When the big one comes and SHTF, preppers should have a contingency plan that involves living on the move and sustaining themselves with the bounties from mother nature. As such, they should be preparing a bag or a kit solely for this purpose.
This bag is called an INCH Bag. It stands for I’m Never Coming Home Bag. As the name implies, it should contain everything you need to survive for a prolonged time, or even indefinitely, away from your home or civilization. Each bag should contain the following items:
- Gas mask
- Layers of clothing
- Tent or tarp
- Sleeping bag and a mylar blanket
- Water in a stainless-steel flask
- Water purification tools: LifeStraw, chlorine, and iodine tablets
- Emergency Ration: Energy Bars or MRE
- Bow and Arrows
- Animal Snares
- Fishing rod, fishing line, yoyo reel, tackles, and one type of fishing net
- Foraging Guide Book
- First Aid Kit
- Handguns plus accessories
- Bear Spray (Depending on location)
- Survival Knife
- Sharpening stone
- Survival Shovel
- Swiss Army Knife/Multitool
- Cooking Pot
- Ham Radio or a One-Way Radio
- Solar Battery Charger
- Fire starting tools
- Sewing and Repair Kit
INCH Bag vs Bug-Out Bag
The main difference between the two is that the INCH bag contains tools and items that will allow preppers and survivalists to sustain themselves out in the wild indefinitely. Unlike a bug-out bag that is prepared to only last for a certain number of hours or days, which is mainly used as a support to get a prepper from point A to point B safely, and as quickly as possible. Due to this, the INCH bag is generally heavier and bulkier, while a bug-out bag is assembled to have only the bare essentials.
Preparing an INCH Bag
When assembling an INCH bag, a good guideline to keep in mind is the Rule of 3s. In this article, the contents of our INCH bag are mainly built around the necessary tools and equipment that addresses the challenges faced in the rule of 3s.
The INCH bag’s weight and your fitness level are some things that need to be considered. Ideally, the bag when filled should only weigh around 25 percent of your body weight, but it can range from 40 to 50 lbs. (18 to 22.6 kg). You will be walking while carrying this bag for at least 15 minutes every day. That is why a trial hike with a filled bag should be done to assess if one can effectively carry their INCH bag.
Things to consider when picking an INCH Bag:
- Fit: Does it fit well relative to your torso length and height? Does it have a belt strap?
- Capacity: Should be large enough to contain all the necessary items you’ve prepared. The recommended capacity is around 80 liters. Smaller than this may not fit everything you need, while a larger one might be too heavy when full.
- Durability: Choose a highly durable bag, with heavy stitching, rugged materials, and fewer moving parts that can break.
- Weight: Ideally, the INCH bag itself should be lightweight.
- Wheels: Although not a necessity, having the option to pull your bag on relatively flat ground will help save energy and rest your weary back and shoulder. It is an uncommon feature, but one can modify their bag and attach wheels to them.
- Is it Water-Proof?
Contents of an INCH Bag
Gas Mask and Filters
Following the Rule of 3s, the first thing to pack is a gas mask and filters. A person can only survive for 3 minutes without oxygen. The rest of the INCH bag’s contents will become useless if you’re incapacitated as a result of being unable to breathe. It will be especially useful in cases of wildfire or chemical explosions where the air is thick with smoke.
We have a great article on gas masks, filters, and respirators. Typically, the gas mask will be hanged/clipped outside the bag for easy access in case of an emergency.
Shelter and Clothing
In the rule of 3s, the next immediate concern is exposure to the environment. Preppers should have adequate clothing for a cold and windy environment, and at least a tent or a tarp, a sleeping bag, and a mylar blanket.
1. Clothing and Footwear
When selecting clothing to be included in your INCH bag, remember that wearing layers of clothes is the best way to stay warm. On the flip side, layers can be taken off in hot and humid weather to stay cool.
In addition to the clothes that you’re wearing before setting off, preppers should have the following set of clothes in their INCH bag:
- 1 Long underwear aka long johns
- 2 Regular underwear
- 1 Shirt
- 1 Pair of sweatpants
- 1 Sweater
- 4 pairs of socks
- Wool/Fleece mittens
- Survival Gloves (if not currently worn)
- Rain Gear: Raincoat or a rain jacket and rain pants
- Winter Jacket and Pants (if you’re not currently wearing them)
- Hiking boots or durable rubber shoes (pack whichever you’re not currently wearing)
Layers of clothes should be worn in the following order: long johns as underwear, a middle layer, an insulation layer (sweater and sweatpants/pants), and the outer layer (Winter jacket and pants). Cotton clothing should be avoided as they retain moisture and quickly loses their insulation value.
Clothes made from wool, fleece, or synthetic material are more preferred since they are effective in wicking away moisture from the skin, unto the middle layer of your clothing where the moisture evaporates faster. Additionally, you should carry a cap and a winter hat.
2. Tent/tarp, Sleeping Bag, and Mylar Blanket
Depending on your location, and the abundance of bugs in your area, you can decide between bringing a tent or a tarp. A tarp is sufficient enough to provide cover from rain, wind, and snow. However, when set up, it’s open on two sides which means bugs and critters can get in. On the other hand, a tent provides an enclosed space, hence protection from bugs, but is bulkier and heavier than a tarp.
Having a sleeping bag is essential when sleeping outdoors. It will not only provide cover, but also insulation and added protection from bugs and critters. Sleeping bags made from down are the lightest, highly compressible, and offer the best insulation, however, they are not durable enough for long-term outdoors living. Synthetic sleeping bags on the other hand are more durable and retain insulation even when moist, albeit heavier and bulkier.
Another indispensable item that every INCH bag should have is a mylar blanket. It’s an ultra-lightweight, low-bulk blanket made from thin heat-reflective plastic sheeting. It can be used in winter for added heat retention and can be placed on top of a tent/tarp in summer to reflect heat and sunlight to keep the tarp or tent cool.
Some might be wondering why bivy bags/sacks aren’t included in the list. The main reason is that they’re uncomfortable and are more of a hassle than they’re worth. Condensation is a huge problem with bivy bags. On top of that, bivies aren’t waterproof, only water-resistant.
It cannot replace a tent or a tarp when living for extended periods in the wild. It’s more suitable for a bug-out bag that only requires a short duration of outside camping. Moreover, the ultralightweight bivy bag is more appropriate for a bug-out bag which prioritizes weight reduction and faster travel time.
Water and Water Purification Tools
The rule of 3s states that one can survive for at least 3 days without water intake. It is why it’s important to bring enough drinking water for at least 1 to 2 days.
According to the World Health Organization, the minimum water requirement for a fluid replacement for a 70 kg human in a temperate zone equates to 3 liters per day or 42.9 mL/kg. The minimum requirements for an individual the same size but in a tropical zone equates to 4.1 to 6 liters/day, or 58.6 to 85.7 mL/kg.
However, water can be heavy. A liter of water weighs 1 kg. Carrying 3 days’ worth of water for a 70 kg individual in a temperate zone is equal to 9 liters or 9 kg. That’s too much extra weight, which is why water purification tools should be included in the INCH bag.
In general, preppers should have the following items in their INCH bag to purify water for drinking:
- Stainless steel water bottle: Acts as a water canteen, and can be used to boil water in it.
- LifeStraw or similar water-filter straw
- Chlorine tablets
- Iodine tablets
- Cloth for filtering muddy water when using chlorine and iodine tablets
Water-filter straws only last for 2 months. Preppers can choose to pack a number of these items, but it’s still better to bring a stainless-steel flask for boiling, and some water purification tablets that are lightweight and easy to pack.
Our article about various water purification methods is a great resource for learning how to secure a water source and treat dirty water to make it safe for drinking.
Food and Tools for Hunting and Fishing
The last part of the rule of 3s states that a person can live for up to 3 weeks without food. Every INCH bag should contain some dried food or energy bars. These items will not be your main source of calories but will serve as an emergency food source. Your food will be sourced mainly through hunting, fishing, and foraging.
1. Bow, Arrows, and a Slingshot
A bow is a great tool for hunting medium to large-sized game. Unlike a rifle, it has reusable ammunition that can also be made from scratch using branches and duct tape. The bow is preferred over the crossbow due to it having fewer moving parts and is easier to repair. The bow, like your gas mask, will be hanging outside the INCH bag.
Another tool that should be included is a slingshot. It’s compact and lightweight with a virtually infinite source of ammunition. It can be used to knock out smaller game and birds, or even shoot down fruits on top of a tree.
2. Animal Snares
Conserving energy is essential when living in the wild. Any form of hunting that is passive like snaring and trapping are most welcome. The best wires for snaring are made from stainless steel, copper, or brass. Their size should be at around .20 to .24 gauge which is thin, but strong enough to hold a struggling animal down.
Aside from steel snares, preppers can also use paracord cables which can also be used in building a shelter or tying things down . Both the snare and paracord cables are lightweight, durable, and will take little space in an INCH bag.
3. Fishing Rod, Fishing Line, Yo-yo line, Tackles and Fishing Net
Fishing can be another reliable source of food when living in the wilderness. It can be done through active fishing using a fishing rod, or through passive fishing by leaving a baited fishing line or a baited Yo-yo fishing reel. When it comes to procuring food in the wild, it’s best to fish passively rather than casting a line through a fishing rod and reeling it in.
This is where the fishing lines and yo-yo reels come in. The fishing line can be used in longlining, which is a passive method of fishing where multiple baited or non-baited fish hooks are attached a few inches apart onto the length of a fishing line. The other end is tied to a tree branch to keep it in place. It can then be cast on creeks and rivers and left for a few hours up to overnight.
The yoyo fishing reel is a spring-loaded reel that automatically pulls the nylon fishing line when the trigger is released. The trigger is activated when a fish pulls on the baited hook at the end of the fishing line. It can be tied on a branch over a creek or a river and left for hours or overnight.
A fishing rod is not a necessity but can be a useful addition. There are portable survival fishing rods that can be easily taken apart. The main purpose of the fishing rod is to catapult the fishing tackle and increase the distance covered when casting a line.
It is especially useful when fishing near the beach or rivers. However, it’s an active way of fishing and will consume valuable time and energy that could’ve been spent on something else.
Lastly, a fishing net or fishing traps are lightweight tools that can be tightly packed and barely consumes any space. They can be set up in various ways to allow for passive fishing. Some examples of fishing nets are cast net, gill nets, and lazy trap fishing nets. The lazy trap fishing net is the easiest to set up and does not kill the fish caught inside it.
4. Foraging Guide Book (With detailed pictures)
Foraging is another way of securing additional food. It is why every INCH bag should have a foraging guidebook or at least a printed pamphlet of edible plants for the specific area you are planning to go to. Do keep in mind the rules of foraging, which is to never eat something you’re not 100% familiar with. It is why you should only bring a book or pamphlet with clear pictures of foraged plants in them.
Check out our list of 19 Survival Plants: How to Spot, Prepare & Cook Them. This article contains some of the most common plants that can be found throughout North America along with images and detailed descriptions of each for safer identification.
First Aid Kit
It’s always better to avoid getting injured or getting sick, especially in an apocalyptic world where modern medicine may not exist anymore. However, one cannot fully prevent any form of injury or sickness while living in the wild.
Ideally, preppers should have an extensive list of medical supplies and medications. The problem lies with the amount one can carry which is limited by the space and the target weight of their INCH bag.
You can find plenty of lists of contents for a Portable First Aid Kit; however, for an INCH bag, only the most necessary supplies which cannot be easily procured in the wild will be included.
- Tourniquet to stop bleeding (Types of Bleeding)
- Duct tape to close a wound after stopping the bleeding
- 250ml 10% Povidone-Iodine for wound care/ doubles as a water purifier
- Alcohol pads
- Sterile gauze pads
- Sterile Gloves
- Band-Aid strips in all sizes,
- Antibiotics (4 SHTF Antibiotics; FISH Antibiotics)
- Pain reliever: tablets and cream
- Anti-pyretic: tablets/capsules for fever
- Anti-histamine: tablets and topical cream
- Non-drowse nasal decongestants
- Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) mix
- Fine-tipped Tweezers for pulling out ticks
- Snakebite Kit
- Activated Charcoal (How to use Activated Charcoal)
Wound suturing should never be attempted in the wild as the risk of infection is too great. It is why surgical sutures are not included in this first aid kit. Furthermore, just suturing a wound will not stop a bleeding wound. Bleeding control is achieved through the application of direct pressure and/or through the use of a tourniquet.
Handguns, Ammunition and Gun Cleaning Kit
Depending on the location, preppers might want to bring 2 handguns for self-defense. One is for humans and small to medium-sized predators, and the other one is for bears. In general, rifles and shotguns like the Mossberg 590 and 590A1 are not recommended to be included in an INCH bag because these are bulky and heavy. It will also have little use as a hunting weapon since your ammunition is finite, and will eat up a lot of space and heavily weigh the INCH bag if one decides to pack up too much ammo. Moreover, you also have to consider the fact that certain environmental factors will deplete the potency of the ammo.
For medium-sized predators and attacking humans, a 9mm handgun with high durability is preferred. One example is the Glock 43 which is compact, durable, and weighs around 20.64 oz (585g) with a loaded magazine.
Other preppers and survivalists might scoff at the thought of bringing a Glock in the wilderness. However, revolvers like the S&W 66 (2.5 inches barrel length, 33.5oz weight) and the S&W 686 snub-nose (2.5 inches barrel length, 40.5oz weight) when loaded, and the models with a longer barrel will weigh much more.
For bears, stopping power is the most important factor. Pistols that shoot .44 Magnums is the absolute minimum requirement for stopping a charging bear. However, this is not supposed to be your first line of defense against a bear attack. A bear spray is still the preferred defense against a charging bear.
Most bear sprays can only be used once, but they have a shelf-life of up to 4 years. When venturing to areas with a known bear sighting, it’s a good idea to have a bear spray holstered on the strap of your INCH bag, and another one or two tucked away inside the bag.
Other Essential Tools
1. Hatchet, Survival Knife, and a Sharpening Stone
A hatchet is a must for anyone living in the wild. It’s a versatile tool that can even replace a survival knife in most cases. A hatchet typically has a hardened steel poll which can be used for striking. Due to this, it’s preferred over a one-handed ax. Despite having a hatchet on-hand, a survival knife is still useful and doesn’t take too much space.
In addition to the bladed tools, preppers should include a sharpening stone/sharpening puck in their INCH bag. All bladed tools like hatchets and knives become slightly dull every time they’re used. Keeping them sharp makes them more effective and safer to use.
2. Multi-tool Survival Shovel
Another rule to follow when building an INCH bag is to consolidate your tools. It’s a good idea to bring a tool that has built-in features that incorporates the functions of other tools. A survival shovel that can turn into a hoe, and has a toothed edge for sawing is a great addition to the INCH bag and combines 3 tools in one. Additionally, some survival shovels have a built-in Ferro rod inside its handle.
One example of a multi-purpose survival shovel is the FOSTAR Folding and Camping Shovel. It has a Ferro rod in its handle, a knife, a compass, a toothed edge along its blade, and more.
3. Pocket Multi-tool/ Swiss Army Knife
A multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife is compact, lightweight, and has up to 33 different tools incorporated in it. It’s an extremely versatile item relative to the space it takes. All preppers should have a swiss army knife or similar products in their INCH bag.
4. Cooking Utensils
The bare minimum to include in an INCH bag is a 1.5L stainless steel pot. Stainless steel is a durable material that does not require too much care compared to aluminum and copper pots. Additionally, stainless steel is a non-reactive metal, so it can be used safely when testing foraged food.
Another utensil that preppers might consider bringing is a titanium spork or two. Choose a design that separates the spoon and the fork into the opposite tips, and not the ones that combine the spoon and fork in a single end.
5. Ham Radio and Hand Cranked One-Way Radio
Handheld ham radio is an indispensable tool that provides two-way communication. It has a range of 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) and can communicate within a wide range of channels/frequencies. The hand-cranked one-way radio on the other hand is only capable of receiving broadcasts. However, it doubles as a flashlight and a power bank and can be charged via solar energy or manually by cranking its handle.
f. Solar Powered Battery Charger
Solar panels have come a long way. They are more efficient in producing energy and are more lightweight today, compared to how they were 10 years ago. It’s an essential piece of equipment especially for charging the ham radio, flashlights, or headlamps.
6. Flashlights and Headlamps
Flashlights are often forgotten in most survival kits. It has zero risks of burning things, which means it can be safely used inside a tent/tarp. Additionally, it’s a nice tool to have that makes it possible to move at night safely.
There are flashlights on the market that are both charged manually through hand cranking, or through a built-in solar panel. These items should be added separately from the one-hand radio with a built-in flashlight as you can never have too many sources of light.
7. Lighter, Waterproof Matches, Lighter Fluid and Lighter Flint
Another item you can never have too many of is fire-starting tools. Lighters and matches are small and are virtually weightless. Getting a fire started in the shortest amount of time can be a lifesaver especially in cold weather. As such, preppers should always have multiple ways to reliably start a fire in any weather condition.
Preppers should also pack a small amount of lighter fluid or butane, depending on the type of lighter you have.
8. Compass, Topographical Maps and Binoculars/Scope
Orienting yourself about your current location and points of interest like foraging and hunting grounds are an important part of surviving in the wild. Preppers should bring two topographic maps of the entire area where they could be travelling to. One with a scale of 1:250,000, and a more detailed map with a scale of 1:50,000. The maps should be made of plastic since they are more durable than paper maps.
If your watch doesn’t have a built-in compass, then a stand-alone compass needs to be included in the INCH bag. Lastly, a small binocular or scope is an indispensable tool for scouting for games, areas of interest, and surveying the surroundings in general.
9. Sewing Kit and Repair Kit
A sewing kit is an essential item for extending the lifespan of some of your equipment and clothing. It can be used to patch holes in your clothing, tent, or tarp, or used to fashion new clothes from the hides of animals you’ve hunted.
Some repair items that may also come in handy are duct tape, steel wires, zip ties, some fabric, glue, and rubber cement.
Having an INCH bag does not necessarily mean that you have to keep moving to different locations frequently. If you happen to find a suitable location where you can set up a new home, then bringing seeds to start a prepper garden can be a big help.
Some of the most reliable crops to plant are chayote, potato, sweet potato, corn, beans, squash, and giant sunflowers. These plants are hardy and will grow in almost any location as long as the ground is warm enough.
The contents of the INCH bag should also depend on the area you are travelling to. If you’re going to a temperate zone with no heavy winter or a desert area, then the winter clothing can be omitted and replaced with more water supply and water purification tools.
The list of items in this article should only be used as a guide. Building an INCH bag should be personalized up to an extent. Survival experts, in general, will choose to omit some of the items in this list, especially those that can be created in the wild.