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The Ultimate Get Home Bag

What is a get home bag, you may ask? A get-home bag, or GHB, is a cousin to a bug-out bag. Where a BOB is designed to help get you away from home and hopefully to your bug-out location, a GHB is a bag designed to help you get home if disaster strikes while you’re away from home. A GHB is a step forward in prepping to make sure you’re covered in a wider array of disaster scenarios you might face. It’s the next logical piece of kit to add after your EDC and BOB.

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 your favorite show. All of the sudden, BLAM, disaster strikes so you rush to get your bug-out bag, load the car with as many additional supplies as you can and get the heck out of there.

But what are the odds of you actually being home when it happens, really? Not particularly high, unless you spend most of your time there. Not very high at all, actually, considering most of us do work full-time jobs. And 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 GHBs.

inside of a get home bag

What Makes a Good Get Home Bag?

Since the idea of a GHB is to have it nearby at all times when you are away from home, you can’t go for a pack so large and unwieldy that you draw too much attention to yourself. People will wonder what you’re up to if you are carrying around an expedition pack in an office setting or in public. Getting labeled as one of those preppers can also have mild to severe social consequences depending on the prevailing culture and societal norms where you live.

The following types of bags can make great get-home bags:

  • 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

Use caution before selecting a bag with the following features:

Overtly tactical or military appearance- recall that you GHB may accompany you as you go to your job/appointment/whatever. Bags of this style can be very conspicuous in some settings.

Bright colors or loud patterns- same as above for different reasons. If you are in a conservative dress setting, your neon orange and silver-tan pack will be noticeable.

Designer or very expensive packs- fashion packs and luggage, while often exquisitely crafted, usually will not stand up to the same level of wear, tear and outright abuse as their less-expensive and plebian but  purpose-built cousins. If you are going to choose a fancy pack for your GHB, make sure you can test it thoroughly before declaring it good.

Too-Large Packs- Once again, you want to blend in and hopefully move fast, not look like you’re going on safari in Africa.

get home bag with items inside

Recommendations

Based on our above criteria, here is a selection of backpacks and other bags that would make fine get-home bags.

The List – Get-Home Bag Contents

For the list below, I’m going to give you each item in order of how important it is for your GHB. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what to ultimately pack but please keep in mind that a GHB should trend toward small size and as lightweight as possible. You don’t want to overburden yourself when you are facing a long and fast march home.

The way you decide how much to pack is by knowing the nominal distance between you and home. The farther you tend to travel from home for work or whatever, 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.

ghb items

What About Your Car?

If you have car that you drive every day this means you can probably stage your GHB in the trunk or other secured compartment (or at least out of sight from potential thieves) and potentially stash a few additional GHB goodies. Below is a list of items you might consider storing in your vehicle alongside your GHB. Up to you which items you need most, of course.

  • full-sized blanket
  • water filter
  • fire extinguisher, small
  • Hatchet (for light demo, vehicle extrication and B&E if needed.)
  • chainsaw or an ax (in case the streets are blocked by fallen trees)
  • gun
  • ammo
  • Spare mag and ammo for your pistol
  • pry (for opening doors and gates)
  • advanced first-aid kit
  • large fixed-blade knife (Schrade Extreme Survival Knife)
  • stainless steel water bottle
  • collapsible cup
  • chalk (useful in urban areas to write messages)
  • walkie-talkies (BaoFeng Two Way Radio)
  • ziploc bags
  • USB and mini USB charging cable
  • Notepad and pencil or pen
  • butane lighter
  • scissors
  • paper and pencil
  • hand sanitizer
  • pop flares (for signaling)
  • Pen flares
  • sewing kit
  • large trash bags
  • umbrella
  • Close quarters weapon; club, machete etc. if hatchet is not carried
  • 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 and will steal all your supplies. This means your gun, ammo and your credit card will be missing. I sure hope you won’t write down the PIN code and leave it next to it (or somewhere else in your GHB)!

What Are My Other Considerations For Packing?

There are several things to consider when deciding what to pack in your GHB. Your locale (urban, suburban, rural), will play a part in how large your pack can be and not draw more than casual notice. The nominal distance between your daily destination and home will also help determine both the size and loadout of your GHB.

Another factor to consider is your age, fitness level and general constitution. A young, fit athlete can carry a heavier load farther and faster than someone who is out of shape or infirm. Be sure to consider your health conditions or ailments, if any, and pack medicine and supplies to accommodate them accordingly.

The climate too requires accommodation. You must assume you will be heading home on foot for the entire journey. What is the weather like in your locale in the current season? How about at night? You must pack clothing to prevent exposure from becoming a serious threat.

If you do not take your personally owned vehicle out every day, consider that you will not have any reasonably secure storage for sensitive items that you cannot bring into your workplace. Plan accordingly for packing guns and knives.

Now What?

Now that you have your GHB all assembled, this doesn’t mean you’re ready. The most important components in any preparedness plan aren’t items at all: they are your skills.

Consider the following 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 or other hostile humans while getting home.

Your child is at school and you’re at home when the SHTF.

Any of the above will require significant skills to negotiate successfully. Remember: a fool with a tool is still a fool. Work on your skills! Here’s just a few that you might need to get home alive:

Ability to jump obstacles

Ability to sprint

Ability to run or walk long distances

Self-defense skills (Hand-to-Hand and Armed combat)

Ability to climb obstacles

Ability to walk and or run up/down hills or stairs

Frequently Asked Questions

I covered pretty much anything you need to know about get-home bags. However, I often get the same few questions when advising new preppers and have answered them here in case you happen to have the same ones.

What’s the difference between a GHB and a BOB?

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.

A get-home bag is designed to get you from somewhere relatively close to home to home in a SHTF disaster. It’s typically designed to serve you for a day or so of rapid movement, with a focus on energy management and tools for problem solving. A

bug-out bag is designed to help you survive for at least 72 hours in the wilderness, away from home, with a focus on sustainment and life support. The former is typically smaller, lighter and only has the bare minimum needed to get you home. The latter is heavier, has more supplies and includes even more equipment you need you to hunt, cook, fish and so on.

Are GHBs more useful in urban or rural areas?

It depends, but the important answer is they are useful in both. Preppers living in the countryside often have bug-out bags in their cars because they’ll raise fewer eyebrows and have to deal with less scrutiny. 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 support you?

Typically about 2 lean days, provided that you’re less than 100 miles from home. Remember, this bag will get you home, not living in the woods.

How should you pack the stuff inside?

Keep the heavier items close to your back, and low near your hips. Ideally you’ll want as many of your non-waterproof items as possible placed in Ziploc bags to make them water resistant.

Is it useful when travelling?

Definitely, with some modifications for travelling far from home. It’s still better than what 99% of the population will have on them if you just take the bag as-is based on the checklists above.

How heavy can I go?

Keeping in mind you should only pack what’s absolutely necessary for your specific situation and nothing more, try to keep it below 40 pounds for adults in decent shape. Keep in mind this is much heavier than you think if you are unacclimatized to hauling stuff on foot and will kick your ass if you have to really march. Make sure you get in practice “rucking” with your GHB.

More Tips

If you want an optimized get-home bag, please keep these pointers in mind:

Get smaller versions of everything. Think button compass, a really small folding knife, a smaller, lighter backpack and so on.

Don’t pack more than you need. Really. Weight is a huge factor and you don’t want to abandon your GHB just because you can’t move fast enough. Focus on getting the essentials, squeeze as many of the other items as you can but don’t forget the mission is 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 GHB, especially if it is kept in your vehicle most of the time

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 let your hips support much of the weight of the pack, lessening fatigue and strain on your shoulders.

Conclusion

A get home bag is in many ways more valuable than a BOB considering how much time the average person spends away from home, a disaster will not wait for you to get home before it strikes. The first phase of your survival plan may very well be to get home and then bug-out or shelter in place. Considering the likelihood of such an event, it pays to master the way of the get-home bag.

updated 10/02/2018

updated 10/15/2018

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About Dan F. Sullivan

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.

12 comments

  1. My concern about the possibility of an EMP is this: I’m a 60-year-old grandmother, with mobility issues, raising a 6-year-old granddaughter, who goes to school about 3 1/2 miles from home. I recently had a hip replaced and I’m coming up on back surgery. I do not own a mobility scooter. I do not believe the school has alternate plans in place to transport children home in the event of an EMP. How will I get my granddaughter home? I cannot walk to the school let alone back home again. I won’t be able to communicate with them or call a family member to see if they could go and get her. I am really trying to have this one emergency plan in place “just in case”. Lastly, all of my close-by family lives at least ten miles further from our grade school than I do. Advice is appreciated.

    • Your granddaughter needs to learn how to walk home by her self, 3 1/2 miles is not far. Are there other children she could walk with?

  2. is it true (like One Second After says) that most cars won’t run? I am a 69 year old grandmother. My 12 yr old granddaughter and 19 yr old grandson live with me. the 12 yr old will most likely be at school, 4 miles away, and the grandson at school 11 miles away. How am I going to get them home?

    • @Linda Watson most newer cars won’t run as they rely on circuitry to operate and since your car will act like antennae to EMP fields the circuitry which is unprotected from EMP will be fried. Older model cars such as those made in the mid 90’s to early 2000’s will experience some damage but since most of them rely on mechanical means to operate will still run. You just may lose your speedometer or digital mileage readout. Cars built early 90’s and older will suffer no damage at all unless they’ve been somewhat modernized (like perhaps a fancy touchscreen radio). They’ll shut off but all they will need is a simple restart.

      Contrary to popular myth, EMP does not fry everything. Handheld devices such as cellphones will still work as long as they are not plugged in. Cables will act as antennae to EMP emmissions so keep that in mind. If it has cables or is rather large like a desktop, it’ll be fried. That means cell towers will go. so even if your cell works it’ll just be a paperweight UNLESS you have some useful offline apps. I’d suggest getting those such as offline maps of your area, medical guides, etc. Addresses that perhaps you normally keep on the cloud should be downloaded as well.

      If you want 100% guarantee you’ll have useful electronics still working such as a laptop or tablet, build a farads cage. You can do this with a cardboard box. Put some nonconductI’ve padding inside, put your electronics in (id wrap them so they don’t scratch themselves bumping around of you take it on the road. Next close it up and seal it with nonconductive tape and wrap it with a few layers of tin foil. The tin foil will absorb EMP emissions and keep the contents safe. Alternatively if you have say a HAM radio and desktop or any larger appliances you want safe you can turn a room into a giant faraday cage. I’d Google that as thats just a tad bit more complicated but still easy.

      Note, after an EMP society will pretty much cave in. You’ll have rioters, looters, and those that just want to hurt people for thrills. Going to get your kids will be pointless if you don’t have anywhere safe to go because after all if you live in a decent house looters and what not will likely target it as soke place that’ll have something of value. I’d start with fortifying your house. Reinforce your doors with longer screws in the hinges and and kick plate (the part that your door latch connects to. Alternative and probaby a better solution is the door devil. If you got the money, there are companies that make security doors that you can buy that will prevent the common looter from breaking in without specialized tools like explosives are cutters. Some sell bulletproof doors. These will likely cost a few grand but I’d say worth it if you have the money. They’d be good for front and back doors or/and to make a saferoom. You’ll also need to reinforce your windows in some manner. Looters will stop at nothing to get in. While bars over the windows wouod detour most home invaders or robbers, the looters will likely use a vehicle and chain to pull the bars off. So the best option would be to get away from glass and go for some thing like plexiglass, or make some form of shutters out of plexiglass.

      Ok so now your home is reinforced (I’d be more worried about civil unrest more than an emp btw but reinforcing home security if you dot have a place outside the city to go to is a must). So what good is a reinforced home if you don’t have the capability to sustain your self? Tie to stock up on food and water. For an EMP it really depends on how bad the attack was. It can take weeks or even up to a year or longer for some the grid to be restored in some capacity. Also note that during such an emp attack the military will likely enforce martial law the moment they get back on the feet which wont be long. They are better prepared than we are when it comes to such attacks. However, use Katrina as a guideline. It took months for any Federal entity to even begin to try and adminOster aid and try and restore order. And that was just one area of the US. So it will be much longer for them to mobilize in a National crisis such as an EMP. With that said, for an EMP I recommend storing enough food and water to feed your family for a year. I’d recommend canned, freeze-dried, or dehydrated food or even MRE’s. Keep in mind tho that freeze dried and dehydrated good takes water to prepare so if you go that route you’ll need water supply just for cooking. Also important to stock up on are first aid supplies. You should have a small kit for each family member and I’d recommend at least one or two trauma kits (might want to take some training too). There are some large medkit that will include a bit of everything. They’re pricey but they’ll be worth it. You also want emergency candles, flashlights, spare batteries, and a radio. I’d suggest a HAM radio as well. Dont need a license for monitoring and bugger all, license wont matter after an EMP. Granted, the license isn’t that hard to obtain. Also, you’ll need something for self defense. I recommend a shotgun for the house and perhaps a handgun for on the go (again during a crisis screw legality, but while we are currently fine, keep in mind carrying requires a license). Take training if you’ve never had guns before or at least never shot before. I’d also recommend some tactical and hand-to-hand training so you can fight through all the hooligans on the way to pick up your kids and get em home safely.

      Lastly for your preparing, have a plan. When the big bang happens regardless of what kind it is, know how you will go get your kids. What route will you take? Is there a route you’d think would be safer to use? Quicker? What about alternate routes in case you have to detour? What will you do before the big bang? After? During? What if you have to abandon your house? Where would you go then and hiw would you get there? Speaking of which, for each member I’d pack what’s called a go bag. This pack should be light and be able to sustain each member indefinitely or 3 days at a minimum (this is where learning how to scavenge and hunt for food will come in handy if you run out of food on your way to safety). Now when the emp falls, enact that plan of yours.

    • Bicycles are a good option. Used cheap bicycles can be found on craigslist in you area.

      • Just my 2 cents, for you mobility issues. An adult tricycle, place for small ones and stable for balance impaired. The way over the top is to have a a small gas or battery motor that can “assist” with peddling. This means it would need to be protected from EMP energy prior to the event. You would be the envy of the neighborhood after an EMP event, even w/o the motor:).
        Good luck.
        Dee

  3. In regards to the above, I had a back injury and some of those concerns are mine too. I think we all should think of our personal needs, for myself and my husband who broke his back and wont be able to haul big loads on it…we have planned by having good old pioneer things like this site also offers up as info. I have a few large dogs and I have harnesses, dogs and many animals were used to haul by means of a wagon or small cart. For someone with a wheelchair a wheeled conveyance that can be aided by a pet, or just by your hands, manual transportation, horses etc.
    Even with cell phones, someone had to be on the other end. so planning manual things may be the only choice, EMP wise.

  4. Thanks for posting some good articles, I have only been here a few months and would love to see more like this that are updated as they are important and GAIN relevance rather than become outdated as things become more and more socially tense, political climates are unsteady, resources becoming scarce…etc.
    Plus we can see new products if they apply and would help…like the new lighweight fabrics, Tac lights, etc
    Thanks for supplying such a valuable resource, there is so much WRONG info as people fill sites and just recopy things already out there…well, its refreshing to see actual pictures and myths busted, and people that actually DO these things and/or research the info.
    I really like Ryan’s series, and we are building a chicken flock and really I didnt know I DIDNT need a rooster, and I saw excellent RELATED articles on caring and getting more eggs. I like Jack’s book, and always grab some hot Tea to read Dans and usually print the lists like this one. I am biased about Dyann and Eric, as I know them and even got to help make doggie treats as we made Pet BOB’s haha Meghan has really great reads and really liking Heath pieces too. This is my daily morning reading, so thanks again for providing a site where I dont have to go anywhere else and wonder if its just the same paid content or someone who cares, and takes the time to cover all the bases.

    • Dan F. Sullivan

      Thank you for the kind words and I’ll do my best to deliver daily articles to you and everyone else. I feel humbled to have such a kick-ass team of experienced writers who are the real deal! 🙂

    • Roosters leave rooster 🐔 bullets in your eggs won’t hurt nothing 😃 but you can’t restock from your own flock you have to buy out side replacements by raising your own you can have a young rooster in the pot now and then

  5. For you that have a little land you can build an earth ship from old tires and dirt covered store your supplies and water with a composting toilet inside 😌 plant different types of garden foods learn to can by using outside facilities
    Shorty

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