What’s in my everyday backpack?

Although I only got actively interested in preparedness quite recently, I’ve long been in the habit of carrying a well-stocked everyday backpack, though the contents have been assembled haphazardly, never with any particular comprehensive review. This started when I was at university and carried a backpack like most university students, and I just never quit carrying a backpack. Well over a decade ago, when I was in grad school, I recall telling a friend how I keep all sorts of stuff in my backpack because I never know when I’ll need it, and my friend lightly teased that “so basically you carry your junk drawer everywhere you go”.

I just got myself a new backpack and am about to transfer the contents over, and I figure it might be interesting to do an inventory of what’s in my backpack (and I’m sure I’ll make a few adjustments to the contents as I do this, as well). The new backpack is an Eddie Bauer 29L cargo pack – the same as my old backpack, except I got my old backpack second-hand and a previous owner had cut off the waist strap and sternum strap, and I was getting annoyed by the lack.

Asterisks mark items that I’m not transferring over to the new backpack.


  • A knit wool hat
  • A cotton sun hat
  • A flimsy disposable poncho (I’d have preferred a sturdier plastic poncho more designed for reuse, but I saw this one in the shop cheap and I figured it would tide me over until I come across a better one)
  • A clean handkerchief
  • A reflective emergency blanket
  • A “raincoat for my backpack” – a garbage bag with slits cut in it to let the shoulders straps through
  • A pair of socks (likely dirty, got separated from my laundry, oops)*
  • There’s usually some combination of sweater / down vest / windbreaker in there as well, but they migrate in and out depending on weather, laundry, usage around the house, etc., and happen to all be out at the moment.
  • There are also usually some gloves or mittens at least during the winter but they also happen to be out at the moment.


  • An insulated water bottle/thermos
  • 5 bags of green tea (genmaicha) and two small packets of salt contained in a zip bag
  • 3 sugar packets; I’m moving those to the zip bag with the green tea and salt
  • 5+ bags of a black tea that I find works well made in a single cup
  • Some beef jerky
  • Some expired coupons for my favourite fast-food restaurant*
  • 5-ish bags of one of my standard black teas* (I find this tea works well made in a teapot but not made in a cup, so it’s less suitable for backpack stock)


  • 2 Can99 respirators (FFP3 NR certification) – when this gets down to 1, I add another 5 from my home stash.
  • Some surgical-style non-certified masks (these are mostly for giving away)
  • A pack of wet wipes
  • A bottle of hand sanitizer
  • The end of a roll of toilet paper. (Two instances. Reducing to one.)
  • 13 bandaids
  • A dozen or so cotton balls
  • A small container of petroleum jelly
  • Some sanitary napkins
  • A medieval-style bone comb
  • Some extra strength Advil/ibuprofen
  • Some Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride antihistamine tablets [generic Benadryl equivalent]
  • An up-to-date EpiPen
  • An expired EpiPen*
  • Some expired Cetirizine Hydrochloride antihistamine tablets*


  • A portable power bank


  • A Rite in the Rain notebook
  • A mechanical pencil
  • A pamphlet-sized prayer book
  • Another pamphlet-sized prayer book* (so well tucked away I didn’t even know it was there…)
  • A small leatherbound notebook with handmade paper; two pins through a page near the back* (Notebook superseded by the Rite in the Rain notebook which I acquired more recently. Pins are not essential enough to keep in there.)
  • A book that I’m reading with a friend* (This goes in and out because it only needs to be in the bag one day a week)
  • Miscellaneous papers acquired in daily life and not yet filed* 


  • 9 grocery bags (this is way too many, they tend to accumulate; reducing to 3)
  • A clean small zip-seal bag inside a larger zip-seal bag (I’m replenishing this depleted supply by adding 3 more clean small zip-seal bags and 1 clean large one)
  • A BIC lighter
  • A travel-sized diptych icon

One key item I’m adding to my new backpack right now: a LifeStraw that I recently acquired.

Things I carry in my pockets instead of my backpack: keys, credit card, transit card, health card, Swiss Army Knife, wallet, phone.

I also plan to add to my backpack:

  • A bit of cash, probably about $60-80 – enough to be useful, little enough that I won’t be too upset if it’s lost or stolen
  • The right charging cord for my phone, and a wall converter (I got a new phone recently, and so far only have one charging cord for it; the cord with my power bank fits my old phone and I haven’t yet updated it)

What do people think would be particularly useful to add to this? (One thing I’m not looking for is weapons.)

Is there anything here you wonder what it’s there for?


  • Comments (27)

    • 3

      You have a way to heat water for your tea?  Is your water bottle metal so that it can be heated?  I also carry tea bags in my get home bag and I have a Solo pot stove in there.  You have insect repellant?  Paracord has multiple uses.   What about a folding saw?  I’m a big fan of keeping an Israeli bandage and a combat application tourniquet (CAT)  on hand.  Here is a pic of the contents of my bag.

      get home

      • 2

        Love your kit Redneck. What bag do you use to keep it all in, if you don’t mind me asking?

      • 2

        It is the UTG Tactical Messenger Bag.

      • 1

        Thank you! I’ll have to look into it.

      • 2

        Here is it all put back together.  Note the MOLLE bag on the outside.  I like using MOLLE bags for such uses.  I keep my food bars in there, so that when the food is gone, I can remove the external bag.

        get home 2

      • 1

        That’s a great idea!

      • 1

        I don’t have a way to boil water because my main thought with the teabags has been that maybe I want to make tea when I’m at a friend’s house and they don’t have the kind of tea I like, not maybe I’m stuck outdoors and want to make tea. I’m unsure if it’s worth carrying a stove around on my back every day given that the range of circumstances where I’d need it seem pretty slim.

        Similarly, a folding saw seems like a bit much to carry around every day; hopefully the saw on my Swiss Army Knife will get the job done if I do need to saw something.

        Paracord and a CAT are things I would like to add. I need to figure out how to source decent-quality ones in Canada.

        I’m not confident yet about my ability to know when and how to apply an Israeli bandage so I think I’ll hold off on that until I learn more.

      • 1

        Israeli bandages are actually very easy to use and are very compact.  Lots of good videos showing how to use them.  You can actually tighten them so as to act as a tourniquet too.  It is the one medical item I always have handy.

        With your usage, a small stove with pot might not make sense, but if your water bottle was metal, and not insulated, it could be used to heat water in an emergency.

      • 1

        I’m keeping an eye out for a non-insulated water bottle for my go bag, and I’ll think about switching the one in my everyday backpack as well.

      • 1

        I use this one.

      • 1

        Redneck, I am keeping my eye out for a Klean Kanteen bottle but I’m trying to avoid buying it on Amazon and so far I haven’t seen them at any of the places I regularly shop or where I’ve put in an order recently. I’m sure I’ll find one eventually or find somewhere that sells them along with enough other things I want to be worth the shipping.

      • 1

        I live in Canada, and I bought my tourniquet from CTOMS.

      • 1

        Thanks for the tip, Ivy B!

    • 2

      I did not see any kind of cutting instrument.  I would add a SAK or multitool,

      • 2

        Stated SAK in her pocket

      • 1

        Yup, as Redneck points out, I have a Swiss Army Knife in my pocket. One of these.

    • 2

      Your friend is wrong, this is definitely not a junk drawer and is a backpack full of well thought out and purposeful gear to be better prepared for everyday life. 

      If I just found your bag on the side of the street and kept it for myself, here’s what I would add to make it more suited for me. Maybe you’ll like my recommendations and might want to steal some ideas. —

      I like how many pieces of clothing you have in your bag. One thing you could add to there is one of those disposable hand warmers. They’re really nice.

      For the food section, you have a lot of teas, but having some more calories would be good. Find a protein bar you like, or even your favorite candy bar.

      For medical, throw a couple band-aids in. They won’t take up much room or weight.

      Along with the pencil, carry a pen. Whenever I need to sign something and someone doesn’t have a pen on them I pull out one and they are usually impressed that I was prepared and we don’t have to go around asking other people if they have one.

      I’ve started carrying a few Walmart grocery bags with me since the stores around here are starting to charge 10 cents per bag. I have some larger and stronger reusable bags in my car but I don’t always remember to bring them in. Having some bags on me at all times saves me 30 cents a week.

      Can you post a picture of your medieval-style bone comb? I’m really interested in what that looks like!

      I like your bag by the way. If I haven’t said it already.

      • 3

        I do actually have bandaids and grocery bags listed already.

        Food is something I’m actively working on figuring out – even the beef jerky is new since this post – so yes, I am keeping an eye out for something like a granola bar, or maybe I’ll add some dried fruit.

        A pen is a good idea.

        And here’s a picture of my medieval-style bone comb. I got it at a Society for Creative Anachronism event a few years ago and figured it’d probably see more use in my backpack than at home where I’d just use my brush. (And it has. I don’t use it often, and right now my hair is too short to need a comb, but when my hair’s at the longer part of the haircut cycle I have used it from time to time.)


      • 2

        I’m a fan of the Mainstay food bars.  They provide lots of calories, don’t make you thirsty and have a 5 year shelf life.  They also can withstand the high temps found inside cars during the summer.  I find them rather tasty & taste like a lemony shortbread.

    • 2

      I think you will find comfort having a water filter with you at all times. I have.

      The straw filter I carry in my EDC backpack is the Hydroblue Sidekick. It’s about the size of a pen and filters 50 gallons of water. Not an option for the end of the world, but it is enough to drink a questionable source until I could get to my other preps.


      • 2

        I didn’t learn about the Hydroblu Sidekick until after I’d already ordered my LifeStraw, or I might have gotten it instead for greater compactness. But now that I have the LifeStraw, I might as well stick with it.

      • 1

        Definitely stick with the LifeStraw if you already have it. It will filter 1000 gallons vs the 50 of the sidekick and isn’t that much larger.

      • 2

        After thinking about this a bit more, I think the Hydroblu Sidekick would actually be better for my situation, for the very reason that it has a shorter gallon lifetime.

        The 50 gallon limit on the Sidekick is coming from its activated carbon filter (which is replaceable). The LifeStraw lasts for more gallons because doesn’t have an activated carbon filter. In the urban environment where I live, there are likely to be chemical contaminants in water around me so it would be good to have an activated carbon component to my filter.

        But the LifeStraw will do for now while I work on other aspects of preparedness, and maybe eventually I’ll come back and upgrade it to a Sidekick.

    • 2

      Looks like you’ve got just about everything covered Estel! And I can certainly see why you’d carry all of it.

      My suggestions would be a small torch and maybe a small sewing/clothing repair kit. 

      • 1

        By torch I’m guessing you mean what I as a North American call a flashlight, in which case those do both sound like good ideas.

      • 3

        Hey Estel,

        Yes, a flashlight. I try to cater for both sides of the pond in my vernacular, but missed it this time!

        My torch (flashlight) is a bit wee, but it does the job and the handy carabiner it came with means I won’t need a torch to find my flashlight in the very bottom corner of my bag. 😛 

    • 3

      Great list. I don’t carry nearly as many items with me, but do have a few you could consider that have been used:
      hand cream decanted in a small .5 oz tube; lip balm or chapstick; reusable utensils and straw; postage stamps; travel sized dental floss; 10’ or 3m retractable metal measuring tape; gum or mints.  In the car I have a large microfiber as a reusable lap mat and bib;  small packing tape and mini sharpie for shipping.

    • 2

      Very solid set up. I would say like two pairs of nitrile or vinyl medical gloves and perhaps a small roll of duct tape on the bic.

      In my travel bag before everything, I used to carry one of those cheap 3 socket extension cords. It was perfect in hotels where the plugs were in the wrong place and since you’re carrying a charging cord and box, it’ll give you a lot more length from the outlets. Could carry the old phone cord and charge your bank when the phone is topped off.