The Essential INCH Bag Checklist 2021 (Everything You Must Know)

An INCH bag is the most extreme of all the different kits that preppers and survival experts tend to put together.

The INCH, or “I’m Never Coming Home”, bag is for the moment you recognize that there is no chance that you will be getting back home again. This has to include everything to survive when the world descends into chaos. Everything is a lot.

The INCH bag is different than a Bug Out Bag. Also, INCH bag checklist is different from camping checklist and backpacking checklist, because you are accepting that you won’t get back to your stash at home so you need everything with you.

On this list, we are going to go over everything you’ll need to build a proper INCH bag. This way, if the time comes, you will be ready to grab the bag and go.

Situations where an INCH bag may be a necessary range anywhere from a house fire, a tsunami, a devastating earthquake, to military strife that pushes you from home or biological warfare that takes over areas surrounding your property.

When any of these happens a bug out bag or a get home bag simply won’t be enough. Follow this checklist and you’ll be ready for anything.

The INCH Bag Checklist in a Nutshell

  • Clothes
    • Base Layers
    • Socks
    • Underwear
    • Hat and gloves
    • Durable shoes
    • Warm layers
    • Durable pants
  • Shelter
    • Fire
      • Waterproof Matches
      • Fire striker
    • Hatchet
    • Survival Shovel
    • Bivvy Bag and sleeping bag
    • Paracord or Rope
  • Water
    • Collection
      • Heavy duty contractor bags
    • Treatment
      • Stainless steel water bottle
      • Purification Tablets
      • Water Filter
    • Storage
      • Collapsible water jug
  • Food
    • Hunting
      • Snares
      • Survival Slingshot
      • Survival Bow
    • Fishing
      • Compact Fishing Rod
      • Yo-Yo fishing reel
      • Fishing line
    • Edible Plants
      • Compact guide to edible plants
  • Power
    • Solar
      • Solar charger
    • Biomass
      • Biomass camping stove
    • Hand-crank
      • Radio
      • Flashlight
  • First Aid
  • Self-defense
    • Survival Rifle
  • Miscellaneous

The Essentials INCH Bag Lists For Life

The rule of 3 refers to the amount of time you can survive without any of the basic human needs.

That is, 3 seconds (in the most extreme cases) without shelter, 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.

For an INCH bag, we need to cover each of these but will assume you have easy access to breathable oxygen for the time being.

Shelter, Warmth and Fire

If you aren’t ever coming home, you need to be ready to build a temporary home to keep yourself sheltered from the elements and warm enough, or cool enough, depending on the time of year.

In some of the most extreme cases of cold and heat, it can take a mere three seconds to die without proper shelter. To truly be ready for anything, you need to prep for these extremes. 


It’s important to have at least one additional set of clothes inside of an INCH bag so you don’t ever go without.

Base layers, bandanas, extra socks and underwear, waterproof layers, durable pants, and warm layers will be enough to save your life once the weather turns.

A hat and gloves will help protect your head and hands from bites, scratches, and sun that can quickly harm you. 

Don’t forget about your feet. Make sure a durable pair of boots are ready to go when you’re likely to do a lot of walking in the near future. 


Whether you are an expert at starting a fire without matches in the woods or not, you will want to prepare for the possibility of that being impossible.

Fire is going to be your best friend for warmth, drying clothes out, cooking food, and boiling water. This means it should be at the top of your list of what to bring within an INCH bag. 

You can bring along waterproof matches, and a ton of them, that are strike-anywhere and a great way to get a fire started in any condition.

A fire striker is another necessity because there’s no option of it being ruined in a storm and will last for ages. 


A survival hatchet is going to allow you to get the sizable branches that you need to build a truly effective and long-term survival shelter.

There are certain survival knives that work well for batoning and getting larger branches, but a good survival hatchet will make your life that much easier.

It’s best to keep your survival knife in good shape and batoning will ruin it. A hatchet will provide you with the ability to chop wood on a long term scale. 


A survival shovel may seem excessive for a bag that only contains the necessities, but the things you can do with a shovel are vast. By digging a proper hole you can hide your fires effectively and get more protection from the elements.

A shovel will help to build trenches around your shelter so you don’t wake up soaking wet and cold, which would lead to a huge number of other issues. 


A bivvy bag (short for bivouac) is an absolute must if you don’t plan on ever getting home.

These bags are made like sleeping bags, but function to keep you dry even if water comes tearing through your shelter’s roof.

The breathable and waterproof material used to make a quality bivvy bag packs down to a small size and is easily carried around. They are one of the best ways to stay warm and dry in some really difficult and trying environments. 

Pair a bivvy bag with a compact sleeping bag and you’ll be able to keep yourself warm quite easily in most environments. Be careful with down, as it will be ruined the moment it gets wet.

Synthetic bags are less compact, but will keep you warm no matter what. 


Yes, you can just make cordage from the bark on the trees around you, but what happens when a forest fire takes everything down and you’re left without that resource?

150 feet of paracord is incredibly light and cheap, but gives you the ability to lash together a shelter quickly and without any trouble. It’s a guaranteed item that you’ll find yourself wishing you had if you didn’t pack it. 


Water can be tough to find in a lot environments and you’ll start feeling the effects immediately.

Having a solid plan for water collection, treatment, and storage is important for every single survival scenario out there.

If you are fortunate enough to find a readily-available water source, you will still need to treat the water. If you can’t find water easily, you will need to work to collect it and have the right materials to do so. 


Collecting water can be difficult when you aren’t near a huge source of water. This is where your shovel can come in handy, and you can attempt to reach the water table.

This method will spend a huge amount of calories and drain your resources even further.

Placing bags around trees and collecting water from transpiration will get you a small amount and require you to carry loads of plastic bags. 

The best move is to keep moving until you can find a small source of water. Natural springs and streams are often easy to find just by moving downhill and reading the terrain. 


Water filters and simple water purification tablets are a great resource for easy water treatment in the case that you find water in almost any source.

Modern water filters are great for making clean drinking water out of just about any mud puddle, or pristine river.

The Sawyer Squeeze, or the Lifestraw are both going to perform well for a long time and ensure that you get clean drinking water. 

If you are without these filters or purification tablets, you can try to boil water.

It will be a lot more work but is still incredibly effective. That means carrying a stainless steel water bottle or small pot that you can boil water in.


When you finally do find water, you need a plan for storing it in case that source goes away or you need to leave your shelter as little as possible.

Some water storage jugs pack down incredibly small and can be a great addition to an INCH bag. Otherwise, double or triple lining backpacking with heavy-duty contractor bags will let you fill a backpack with water and move it around easily.

Believe me when I say it though, 50 liters of water is quite the weight to move a far distance, even with a good backpack. 


If you are going to live away from civilization for a long time, you’ll need to be able to catch or collect your own source of calories. This means getting to know your edible wild plants in the area as well as the best methods for catching small game or fish. 


If you are going to be hunting in a survival scenario you will need a lot of the appropriate gear to make sure you succeed. Different materials for traps, such as snare wires, are lightweight and highly effective in a survival scenario for snagging small game. 

Another great method of hunting in survival scenarios is with a slingshot.

If you get good with a slingshot, taking down game from a decent distance is highly possible and effective. This or a small survival bow will help you hunt and get larger prey for more food to help sustain you and anyone you may have with you. 


Fish are a great source of protein and are relatively easy to find any time you manage to find a stream or water source.

Compact fishing rods or Yo-Yo fishing reels are great options to get in an INCH bag and have great success fishing for a long time.

The extra fishing line won’t take up much space or weight in your bag, so it is also highly worth bringing along. 

Edible Plants

Getting to know the edible plants of your area is an invaluable tool and set of knowledge that you can have to put you at the top of the survival game.

Packing a small version of a guide to edible plants will help you to stay safe while still getting a lot of food from the forest. 

The Essentials INCH Bag Lists For Moving Forward

Alternative Power

If you are working off of any form of electricity with headlamps, lanterns, or radio for communication, you will eventually need an alternate form of power.

This can be anything from solar power, which is highly compact and effective nowadays, to crank-powered radios and flashlights. 

A biomass camping stove lets you grab power through a USB cable while you burn wood or anything else. It is a newer form of survival tech, but can be a great option to gather power while cooking dinner.

If you find yourself in a survival scenario in the middle of winter, light may be limited and this would make a great alternative. 

First Aid

In any emergency you need to be prepared for the worst and medical emergencies can halt any progress you’ve made instantly. Proper training in first aid is something you need to do ahead of time, but a proper first aid kit is a must for an INCH bag.

Wilderness medicine is meant to normally keep you safe until you can reach a hospital.

If you’re using an INCH bag, the chances are good there is no hospital available so you need to be ready to take care of any medical emergency. 

Self Defense

Depending on the situation, there’s the chance you’ll need to defend yourself. Whether this is from other humans or animals that see you as prey, you need to be ready.

A survival rifle is useful to have around as a defense weapon, but can be incredibly tempting to use to hunt.

Carrying a lot of ammo is going to be heavy and easily rendered useless if it gets wet. This is going to only be for self-defense. 

The Essentials INCH Bag Lists For Everything Else


Survival Knife

We talked about bringing a good survival knife earlier, but it’s worth noting again.

Personally, I prefer to have multiple knives with me for different uses and you’ll find yourself wanting a good knife, along with a good way to keep it sharp and in good condition. 

Map and Compass

A reliable compass can be the key to getting you out of a dangerous situation and saving your life.

Having a compass packed alongside some maps of the area will help you avoid danger and get out of it if you stumble into a tough situation.

The maps will be useful in finding water, and if you think it’s the best option, other people. 


A good multi-tool has everything you need to cover a wide range of uses in a survival scenario. I recommend having a good go-to multi-tool with you all the time, not just in an INCH bag.

Pair it with a sturdy protective sheath to help keep it in the best condition possible. 

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