Inch Bags: Your Comprehensive Guide

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Inch Bags: Your Comprehensive Guide

The best survivalists have a plan for when an unexpected crisis or disaster hits. While most preppers focus on stockpiling food or building emergency shelters (like bunkers) as part of a long term survival plan, many people don’t ever take time to think about what happens if you have to permanently leave.

So ask yourself, are you really prepared if you have to leave your home? If not, there is still time to get ready.

Enter the INCH bag, a clever acronym for “I’m Never Coming Home.”

Never heard of an INCH bag? That’s okay .

An INCH bag contains all of the essential survival gear that you’ll need to live in the wilderness if you have to leave your home and start anew. The contents are carefully chosen to keep you alive for months, and years, under adverse and stressful conditions.

Want to learn more about INCH bags and what you need to pack them with? Look no further! I’ll tell you all you need to know about INCH bags so you are prepared for any emergency.

Why Everyone needs an INCH bag

An INCH bag is not just for the avid survivalist or prepper. In fact, everyone should have an INCH bag as part of their emergency preparedness plans. With a little bit of research and guidance, even the average person can learn to prepare, pack and use an INCH bag.

In fact it is already very common for people to pack a short-term bag with tools and supplies to survive for a few days. Survivalists call this a bug out bag. Bug out bags serve an important purpose in your preparedness plan, but their purpose is different than an INCH bag. A bug out bag is prepared with the intention of returning home to your supplies and shelter after it is safe.

But what happens if your home is destroyed in the disaster? What if society collapses and you (and your family) need to leave the grid, so to speak?

This not-so-unlikely scenario is why everyone needs an INCH bag to help you to start over anew in the wilderness.

Packing your INCH Bag

Remember that if and when you pull out your INCH bag, you probably won’t have access to conventional materials and tools. You will have to solely rely on the contents of the bag plus things found in the wild to create your new home. That means that you must include items to assist you in building long term shelter, hunting, cooking and filtering water.

I also want to note that weight is everything. It’s not unlikely that you will be carrying this bag for miles and miles a day. While it must hold everything you need to survive, an INCH bag won’t be helpful if you cannot reliably lift it. Try to source the lightest, yet most durable products to fill your bag.

Weight restrictions also mean that you might need to sacrifice a more durable, heavier product for a lighter weight version. Make smart choices that maximize the utility of your INCH bag and make sure that the heaviest products are really worth it.

Without further ado, here’s what goes into an INCH bag.

The Basic Backpack

The most obvious, and arguably the most important piece of gear is your backpack. Your backpack will serve as the base for your bag and will be the only reliable method that you have to carry your survival gear. Do not cheap out on a bag without doing research, or else you might get stuck unprepared. Try to find one that fits you right and is comfortable to carry.

Choose a large backpack made from a strong material that is also lightweight and waterproof. I recommend a minimum of 75-80L of space to fit all of your gear. If you are able to reliably carry a larger and heavier bag, then go for it. But be realistic with your abilities because when SHTF nobody will be impressed by how much you can carry.

I like the Gregory Baltoro 75 because it is only 5 lbs. 4 oz. and offers a women’s version.

Water, Water, Water

It’s not surprising that water is the name of the game when it comes to survival. Water is necessary for all forms of life, but it can also be filled with harmful bacteria and protozoa that might make you sick during an emergency.

You must include a water filter, and probably a back-up as well. I love the LifeStraw Flex Multi-Function filter. It has advanced filters and is extremely lightweight and compact. It is versatile and can be used on a disposable water bottle, with a hydration bladder or on its own.

Don’t just stop at the filter, you also need a water bottle to store and take water with you. Stainless steel is the best choice because it is durable and gives the option to have hot or cold water. Plastic is a lighter weight alternative, but it might have a limited lifespan once exposed to the elements. I recommend using some space and weight on the stainless steel, since water storage is essential. Also remember that you will probably carry your water bottle outside of the pack.

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Tools for Shelter

A tarp is hands down the most important tool to pack in your INCH bag where shelter is concerned. There are many different types of shelters that can be built with a tarp and paracord as the base and it is a versatile tool that can be used for non-shelter purposes as well. Check out this video for some ideas on how to use your tarp.

A basic tarp from the garden store will suffice, but a better option is a water-proof all weather tarp. These tarps are larger, more durable and usually have features meant to make shelter building easier.

You also need a high quality sleeping bag that will be warm enough to survive freezing temperatures but cool enough for warmer seasons. TETON Sports Altos Lightweight mummy Sleeping Bag is a great option.

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Food & Cooking Gear

In the scenario that you use the INCH bag, you will need enough food to last for the first few days and then you will rely on hunting and gathering on your own. A variety of protein bars and dehydrated or freeze-dried camping foods are great options to get you through the first couple of days.

After that, you will need hunting tools, like a lightweight and collapsible bow, materials for traps and snares, and a hunting knife. I also recommend a folding fishing pole and either a gill or cast net. You can make a net out of paracord in a pinch as well.

This lightweight survival rod, or one similar, won’t take up much space but will be worth it when the time comes.

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For cooking you will need a sturdy but lightweight pot and one set of utensils for eating. You can theoretically create your own in the wilderness, but I think that will burn more calories than carrying them.

I also recommend purchasing a set of survival seeds to carry in your INCH bag. Survival seeds are packaged to last for decades and are essential for long term survival because they form the basis for your future crops. Survival seeds are well worth their costs considering they are the foundation for endless amounts of food, if you cultivate them correctly.

Make sure that you purchase seeds that are designed to grow in your region, or the region where you intend to go in the event of an emergency. Also look for sets that include a variety of nutrient dense and calorically heavy foods to get you through the tough times. I like this set because the packaging is small and lightweight, easily fitting into a backpack. It is also made for longer-term storage and is watertight.

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You already know that fire is a basic requirements for long-term survival. Without fire you cannot cook or boil water, you cannot deter predators or effectively stay warm during the winter. Some preppers go overboard and pack their INCH bag with endless supplies to support fire building. You do not need to buy hundreds of BIC lighters or fire starting kits to be prepared. You can make sure that you have the supplies to reliably build fire without wasting space and weight in your INCH bag.

For reliable fire in the first couple of days, I recommend packing a waterproof lighter. This will help you to immediately get fire in the fall out after a crisis. Tesla makes a survival waterproof lighter that is rechargeable (if you also pack your rechargeable battery or solar panels).

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Since the lighter works in the short term, the long term fire solution is a ferro rod that allows you to create a fire even when the lighter goes out. There are hundreds of ferro rods out there and you can find them anywhere with camping supplies or on Amazon. I highly recommend packing two (or even three) of these in your INCH bag. You do not want to misplace one on your journey and be without a backup.

For those unfamiliar, here’s an example of how to start a fire using a ferro rod.

First Aid Products

First aid is such an important part of your INCH bag. In a crisis, you won’t have access to conventional hospitals or medicine to cure your illness or injury. A simple first aid kit will provide you with a variety of tools and materials to address almost any medical needs. However, most first aid kits need to be rounded out to keep you fully protected.

In addition to your standard first aid kit, I recommend two additional tubes of antibacterial cream. Antibiotics are the name of the game when it comes to injuries and survival. Even a small cut can become infected if it is not properly cleaned and dressed. Additional antibiotic creams will help to prevent a debilitating infection that might jeopardize your survival.

SAM splints are also an underrated tool that can be valuable for long-term survival. A SAM splint is a lightweight but strong splint that can be cut and tailored for your needs. It curves and bends allowing it to fit easily into any INCH bag. The right size SAM splint will allow you to heal a sprain, break or other serious injury while also giving you the flexibility to perform your essential duties.

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Layers of Clothes

When preparing clothing for your INCH bag remember to pack layers, layers and more layers. You want enough pieces of clothing to cover every scenario and to have a completely dry outfit if you get wet. You also need to survive in all seasons and protect yourself from the sun and elements. Do not bring too many articles of clothing, you won’t have enough space in your bag. Instead, look for comfortable and versatile pieces.

A sample packing list might include:

  1. A set of moisture wicking base layers that will keep you warm and dry
  2. Two pairs of socks: one lightweight and another warm for winter
  3. Comfortable and waterproof hiking boots
  4. Convertible hiking pants for all seasons
  5. Two breathable and quick dry long sleeved shirts with pockets
  6. A sun and bug repellent hat
  7. Two jackets: one waterproof rain jacket and a warm survival jacket
  8. One pair of warm gloves

Miscellaneous Tools & Other Items

In addition to the other items in your bag, you will also need a variety of miscellaneous tools and items to survive.

  • Small, foldable shovel for digging
  • Lightweight hatchet for felling trees and building your long-term shelter
  • Solar powered flashlight or lantern
  • Portable solar panels for charging (you do not need this if you do not intend to use any power, but it is light and small and provides versatility in case you come across technology).
  • Emergency radio with solar power or hand crank
  • Small multitool
  • Sewing needles
  • Sealing patches for holes in tarps and clothing
  • Small foldable saw
  • Compass and topographic maps
  • Paracord
  • Several extra carabiners
  • Duct tape

Packing the bag

By now you are probably starting to wonder how all of this is going to fit? It does seem like a lot, but with some thoughtful packing and planning you can create a comprehensive but practical INCH bag.

Lay out all of your gear and take stock of what you have. Try to condense everything into its smallest form possible, out of all packaging that will waste space. You’ll need to think logically about the order that you pack your bag so that you don’t need to unpack it all while you are moving. For example, you don’t want your compass and maps all the way in the bottom. Also consider the distribution of weight so that more fragile items are not crushed under the weight of heavier items.

Packing an INCH bag is similar to packing a backpack for hiking, REI made an excellent video that explains how to pack your backpack so that you are comfortable while moving. Even though it is geared towards hiking, the principles are relevant where an INCH bag is concerned.

Where to keep your INCH bag

The point of an INCH bag means that you are never coming home. In that type of extreme scenario, you won’t have a lot of time to prepare. Where you store your INCH bag is just as important as what is inside of it. If you can’t get to it in an emergency, it will be of no use to you.

Consider somewhere safe but easy to access

Your INCH bag must be somewhere that is easy to access in an emergency. Do not hide your INCH bag somewhere impractical that will give you a headache and waste valuable time trying to retrieve it. Also consider storing your bag somewhere that is separate from all of your other survival gear, even if only in a different room. If something were to happen to your supplies, you want your INCH bag as a backup when you get out.

Somewhere high & dry

You must make sure that your INCH bag is stored in a high and dry location away from bugs and water. You do not want to go into survival mode to find out that everything is moldy and compromised. This is especially important for those who do not regularly check the INCH bag to make sure that everything is unexpired and still in good shape.


An INCH bag is a must-have for any serious prepper. Just set it and forget it, and hope that you never need it.

I just recommend completing a thorough check once a year to keep your INCH bag prepared for anything. Especially in today’s extra volatile environment.  

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