The Best Bug Out Bag Doesn't Have a Rifle

By Jesse Allen | 07 February 2020

I heard this from a military veteran who had been shot 5 times while deployed:

Are you going to blast your way through? I doubt it. Military tactics work for military units working in teams. Getting shot at sucks. Getting shot sucks even more. You will always want to break contact if you’re alone or with your family. Stick to getting cover and never stop out in the open. Imagine a scope being on you at all times to help you think and move tactically.

In a real SHTF scenario, you’re going to want to stay out of sight as much as possible. This is the art of survival, not a video game where you get points for kills and respawn when you die.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have some form of protection. After all, everyone knows that prepping is pointless if you can’t hold onto your stuff. But are you going to pick off random humans in the distance because they’re in your way? Probably not.

Don’t be the tough guy, be the guy that nobody even sees. Move fast, be invisible.


For the sake of argument, let’s just see how much carrying around your AR-15 kit weighs:

  • AR-15 base weight: 6.5 lbs [1]
  • Scope: 0.9 lbs
  • 100 rds of .223: 2.5 lbs [2]
  • Total weight: 10 lbs

Not to mention the bulk and unwieldiness of carrying something that takes a hand or two to keep steady while walking.

Any hiker would tell you that this is absurd. If you’ve never carried your bag a long distance, let me introduce you to an entire subculture of people who have: PCT / AT / CDT hikers. These folks travel thousands of miles with their gear on them at all times. For many of them, their base weight (not including food and water) is well under 25 lbs. A 10 lb rifle kit would represent 40% of that optimum base weight.

Don’t think this can be done for your bushcraft bug out kit? Check this out:

How much would an alternative firearm defense setup weigh? Take a look at the Ruger LCP, an extremely popular personal defense handgun designed for concealed carry:

  • Base weight: 10.6 oz (0.66 lbs)
  • 30 rds of .38: 1lb
  • Total weight: 1.66 lbs

Maybe you’re a caliber snob and the LCP is too small. Fine, pack your Desert Eagle. It’s still lighter and less bulky to carry (not by much though).

Values and objectives

Ok if we don’t wanna blast our way through, what’s the alternative?

  • Navigation
  • Cover
  • Stealth
  • Conflict avoidance
  • Maneuverability

Let’s go over some items that aid these principles.

Alternative kit items

You don’t need all of these, but in particular a pair of binoculars, a detailed map, and a compass will take you farther than a rifle will.


When you can see far beyond what anyone else can see, you gain the super power of seeing the future. If you can spot people before they can spot you, you will avoid conflict and be able to endlessly navigate around it.

Detailed map of your local area and compass

Navigation is the most neglected category for preppers. Most people don’t have a local map even though you’ll find it on almost every bug out bag essentials list. How are you going to know where to go during SHTF if you don’t have one? And if you had one, how much more prepared would you be then everyone else? A lot.

I know, I know - you know your area like the back of your hand. I’m sure you do when things are good, but what about when you need to navigate around the 10-mile long traffic jam or the flooded backroads? What if you had to navigate on foot through private land that you’ve never set foot on? What about through the woods? Would you know where to go? I’m betting not.

A map and compass is an extremely lightweight combo that will put you at 10x the capability of most other people. Their combined weight is so insignificant that it would be silly not to consider these items.

Pry bar

When I was a kid, my dad and I were traveling and we got a flat tire. One of the lug nuts on the wheel was so tight that no amount of force my dad could apply to the tire iron would loosen it. From the back of his van he pulled out a 3 foot long metal pipe. He fit the pipe over the tire iron and with small push to the end of the pipe, loosened the nut. This is how I learned the value of leverage.

Of course, you wouldn’t carry a 3 foot pipe with you on foot, but a small pry bar can help you do all sorts of stuff you’d never be able to do with your hands.

The crowbar or pry bar is a multifunctional item that preppers rarely consider. It’s a somewhat heavy item, but depending on your situation, could be an invaluable one.

Accessing emergency shelter

When you’re not moving, your number one goal should be taking cover. This means getting to as safe of a location as possible where you: A. won’t be seen and B. are protected from the elements.

A simple pry bar will let you open doors, gates, and windows you otherwise could not. You may be able to break through exterior windows to gain entry to a structure, but interior rooms don’t have windows.

Break into your own house / storage unit / car

I keep a small pry bar in my bug out bag primarily to break into my own stuff. If you have a storage unit, house, or apartment secured by an exterior gate or door, many times they will be electronically-controlled entrances. If you store your preparedness items in these areas, don’t forget that the grid-down world does not play well with keypads, key fobs, or electronic sensors.

If you can’t get to your stuff, what was the point in having it in the first place?

Break out of fire / earthquake / hurricane debris

Natural disasters create all sorts of obstacles. A little bit of leverage goes a long way for lifting, prying, and moving objects you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Gloves and good shoes

Evasion involves taking the path less traveled and taking cover whenever you can. But the path less traveled is full of perils of its own. Protect your hands and feet to make enormous maneuverability gains.

Small injuries can turn into big ones. Prevent infectious cuts by protecting your skin. Climb that rusted fence without getting tetanus.


I’m not telling you not to buy, own, or even carry a rifle. Everyone has their own unique set of needs for their particular objectives. But I hope you’ll consider the opportunity cost of how much survivability you could gain without one.

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About the author

Jesse Allen is the owner and creator of Never Astray, an independently owned company that makes maps for emergency preparedness and is based in Austin, Texas. Jesse is a prepper with interests in American politics, technology, and the marital arts of Kali, HEMA, and Aikido. He runs a river tubing company in Austin that he founded with a friend he met at a hostel while traveling. Jesse was previously a technology consultant for startups and enterprise businesses. He lives in Texas with his wonderful girlfriend and her doggo.