We’ve all heard about bug out bags.
I talk about them a lot, and they’re the number one thing that survivalists need to learn about. But what about actually getting home in the first place to grab that bug out bag or hunker down for the duration?
There’s a high chance we won’t be in our homes when disaster strikes, and we don’t want to be caught with our pants down.
Your get home bag is designed to get you from your current location to your home safely and in one piece.
Packed lightly, filled with tools and provisions for the short-term, your get home bag will serve as an assistant to your safe passage. Get home and grab your bag or stick it out with your stockpile – that choice is all up to you.
Now I will show you exactly what a get home bag is and how you should pack it for maximum effectiveness. Let’s take a look.
What is a Get Home Bag?
A get home bag sounds like it would be something you use at the end of bugging out to get home, but it wouldn’t make sense to bring a bag with you that you don’t plan on using, just to hold onto it in the hopes of returning home to life as we know it.
A get home bag is the miniature survival kit that you bring with you everywhere you go.
Some survivalists will make this function as an outing backpack to store a laptop in while they meet with friends at the coffee shop or include some daily commuting and/or work items like books and train passes, all while having plenty of get home gear sitting in other pockets. Some people also use messenger bags instead of a backpack.
Your get home bag will have items that benefit you during a seriously bad SHTF situation. Power grid failure or attack while you’re out? Homeland invasion? EMP caused by a solar flare?
Whatever the case is, chaos will strike, and you’ll be left with no escape from it unless you have a get home bag.
Use this to get from your current spot to your home, where the bug out bag is located, or your stockpile if you plan on hunkering down. The get home bag is phase one in survival and is a testament to your dedication to being truly prepared for anything no matter where you go.
What Type of Disaster or Emergencies is it Used for?
Floods, earthquakes, homeland invasion, avalanches, you name it – your get home bag will be specifically tailored to events you may face in your area.
Get home bags can be thought of as the emergency preparedness that you take with you wherever you go, designed to get you out of just about any situation you could find yourself in at the location you’re going.
Because get home bags are used for safety, some first aid, and mobility, you’re not going to see as many rugged survivalist items inside. Instead, you’ll see things like pry bars, ladders, and window-breaking multitools to help to traverse your way home.
In our guide on urban survival, we cover all the different things you could encounter while being stuck in the middle of a city or concrete jungle, and to be prepared for those, you should have a get home bag with you.
What Should You Pack in a Get Home Bag?
Now it comes down to the real question: what goes inside of a get home bag?
If you’ve read our guide on stocking your first bug out bag, then expect to see a disparity in that packing guide versus this one. The goals are shifted; it’s about travel just as much as it is about survival. Let’s take a look at what your get home bag should contain. Side note: you can get a lot of these items on Amazon.
Storing food in your get home bag can be tricky. You don’t want to overdo it, but you also don’t want to run out of food and have that gnawing hunger pain in your stomach when your mind should be focused on survival.
The best foods you can pack are long-lasting protein bars with expiration dates of one year or longer from your original purchase date. Chances are, you’re going to forget to check on the food in your bag after a while, and having this prolonged expiration date will help you out.
You’ll be expelling energy, so it’s okay to have carbs in the food you bring with you, as long as it’s coupled with loads of protein. Granola bars, protein bars, and light snacks are all acceptable.
The most important thing in this entire kit is water. We need a half-gallon of water every day to perform optimally, so imagine what an entire day without it would do to you. It slows you down, muddies your performance, and makes it nearly impossible for you to get things done the way you want to.
Water is essential because proper hydration will keep you alive and moving much longer, but carrying around a full gallon (if you anticipate making a 48-hour get home bag) is about seven to eight pounds of extra carry weight. That’s going to slow you down.
You can consider a personal water filtration device such as a lifestraw, water filter, and water purification tablets. These are normally used in survivalist, off-the-grid situations, but it can’t hurt to have these lightweight, compact solutions on hand when you’re trying to get home as well.
You should also consider adding a water bottle – a Nalgene or stainless steel water bottle will do the job – to your get home bag.
Clean clothes are great for keeping yourself clean and free of infections but also to help boost your spirits while you’re in survival mode.
A change of clothes can also be of use if you end up assisting someone else hurt by whatever disaster has happened or creating a sanitary tourniquet to stem bleeding in a serious event.
I would recommend making sure your clothes are clean and then stowing them in an airtight plastic bag. Keep this in your get home bag, and only open it when you absolutely need to.
Every prepper should have water-resistant clothing in their go bag as a backup in case of inclement weather. You may also want to consider at least one piece of heavy-duty clothing for cold nights. If you commonly wear dress shoes or sandals while out, make sure to pack tennis shoes and socks.
Hygiene can actually be classified under first aid since keeping your body clean is imperative to stave off infections, but beyond that, it’s a morale booster. If you don’t know when you’re going to get home, what’s the first thing you should do? Ground yourself.
Do something that maintains that sense of control. Even if the situation is heading south, you have to keep your head clear and focus on solutions, not problems.
A quick bath with some Wet Ones or brushing your teeth after you breathe in dust from debris can make you feel better, and when you feel better, you will perform better.
First aid is the most important, only behind food and water. In chaos, even if we’re collected and have our wits about us, we will make mistakes.
The terrain changes, the situation changes, and injuries will happen. You could be climbing over a fence and cut your arm, or you could end up with something more severe in the event of debris caused by a natural disaster.
First aid supplies are useful, if you know how to use them. You can learn how to use a first aid kit from this extensive video if you don’t currently know.
One key thing to note is that you might be traveling alone, so you should have the mental fortitude and dexterity to perform first aid on yourself if the situation calls for it.
Included in your first aid kit should be, at the bare minimum, a headlamp, pepper spray, sunscreen, duct tape, extra batteries, hand sanitizer, work gloves, zip ties, fire-starting equipment, face mask, Bic lighter, extra cordage, toilet paper, tinder, and an extra toothbrush.
Whether it’s urban survival from now until you get home or you’re trekking through the forest, manual tools are going to come in handy. Some of the most notable uses that come to mind are urban environment based, especially if you’re in the middle of the city when SHTF.
Pry bars, screwdriver kits, hammers, window-breaking pommels, tactical flashlights – the list goes on and on.
You need to refine it to have lightweight, dedicated tools that you can use to get out of adverse situations. You may have to unscrew the hinges on a door, break a car window to get out of it, and loads of other scenarios you can probably imagine in your head.
You can also include multi-tools under this category like shoulder straps. Simple credit card-sized wallet insert multi-tools and 12-in-1 survival pliers could do you a world of good, so long as the quality is top-notch.
HAM radios are one of the most important survival tools that exist. Once you know how to operate one, you can literally bounce radio signals off of satellites (or the moon) and get the word out to anyone.
If you have friends or relatives with an interest in prepping, you could operate on a HAM radio to contact them and check in during a disaster.
If not, emergency radios – which are entirely different from HAM radios – will also serve you well. These have different functionality and are better used for short-range communication with a friend, family member, or someone you can trust.
Cell phones can still be used at this time, but because cell phones are trackable (and we can’t anticipate what situation we’re going to run into), it’s better to have non-traceable radio communications. If you have to have a cell phone make sure to pack a charger.
A folded–up poncho, emergency blanket for warmth, or a dry pair of gloves if it snows where you live.
This is another section of your get home bag that you need to custom tailor to your region and what you anticipate you’ll run into while getting home. If it snows a lot or rains a lot in your area, prepare for that with specific snow or rain gear.
Weather protection is a hard category of your get home bag because it often includes bulky clothing or awkwardly-shaped items like umbrellas.
Do whatever feels right for you, but remember that adverse weather is going to impact the way you travel home, and how effectively you advance across the terrain (whether it’s a city or through the backroads). It would be a good idea to pack an ultralight tent in here as well.
The last thing you and your loved ones need to plan for is self-defense items. We need to plan ahead for as much as possible, and in a lot of survival situations, we can imagine assailants or looters that we need to defend ourselves from. Self-defense is a dodgy subject because whatever you’re bringing with you in your get home bag needs to be completely legal.
That means no knives over the length mandated by your local municipality or state, and unless you have a CCW license, no handguns whatsoever.
If you’re ever going somewhere that your bag needs to be checked, you have to comply with the law and ensure your self-defense item is completely legal (even for tactical pens and flashlights).
How Is a Get Home Bag Different From a Bug Out Bag?
That’s the big question, isn’t it? In theory, they’re basically the same thing; they’re bags of supplies designed to help you survive, only with a different direction of getting you home.
Smaller, Lighter, and Has Fewer Items
A get home bag is small. Think of a 20L everyday carry backpack versus a 55L one. You’re only trying to get home and hunker down, so you don’t need even half as much gear as a bug out bag. Getting home is a short-sighted goal. You’re not bugging out and heading into the woods – you’re going to get home, and then have access to your stockpile. You don’t need as many things.
Survival Tools vs. Maneuverability Tools
You may not bring a DIY rope ladder with you in a bug out bag, but it could be useful in a get home bag. Your get home bag is designed to be lightweight with maneuverability tools, which might include an ice pick, extra paracord, or anything you can use to pry your way out of a bad situation. The kits look completely different.
Stealth Over Survival
Carrying around a huge 70L backpack with all the bells and whistles isn’t exactly what I would call subtle. A sleek, low-profile, minimalist 20L backpack that doesn’t jostle around is going to be better for your maneuverability and staying quiet while you walk. You can cover more ground with a lighter load.
How to Order Items in a Get Home Bag
Individually. You’ll want to piece together this kit on your own accord, with your own preset items in mind.
We’ve done a guide on survival kits here on the site, and while they’re definitely useful, you’re getting a trade-off of average or above-average quality in the kit, when you could be sourcing individual items with top-tier, God-like qualities over time.
I would suggest that you don’t plan your get home bag too quickly. Take the time to do your own independent research on what knife you want, which one is legal in your area, how light you want the backpack’s empty weight to be, and what compact, low-weight foods can you store inside.
Once you know what items you need (survival knife, tactical flashlight, etc.), then it’s time to find the best of that item in each category. In a get home bag, you don’t want the difference between safe travel and running into problems to come down to your gear choices. Take your time.
Always Useful, Even for Small Emergencies
A bug out bag is useful for leaving the grid and starting anew, or at least until things calm down. A go bag is like the prerequisite stage: you need to get home before you can grab your gear and get going.
Your get home bag will be lightweight, easy to maneuver with, and help you get home as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence in any major disaster, grid failure, or SHTF situation that requires you to take these extreme actions in the first place.
If you’re enjoying a day out of the house and you’re miles away from it, you want to be sure that the items you’ve brought with you can be used in other types of emergencies.
This is the tricky part of sourcing and assembling your own get home bag: you want it to serve more than one purpose while still keeping the item number and carry weight down.
You’ll Be Safe and Sound
You’re about to go home. You have your get home bag contents, you’ve used your supplies in one way or another, and now it’s time to make it to safety. Whether you choose to hunker down or bug out the minute you get home is up to you, but the point is that you make it back in one piece.
Pack your get home bag with the same level of dedication that you would pack a bug out bag.
Pay attention to every single ounce in each item you bring, make sure the backpack is high-quality, where you’re going to store it, how long it’s going to take you to access it, and more. Put thought into this so that you’re ready no matter what. You never know if you’ll be traveling long distances and you’ll want your bag to last.