Your prepper pantry? Filled to the brim.
Your bug out bag? Ready to grab and go.
Heck, even your underground bunker is raring for some action.
But there's just one major hitch: You're. Not. Home.
That's exactly why get home bags (GHBs) were invented. When SHTF and you're far away from the safety of your home, a well-stocked GHB can help you make your way back in one piece.
Here's everything you need to know about get home bags:
What's the Difference Between a Get Home Bag and a Bug Out Bag?
Let's be clear about one thing.
Get home bags and bug out bags aren't the same. Sure, both bags can help you survive natural and manmade disasters, but they each have different roles to play.
Here's the 411 on each bag:
Get Home Bag
The get home bag is designed to keep you alive until you reach home safely.
Keep in mind that disasters don't discriminate. They can happen at any time and at any place. You may find yourself in the middle of a catastrophe while at work or on the road. Or, maybe you just wanna make your way home to bug in before a long-term disaster strikes.
Either way, having a well-stocked GHB can help improve your chances of survival.
A get home bag is lightweight so it won’t slow you down, yet packed with enough essentials to help you reach home alive.
Ideally, the journey from your workplace to home would take a couple of hours, but it can stretch out depending on the situation. That said, you can't exactly know where you'll be when SHTF, so the main deciding factor for your bag’s size is your normal commute (how far your home is to your workplace/school/etc.).
Of course, there are other factors to consider, which we talk about in detail in another section.
You can store your bag under your work table, inside your school locker, in a PO box, or in your car trunk. At the very least, it should be somewhere that's within your reach.
A word of caution, though, if you choose to keep your bag in your car: there's a chance you won't have access to your vehicle in emergencies like earthquakes or riots, so take that into consideration.
Who It's For
Get home bags are ideal for any person who spends a lot of time outside the house, like folks who work in an office, students who go to school, or even retirees who’re always out and about.
Bug Out Bag
The bug out bag is engineered to help you survive as you travel from your house to your bug out location. It's meant for more severe situations where you can't risk staying at home, like wars, forest fires, and flooding from hurricanes.
A BOB is stocked with supplies that can last at least 72 hours. Because of that, it's bigger than a get home bag. Its size ultimately depends on factors like your physique and how much you can carry on your back.
You're supposed to keep at least one bug out bag in a safe yet easily accessible location at home, and another one inside your bug out vehicle. That way, you can just grab it and go when you need to set out for your bug out location.
Who It's For
Bug out bags are meant for any individual who has to evacuate their home swiftly when a disaster hits.
How to Choose a Get Home Bag
Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to choose a GHB. But before you start packing the first bag you find (your old gym bag, really?), you still need to factor in a few things, like:
Size is always a factor when it comes to choosing SHTF gear and a get home bag is no exception.
Your GHB’s size will ultimately depend on certain factors.
First, the length of your trip. Since your trip back home normally won't reach two days or more, a GHB should have a 50 L max capacity or smaller.
Your body type—or your torso, to be more precise—is also one thing to consider when it comes to the size of your GHB. The smaller your torso, the smaller the pack.
The usual climate in your area will also come into play. If you live in a cold environment, you'll need a larger bag to compensate for your winter SHTF gear.
This article offers guidelines that can help you identify the ideal GHB size for you.
Invest in a good quality bag; one that won't give out after a ton of use and abuse.
You need to go for one made out of sturdy material, like nylon. It's also best to get a bag that's water-resistant to keep the things inside dry when it rains. Zippers that won't snap or get stuck would be ideal, too.
Consider the bag's straps as well. Sternum straps, load lifter straps, and hip belts help you stay balanced when you walk, but make sure they’re not too flashy. You wouldn’t wanna attract unnecessary attention.
Also, it wouldn't hurt to choose a bag with a lot of compartments for your supplies.
Other factors to look into include:
- Frame: Does the bag have a supportive frame? It should, since you’ll be carrying a bunch of stuff.
- Ventilation: Can the GHB keep your back from getting drenched in sweat?
- Padding: You don't want your bag to dig into your shoulders, back, and other parts of your body. Make sure the padding on the GHB is enough to keep you comfortable.
- Durability: Don't settle for a substandard bag. You need an ultra-durable pack that's built to last.
Like we mentioned above, the last thing you wanna do is attract unwanted attention from desperate folks.
While we recommend getting the best quality bag you can find, you also wanna make sure that it won't stand out. Don’t go for a bag that screams you’ve got all kinds of valuable stuff with you.
Avoid loud colors or camo print--- unless you wanna make yourself a walking target.
You could go for a regular backpack if you wanna blend in, but make sure that it's sturdy and comfortable enough to carry even in long distances. Messenger bags are also an option if you wanna stay on the down-low, but they’re not the most comfortable pieces of gear based on our experience.
Remember, your goal is to be a gray man and blend in with your surroundings—and NOT to look like Rambo on a mission.
Got all that? Now let’s take a look at what your get home bag contents should look like:
What Goes Inside a Get Home Bag?
Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Water always tops the list when it comes to survival. For your GHB, you’ll need something that can carry water, but it has to be made of the right material.
That said, plastic is a no-go since you can’t use it to boil water, and if it’s a cheap one that’s not BPA-free, it can even leach harmful chemicals into your H2O. Instead, invest in a stainless steel water bottle. It's safer, more durable, and more useful than a plastic bottle. You can also use it to boil water and even as a cooking vessel, should the need arise.
Water Filter and Purification Tablets
Sure, you know the 3-mile stretch from your office to your home like the back of your hand, but what if you're further away than usual when SHTF?
In that case, you’ll need more water than your bottle can carry. A portable water filter or water purification tablets should do just the trick.
You can use these to drink out of streams or ponds without worrying about contaminants. If you’re living in the city or ‘burbs though, you might have to get more creative and purify water from public fountains, toilet tanks (not the bowl!), swimming pools, and other bodies of water.
You'll need food to keep you fueled as you make your way back home. You could carry freeze-dried meals, but they aren't the most practical option in an urban environment where you may not be able to set up camp.
Instead, pack the following in your get home bag:
- Energy bars
- Hard candies and gum
These types of food are easy to pack and require little to no preparation, a must when you’re in a hurry. They also give you the energy boost you need to keep going.
Duct tape is a beast in survival situations. 'Nuff said.
If you split your eyeglasses in two or got a splinter stuck in your finger, then just use some duct tape and you're good to go.
Tarp works great as a makeshift shelter. Plus, it's got other uses that make it a mainstay in SHTF gear lists—as a poncho, a hammock, and groundsheet, to name a few. You won’t regret having one in your bag.
With paracord, you can make a shelter, hunt for food, and make a fire. That's not all, though. It has other everyday and survival uses that make it special. Having said that, you need to know how to use it. Why not try some of these paracord projects out for size?
By now, you've probably noticed a pattern with the get home bag contents we've covered so far. A lot of them have several uses, including this one.
You can go for a multitool that has all the important bits like pliers, a screwdriver, scissors, a couple of knives, and of course, a bottle opener. But if you want to save on space, then you won't go wrong with a wallet multitool.
Communication is vital in every emergency situation.
That's why you need a radio to keep you updated on everything that's going on. Go for the pocket-sized variety to save some precious real estate on your GHB.
Compass and Maps
What's something Hansel and Gretel didn't have when they were lost in the middle of nowhere? We can name a couple of things—a map, a compass, and maybe a sense of direction.
You don't ever wanna be in their shoes, so go ahead and add maps and a compass to your bag. These are old-school but they'll be handy when you can't use GPS to find alternate routes home.
You could use your phone to help you see at night, but it's better not to. You should preserve its juice to get in touch with your loved ones. Instead, get a sturdy flashlight to light your way when it's dark out.
Look for one that has a high lumen output, built-in USB charging, and heavy-duty strike-bezel edges—like this tactical flashlight by TAC9ER.
Remember, you’ll be walking a long way. You can't ignore nature's call forever. Things will be much more pleasant if you've got a wad of good ‘ol TP at your disposal.
Wet wipes are a good alternative since you can also use them to cool down or clean your body.
You don't need to bring a giant kit with you. Just pack the absolute essentials like some bandages, alcohol or alcohol wipes, antibiotic cream, and over the counter meds. They'll be useful if you get injured along the way.
A Change of Clothes
Disasters are usually unexpected, so you may not be dressed for the occasion. Pack a change of clothes that can keep you warm and dry.
Shoes and Extra Socks
Keep your feet in good shape. They’ll be doing the brunt of the work on your trip.
Pack a pair of durable shoes and extra socks. The last thing you want is to be walking miles in your dress shoes or heels, after all.
Your feet aren't the only ones that need protection. You also need to protect your hands since you'll be working with them for most tasks.
Get a pair of lightweight gloves that offer optimal comfort and have full Kevlar lining for protection. If you own a phone, then you may also want to consider a pair that's touch screen sensitive.
You should have the means to start a fire when needed. Waterproof matches, a ferro rod, and a BIC lighter are some pretty nifty firestarters.
N95 Face Mask
An N95 mask is the best mask to pack because it offers maximum protection against dust, dirt, and viruses. Your shirt or bandana just won’t cut it.
Never underestimate the power of a good sunscreen.
If you're too reckless when you're walking under the sweltering heat, you'll not only look like an overripe tomato--- you’ll feel like one, too. Avoid that mistake and add a bottle of sunscreen to your bag.
You'll never go wrong with keeping a few $5, $10, or $20 bills on hand just in case your credit card or the ATM stops working.
Don't just stuff the bills anywhere in your bag, though, to prevent damage or theft. You can store your cash in a Ziploc bag, tape it into the insides of your spare clothes, or hide it beneath the sole of your hiking boots.
Solar Charger, Power Bank, and Batteries
If you have electronics, it's common sense to pack batteries, a power bank, or even a solar charger.
Still got room in your bag? Then you may want to pack these items, too:
- Self-defense items (like pepper spray and mace)
- Trekking poles
- Emergency signals (a whistle or a flare)
If the perfect get home bag existed, then we'd skip all this and just tell you to get that instead.
But where's the fun in that, right?
Ultimately, the decision rests in your hands.
If there's one secret we'd like to share, though, it's that less is more.
Remember, the point of a GHB is to help you go back home as fast as possible. You don't want it to weigh you down. Pack only what you consider absolutely essential. While you're at it, brush up on your survival skills. The more you know, the less you need.
Is there something we forgot to add? Let us know in the comments!