How to discreetly open your backpack

| April 23, 2014 | 3 Comments

I work in the immediate vicinity of 14 people in an open seating area. We pretty much sit in overpriced, over-engineered folding tables. I currently sit in a pod of four people, with the closest person sitting less than two feet away from me.

Every morning and every afternoon I open my EDC backpack to remove my laptop, work shirt, from one to three tablets, lunch and Thermos full of coffee. All of these items are in the same bag as my SBR AK47, which I’ve carried in similar (or closer) circumstances at different employers for the last 15 months.

Here’s how to open your backpack without betraying the contents inside.

bag handling-0

If you have someone in your immediate vicinity I recommend that you square up to them so that the front of the bag is facing them. This allows you to watch them, and it also allows you to more effectively manage the bag’s material to camouflage what you’re doing.

It’s very difficult to screen the bag’s opening from the side.

Only open the bag enough for your arm plus another 20 – 30%. It is going to look weird if you open the bag just enough for your arm, but the more you unzip your bag the more you’re likely to reveal the contents.

Try to keep the bag as upright as possible. You may want to angle the bag towards you (away from any workmates) to reduce the viewing angle of people around you. Once you lie the bag flat you’re locked into that position and you are also more prone to contents accidentally shifting out of your bag — including your firearm.

I try to frame the backpack with my legs, one leg on each side. This allows me to control the bag better, another way I try to keep from accidentally showing the contents of the bag.

This position also means people are going to look at my crotch if they glance towards me. This isn’t something most people are comfortable doing. Use our social conventions to your advantage.

Standing your back upright also allows you to use the top of the bag to shield the contents. This is hard to explain, so here’s a video:

Some other quick points:

  • You are going to want to be swift. Open the bag, get your shit, and close your bag.
  • Don’t rummage around if your co-workers are talking to you. Wait until the conversation is over. If they are super chatty go use the restroom, refill your water bottle, or just go for a quick walk.
  • If possible, open your bag when your coworkers are talking to each other.
  • It might be possible to use your desk to provide some concealment.
  • If you are nervous or if your conditions are more intimate than mine (keep in mind I was shoulder to shoulder at 12” – 24”) you could also use the bathroom to manage your bag contents.
  • If you’re nervous about even doing that, you could always bring a different bag altogether for your laptop, lunch, whatever.

With practice, confidence, and fore-thought you should be able to open your EDC bag in the close presence of your co-workers. Don’t let your office situation dictate what you want to do. Just like everything else with EDC, practice is absolutely essential.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

3 Comments on "How to discreetly open your backpack"

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  1. B R KURTZ B R KURTZ says:

    Good topic. Good description. Good video.

    Whenever possible I try to use a bag with a separate compartment for my weapon. I also try to add some non-essential padding with the weapon as added camouflage to distort the shape. The draw back is that it reduces the bag’s usable capacity.

    Weapon colours that match or blend with the bag interior are also helpful, so that they don’t “flag” the contents. Ultimately, I find that the general public are NOT Tuned In to look for weapons, especially in areas where carrying weapons is not an option. Its just another “Victim Maker” of Gun Control states–the sheep think since no one can legally carry a gun, then no one carries guns, so they don’t look or see guns even when they are right in front of them.


  2. Wilson Hines says:

    Do any of your co-workers (past or present) know you are carrying an SBR in the bag? I drink coffee with two cops first thing in the morning and they know everything, and a few patrons “get the idea,” but they aren’t fully aware of the AR.

    There was a shooting at the community college in the spring and we are four blocks from that. It wasn’t a mass shooting, the shooter was going for a particular person. One of the cops I drink coffee with was the first on the scene and the shooter was gone by the time he got there.

    I carry my pistol into a coffee shop with a standard IWB holster (sometimes shirt tucked and sometimes not). My bag has my AR pistol, but with the buffer tube sticking out the top. I wrapped it in tennis racket handle tape (which does more than conceal, it’s actually nice looking and good to hold). I’ve had comments, “I didn’t know you played tennis?” I don’t. I realize that probably half or better know I don’t play tennis. It’s just too obvious, so I started leaving the bag with the AR in the car. The car is a 10 second walk. I need to get me a bag that I can conceal the AR pistol with, but I’m having a hard time finding one without spending a fortune. By the way, my AR pistol is awaiting it’s SBR stamp.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Hello there!

      A few former co-workers know, but only after I’d left the place we were working together. They expressed interest in self-defense, which led to discussions, which led to training, and at that point the cat is practically out of the bag.

      Some of my fellow students work together, and I think it’s great that they know they can rely on someone else to be armed and trained in case something terrible happens.

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