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How to Build A Get Home Bag

A “Get Home Bag” is a bag or tote designed to carry the tools and gear necessary to get you back home in case of an emergency.

Get Home BagA few months ago, my wife and I were packing the car for a small vacation. I had pulled out our Get Home Bags from the trunk and placed them in the hallway so I can get them ready for our journey. Later on that afternoon, our house-sitter stopped by and at one point she asked what our “Camping gear” was doing in the front hall. I proceeded to explain to her that it wasn’t our camping gear, but our GHBs. I told her what a get home bag was and surprisingly she didn’t look at me like I had three heads. I took that as a que to proceed with my lecture on prepping an the importance of having an emergency bag in her car. The best example I always refer back too is the image of people walking across the George Washington bridge on 9/11. People were covered in dust, their jackets wrapped around their heads while looking for any source of water they could find. This is a prime real-world example of when a GHB was needed.

Check out our post on Building a Bug Out Bag.

I currently work 20 miles from home, needless to say my bags go with me every day. Everyone has their own opinions and suggestion of what to add to their get home bag. Over time, depending on your needs, you will modify your bag several times.

Important Things to Consider

Building a good bag, whether its a GHB or a BOB (Bug out Bag) takes careful and thoughtful planning. It’s more than just throwing a bunch of survival gear in a bag and saying “Done”.

  • How far do you work from home? How far do you usually travel for routine errands? Knowing how far you might have to walk in an emergency is a great baseline for determining your bag’s contents. In addition, are you physically able to travel this distance on foot. Generally speaking, the average person walks about 3 mph. Based on these numbers, how long will it take you to walk home. Do not forget about important factors such as: typical climate, your physical abilities, terrain and rest times.
  • Although I briefly mentioned your physical abilities above, I want to reiterate the importance of this for several reasons. Your physical abilities will determine the weight and supplies you will carry. The length of time it takes you to get to your destination is also depends on your fitness level.
  • There are 4 major components to survival: Food, Shelter, Water & Defense. Your bag should cover all of these components at a minimum.
Paratus 3 Day Operator’s Pack (Coyote Tan) Military Style MOLLE Compatible Tactical Backpack

Get Home Bag Checklist

I decided to use my personal bag as an example for this article. If you have any suggestions or edits, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

  • Backpack. The first and most important item is the BAG itself. Find a bag that is sturdy and reliable. Straps break easy on inexpensive back packs. I personally believe that military surplus is better than name brand equipment in most cases. There is also a debate about using military style packs, some people believe that wearing military style packs make you look like a target. I believe this to a certain extent but I also believe that there are other factors that can also make you look like a target.
  • Footwear is second on my list of importance. Keep a good pair of sneakers in your bag along with a pair of socks.
  • Water. Make sure you have ACCESS to enough water to last throughout your journey. Whether you are carrying it or stealing a sip from peoples hoses, water is vital to survival. The average person needs about 1 gallon of water a day. This does not take in to consideration, water for food preparation, current temperature or the difficulty of your trek. Personally, I carry a camelbak, a cup and a life straw, this way I feel like I am covering all my bases.
  • Proper Seasonal Clothing. Carry a comfortable change of clothes as well as protective clothing such as: Poncho, jacket, hat and gloves. Change out the contents each season! Pack clothes that are seasonally appropriate.
  • Food and Nutrition. always count on your journey taking longer than expected. Pack food that us high in nutrition and is easily prepared. Originally I had several packs of Mountain House meals stashed in my bag until I realized that I needed to carry all the equipment to prepare it with. I finally opted for 3 days of ration bars. Once again, these are my preferences, what you may decide to carry is up to you and your situation.
  • Communications. Always make sure your phone is charged and you have a way to charge it. Carry an extra charging cord, one that can be charged by both an outlet and a car is best. In addition, you may want to consider a handheld radio. Small HAM or CB radios are great to keep in your bag.
  • Defense. You have taken the time and energy to build a proper GHB only to have someone come and take it from you.. or worse. Think about defense, what options do you have for personal protection. Depending on your personal beliefs and local laws, find a method of defense that works for you. Make sure you are properly trained with the methods you choose.

Jump starter for Car

Stanley J509 1000 Peak Amp Jump Starter Here is something that every car should have but not necessarily get home bag related. A Jump Starter! I can’t tell you how many times this thing saved me. For around $60, it can be a life saver. Get it on Amazon

If you have the items above, you are off to a great start! This small list is only the basics. Here is a list of other highly recommended items to carry.

  • Pocket Knife. A good pocket knife should already be a part of your Everyday Carry (EDC).
  • Fire Starters. Flint. Matches, Lighter or other fire making tools.
  • Flashlight. My wife laughs because I have a massive collection of flashlights.
  • Medications. Can you go more than a day without taking medication? If not consider adding a few days supply to your bag.
  • AM/FM/Weather Radio. Getting the proper information is key to survival. Make sure you have a small radio to stay informed.
  • Money. Not every emergency will be the end of the world! Carry a little cash in your bag for small purchases.

Have you weighed your pack? Have you tried walking with it. Don’t forget that in  an emergency, you will have to carry this bag the length of your journey. Take the time to practice carrying your bags over a distance. Our group meets about once a month for a hike at the state park near us. Try organizing hikes with your family or friends. Here are some other items you may want to add.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Small alcohol burner
  • Mess Kit with Utensils
  • Hand Warmers
  • Paracord
  • Duct Tape
  • Mylar Blankets
  • Pen & Paper
  • Toiletries
  • Surgical masks
  • Gas Mask
  • Crank Phone Charger
  • Map & Compass
  • Extra Ammo

Remember, a “Get Home Bag” is different than your “BOB Bug out Bag “. Your BOB will contain more items for survival and is designed to get you to your destination over a period of days or more. With a properly set up bag, you can easily build upon it to create a BOB or an INCH Bag.

Paratus 3 Day Operator’s Pack (Coyote Tan) Military Style MOLLE Compatible Tactical Backpack

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