Assembling Your Get-Home Bag

We hear a lot about the famous bug-out bag, but not as much about the get-home bag (GHB).  But the GHB is perhaps more important than the BOB.  You might not ever need your BOB (best to have one just in case) because not every disaster is going to require you to bug out.  However, no matter what event hits your region, there is a high likelihood you will be away from home when it happens.

Just think about it.  What if a natural disaster strikes when you are on the highway driving back into town?  What if an EMP, either natural or man-made, hits when you are at work and you have to get home, a trip that is usually a one-hour commute?  What if something happens and you are out of town, for work or pleasure, and need to get home?  Fortunately, with a GHB, you will have some essential items that will help keep you hydrated, fed, informed, and safe while you make your way home when an emergency happens.  I will talk briefly about what goes into a GHB, but more importantly, I want to talk about how you can pack a one at home for.

What Goes In

This will be brief.  There are so many things you can and should pack in your GHB.  Hopefully, you will have a selection of items you have on your person at all times, items that you can use in a pinch if you have to.  These are your everyday carry or EDC items.  You will find there is some overlap between what is part of your EDC and what goes into a GHB.  Here’s a short list of essentials for your GHB:

Ideally, you should have a bag that is easy to carry, functional, and has pockets or outer compartments, if possible.  For a more detailed list and the types of bags that work best, check out this article on creating the Ultimate GHB.

Also, a note about food and water.  You generally won’t need any more than enough to get you by for a few hours, but you will need to judge your own situation when it comes to this.  If you work in a separate town or have a very long commute, then a more comprehensive GHB supply of food and water might be necessary.

How It All Goes In

This is what I really want to focus on here.  Figuring out how to pack your GHB is as important as what you put into it.  The first thing that needs to be said is that your GHB should not be as big and have as many things in it as your BOB.  The goal of the BOB is to help you survive for an extended period of time if you have to get out of Dodge.  The goal of having a GHB is so that you have the supplies you need to help you get from wherever you are to your home as safely as possible.

When you have your chosen bag ready and a not-too huge pile of things you need to put in it, determining how to go about packing everything into the GHB can be overwhelming.  Maybe you have even tried to pack your bag already and can fit it all in or find the result is a top-heavy bag that is awkward to lift and carry.  The basic formula for packing your GHB is to ensure the heavier and less frequently used items go on the bottom and the lighter, more frequently used items go at the top.

Sort It Out

The first thing you need to do when packing your GHB is sort your items into three piles.  The first pile will be your basic essentials that you will need if it takes you longer than a day to get home.  These are the things that you won’t need to pull out of your GHB right away or on a regular basis.

Next you have your regular-use supplies in a second pile.  These are the supplies that you will need to access more easily and more often.  This is what you will need if it takes more than three hours to make your way home.  Finally, you will have a pile of your urgent supplies.  These are the things you must have access to right away when disaster strikes. These items are necessary no matter how long it takes you to get home.

What Goes Where?

You might have guessed by now that the basic essentials in your GHB, the items you don’t need right away and don’t need access to frequently will be at the bottom of the bag.  These are also the items that tend to be heavier and having them at the bottom will help stabilize the pack and keep it from being top-heavy.  These items include things such as a tarp and other materials to build a shelter, rain gear, a blanket or bivvy bag if you are carrying one, and any extra clothing you might be carrying.  Whether you need to carry these types of items depends on where you live and how far you tend to travel away from home on a regular basis.

Once the bottom of your GHB is filled, you will need to pack the middle section of your bag.  These will be the items you will need more frequently, i.e. more than once per day.  You can add in any cooking gear you might have and various tools, such as your knife or hatchet.  Extra food can also sit at the top of this middle section.  These items are lighter than the items you put at the bottom of your GHB, although, it you don’t feel you would need some or all of the above items, then these will form the bottom layer of your GHB.

Now you should be left with one smaller pile of supplies.  These are the urgent items, the things you will need as soon as disaster strikes.  This includes the essentials, such as your emergency radio, map, rope, cell phone (if it still functions), first-aid kit, cash, important documents, flashlight, lighter or matches, and anything else that will be needed immediately and/or often.  These also happen to be the lightest items you have, which are ideal to have at the top of the pack.

If you have a backpack, then you most likely have some outer pockets to make use of.  Some of the more frequently used items can be stored in these, rather than the top of the pack.  Your water bottle is also best stored within easy reach.  In addition, some packs make it possible to attach larger items to the outside of the pack, so a blanket or a bed roll might be better attached to the outside of the bag rather than stored inside.

Things to Keep In Mind

First, you don’t want your bag to be too heavy.  It should NOT weigh more than about 20 pounds.  A GHB for a child should max out at 10 pounds.  Remember, this is not a BOB, so it shouldn’t be as big and heavy and shouldn’t have as many items in it.  If it is, then you need to rethink what you have put into your GHB.  Give some serious thought to where you generally go during your day and what you really need in your GHB.  If you work ten blocks from home, you probably don’t need to worry as much about including some form of shelter or a change of clothes as much as you do if you live in an outlying community and work in the city that is an hour away by car.

You also want to protect what you’re packing from moisture.  The last thing you want is to pull out your extra pair of socks to find out they are as wet as the ones on your feet.  Make use of Ziploc bags to seal your important items and protect them in the case of rain or other potential threats of water.  In these Ziploc bags you can store a lot of your gear, such as cash, documents, maps, cell phone, matches, and anything else you want to keep dry.

Finally, be sure to think ahead to determine the types of events that could happen and build your bag around those.  You will want to be sure that your GHB is something you can easily take to and from work with you.  You don’t want to leave it in your car because you can’t be certain you will be able to get to your vehicle during an emergency.  Having your GHB with you at all times and ensuring it is fully equipped will ensure you have the means to keep yourself safe so you can get home as quickly as possible no matter what emergency or disaster occurs.

About Karen Hendry

Karen Hendry
An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats. In her spare time she is writing the next great apocalyptic novel of our time, full of government conspiracy and betrayal at every level.


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    Completely agree with Hal about keeping the “probably important” stuff easily reachable in the bag.

    Karen, you may have already been alluding to the following suggestion under the item called “important documents”…but if not, one more item in my “top tier” is a very lightweight TP Kit consisting of the following:

    -A Ziploc bag, containing
    -3 sets of nitrile gloves,
    -A small, pocket-or-purse-size tube of petroleum jelly, and
    -A quantity of toilet paper (only you can decide how much.)

    One TP Kit “sits high” in each of my EDC, GHB, BOB, and INCH Bags, as well in each of my vehicles — bicycle and motorcycle included. It’s definitely something I don’t want to “need and not have” any less than the flashlight or other “high priority” items in those bags.

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    One particular thing I have in my GHB is a good pair of waterproof, lightweight hikers. I am one of those people that frequently work an hour or more from home, plus, I am in rugged terrain. So, instead of trying to hike thru the woods, across rocky terrain and up steep inclines with my work boots, I would slip on my hikers and make that journey much more bearable. My pack is made of a durable and rugged cordura. Probably not the lightest weight pack, but I would rather know that its not getting torn and ripped open when going thru trees, rocks, etc. Also, throw in a couple of the inexpensive light sticks in your GHB.
    Good article, great info!

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    Good idea except bringing it into work. Some employers might be upset if their worker brings a backpack with a hatchet, tarp, and rope.

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    I have had a “Get Home Bag” for many years and I am always “tinkering” with its contents. For my water, I do have 2 water bottles but also a Life Straw for refills as necessary (unfortunately I live over 50 miles from work but can follow a river most the way home). Additionally, I am an Amateur (Ham) Radio operator so I include a 2-Way radio for talking to family members (and members of my SHTF team). Last but certainly not least, we have all practiced this scenario where we are all at work and make it back to our home (temporary base) before making the decision whether to move on to our more permanent base… It’s great weekend fun and learning.

    One last note… Consider your surroundings, terrain and multiple ways to get home. As for me, I have an ugly plastic Kayak hidden under some brush by the river about 5 miles from my work. No one has ever bothered to steal it in the 3 plus years it has been there and makes my trek home much easier. That being said, I have also “practiced” getting home strictly on foot.

    My 2 cents.

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