When it comes to my go-to vehicle go bag, nothing can replace my USGI Sea Bag (military duffle bag). I’ll tell you why here!
USGI Sea Bag: Take a Closer Look
The USGI Sea Bag
I was first introduced to the USGI Sea Bag (military duffle Bag) shortly after getting off the bus in Paris Island. I entered the United States Marine Corps boot camp and had recently placed my feet on the yellow footprints. As I look back at the experience, much of it is a blur…
With the amount of fear that occupied my mind at the time, there wasn’t much room in there for other thoughts!
I remember me and my fellow recruits being maneuvered through a maze of assembly lines as we gathered our initial issued gear. As we shuffled through the process without making eye contact with anyone, I remember being handed this big, green canvas sack, filled with personal gear.
We ended up in our barracks with our duffel bags strapped to our backs. For the rest of my active duty Marine Corps days, there was always a sea bag as part of my standard issued gear.
I still have that initial sea bag with my name; the same with my last four bags. I have also picked up a couple more along the way. Over the years, I have found many uses for these sea bags. I have one with me stuffed with extra necessities when I’m camping with the family. I have also used them for air travel instead of heavier, less accommodating suitcases. There is a lot of diversity when it comes to uses for the USGI duffle bag, but there is one application for my sea bag that works really well for me.
I have a sea bag that is used as my vehicle go bag. It is staged in my Jeep and is my added insurance during an emergency situation. I find certain features of the sea bag to be of great use as a vehicle go bag. I have tried several rucks and backpacks as a viable bug out bag for my Jeep, but I kept coming back to my sea bag as my primary choice.
My plan is to bring my main go bag, which is designated for moving out on foot. If I’m unable to stick to that plan, I know that my sea bag has enough of what I need to give me a fighting chance if a crisis were to occur.
I want to share with you a few of the key features that make me choose the sea bag over other carry equipment when it comes to my vehicle go bag. So, let’s get to it!
1. It’s Inexpensive
Since the sea bag is standard issue for the U.S. Military, there are tons of them out there. They are relatively inexpensive if you buy them new. If you are ok with a used sea bag, then you can pick a vintage duffle bag up for under $20. If you check military surplus stores and even eBay, you will find varied choices to fit your needs as well as your budget.
2. Can Accommodate a Lot of Gear
Since the sea bag is basically a large sack, you can stuff the hell out of with gear! The sea bag is approximately 34 inches long with a 15-inch opening. On multiple occasions, I had well over 70 pounds in my sea bag. If you ask a Marine how many items can he or she fit into their sea bag, the answer is always, one more!
There are items that I add to my sea bag to make it an even more viable solution as a survival kit for my vehicle. One of those items is a dry bag. In the military, we have issued a willie-peter bag along with the sea bag. The WP bag basically stood for waterproof and it always did its job of keeping my gear dry. In fact, it performed so well for me that I purchased a new WP bag for use with the sea bag that I stage in my Jeep.
In addition, I have several smaller dry bags that contain items that I want to keep protected from bad weather and spills. Even though the primary purpose for my sea bag kit is for staging in my vehicle, I still need to prepare for the uncertainties I will encounter during SHTF situations. Dry bags are relatively inexpensive and also multi-purpose, might as well use them!
The other item I incorporate into my sea bag consists of multiple parts. They are mesh bags with zippers that come in various sizes. These lightweight bags allow me to compartmentalize my sea bag without giving up space required by rigid containers. I can empty the sea bag into my vehicle and my gear remains organized and easily accessible. This requires a bit of pre-planning and labeling, but it turned out to be a good solution for my current needs.
3. Can Be Carried Like a Suitcase
I mentioned that I have used my sea bag as a suitcase for airline travel. I have done this on several occasions, especially when traveling overseas. There is no metal or plastic frame in the sea bag that allows it to weigh in at just under 5 pounds. With today’s borderline criminal baggage fees demanded by the airlines, we need to be selective with each pound that is added to our carrying equipment. The same rationale goes for choosing gear for all of our survival kits.
The sea bag has a handle affixed to the middle of it. Its purpose is so you can carry it like a suitcase. I have used other bags and sacks that offer benefits similar to the sea bag. The issue with these other bags is I would have to carry them utilizing a drawstring or the bear hug method. Either of those two choices was not appealing to me, even for short distances. Performing a farmer’s walk or a suitcase carry is something that I’m much more efficient and comfortable with.
4. Built to Last
Most USGI equipment has earned a reputation for its durability. I sometimes hear the old adage, “that piece of USGI gear you’re using was manufactured by the lowest bidder!”
That certainly is true in some cases, but even the lowest bidder has to meet stringent specifications. The sea bag is no different. Not only is it military spec, but let’s not forget that I’m using the same sea bag that I was issued in USMC boot camp. It was handed to me ages ago, and it is still just as serviceable as it was on Day 1 of boot camp!
Most USGI sea bags are made of either heavy-duty Cordura nylon or canvas. The stitching is extremely durable, and the metal clasp and grommets are virtually indestructible. It’s mildew resistant as well as weather repellent. Suffice to say, it’s built to last a lifetime or two.
5. Can Be Used as a Heavy Bag
Because of the shape and construction of the sea bag, it makes an excellent heavy bag for both empty hand and weapons practice. You can stuff the sea bag with BDU’s, clothes and other gear to give it some weight. You can then fold the top flaps in, fasten the clasp over the grommets, attach it to a D-ring and hang it. Now you have a field expedient heavy bag to provide valuable feedback for your self-defense training.
In the Marines, we used our sea bags as heavy bags as well as grappling dummies. Whether we were on a 6-month pump aboard a Navy ship or in the bush, we wanted to train! Unfortunately, certain resources are always difficult to come by for Marines, especially grunts, so we did what we knew best. We overcame and adapted!
6. Can Be Carried Like a Backpack
I mentioned earlier that I plan to have my standard go bag with me, which is for moving out on foot. That is my ideal planning situation. But in an emergency, the ideal will be a luxury that most of us will not have access to. Luckily in a pinch, the sea bag can also be carried on your back.
The sea bag contains two padded shoulder straps attached to it. I wouldn’t exactly call these straps comfortable, but the fact that it has this feature adds a bit more versatility to my preparedness. If the situation arises, I can move out on foot with my sea bag attached to my back. This will allow me to keep my hands free to utilize other tools and perform needed tasks.
7. Makes an Excellent Bear Bag
One of the sea bags I own is a bit more beat up than the others. I have used this particular duffle bag as my bear bag for the past decade. Whenever I am hiking or camping in bear country, my go-to container for a bear bag is my sea bag.
I place all my food and anything else that would attract bears, into my sea bag. I then hang it high and wide from a tree in hopes of keeping it out of bear’s reach. This method is not only effective when it comes to bears, but it works for other critters as well. You have to admit that hearing rumblings from raccoons going through your gear, while you are trying to get some R&R, is extremely annoying!
The Bottom Line
The USGI military duffle bag is quite the versatile carrying equipment solution. I have used it as my vehicle go bag for years and will continue to do so. It has not only stood the test of time with U.S. Marines, but it is also convenient enough to fit inside of another backpack when not in use.
Take a closer look at the USGI sea bag on this video by Coach Helder:
With all the added benefits that I conveyed in this article, the USGI sea bag is certainly an option I hope you consider adding to your gear. It will be hard to find an equivalent solution for your vehicle bugout bag utilization that will best out this sea bag.
What do you think of using a USGI sea bag? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 9, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.