Get Home Bag (GHB) versus Bug Out Bag (BOB)-What’s the Difference?

It’s Friday afternoon, a typical work day. You aren’t looking forward to the 20-mile drive that often takes longer than it should because of rush hour traffic. The last few months have been tough. The economy has gone downhill slowly. It would be nice to work closer to home but this job pays nearly double.

Suddenly your office building erupts into chaos. Several women scream, you can hear others shouting. People are running. You glance out the window and see employees leaving the building in droves, running for their cars.

You go to the hallway to see what’s going on. “Hey John, It’s all over the news.” One of your co-workers yells to you as he heads for the stairs.“The President just enacted martial law.” He announces just before the stairwell door closes.

This is what you’ve been preparing for and still you are stunned. After a few seconds, your head clears and your preparation kicks in. You grab your keys. From the back of the door you grab your backpack. It’s the same backpack you carry every day to work and hang on the hook. It stays in the car any other time. It’s your Get Home Bag (GHB), similar to those in this article.

You take out your cell phone and dial your wife as you head for the stairs but get a recording “All circuits are busy now. Please try your call later.” You send a text that you hope will go through at some point. On my way home. It’s 4:15 now. Trying route B will update if not passable. Your alternate route takes the back roads but will be less congested than the interstate.

You arrive in the parking lot a few minutes later only to find your car has been stolen. All you have now to help you get home are the items in your Get Home Bag (GHB) and it’s going to be a long trip. With a sigh you send an updated text, car gone, on foot now. Sticking as close to Route B as possible.

So, What’s in your Get Home Bag (GHB) vs your Bug Out Bag (BOB)?

The basic items you need to get home from wherever you may be when a disaster hits are in the GHB. It’s a plain backpack, messenger bag, or laptop bag, no bright colors or camouflage print. It won’t draw attention and announce your bag full of supplies to everyone you see. You look like just a normal guy trying to get home from work, not GI Joe on a mission.

Unlike the GHB, your BOB should contain everything you need for at least 3 or 4 days. If you have room to include most of the items on this 154 bug out bag essentials list that’s great too. This is the large carry-everything-bag you grab and take with you when SHTF and you are forced to leave your home and travel to a pre-determined bug out location (BOL)



For your GHB, think quick, easy foods you can eat while on the move if need be. Items that don’t need heated and yet still provide the protein and calories you need are good. Your GHB is a great place to have granola bars, energy bars, or even a candy bar if weather is not hot. Throw in an MRE ration or some pemmican, a small bag of nuts, and a foil pouch of tuna with crackers.

Remember you can survive up to 3 weeks without food, so though uncomfortable, you can certainly go 24 hours without eating. Your priority is to get home, meet up with family, and either fortify your home to bug in or move on to your bug out location (BOL). You won’t be stopping to cook meals.


Your BOB should be light enough to carry for long periods, but this is where you carry foods that require cooking as well as food you can eat quickly if need be. Ramen noodles, rice, peanut butter, and bouillon cubes are great to have. Don’t forget a stainless steel pot for boiling water, camp stove, a can opener, metal eating utensils.



lifestrawCarry 2 bottles of water and a LifeStraw filter if you can. Purified water is okay but has more added chemicals. Save the bottles to refill if needed before you reach home. Remember, your GHB is only designed to get you from wherever you are to home, so worst case is an overnight trip if you have to travel on foot.


For your BOB, in case you need to refill from a pond, water purification tablets like Potable Aqua Iodine tablets and Katadyn Micropur Purification tablets work on most things in about 15 minutes. Katadyn tablets also work against Cryptosporidium cysts, in 30 minutes. For cold, dirty water, wait up to 4 hours before drinking. A 4 way sillcock key (to open water valves and faucets on buildings) is handy.

First Aid and Clothing


fisrt aid kitA small mini-first aid kit with Band-Aids, antibiotic cream, aspirin, and maybe some sunscreen will work here. A jacket, a rain poncho, and sunglasses to protect you from the weather. Carry a change of clothes in case you do get wet and warm gloves and a hat in the winter season. A pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots and extra pair socks in case you are wearing dress clothes when SHTF.


Your BOB first aid kit will be larger and include any items you can get for trauma, surgery, or stitches and any medications you or your family members need long term. It’s a good idea to include an EPI pen in case of an allergic reaction and an anti-diarrhea medicine. In your BOB, you will need duplicates of the clothing already in your GHB but include several sets of clothes and several pair of warm socks.

Important Papers


It’s a good idea to include recent photos of each family member in the event someone is lost during the chaos and you need the photo for a search. In today’s age of smart phones, a written list of emergency and family phone numbers in case your cell phone is dead will be crucial. A piece of paper and pen or pencil for writing a note or writing directions may be helpful.


Your bug out bag (BOB) is the place to keep copies of all your important documents. This includes copies of birth certificates for each person as well as copies of insurance documents. Cherished family photos, any other valuable items, and a written inventory of household items with serial numbers go here as well. A topographical map and compass will help you navigate unfamiliar territory.



A plastic tarp, at least 100 feet of paracord and a fleece blanket or Mylar emergency blanket in your GHB is smart. Remember you are trying to get home, meet up with your spouse and children, not sleep in the woods. You need to travel light and will only need shelter if weather is bad or it takes you a lot longer to get home than you expect.


It’s not always practical to carry a tent unless you can find a small pop up that is light and folds small. Your BOB will carry all the tools you need to build a shelter if needed. Include the basic tarp or plastic sheeting and paracord, as well as an axe or handsaw for cutting down limbs. Mylar emergency blankets are a good backup, at least one for each family member.



Spyderco Dragonfly2A good survival knife. Even if you already carry an EDC knife on your person, one in your GHB follows the two is one and one is none philosophy. For most people, your EDC pistol and ammo will be in your GHB or car unless you work somewhere that still allows you to carry it on your person. Pepper spray, OC spray, or wasp spray are alternatives for those who don’t carry a gun.


Your best survival knife, your extra gun and extra ammunition and a good folding knife should be at home in your BOB. It’s also a good idea to include protective gear such as N-95, N100, or R95 respirator masks for each family member. At least one good pair of safety googles and a pair of work gloves are helpful to prevent blisters and other injuries.

Communications and Bartering


portable_chargerAn old cell phone, fully charged for dialing 911 is great to have in your GHB. Include a portable phone charger with multiple options so you can plug in to either a car cigarette lighter, the wall (if power is on), or even hand crank to charge if needed to communicate with family members.

Twenty dollars or more in small bills and change to use in vending machines is a good idea. Some waterproof matches, several lighters and a small personal hygiene kit with a toothbrush, deodorant, and wet wipes are great additions too. Being able to wash your face after hours of traveling on foot can be refreshing and help keep you going.


Your BOB is the place for an emergency or weather radio that can be solar powered. This will help you keep track of what’s happening around you during a long term crisis. A pair of handheld radios or walkie-talkies with long range will help you communicate with family members if your group is separated.

Items for bartering such as alcohol or coffee for bartering with as well as cash and your silver coins if you choose to stockpiles those, should be in your BOB. You’d be surprised at what some people will trade for coffee in a crisis. Your BOB needs several ways to start a fire such as lighters, waterproof matches, flint and magnesium rod as well as your fishing kit and snare wire.

Other items


If there is room in your GHB, a bandana has many, many uses. It can keep sweat from your eyes, filter water, or protect your nose and mouth from debris. Keep a whistle around your neck or in your GHB so you can get the attention of loved one in a crowd. A flashlight and batteries, a screwdriver or multi-tool, some duct tape, and a can of fix-a-flat will come in handy for any minor repairs.


A battery operated flashlight that can be powered multiple ways and a headlamp for each person. Add scissors, a sewing kit, extra batteries in varying sizes, a high quality multi-tool, and several yards of duct tape. Include a folding shovel and a small gas can if you have room. Lightweight books or a kindle with info on edible plants and plant healing uses and some on tree identification are valuable in the woods.

In the end, items in your GHB may overlap a little with your BOB but basically your GHB is for short-term twenty-four hours or less. It’s the bag you always have within reach and it’s the one you will use until you get home safely or get to your BOB. The BOB is the end all be all bag. This is the bag that you invest in, the items in this bag are ones your life will depend on in a long-term crisis.

About Megan Stewart

Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart. For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of six grandsons, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.


  1. Avatar

    I’m very happy to see your comment about your GHB and BOB overlapping…because mine do. Many EDC gear will find its way into the end-all-be-all packs because most families of 4 don’t have the $$$ to buy 4 Leatherman for 4 packs.

  2. Avatar

    Under “protection” you listed wasp spray. Please stop perpetuating the myth that wasp spray is effective as a deterrent. It is not. It is nothing like pepper spray. There is no capsaisin in it. It is basically useless on anyone over than 8 years old. Do the research and stop the myth. This will get someone killed if they think wasp spray is effective against an attacker.

    • Avatar

      True, but wasp spray combined with a lighter or matches is a very effective defensive tool as most wasp sprays are petroleum based and make a terrific makeshift flamethrower in an emergency situation!

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