Possibles Bag




About: EmmettO is a general mad scientist, blacksmith, metalcaster and former Unix admin. Now he fixes darn near anything that people throw at him and breaks things that need to be broken.

This is not a "survival kit" in the sense they are normally thought of. This is a "Possibles". A survival kit is intended for emergencies. A Possibles is meant for everyday use. 18th century trappers used to carry a bag that carried everything that was possible for them to need in a day. I liked the idea and decided to carry my own but adapt it for modern life.

This is the third year that I will be carrying one. I've gone through several different bags, the one I have now is a good balance of size and portability. I got it at a local military surplus store so I can't recommend looking for this exact bag, but I'll discuss why I like this one.

I'll also be deconstructing my bag and rebuilding it with some new ideas that I got from looking at the survival kit instructables.

Aside from having the resources in this bag at my disposal at all times, it also helps me to not forget things because they're all in one place. I usually don't loose my keys, because they go on my Possibles. I don't loose my phone because it's in my Possibles. I have on occasion misplaced my Possibles, but it's kinda big and not easy to miss.

Step 1: Don't Call It a Man Bag

I don't like the term man bag or Murse. It makes it sound like it's an aberration for a man to carry anything other than a wallet. I like the term possibles (even if it is a bit awkward) because it is a man's term. In fact it's a MOUNTAIN MAN'S term. You can't mistake a mountain man for a girly man. It's not up for debate.

In order to intellectually distance my possibles from a purse, it does not have a strap that goes over the shoulder (it originally did but I took it off). It has a carabiner that hooks to my belt, pants or pocket. It works just as well, maybe a little better because a purse strap puts uneven weight on one shoulder and actually hurts after a while. Hooking to a belt doesn't seem to have the same negative effect.

What I like about this bag
It's relatively small and light.
It substitutes for a wallet.
It has a number of different sized pockets that are suited for medium to small sized items.
It has two sturdy D rings on the sides that make hanging things off it and hanging it practical.
It's exterior is very sturdy and has held up under everyday use.

If you can find a bag that does those things you'll do well.

What I don't like about this bag
It can be complicated to open and get to things in the deep insides.
The belt loop is vertical instead of horizontal. I would use the belt loop if it were horizontal.
Some of the lining is all that holds things in the top pocket and has fallen apart. (Fortunately my wife is a skilled seamstress.)

Step 2: Balance Size and Use

When making a Possibles, unless you want to carry a huge bag (or fill a truck) it's important to balance how much you are going to need something with it's size. If you absolutely need a laptop everyday then your possibles can be justifiably bigger than mine and you can carry much more.

My truck (frank) is technically my other Possibles but he weighs 7,400 lbs and is very thirsty so I don't take him everywhere.

Mini Can Be Good Enough
If you're not sure how often you'll need an item, try the smallest version of it that you can. If you find that you're using it all the time and you think a larger version will work then try moving up. Examples would include flashlights, spools of string, rolls of tape etc. Sometimes moving up a step in size doesn't work. A bigger notebook would work better for me but wouldn't fit in my pack so it's impractical.

One way to keep weight and size down is to to carry as many multipurpose tools as is practical. Now when I say multitool, I'm not just meaning my Leatherman. I carry an iPod Touch and it rivals my Leatherman for how much use it gets. If I had the money I could combine the iPod with the Phone and further reduce my load but for now it's better this way.

Instead of the glasses case that I settled on trying for holding small items, I think an Altoids can might be better, mainly because it could be put on a fire to cook with (or boil a small quantity of water). I would then have to replace the tin, but it would be possible that I might want that ability. The nice part about that is it would not take up more room so that added ability does not cost more space.

Form can be very important
How an item is shaped, or how the item fits into your possibles makes a big difference. For instance. I have a flashlight that I can hang off the other D ring of my bag (the one that doesn't have the carabiner) so I always know where it is. It can't sink to the bottom of the bag or be shoved in the wrong pocket. But it's not very bright, so I have a led hatlamp that sits in one of the back pouches. It's a decent flashlight and I usually wear a hat so it works great, but it doesn't clip to the D ring so in a pinch, when I need a flashlight, I go for the one I can get to the easiest.

This kind of redundancy is bad for my possibles overall but here use overrides the volume the two flashlights take up. In other words, I'm still looking for that perfect flashlight.

Step 3: Ease of Access

Try to arrange things on and in your Possibles so that the things you will use frequently are easy to get to. This sounds simple enough but if you've really got a great line up of resources in your bag, it can turn out to be hard to manage. The biggest problem is when something sinks to the bottom of a pouch and I forget that it is in there.

Out of sight, out of mind. I frequently forget that I am carrying things that I could be using if they sink to the bottom.

Implementing this is obviously going to depend greatly on your choice of bag.

With this in mind, I thought about putting small items in an Altoids tin in the big pouch of my Possibles. Unfortunately I don't have any Altoids tins. So I decided to try a glasses case that I had. This makes the case removable and prevents the little items from being lost in the depths.

The main idea there is to take smaller items that are difficult to find and retrieve and make them easy to find by putting them in a container that can be retrieved and then searched.

Step 4: What I Carry Now

My keys hook to the D rings on the outside of the Possibles along with the Carabiner that hooks to my belt or pocket.

In the front pouch of my Possibles is my Leatherman and my phone. I can take these out without opening anything.

Inside the front flap is my ID, store cards, etc. My bank cards and cash go into a zippered pouch on the side. I also keep a pen for everyday use in spot made for that.

In the main pouch, I keep a Moleskin notebook, my sling (that also could be harvested for it's string), my checkbook, a flashlight (hooked to the other D ring) and my iPod.

Stuff that got shoved to the bottom of the main pouch includes my sling, my headphones and a few more pens.

On the back is a small pouch that is good for small items. I keep needle and thread a usb drive (not shown) and a spool of thick dental floss.

Then there is a skinny but deep pouch that I keep a hat mount flashlight, a positionable dentist mirror (that I don't use so it's going out) and a magnesium fire starter.

Step 5: Small Touches

There are a few things that seem unimportant when you first look at them but turn out to be great when you try them.

One of these things is that I put a quick disconnect between my car keys and my other keys. The reason for this is, when I lock the door to the house, get in the car and start it up, someone (sometimes me) remembers that they left something in the house. I got tired of turning the car off (especially in the winter when the car could be warming up) and taking the keys out to unlock the door.

Secondly personal and business cards are great ways for people to not forget your name or how to get ahold of you. Personal cards seem kind of dumb at first but wouldn't it be great to hand them out when you get a new phone number or email address instead of having to write it down for a hundred (or more) people?

Step 6: Reevaluate Your Possibles

It's been about a year since I reevaluated my possibles. At first I did it every day and then once a week but I settled on what I was carrying for a while.

I started to notice I was using my iPod for notes instead of my Moleskin. I do occasionally use the notebook, but not enough to justify carrying it everywhere. I'll just leave it in Frank.

I was then looking at the survival kits and wondering if I could incorporate a few ideas into my possibles.

In the next month or so, I'll know if these things are worth carrying every day. If my stock of them depletes quickly, then that's a good sign.

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    22 Discussions


    3 years ago

    oh the possibilities ... :) will have to make one soon

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Googled "what is a possibles bag" 'cause I see it on knife boards and in youtube videos occasionally and was wondering what, precisely, they were/are. This Instructable was among the search results.

    "A Possibles is meant for everyday use. 18th century trappers used to carry a bag that carried everything that was possible for them to need in a day."

    So, basically, a possibles bag was/is a man purse. Containing whatever a guy might need during the day, same way a woman's purse contains whatever she might need during the day. Yes, gentlemen, that's what's in your wife's purse, more or less. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Go figure. Amazing the lengths men will go to to avoid calling something what it is. LOL

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    If there wasn't a negative social connotation for a man to carry a purse I'd have no trouble calling it that. Historically, a purse is a bag for carrying your money, and men did carry them. As it is, the current word is specifically "a bag that a woman carries" in every day parlance. Since I can't re-write society (believe me I'd like to) the word "purse" is unacceptable for me to use. I am not a female so the common use of purse does not apply to me.

    I feel there's nothing unmale about carrying a receptacle for all my things. It's society that rejects the historically accurate use of a word like purse. If anything a "purse" is more accurately a "woman's hand bag" (or shoulder bag).

    In any event, while I would greatly enjoy being able to say "shut up ignoramus" to people that think only females carry anything more than a wallet, that generally is ineffective. I'd also like to give a good language lesson to people that insist that their narrow definition of a word is the whole story, but usually they resort to narrow minded taunts.

    I disagree with you on one point though, as I pointed out the term "Possibles" is not a modern invention. I didn't create it to cover up my carrying a purse. Trappers invented the term to describe something that i doubt you would call a purse. It was something of a survival kit for everyday use. A woman's purse often is used to carry luxury items like makeup and sometimes food. A Possibles does not contain that kind of thing and so there is a differentiation.

    One can talk about rejecting social language norms, but that kind of talk is rarely effective. Only by creating a new narrative are conventions overthrown. Often an anchor into the past is effective in grounding that narrative so that it arrives in the hearer's ear with some authority to overcome existing biases.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    It's been a while since this bag finally died. I was unable to find another exactly like it and I've had to become much more mobile in my daily work. I've made myself a new possibles bag, It's much lighter than this old version, more mobile but less capable. I'm not super happy with my current one. It is still my wallet, and carries my Leatherman, my keys, and a very small emergency kit consisting of some matches, needle and thread, an SD card, rubber bands some tape and toothpicks that fits in a business card holder. I also carry my sling but I haven't been getting in my practice like I should.

    I would like it to also act as a cell phone holder, which shouldn't be impossible to accomplish.

    If I ever get the right balance, I'll post a new ible about it.


    7 years ago on Step 6

    super glue is being used now for closing wounds that would take old butterflies ,.. and dental floss(waxed) can be used for most field repairs of gear and clothing i usually keep a needle in the floss container... very good ible .... i like it


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I switched to a Maxpedition Versipak with the shoulder strap. Very functional .

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    That definitely has some cargo capacity to it! I think I would go for that if I wanted to carry a water bottle. My rig would be inadequate for that.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yep, one of the reasons I chose it. I can fit a 6x8 moleskin notebook, a point & shoot camera, a blood sugar kit, business cards, a flashlight, my phone, a magnetic extendable probe, a combination mini-screwdriver and still have room left over. It has a drawstring & waterproof skirt for bad weather as well as an additional compartment that I can put private things in. There is a carabiner for my keys and it also has a belt as well as the shoulder strap. I use the belt when in high traffic situations(on bus, train, game) for additional security.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Cool concept. I've been back and forth between backpack, small satchel, and pockets only. A good source for your tactical nylon is County Comm. Plus they sell other cool gear. Check them out at http://www.countycomm.com/.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I take it back; previous item I linked to might be an alternative, but I looked a little further... here's a much closer match to your bag: http://goo.gl/3Zd3z

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The one thing that pack doesn't have is the D rings on the sides. You probably could come up with a different way of hanging the pack, but I like the D rings for hanging my keys on. Still it's really up to the person that's going to carry/wear it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    That's a tough one, I haven't been able to find a bag quite like this one. When I got it, it was simply called a "tactical pouch" in an army surplus store. Being black, I don't think it was a military issue pouch but more intended for something like a swat team member. That's just my guess though.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I have a collection of bags that I use when hunting, fishing, hiking, and things like that. I am currently putting together a small bag like this to carry in everyday situations. Thanks again for the info.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Okay I did some more digging, I knew that if I could get the right search terms I'd find something. This is some kind of a "Tactical Admin Pouch". There are a number of pretty decent styles out there but I can't find this exact one. Most Admin pouches are made for carrying maps this one isn't. Maybe theres another term that I'm missing but I'm getting closer


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    EmmettO: the other term you're looking for is MOLLE; see wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOLLE_(military);
    and here's a close alternative (probably a modern, newer variation; different configuration, but close, and very economical) for the bag you have: http://goo.gl/sIsVv