How long could you survive in the wild with the contents of one bag? What would you pack if you knew it had to last you weeks, months, or even a year? What would you bring with you if you had to plan for a long term emergency?
INCH bags, or I’m Never Coming Home bags, are designed for exactly that purpose. I’m not talking about a weekend camping trip here or an overnight at a campsite. Think hundreds of days of wilderness survival with nothing but the contents of one container.
A good INCH bag should help a small group of people not only survive but thrive in the wilderness for extended periods of time. Therefore, a good INCH bag should be packed with nothing but essential supplies and tools. The contents of your INCH bag should ideally cover all your needs indefinitely – either by providing for those needs directly, or giving you the utility to go out and get the things you need. An INCH bag should also cover you in the case of disaster or injury.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the ultimate INCH bag, from choosing the pack itself to what you need, and (arguably more importantly) what you don’t need.
Your INCH bag can determine whether or not you survive a long term disaster situation, and it’s as important as a get home bag. Think of an INCH bag as a souped up version of a bug out bag – but the intention is not to bug out for a period of time, but to bug out and never return. Think of any situation where your home might be destroyed and the entire region rendered hazardous or unsafe – those are the kinds of situations that you want an INCH bag for.
What is an INCH Bag?
The acronym INCH (I‘m Never Coming Home) should give you a pretty good sense of what it is. Essentially, an INCH bag is a bug out bag on steroids – a bag packed with essential supplies that can keep you alive indefinitely in the wild.
Imagine you lose your home in a natural disaster. If a wildfire, tornado, tsunami, or earthquake takes out your house and the aftereffects of the disaster leave your region in chaos (e.g what it was like post Katrina) your INCH bag should provide you with everything you need to survive.
How is an INCH Bag Different from a Bug Out Bag?
While INCH bags and bug out bags are both designed for survival situations, they’re actually pretty different. A bug-out bag is a survival pack designed to keep you alive for a duration – typically about 3 days to a week. A bug out bag implies you are bugging out to somewhere – that you have an end destination in mind, whether that means a remote cabin or RV or something else.
This shorter timeline means bug-out bags are smaller and lighter than INCH bags. A bug-out bag is something that can be carried, although many people have their bug out bags stored in their cars as well.
INCH bags, on the other hand, are normally way bigger. Some INCH bags have backpack designs, but others are duffel bags, cargo boxes, and trunks. Because an INCH bag is designed s that you can survive indefinitely, it will probably be significantly larger than a bug out bag, and won’t be as easy to carry.
Because of the size and weight of INCH bags, you’ll ideally want a bag that comes with heavy-duty straps, handles, and even wheels to ease transportation. But INCH bags aren’t exactly designed to be lugged up and down mountains unless you’re a very experienced outdoorsman or hiker who’s already used to carrying a large burdens over long distances. The vast majority of people will want to transport their INCH bags in vehicles where possible.
When Would I Use an INCH bag?
INCH bags are designed to be used in emergency situations where a small group of people needs to survive anywhere from a few days to a few months.
INCH bags are great for keeping in the back of a vehicle, in a basement, or fallout shelter, in case of a natural disaster, breakdown in law and order, or in the case of major attacks on your country/region (biological/chemical attacks, all out war or nuclear threats).
A properly kitted-out INCH bag can be the difference between life and death in a survival situation where the normal infrastructure breaks down. Therefore, you want to think about every aspect of survival that your INCH bag will need to take care of.
Items to Include in an INCH bag
While there’s some discrepancy between what people think should and shouldn’t be included in an ultimate INCH bag, there are plenty of essentials that you can’t live without.
Survival situations often call for agility and mobility. Your INCH bag shouldn’t hold you back from escaping a threat. However, once you lay out all the essentials, you end up with a pretty heavy, bulky pack, so make sure you pack only what you absolutely need.
The Bag Itself
Before you start packing your INCH bag, you’ll need to decide on the bag/container itself. You and your INCH bag will have to survive together for days on end, so make sure you don’t skimp when it comes to buying the pack itself. We’re not just talking about size here – quality matters. If you’re going to be relying on this bag for everything, then it needs to be reliable. That means you never need to worry that it’s going to rip, tear, come apart at the seams or anything else. Durability is exceedingly important here, so keep that in mind.
There are a few design options to choose from when it comes to your INCH bag. You can get large backpack-style INCH bags, duffel bags – some people even use trunks or bins. There are advantages and disadvantages to each design, although for most people we’d say a large, high quality backpack or duffel makes the most sense.
Backpacks are practical and can be carried easily over rough terrain. However, they tend to be smaller and less robust than duffel bags. Plus, with all the gear in your INCH bag, it’ll probably be heavier than one person can easily carry on their shoulders for any real period of time. Still, a backpack offers more maneuverability than a duffel – so if you anticipate needing to carry your INCH bag a all, then a backpack probably makes sense.
A duffel is better suited for you if you anticipate driving as your main mode of travel when you’re escaping whatever disaster destroyed your home (or made it unsafe). You can still lug a large duffel bag around in a pinch, and ultimately most duffel bags just offer you more space than any backpack would.
Whatever design you go for, think about your INCH bag’s weight, durability, and capacity. Trunks and duffel bags offer higher capacity – going up all the way to 100L, whereas backpacks tend to max out at around 60L or so.
You might also want to get a waterproof INCH bag, particularly if the region you live in sees large storms or frequent rain. Some trunks come with watertight seals and even float if submerged. Having a waterproof bag will go a long way towards protecting the essential supplies and tools that you’re carrying in your INCH bag. The last thing you want is to prepare a bag full of lifesaving equipment and supplies, only to have most of it soaked and ruined.
Your INCH bag serves as your home away from home, so you’ll definitely want a roof over your head. This means you’ll need a tent or tents, depending on how many people your INCH bag is designed to support.
Tents vary as much as INCH bags, and it’s important to match the tent to the situation as closely as you can. If you’re going to be on the move, a lightweight, smaller tent might be more suitable. If you’re setting up in one spot for a few months, a larger, more versatile tent would be better. That being said, from a survival perspective, we’d always urge you towards a lighter weight option even if it means less comfort. The only exception is if you’re likely to deal with colder weather. Cold is a killer in the outdoors, so if you anticipate colder weather, then a more robust tent that’s better at protecting you from the elements might make more sense.
You’ll also want a number of small, high-quality, 3 or 4-season sleeping bags. A good night’s sleep, even in the wild, can help keep you calm and help your decision-making. So don’t skimp on your sleeping bag and try to get the best sleeping bags within your budget.
Lastly, you might want a few sleeping pads in your INCH bag. You can get self-inflating air-mattress-style sleeping pads, which offer added insulation and warmth, or lightweight, inexpensive foam roll mats which do a decent, but basic job. Remember, INCH stands for “I’m Never Coming Home” – sleeping for months on end without any kind of padding might be OK for some of you, but realistically, you’ll be uncomfortable, sleep deprived, and sore if you’re unable to get adequate sleep over an extended period of time.
When it comes to choosing the clothes to pack in your INCH bag, think versatility. You should include a selection of garments that cover a whole range of weather and temperatures.
The best way to ensure this versatility is to have an abundance of layers. One thick jacket won’t keep you as warm as 5 thinner layers, especially if you’re wet. Try to include a decent range of layers of each type of clothing.
Starting with the outer shell, you want rain jackets and pants in a variety of sizes. This rainproof layer will protect you from rain, wind, and snow. Next comes the heavy long-sleeve layer. Fleece or wool jackets are ideal for keeping you warm no matter what conditions you’re in.
Then come the base layers and underwear. Natural fabrics tend to be a little heavier than synthetics, but they tend to be warmer and more breathable.
Make sure you add a few hats and pairs of gloves to your INCH bag. Wide-brim hats are good for rain and sun protection and are useful everywhere from the rainforest to the desert, while gloves give your hands warmth and protection.
I always throw a couple bandanas into my pack, no matter what the occasion. They come in handy in all kinds of situations, from sun protection to face masks to tourniquets.
Last but not least, you’ll want good footwear in your INCH bag. It’s a good idea to have an extra pair of boots as well as sneakers in there, as a party member without adequate footwear will slow a survival party so a snail’s pace. Throw in a few extra sets of laces, too.
Gaiters help keep you dry while crossing wet terrain. Having wet feet while traveling can have terrible consequences, and gaiters are relatively small, lightweight, and super useful items, so there’s no reason not to have them.
Tools for Making Fire
After shelter, fire is probably the single most important survival tool. Make sure you have numerous fire starters in your INCH bag, including lighters, waterproof matches, a Ferro rod, and a magnifying glass. Each of these has it’s own pros and cons, but these items are so lightweight that you may as well just carry all of them with you, since they’re useful in different situations. For example, waterproof matches might work better when it’s raining and wet, but lighters are easier to use than matches when it’s not wet – so why not have both?
We also like packing a couple handfuls of dry tinder in a plastic bag to help start fires even if it’s raining. Liquid butane or kerosene firelighters can also help you start a fire in adverse conditions, although we wouldn’t consider liquid fuel an ‘essential’ for your INCH bag.
Food & Cooking
You’ll want every element of a survival kitchen in your INCH bag. Stoves are good, but fuel tends to run out fast, so you might want to get comfortable cooking on a fire. As always, we highly recommend the SOLO stove, which is a small outdoors wood stove that we think is the best in its class. The advantage of a camp stove that burns wood is that it’s much more efficient than a standard campfire. Obviously campfires are excellent for both cooking and providing warmth, but if all you need to do is heat up some water or stew, it’s overkill to build a proper campfire – that’s where the SOLO stove comes into play.
You’ll need a couple pots and pans of various sizes, metal utensils, bowls, and metal mugs. A metal scourer works for washing up, and a little bottle of dishwashing liquid goes a long way.
If your planning on living off the land, bring adequate hunting gear. This could include guns, ammunition, a survival bow, and especially traps and snares (trapping is generally more efficient than hunting in a survival situation). Throw in a box of survival fishing gear comprising of a collapsible rod, a reel, line, lures, and a selection of hooks. You might also think bout fishing nets, which are typically illegal to use but the law won’t mean very much in any situation where it’s necessary for you to use your INCH bag.
In terms of food itself, we recommend you pack 1-2 week’s worth of rations – obviously it is impossible to pack enough food for you to survive indefinitely. You want enough food so that you can get settled and start exploring ways of finding food in the wild.
Clean Drinking Water
To survive in the wild for any decent length of time, you’ll need plenty of clean, fresh water. Include a large plastic reservoir and a few metal water bottles in your INCH bag to store your drinking water.
While you can boil your water, it’s much more advisable to get a survival water filter. You can get water bottles and reservoirs with integrated filters, pump filters, and gravity filters if you wish. You can also get the basic “survival-style” water filters and rig them so they filter into your larger containers.
You should also get a pack of purification tablets as they’re a tiny addition to your INCH bag that could mean the difference between life and death. While water filters provide a much higher volume of water over time and are more cost effective, having some purification tablets on you as a backup option is always a good idea.
If you’re trying to survive in an emergency, you’ll need to know where you are and where you’re going. Make sure you include a compass, local maps, and maybe a survival watch in your INCH bag to help you navigate your way to survival.
A good first aid kit is an essential piece of equipment to include in your INCH bag. It should include:
- Band-aids in a variety of sizes and shapes
- Sterile gauze dressings in a variety of sizes
- Variety of bandages
- Safety pins
- Disposable sterile gloves
- Antiseptic cream
- Eye drops
Here’s a pretty good survival first aid kit you can buy pre-packed, but some of the items above you’ll need to add to any first aid kit you buy, particularly things like prescription meds.
There are a few other essential pieces of kit you should include in your INCH bag. First and foremost are a couple high-quality knives. You should get one multi-tool with various tools and a fixed-blade, standard survival knife for heavier tasks like clearing brush and digging holes.
We’d recommend one multi tool, one survival knife and one larger bladed tool at minimum. Obviously, a wire saw, a hatchet, and a machete are very different tools, but in a pinch you can improvise what you need with any of them, so it’s up to you to decide whether you want to prioritize one type of tool over the others or whether you want to take on the extra burden and weight of having them all.
A decent length of paracord will be helpful in all kinds of situations, from drying your clothes to strapping gear onto your pack to hanging your food in a tree out of the reach of the bears. Twenty or thirty meters or high-quality paracord won’t take up much room in your INCH bag. You can also opt to wear the paracord in the form of a survival bracelet. We can’t emphasize enough how important and essential cordage is for a whole variety of survival functions – other than a knife, it’s probably the highest utility item you can find. Plus it’s lightweight and doesn’t take up a lot of space, so there’s really no reason not to have a good amount of cordage in your INCH bag or on you person.
You should include a sewing kit in your INCH bag. Something as little as sewing on a new button or repairing a small hole becomes a big deal when you only have one set of clothes.
Take a few packs of seeds. So called “survival seeds” are tiny and weigh practically nothing. If you end up somewhere long-term, having a variety of fruit and vegetable seeds is an invaluable resource. If you’re genuinely thinking about the idea of “I’m Never Coming Home”, then planning a sustainable source of food is a good idea.
You’ll also want to include a variety of lights in your INCH bag. Finding your way in the dark can be the difference between life and death in the wild and you should invest in high-quality headlamps, flashlights, and even a solar-powered lantern.
Personal hygiene is as important in a survival situation as it is at home, if not more so. Include a toiletries bag with toothbrushes, toothpaste, nail clippers, soap, a razor with extra blades, and feminine hygiene products. Poor hygiene leads to illness and disease, and in a survival situation, disease leads to death.
I know I said everything in your INCH bag has to be absolutely essential, but do yourself a favor and throw in a deck of playing cards. They’re small, lightweight, and go a long way in keeping you amused if you’re living with the same people night after night after night. If you’re alone, you’ll want to plan for some kind of diversion or amusement as well – living in solitude in the wilderness for extended periods of time would be stressful and mentally exhausting for anyone.
The Ultimate INCH Bag
So now you should have a better idea of what an INCH bag is, when you’d use one, and what to include in your own ultimate inch bag.
Think carefully about how you’re going to build your own INCH bag, as it will probably save your life.