When disaster strikes, you should have a Get Home Bag on hand. Seriously? You have stockpiled food and water, your bug out bag is ready and you can’t even remember all of your survival gear and supplies. Do you really need a get home bag, too? The simple answer is: yes you do, and soon enough you will see it for yourself.
The ethics of survival and preparedness are becoming popular lately. Not so long ago, preppers and survivalists were often mocked as being irrationally distrustful and wary. But, an ongoing COVID-19 epidemic as well as ever-increasing number of natural disasters have turned the tide. While the majority of people probably won’t become preppers, survivalists, or homesteaders, most of them will give it a thought. And that’s something, for starters.
However, if you’re just getting started, it can get quite overwhelming. It may seem as if you need myriads of skills, tools, and resources to improve your chances when it gets ugly. The more you know, the better, but not all of us can become urban ninjas or urban survival experts. At least not in a short period of time.
So, it is very important to set your priorities wisely. You need to assess your own abilities, consider most-likely risks in the area where you live, and take one step at a time. A get home bag is an essential part of your survival plan and here’s why.
What Is a Get Home Bag
A get home bag is a sort of a younger sister to a bug out bag (BOB). It is a compact bag with necessary items to allow you to get home quickly and safely should disaster strike. You shouldn’t confuse it with a bug out bag as some people do.
A bug out bag is a portable kit that should allow you to relocate to the safe location in around 72 hours. It is basically a short-term survival kit focused on evacuation from the disaster area to the bug-out location or other safe areas.
On the other hand, a get home bag is also a portable kit, but it plays its part before the evacuation. It is designed to help you relocate from wherever you are to your home or another safe location. Then, you’ll gather your family, get your BOB and relocate to your bug out retreat or wherever you choose to go to avoid the danger. So, it is a kit that is supposed to help you survive and navigate through the first hours of a disaster or up to approximately 24h. The idea is to get home safely as fast as possible and activate your SHTF plan.
Why It Is Necessary to Build a Get Home Bag
Do you really need all those kits? It is the question that I’ve been asked quite often. Well, each kit deserves an explanation and some of them are optional. But, it would take too much time and space to analyze them all.
As for a get home bag, I strongly believe that you need to have one. You may have all the gear and supplies at home, but if you’re not able to make it home, it’s all good for nothing. All the meticulous planning and stockpiling can become useless. Yes, I know there is no kit that will make sure you get home quickly. But imagine this scenario.
Fire In the City
It’s a hot summer day and you’re at your office wearing sleek high heels or dress shoes. Suddenly, a strong explosion shakes the neighborhood. After a couple of minutes of panic and phones ringing like crazy, you find out that the power is out, roads are jammed and blocked. The city is in a state of emergency and it takes 45-minutes’ drive to get home. And who knows how long it takes on foot. Probably, for the rest of the day.
So, you leave the building and head home. As soon as you hit the street, you find out it’s hard to breathe because of the smoke in the air. Soon your feet start to hurt and you probably got some blisters. It’s so hot and you’re very thirsty. Soon, you’ll get hungry as well. You didn’t get too far and you’re struggling and dealing with lots of pain.
You have an elaborate SHTF plan, but panic creeps in because you’re already in trouble. As time goes by, it will only get worse. Okay, someone might help you, but the whole prepping thing revolves around being prepared and not relying on the government, community, or random individuals.
Now, what would have happened if you had a get home bag in the same scenario? You would’ve known how long it takes to walk home because you have planned for this. So, you could calmly put on your comfy shoes, an N95 mask to avoid breathing smoke, take a sip of water, and head home. Protein bars and water would keep the thirst and hunger away. And so on.
Now you get it, don’t you? I can think of dozens of other scenarios where having a get home bag does make a difference.
Your SHTF Plan Doesn’t Start at Home
This is the major reason why you need a get home bag. Your emergency plan starts wherever you are when disaster strikes. You can’t choose your location and without a get home bag, well, you’re unprepared. A bug out bag would be useful, but it is too big to carry it around every day. So, a small, compact, and low-profile kit will allow you to get home quickly without unnecessary distractions or even serious troubles.
Building Your Get Home Bag – 14 Essential Items
Truth be told, some survival guides overplay some items and strategies. Sometimes it seems as if you need gear and supplies enough for a little army to survive. Some of the guides just throw at you everything that might be useful. Stockpiling can easily become hoarding, and your bags can be packed as if you’re planning to climb Everest.
When in doubt, just go back to the basics. You can have all the gear in the world, but bad decisions will melt away your advantage in the blink of an eye. Besides decision making, survival is all about minimalism and efficiency. So, you really need just a couple of necessary, lightweight items and not the full assortment of survival gear.
The truth is that no one can deliver a ready-made list of the items for your get home bag. It should always be personalized. For example, if your vision is impaired, you should carry a spare pair of glasses. Nevertheless, several essential things must end up in every get home bag and there are some general guidelines for optional items. So, let’s get started.
1. The Get Home Bag Itself
It starts with a bag. There are several types of bags that can fit the bill. These are the rules. The bag should be lightweight. You will carry it almost every day and it shouldn’t be physical labor. Also, you don’t want it to stand out. Otherwise, people would wonder why you carry it all the time but never open it. So, it should fit your everyday outfit.
- Backpack. A small or medium-size backpack is probably the best choice. Your arms are free, you can run and move smoothly. Also, it has compartments to organize your items. On the downside, it may be difficult to blend in with a backpack in certain industries or jobs.
- Messenger bag. A messenger bag will allow you to blend in perfectly. It is the most popular kind of bag among commuters and city dwellers. Moreover, you can easily reach for anything while on the move. However, it may limit your movement if you have to run. Also, it is often a target for thieves who want to take advantage of the situation.
- Laptop bag. A laptop bag or backpack can be a perfect solution for many. It is discrete while allowing you to store all you need in it.
These are typical suggestions, but any kind of quality bag will do. There are a few things to avoid. I have already said that your bag should be a sort of a “gray man bag”. Blending in is an important part of your plan so you should avoid bright colors, military-style, or any kind of showy bags.
2. Shoes and Clothing
Shoes and clothes are bulky, so ideally you don’t want to pack them into your bag. However, if your job requires a suit or dress and fancy shoes, you’ll need to have some comfy alternatives in your bag. I have adjusted my clothing style so I regularly wear comfortable clothes and shoes that can do the job in an emergency situation. That’s the best option if possible.
3. Some Food and Water
You can’t survive without water, be it short-term or long-term. Water is somewhat heavy so there’s a trade-off. Depending on the weight of your bag, you should carry at least one liter of water.
As for the food, you won’t have time to cook or plan a decent meal. It’s a quick evacuation so you should take just a couple of snacks and energy bars. Having said that, your travel can take a while, so you don’t want to get too hungry. High-calorie energy bars and trail mixes are typical choices. They are easy to carry, high in calorie and nutrient-rich. And you can eat them on the go.
Are you surprised? Well, your phone may not work so a couple of quarters and a payphone might be the only way to get in touch with your family. Furthermore, carry some cash in small bills. Once, you get out of the jammed zone, money may buy you a ride home or some item that you need. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but it is lightweight and takes almost no space.
Also, it should be in cash because your credit card will be worth nothing if there’s no electricity.
5. First Aid
A basic first aid kit is necessary in case of injury. Even the smallest injuries can become a major hindrance or danger if you don’t treat them immediately.
6. Hand Sanitizers and Some Paper Towel
You don’t want to catch some bacteria, viruses, or parasites along the way, so basic hygiene is required. Hand sanitizers and a few paper tissues or towels when nature calls, will be enough.
7. Mylar Blanket
It’s not like you’re planning to build a shelter or something, but you never know. Mylar blankets are extremely compact and lightweight, so it’s not a bother to have one in your bag.
When it gets ugly, things change in a minute. Safety becomes an issue wherever you are. It is always a matter of personal choice but you need to have some defensive items. A pepper spray and neck or boot knife are small, lightweight, and easy-to-reach weapons if someone attacks you.
A face mask is another protective item that must find its place in your get home bag. An N95 mask is the most common choice. In case of fire or any other air-hazard situation, it will allow you to keep going without serious contamination.
9. Swiss Army Knife or Another Multitool
As the name suggests, it can be applied in multiple situations. A multitool is an essential part of any survival equipment.
10. Lighter and Matches
You don’t want to face a situation where you’ll have to start a fire. It would mean that you’re stuck for some reason. Still, you can’t count it out. Lighters are small and cheap and a box of weatherproof matches will allow you to start a fire in windy conditions.
11. Duct Tape
There are a million and one ways to use duct tape. You can take a half-used and collapsed roll to save some space.
12. Compact Emergency Radio
In the case of a blackout, your cell phone can quickly become a useless brick. In any case, a portable radio is the best device to keep you informed about weather and emergency alerts. A hand-crank emergency radio is the best choice. Not only you will be able to gather information, but you can also use it to charge your phone.
13. Compact Flashlight
It’s another item that you normally wouldn’t want to carry around. However, if it gets dark before you get home, it suddenly becomes a necessity.
If you don’t want to add another item to your shopping list, you can always opt for a FREE tactical flashlight. You just need to pay shipping.
14. Map and a Compass
When you’re going to work, you don’t need these items. You can scout all possible routes and areas between your home and the office in advance.
But, when you have to go to unfamiliar neighborhoods, you should add a map and compass. Any kind of riot or disarray can easily leave you bewildered and disoriented. A map and compass will come to the rescue.
4 Optional Items for Your Get Home Bag
15. Hat or a Cap
Whether it’s summer or winter, some sort of hat will protect you from the sun or cold. It will also allow you to keep a low profile. Of course, it should comply with the rest of your clothes or you’ll get the opposite effect. You’ll stick out instead of blending in.
16. Pair of Working Gloves
If it’s cold you can keep your hands relatively warm. And you never know what objects you’ll have to move or handle. Jumping over rusty fences is much safer if you wear a pair of heavy-duty gloves.
In the summertime, long exposure to the sun can cause burns. If you have very light skin, it can happen quickly and you can get serious burns. Clothes and a baseball cap will provide some protection, though. But, if you’re wearing short sleeves and have some extra room in your bag, you may add a sunscreen, too.
18. Insect Repellent
In warm weather mosquitos and insects can be quite bothersome. Not to mention that they may transfer diseases. While insect repellent is not a must, if you live in insect-infested areas it might be useful.
Final Thought on Your Get Home Bag
I have said that you only needed a couple of necessities, but then I came up with a bunch of items. Well, DON’T put all of them into your get home bag. For example, you most certainly won’t need an insect repellent in snowy, winter conditions. I tried to cover all possible situations but you’ll never need all of these items at once. Your bag’s content should vary from season to season. It also depends on the distance between your location and your home. Even your strength is a factor. Some people can move swiftly with a 20 pounds load on their back while others need much lighter packs.
So, it has to be your call. First, determine the maximum weight that allows you to move easily and freely. Then fill the bag with top-priority items and continue with gear that suits the climate and other specifics of your environment until you reach the desired weight.
Now, you’re ready to be efficient from the get-go. And those first steps can often be crucial for survival.