Your INCH Bag Packing Guide

Packing a traveling bag is easy. But how about an INCH bag?

Figuring out what to put in your INCH bag can be confusing AND overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be; we’re determined to make it easier for you.

In this article, we talk about what an INCH bag is and guide you on packing one:

What is an INCH Bag?

First off, no, the INCH bag does not mean a bag that measures a mere inch.

The INCH in INCH bag is an acronym, and it stands for I’m Never Coming Home. It’s exactly what you think it is — a bag you take with you when you have no plans to come home. It’ll have all the things you need to survive living outside of your home.

Now, you might wonder, why not just take your bug out bag (BOB)? Why have another one?

Let us explain it better.

The Difference Between a Bag Out Bag and an INCH Bag

If you’re getting into prepping and survivalism, you might have noticed that preppers like to have survival bags at the ready.

Different circumstances call for different types of bags, and your INCH bag is useful for specific situations. So when do you know when to use the INCH bag over the bug out bag

Here’s a comparison chart of the two to make it easier:

The Need For a Separate INCH Bag

The difference between the two is clear; one is for short-term survival until it's safe to go home, and the other is for long-term living in the wild.

If a BOB lasts 72 hours, then it's not going to be the best bag for you to take if you have plans to live it up in the woods for the next six months or so. That's why the INCH bag was created.

Still, an INCH bag isn't for everyone. 

Who Can Benefit The Most Out of an INCH Bag?

Yes, it's true; we do think everyone should have an INCH bag prepped, but at the same time, you have to make sure you're qualified to use it.

No, we don't mean you need to get a certificate or something—you have to have the skills to use an INCH bag. An INCH bag might be useless to someone who has no idea how to use a tarp or a ferro rod, but a gold mine for those with the knowledge to use it.

Another thing to think of is using your INCH bag in a group context. Though not a must, an INCH bag in a group will be way more helpful than when you're alone simply because you'll have more help than when you're by yourself.

And if you or your group are headed to an area of the woods, forest, or mountains with an abundance of wildlife that can be considered food, then having an INCH bag will definitely be beneficial.

So to recap, an INCH bag will be useful to those who are:

  1. Equipped with the skills and knowledge to handle the items in an INCH bag
  2. Traveling in groups
  3. Headed to a place with abundant food sources

The Perfect Bag for an INCH Bag

If there are bags for bugging out, then there are INCH bags out there, too. Here are some things you should consider:

Size Matters

What's the perfect size? Look into getting a backpack that is 70L to 90L. Usually, these are great as INCH bags. But don't pick just any 70L backpack—go for the ones built with the sturdiest materials like ultra-strong nylon.

Realistic Carrying Weight

Though your INCH bag will be heavier than usual, making it super heavy is a big no-no. What use is a bag that is impossible to carry? Make sure you're comfy carrying it around without it bogging you down too much.

If you wanna prep carrying a heavier load, think about trying out rucking (carrying a heavy pack for several miles) and honing your fitness for survival purposes.

Frame Pack Type

Another thing you should consider is whether to go for an internal frame pack or an external frame pack. The significant difference between the two is that, with an external frame pack, you can see the visible frames of the backpack. Meanwhile, internal packs hold closer to the body and look sleeker.

There are pros and cons to getting either an internal or external pack and if you need help deciding, take a look at this article from REI Co-op.

And Remember... 

Choosing your bag should be the last thing you do. Prep your items first so that you can see how much you're putting into your bag.

What to Pack in Your INCH Bag

Now that we've set some ground rules and foundations, it's time to figure out what you're going to put into your INCH bag.

As a rule of thumb, make sure you pack things that you KNOW how to use.

With that, here are some survival items you can add to beef up your INCH bag and survival chances:

For Navigation

To help you figure out where you are and where to go, you can rely on natural navigation methods. But to make things easier, these navigation items should be a part of your pack:

GPS Watch

If you're looking for a watch to help you out during navigation, then a GPS watch might do the trick. Of course, only use these watches as a backup. Don’t rely on it solely because if an EMP attack ever happens, it would be pretty much useless.

Also, make sure you get a GPS watch fit for your navigation needs.


If you know how to read a compass, then having one on hand will be pretty valuable. Paired with a map, you'll always know where true north is and where you are.


Having various maps (detailed ones and topographic maps) of the area will come in handy. You can map out routes and safety points and figure out the safest places to settle down. You'll also have a guide to getting back to camp if you happen to stray too far from base.

For Communication

Your INCH bag should also have items that can help you communicate with others in your group. Gone are the days of using signal fires to tell your loved ones where you are. Make sure you at least have one of these on you:


A radio on hand would be instrumental in keeping up with what's happening with the outside world. You can stay updated and listen in on advisories. A hand crank radio would be a good choice. You can also have a radio running on AA batteries just in case.


If phones are still working when SHTF, then having one for comms is a good choice. Until it becomes useless or broken, then you should revert to a backup.

Walkie Talkies

Two-way radios or walkie-talkies are great for when the phones go down permanently or for places where phone signal is hard to get. It can cover great distances, too. Plus, the battery is sure to last longer than your smartphone.

For Shelter

For when you wanna keep safe and dry at night, or a place to catch some shut-eye, then you'll want to have shelter options packed in your INCH bag.


A camping staple, a tent is an excellent option for shelter if you're planning to live it out in the forest for a while. Instead of stuffing it inside and taking up space, you can easily attach it to the outside of the INCH bag on an external loop or bag belt.


For simplicity, pack a tarp. A tarp can easily fit into a bag, doesn't weigh much, and has at least 26 different shelter configurations. You can quickly learn the various configurations and make do with a tarp alone for shelter.

Sleeping Bag

Whether you use it alone or as added comfort when sleeping in your tent or tarp shelter, a sleeping bag in an INCH bag is a must. It's easy to set up and, at the same time, easy to roll up and grab if you need to get out of dodge.

For Fire and Light

To survive long, cold nights, you'll need to have tools for creating fire. It can provide light, warmth, and a nice hot meal for you. Here's what you can add to your INCH bag:

Ferro Rods

What better way to get a fire started than with a ferro rod? For one, it's weatherproof. It doesn't get soggy when it rains, and it will still work in the cold. It also doesn't need fuel to start a fire. Two, it gets hot, fast. You can light tinder in no time with a ferro rod.

If you wanna find a trustworthy one, this article on the best ferro rod firestarters is a great place to start.


You can't go wrong with a BIC lighter tucked away. You don't want to wear out your ferro rod or use up all your matches, so several BIC lighters in your INCH bag will be useful and a big help.


Sometimes there's just nothing like good old matches to light things up. They're pretty cheap to get, and you can store a nice amount of them in your INCH bag and still not make a dent with the space in your bag. Make sure you waterproof them, and you'll be good to go.

For Your Water Needs

Securing your water sources is an essential first step, and in your INCH bag, you will have the different tools that help you achieve that. Here are non-negotiable items you need to have:

Stainless Steel Water Bottle

You'll need somewhere to store your water. Even if you had gallons of H2O, how would you drink the water out of those containers? A stainless steel water bottle is your answer. It’ll also serve as a great cooking vessel.

Water Filter

You can never have enough clean water, and one of the easiest ways to get clean water is via a water filter. You can't always assure yourself that your water source is clean, but a water filter ups the chances considerably. Better yet, get ultralight water filters that weigh next to nothing in your INCH bag.

Purification Tablets

Another way to purify your water is by using purification tablets. They’re easy to use, and all you have to do is follow the instructions. Usually, you just put a pill into your container of water and wait until it's good to drink. Most purification tablets come in small bottles that you can easily pack in the pockets of your INCH bag.

For Your Food Needs

Next to water, food is also an important thing to consider. When you're out in the wild, you want to have a viable food source, so nets and traps for hunting games will help. It doesn't have to be anything too fancy as you can easily make nets with some paracord.

Along with that, some fishing gear might also be helpful. Retractable or collapsible fishing rods are a good bet, and even just some fishing line and bait will do. 

Aside from that, make sure you also pack eating and cooking utensils. You can't exactly eat raw meat so cooking them in a pot is a must. Look into getting a portable cooking set or mess kit for your INCH bag.

For Your Medical Needs

Since you'll be hunkering down outdoors for a few months or so, you have to have your medical needs covered.

If you have medical conditions, best to stock up on meds that help with your situation. Along with that, stocking up on pain meds is advised.

You can also build the ultimate first aid kit and have various medical equipment in it like a wound and general trauma kit, a dental and oral kit, and even a diagnostic kit.

Other Important Things To Pack

We've got the basics down, so here are more things you can add to your INCH bag for the ultimate survival run.





Thermal shirts

Repair kit

Rechargeable flashlight

Cool and lightweight shirts

Notepad and pencil

Hiking pants



Light jacket

Garbage bags

Hiking boots

Identification cards


Important documents


Aluminum foil


Safety pins




Winter appropriate clothes

Final Thoughts

With a bit of curation, coming up with the perfect INCH bag is going to be a breeze as long as you know WHAT you’re packing, WHY you’re packing them, and HOW to use them.

Are you planning to build an INCH bag, or have you already done so? Tell us all about it!

Posted in  Prepping, Survival   on  October 10, 2021 by  Jay V.0


Subscribe to the Tactical.com Newsletter and get more awesome content like this.

About the author

Jay loves to travel and grew up with sports being a huge part of her life. Adventure is her game. In her free time, she likes to go hammock camping, and she’s an avid believer that prepping is the way to go.


Page [tcb_pagination_current_page] of [tcb_pagination_total_pages]