How to Assemble an INCH Bag

by Karen

In the prepper world there seems to be a bag for everything. There is your bugout bag (BOB), your get home bag (GHB), and your everyday carry (EDC) bag. But there is another bag that might just be more important than all of these because it is the bag that you leave home with knowing that whatever is in that bag is what will keep you alive indefinitely. It’s the I’m never coming home (INCH) bag and this is one bag you definitely do not want to get wrong.

Why an INCH Bag?

The name really says it all—the I’m never coming home bag. Many preppers consider their BOB an INCH bag. They have packed it as such. However, a BOB is ideally something with which you can survive for just a few days or even weeks, something that will keep you going as you move from your bug in location to your bugout location or are temporarily on the move for some other reason. People with a BOB intend to go back home or reach another destination at some point.

When you carry an INCH bag, it is because you will be bugging out permanently. You will have to leave and survive on the move. You simply cannot stay at your bug in or bugout location. Reasons you would have to leave your home, and thus carry an INCH bag, include:

  • Your home/bugout location is destroyed
  • Looters or gangs have taken your home
  • There is a lot of civil unrest
  • There is no food or water left where you are
  • There is so much disease that you need to get away
  • All communication is down
  • Stores and gas stations are closed

These are just a few of the reasons why you might need to get out of Dodge. There are plenty of others, as well as warning signs of when to bug out permanently.

Selecting the Right Bag

Before you can pack the contents in the bag, you need the bag. Since your INCH bag will contain everything you need for survival, it needs to be big and it needs to be sturdy. When choosing the bag you will use, consider the following:

  • How well it fits your body shape and size: Make sure it fits the length of your torso.
  • How much support it offers in terms of frame and support straps: Packs with an external frame tend to offer better support and you want to make sure there are adjustable straps that will allow you to distribute the weight between your shoulders and your hips.
  • Whether it is waterproof: You just don’t want your stuff getting wet.
  • The number of extra/external pockets and compartments: Make sure the pack has enough room for everything and that there are compartments in which you can store things so they are within easy reach.

You absolutely need to invest in a high-quality bag. It might cost some extra dollars, but it is worth it. You also want to get a bag that is neutral in color, something that will blend in with the natural surroundings. This will help you go unnoticed, whereas a brightly colored pack will make you a moving target, one that has a lot of useful items others will want to steal.

What’s Inside?

The key to packing an INCH bag is to take a minimalist approach. This is a bag in which you will pack more than you would in your BOB, yet you want to do your best to ensure that it does not weigh more than 25% of your body weight. Thus, if you are a small woman who weighs 120 pounds, your pack should weigh no more than 30 pounds. If you are a 200-pound man, then you can carry up to 50 pounds.

So, your INCH bag will be heavier than your BOB, which has its drawbacks, including moving more slowly and traveling less distance each day. However, you will have everything you will need for survival in any environment. Now, let’s get back to that minimalist approach.

When packing your INCH bag, you need to think over the long-term. Instead of packing a lot of food, you need to pack tools and equipment that will allow you to get food while you are on the move. Instead of packing water, you need to pack a means of purifying the water you find as you go. You need to carry tools that will help you build a fire and build shelter, rather than the matches and tarp you might otherwise carry in a BOB. With that in mind here are the most essential categories of items you should include in your INCH bag.


  • Stainless steel water bottle

The go-to water solution for a BOB is water purification tablets and a LifeStraw, and while you should still pack these, you will want to include a simple stainless steel water bottle. Why? Because you will run out of tablets and your LifeStraw filter will get used up and you’ll still be out there. So instead of using those tablets and the LifeStraw, save them as backup and just boil your water.

Food and Protection

  • Snares
  • Slingshot
  • Fishing line/compact fishing pole and hooks
  • Crossbow

As with water, you can only carry so much food with you, and after a few days it will be gone. While you could take some MREs or other lightweight and easy to carry food (e.g. freeze-dried), you should ensure you have with you the means to catch your own food.

There are calories all around you if you know how to hunt and fish. Foraging will also supplement your diet with much needed plant nutrition.

By having a compact fishing rod or fishing line, you can catch fish that are highly nutritious. With snare wire and a slingshot, you can catch small game. With a crossbow, you can catch bigger game. Just make sure you get these things ahead of time and practice so you become skilled in how to use them.

Why not a gun? Well, you can and should certainly have one, but the bullets will eventually run out and then it will be useless. The fishing line and snares are reusable. Ammo for a slingshot can be found anywhere there are rocks (which is pretty much everywhere!).

Arrows for a crossbow can be reclaimed and reused most of the time, and if you build your skills ahead of time, you can make arrows out of what is around you.


Have a serious first aid kit. Fortunately, first aid kits are already small, compact, and lightweight, so you don’t have to alter this much. Just be sure to pack what you can in as compact a package as possible.

But as with your other food and supplies, eventually the items in your first aid kit will run out, so you need to be familiar with how to identify medicinal plants and learn how to use what you find in nature to help you with medical care and procedures when necessary.


When you are surviving on the move, there are certain tools you will need in certain situations. The key is to take with you the fewest number of tools that will effectively get any job done that needs doing.

You essentially need bushcraft tools that are easy to carry and effective for the many tasks you will need to perform, such as clearing brush, cutting firewood, and skinning and cleaning animals. Here are the basic tools you need:

  • Large knife
  • Small knife
  • Hatchet/small axe
  • Saw
  • Multi-tool
  • Carving tool
  • Whetstone
  • Firestarter
  • Navigation
  • Compass
  • Gas mask
  • Shovel (compact and foldable)
  • Small sewing kit


When it comes to clothing, you need to have clothing for all weather situations. This means warm- and cold-weather clothing and waterproof clothing. However, you should pack one extra of each thing, not multiples. There simply is no room and you’ll have to get used to having less and washing what you do have in the nearest creek once a week or so. Just be sure the clothing you do have is high quality, moisture-wicking, and include some wool in there.


Tents, tarps, sleeping bags, and pillows are all added weight that you don’t need, even if you might want these luxury items. If you have a high-quality bivvy bag, one that is like a tiny tent, you can survive quite nicely. Add your survival shovel for when you need to dig a trench to tuck down in and you are all set.

This is the basic must-have gear for an INCH bag, but you may want to include other supplies and equipment to ensure your survival. This is fine, provided you choose carefully and they will fit in your pack.

Assembling Your INCH Bag

When you assemble you INCH bag, be sure to pack the heaviest, least used items at the back and bottom of the pack and the lightest, most frequently used items near the front and top.

You can use the exterior compartments for the smaller items you need to access frequently and quickly, such as your water, compass, and weapon. Packing a bag well will mean the difference between awkward discomfort and relative comfort and ease of movement.

Ultimately, you need to be sure you have everything in your INCH bag that you can use to survive the rest of your life on the move if need be. However, you might have noticed as you read through what you need to pack that there was something else you need to go with these items—skills!

Your survival when on the move will depend on the skills you master even more than the items you pack in your INCH bag. It is critical that you practice using everything you have, that you learn how to hunt, fish, and forage, and that you become skilled at bushcraft. The contents of your INCH bag and the skills you build will keep you alive and well.

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9 thoughts on “How to Assemble an INCH Bag”

  1. Something I haven’t seen in any of the columns is what do I do with that rabbit once I catch or kill him. How about an illustrated piece on skinning and cleaning it for cooking and eating…

  2. Good info, if taken with the one overriding attitude:
    “Do I really want to lug all this around with no end in the near future?”
    The intention is for those of us that tend to pack things that we might want as much as need.
    think lightness, necessity and multi use.
    Also, one thing to consider in a shtf/inch scenario, one will hopefully be finding food along the way, so some “on the move” food storage system should be part of the inch bag. If you get some meat along the way, and have to carry some of’ll want to assure it remains safe and palatable.

    • Another way to look at it, esp. if it is an INCH scenario, is carry out as much as you can that will be useful, get to a safe ORP or waypoint, and cache some material. Which brings up, make sure you also have a few weather-proof, water-proof bags in that INCH bag, so you CAN cache stuff.

  3. Excellent information, but there’s one thing I feel the need to correct. The author says to pack your heaviest items in the bottom of your pack. This is intuitive, I would agree, but wrong. This bag (what I call my Go Bag) is large by definition, carrying all that you’ll need to survive indefinitely away from civilization. The author suggests (and wisely) having a pack with height-adjustable straps. The purpose of these straps is to shift the weight of the pack higher up on your shoulders rather than down by your waist. This makes a 70 lbs. load feel more like 50. What also helps is packing the heaviest cargo higher in the pack, rather than lower. It’s all about leverage, and if the pack has the leverage, you’ll wear yourself out post-haste. Get the weight as high up your back as you can. Think of it like this – carrying a 50 lbs. sack is easier on your shoulders than it is carrying it in your arms down near your waist. You have to lean back to maintain balance, and that just adds to the difficulty. On your shoulders, you walk pretty much naturally and your back muscles aren’t having as much of a workout.


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