Survivalists are the prosumer reviewers of pouches and bags

Core77's hipstomp looks at the arcane world of survivalist bag reviewers. These brave souls (who both fear the end of the world and prepare for it) are experts at cramming a metric asston of stuff into webbed ripstop nylon enclosures, and represent a kind of connoisseur Ur-audience for anything meant to hold a lot of things. Some of these individuals are quite skilled at solving the literal knapsack problem, coming up with unexpected and ingenious configurations of odd-shaped gear that minimize wasted space. The video above shows one such gent, reviewing the Maxpedition FR-1 pouch:

Here's why: They are completely obsessed with both gear and the idea of self-sufficiency. They prize durability and functionality in a product because their fervency makes them believe their lives will depend on it. They build backups and redundancy into their carry systems to compensate for product failure or unforeseen problems.

More importantly, unlike a soldier who is assigned a standardized piece of kit, survivalists scour the product landscape for the best, and can freely hack the gear to suit their needs. Soldiers must rely on the design talents harnessed at Natick (click here for our entry on a recent first-aid kit re-design), but the survivalist and his or her discretionary income have companies actively courting them.

One such company is "hard use gear" manufacturer Maxpedition, whom we last looked in on in 2010. Through customer feedback, they realized that their FR-1 pouch, which they had designed as a medical kit, was being subverted by users into a "survival pouch." The company must consider it a godsend of free advertising, because here you have survivalists making their own videos to explain to other survivalists what they like about the bag and how they pack it.

Why Survivalists Make Great Bag Reviewers


  1. I like how every inch of the pouch has a technical name.  You are not a survivalist if you don’t your D-rings from your torches layer.

  2. It’s not a bad exercise to make an emergency kit or two (power failure, travel, etc), and to revise/review it every once in a while. It feels really good to open it up and use it in an emergency.

    By limiting the size of the kit, you have to make trade-offs, and figure out what’s important – the survivalists have good field-tested ideas which may be more useful than the militaries’, for civilian use.

  3. I’ve divided my gear into several modules (as many EDC fans do).  1) A nylon pouch similar to the one in the article with my ‘extended wallet’: all the membership cards, checkbook and other things I don’t want to carry on my person, but often need at work or while out around town. 2) Another nylon pouch with a small set of tools that come in handy nearly everywhere.  Foldup scissors, earplugs, zip ties, binder clips, sharpie, x-acto knife, mini-USB cable with micro adapter, etc. 3) A plastic container with outdoor gear such as a lighter, space blanket, small compass, and a few water purification tablets.  The container is waterproof to protect from OR carry water. 4) A plastic container with first aid supplies, also waterproof.

    I keep lists in Google Docs of what should be in each kit, and check the inventory a couple of times a year to make sure I haven’t run out of something.

    I can quickly select which kits to bring wherever I’m going.  To the office?  Kits 1, 2, and 4, throw them in the briefcase.  On a hike?  Kits 2, 3, and 4 into the backpack.  Street fair? Kits 2 and 4 in whatever bag I want to bring.

  4. Survivalist: Hey! Officer! Someone took my Maxpedition FR-1!
    Cop: Your what?
    Survivalist: The…brown, nylon…thing with a strap.
    Cop: You mean a purse?

    1.  Survivalist: Hey! Officer! Someone took my Maxpedition FR-1!
      Cop: Your what?
      Survivalist: The…brown, nylon…thing with a strap.
      Cop (Unloads 3 mags into Survivalist): I need backup, NOW!


  5. Survivalism has become a fairly broad area; I believe the subculture that is fixated on end-of-world scenarios is called Doomsday Prepping.  With Youtube, etc., the cultures have all merged together, so virtually anyone building a survival kit for hiking, etc., is part of the viewership for these videos. I can recognize parts of his kit from parts lists for ultra-light backpackers; there’s a lot of sharing.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that there are certain activities which attract an almost compulsive level of Youtube content.  Anything involving knives, for example, will generate 10-100 times more video minutes than are actually useful.  It seems to be a human instinct to practice with tools to an inordinate degree, and share these practices with others.

  6. I’ve read a number of inventories for these “bugout bags” and other survival kits and they all presume a couple of things:  1) in event of disaster, you’ll be teleported onto a desert island where you will have to wrestle against nature.  2) you are a paramilitary navy-seal wannabe who needs to shave down a bar of magnesium and strike a flint to make fire instead of carrying say… a mini bic lighter. 
    So let’s get real here – taking into consideration real-life American living conditions and infrastructure conditions (even if said infrastructure becomes locally disabled), here is what a real bug-out kit should contain:
    1) insulin: because god knows we’re a nation of fat democrats and fat republicans.  Diabetes 2 is a great uniter even if we disagree about who should marry or have babies.
    2) iphone: to take videos of all the looting to upload to youtube and to IM mom to come pick us up at the mall because dad’s Camry was crushed when the parking structure collapsed
    3) Axe body spray: because when everybody in town has been in a post-Katrina-type disaster, all the dudes will smell really ripe after a week of interrupted water service.  But you, you my friend, will smell fresh.  Now is the time to claim that empty spot of “most desirable apocalypse boyfriend material”.
    4) Slim jims – not the metal car-door-unlocking device.  The salty leather tubes they sell at checkout stands.  Carry a few and use as currency.  In a post-apocalyptic world, you can purchase things like Xboxes, fishing gear, and chihuahuas with just a handful of these.
    5) hand sanitizer – have you seen the footage from post-Katrina New Orleans?  Just ew. 
    6) a pack of Parliament cigarettes.  Because gas pumps probably won’t work and roads might be busted up by whatever disaster strikes.  So you’ll need to find a hipster and trade him something for his fixie bike.  While it sounds irrational to think someone would trade a utilitarian item like a bike for a pack of cheap poseur smokes, never underestimate the irrationality of a hipster’s sense of priorities – and make like Fred Seagal and exploit them first.
    7) a fake CNN badge.  When the news crews start shooting the environs and you as if you were a hyena in their nature show while providing no help, flip the script on them by hijacking their Toyota Landcruiser and pass through the police checkpoints set up by neighboring counties trying to keep your disaster-struck poor bastards out by flashing the ID.  Just glue an inkjet copy onto the back of your plastic RFID key badge that you carry everyday for work anyway.  That way you’ll always have it.   Drive South, sell the Landcruiser to some Mexican cartel, start new life in Mexico printing Che tshirts.

    1. Parliament cigarettes?  Why not a carton of Sobranie Black Russians, so you can trade with all the CIA and SVR types.  You could set up a lair full of tradeable tchotchkas, deep in New Orleans, stroking a white cat, and smoking black cigarettes.

  7. Weird, I JUST dipped my toes in this weird world a couple of weeks ago.  I needed a new bag, sought out reviews & found this whole subculture.  Anyhow, I decided to take their advice & I got the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger &…well, folks?  I really like it.  I don’t think I’m likely to follow them down the rabbit hole, but there are so many neat places to store stuff efficiently!

  8. cramming a metric asston of stuff 

    With these people, more likely an imperial asston of stuff.

  9. While that guy seems like he might be at the fringe of things, I kind of appreciated his review. I have a similar kit I take whenever I’m going into the woods in Montana, even for just a day hike. Fact is, if you are going somewhere off the grid, whether it’s post apocalypse or just recreational, if you DID somehow get in a bind, you’d be happy you brought some or all of that stuff. 

  10. Being prepared is now survivalist to people? I have almost that same setup in the trunk of my car and I (almost) never leave the city. People here at BoingBoing love the zombie Apocalypse, and yet none are prepared for it?

    1. The “zombie apocalypse” is just a memeonic-cypher for being able to make-do in the face of: “the unknown”. 
      Where “the unknown” is actually a non-zombie real-life thing: like getting caught in a wide-scale disaster such as earthquake or hurricane, and having to make do, or something simpler, like a small-scale personal-disaster such as your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere in a place where few people travel to lend aid, there’s no cell-signal, and having to make-do.

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