Here’s the thing, we all have in our heads an idea of how things will happen. It’s Sunday afternoon, you’re at home with your family, watching another episode of Family Guy. All of the sudden, disaster hits so you rush to get your bug-out bag, load the car with as many supplies as you can and get the heck out of there.
But what are the odds of you actually being home when it happens? Not particularly high, unless you spend most of your time there. Even so, what about your spouse and kids? Your children might be in school and your spouse might be at work or running errands. Thus, given the odds, it makes perfect sense to talk about your BOB’s little cousin, the Get Home Bag (or GHB for short).
What Makes a Good Get Home Backpack?
Since the idea of a GHB is to have it nearby at all times, you can’t go for a camo backpack. People are gonna wonder what you’re doing and label you as a prepper when they see you running with that thing on your back when chaos rules the streets.
The following make great bags for get home scenarios:
- a laptop bag
- a purse
- a messenger bag (black, brown, dark blue – it’ll make you look pretty stylish, too!)
- a small backpack (that can also hold your laptop – this one will sit better on your back than a messenger bag)
- and, of course, your car
Here’s what you should NOT use for a get home bag:
- anything tactical;
- anything in a bright color (red, orange etc.);
- anything expensive (you don’t want some thug to steal your Gucci bag, would you?);
- anything big. You want to blend in, not look like you’re going camping instead of to work.
- the Fieldline Alpha OPS Daypack (this one is more tactical, MOLLE compatible and what not)
- the Packable Handy Lightweight Travel Backpack Daypack (this one is very lightweight, though it doesn’t have that many pockets)
- the AmazonBasics 15.6-Inch Laptop and Tablet Bag
The Get Home Bag List
Here’s how I want to approach this. I’m going to give you each item in order of how important it is that you have them in your GHB. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what to ultimately pack but please keep in mind that a GHB should be as small and as lightweight as possible. You don’t want to overburden yourself.
The way you decide how how much to pack is by knowing the distance between you and home. The farther you tend to travel from home, the more stuff you need. Also, consider the climate you live in, the season, and whether you’re in an urban, suburban or rural environment.
- a water bottle
- a Lifestraw or a Sawyer Mini
- a folding knife (Spyderco Paramilitary 2)
- a flashlight
- a minimal first-aid kit
- a bandanna
- duct tape (Black Gorilla Tape)
- a tarp or a military poncho
- energy bars X 2
- nuts (one small bag)
- sunglasses (with UVA and UVB protection)
- a pair of gloves (Mechanic Wear Gloves)
- an N95 mask
- water purification tablets
- bic lighter X 3
- pepper, wasp or OC spray (not just for humans but also for any dogs you may encounter)
- a multitool
- an extra pair of socks
- spare glasses
- a small, portable radio
- hiking boots (you can leave those in your car)
- a small hygiene kit (again, keep in your car) consisting of a small toothbrush, toothpaste, a small towel, and wet wipes
- prepaid calling card
- a small emergency blanket to keep you warm
- a compass
- a map of the area
- a whistle
- a signaling mirror
- a small first aid kit
- insect repellent
- extra batteries for the flashlight and radio
- waterproof matches
- a solar charger for your phone
- toilet paper
- mosquito netting
- a headlamp
- at least $20 in coins (for vending machines etc.)
- small binoculars
- a CB radio for your vehicle
- a 4 way sillcock key (this will help you open most outside valves and faucets on pretty much all commercial buildings)
- hair tie (if you have long hair)
What About Your Car’s Get Home Bag?
If you have a car that you drive every day this means you can add a whole bunch of other stuff in addition to what’s already inside your purse or laptop bag. First thing, you should add more of what’s already in the above list. Up to you which items you need most, of course. Besides those, you may think of adding:
- a full-sized blanket
- a water filter
- a fire extinguisher
- a chainsaw or an ax (in case the streets are blocked by fallen trees)
- a gun
- a pry (for opening doors and gates)
- a spare mag for your pistol
- an advanced first-aid kit
- a large fixed-blade knife (Schrade Extreme Survival Knife)
- a stainless steel water bottle
- a collapsible cup
- chalk (useful in urban areas to write messages)
- walkie-talkies (BaoFeng Two Way Radio)
- ziploc bags
- USB and mini USB charging cable
- a butane lighter
- paper and pencil
- an emergency credit card
- Purell (hand sanitizer)
- pop flares (for signaling)
- a sewing kit
- large trash bags
- an umbrella
- an alternative survival weapon such as a machete
- everything your car would need to take you home safely no matter what the season or the circumstances (especially some extra fuel).
Keep in mind that if someone decides to break into your car, they can steal all your supplies. This means your gun, ammo and your credit card will be missing. I sure hope you wont’t write down the PIN code and leave it next to it (or somewhere else in your GHB)!
How Do You Know What to Pack?
There are several things to consider when picking the stuff you pack in your GHB:
- your location (an urban GHB is going to be smaller than if you live in a rural area where nobody will care why you carry a big backpack with you at all times)
- the distance between your location and home
- your age, strength and constitution (keep in mind you’ll have to make these bags for your entire family)
- any conditions you may have, such as a bad back
- your climate
- how you get there (car, bike, bus, train etc.)
- gun laws (you may not be allowed to carry even a pocket knife, let alone a gun)
Now that you have your GHB all assembled, this doesn’t mean it’s all over. The most important items in any bag are your skills. To prove to your that your GHB is just another pack of tools, consider these likely scenarios:
- you may have to run for your life, meaning you’ll have to abandon your car and your GHB;
- you may have to jump from high distances, over fences and obstacles in order to get home;
- you may have to face a riot while getting home
And how about this scenario? Your kid’s at school and you’re at home when SHTF. You have to drive there to grab him, then come back home. You don’t need a bug out bag for that, a get home bag will do the trick.
Remember: a fool with a tool, is still a fool. Work on your skills. Here’s just a few of them you might need to get home:
- ability to jump obstacles
- ability to sprint
- ability to run long distances
- self-defense skills
- ability to climb obstacles
- ability to walk and/or run up/down the stairs
Frequently Asked Questions
I covered pretty much anything you need to know about get home bags. However, I feel there are a few questions that need to be answered, just to make everything crystal clear.
What’s the difference between a get home bag bag and a bug out bag?
A get home bag is designed to get you from home in an SHTF disaster. It’s typically designed to serve you for a few hours, a few days tops. A bug-out bag is designed to help you survive for at least 72 hours in the wilderness, away from home. The former is smaller, lighter and only has the bare minimum to get home. The latter is heavier, has more supplies and includes tools you need you to hunt, cook, fish and so on.
Are GHBs more useful in urban or rural areas?
Definitely urban, although they’re good in rural areas as well. Folks living in the countryside usually have bug out bags in their cars because they’ll raise less eyebrows. Plus, they don’t have many challenges city dwellers have, who need to deal with crowded streets, numerous people, blocked roads, and so on.
How long is a GHB supposed to serve you?
Typically less than 72 hours, provided that you’re less than 100 miles from home. Remember, this bag will aid you to get home, not to bug out into the woods.
How should you package the stuff inside?
Ideally you’ll want as many of your items as possible to be placed in ziploc bags to make them water resistant.
Is it useful when travelling?
Definitely, even if you won’t be getting home with it. It’s still better than nothing as you’ll be more prepared than 99% of the population if you just have with you most of the items in the checklists above.
How heavy should the bag be?
Keeping in mind you should only pack what’s absolutely necessary for your specific situation and nothing more, try to keep it below 20 pounds for adults and under 10 pounds for children.
If you want a state-of-the-art get home bag, please keep these in mind:
Get smaller versions of everything. Think button compass, a really small folding knife, a small backpack and so on.
Don’t pack more than you need. Really. Weight is also a factor and you don’t want to abandon your GHB just because you can’t run fast enough. Focus on getting the essentials, squeeze as many of of the other items as you can but don’t forget the mission: to get home safely. That’s it.
Rotate your food and water. When you rotate your food stockpile, don’t forget about the one stored in your BOB and GHB.
Always pack the stuff that’s heavier as close to your back as possible. This will allow the whole backpack to sit against your back and be less likely to bounce around and hinder your movements.
Get a backpack with a hip belt, particularly if you have back problems like I do. This will move some of the weight to your hips, making it easier for your spine.