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Do you need a get home bag? If you ever leave your home, chances are good you should add a get home bag to your preparedness plans. This bag contains the emergency essentials you need in order to get from where you’re stranded—work, running errands, a dentist appointment, grocery shopping—to your home. Building up your supplies at home is all well and good, but getting home safely is essential.
In preparedness circles, we often hear the terms Bug-Out-Bag or BOB. A BOB is a bag put together to get you to your bug-out location and usually designed to carry all you need for at least three days.
For many people, a get home bag (GHB) will be much smaller. Some people refer to these as 24-hour bags since they contain only the items you need to get from the office to the house. I like to think of my get home bag as a comfort bag. While it does contain supplies needed to safely return to my house and loved ones, it also has essential items to make life a little more comfortable.
Why You Need a Get Home Bag
Don’t think of a GHB as something that is only useful in the case of TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it). It can be helpful on many occasions.
I used to live outside of Portland, Oregon. On the rare occasions we’d get snow, there was a hill heading out of Portland on Highway 26 that would often have stranded cars. People couldn’t get their vehicle up the hill, so they’d just stop—not even pulling off the highway sometimes. When 26 turned into a parking lot, people started walking. A GHB sure would’ve been helpful for them.
A get home bag isn’t something that you should stock and forget, saving it for the end of the world as we know it. Instead, it should be adjusted seasonally. Living in Wyoming, where the temperatures often dip, my winter bag focuses on warmth. Likewise, my summer bag has more sun and bug protection. Your GHB should also complement your Every Day Carry (EDC). Whew—the acronyms!
Also, because I live in Wyoming, my bag isn’t set up as a 24-hour bag. We have the smallest population in the US but are the 10th largest in size. Our towns tend to be looong distances apart. Just going to the grocery store is a half-hour drive one way. If I needed to walk home from there, I’m looking at close to two days—and that’s if all goes as planned.
You need a get home bag, and you need it to be built to suit you. The suggestions below are ideas to get you started. Build your bag to fit your location, environment, and necessities.
Start your GHB by choosing a suitable bag for you. A not-too-large backpack is the likely choice. You’ll be stashing this in your car or truck, so it needs to fit. And you don’t want it to be too big and bulky—it doesn’t need to be since it’s only packed for 24 hours or so. Something compact with sections and pockets is helpful but not essential. My first GHB was made out of an old school backpack since that is what I had at the time and it fit well in my small car.
Depending on your lifestyle, you may wish to have more than one GHB. Many people choose to stash one in their desk or locker at work. Do your children need one at school? That’s something to consider.
You may also want to consider whether each person should have a GHB for the car or if you’ll use a family bag.
We ski on the weekends. The ski lodge is about 80 miles from home. We pack one large bag with essentials (something like this one) and also have a small, empty foldable day pack and a foldable messenger bag (an old cloth bag I’ve had for years). The large bag can be redistributed among the three bags. And as my husband will tell you, I overpack the car for ski trips too, so we’d have plenty of extra things to stuff in those bags. Which brings me to the next point…
BOBs are famous (or should I say infamous) for being packed to the gills with everything anyone can think of to survive. Many are packed so heavy there is no way the desired however many miles (usually too many) per day can be met. As a backcountry backpacker, I get the appeal of having everything you need in that pack. But it’s just not possible. Same with your GHB—don’t overpack. You want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. For most people, you won’t have 30 or 80 miles to walk home. Pack what you need and be smart about it.
What to Put in Your Get Home Bag
First Aid Kit
- Basic first aid kit – if purchasing a ready-made kit, you may need to add a few things such as burn dressings (large and small), tourniquet, emergency bandage, a roll of gauze, vet wrap, etc. Keep the weight in mind and pack only what you need.
- A pack of single-use super glue to close wounds
- Pain relievers: Tylenol and Aleve
- Personal prescriptions for the amount of time you are building your bag (plus maybe a little extra)
Lighting & Electronics
- Chem lights
- Headlamp or flashlight or ink pen with light
- Charger for your cell phone (home and car version)
- Lighter, waterproof matches, waterproof fire starter, or something similar (more than one is always smart)
Food & Water
- Water purifying tablets LifeStraw, or my favorite mini Sawyer (it’s very versatile)
- Water bottle
- Freeze-dried food for the duration of your pack (or lots of snacks instead)
- Kind bars, Naked Nutrition Bars or Cookies, or something similar
- Cold drink mixes
- Hot drink mixes
- Hard candy
- Backpacker’s stove if you are doing freeze-dried food (I like this one that comes with pans and utensils)
- Lip balm
- Tissues or cloth hanky
- Wet wipes
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant
- A change of socks (or two)
- A change of underwear
- Walking shoes (essential if you wear dress shoes to work)
- Multifunctional gaiter or bandana (great for bugs in summer or cold in winter, and it can also hold your hair back and keep sweat out of your eyes, you can also use it to filter water before purifying)
- Rain poncho (helpful even in winter as an extra layer especially if you’re not packing sleeping gear)
- Wool hat (seasonal)
- Gloves (seasonal)
You may or may not need these based on your personal circumstances. For me, with my distances, they make sense.
- Emergency tent or lightweight backpacker’s tent
- Backpacker’s sleeping bag
- Emergency blankets
- Sleeping pad
Safety & Security
Safety and security items may also be part of your EDC. Add or subtract as needed.
- Multitool, pocket knife, or fixed blade
- Folding saw
- Emergency whistle with compass
- A paper map of your state and/or local area
- Self-defense tools
Misc. Things for Your Get Home Bag
- Tarps (or make your bag lighter by cutting 3mm plastic to tarp size)
- Duck tape
- Small notepad
- Heavy-duty carabiner clip
- Small binoculars
- Zip ties
- Plastic bags
- Cash (small bills)
More Preparedness Resources:
- The Top 5 Things You Can Do Today to Start Prepping
- The BEST Preparedness and Homesteading Resources
- 5 Reasons Not to Rely on Beans and Rice
- 5 Survival Foods for Everday Meals
- The Survival Rule of Three
- My EDC: Never Leave Home Without It
- Stock the Real Food Pantry
What’s in your Get Home Bag? Leave a comment below!
Stock the Real Food Pantry
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I was in NYC for the 1977 blackout. When the subways stopped running, many city-dwellers had no idea how to get from work to home if they were above ground. A friend of ours spent all night helping folks find their own houses! In light of this experience, I’d recommend a good paper map (not dependent on GPS or battery life) of your area, so if you find yourself in an unfamiliar location when travel becomes difficult, you’re able to navigate home.
A paper map is a necessity! And knowing how to read one. 😉 I also love the state specific atlas and gazetteers which give detailed topography, backroads, and even trails. https://amzn.to/35YxOXi They’re a little big for BOB or GHB, but the specific pages for the area can be removed making them manageable. Wonderful of your friend to help others in their time of need.
I have a GHB I keep with me also. I keep enough for 2-3 days so if someone is with me I have food for them also. I keep several ways to start fires with a lighter, water proof matches along with some flint and steel fire starters with lint from the dryer or cotton balls all coated in Vaseline. I also have a loud whistle and signaling mirror along with a compass and topographical maps of the area. We had a large tornado outbreak in Alabama back in 2011 and wasn’t sure I was going to make it home from all the damage, and I live 25 miles from work. This had me thinking of items I needed in case it took me some time to walk home.
Great GHB additions. The tornados from this past weekend are a huge eye opener as to what damage can occur.
First Aid Kit
A paper map of your state and/or local area
Print out both topo and road maps, preferably using a laser printer as they usually give a sharper image than inkjet, A4 size and laminate them. If this requires multiple sheets then make sure there’s an overlap between sections of your maps. And remember a small magnifying glass makes seeing street names and other small details easier
(I’m going to preface this part by saying this is my PERSONAL OPINION & PREFERNCE ONLY, entire articles have been wrtitten about water filters and which is best and I’ll leave your own individual choice to you)
When it comes to water filters I prefer a pump type where I don’t have to possibly risk injury by trying to climb down to the edge of the river/lake/etc
So I’m in the process of adding to my water filter so I’ve extra lengths of intake tubing I can attach to allow me (for example) to sit on a bridge and lower the end into the water
Excellent info. Thank you!