern nylon. The downside is that they can feel warm on your back and make you sweat. To prevent this, good backpacks feature ventilation technology (for example a mesh back panel) to keep your back cool and comfortable in any weather.
Here's the deal: There are hundreds of different survival backpacks, bug out bags, and military backpacks available! So it can be really confusing to find the right one, especially at an affordable price. But no worries, we've got you covered. The GeekWrapped team selected the top 50 survival backpacks based on verified online customer reviews, specs, and more. Out of all survival packs, we then picked the 10 best ones for you! All 10 winners are very high quality, offer great value, and are versatile and durable. In short, they'are amazing survival backpacks you can rely on! You can't go wrong with any of the 10 picks. Let's jump right in:
The Atmos AG 65 is an all-around excellent backpack. It features Osprey's proven "Anti-Gravity" suspension system, which is a continuous mesh structure that adjusts to the shape of your body. This back panel design makes the Atmos AG 65 very light, comfortable and also provides excellent ventilation. The new suspension system really works and feels like the bag is just floating on your back.
We also really liked the removable top lid which comes in handy when you have a lot to carry and as a day-pack. Underneath the top lid you'll find a well-designed main pack that offers very good weather protection and great compression. Osprey also includes loops and bungee tie-offs on the side of the pack which are useful for attaching different tools for easy access. The bottom features sleeping bag straps which can be removed to save weight.
The backpack's engineering is top notch. It features double compression straps on the top to balance even heavy loads. Hidden on the inside are additional compression straps which you can use to stabilize the load. The front hip belt was easy to use and adjust and very comfortable. another smart feature is that the torso length of the pack can be changed via an adjustable harness, to better fit your body.
The Atmos AG 65 has a great reputation with pro hikers for good reason: It offers excellent built quality, many useful features, and comes at a great price. It's also one of the lightest backpacks we've seen. Highly recommended!
If you're looking to save money, this budget backpack is a perfect choice! It includes a lot of high-end features, is made in the USA, and you can buy it at a great price. The Sports Scout 3400 offers incredible value.
With 55 L capacity, this mid-sized pack is ideal for 3-5 day, light backpacking. It's also a good choice if you're looking for a smaller pro-backpack or simply want to carry less. Either way, the Sports Scout 3400 gets the job done!
The backpack features well-designed compression straps at the top and bottom that help to keep all your gear secure. We were able to fit a sleeping bag, pad, and small tent, plus a lot of backpacking accessories - no problem at all.
Another plus is that TETON offers a limited lifetime warranty. that's always a good sign because it shows that the brand believes in their own product quality.
The backpack offers an adjustable torso length (from 15" to about 20"), a bottom sleeping bag compartment, and useful front and top bungee storage spaces. The latter comes in handy to quickly stow away and access jackets, shoes, rope, and other gear that you want to keep accessible.
Simply put, the Scout 3400 is an excellent backpack that's made even more attractive by a great price point! You pretty much can't find a cheap, yet high-quality backpack with this many features.
Arcteryx is a comparatively newer backpack brand but has quickly made a name for itself with quality backpacks. The best pack that they offer is the Altra 65. The most interesting feature of this backpack is Arcteryx's "Load Transfer Disc" system, which is an internal stabilizer that pivots to the increase agility and stability of the pack. The Altra 65 also offers a very well-designed suspension system that makes the backpack easy to carry.
The backpack itself is constructed from very light and tear-resistant 210D nylon. Additionally, Arcteryx uses heavier and more durable 500D nylon in high-wear areas, which protects the backpack against tears and the elements. The internal frame of the backpack is sturdy and stable, using a very good aluminum construction.
If you plan to carry a lot of gear, the Altra 65 offers a large (removable) top lid that can be extended. It also has an extendable drawcord collar for additional capacity.
The shoulder and hip straps are very comfortable and anatomically shaped. The back panel works very well, it's lightweight, breathable, and very soft.
The Altra 65 has a lot of external straps that allow you to properly compress and tie down your load. Many pro hikers cut off extra strap material to save weight, but we'd recommend to store it instead. The Altra 65 actually offers the ability to tuck away extra strap material at the top and bottom of the pack, so keep an eye out for that.
In short, the Arcteryx Altra 65 is a very good backpack that will work great for almost any outdoor situation. It has a medium price tag for a backpack this size but offers a lot of high-quality features that make it very reliable.
Everybody knows The North Face. It's a global brand that's known to make professional-level equipment. The Banchee 65 doesn't stray from that formula, it's an excellent backpack that's large and comfortable enough, even for multi-day excursions. Best of all, the Banchee is one of the lightest backpacks we have seen and it comes at a great price. There's a lot of proven technology built into in this pack and a lot to like. Let's talk details!
As mentioned, the Banchee 65 is VERY light, weighing only three pounds, a record for a 65 L capacity backpack. The North Face manages to set this new standard for lightweight backpacks by using a new aluminum frame structure, an updated harness system, and lightweight but sturdy nylon materials. The lower weight feels great!
The Banchee 65 comes with eight pockets for all your gear. On the back, you have The North Face's proprietary "OPTIFIT" harness system which fits great on your body. The internal frame does an amazing job of balancing heavy loads, even in complicated and tilted terrain. It should hold up great, even under heavy load.
Like most pro backpacks, the Banchee is top loading for easy access to your stuff. It has a very useful sleeping bag compartment with separate entry (e.g. to keep your other gear dry after a wet night). It also offers two tool keepers and a beavertail style expansion at the bag for more storage. You can really fit anything in this pack!
Lastly, we really liked the comfortable, soft, and ergonomically correct waist-belt. It features a patent-adjustment strap that makes fitting it very easy. All in all, this is one of the best backpacks money can buy!
A total of three Osprey backpacks made our top ten list. Why? The company makes ultra-reliable, comfortable, and affordable packs that come with a great warranty: Osprey guarantees to repair any damage or defect for ANY reason free of charge. It doesn't matter if your backpack was bought in the 1980s or today, they'll repair or replace it. That's an amazing deal - the best in the industry!
But let's dive into some details: The Xenith 75 is an excellent backpack if you're planning on carrying a lot of gear. It offers a huge, 75 L capacity that's designed to comfortably designed to handle large loads, even on extended trips. A larger pack means a little more weight. The Xenith 75 weights 6 pounds, which is still light for an XL backpack.
The pack comes with several very useful features. You get a separate sleeping bag compartment, an external hydration sleeve for easy drinking and refilling, internal compression straps to stabilize the load, and a great stretch mesh front pocket to keep often-used items accessible.
The Xenith 75 also has double side-compression straps that serve two purposes: They keep everything you put into the backpack stable and can additionally be used to carry larger tools, tent poles, and other long gear.
This backpack offers a lot of premium features, great durability, and a very comfortable fit. You get all that at an affordable price. The terrific Xenith 75 is a great choice!
Gregory is known to make high-quality backpacks that offer both comfort and advanced performance. The Baltoro 65 is no exception! Gregory uses what they call "Response A3" suspension technology, which actively balances your backpack's load, including in difficult terrain. This makes for very comfortable carrying and hiking. The backpack also has a great silicone lumbar support grip for more stability.
What makes the Baltoro 65 a top choice are the many useful accessories that you get. Unlike many other backpacks, it includes an excellent rain cover, an ultra-light, removable daypack, a side bottle holster, dual ice ax loops (great for you tools), a weatherproof smartphone hip pocket, and much more. All this comes at a very affordable price, that's surprisingly low for the features and the quality you get here. Well, we won't complain about a good deal!
There are two great features in the spacious main compartment that are worth pointing out: First, Gregory created a very useful U-shaped top zipper that opens from top to bottom for rapid access to your gear. Second, the main compartment includes a separate sleeping bag compartment with removable divider. It's great for storing anything that's wet away from your other stuff.
Overall, the Baltoro 65 is an amazing backpack, with many well-designed features. It offers excellent durability and comfort, even on long hikes. We also liked the many ways the backpack can be adjusted for a perfect fit.
A second The North Face backpack made the cut. The Terra 65 Exploration is, simply put, an amazing backpack with lots of great features. Let's jump into the details!
One of the first things we noticed about the Terra 65 Exploration is that this backpack feels very cool and comfortable. No sweating on the back, which is great. The North Face achieves that through a cleverly designed, vertical vent channel on the back panel of the pack. This helps to circulate air and lets your skin breathe. It's dry, it's comfortable, and it's very useful on long hikes.
At only four pounds, the Terra 65 Exploration is also a very light backpack, especially since it still offers plenty of capacity. We also liked the well-designed, anatomically shaped hip-belt. It offers excellent load distribution to preserve your energy and protect your back.
The backpack is made from 420D, 600D, and 1200D nylon and polyester. It's a smart choice of material that allows the pack to be very light overall, but robust and tear-resistant where it counts. The North Face has been innovating backpacks for a long time and their experience shows.
The Terra 65 Exploration is a top rated backpack on our list for good reason. It's light, durable, very affordable, and offers all-around excellent quality and pro features. No matter if you're looking for a hiking backpack, survival backpack, or hunting backpack - this is a smart choice!
Deuter brings German-made quality to the backpack market and is known to make almost indestructible packs. Their backpacks have held up even in the toughest of situations, from the deepest forests of Europe to far off deserts and icy landscapes. The Deuter Aircontact pack continues this tradition. It's simply put a great backpack with some really clever features.
All right, where do we start? There are a lot of great things to say about this backpack! It offers a special inside pocket to make valuables hard to access for intruders, three side pockets for quick access to your most important gear, a height-adjustable top lid, and an excellent wet pocket to stow away sweaty clothes and wet gear.
A really unique feature of this backpack is the SOS label on the inside of the top flap. It gives you emergency numbers and international instructions for emergency cases. Very useful! We also liked that the backpack can be opened from the front for easy access. The frame and load-balancing system of this backpack are top notch. They adapt to the wearer's back and hold the load close to your body's center of gravity for easier carrying and stability. This is topped off with high-quality, breathable padding for extra airflow.
We liked how well this backpack fits and how good it feels to carry it. This is achieved by Deuter's big contact surface, adjustable height setting, and flexible hip fins. This is an incredible backpack that will be useful for a lifetime!
A total of three Osprey backpacks made it to our top 10. The outdoor brand makes some of the very best ultralight and best waterproof backpacks you can buy. So it comes as no surprise that the Aether 70 is a top rated backpack.
Besides the excellent design and quality which we will talk about in a second, one of the main advantages of buying an Osprey product is that the company offers an amazing warranty. They guarantee to ANY damage or defect, free of charge and for life (yes, even 30 years from now). If they can't repair it, you get a brand new one. It's the best warranty you can find in the backpack industry.
But let's talk about the Aether 70's features, which are the main reason it's one of the best backpacks for hiking. This bag stands out because of its smart design: You get zipper hip-belt pockets (for easy access to phones, maps, flashlights, etc.), dual access stretch pockets on the side (think water bottle and tools), and a large front stretch mesh pocket. All these are very useful in real life situations.
The front of the backpack features two horizontal compression straps that secure even heavy loads. The sides and bottom have tool attachments, a separate sleeping bag compartment, an external hydration sleeve, compression straps, and more. We also really liked the removable top lid. It has two spacious compartments and once detached can be converted into a day-pack.
The shoulder straps and hip belt are very well designed, offering a perfect balance of firmness and comfort. The internal frame works great as well, noticeably shifting heavy loads to your hips. This reduces pressure on your back and therefore minimizes fatigue. Everything about this backpack feels just right. It's an amazing piece of engineering. Paired with Osprey's forever warranty, this is one of the very best backpacks you can buy!
Mountaintop is a relatively new brand, focusing on affordable budget backpacks. The brand new Mountaintop
70+10 manages to impress with both great features and an very cheap price. You get a lot of great functionality here, making the Mountaintop 70+10 one of the best cheap hiking backpacks.
One of the first things you'll notice is that this backpack has many compression straps. There are actually a total of 10, allowing you to compress and secure your load effectively. The straps can also be used to attach your sleeping bag, tent, and other gear. All these straps can come in handy.
On the backside, the pack features an eight stage height adjuster to ensure that your pack has the proper fit. The hip belts are well designed and comfortable. Additionally, they feature useful hip pockets for items you want to keep accessible. On a side note: The fabric of the Mountaintop
70+10 isn't 100% waterproof but still water resistant.
A really unique feature is the built-in emergency whistle on the sternum strap. We'd never seen this as a backpack feature before, but think it should now be standard. Overall, we liked the many ways this backpack can be adjusted as well as the many useful pockets and compartments that help keep your gear organized. For its low price, the Mountaintop 70+10 is actually quite loaded with features.
After dozens of hiking backpack reviews it becomes obvious from the first few minutes if packs are well designed. The Mountaintop 70+10 definitely is. In short, it's a very good budget backpack. It should be noted though that you get better build quality and ruggedness from our top budget pick, the TETON Sports Scout 3400. If you're looking for a pro-level backpack with more features, waterproof materials, and "forever" warranty, then chose the Osprey Atmos AG 65 (the best backpack overall).
When choosing your survival backpack you'll notice that most packs are available in different sizes. Usually, those sizes are small, medium, and large. But which survival backpack size should you buy? It's actually pretty easy, here's what to look for:
Step 1: Measure Your Torso Length
The easiest way to do this is to ask a friend for help. Simply measure the vertical distance from your neck (the bony bump at the base of your neck) to your the center of your back at the hip bones. Get a SMALL survival backpack if the length is 16" or smaller, get a MEDIUM survival backpack if your torso length is 16.5" to 19.5", and get a LARGE survival backpack if it's 20" and up.
Step 2: Measure Your Hip Size
The size of your hips is less important than torso length but is still worth checking. To measure it, take a tape measure and measure around your hips (from your belly button to your sides and to your hip bones). Most backpacks can accommodate a wide range of hip sizes, but here's a tip: Adjust the belt size so that it straddles your hips about an inch above and below the line we just measured. It should wrap around your two (pointy) pelvic bones in front. That's the perfect position for optimal comfort and weight relief.
Now that you know which survival backpack to buy, here are some tips on how to stock up. Your backpack is the foundation of being prepared, but it's only as good as the survival gear and survival tools you put into it. Here are the essential survival products and guides you should own. All of them are high quality and can be bought at affordable prices. Let's go:
Quick Tip: Looking for more tips on picking the perfect backpack? Take a look at our guides for sling backpacks, military backpacks, EDC backpacks, bug out bags, tactical backpacks, ultralight backpacks, and anti-theft backpacks.
Even the best survival backpack and emergency gear don't do much without survival skills. We highly recommend getting an expert survival handbook which will teach you all basics. In the meantime, check out this video which shows you over 50 great survival tips.
Seasoned outdoorsmen will tell you that the most critical piece of survival gear is the backpack. It’s the only piece you can take with you that holds onto everything you’d ever need for several days or even weeks of venturing into the open world. But even the most expert survivalist will tell you that finding the right backpack is no mean feat.
Survival backpacks typically fall into one of three categories, namely ultralights, bug-outs, tactical, and hiking backpacks. By their looks alone, you’ll easily be able to distinguish one from another, but the purposes they serve are of much greater importance.
In the wild, being quick on your feet can mean a whole lot. The last thing you need is being weighed down by your gear when in flight or fight mode.
+ Lightweight for improved mobility and flexibility
+ Durable and weatherproof
+ Built for comfort
- Limited storage space
- Fewer compartments mean disorganization
Bug-out bags are the most favored type of backpack by survivalists. They have one humongous compartment for storing 72 hours’ worth of food, supplies, and tools.
+ Huge storage for multi-day travel
+ Wide shoulder straps
+ Durable outer shell
- Few internal pockets and straps so items don’t stay still
- May be bigger than necessary
If anybody knows how to survive in the wild, it’s the military. Tactical bags are designed to withstand anything nature and possibly hostile forces send your way. The best thing about these bags is that they are all compatible with MOLLE attachments to increase exterior storage space.
+ Add or remove MOLLE pouches and gear when needed
+ Built to last
+ Numerous internal pockets and straps
- Extremely heavy when packed to the brim
- Internal zipper pockets and straps tear and break off easily
- May appear threatening to the common person
When you think outdoor backpack, this is probably the type that comes to mind. Hiking backpacks are extremely versatile, come in a variety of sizes, and are made specifically for grab-and-go situations.
+ Available in all sizes
+ Durable and weatherproof
+ Does not give off a threatening vibe
- Fewer internal compartments
- Zippers tend to break off easily
Finding the right survival backpack takes a lot of thought and consideration. You could pick up the first bag you find, but without doing your research, you may end up with a piece that’s unfit for trekking through the unknown. Choosing the most appropriate survival bag boils down to five things: storage capacity, pockets and straps, structure, access, and suspension system.
The ideal storage capacity for everyday carry (EDC) backpacks can be anywhere from 15 to 26 liters. This should provide more than enough space for work and light-travel essentials. However, if you’re looking for a bag that will carry enough supplies for weeklong trips, bigger is always better (40-plus liters). Keep in mind that larger bags hold onto more items which could potentially weigh you down.
Pockets and Straps
Having more pockets and straps in the bag is always the better option. They help with organizing your survival gear so nothing gets lost, and everything can be taken out and put back in an instant. Multiple internal pockets are ideal for keeping wet items away from the dry to reduce mold growth and overall discomfort.
Structure: Frameless vs. Internal Frame vs. External Frame
Backpacks are available as either frameless or framed models. A frameless backpack is what you would normally find in school bags – they’re lightweight and flexible but tear easily when filled to capacity.Framed backpacks are built with a strong “skeleton” or “exoskeleton.” Internal frame backpacks are better for both light and heavy loads since, regardless of its contents, it will not throw off your balance. External frames allow you to strap on several pouches onto the bag’s exterior to increase its carrying capacity.
Access: Clamshell vs. Tri-Zip
How the bag opens and closes is a matter that many amateur survivalists tend to ignore. Survival bags typically have two access styles – clamshell and tri-zip. A clamshell bag opens with one or two zippers from the top to reveal the contents from above, whereas a tri-zip uses three zippers that open up the entire bag to give you easier access to items stored at the bottom of the bag.
The suspension system is based on three of the bag’s components – the frame (discussed earlier), the shoulder straps, and the hip belt. Suspension systems are divided into two major categories – full back contact and full ventilation. Both systems are designed to prevent the bag from swaying around too much when trekking through uneven terrain.The main difference between the two is how much or little air passes to cool down you back. Full back contact will leave your neck and back sweaty after a quick hike, whereas full ventilation will not keep you warm in colder temperatures.
There’s no perfectly “right” way to pack a survival bag, but expert survivalists are always willing to share a few tips and tricks on how to evenly distribute the weight of the contents and help make accessing certain items a heck of a lot easier.
Organize Your Backpack
Creek Stewart, an instructor and author on survival, recommends splitting your items into three classes: emergency, urgent, and non-urgent. Emergency items go in first, followed by urgent, and non-urgent stuff on top. Only you can decide which items fall into which category.
Organize based on weight
If you’re hiking up a mountain, your bag should help you maintain your center of gravity. Shelter items go in first, then the heaviest stuff goes on top of that. The lightest supplies like toiletries and socks go in last.
Keep the bag and its contents dry
Moisture is not your friend. When it rains, you won’t have time to enjoy the pitter-patter of droplets hitting your tent since you’ll be too busy attempting to keep things as dry as possible. Bring several plastic bags just in case, and store any wet stuff in a separate compartment.
No matter how careful you are, things will always go missing. It’s a good idea to bring spares of certain items (toiletries, clothing, sunscreen, and so on). Just keep things realistic; you probably won’t need doubles of tents, boots, or sleeping bags.
Olive oil, batteries, tampons, tactical desert scarves. It may seem odd to take these with you on an outdoor trip, but they’re a lot more versatile than you may have thought. Be creative and try to find different uses for your supplies so you can pack less and improve mobility.
Learn new skills
The more you know, the less you’ll need. Being able to rub sticks together to build a fire means not having to pack a stove or burner. There are a ton of different survival skills out there to learn.
Survival backpacks are designed to provide users with anything and everything they’d need in the wild. Take a look at these awesome features and accessories.
The wilderness can be a scary place at night, and LEDs are a good way to shoo away demons as well as wandering foxes, raccoons, and skunks. They’ll attract curious bears so be mindful when activating the lights.
Staying hydrated will help keep your eyes and wits sharp. Although a water bottle may be easy to carry, a built-in hydration pack means one less item to worry about losing. These packs use a system of bladders and hoses for hands-free drinking.
Optional Rain Cover
Most modern bags, even EDCs you’d take with you to the office, come with a rain cover hidden in one of the compartments. This keeps your bag and, more importantly, the contents as dry as a bone.
A false bottom is a secret compartment located at the (you guessed it) bottom of the bag. is inconspicuous pocket conceals laptops and other valuables from curious eyes. After all, your greatest enemy in the wild may not be beast but man.