Bug Out Rigging System

“This is a guest post by By Firefighter Charles and entry in our non-fiction writing contest – where you could win $100 cash. (This contest ended on June 5 2011 ) the winner will be announced later this week”

After I wrote my article in June last year called Transition to 7-Day Bug Out Bags. You might have remembered a section in the article called Bug Out Rigging System or B.O.R. This is a more elaborate article on how to go about setting one up & adapting to it. I have done more in depth testing on this system. It does work & can sustain you for sometime. This is just another avenue to look at not necessarily go down.

The Set-Up: This new bug out tool is a great way to stay very mobile & agile. My preference in gear is Blackhawk’s Cut Away Vest or Condor Outdoor’s Quick Release Vest. Both are plate carriers & release from the body in an extreme emergency. You can attach the pouches how you like on the vest. Keep in mind if you are carrying ammo, you should map out how you are going to attach the pouches. Before you make a debut with this vest during an emergency or disaster, you should try it out. There are many variations to how you can set up these vests. You can set up for Medical, Hunting, Disasters, TEOTWAWKI Combat, Bugging Out & Getting Home.

The Downside: These vests can be very heavy & cannot sustain you for more than 5 days. As I said before they can be heavy with just the items you stack on the vest alone. Never mind putting two ballistic plates in the front & back, which would make the vest even heavier. Now, if you’re using the vest for protection as well as bugging out, you might want train with the ballistic plates in the vest. Bulkiness is also another issue with the vest. Depending on how you have it setup, the bulkiness of your vest can limit your range of motion, which is key to staying mobile & agile. The range of motion in your arms might be restricted so you might want to test out the vest & move the pouches around accordingly. Attaching pouches on your back save room in the front & allows you to carry more but can’t be access unless you are Gumby or take your vest off.

The Emergencies: These kinds of vest vote well during emergencies. Depending on the emergency is depending on how you set up your vest. The following emergencies are examples as to how your Emergency Vest can be used. Medical, Disasters, Bugging Out, TEOTWAWKI Combat & Getting Home are the subjects I will discuss. As for the previously mentioned tactical hunting vest, most hunters know how to stack their vest. Plus, hunters use hunting vest, which is already designed for the hunter.

Medical Vest: When I was an EMT I remembered a guy who used to wear a tactical trauma vest. Meaning he wore is entire trauma bag in the form of a vest. His vest was the old NYPD ESU’s (Emergency Service Units) ballistic vest. He modified it so that it would fit his needs. Without understanding his reason for wearing such an idea, he was made fun of. I secretly thought it was brilliant but I would never tell him that. The short story for his reason was that back in the days when crack ruled the streets.

His partner & him had always gone to multiple shooting at least once in a tour. They decided to come up with a way to stay mobile, still treat & split the supplies between one another. So they both came up with the trauma vest system that was actually developed in the Vietnam War (somewhat). Their style vest was more complex & carried a lot more supplies. I put together two styles of Medical Vest. One is a First Aid Vest for people who want to help during an emergency but don’t have the medical training.

The First Aid Vest is a standard first aid kit with a lot of bandages, gauzes, Band-Aids, alcohol wipes, & latex gloves. I know that having a First Aid Vest might be a bit much but keeping your hands free & staying mobile is a necessity. Plus you don’t have to worry about putting down your bag & having it kicked around or left behind.

The other is a The Trauma Vest built for the medically trained personnel with a more comprehensive stack & supplies. This vest is actually built so the medically trained personnel can also stay mobile during a large-scale emergency. This vest has bandages, Sam splints, gauzes, burn sheet, burn cream, quik-clot, alcohol wipes, aspirins, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, latex gloves, & shears. Keep in mind the vest has limited resources & you are not going to save the world with it. If you want to help more people then along with your vest you should have a medical bag that you are well versed in.

Disasters Vest: When it comes to a Disaster Vest, you should stack the pouches according to the most prevalent disaster to your area. The Disaster Vest will pretty much have all of the same contents with the exception of a few modifications. For example, flood country will want to purchase a strobe light, lighter color tactical vest i.e. coyote, & ballistic plates that actually help you float.

If you live in earthquake country, you will want to put a high pitch noisemaker or a GPS locator in your pouch for rescuers to find you. You live near a nuclear power plant you might want to have some potassium iodide in one of your pouches. A disaster vest is design for you to get out of that situation & or to help others, not to be confused with bugging out (which I will explain in the next section).

Your Disaster Vest will also have an H2O carrier, a first aid pouch, & an emergency pouch. Which should contain an emergency blanket, emergency food bars, paracord, and a tube tent. The vest does add some protection against the cold but in a hot climate. You might just want to wear a t-shirt or go bare. If you are going to help, you should also have a medical kit or vest on standby.

Bug Out Vest: The vest system for bugging out is a lot more complex & has to be paid close attention to when developing it. You have to keep all the essentials in the front except for water, which will be in your water bladder on your back. You can also keep emergency waters in one of your pouches. The Bug Out Vest should have the basic Bug Out Contents & trust me it can all fit, even food. You’ll have to pack “field stripped” MREs or go with energy bars. The downside to the Bug Out Vest is that you can only carry 3 – 5 days worth of supplies in it. If you are carrying ammo then you are down to 2 – 3 days worth of survival supplies. If you decide to stack pouches on the back (which I recommend against), if you get into a vehicle you will be very uncomfortable. Depending on your body size you might be too close to the stirring wheel, which now presents a safety issue. The Bug Out Vest can be a great tool for a single person but if you have a family you might not want to go with that option.

Quick Note: I know what you are thinking. What’s the difference between the Disaster Vest & the Bug Out Vest? The Bug Out Vest is built for you to leave home or live outside of your home. It’s also built to sustain one person for a certain amount of time, which is you. The Disaster Vest is built for localized disasters/emergencies. This vest is more for helping others than helping yourself. Keep in mind that the vest should also have a tool kit either MOLLE to the vest or in an additional bag.

The Get Home Vest: This vest is very similar to the Bug Out Vest except that you have enough supplies to get you home. The Get Home Vest will be lighter & have fewer supplies. You will also be able to move faster. The pouches stacked on the vest should have emergency water packets, energy bars, emergency blankets, & a first aid kit. Depending on your distances depends on how much supply you put in a pouch & how many pouches you stack on the vest.

 Now, the Get Home Vest might be a bit much. You can only keep this vest in your vehicle because I don’t see anybody stuffing this thing into his or her office draw. Draping it over the back of your chair is not an option. If you have a locker assign to you, you should keep it in there or in the back of your vehicle.

TEOTWAWKI Combat Vest: This vest is stacked with ammo pouches, medical pouch, a fixed blade knife, and the handgun of your choice (if you choose to MOLLE it to the vest). You’ll also have a water bladder system MOLLE to the back. The TEOTWAWKI Combat Vest is for going to war with the entitled, looters, thugs, & the worst. This vest should never be taken out unless you are sure that you need it. This Combat Vest will also have your ballistic plates in it. This vest shouldn’t have a lot of bugging out items in it for the reason that you are protecting your home & will be close to home. The idea is to have more ammo & weapons for defense then self-reliance.

Thigh Rigging: This is a big part of the Bug Out Rigging System. A thigh-rigged pouch allows you to carry a little more. Maybe more ammo, food, water pouches, or first aid stuff. Some say that carrying a thigh-rig can make you tire but if you are already starting to condition yourself to carry more weight, what a couple extra ounces?

The Big Marriage: We use a term in the Fire Dept. called Marrying. It’s when you marry tools together to make them easier to carry or free up a hand. In this case you can “Marry” your B.O.R. system with your Bug Out Bag & you would have doubled your supplies. Keep in mind if you are going to do this, you better start training with the two together. As this is very heavy, you are going to need the endurance to carry this System for a long period of time.

Recommendation: The next time you go hiking or even camping you should practice with this System. If you don’t feel comfortable outside, jump on a treadmill on a 1% grade. If you don’t have a treadmill then just wear around the house for a bit.

Tactical Vest Vs. Body Armor Carrier: Now, I know some people get confused with difference in vest styles. A Tactical Vest is a lighter vest with a zipper in the middle & usually goes over a Bullet-Proof Vest. A Body Armor Carrier is a vest that encapsulates the body, holds ballistic plates, & in most case if not every, has a MOLLE system. The Tactical Vest is good choice for driving & a good choice for the Get Home Vest.

The vest is also breathable so you don’t heat up as fast as you do in a Body Armor Carrier. The Body Armor Carrier is heavier then the Tactical Vest never mind putting ballistic plates in it, which make it even heavier. For tougher emergencies I would go with a Body Armor Carrier & for hotter climates I would go with a Tactical Vest. Eventually it’s your preference on which vest to go with.

Choosing Your Plates: Ballistic Plates come in different sizes, strength, makes, & material. Ballistic Plates comes in 3 materials steel, ceramic, & Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene a.k.a UHMW. There is also a ballistic plate that helps you float. It’s better to take your vest to the store & see how the plates fit in it. You can also see how the plate covers your torso. Buying the plates on line to save money might be a good idea but only after you tested & fitted the plate in an actual store.

Pouches: When looking for a pouch to stack on your vest. For medical, make sure the pouches have a mess zipper net inside so that when you open it. The content won’t spill out. That same kind of pouch actually works for all purposes. But your bigger pouches like the 5.11® 10×6 Horizontal pouch, doesn’t have a mess netting inside. Most pouches have elastic bands inside them so they hold you contents in place.

Practice: You need to practice wearing it & using it. You need to get use to the weight & how it reacts to your movements. If the vest is too heavy in the beginning, build up to by wearing it a little longer each time you put it on. You do not want to build up to handling the weight by limiting what you put in, because you need the vest to be ready at all time. If you take anything out, I would take the plates out. Practicing with this vest will get you use to it & able you to move faster the more you practice.

Conditioning: Stay in tip-top shape is a must. You never know when you are going to have to bug out, help others, & hold your own (Fight). Carrying this much weight requires getting in shape & staying that way.

Cost: I know that some of you are analyzing the cost as you read this. I know that plates alone costly, that you make the Bug Out Vest very expensive. But the worth of these vests are well worth the cost for the survival of loved ones & yourself. You can also minimize the load of how much you’re carrying when just going with a Bug Out Vest with protection.

A Couple Of Exceptions: If you’re single this might be another option for you but if you have a family. This might not work too well. As a family leader, you need to carry for your family & yourself. Even though everybody in your family should have their own emergency bag (except for infants). You have the need to help out everyone you come across then a vest isn’t going to cut it. If you are elderly or have kids then the vest system is not for them. Because kids grow like weeds, upgrading the vest constantly will be costly. People with back problems might also want to avoid these vests.

Conclusion: I am not trying to re-invent the wheel. I am definitely trying to add traction to it, so that we have more options in our preparedness selection. It comes down to personal preference. There are a lot of options to consider out there in the Preparedness world. I, myself always takes new ideas into consideration.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Down South says:

    Lot’s of great ideas, great post…

  2. I like the idea. I have set up one of my vest in the same manner. It is more of an all around survival/ get home vest set up. I like the idea of having stuff right at my fingertips when there is so much confusion going on around you. I have added two dump pouches and a butt pack to the back and it really can carry quite a bit if you are good at packing. Great post.

  3. Army Veteran Mom of 2 says:

    Very informative! Excellent post!

  4. Down South says:

    This goes 2 what his is saying Battle Rigs – Chest Harness gear..

    • Jason Charles says:

      I wish I could pictures of mine on here because mine is different from his & has more survival items then ammo & weapons. I live in a very liberal city so I have to modify mine to comply with city laws.

  5. I was grabbing up the GHB one day and the thought ocurred to me that I should have this in a vest rather than be slinging 20 pounds over a shoulder and causing continual damage to my neck and back. Thinking thus, I tried stuffing the GHB materials into a photog vest I have. Not quite large enough, though a water bladder could fit on back MOLLE style. As a combat vest, it might work for short, fast duration- as in hit and run off to restock. Now I’ve just got to talk myself into buying some sort of vest- was thinking a SWAT type that CTD (or similar store) sells.
    Thanks for the food for thought on the topic-
    Shy III

  6. BullDogBeau says:

    Great Post, lots of information. I’ve had four deployments in the Army and let me tell you they can be heavy and cause some serious back problems. My IBA (Improvised Body Armor) weighed 96lbs! Thats not including weapons, ACH Helmet and anything else mission specific I carried. Ideal weight to carry is 25% of your bodyweight. Anything more you will end up with bulging discs like myself.
    I myself have a MOLLE vest with only items I need fast! All other items are in my BOB to ease pressure on my spine when there is time to rest if only for a minute.
    A tip that was mentioned is to not neglect counter weight on the back of your vest to avoid a slouch having all the weight in front. I have a camelback on my vest.
    If you find you have too heavy of a vest there are drop MOLLE systems that fit on a belt and drop down on the thigh. I have one on my left thigh with three M4 mag pouch on it. Anything more you will have to add suspenders to hold up the pants.

    Good Luck

    • Omega Man says:

      I hang a molle butt pack off the back to counter balance the weight of the front. This provides a distributed pull on my shoulders and the butt pack provides an excellent shelf that supports an assault pack, without hip belt, when used.

  7. A lot to think about.
    I’ll stick to my EDC vest and a seperate BOB/GHB/Go Bag. I work from home so it makes things both a little more complicated and a little easier at the same time.

  8. MENTALMATT says:

    I agree, having several different vests for different situations also makes for a really good idea.

  9. blindshooter says:

    I need to think about something like this, I have never served in the military so other than dragging gear up and down a KD range in rifle matches I have no idea how to hump gear without a cart of some kind. And never a thought on any kind of armor, I may be past that as my old butt won’t let me carry much weight very far.
    Good post, it gives me lots to think about.

  10. SrvivlSally says:

    I like vests and if I could, I would now consider buying the lighter weighted version asap. I know that it would be useful for several people that I know and they would be very glad to get one. Thank you for all of the pros and cons and other information that you have shared. You did a very nice job.

  11. axelsteve says:

    These vest things sound pretty fistacated. I kinda like the idea of a get me home vest though. Steve

  12. Omega Man says:

    Great article. This is an area that seems to get little attention but is a critical element to self-sufficient foot survival. I have designed a full molle rig that’s heavy on survival and light on tactical. The vest supports all essential tools along with canteened water, food for 3 days, and minimal ammo and medical. This 24/7 “garment” is supplimented with the new medium sized assault pack which holds additional food, ammo, clothes, shelter components, and other long-term tools and supplies. The idea is to have minimal needs on my body including a side arm, 3 days of supplies and every day tools on the vest, and all other long term supplies and non-essential components in the pack. If I lose the pack, I live off the vest, if I lose the vest I live out of my pockets. Required survival components such as water purification, fire starters, and ammo are found in all; pockets, vest, and pack.

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