Survivalists are an interesting subculture. Out of curiousity I read a few books from the genre on how to survive apocalyptic disasters, and while I found their ideologies too extreme to personally support, there are plenty of things designers can learn from them. For example, if I had to design a hyper-functional bag, they are the first group I would consult and study.
Here's why: They are completely obsessed with both gear and the idea of self-sufficiency. They prize durability and functionality in a product because their fervency makes them believe their lives will depend on it. They build backups and redundancy into their carry systems to compensate for product failure or unforeseen problems.
More importantly, unlike a soldier who is assigned a standardized piece of kit, survivalists scour the product landscape for the best, and can freely hack the gear to suit their needs. Soldiers must rely on the design talents harnessed at Natick (click here for our entry on a recent first-aid kit re-design), but the survivalist and his or her discretionary income have companies actively courting them.
One such company is "hard use gear" manufacturer Maxpedition, whom we last looked in on in 2010. Through customer feedback, they realized that their FR-1 pouch, which they had designed as a medical kit, was being subverted by users into a "survival pouch." The company must consider it a godsend of free advertising, because here you have survivalists making their own videos to explain to other survivalists what they like about the bag and how they pack it. Here's an example:
You have to be at least a little impressed at how much stuff the reviewer is able to fit in there, and the thought that goes into how it's packed. If only I could pack for business trips like that.
By the bye, here are some terms the reviewer is throwing around that may require explanation:
EDC - EveryDay Carry, i.e. things you always have with you
PALS - The military's Pouch Attachment Ladder System, a grid of webbing--designed at Natick, natch--used to attach smaller bags to larger ones
MOLLE - Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, also designed at Natick, refers to the overarching system of bags, gear and equipment that utilize PALS and other types of connections