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 the get home bag (GHB) was 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, a Bug Out Bag, a Go Bag, and an Everyday Carry Bag?
Let’s be clear about one thing.
Get home bags, bug out bags, everyday carry bags, and go bags aren’t the same. Sure, these bags can help you survive unforeseen emergencies and 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 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 typical commute (how far your home is to your workplace/school/etc.).
Of course, there are other factors to consider, which we discuss in detail in another section.
You can store your bag under your work table, inside your school locker, in a PO box, or 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 consider that.
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 challenging 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 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.
Related: Preparing a Bug Out Bag
A go bag is an emergency-preparedness bag that’s useful in situations that require immediate evacuation from your home to find new shelter. This pre-packed bag contains survival essentials that can help keep you safe until you can return home.
This bag of emergency supplies is best carried in a small or medium-sized pack. Some bags may be larger than others, but they shouldn’t be a trunk full of luggage. Choose a bag that can carry the necessary items only. Don’t fill it to the brim.
A safe and secure spot in your home where you can just grab the bag at a moment’s notice is the best location to keep your go bag. You may also store it in the trunk of your car for easy access.
Who It’s For
Go bags are for individuals who live in disaster-prone areas and may have to evacuate their homes as quickly as possible.
Everyday Carry Bag
An EDC bag is a collection of items you carry in your pockets or bag on a daily basis. Its purpose is to assist you in your day-to-day routine and help you in unexpected situations. Your EDC will allow you to work on everyday problems and minor emergencies quickly without the need for someone else.
The size of your EDC bag will depend on your personal needs. You can carry a bag as small as an organizer pouch or as big as a backpack. As long as you acquire and bring what you need according to your lifestyle, you’re good to go. Just make sure you include items that are not only personal but are also reliable and functional.
You should keep your EDC bag at home because you don’t want to leave without it. You can store it in your bedroom or by your main door, or somewhere within reach when you’re about to head out.
Who It’s For
EDC bags are for everyone, especially folks who are constantly out of their homes, whether for business or leisure.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Building a Get Home Bag
A get home bag is more useful when you build it tailored to your needs. Folks obviously have different necessities, so the contents of GHBs aren’t the same. Before you start building your own, you have to ask yourself these questions:
Do I Live in an Urban Area or a Rural Area?
Identifying what type of environment you live in is the first thing you should consider when packing a get home bag. This question is a no-brainer, but it could mean the real difference between getting home safe and getting stranded along the way.
If you live in the countryside, you probably won’t have the same challenges as city dwellers, like crowded streets and blocked roads. This example goes to show that identifying your area is an essential step in the process.
Do I Work Away From Home?
There’s a high chance you’ll be in your workplace when shit goes down. The distance between your home and office will determine how many items you should pack. The farther you travel away from home, the more stuff you need in your get home bag. But remember that your bag must be as lightweight as possible. You don’t want it to weigh you down on your march home.
What’s the Weather Like in My Location?
You also have to consider the weather conditions in your area before finalizing the contents of your get home bag. You might need to pack a few extra clothes that offer protection from the heat and sun or clothes that protect you from the rain. Remember that you should waterproof and shockproof your bag, too, because there might be items in there that need a little care.
Do I Have a Vehicle?
Your get home bag essentials will need some tweaking if you travel by foot or with a vehicle when SHTF. If you bring your car to work daily, you might as well drive yourself home rather than walk on foot. During emergencies, it could be the faster and safer option.
That said, you’ll have to include a few prepper gears in your get home bag in case your ride breaks down. A GHB for cars looks a bit different, but it serves the same purpose: to get you home in one piece.
How to Choose a Get Home Bag
Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to pick your get home bag. 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 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 usually won’t reach two days or more, a get home bag should have a 50 L max capacity or smaller.
Your body type—or your torso, to be more precise—is also another thing to consider when it comes to the size of your get home bag. 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 size for your get home bag.
Invest in a good quality bag, one that won’t give out after a ton of use and abuse.
Go for one made out of sturdy material, like nylon. It’s best to get a water-resistant bag 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 want to 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:
- Frame: Does the bag have a supportive frame? It should since you’ll be carrying a bunch of stuff.
- Ventilation: Can it keep your back from getting drenched in sweat?
- Padding: You don’t want your bag to dig into your shoulders, back, and other body parts. Make sure the padding on the get home bag 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.
As 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. Avoid loud colors or camo print—unless you wanna make yourself a walking target.
Go for a regular backpack if you wanna blend in, but make sure that it’s sturdy and comfortable enough to carry even long distances. Messenger bags are also an option if you wanna stay on the down-low, but they’re not the most comfortable, based on our experience.
Remember, your goal is to be a gray man and blend in with your surroundings—NOT 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 get home bag, you’ll need something that can carry water, but it has to be made of the right material.
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 valuable 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 from 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 on 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, you won’t go wrong with a wallet multitool.
Communication is vital in every emergency.
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 get home bag.
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 wouldn’t wanna be in their shoes, so go 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. If you don’t know how to use them, start learning now. Knowing how to use navigation tools is a basic survival skill.
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.
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 old TP at your disposal.
Wet wipes are a good alternative since you can also use them to cool down or clean your body.
First Aid Kit
You don’t need to bring a giant kit with you. Just pack a small kit with essentials like bandages, alcohol or alcohol wipes, antibiotic cream, and over-the-counter meds. They’ll be helpful 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 walk 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, you may also want to consider a touchscreen-sensitive pair.
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 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. Add a bottle of sunscreen to your get home bag to avoid sunburn.
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)
How to Organize Your Get Home Bag
You’ve finally identified the contents of your get home bag, and now it’s time to organize them based on the degree of need. According to The Bug Out Bag Guide, you want to arrange these essentials into three compartments or levels. These are as follows:
Level 1 Items
These are the items you need in the first 3 hours of your walk home. You have to keep them in the most accessible part of your get home bag for obvious reasons. Level 1 items should include the following:
- Dust mask
- Shoes or boots
- Maps and compass
- Duct tape
- Emergency signals
- Basic first aid kit
- Tactical flashlight
- Water bottle
- Extra cash
- Change of clothes
Level 2 Items
If the journet home takes up to 12 hours, you’re gonna need a middle compartment to pack the following items:
- Emergency radio
- Toilet paper/hygiene kit
- Water filter and purification tablets
- Extra socks
- Spare batteries
Level 3 Items
In a situation where your walk home could look like it would take you more than a day to reach your place, these items will help you get through the entire 48 hours:
- Trekking poles
- Glow sticks
Scenarios Why You Need a Get Home Bag
You might find it absolutely useless to put so much effort into choosing and building the right get home bag. But in the prepping community, a GHB holds great value.
To better understand its importance, you must first consider the scenarios where you’re gonna need a get home bag. This way, you’ll have a plan in place and a better idea of what to pack for your GHB.
Natural disasters are the number one thing you should look out for in your area. You’re lucky if you receive warnings of a hurricane or tornado headed your way, but if you don’t, you’ll have no choice but to act fast.
These natural occurrences wait for no one, and your priority should be to seek shelter. With the limited choices you have, your best option is to head home. All things considered, you should already have a list of items in mind. For example, a pair of sturdy shoes to walk over the rubble.
Expect that your march home after a major disaster won’t be a walk in the park, but hey, at least you have your GHB with you.
Related: Preparing for Hurricanes
The world is a scary place. And with the levels of uncertainty during these times, terror attacks and threats could well occur in your city. That said, you need to be on your toes at all times. Practice situational awareness. It could save you from all sorts of dangerous situations.
If you have the opportunity to flee a harmful situation, it’s best to get as far away as possible from the area. Tune out the rising panic over the threat and get your ass home before it gets worse. To avoid getting caught up with fearful individuals, plan your route home carefully with a map and compass.
What do you do when the electricity goes out unexpectedly? Some might say to sleep it off until the power comes back. Sure, if you’re home. But what if there was a sudden major blackout and you were just about to leave the office?
Transportation services will most likely be down, and people will be stranded in subways. The streets will probably be gridlocked by heavy traffic. So, your only chance of getting home safely is by foot. If it gets darker on your way home, the tactical flashlight in your GHB can be very useful as a strong light source and a self-defense weapon.
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 get home bag 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 anything else you want to know about a get home bag? Let us know in the comments!