Tactical Bags are pretty cool.
I love tactical bags because they just look cool, but if I were ever in a disaster or needed to “Bug Out” quick from an area, I would never, ever, EVER take a tactical bag with me. Tactical bags convery a subliminal message. They tell people who see them on your back, “Hey, This guy has gear you need in his bag!” It’s an obvious scream to everyone around you that you are carrying items that you need, and most likely, if you need them, the onlookers could use them too.
The best approach is to blend in. Make it a point of not standing out. Loud colors, unusual backpacks and other eye catching objects make you a target. In order to stay pretty low profile, I have probably the most common backpack anyone could have — a Jansport large black school backpack (1900CC capacity). It’s more than enough for the essentials and doesn’t catch anyone’s eye because you see these so often on kid’s backs. Most people have already tuned the Jansport backpacks off in their mind after seeing them so much, so you just won’t stand out for that reason.
No Camo Either
Camo also gives people the impression that you just might have something they need in your pack. If there’s truly an emergency, then everyone is going to be searching for food and gear… Anything military looking may catch people’s attention, so stay away from camo.
Just Blend In To Be Forgotten
The smaller the bag (to 15″ high) is the most common size. Having one on hand makes sense for those times when you have to get from point “A” to point “B” without attention. Along the same lines, Blue Jeans and dark tee shirt in either forest green or navy blue are the most “unseen” colors by the general public. Also, lose the sunglasses and hat as they’re indicators that you might be suspicious or have ill intent. Again, the point is just to blend in to the point where people wont remember you if someone asks, and it’s not be anonymous.
Don’t hang anything from the pack!
People will notice objects hanging from backpacks because it’s out of place. It also tells people that you are carrying enough stuff that you can’t fit the item into the pack.
Don’t spend more than five seconds going into your pack to get something if you have to do it at all in public. Any longer and people will notice that you’re rummaging around. Again, that’s a clear indication that you’ve packed a lot of gear in the bag and makes it a desirable object in an emergency. Best rule of thumb is to find a private room or out of sight place if you do have to go hunting around in the bag.
Hunching is also a sign that the backpack has a lot of gear. People will hunch over when they’re carrying a load, so try to make the bag look as light as possible. Standing straight is the single most effective thing you can do to give the impression that there’s little in the bag.
Theft Deterrents and countermeasures
Always Zip the zippers down to the bottom of one side
If your backpack has dual zippers, make sure to zip them both shut all the way down to one side or the other. It’s much easier for someone to get into your bag if you have both loops at the top center where people expect them, and can stand right behind you undetected in a subway to open your bag while the noise of the subway drowns out the zip sound. When they’re down to one side, a thief will probably pass your bag up for an easier target — he has to search on the right and left of your bag for the zippers, and chances are, you see him in your peripheral vision while he’s searching.
Never use the front outer pocket for valuables.
That front outer pocket is the furthest away from your body, and on most backpacks, can be opened undetected while the bag is on your back! Best place to put tissues and pens, but no phones or other valuable or essential items.
In crowded places, carry your bag by hand, not on your back
Just carrying your bag from the handle strap (if equipped) or both should straps by your side will help deter unwanted entry to your bag, but unless you have the bag also strapped to you somehow, it makes it much easier for a thief to grab running by you. I use doubled-up 7 strand 550 paracord (same color as the backpack) with one end looped around my wrist (non dominant side) in a slip knot while the other end is tied with either a timber hitch or bowline knot to the handle or straps. If someone does try and grab the bag, It will pull my arm first, allowing me react using my dominant (writing) hand. I’ve had two thieves attempt to steal my bags on the subway, and both times, the attempt was thwarted by the paracord. Also in both instances, no one noticed the paracord because it was the same color as the bag, so again, my theft countermeasures went undetected until it was too late for the thief.
Attach a ripcord alarm to the bag
One last thing you can do to deter theft is to get a ripcord activated personal alarm, such as the Vigilant PPS-9BL Alarm. You attach it to the top of the bag on the outside, and the ripcord loop around his wrist.
Back in college in NYC, a thief did in fact grab one friend’s bag ( (my buddy attached the alarm to the shoulder strap), but as soon as the wrist cord was pulled from the alarm as the bag was torn away from my friend, The Vigilant’s VERY LOUD 135db alarm went off. It scared the thief and drew immediate attention. The thief dropped the bag immediately, ran towards the stairs up from the subway, but was taken down by a couple guys who saw what happened. He was apprehended by the subway guards and held until police arrived. My friend argues that this is the best way to do it for personal safety because it puts distance between you and the thief, should he have a weapon. He says this is the best way for children to carry their book bags because they cannot fight a fully grown adult, and he adds that the thief will naturally stop and look at the bag for a split second to figure out what just happened, then drop the bag and run to try and leave the scene where everyone is now looking at him.