Bug out bags, get home bags, everyday carry kits… why do we need another survival bag? Because each bag has its own purpose and you do NOT need to own all of them.
Think of inch bags as oversized bug out bags because their purpose is to keep you alive for an indefinite amount of time out in the wilderness. In these situations, you’ll be pretty much a refugee, which is ironic because, as I’m writing this, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are flooding Europe.
INCH is an acronym, and it stands for I’m Never Coming Home. I know, you might say to yourself that you’re almost sure you’ll bug in when it happens but who can tell what will happen? Bugging out is a dangerous scenario if you leave it out of your prepping plans and an inch bag is the best place to start.
If you already have a bug out bag, you’re halfway there and know the drill; all you need now is to decide whether or not an INCH bag is something you should invest in as another tool in your prepping toolbox.
In this article, we’ll show you what’s what and discuss the pros and cons of INCH bags.
Differences Between INCH Bag and Bug-Out Bag
The ubiquitous BOB needs no introduction for preppers. For many of us, the BOB is our one-size-fits-most equipment solution for any kind of disaster or emergency since it holds all of the equipment we could conceivably need to deal with anything that is likely to happen.
When the situation takes a turn for the worse, you can grab your BOB and produce what you need to deal with the situation, or even take off in your vehicle or on foot heading for greener pastures content knowing did you have everything you need to sustain yourself for at least seventy-two hours with you.
A bug-out bag contains the things you need to shelter yourself, feed yourself, procure clean water, start a fire, take care of your body, take care of the rest of your gear, navigate and even fend-off threats.
The humble bug-out bag is the total systems solution for SHTF events, and is rightly venerated as many preppers’ most-prized piece of kit.
The INCH bag is oftentimes thought of as a super-sized BOB: All the things you need, plus quite a few things you might need, in greater quantities.
This is a fair assessment but where the INCH bag truly sets itself apart from the BOB is in its emphasis untrue sustainment gear and other systems, even if it comes at the expense of weight.
Where a BOB should be expected to keep you up and running for three days, five days to a week on the outside, an INCH bag should be packed with the goodies you’ll need to start setting up a proper camp or take care of your own survival needs for an indefinite period of time while away from your home and your stash.
Opinions vary on this subject as with all others, but for my part I think of a BOB as more akin to a survival SCUBA tank; something that will let me go out into the world and stay down so long as I have “air” (supplies) enough to enable it.
Conversely, I think of the INCH bag as more akin to a submarine; Something that is far bigger and more complex than a SCUBA tank, but also something that will enable me to stay down for a very long time.
In this way, though, they operate using similar principles, BOB’s and INCH bags have entirely different missions, and that is what will inform your decision to employ one or not.
Is an INCH Bag for Me?
There is a popular saying in the military- “The mission drives the gear train.” What this means is that the mission, your personal objective, dictates what equipment, tools and weapons you should employ to achieve those ends.
This applies to absolutely anything that might be required of a member of the military, and it certainly applies to you as a prepper.
Consider that if you were in charge of a military operation that was intended to pacify an urban area with a minimum of collateral damage and also a minimally-invasive presence choosing to roll in there with a bunch of main battle tanks, helicopter gunships and other loud, destructive Implements of war is probably going to go very, very badly for you. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself!
Conversely, accomplishing the mission using light infantry that largely live and billet among the populace and rely more on “police” style interactions will probably work out better.
Apply this to your own survival plan. Do you have multiple, redundant bug-out locations that are all within reasonably easy walking distance of your home, and do you know where you can resupply along the way on each of those routes?
Is your home going to be safe from anything except the worst possible luck? If that is the case, a BOB is probably all you need.
On the other hand, if part and parcel of your survival plan is taking off into the deep wilderness to scratch out a semi-permanent camp and wait for a really bad situation that is likely to engulf your home to blow over, your bug-out bag probably contains only enough in the way of supplies that you will regret it when they run out.
Since I cannot know your exact situation, what disaster will befall you and the extent of your plans and backup plans, I cannot recommend an INCH bag for you specifically one way or the other, reader.
But what I can tell you is that the more likely you are to have to “abandon ship” for the duration or even perhaps permanently the more you need an INCH bag to replace or supplement your bug-out bag.
Choosing your INCH bag
There’s no shortage of backpacks out there for you to choose from but be sure to take the time to consider these questions to make sure you get just the right bag for your needs.
Purchasing a pre-made INCH bag might seem like the simplest option, but it is not the best one for you and your family. You will get a much better result if you put the time and effort into planning and buying your own gear – it’ll be tailored to suit your personal needs and you’ll be able to quickly find what you want, when you need it.
Here’s a few things you to consider before you buy:
Does it have a waist belt? Does the bag fit you properly with the correct torso length and adjustable straps to distribute the load between your hip and shoulders?
Does it have adequate supports? External frames packs are typically better for large loads. Look for padded comforts, compression straps, and adjustable fit.
Are there enough compartments and pockets inside it to store everything?
Although your bag needs plenty of room, don’t buy one that is too big for you. Remember, you’ll have to carry this bag, fully outfitted for long periods at a time. The total weight of your INCH bag should not exceed 25% of your total body weight.
Is the fabric durable and waterproof?
Don’t be sucked into buying a low quality bag, just because it’s cheap. It might be so, but is it going to be able to contain everything you need to survive?
Avoid brightly colored backpacks as they will make you an easy target as you maneuver through crowds of looters and desperate people trying to survive as well.
There is no other way around it; an INCH bag is going to weigh an awful lot more than your typical bug-out bag. Where your average bug out bag should hopefully never weigh more than 40 lbs., it is entirely possible for a fully equipped INCH bag to weigh 50, 60 or even 70 lbs.
We are getting up into infantryman field load levels of weight, here! Your pack must be able to support this level of weight through thick and thin, and just as importantly it must be able to hold this weight in such a way that it is not crippling for you.
And speaking of the person who carries it, an INCH bag will not even be a viable option for someone who is not already used to carrying substantial weight while on foot for extended periods of time.
There is a basic fitness prerequisite for making best use of an INCH bag due to the weight alone. But assuming you can handle the load, the load may still kill you if your backpack cannot secure it in a way that makes it tolerable and easy to carry.
The notion that an INCH bag will contain everything a BOB contains and more of it is partially true. In a situation where losing vital provision or an essential piece of equipment could spell death or disaster for your bug-out plan, having backups could save the day.
Your INCH bag must be able to accommodate everything you need and then some, including the addition of any last minute but crucial pieces of gear that you will need for the journey ahead.
You can never have too much storage, too much expansion room or too much capability when it comes to an INCH bag.
This must always be justified against your total load, but compared to a BOB your INCH bag is more likely to let you down if you choose poorly purely because you’ll be carrying so much stuff.
Ensure that any pack you buy has redundant stitching and heavy duty attachment points on all essential connections and components.
Your INCH bag and its contents will probably evolve with you, either as your plans change or as the seasons change. It is not enough to have a high-capacity backpack that is only a single, large cell.
That is a bog-standard duffel bag, and those are not the best choice for INCH bags. What is needed instead is modularity, the ability to expand the pack or to seamlessly connect additional storage to it when required.
If you start to lean-out the pack or consume the items that it carries, can the pack shrink down or fold in on itself? Is it capable of being used with or without the frame? With or without a hydration bladder? Can the bulky cargo platform on the bottom be stowed in an unobtrusive way?
These questions are not to satisfy your urge to add and gimmicks to your backpack; it is to ensure that your backpack is working for you, and not the other way around.
Wheels might seem like a silly option for an INCH bag considering you probably aren’t heading for the airport to check your bags and jet off on a vacation, but the idea does have some merit so long as they are low profile and don’t add too much weight.
Anytime you are traveling on a relatively flat and level surface, the ability to take off your invariably heavy INCH bag and tow it behind yourself will give your shoulders, back and hips a nice break, enable you to move faster, and save energy. All are worthwhile pursuits in a survival situation.
Only a few backpacks feature these as built-in options, but so long as you can check all the other boxes on your list of requirements they are definitely a nice perk to have.
For the industrious prepper, you might even look into rigging up a small, stowable pair of wheels that can attach to your backpack via PALS webbing or some other system.
INCH Pack Recommendations
Disclosure: This post has links to 3rd party websites, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. See my full disclosure for more.
- MALICE Packs from Tactical Tailor. Bombproof packs from one of the oldest and best names in tactical bags and gear. Made to last, and packed with proven and well-designed features.
- ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Pack Bag. A large, externally framed military pack with plenty of room for expansion, external cargo and even stowage for long and awkward items like bows, rifles and tripods.
- Kelty Trekker Pack. A classicly styled, hiking pack sized to tote enough gear for major expeditions. Carries everything except the kitchen sink!
- Eberlestock V90 Battleship – A mammoth 6100 ci. tactical pack that has a detachable fanny pack admin pouch, tons of organization and PALS webbing inside and out, and one of the best suspensions in the business.
- Maxpedition Doppelduffel Adventure Bag – A travel-oriented bag that nonetheless works well as an INCH bag thanks to its ample storage, hidden backback straps and PALS webbing.
The Contents of your INCH bag
When assembling your INCH bag, your priority should be on basic survival gear rather than luxury or comfort items.
So, what exactly what do you need to survive? I’ve broken the topic into basic categories to make it easier to digest. You will need to customize for your personal needs, but here’s a basic outline:
Air: we don’t last long without clean air, so perhaps the first thing you’ll need is:
- NBC Gas Mask with a NATO filter the correct size for each person.
- Several disposable N95 or N100 surgical masks
Shelter and Heat: Hypothermia is nature’s silent killer, so be prepared with:
- 4 emergency blankets
- Small tent (make it a 2-person tent if possible)
- Sleeping bag (waterproof and cold weather rated if possible)
- Waterproof groundsheet
- Waterproof matches/firelighter blocks/lighter/flint (as many ways to start a fire as possible).
- Magnifying glass
Water: you will need clean drinking water for the first couple of days, and a method of purification after your initial supply is gone.
Include water purification tablets as well as personal water filter (hint: the Sawyer mini can purify 100 times more water than the LifeStraw, that’s 100,000 liters).
Food and Cooking: Try to make sure your pack contains enough food to last one full week, without having to forage from nature. Here are some suggestions:
- High energy protein bars
- Dried fruit & nuts
- Oatmeal seeds,
- Dehydrated vegetables
- Meal replacement powders
- Tea, coffee, sugar
- Chocolate, candy
- Stock cubes
- Dried soup mix
- Mineral salts
- Powdered milk
Of course MREs are decent, but they’ll take up more room and we’re talking long-term here, not just a day or two. Pack one or two to get you started, but consider items that provide the most nutritious and satisfying meals yet take up minimum space.
How are you going to prepare your food? Consider:
- Lightweight camping stove
- Utensils for preparation and eating
- A billy or kettle
- Stainless mug/s and plate/s
- Sharp knives
It is wise, however, to start supplementing by hunting and gathering right from the start. This will help to ‘stretch out’ the contents of your pack. Be sure to include:
- A fishing kit (rod, line, floats, lures, reel, etc)
- Hunting knives + whetstone
- Guns and ammo
- Traps or snares
- Edible plant guide for your area
- Bags to collect roots and plants in
First Aid Kit: injuries are debilitating, there are literally hundreds of ready-made kits available for purchase, however make sure your kit includes:
- First aid manual
- butterfly sutures
- Nitril gloves
- Antiseptic liquid and wipes
- Burn relief cream (or aloe vera gel)
- Decongestant spray/tablets (for common cold)
- Eye wash & patches
- Gauze pads/cotton balls
- A good supply of any prescription medications you need
Personal hygiene: this is really important, because you have to keep yourself as healthy and confident as possible. If you fail on hygiene, you’ve taken the first step towards giving up. I suggest you keep all of these into a single pouch, so you know where to find them. Be sure to include:
- 2 x rolls toilet paper
- Fold-up brush, comb & mirror
- Toothbrush, toothpaste & dental floss
- Bar of soap
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Disposable razors
- Pocket-sized tissue packs
- Nail cutters
Clothing: Make sure you include a full change of clothes (you know your own climate and what you will have to include) as well as an extra (2 full sets) of underwear. Also, include:
- A hat
- Mosquito net
- Extra shoelaces
- Hiking boots
- Thermal underwear
- 4-5 pairs of socks (of various thicknesses)
- Wet weather gear
Pack all clothing in watertight bags.
Other tools and equipment you’ll find invaluable include:
- Work gloves (leather)
- Garbage bags (assorted sizes)
- Multi-purpose tool (eg. Leatherman)
- Miscellaneous hardware items (nails, screws, cable ties)
- Measuring tape
- Sewing kit (various sizes of needles and thread)
- Duct tape & fluorescent marking tape
- Small folding saw
- Crow bar/hammer
- Screwdriver set
- Wire cutters
- Zip-seal bags
- Assortment of small batteries (AAA, AA, 9V, etc.)
- Hand crank and/or solar powered flashlight
Communication and navigation are both very important. Vital items include:
- Orienteering Compass
- Backup compass (either orienteering or at least a button compass)
- Topographic maps (learn to read these in advance)
- GPS system + backup batteries
- Distress flares
- Survival whistle
- Cell phone and extra battery (fully charged)
- Solar powered charger for phone
- Prepaid phone card
- Backup batteries for hearing-aid if applicable
- Small emergency radio (hand crank or solar powered is ideal)
Other items you may want to include:
- Cash (a few hundred in smaller bills at minimum, but the more the better!)
- Passport/ID photographs/vital information and documents (plus copies)
- the Holy Bible or other religious reference book of your choice
- Notebook/pen and several permanent markers
- Pepper spray
- A second pair of reading glasses
- Assortment of containers with lids (useful for 101 different things)
These lists give you a basic idea of what you’ll need, however the limitations to your INCH bag will be space, pack weight, and the money you’re prepared to invest in it.
Honestly, the lists could go on and on, but focus on what you actually need to survive. Soft comfort items and daily conveniences can be added later if you still have room in your pack after you pack in all the basic necessities.
These are basic and common sense suggestions, but use your judgement too.
An INCH bag is more than a bigger BOB, and is intended for serious long-term off-grid sustainment using only the contents of the pack.
Despite their great weight, for preppers who plan to abandon theirm homes entirely and lack a multitude of BOL’s, an INCH bag can be just the ticket.
Customize your INCH bag based on your local weather climate, your location, your personal needs, and the needs of your family members. Get cracking and organize your INCH bag before it’s too late.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.