How To Build An INCH Bag “I’m Never Coming Home”

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: December 16, 2016

Inch BagAn I.N.C.H Bag stands for I‘m Never Coming Home Bag

It’s a Bug Out Bag on steroids.

If you build an INCH Bag, you’re getting the hell out of Dodge and never coming back.

For some of us, there’s zero difference between our current bug out bags and an INCH bag.

Maybe you’ve planned your bug out bag as an INCH bag from the very start. And if that’s you, great!

However, most people built their bug out bags intending to return home as soon as things are all clear.

If this is you, you may now be interested in the key differences between a regular bug out bag and an INCH bag.

Differences such as bag size, gear selection, weight, and supplies.

You also might want to plan an INCH Bag just in case SHTF happens and it’s NOT just a short-term emergency.

But what extra gear should you add? And what gear should you leave behind? We’ll answer both of these questions and more.

But let’s all agree on the following definitions first:

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Get Home Bags vs Bug Out Bags vs INCH Bags

Here’s the way I think about Get Home Bags vs Bug Out Bags vs INCH Bags.

First off, get home bags are small everyday carry packs with limited gear and supplies. They include the essential items to help “Get You Home Safe” after a local disaster.

You should take your get home bag with you everywhere you go. You can leave it in your vehicle, but it should always be close at hand.

The bag is there to help you survive a treacherous trip across town back to your home base.

Now bug out bags cover the ground between the get home bags and INCH bags (which is a very broad range).

They are often built for a few days, a few weeks, or even for the long haul. This makes building your bug out bag a very personal task.

You get to decide what to put in your bug out bag based on your survival goals and needs.

For instance, if you have a bug out location figured out, maybe you built your bug out bag to get you from Point A to Point B fast.

Whether that’s a 30-mile hike or a 90-mile hike, you still have a specific amount of time and distance that your bug out bag was built to support.

However, INCH Bags are built specifically to support an ongoing wilderness survival plan.

With an INCH bag, you’re leaving home and never ever coming back. Most likely you won’t be staying long in any single location.

Instead, you intend to live the life of a survival nomad and need a bag that can support this effort.

Now that we have a sense of the differences between these three bags, let’s discuss a few of the specific differences between bug out bags and INCH bags.

Main Differences Between Bug Out Bags and INCH Bags

INCH bags are heavy. There’s no way to get around this fact. In order to carry all the long-term gear and supplies,  you’ll need to stock it completely full with highly self-reliant gear.

For example:

  • You’re going to want to carry a hatchet.
  • You’re going to need a large stainless steel water bottle.
  • Excellent Aqua Defender Tarp

    Most likely, you’ll want to pack a survival tarp and TACT Bivvy.

  • You’ll want to stuff some extra warm clothes into the pack.

All this “extra” gear adds up fast. So while you should have a target Bug Out Bag weight of 25 to 35 lbs. an INCH bag will easily weigh over 40 lbs. (and could reach north of 50 lbs.)

This is what I call freaking heavy.

Now, unless you’re in great shape and relatively young, a pack in this weight range will be brutal to carry day in and day out.

This extra weight will slow your pace of travel and will reduce the number of miles you can hike each day.

But what you lose in speed and distance, you’ll make up in better self-reliant gear and supplies.

If you’re never coming home (and don’t have a permanent bug out location) it’s worth trading slow travel for a more sustainable survival setup.

But the bottom line is that the INCH Bag is more of a young man’s game – as they say.

So what gear do you need to build the ultimate INCH bag?

You need to shift your focus to gear that will support an ongoing nomadic survival life. You’ll want to add survival tools that allow you to utilize natural resources to the maximum advantage.

Living off the land and turning wilderness resources into shelters, calories, and self-defense.

So I recommend you start by reading our comprehensive guide to building your bug out bag. This guide (see next paragraph) includes 104 items you may want to add to a bug out bag. Then once you’re familiar with all the best bug out bag gear, it’s time to start thinking about some upgrades for an INCH Bag.

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Here’s a list of all the high self-reliant gear you should include in your INCH Bag:


INCH Bag H2O Plan

You have to think about your survival water plans differently when you’re never-coming-home. When you’re perpetually on the move, finding water will become a struggle.

And even if you find abundant water, you’ll still have to be smart about how you filter and purify it.

In a typical bug out scenario, you toss a couple of LifeStraw Water Filters and some Water Purification Tablets into your bag, and you’re all set. Any water you find, no matter how nasty, you filter, purify, and drink up.

But with an INCH bag bug out, you’ll quickly use up your LifeStraw and Water Purification Tablets leaving you out of tools and forcing you to take chances by consuming contaminated water.

So you need to change your mindset. You should still stash a LifeStraw Water Filter (or two) and a bunch of Water Purification Tablets, however, you should avoid using them except in dire circumstances.

Instead, you should purify the majority of your water by boiling it. Yes, it’s a slower process but boiling is still effective.

That’s why I recommend you only carry a Stainless Steel Water Bottle.

Plastic bottles will melt over fires. Stainless steel ones allow you to boil water repeatedly without damaging the container.

Since you’ll be boiling the majority of your water for purification, you’ll significantly extend the useful life of your LifeStraw and Tablets.

Thus, saving these unique tools for the nastiest of water sources and times when you must filter and purify quickly on the move due to danger.

Otherwise, collect it, start a fire, boil it, let it cool, and then drink it up.


Tools For Catching Calories

When planning to live off the land for long periods of time you need the right tools to do so. You need every advantage you can get and you need to use them all.

You’ll need to catch fish and snare or trap small game (rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, snake, etc.)

You’ll also need to understand the principles of foraging for edible plants, fruits, and berries and the tools to do so efficiently.

So let’s walk through the tools you need to keep your belly full in the wild.

Compact Fishing Rod

ronco pocket fishing rodAt a minimum, your fishing rod needs to be collapsible. But I prefer pocket-sized rods like this small compact Ronco Pocket Spincaster.

These fishing rods are perfect for snagging a few lake trout or bluegill for dinner.

These rods are no replacement for a Shakespeare Ugly Stick Rod but they are compact, lightweight, and can still provide an ongoing supply of nutritious fish protein.

YoYo Fishing Reels

These Yo-Yo Reels are a “must-pack” item to take your fishing efforts to an entirely new level of efficiency.

yo yo fishing reelsInstead of wasting time waiting for a nibble, you can set these Yo Yo Automatic Reels out and walk away.

That way you can get some other survival tasks done and come back later to (hopefully) reel in your catch.

Fishing Tackle

This one’s obvious. If you intend to catch fish then you need all the hooks, swivels, weights, and accessories to go with it. Pack extra because once you’re out, you’ll have to barter for more (if you can find any at all).

snare trapsSmall Game Snares and Traps

Survival Snares follow the same general principle as the Yo Yo Fishing Reels but for the protein of the four-legged variety.

You set them and walk away. Then periodically come back to check on them.

They take up very little pack space and are lightweight which makes them a no-brainer addition to every INCH Bag.

Survival Slingshot

high velocity slingshotSlingshot hunting is an underappreciated skill by many survivalists. With the right Survival Slingshot, you can take down both small game and even some medium-sized game.

Plus, you can carry a ton of slingshot ammo and even use natural stones as ammo in a pinch.

The slingshot is an excellent weapon for replenishing your survival food and it should find a small compartment in your INCH Survival Bag.

Survival Bow

You essentially have three choices when it comes to choosing a survival bow. You can go with a modern compound bow, a recurve takedown bow, or a quality crossbow.

The biggest advantage of choosing a takedown bow is its ability to break it down into smaller component parts. This allows you to pack your bow away while traveling.

crossbowHowever, compound bows are better at longer ranges, and have lower pull weights to velocity ratios.

But with this option, you’ll have to attach your bow to the outside of your INCH Bag.

The third option is the crossbow, which also doesn’t easily break down for storage, but allows you to walk around with it cocked and ready for action at all times.

The bottom line is I would never dream of leaving home without a Takedown Bow or Compound Bow or CrossBow with my INCH Bag. If you agree with me, you get to decide which works best for you.

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Wilderness Survival Shelter

Tools For Building Badass Survival Shelters

Survival Hatchet

Do you plan on building badass wilderness survival shelters? The sort you can live in safely for weeks or months at a time? Then you need the ability to chop down large trees, logs, and branches.

Yes, a durable survival knife can do this work too but it’s not ideal for the job long term.

And if you use the batoning technique and a survival knife over the long haul it will take a major toll on your knife.

So I recommend packing a lightweight survival hatchet and learning how to use it to build strong survival shelters. This Gerber Survival Hatchet is full tang and weighs only 1.4 lbs which makes it an excellent choice.

Survival Shovels

survival shovelHave you ever tried to dig a hole with just a stick?

It’s a miserable task, takes a lot of extra time, and burns lots of valuable calories.

On top of that, if you’re “never coming home”, you’ll want to avoid unwanted attention.

One of the best ways to avoid unwanted attention and wasted energy is to use a survival shovel to build a Dakota fire hole. These are hidden fires you can safely burn at night.

For this task alone, you’ll want a sturdy survival shovel.

You’ll also want a shovel to help build the best survival shelters possible.

Using techniques like trenching around your shelter to shed heavy rainwater away. Or anchoring logs into the ground for better foundational stability.

Bivvy Sack

tact bivvy emergency sleeping bagJust because you’re in a survival shelter doesn’t mean you won’t freeze to death.

A survival shelter is just the outside layer of protection from wind and rain.

But bitter cold will still creep in. And you can still freeze to death if you sleep on the frozen ground.

Instead, this small but effective TACT Bivvy Sack is the ideal piece of gear to store in your INCH Bag.

You can’t afford to carry the weight and size of a sleeping bag, but with a TACT Bivvy, you get something better than a sleeping bag to keep you warm without taking up valuable INCH Bag space.

portable solar panel and phone

Alternative Power Is Your Best Friend (Solar, Biomass, Hand Crank)

Solar power, biomass energy, and hand crank technologies are sources of power that don’t rely on the grid.

Unlike the grid (which relies on modern society to function) these alternative power sources can be relied upon even if our society totally collapses.

Solar Lantern

solar pocket light

If you’re on the move and never coming home, you’ll need the power of illumination to help you.

But batteries run out and you won’t be able to plug anything in.

So you have to take advantage of a solar lantern. That’s why you should invest in this Solar Pocket Lantern.

The design is ideally sized for your INCH Bag and since it’s solar-powered you can rely on it through thick and thin.

Solar Headlamps

survival solar headlampWhether it’s traveling at night or working in the dark.

You want to have a good source of illumination and you want it to be hands-free.

Set your solar headlamp out in direct sunlight during the day so it’s ready to use at night. No grid power is necessary.

Solar Battery Charger Setup

goal zero battery recharge kitIf you plan to carry any gear that requires batteries to function (GPS devices, small emergency radios, etc.) you’ll want a portable solar charger that includes a rechargeable battery charger.

This Goal Zero Solar Recharging Kit is ideal to use the sun’s power to charge your devices and includes a set of good rechargeable batteries.

biolite camping stoveBiomass Camping Stove

You’re going to build fires anyway so you might as well get some “free” energy from the process.

The Biomass Camping Stove is a relatively new and impressive survival invention.

It allows you to charge any device with a USB port using a fire’s heat. That’s a technology that’s hard to pass up for long-term survival.

Solar Survival Watch

If you get the right watch, you won’t need to charge it or worry about batteries. The best survival watches are solar-powered.

The face of these watches includes a small solar panel.

So just by wearing it for a few hours during the day, this watch keeps ticking for the long haul.

The top-of-the-line survival watches includes temperature, barometer, and compasses making them essential devices for INCH Bag survivalists.

I’m a fan of the G-Shock Rangeman Watch Series.

Hand Crank Radio

Last but not least in the alternative power gear option is the hand crank radio.

The hand cranks are small power turbines that create power via a hand crank.

While this form of energy is not passive like solar, it’s nice that you can generate some energy anytime day or night.

Most of these radios have a USB port so you can charge small electronic devices plus the hand crank also charges your emergency radio.

The radio itself allows you to keep tabs on what’s going on around you via any intelligence reports being broadcast.

You can also use them to power up a cell phone (for a very short call) in an emergency situation.

Check out Jason’s video review of a similar hand cranked radio:

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Man Starting A Fire In The Woods 1

Tools For Fire

Tesla Electric Lighter

Tough Tesla Electric LighterWhat do BIC lighters and Zippos have in common?

They both require liquid fuel to use. Guess what won’t be readily available in a long-term survival situation? Fuel.

So instead of running out of fuel, pack this Telsa Electric Lighter instead. We already discussed a few ways to create power on the go (biomass stove, hand crank radio, solar generator).

So you just need to invest in these alternative power sources and pair them with tools (like the Telsa Lighter) that can take advantage.

Tinder and Kindling

survival tinderbox magnifying glassYou need the ability to reliably create a fire and do so quickly using only natural resources.

This means you need tools to create small, thin tinder and kindling with a minimal amount of effort. Turning twigs and sticks into small dry highly flammable material.

My two favorite tools for this are a small box pencil sharpener and the tinderbox grate.

Either works just fine but you should carry one of these in your INCH Bag to make your fire-starting efforts both easy and efficient.

Fire Laces

Finding ways to pack gear outside of your pack is an excellent tactic when your bag is going to be heavy no matter what you do.

Every single oz of weight matters.

That’s why you should replace something with limited survival utility (shoelaces) with something that has a ton of survival utility (FireLaces).

The tips of these FireLaces are mini ferrod rods and they come with razor sharp strikers that you thread into your survival boots.

It's another no-brainer piece of survival gear when you’re planning to live on the go.

Survival Medical Kit Image

First Aid Supplies

First aid items are low use (hopefully) but they still deserve some space in your INCH bag.

Not having a tourniquet, medical gauze, or painkillers may leave you stranded in the wilderness “left for the wolves”.

Small First Aid Kit

small first aid medical kitYou can’t take a full medical kit due to size and weight limitations but you still need the essentials.

You’ll need to prioritize and worry most about the “worst-case” injuries. But you should also worry about small cuts due to the potential for infection.

So add a small adventure medical kit to your INCH Bag to cover most of your wilderness medical needs.

Antibiotic Cream

A tube of antibiotic cream (such as Neosporin) used sparingly will prevent a simple scratch from turning into a deadly infection.

You know, the sort of infection that develops into the scary red line running up your arm. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Survival Antibiotics

And what’s your plan if you do develop a severe infection? Hope you don’t die? That’s a terrible plan.

Instead, invest in a few survival antibiotics. They don’t weigh much so you should be able to find a small nook or cranny in your INCH Bag for these lifesavers.

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Misc Tools You Need In Your INCH Bag

Survival Knife

bushcraft survival knifeWhen it comes to bushcraft survival there’s no tool more universal than a high-quality, full-tang, carbon steel survival knife.

I highly recommend investing in a good one. This crucial survival tool must last a very long time. And it will treat you well if you treat it well.

Survival MultiTool – Pliers

survival plyers leathermanWhile the survival knife is considered “the most universal” survival tool, the multi-tool survival pliers come in at a close second.

Being able to pinch, grab, twist, and cut small objects is essential for survival. If you plan to reuse devices or fix items, etc. you need a good set of pliers.

Gas Mask

gas maskIf the air entering your lungs is toxic, you can choke to death.

And when SHTF, even the air you breathe may not be trustworthy.

Better safe than sorry. Here’s our how-to buy a gas mask guide.

Choking to death is not something I’m interested in experiencing. So invest in a good Israeli Civilian Gas Mask for your breathing pleasure.

Military Compass

military compassUnless you truly plan to travel aimlessly forever, you’re going to want to pack a compass.

At the very least, you’ll be able to travel on a straight path to avoid just walking in large circles.

Getting your bearings without a compass can be a real challenge, especially in a dense forest.

So toss a high-quality military-grade compass into your pack to help you navigate your new nomadic existence.

Tools For Self Defense

Survival Rifle

The actual make and model of your survival rifle is a personal choice.

I tend to prefer a good takedown 22 rifle (like the Henry – AR-7 U.S. Survival .22) so I can actually break it down and pack it into my INCH Bag.

Plus the 22-round is one of the lightest rounds to pack and carry. As soon as you move into higher caliber rifle rounds you start adding significant ammo weight.

Items You Can Leave Behind

Let’s get this straight. If you’re building an INCH Bag you’re planning to live off the land. You also have zero expectations of life being luxurious.

No more indoor plumbing, no more grid electricity, no more warm showers, no more plates, no more pillows.

These items are bulky, heavy, and a luxury. They must be forgotten and left behind. Let’s talk in more detail about the biggest items you need to take out of your INCH pack.

  • Since you’re going to add a TACT Bivvy Sack (and know how to build a survival shelter) you can ditch the tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and hammock. These are the heaviest and largest items so they are the first things I remove from my INCH Bag.
  • Since you won’t be boiling freeze-dried food and instead you’ll be fishing, trapping, and foraging, you won’t need a camping stove or stove fuel. You’re going to build fires using nature such as downed sticks and logs.
  • Next up, you’ll need to consolidate how much “extra” clothes you pack. As soon as you add 3 shirts, 2 pants, socks, underwear, etc., etc. you’ll find these “luxuries” won’t fit in your already overloaded pack. So trim your spare clothes down to the minimum. 1 shirt, 1 pair of tactical pants, 1 pair of spare socks, and 1 pair of underwear. Then you can occasionally swap what you’re currently wearing with these spares and then clean, dry, and rotate.

Pack these spare clothes up in a Skivvy Roll to save space.

Consolidation Is Key

It’s your bug out plan. It’s your INCH Bag.

But everyone reading this should take gear consolidation seriously.

For example, if you decide to add the Survival Shovel we discussed above, you can forgo adding any duplicate gear.

Why? Because this particular survival shovel is not only a shovel but also includes two saws, a fire starter, a glass breaker, a pickaxe, a whistle, two bottle openers, and a knife.

As long as these extra pieces of gear are high quality, there’s no need to carry duplicates. Smart consolidation alone will save you a ton of unnecessary weight and precious pack space.

Use this shovel example with all your INCH Bag gear to build the perfect INCH bag.

“Always consolidate your gear as long as it doesn’t come as a sacrifice to quality.”

Action PlanINCH Bag Action Plan

Let’s wrap this up.

I recommend you decide today whether you’re building a Bug Out Bag (a.k.a. go bag) or an INCH Bag. While these bag builds are similar, there is enough difference to warrant a decision.

You also don’t want to invest in both a bug out bag and an INCH bag if you can avoid it. The cost of having both bags set up and ready to go at the drop of a hat would be expensive.

5.11 Tactical Bug Out BagSo if you decide that an INCH Bag is for you, then you need to find a large rugged bag to fit everything in.

I like the 5.11 tactical bug out bag. It has lots of room and compartments to fit all your gear as well as padded straps to make carrying a heavy load a little bit easier.

Once you have your bag, you need to start accumulating all the INCH gear into your bag.

If you already have a bug out bag and want to convert it to an INCH bag then you’re well on your way. You’ll just need to add a few key items we discussed above and possibly remove a few items as well.

However, if you don’t already have a bug out bag, then you’ll need to start from scratch. That’s ok too, we’ve got you covered.

Just make sure you review our Bug Out Bag Checklist first and then reread this post to make a master list of all the gear you want to include in your INCH Bag.

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Then once you have your list in place, start investing in gear. You may need to buy a few items at a time and not all at once, but I don’t recommend you take years to get your INCH bag completed.

What if SHTF happens while you’re still in the middle of your INCH bag build?

The best day to plant a tree is today and the best day to build your INCH Bag is also today.

Remember: Prepare, Adapt, and Overcome,
“Just In Case” Jack

P.s. Are you ready for the tough times ahead?

Find out now by taking my short Readiness Score Quiz - it’s absolutely free. Once complete, you’ll know exactly where you stand on the “fragile” vs.” resilient” spectrum.

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