There are a million and one articles online about Bug Out Bags, but one thing that is often overlooked is the value of carrying a discreet backpack that doesn’t raise any red flags during times of crisis.
Think about it; tactical backpacks have become extremely popular with the prepper crowd, but isn’t carrying one kind of like wearing a sign that reads “valuable gear inside”? Wouldn’t it be smarter to take the Gray Man approach and carry something that doesn’t scream “come rob me and take my gear”?
I’m just like the next guy, I love my gear, and I will admit to having some really cool tactical bags. But when the Shit Hits the Fan, they are probably the last thing I will be reaching for during an evacuation situation, especially in a big city where people are going to be desperately looking for supplies.
The Gray Man Approach: Discreet Urban Carry Backpacks for Bug Out Disasters
I own military rucks, tactical bags, and a variety of hiking backpacks, but it’s my little non-descript bags that I trust for my vehicle Get-Home/Bugout Bags. Tactical stuff is great for the gun range, if you are in the middle of nowhere, or in an area where you know the threat level is low, but during an actual crisis where people are desperate, the last thing you want to do is look tactical!
Some things to keep in mind when choosing a Discreet Survival Pack
- Make sure your bag fits the areas you plan on being in. Take a sports bag into a business area of the city, and you’ll stand out, where a more professional bag will blend into the environment.
- Don’t worry about things like MOLLE or tactical attachments; if those things are important to you can buy internal cases and attachments, and then customize the inside of your bag so that it will not attract unwanted attention.
- Remove Brand Tags: If you do buy a name brand pack, take a few minutes and remove any tags that might indicate what’s inside.
- While you might be tempted to buy a cheap Walmart school pack, don’t! These bags suck and aren’t built for survival. They might look right, but you want to spend the extra couple bucks to make sure the bag is made from heavy-duty, quality materials. The last thing you want is a blowout or a strap breaking when you are in the middle of a crisis.
Our Favorite Discreet Survival Backpacks
JanSport Cool Student Laptop Backpack
The JanSport Student Pack is definitely the top bag on our list, for a couple of reasons. First, Jansport is generally known as a student backpack, making it an inconspicuous pack to carry in most settings. This is one time where I would ignore what I said about removing the tag; in this case, the brand name will probably actually help you blend in.
Second, these bags are rock solid and tough as hell. These bags are made for carrying heavier laptops and textbooks, so they are designed to support a significant amount of weight.
Key Features we like and some things to keep in mind:
- Nobody is going to give this pack a second look; that being said, they come in a variety of colors and patterns. We recommend going with the solid, dull color and staying away from the crazy prints.
- JanSport began as an outdoor Brand, so they know how to build quality packs.
- They are built to last; it’s not uncommon for people to still have their college JanSport decades after they left school.
Rothco Every Day Carry Transport Pack
The Rothco EDC Trasport Pack is a nice discreet tactical pack that doesn’t look “tactical.” In fact, most of the features that you would find in a tactical style pack have been flipped inside out and placed internally where no one can see them.
The bag can easily be taken into business environments, as it looks like a lot of traditional laptop bags.
Key features we likes about the Rothco Pack:
- It includes MOLLE, but it’s been discreetly placed inside the bag. It features a laser cut, 15″ X 5″ MOLLE Panel which is pretty convenient for strapping knives sheaths and other MOLLE pouches.
- It fully unzips so you can lay everything out flat, for easy access to all of your gear.
- The hard shell case on top is great for storing glasses or other breakables.
Swissdigital Business Travel Backpack
The Swissdigital Pack looks like almost every other bag you would see a traveler carrying through the airport. What we really liked about the bag is the amount of space and how many different storage compartments there were within the pack.
Key Features that we liked:
- RFID Pocket protection that protects your personal information from being read and stolen by RFID scanners.
- Folds to both 90-180 degrees, making it easy to find your gear quickly.
- A USB Charging Port that gives you quick access to charging your phone and other electronic devices via an internally stored power bank.
Backpacks for Discreetly Carrying Firearms
This is where things start to get a little tricky, because the larger your backpack is the more attention it’s going to attract. It’s also hard to find a bag that is designed to properly and safely carry a firearm, especially a rifle. Thankfully, we found one that won’t draw to much attention.
5.11 COVRT M4 Bag
The 5.11 M4 is a covert rifle bag that is designed not to attract attention while carrying. The bag is internally padded with foam at the top and on the sides. It also includes a padded muzzle cup, integrated weapon retention straps to ensure safe carry, and a Roll-down Assault Compartment.
Key features of the Bag that We Like:
- Made with weather resistant 500D and 420D tear-resistant nylon.
- This bag is the perfect size for most AR15s.
- The two side pockets are large enough for handguns like a Springfield XDM.
UTG Alpha Battle Carrier Sling
The UTG Alpha Carrier is a budget-friendly rifle bag that doesn’t scream “I’m carrying.” It’s a heavy-duty case that’s surprisingly comfortable to wear. The bag is designed to carry two long guns and at least one handgun, as well as having enough room to store extra ammo and magazines.
Key Features We Like:
- Four quick-pull handles that allow for rapid weapon access.
- Will fit most AR15 style rifles.
- It is designed for ambidextrous Use.
Backpack Modifications: Converting your Regular Pack into a Tactical Backpack
Some people don’t want to lose the storage benefits associated with traditional survival-style bags; for those people who don’t want to give up features like MOLLE here are a couple of products to mod your bag and customize it for your situation.
5.11 Tactical COVRT Insert
5.11 makes an awesome little insert that can help convert a plan bag into an instant Go-Bag that can carry all of your MOLLE style gear attachments. It’s also a great insert to slip inside a laptop bag or briefcase.
- Fully compatible with web gear, MOLLE, and TacTec
- Features both Horizontal and vertical web loops.
- Easily swap inserts between bags; great if your want to pull gear from a tactical looking bag and quickly slip it all in a discreet purse, briefcase or student-style pack.
FUNANASUN MOLLE Pouches
To be honest, I’ve never heard of this company before I found them on Amazon. I suspect they are probably a knock-off brand but the bags were cheap and they were exactly what I was looking for.
- A great way to organize your gear while still being discreet.
- Easily swap the pouches between bags or vehicle MOLLE compartments.
- They are bigger than most pouches, and allow me to cram a ton of gear into them.