> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Every Day Carry Bag Series Pt. 2: Bag Selection



Every Day Carry Bag Series Pt. 2: Bag Selection

We're talking about an every day carry item here, so your your daily routine should inform your bag selection. A police officer, bush pilot, long distance trucker, school teacher, student, paramedic--all these people are going to have different needs from a bag.

Below, I outline some of the main criteria I look for in an every day carry bag. Some of these may not be important to you, and you may have other factors that are more critical. You know your life, routine and needs better than anyone else does, so keep that in mind as you read through my thoughts.

One thing that will be important for many of us - a low profile appearance. If you work at a gun shop or in the military, probably not such a big deal, but many of us need a bag that can do what we need it to without raising any eyebrows or unwanted attention.

Case in point: I currently work in an corporate high rise office building, suits n' ties and reasonably high security. When I started the job, I was a bit concerned that I would need to switch from my current bag, the excellent, relatively low-key Camebal Urban Assault backpack that you've seen several times in older posts, to something even more low-key, like a laptop shoulder bag.

My EDC bag for the past several years - the Camelbak Urban Assault
In the initial few weeks after starting the job, I did some people watching and checked out what the average person was carrying. Color was a big point--most were carrying black bags. Lots of laptop cases and shoulder bags. Probably 1/3 of the men carry some variety of backpack--cheap Jansports, lots of laptop-y brands like Targus and Swiss Army, and a few REI-type, vaguely outdoorsy bags.

Two people stood out with what they were carrying--I've noticed one guy carrying a coyote brown sling bag of some kind (Maxpedition knock-off, I think), and one lady in her 40s carrying a nice khaki Oakley bag (the tan version of the Icon 3.0 bag Denzel carried in the Book of Eli - an odd choice for a 40 year old woman). Both stood out from the "herd" of office workers--it's been literally months now, and I can still remember them, though I've only ever seen Oakley bag lady once, and Maxpedition knock-off guy twice.

So, boring, mundane and common colors are going to be best at flying under the radar. My black Urban Assault does a decent enough job blending in--I have had zero questions or eyebrows raised. A dark grey bag would do similar, and greys have superior urban camo performance to blacks. A mix of grey and black would be excellent as well.

I also trimmed the velcro name-tag area from my pack after I initially purchased it. I've got no use for it, and it differentiated my pack from everyone else's. So off it went.

Now there's nothing too concerning about what I carry--but it's generally wise maintain a low profile, at least during your daily routine. Being picked out of a crowd as the tactical, prepared, ex-military, concealed carrying, survivalist or whatever is not usually in your interest. I'm particularly sensitive to this issue, due to my work environment. May be a non-issue for many of you, but it's something to at least think about. 

Backpack vs. Shoulder Bag?
I prefer a backpack, because you're able to carry more for longer periods of time. Shoulder bags are great because you can access the contents easily and wear the bag while seated, but for carrying more than a few pounds of weight, and if you have to move quickly with that weight, they tend to be not so good. I did the shoulder bag thing for a long while - probably six or seven years - before finally going back to a backpack.

A shoulder bag may work for you, but I'd really take a look at whether a backpack will do the job better.

Backpack Features
Comfortable shoulder straps are a no-brainer; I know their are some "sling" style backpacks out there, but I'd tend to lump those in with shoulder bags. Throw a bit of weight in, do some moving in 'em, and the convenience of that single strap starts to become a liability.

I also like a tuck away, load bearing waist belt and the ability to carry 30 or so pounds without too much trouble. Not that you need 30 pounds of gear on a daily basis, but having the ability to do so is a good thing. My bag current bag, a Camelbak Urban Assault, lacks a waistbelt, and despite pretty good shoulder straps, it starts feeling heavy and unwieldy at around 20-ish pounds. I'm sure I've had it loaded with 30+ pounds at some point or another, but it's not something I'd want to do for a long walk.

Capacity wise, I look for around 2000 cubic inches, give or take, gives you enough capacity to expand for some travel or extra gear if needed, without becoming too big for daily use. The Urban Assault is just under an advertised 2100 cubic inches in capacity. I've found that, in addition to the daily contents, there's plenty of capacity in my bag to add a full change of clothes, a small sleeping bag and some other items if needs be--I've done plenty of over nighters with just this bag.

The 2000-ish cubic inches size category of pack is often referred to as the "3-day assault" size by military pack makers, and you'll see many companies offering packs with that label. The idea being that this is the size of pack a soldier would carry to support them for 3 days - not camping gear and three changes of spare clothing, but water, some food, spare ammunition, communications equipment, etc. Essentials.

I also demand some level of internal organization, in order to help compartmentalize the pack contents and keep things from becoming a rat's nest of gear. You're going to use this bag every day, and you'll be thankful if the little things that you use have a "place" to go inside the bag and can be accessed relatively quickly. The Urban Assault has really excellent and useful organization, the best of any bag that I've used.

Your daily use pack should be durable and able to stand up to regular use of the kind you're going to put it through. I would tend to stay away from ultralight pack materials, as they will tend to wear out, rip and tear before sturdier materials will. I don't think you need to go with the toughest materials possible - 1000D Cordura, used in Maxpedition bags and many military style packs - is often overkill for daily civilian use. Medium weight materials are often fine. Some level of water proofing is also good to look for, too.

 Demand quality zippers - YKK are typically the best.

I've used the Urban Assault on a daily basis for the past 2.5 years, and it's held up perfectly. There's been no wear damage, no failures, and it still looks just about like new.

A final requirement that I look for - some kind of external compression/attachment straps for securing excess gear. Sides and bottom are ideal, but I will take what I can get.

So, here's a quick check list if you're in the market:
  • Low-profile appearance that blends in with your daily routine
  • Backpack (unless mission criteria dictate otherwise)
  • Good shoulder straps, waist belt and load carrying features...needs to be comfortable with weight
  • 2000 cubic inches/3 day assault size, plus or minus depending on your needs
  • Internal organization
  • Durable and made from quality materials
  • External compression/attachment points or overflow capability for securing additional gear
I would not be afraid to drop some coin on a solid bag - but you also probably don't need a $500 bag for every day use. Buy something that meets your needs and fits your budget.

Interested to hear the tribe's thoughts on bag selection - what's your go-to daily bag and why? Any other criteria you consider a must have?

Next entry in the series - every day bag contents!


  1. Nice series! Thanks for doing this write up. Learned a ton so far!

  2. Great stuff so far. This one of my favorite subjects. I scored a Fight and Flight Tactical Defilade bundle for Christmas. My new bag is probably more tactical than it needs to be, but I wanted it for the versatility. Keep up the series, can't wait to see the next one.

  3. I have gone through what seems like COUNTLESS bags--just ask my wife!

    I've come to agree with most of what your saying. I for one love the 5.11 24 Rush backpack. Has really good organization--without TOO much organization and has very comfortable straps and a shoulder yoke system. It does have a lot of MOLLE so it might be a bit to tactical for some. But mine is in black and the molle pretty much blends in. Yes if you saw it up close and know what molle is you would recognize it as a more tactical type bag but I feel it blends in quite well. I have taken this thing literally around the world and I can attest that its quite bombproof. In all the time I've had it (probably about 4 years now is my guess) I've had one person comment. It was a airport customs guy when I was going into Canada--he seemed to think it was pretty cool. But this guy was a law enforcement type and was literally inspecting it inside and and out by hand. Had it contained any "contraband" at the time he would have found it regardless--even if the thing was a pink Hello Kitty backpack--so being discreet at that point doesn't really matter anymore. My guess is that particular guy in such a situation would have likewise noticed an Urban Assault Camelbak--as he was clearly a guy who likes tactical bags--and would have likewise complimented its coolness. Other than that one instance I've taken this thing past probably hundreds of various security folks and never had anyone give it a second glance.

    1. A subdued look is generally only going to be a prime consideration if your work/daily routine demands it. Otherwise I wouldn't sweat it.

  4. I have the Maxpedition Condor backpack. May be a little too tactical looking, but in the black it seems to work just fine. It is in my truck, loaded as a GHB.

    Got most of my ideas for what to pack, here @ TEOTWAWKI. I look forward to the series.

  5. Geat post and great choice of bag, at least for what you seem to be needing it for. For me personally that would not work.

    I went with a Maxpedition Noatak. Why such a small bag one may ask? What I need at the office can only fit into a big ol pilots case, and in case of teotwawki Or some random shtf scenario I dont want to have just that to lug around what I need. So I can leave the big case at the office or just drop it where I am an still have my essentials with me in such a small package, that it is not a hinderance when I commute to work with my big pilots case.

    Right now I work about 10 kilometers away from my home, so getting home is a non issue. I have actually walked home a few times in the past years. Obviously the contents of my bag are very basic. 1L Nalgene, FAK (besides the standard stuff I included 50 € in small bills, a bunch of waterpurification tablets and some meds), Lunchbag, some candy, iPad (in Germany carring a handgun is out of the question, but that compartment fits an iPad perfectly :-)), trash bag to waterproof the bag in case of heavy and prolonged rainfall, crkt minimalist, victorinox pocket knife sharpener, charger for iPad and cellphone, toiletpaper, surface disinfectant, hand sanitizer, pen, small notepad, usb thumb drive. Aditionally I always carry on my person a Vic Tinker, a Fenix LD10, a small aluminum capsul with 3 matches and a safety pin and in my jacket an opinel no. 7 and an altoids tin with a lighter, bandaids, tp, 20€, pencil and some meds.

    Oh and about the comfy factor. I used the bag on several dayhikes (5-7h) filled to the brim with water, food and extra clothing and my camera strapped to the outside. On my first try I was somewhat sceptical about how it would wear, but it works just fine! I didn't even use the stabilisation strap too often.

    For me it's the ideal bag :-)

    1. Yep, e everyone is going to have different needs. BTW - what is a pilot's case?

    2. oh, I thought that was a proper english term sry :-)


  6. Hey, friend! I've been thinking about buying a Tom Bihn Synapse made with Dyneema, a very light and very strong UHMW (ultra high molecular weight) fiber. It is about $140.00, and I think it meets the "grey man" criteria easily with the Dyneema varieties.

    The product page is here - http://www.tombihn.com/backpacks/TB0110.html

    I first saw a review for it here - http://www.everydaycommentary.com/2012/12/tom-bihn-dyneema-synapse-review.html

    Thanks for you excellent blog. I alway check it out for new content. I love it.

  7. I work in a pretty informal office and carry around the black 5.11 Rush 12 as my EDC. In hindsight I would have preferred to use the 24 but they're not easy to come by here in Canada. I recently bought the black Rush 72 as my weekender/BOB. I had to wait weeks for it to be shipped across the country because it was the last one they had. When I travel I slap on the custom stitched velcro nameplate (OD green text on black) and OD green Canada flag.

  8. Im interested in what yall think of the Camelbak TriZip? I've been back and forth between that and the Mystery Ranch 3DA, just don't know if its worth the extra loot. Also, it seems like the side pockets would be better for civilian use on the TriZip, but the MR would be a little more rugged - any opinions??

  9. Will this series follow the same price range as your prep 40$/week series?

    1. No, this is a different series based around my personal daily carry bag, and not constrained by a budget or built around a weekly purchase budget. It originally started as one long post that got really long, so I decided to break it up into multiple entries. There will be maybe two more posts in the series.

  10. I have been running this Eagle bag that I picked up, from Natchez for $69.95 which was almost $100 off the the regular price.



    It's been great so far and seems very sturdy. I've added a velcro-backed RTI wheel for use with either Safariland or G-Code holsters, so my handgun stays put. As with all Eagle products, they're a bit expensive but very durable. I've managed to cram in quite a bit of stuff and probably need to review those choices in the near future. So far the bag just goes from home to work and back again.

  11. Slightly different perspective here. I'm a new mom so my EDC is a diaper bag. No problem not looking tactical. I didn't get to pick it out, so I'm focusing on making it the most efficient it can possibly be. The good thing about it: a good amount of pockets and plenty of space. No one questions me taking it everywhere! I have to! Eventually I'll switch to a backpack, but just thought I'd say you can make pretty much any bag work.

    1. Great point, depending on who you are you will want/need to carry different bag styles. Since I'm a teenage girl, a regular-sized backpack with chest straps wouldn't blend in for everyday use, especially if I'm not around a school, but I've found a fairly sturdy denim mini-backpack in a dark gray that works well and has plenty of room, but doesn't draw much attention. Whatever won't warrant a second look is best.

  12. are you still carrying the camalbak? how is it holding up?

  13. Yep - still carrying the Camelbak, and have used it as my primary bag for several trips. It is a solid bag, but not perfect. The straps could be a big more padded; carrying the bag with weight for an extended period of time (over an hour) gets uncomfortable, but that is going to be the vast majority of bags, at least those without shoulders straps.