Yesterday I spent part of the day helping a young man build some get home bags for his family. Now get home bags are designed for one purpose, to help you home during an emergency. The content of each bag depends on how far from home you travel.
If you never travel more than a few miles from home and the area in which you live has a moderate climate and the walking is easy, your get home bag can be very small. If you travel a lot and it would take you several days to get home, your kit should be much larger.
Any get home bag I build assumes that I will have to spend at least one night out and that the weather will be lousy. A get home bag should be a flexible thing, it should change with the weather and be easy to add too if you have to make a longer than normal trip.
It should always start with the highest priority items. If you live in Alaska and it is winter, this would be clothes and shelter, in Arizona it may be water.
I start by breaking the get home bag down into several sections
The first is the pack; this greatly depends on your requirements. I have quite a variety of these, but for a small lightweight get home bag, like we were building almost any small backpack will work and not attract a lot of attention.
Shelter and fire starting – This includes clothes and hiking boots, sleeping bags if needed. In the bag we made yesterday, we included ponchos, a good quality Mylar emergency bivy sack. We also included a 10 x 10 piece of black plastic and several large garbage bags. In case we have to use the above materials to make a shelter we added 50 ft of 550 cord, some 12 inch cable ties and 20 feet of duct tape rolled on to a pencil stub.
For fire starting, we included a blast match, a magnesium block, storm matches and some cotton balls impregnated with vaseline. For the cotton balls and vaseline I like to store them in old 35 mm film cans.
Water- we included a full nalgene water bottle, a life straw and some good quality water purification tablets. Where he lives there is quite a bit of surface water.
Food- because this kit will stay in the car and the weather gets quite hot in the summer and occasionally freezes in the winter, we put in Mainstay Rations. These while not my favorite food will provide 1200 calories a day and last for 5 years in the trunk of your car, regardless of the weather. In addition, we threw in some energy bars. These are something that he will use and replace from time to time.
First Aid kit- Again this depends on what you are likely to be facing. We put the following items in the kit we made.
- 2 Battle dressings or Israeli bandages
- 1 Compress and bandage 2×2
- 1 Ace bandage 2 in, always good if you twist an ankle.
- 5 packages Bacitracin antibiotic ointment + pain reliever
- 1 mole skin for blisters
- band aids and butterfly bandages
- 1 3×4 surgical pad
- 1 3×4 telfa pad
- 1 triangular bandage
- 2 pair surgical gloves
- One good quality waterproof flashlight with extra batteries
- One emergency whistle
- A good quality knife again this depends on your needs, budget and tastes.
This is just a basic get home bag designed for someone who normally just travels a few miles from home and at most would have to spend a night stuck out.
Your get home bag may be much larger and sophisticated depending on your requirements. The biggest point I want to make about a get home bag is that it should never be finished, it should evolve as you use it. Clothes and contents should change with the seasons. If you get hungry, grab one of the energy bars, but be sure and replace it. Don’t be afraid to use the items in it, just replace them