The bug-out bag (BoB) is a prepper mainstay. Most of us know about them and have one. But what about the INCH Bag? What exactly is an INCH Bag? How is it different from a Bug-Out Bag? Who needs one? And does it really have to be an entirely different bag from the bug-out bag?
INCH Bag = I'm Never Coming Home Bag
Unlike the bug-out bag, which is designed for short-term use (typically three days) and an eventual return home, the INCH bag is designed for much-longer use in situations when you expect to never return home.
In in a "never returning home" scenario, you will never again have access to the food, water, supplies, tools, documents, books, family photos & heirlooms, mementos, and other items you left behind when bugging out. All your worldly possessions will be reduced to what you took with you, and perhaps what you cached or prepositioned elsewhere.
INCH bags take these factors into account. Bug-out bags don't.
I've read many articles and watched many videos on INCH bags, and think that most make the same mistake: trying to extend the usefulness of their bags by simply adding more tools, gear, supplies and other stuff (and thus, a lot more weight), while ignoring some of the ramifications of never being able to return home again
Leaving home to never return doesn't mean living in the wilderness for the rest of your life. Yes, you may need to extend the usefulness of your bag from 3-days to maybe a week or two, but the fact is you will return to civilization at some point - to your predetermined bug-out location or some other safe haven - just not to your current home. Perhaps your home was looted and burned. Or maybe it is permanently behind "enemy lines" in the case of military invasion or civil war. Or perhaps radiation due to a nuclear incident (nuclear war, dirty bomb, or nuclear accident of some sort) has made your home unlivable. Whatever the reason, you are barred from your home and all the stuff you had there, but not from civilization itself.
This means, though you need to prepare for more than 3 days, you don't need to figure out ways to survive permanently in the wilderness without resupply. The real long-term problem in an INCH situation is the irreplaceable stuff you're permanently leaving behind: important documents & records, family photos & heirlooms, personal mementos, etc. Eventually, you'll be able to replace most of the other stuff you leave behind - food, supplies, tools, gear, books...
The questions to ask yourself is "What do I really need to start over again? What is really important to me?" Having a lot of stuff may be nice, but it isn't really necessary. My answer to those questions are: My life. My health. My relationships (God, family & close friends). Everything else can eventually be replaced or done without.
So, with that in mind, here is my solution to the unrealistic "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to the INCH Bag.
Convert the bug-out bag into a realistic INCH bag with a few minor but important modifications that won't add too much weight or bulk.
I am assuming you already have a bug-out bag, so I won't go over what all you need in one. Instead, here are my suggestions to adjust your already existing BoB into a realistic INCH bag.
1- Water is the most important survival consideration, but it is heavy and bulky. You can't just carry more water with you, rather you need to focus on having the ability to collect and treat water. Maybe your bug out bags already contains some ways to collect & treat more water. If not, here are some ideas to address this issue:
My BoB contains two water bottles (I also have a canteen of the over-the-shoulder variety). Definitely not enough water to last a week or two. Additionally, for collecting and treating water, I have the following:
- 4-Way Silcock Key (great for accessing those knobless water spigots on commercial buildings and at golf courses & parks)
- A couple of collapsible/foldable two-gallon water bags to collect/store water.
- A personal water filter that filters over 700 gallons of water.
- A small bottle of water purification tablets.
- A bandana that could be used to filter leaves, trash and other debris from the water, if needed.
2- Food is another important consideration, and difficult to take a lot of it with you in your BoB. I personally don't use freeze-dried foods or MREs in my BoB because they are too bulky. Instead I use health & energy bars, and emergency ration food bars. This allows me to carry at least an entire week's worth (or more) of emergency food in the same amount of space (or less) as 3 days worth of freeze-dried foods. Additional compact options include foil-packs of chicken, tuna, and salmon, as well as peanut butter (many servings of needed fats, protein, and calories in a single jar). Another great thing about these options is that they don't have to be cooked.
You may be able to supplement the food in your bag with wild edibles by teaching yourself about them now, before SHTF. I also have a small fishing kit (a Ronco Pocket Fisherman) that I keep in my vehicle and can attach to my bag if I need to strike out on foot.
Now that we've covered how to extend your food and water without adding much weight or bulk, lets look at what to do about those things you'll have to leave behind.
3- Copies of important documents should be included in your expanded BoB or INCH bag. These can be digitized and loaded on an encrypted file on USB memory stick (I use and recommend Gorilla Drives). I have one on my key chain and a back-up in my BoB. Very small and light-weight. I also have copies in an encrypted folder on my Samsung Galaxy.
However, in a SHTF situation, you may not have ready access to a computer, and your smart phone may be lost or damaged, so it is wise to have hard copies of some documents. I have two 9x6 clasp envelopes containing documents that fit easily in my BoB without adding a lot of weight or taking up much room. Insert them in a plastic zip bag for waterproofing. Documents you might want to include:
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Copies of credit cards, bank numbers, and other financial info
- Contact information and account numbers for insurance, investment accounts, utilities, etc.
- Tax and other financial records
- Copies of your driver's license and social security card
- Medical and immunization records
- Title & Registration information for your vehicles
- Pet Records (registration, vaccination, etc.)
- Copies of your high school diploma and collage degrees
- High School and College Transcripts
- Military discharge papers
- Contact information for family, friends, co-workers, etc.
- Home and Property deeds
- Mortgage information
For example, when I recently refinanced my home, the mortgage paperwork was over 160 pages long. No problem on my memory sticks (the mortgage company emailed me the entire package in .pdf form), but I'm not lugging a hard copy of all that around with me. Instead, I put only the two-page summary (which has all the important numbers and info) in one of the 9x6 envelopes I previously mentioned.
4- Family photos, personal mementos, and family heirlooms make up another category of stuff you will lose when you never return home. This is where developing the right attitude comes in handy. Remember my earlier comments on figuring out what is really important - our lives, our health, and our relationships. It may hurt to lose stuff for which you have sentimental attachment, but better to lose that stuff than to lose our lives.
There is some good news - scrapbooks and family photos can be digitized and carried with you, as can genealogy records. Personal awards, articles, certificates, blue ribbons, and even trophies can be scanned or digitally photographed. Some family heirlooms may have to be left behind and lost forever, but even they can be photographed. No, it is not the same as still having it, but it is better than nothing.
The bottom line of this article, is that you can easily turn your bug-out bag into a real INCH bag without adding too much weight and bulk. Just keep in mind what INCH really means (it is not living in the wilderness forever) and think through what you really need.
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