For anyone that follows the blog, you’ll know we are constantly hammering home the concept of gear, preparation and knowledge for all your outdoor adventures. Case in point is our survival pack we always talk about. It’s the bag to get you home safely no matter what happens or where you are. But it’s heavy and in many cases, it’s just overkill. So today we take a unique turn in the exact opposite direction. Let’s cover the times you want to be as minimal as possible! Hence the “possibles” or possibilities bag. And those minimalistic oppourtunities come up more than you think!
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What is a Possibles Bag?
The possibles bag or possibles pouch goes as far back as the ancient Native Americans. To their medicine men who needed the bag to carry out ceremonies. Or simply for their people to carry food and sacred items. But the “possibles bag” to anyone who knows what they are means something different. They harken back to the times of the mountain men or frontiersmen who carried the bag of possibilities. Basically, all the items they need to carry out the day’s hunt. More simply, all the items needed for a day of black powder shooting as they certainly didn’t have cartridge based bullets.
Anyone that muzzleloads knows there’s quite a few accessories involved, especially with traditional black powder shooting as was the case back in the day. The desire to “shoot out of your bag” evolved in the quest to find some form of convenience in carrying these items. And of course the bag always carries some jerky which grants the day’s sustenance. Maybe even some tobacco and drink.
Is this About Hunting?
Yes and no. Anyone into black powder should seriously give this bag some thought. It just works too perfectly to ignore.
For the non-hunter, the possibles bag is a concept that can easily be adapted. It’s just as applicable for something as simple as a woods walk or embarking on a scenic trail. The possibles bag is your way of carrying items you need for your activities of the day. Ladies know this all too well as a purse and men need to open their minds that when you head into the woods, you’re not necessarily getting by with whatever you can cram into your pockets.
Instead of a backpack that you don’t always need, that possibles bag is the happy medium to carry less gear. The concept here is also the same in application as a haversack or messenger bag. It’s about the ability to carry some items and be able to access them without having to slow down or take off the bag.
What Goes in a Possibles Bag?
For a muzzleloading situation, it’s pretty self-explanatory and well illustrated in the photo above. In the essence of tradition, toss in some jerky and off you go.
From a non-hunting perspective we still have to tick off a few boxes when heading into the woods. There are some items that are always a must even in the minimalist situation. For one you need a compass! It’s far too easy to get spun around if you get off the trails. You’ll probably want a whistle so you have something to signal with. You’ll need some snacks and water. And I would NEVER head out without some fire making tools. Before we forget the most important item of all, let’s not forget a decent knife. Not to kill something nor defend yourself as there isn’t much to be afraid of out there. No, the knife is there because it does several basic knife tasks that are essential in the outdoors.
Then adjust for your time of day, season or activity. What that means is pack a headlamp if you know you might run into some darkness. Spare socks if it’s cold and wet outside. Maybe that little point and shoot camera if it’s nature photos you seek.
When to Resort to a Possibles Bag
Here’s the easy answer and think of it this way. If you take an ATV into the woods, you’re travelling faster and farther than you may think. It’s not hard to find a situation where an hour’s ride in can equate to a day’s hike out if the machine breaks down. You best be packing enough gear to setup camp for a day if anything goes south. Conversely, if you are driving to some scenic woods on the outer edge of city limits and going for a short basic hike, you don’t need all that gear with you. Especially if your pack is in your trunk and all the gear and safety you’ll ever need is not that far off.
Lessons From a Hunt
I got a perfect reminder of the possibles bag during the deer season. I went hunting for 4 days during the black powder or muzzleloader season at a friend’s camp. A camp where being on foot is all you’ll ever need and a camp I didn’t prepare for properly as I only had a pack to carry my gear.
When my hunting mates took their afternoon naps, I went for walks since I can’t nap. With my gun of course that needs powder, a measuring device, balls, patches, primers, a ball starter and so on. Ie. the items that are normally found in the possibles bag! Mine had to ride in a backpack which isn’t really conducive to black powder hunting.
It was a much warmer than usual 4 days in December and hiking up the side of a big hill quickly got me sweating. Not to mention the woods were dense and sections were only passable by bushwhacking through. I would have loved to be lighter, nimbler and quieter with a possibles pouch on my side versus this bulky and heavy backpack weighing me down. Above all, the pack’s shoulder straps and plastic buckle (that sits right where my gun would mount) certainly complicated my odds of shooting something quickly should that deer and I have a lucky encounter. Lesson learned, don’t forget the possibles pouch!
Size and Materials
From a traditionalist’s standpoint, you want something small. The idea is to shoot out of your bag and all it needs to hold is your black powder accoutrements and some sustenance. While some people will use canvas, there’s just something magical about leather.
If you have a longer hunt to conquer or you just left the city and are eager to venture a little farther into the woods on a simple walk, you may want something a little bigger. Perhaps something the size of a mini messenger bag or haversack. While it may be more than a “possibles bag” by definition, the concept remains the same. Some old school coolness can still be pulled off here with waxed canvas. It’s a strong and traditional material that sheds water well, protecting its contents from the elements.
A big element to always consider is accessibility. A possibles bag should hang on your side like a crossbody bag. And it should hang low enough you can easily get at anything you need without dismounting the bag off your shoulder! If it turns out to be one of those days you need to be on the move, the bag won’t slow you down one bit. What this all means is to watch for the correct length of shoulder strap.
Where to Get Your Possibles Pouch
Well, here comes the crappy part. It’s a very difficult item to source. The photo of the bag with fringes is something I purchased very close to a native reservation and is more of a native style possibles bag. The size, length and so on are perfect for what I need so I bought it for function despite the fact that it’s not the look I was after. If this type of bag works for you, you may get lucky stopping by your local reservation and checking out their leathers.
The second bag in this post is technically just an antique bag. There are no zippers and it has a basic open interior which suits the purpose. The strap however is a little short which needs to be modified as the bag should sit crossbody. It’s so hard to find the proper bag in Canada, even from online sources that re-purposing and modifying items may be the way to go.
Some really nice possibles bags are down in the US. Track of Wolf has a whole bunch of traditional possibles bags and they are quite nice. We have no affiliation to them, in fact they don’t know we exist. Do however check out their bags if you want to see the mountain man style bag we keep referring to.
Making Your Own Possibles Bag
Finally, the possibles bag is a very simple bag. For anyone that is remotely handy, it’s not a hard item to make yourself! All you have to do is source some leather and model it after a style of bag you like. The size and shape doesn’t really matter meaning you don’t need drawings or specific dimensions. It simply has to suit your needs. The stitching can be done by hand even in a primitive form or by someone that’s not the greatest at sewing.
The Possibles Bag
That’s it folks! It’s a shorter post today as there’s no need to blab about a simple leather bag. The idea is to open your mind that you don’t always need to carry all your gear and everything from the kitchen sink. There are many times where being lighter, nimbler and perhaps even quieter far outweigh the benefits of hauling a big pack. You don’t need to be hunting either, maybe you just want to sneak up on that special bird to take a photo. Well, technically, that’s hunting as well – your just not harvesting your game…