We know that an emergency can strike at any moment- while you’re at work, at school, or just out with the family. This is why a get home bag is critical to protect yourself from the unexpected.
Your bug out bag will probably be at home, which means if there is a SHTF situation while you’re at work, you could be in trouble. This is why you need basic gear to help you safely travel that distance.
In this article, we will cover exactly what a get home bag is along with the best items for your get home bag.
What is a Get Home Bag?
A get home bag is a bag of gear you keep in your car to help you get home. Typically get home bags are going to be lighter and smaller than a bug out bag because you only need supplies for (maybe) one to three days. As such, each item should be carefully picked to help you travel home over that one to three days.
You cannot assume you will be able to drive home. Often with unexpected disasters roads are closed or blocked, so you should assume you will be on foot.
Recent figures show that the average adult spends their day 16 miles from their home. Even if you are in peak physical condition, it would be hard to travel that distance on foot in one day.
Why Build a Get Home Bag?
The simple answer is that you need survival gear with you at all times. This is becoming increasingly obvious as civil unrest intensifies across the country.
Pre-coronavirus, most people spent at least 30% of their available hours away from their home. Those are times when you are most vulnerable, which is why you really need a get home bag. Just in case.
Just imagine: you could be working when a tornado touches down in your city. Or you could meet significant flooding like we saw with hurricane Katrina. Or perhaps a protest turns violent like we have seen much of this year.
In any of these scenarios, you would need to get home and would be traveling on foot. Your get home bag will be your lifeline in these scenarios.
I have completed survival challenges on which I took only a knife with me and survived for several days. However, if I have a choice I would ALWAYS want more gear.
Where Should I Keep my Get Home Bag?
The most important rule for storing your get home bag is that you should be able to get to it without any significant walking. If you park near where you work, you can keep it in the trunk of your car. This is typically the location that makes the most sense.
However, if you take public transportation you would need to find a way to bring your bag with you. If you have a desk or locker at work, you can keep it there. In fact, if you have the option of carrying it inside with you then that is the best bet. However, for most of us the car is just fine.
Tips for Building a Get Home Bag
Whenever you put together a survival pack of any kind, you will need to find a good balance. You want to have the gear you need to get home, but the pack also needs to be light so you can cover the distance quickly.
I suggest you start by laying out all of the gear you think you want in your get home bag. Keep in mind that the climate and probably walking paths will dictate the gear that you need. Then go through piece by piece and decide if you absolutely need it to get home safely.
Pay close attention to large and heavy items as they affect your pack the most. Once you have revised your gear list, load up your pack. If you are happy with the weight and everything fits, you are good to go. If not, go back through and eliminate a few more items.
An important strategy to build an effective get home bag is to always focus on the size and weight of the gear you select. If you have several options, smaller and lighter is usually better.
In addition, try to select items that have multiple uses. For example, I have a ferro rod that has a compass and an emergency whistle built in. I can use this tool to start a fire, to signal for help, and to navigate my way to safety.
Finally, always look for high quality gear that will not break. For example, you are better off bringing one solid survival knife versus bringing three cheap knives that might break.
Best 10 Items for your Get Home Bag
As you start putting together your gear for your get home bag, you should prioritize based on a few factors. Start by looking at the four pillars of survival: fire, water, food, and shelter. After you have selected gear to help you acquire these resources, you can move on to other priorities like first aid, self-defense, navigation, and signaling for help.
Remember that you should only need supplies for a few days. If you follow the rule of threes you know you can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, and three hours without fire or shelter.
Because of this, food will not be as important as it would be if you had a longer journey. But water is critical.
That being said, here are the first ten items you should consider for your get home bag.
Water Filter and Purification Tablets
You can survive three days without water, but it is difficult to hike for several days while dehydrated. It is suggested that you drink at least a gallon of water a day to stay functional. This amount actually increases when you are in warm temperatures or dealing with a lot of physical activity.
I find that often I have to take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes if I am hiking and dehydrated. This does not make for an ideal pace. Drinking water is heavy and bulky, so you are best to have a way to purify water.
You can pack one or two small bottles of water, but a portable filter is more important. Good water filters typically eliminate 99.999% of harmful pathogens from tainted water. This ensures you will not get sick from the water you drink.
I like to pack a filter bottle because it allows me to carry water with me from one source to the next. You can also pack a straw style filter if you prefer. These are smaller and easier to pack, but they require that you drink at the water source.
I also recommend you add purification tablets to your pack as extra insurance. They take up almost no space and can save your life if your filter gets clogged. Just drop a couple tablets in tainted water and about 30 minutes later it is ready to drink.
Fire Starters and Tinder
Even in warm weather, you should have a way to start a fire. Hypothermia is the number one cause of death in survival scenarios., which is when your internal body temperature drops below 95 degrees. You can get hypothermia in temperatures as high as 60 degrees if you are wet, so you may need a fire even during summer nights.
A quality firesteel is the most reliable fire starter you can pack. They are windproof, waterproof, require no fuel, and shoot out sparks at around 3000 degrees. You could also pack a Zippo style lighter as they are windproof, reliable, and can be refilled with any flammable liquid.
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If you want to be sure you can start a fire in any conditions, premade tinder can help. I like to keep Wetfire cubes and Firestix in my pack. Wetfire cubes will take a spark and stay lit in the wind and rain for a few minutes. Firestix require a flame, but they stay lit in the wind and rain for about 20 minutes.
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When you combine these with a firesteel or ferro rod, there is no reason you should not have a fire. You can also make your own pre-made tinder by rubbing cotton balls in petroleum jelly.
You want to have a way to block the wind and rain at night, and an emergency blanket is the ideal tool. These blankets have a reflective coating that reflects 90% of your body heat back to you. You can wrap up with the blanket or can use it to build a shelter.
They make disposable space blankets that are small and cheap. I prefer a tarp style blanket that is less likely to rip and has grommets at the corners for building a shelter.
While you likely can make it home without food, it’s always smart to pack basic survival food. You just need some calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates to give you a little boost.
Anything dry and preserved can work for this. I like keeping either jerky or meal replacement bars in my pack.
Cordage can be needed for several different survival tasks you may face on your way home. You do not want to take the time to try and make cordage with natural materials. I like to pack 550 paracord as it is thin and can hold 550 pounds of weight.
It can also be split open to use the internal strands. That means that packing 10 feet of paracord actually equates to about 80 feet of total cordage. You can replace your boot laces or weave paracord into a lanyard to add to your pack.
By far the most important tool to pack in your get home bag is a survival knife. As I stated before, I have survived with only a knife when the challenge required it. You can complete so many tasks with a single survival knife.
I suggest a fixed blade full tang knife with a blade between three and ten inches tip to handle. This is the most reliable style for survival. It can handle tough jobs like batoning firewood and more delicate work like cleaning small game.
Be sure to pay close attention to the type of steel you select for your knife. When I first started participating in survival challenges, I bought an inexpensive but highly rated blade. The shape and size were perfect for my needs, but I had to sharpen it constantly.
The problem was the knife was made with a cheap steel that does not hold an edge well. I replaced it with a similar knife made of high quality steel and almost never need to sharpen it.
Map and Compass
Your goal with a get home bag is to make it to your destination as quickly and efficiently as you can. You might be able to wander around until you find your way home, but you are better off to follow a predetermined path.
The best way to do this is to keep a map of your route and a compass in your pack. The map will show you the path to take, and the compass will help you orient the map.
You should never rely ONLY on GPS as the device could break or the batteries could run out.
Small First Aid Kit
If you need medical attention, you are better off to use the first aid kit at your work or school. However, if you become injured on the way home you should have a way to patch yourself up. I suggest a small first aid kit with bandages, medical tape, butterfly bandages, antibiotic ointment, and any medications you need.
Whether you have to cross a creek or you just sweat from the hike, you are likely to end up with wet socks. This is a good way to get blisters or swamp foot that would slow your pace.
Having a dry pair of wool socks is always important. Wool is the only natural material that can keep your feet warm even when wet, so they are typically the best choice.
Flashlight or Headlamp
In most cases you will not be able to make it home the same day you start hiking. This means camping overnight, and having light is important. You should avoid hiking at night even with a light, but you want to have one for around your campsite.
I have a small tactical flashlight made of aircraft aluminum that does a great job. It is practically indestructible and puts out over 1000 Lumen. You can also pack a headlamp that has all of the same features but also keeps your hands free for other tasks.
Your list of prepper gear for your get home bag is going to be slightly different from mine based on your personal needs. Just focus on keeping a balance between the weight of your pack and the length of your gear list.
Also, do not just load up your pack, put it in your trunk, and forget about it. You should review your get home bag contents and practice with your gear a few times a year to adjust for the weather and swap out expired items.
Most people are more likely to use their get home bag than any other survival kit, so make sure you stay on top of it.