Best 72 Hour Backpacks for Emergency Preparedness in 2024

Best 72 hour emergency backpacks

I have over 20 years experience in security, prepping and survival. In that time I’ve become pretty well-versed in emergency backpacks and bug out bags, from the best to the absolute worst! Funnily enough, some of the most expensive ones turned out the worst in my testing, and no I wasn’t being deliberately brutal with any of them!

I’ve tested countless models and I obviously have my pet favorites. But everyone’s needs are different so I hope this post helps you decide which is the best 72 hour backpack for your particular needs and situation.


My vote for the best 3 day backpack goes to the 5.11 Tactical RUSH72.

It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. I think it’s the best out there. But that’s for my needs and situation, yours will probably be quite different so you should decide which model is best for you.
Read on to learn how.

Emergency 3 day backpack

When an emergency strikes, you need a quality 72-hour kit ready to grab, packed with your carefully-chosen essential prepper gear. It can literally make the difference between life and death in a sudden disaster scenario.

As you probably know well enough already from the experience of the past few years, there hasn’t been a much more relevant time to be preparing for ‘the worst’.

Between the dire economic issues, national debt crisis and AAA rating downgrades we’ve seen recently, and the Middle East violence taking place right now in 2024, life really could get very scary, very quickly, and it could happen any day now.

In this comprehensive 72-hour backpack review, I’ll share my personal thoughts and recommendations. I’ll also tell you what to look for when choosing one for yourself and your family, and I’ll give my honest views on the top 5 backpacks currently favored by doomsday preppers.

Key Features of a 72-Hour Emergency Backpack

Before jumping into the specific makes and models, I should review the key elements that I think you should consider when comparing survival backpacks before purchase:


You need rugged materials and construction that can withstand years of wear and tear, especially when it’s taking care of your emergency kit. So take a good look at the build-quality, standards of workmanship and quality control before committing to buy any particular brand or model.

Your prepper backpack may be sitting on the concrete floor in your garage or rolling about in the trunk of your car for a year or two (hopefully!) before it’s needed for its planned purpose.

72 Hour Knapsack in forest

One of the things I learned when teaching others about survival outdoors is how they often underestimate the damage your equipment can sustain, even when treated carefully. Hiking through heavy forest or rocky terrain, repeatedly putting the backpack down to grab a drink, read the compass or just take a rest, it can really take its toll on the fabric, especially the underside.

When you can, always choose a backpack made from high quality abrasion-resistant fabrics wherever possible, such as 1000D nylon or Cordura. The more coverage your pack has with this stuff, the longer it will live, it’s as simple as that. And I am someone who’s seen some very expensive backpacks fall to pieces in pretty mild conditions, much to the dismay of their formerly proud owners! “All the gear, no idea” 😉

Pro Tip

UV is extremely hard on materials, especially cloths and plastics (think clips, carabiners, rings and other attachments etc). Protect your 72 hour backpack from the sun’s rays once you’ve got it set up and ready for action. I keep a decent supply of black trash bags. They’re excellent for keeping dust and moisture away and they block almost 100% of UV rays too. Keeping your gear in total darkness will extend its lifespan.

Storage Capacity:

Large storage backpack

Your knapsack should provide ample space for food, water, first aid, tools and other critical supplies, many of which will be specific to you and the environment you’ll be facing (your local terrain and weather mostly).

There’s no point saying ‘you should have xx litres’ when I don’t who you are. You could be a 16 year old girl, or a 40 year old man with 6 kids to look after when the SHTF! So obviously your preferred capacity will (and should) be very much a personal choice for you to make.

It will also heavily depend on what exactly you have in your emergency kit. Deciding what your ideal 72 hour kit should consist of is something you should be doing carefully and diligently.

Only when you’ve decided on that perfect 72 hour kit list will you be ready to commit to a backpack to carry it all. Having said that, as a rough guide I’d say a bare minimum capacity for most people would be around 15-20L. More for most adult men and maybe even more for those with a family to watch over. (But remember this is a 3 day bag, it’s not intended to take into the mountains for weeks on end).

Once you know everything you’ll want with you, you can lay that out and roughly guess (or calculate) the number of liters of storage you need. But don’t go and buy something with that exact amount, you should add at least 10-20%. Yes, your bugout bag should have some empty pockets or at least some room inside once you’ve packed everything in.

This is because in a real situation, you will definitely be picking items up along the way like dry bits of wood or plastic to start a fire, maybe you need to carry something for someone else, or you find useful items dropped by others along the way, you only have two hands and you don’t want to be carrying anything by hand if you can avoid it.

Molle Webbing

Molle webbing allows attaching additional compartments so there are ways to add to the “litrage” after purchase. Molle webbing is extremely useful. It may not look like it at first, but when you start incorporating it into your survival gear you’ll see what huge benefits it can bring.

And that is no more true than in the case of weapons and defensive equipment which, as you’d expect, you really want on the outside of your bag, as accessible as possible. Not only that but water, radio, and first aid kits may be best carried outside too for quick access, depending on the situation.

If you’ve never heard of Molle, this short clip should show you the basics of how it works:


As already mentioned, different types of disaster and emergency scenarios will require quick access to different types of tools and items.

Prepping Fingerprint

There are almost endless combinations of needs and requirements for each person, multiplied by almost endless numbers of scenarios and environments to prepare to survive in. This unique set of circumstances is your ‘prepping fingerprint‘ and only you can decide which format of knapsack will suit you best.

Organizing all your gear into logical and efficient locations within the backpack is another maze of decisions. Making bad ones now could cost you in a crisis a year from now. When you only have seconds to act, knowing where to put your hand to grab when you need could be vital.

With that in mind you should prioritize your backpack choices based on the number of pockets, dividers and pouches to keep your gear organized in the way that you will need.


Waterproof Prepping Backpack

Whether you live in a wet or dry climate, water resistance is an important subject. Remember, even in dry climates condensation and damp can be a factor.

If you’ve ever tried using toilet paper that’s become just a bit damp, never mind matches when you really need a fire, you will know how damp can be just as problematic as rainwater! Thanks to the wonders of Osmosis, even a dry climate can give you issues with damp gear.

So in all environments but particularly in very wet ones, it’s essential to have a waterproof or at least ‘water-resistant’ backpack, especially for your emergency food, and fire-lighting kit.

Key areas to protect are the main compartment and exterior pockets but ideally the whole thing should resist water from entering even in a heavy downpour.

Bear in mind that you’re preparing for all types of scenarios here, not just one or two. Severe weather events could be something you haven’t thought about, especially if they rarely happen where you are, but this could easily be the most likely reason you’ll be grabbing your 72 hour pack.

Remember this 72 hour backpack may not just be required to keep you alive for 3 days, you could end up being forced to live out of it (and rely on it, with your life) for days or possibly even weeks. Check the backpack you choose is up to the required standards for your specific environment.

Pro Tip

No matter how ‘waterproof’ your backpack claims to be, I routinely treat all mine as if they are not waterproof at all. I always have a waterproof cover (rain cover type thing), and I use it. Prepping is about avoiding problems where possible. Deal with them when you have to, but avoiding them altogether is best in my book!

P.S. – Another handy tip, when you buy one that claims to be waterproof, fill it with screwed up newspaper and spray it with water for at least 5 minutes. Don’t open it straight away, just put it somewhere for 2 or 3 hours, then inspect the newspaper inside. If you’ve got any wet or even damp paper, it is not waterproof – get a refund!

Salt Protection

Not necessarily something you need to consider in all areas, but if you’re anywhere near the oceans then you should pay special attention to preventing salt corrosion.

Emergency 72 hour backpack in salty conditions.

Everyone knows the nightmare of pulling an old backpack out of the shed and finding that the zippers don’t work any more. This is very common where I live, I lace all my zippers with vaseline at least once a year, and I keep a pot of it in a small pocket on my own 72 hour bag. It prevents all types of problems with zippers, and of course has many other uses too.

Comfort & Load-Bearing:

A fully stocked 72 hour backpack can easily weigh 20-30 pounds, often more. Your backpack needs shoulder straps, hip belts, and suspension systems to properly distribute that weight.

This not just about the strength of materials being up to the job, it’s also about comfort.

Many people underestimate this issue. You try on a backpack in a store, it feels comfortable and off you go into the mountains, only to find out that after an hour or two it’s extremely uncomfortable or maybe even injuring you by causing chafing and blistering of your skin. Infection is a serious issue, possibly even a life-threatening one. Don’t invite unnecessary problems.

Comfort Testing Emergency Backpack

When you buy a pack you should immediately load it with a good 15-20lbs of weight and then begin wearing it around the house, take the dog for a walk or whatever. You must test out how it feels when being used as you expect to be using it in a crisis.

Most stuff has a good refund policy days, but there’s no point putting it away after purchase and only finding out its flaws when it’s too late to return it, never mind when the store has been looted!


This is included in the list, but note it’s the last one. This is because I think it’s definitely something to think about in your decision making process but, if possible, you should factor it in at the end.

I know some readers will have to consider price before anything else, and I understand if that’s you. But when you have seen the danger and massive inconvenience of a backpack falling apart or failing when you’re on a long hike somewhere, never mind in a life-or-death struggle, you realise that quality is extremely important and worth sacrificing other things for.

With that in mind, you can only buy what you can afford, but remember price ‘usually’ indicates a level of quality. No, not always, definitely not always! But there is usually a correlation.

So considering the importance of the decision you’re making here, think carefully about whether you ‘really’ can’t afford a certain price. Do you have a few things around the home you can sell to add a bit more to your budget? Do you have a big flatscreen TV? What use will that be when the grid goes down?

Think carefully, spend as much as you can afford, without spending a penny more than necessary for the intended function. That’s my best advice to backpack purchasers, and that applies to most types of prepping gear too.

Tip for Bargain-Seekers…

These days people seem pretty obsessed with buying stuff brand new, and this means there’s a huge amount of good used gear on Craigslist or ‘fleabay’. I detest the latter, as a company anyway, but as a tool for finding damn good bargains it’s pretty unbeatable. (You can also find some very good quality backpacks in military surplus stores and auctions etc.)

I just searched the San Fransisco Bay area of Craigslist for ‘used backpacks’ and they have a boat load of them, most of them in virtually new condition for a fraction of the normal retail price. A few examples just for fun:

Used backpack for sale on Craigslist

Bargain used SHTF backpack

Osprey SHTF 72 hour backpack

Maybe I’m a ‘bit different’, but I get a huge buzz out of buying something used for a fraction of the new price! This applies to my 72 Hour bugout bag as much as it does to anything else. I have spent hundreds of dollars on equipment which would have cost thousands new. Don’t be too proud to scour the used ads, you could end up getting gear which would otherwise be out of your budget, and a lot more of it too.

Ok that’s the tips on what to look for covered, let’s check out some makes and models.

Top 5 72-Hour Backpacks Reviewed

Based on the above criteria, these are my choices for the very best 72 hour rucksacks:

5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Backpack

Topping my list is the ‘Rush72’ model made by 5.11 Tactical.

It’s constructed of ultra-durable 1050D nylon with a high-strength backing fabricated from a ‘polyester blend’. With 55 liters of storage, it provides ample capacity for most people’s disaster preparedness supplies.

5.11 Tactical Rush72 Backpack

The clamshell main storage compartment opens wide for easy access, this wide opening is a Godsend at times, especially when compared to those with very narrow openings. It’s so frustrating to be yanking (and maybe tearing) just to get your towel out or a quick snack.

Inside, you can easily fit at least enough food for 72 hours, several liters of water, a good amount of first aid gear and more. The front pocket is perfect for quickly grabbing a poncho, radio, or other frequently needed items.

Integrated organization makes it very easy to store your emergency equipment in a logical order. There’s a dedicated hydration pocket, admin compartment for paper and pens, and TSA-compliant laptop pocket. MOLLE webbing allows attaching additional modules like medical pouches or other fast-grab items.

Under heavy loads, the RUSH72 remains comfortable thanks to the contoured yoke shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap, and nicely padded back panel with channels to help air flow around reducing heat and sweat build-up.

Rush72 Shoulder Straps

At just 5.6 pounds, it’s extremely easy to maneuver with, it’s low profile allows easy entry through doorways and tight gaps. It comes in a small variety of colours, all of which are suitable to prepping and generally keeping a low profile. I’d go with black in an urban environments and probably the sand or green colours for more wild environments.

Rush72 Colour Choices

For the ultimate 72 hour kit bag, I think you can’t do much better than the 5.11 Tactical Rush72.

Features and Technical Specs:

  • 55 liters storage capacity
  • 1050D nylon construction
  • Hydration pocket for water reservoir
  • Molle webbing for attaching accessories
  • Contoured yoke shoulder straps
  • Sternum strap and waist belt
  • Dual side water bottle pockets
  • Padded back panel for comfort
  • Integrated organization pockets

Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault BVS Pack

The Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault BVS Pack provides a versatile and rugged option, at a much higher price than most of its competitors. Is the extra money worth the spend? I’d argue yes, but only if you will make use of the features.

Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault BVS

As the name suggests, it has the capacity to carry essential supplies for 3 days in an organized pack. It’s very well laid-out for that purpose too. At over $500, this is definitely on the high end.

Mystery Ranch is known for making ultra high quality tactical and outdoor gear with durable materials constructed right here in the US of A. This assault pack brings some novel ideas and useful functionality for emergency situations.

It’s constructed from ‘custom spec’ 500D Cordura with Teflon and PU coatings making it extremely resistant to both UV and inclement weather. The zippers are water-repellant YKK.

Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault unzippered

The main compartment offers ample space to pack necessary survival items. Multiple exterior pockets and pouches allow quick access to your essential quick-access gear.

As with all Mystery Ranch packs, the 3 Day Assault BVS is built to last through years of demanding use in all kinds of environments. Let’s look at some of those interesting features:

Features and Technical Specs:

  • HDPE internal frame which adjusts to torso sizes
  • BVS – ‘Bolstered Ventlation and Stability’ allows fitting over body armour
  • 3 Zip design for extremely fast access
  • 2185 cubic inches of storage
  • Waist support can be stowed away neatly when not needed
  • Radio and cables can be routed through the backpack
  • Sleeves on the inside allow the integration of up to 3 hydration reservoirs
  • Three rows of Molle on the front panelsReputed capacity for 3-day supplies

For those seeking a purpose-built 72-hour bug out bag from an industry-leading brand, the Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault BVS Pack is a prime option worth exploring further for those with a big budget. Here it is in the flesh compared to its larger and smaller siblings:

REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack

If you need plenty of storage space for emergency supplies, the REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack is a spacious option worth considering. With 40 liters of nicely organised storage space, it provides ample room for your prepping gear.

This is one of the larger assault packs available. It’s constructed from heavy-duty 600D polyester fabric designed to withstand rugged use. Double stitching at stress points adds durability. Zippers have pull tabs for smooth access even while wearing gloves.

Reebow Gear Military Tactical Backpack Large Army

The main compartment opens fully to pack your 3-day food, water, first aid, tools and other critical supplies. Interior MOLLE webbing lets you customize the storage setup. Multiple exterior pouches keep items close at hand.

Reebow Gear Military Tactical Backpack Large Army Camo

Thickly padded shoulder straps help bear heavy loads. A chest strap and waist belt help stabilize and distribute the weight nicely. The back panel and straps are ventilated to reduce sweat buildup during wear.

Features and tech specs:

  • 40 liter capacity
  • Durable 600D polyester
  • MOLLE webbing for storage customization
  • Padded shoulder straps and back panel
  • Chest and waist straps for stability
  • Y Strap and buckle positioned on the front for sleeping mats or other items.
  • 5 compartments in total

First Tactical Tactix 3-Day Plus Backpack

Designed for 72+ hours of operational use, the First Tactical Tactix 3-Day Plus Backpack provides a high storage capacity at 62.2 liters.

First Tactical Tactix 3-Day Plus Backpack

Constructed from durable 1000D nylon, this backpack withstands rugged use while limiting overall weight. The main compartment opens fully for access and visibility, with internal organizer sleeves to sort your gear. Front and side stash pockets offer quick-grab access to must-have items.

First Tactical Tactix 3-Day Plus Backpack Open

The laser cut MOLLE webbing system allows extensive customization and expansion. Attach additional pouches or gear as needed. Thickly padded shoulder straps, a lumbar pad and adjustable sternum strap keep loads stable and balanced.

Features and tech specs:

  • 62.2L capacity
  • Durable 500D/1000D Water Resistant Nylon material
  • Just 5.4lbs in weight
  • Laser cut MOLLE webbing for expansion
  • YKK Zippers and Duraflex hardware
  • Padded shoulder straps and back panel
  • Front and side stash pockets

With its durable fabric, expansive capacity and field-ready features, the First Tactical Tactix 3-Day Plus Backpack is designed for extended operations and flawless performance. This is a close second on my list of ‘best bang for back’!

Eberlestock G2 Gunslinger II Pack

This is a bit of a wild option just for you gunslingers out there!

The company is based in Boise, Idaho, and their products are truly gorgeous, both from form and function perspectives.

The Gunslinger II is a medium sized pack with a strong leaning towards tactical applications. Uniquely, it has a full length rifle storage scabbard. This can actually be used for other things like radio or camping/hiking equipment.

Eberlestock G2

The harness and straps are fully adjustable and insanely comfortable in use. The quality of build is truly second to none, and there are almost endless ways you could make use of the complex but highly efficient design.

Features and tech specs:

  • 2100 cubic inch capacity which is around 35L not including scabbard
  • 44 Liters total volume of the entire pack
  • 6.6 lbs in weight
  • Large rain cover supplied

This is a little over the top for most people’s needs, but I do get people asking me quite often about more gun-orientated 72 hour backpacks so I thought I’d throw it in for you guys.

The 72 Hour Test

Regardless of which one you choose, when you receive it you should do a good test.

Firstly check for comfort and general suitability to your frame size etc. Then try to make time for a long weekend where you can actually test it in a real 3 day scenario.

I know most people won’t bother with this, but it’s vital. Just confidence it will give you for any future use for it will be worth the time invested. So load it up just as if you were evacuating and hit the trail for a 3 day camping/hiking trip. I guarantee you will learn more than you can imagine, and you will be much better prepared for a real emergency.

This shakedown will reveal any issues with comfort, storage, waterproofing or missing preparedness items. Your life may one day depend on your 72 hour emergency kit, so take care of the bag that it calls home. Get it expedition ready by living out of it for a few days. You’ll thank me later.

3 day test of backpack

Stay Ready

I hope this breakdown gives you some understanding on how to select and equip the ideal 72 hour grab bag tailored to your specific circumstances. With climate uncertainties, civil unrest, cyber attacks and more, having a loaded survival go bag is critical, and once you’ve prepared yourself you can relax in that knowledge they you’re ready to survive when others won’t be.

P.S. Don’t forget to stay tuned to the news blog for information about global events that may give you a head start when the time comes.

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