Get Home Bag List – How To Make The Best Kit For YOUR Needs

get home bag list

Jackson maneuvered his way swiftly through the crowded sidewalk, running as fast as he could, his briefcase in one hand and his get home bag in the other – the two things he never left home without.

Realizing there was no way he could make his train at this point, he slowed his pace and fell in line with the window shoppers and couples out for a stroll. He was five minutes from the station and the next train wouldn’t be arriving for forty-five minutes, he might as well enjoy the walk.

Suddenly, he realized that the entire street was moving against him, and swiftly. The road looked like a parking lot and people were rapidly abandoning their vehicles to flee on foot. For the first time, he noticed the thick stench of smoke in the air – not from cigarettes, but from something burning.

Instinctively he reached out and grabbed a young man running past him.

“What the hell is going on here?”

“You don’t know?” The young man replied incredulously. “There was an explosion. The whole damn train station is up in smoke!”

The young man wriggled free of Jackson’s grasp and took off running. But Jackson didn’t follow him. He didn’t need to blindly follow the panicked crowd that was descending quickly into pandemonium and chaos. He had been planning for just such an event and he knew exactly how to get home – that’s why he always carried his get home bag.

What Is A Get Home Bag?

Jackson and his wife Rachel are serious survivalists. They have a basement packed with enough food and water to last six months, each has their own bug-out-bag, and even their eleven-year-old son Derek knows what to do in an emergency. However, neither of them had considered packing a get home bag until a random car accident left Rachel and Derek stranded on a deserted road for several hours with no supplies and no way home.

get home bag list
You just never know what you may need to do to get home safely

 

To be fully prepared in any emergency, there are three types of bags you should have ready – an every day carry kit, a get home bag, and a bug-out-bag:

  • The every day carry kit contains items you would use with relative frequency, sometimes on a daily basis. Your every day carry kit helps solve frequent problems that come up in everyday life, as well as likely emergency situations.
  • A get home bag has the sole purpose of getting you home as quickly and as safely as possible in the event your normal commute is compromised (this can be due to anything from large scale emergencies such as natural disasters or civil unrest to minor inconveniences such as road closures or a vehicle breakdown). It typically contains specific items needed for 24-48 hours of survival and is compact enough to carry with you at all times.
  • A bug-out-bag equips you for survival in the event you will need to survive for several days or more. It is compact enough to carry, but not kept on your person at all times. Bug-out-bags are usually stored in an easy to reach yet concealed area of your house.

Building Your Get Home Bag List

The contents of your get home bag will vary greatly depending on where you live and the type of emergencies you need to be prepared for. You’ll also need to thoroughly examine your commute and improvise ways of getting home should your car or other types of transit be unavailable. If possible, use a map to get a bird’s eye view and consider the following when making your plan:

  • Will you be traveling through wilderness, suburbs, or major cities
  • Are there any major waterways you will need to cross or devise routes around
  • How many hours will it take you to walk to your house (on rugged terrain, the average fit adult can walk approximately 10-18 miles per day)

For Jackson, who works at a bank in a major city about 25 miles from his home, comfortable clothes and footwear were a must for his get home bag. He also made sure to pack inhalation and eye protection, as these can help in the event of urban emergencies such as explosions or pandemics.

Organizing Your Get Home Bag Contents

Typically, you’ll want to organize your get home bag essentials into three compartments, or levels. Each level contains the items needed to survive for a certain amount of time, with those needed right away on top on those needed for longer-term survival on the bottom. Generally, a get home bag is organized as follows:

Level 1 Items (up to 3 hours from home by foot)

Your first and most accessible level should include items such as:

Item TypeWhy You Need It
Folding knife
A folding knife is one of the most basic and versatile tools you can have. The CRKT M16 is lightweight, reliable and its 3" blade is legal to carry in most jurisdictions.
Bandana and / or dust mask
N95 dust mask stays in place while protecting from inhalation of harmful vapors and particles.
Boots
Boots should be waterproof, lightweight, durable, and suited for long treks over variable terrain. The Salomon Men's Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boot also features a locking lace system for a precise fit that holds even if the laces come untied.
Map & Compass
Built to U.S. military standards, this compass is durable and water proof, with a tritium illuminated display.
Duct tape
Repair clothing or shelter, bandage injuries, prevent blisters. Roll can be flattened to save space.
Emergency signal item (mirror, flare, etc.)
Retro-reflective single-handed aimer for accurate long-distance signaling.
Fire kit / lighter
Always carry more than one means of starting a fire. A durable wind- and waterproof lighter is a compact option.
First aid kit
Basic bandages and medications for minor injuries.
Flashlight or headlamp
A hands-free option. This one features dimmer, strobe signaling, and hinge locks for stand alone use.
Multitool
Cutting wood, slicing rope, building shelter, and self defense, and many other uses.
Paracord
Assists with shelter building, first aid, climbing/descending, securing items to outside of bag, and hanging supplies out of reach of wildlife.
Protein bars
Satisfying and portable. Provides sustained energy and vital nutrients.
Rain poncho
Protection from weather and can be used as shelter.
Safety rated sunglasses
Shatterproof UV protection keeps out sun and debris.
Stainless steel water bottle

Sturdy, can be fastened to belt or bag. Non-insulated stainless bottles can be used to boil water over a fire.
Bug Spray
Biting insects can be detrimental to health and morale. Bug repellant in stick form are portable and easy to apply on the move.
Tactical pen
Integrated survival whistle, glass breaker, and magnesium fire starter.
Waterproof Notepad
Useful for jotting down coordinates, mapping landmarks, or leaving a note on the windshield of an abandonned vehicle.
Work gloves
Provides essential protection. Should be adjusted seasonally in cold climates.
Sunblock
Prolonged exposure to sun can cause many problems. Protect yourself with some sunscreen, this ine is in stick form for easy carry and application.
Self Defense Item
Carry something you are comfortable with. Pepper spray is a good option for people who do not want to carry a firearm and/or have a smaller frame.
Hat
Keep the sun out of your eyes and off your head to reduce fatigue.
CashI suggest carrying $500 cash in small denominations as emergency money. You never know when you may need to pay your way around an obstacle.
Change of clothesThese should be rotated seasonally. Dry clothes will keep you warm and enable you to travel further in an unfavorable climate.

Level 2 Items (up to 12 hours from home on foot)

The middle level of your pack should include items you’ll need if you’re more than a few hours from home, such as:

Item TypeWhy You Need It
Emergency radio
National weather and alerts to stay informed and aid in strategic planning. Also provides emergency power for handheld devices.
Hygiene kit
Beneficial to morale and personal comfort, as well as overall health.
Water filter / purification tablets
Eliminate risk of contracting parasites or viruses when accessing local water supplies.
Extra socks
Prevent blisters/sores and keep feet dry and comfortable with a fresh change of socks. If you expect to have to walk for long distances it is worth investing in a pair or 2 of hiking socks.
Spare BatteriesThese are good for barter, in addition to keeping your gadgets powered.
Extra Layer Of Clothes to Keep warm and/or dryLayering is an essential skill for maintaining an optimal core temperature when hiking in any climate.

Level 3 Items (up to 48 hours from home on foot)

The third level should contain items needed for being on foot for more than a day, including:

Item TypeWhy You Need It
Fixed blade knife
Heavy duty for handling hard use, full tang with glass breaker in pommel, flat ground drop point edge for easy maintenance.
Emergency blanket / sleeping bag or Bivvy Sack
Overnight protection from cold temperatures, ultralight yet durable material, reflects 90% of body heat.
Advanced first aid kit
Wide assortment of gauze and bandages as well as a trauma pad, moleskin, cold pack, and basic instruments to handle any personal injury.
Collapsible Walking sticks (to help ease strain from knees)
Ease strain on knees for extended travel on foot. Folds to 12" and adjusts from 48" to 53" for comfort.
Additional protein / energy bars
Maintain energy with a variety of nutrition-rich bars.
Glowsticks (this will help avoid using up flashlight batteries while making camp)
Provides 12 hours of light without draining flashlight batteries, can be fastened to shelter or used to mark trail to avoid walking in circles.

What Type of Bag is Best for a Get Home Bag?

There are several types of packs you can use for your get home bag, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately, the bag you select should be best suited for you and your particular situation.

The following are different bags that can be used as well as their advantages and drawbacks:

  • Backpack: A backpack is great for hands-free carrying and making space for additional items, it also makes running and climbing fairly easy. However, it is not particularly easy to access contents when on the move and is not as discreet as other options.  For more info on picking a backpack, check out our guide here.
  • Messenger Bag: A messenger bag is a great choice for easy access while on the move, has many pockets, and doesn’t look like a survival kit (discreet). However, it is harder to run with and becomes uncomfortable over long distances, as weight isn’t distributed evenly. It is also difficult to attach outside items (such as extra clothing).
  • Hydration Pack: A small, minimalist backpack, a hydration pack holds water and is excellent for walking long distances, as the shoulder and waist straps provide an even weight distribution. However, there is limited storage space.
  • Lumbar Pack: A lumbar pack is compact and easily accessible with external straps for carrying extra clothing. However, all the weight is on your hips and there is no extra room for additional items you may have with you.

If you’re looking for a reliable bag, the following are the ones we suggest looking at:

BagBag TypeCostFeatures
5.11 Rush 24 Back Pack
Backpack$$$$Extremely high quality construction and well thought out pocket design make this a flexible and practical bag for real-world use. Molle integration along with hydration bladder compatibility mean easy customization to suit your exact needs.
Maxpedition Falcon II Backpack$$$Tough ballistic nylon construction protects gear and stands up to any conditions. Compact size keeps shape even when full making it easy to stash at work. Removable waist and chest straps distribute weight evenly.
Explorer Tactical Assault Pack
Backpack$Sturdy option at an economical price. Plenty of MOLLE attachment points and straps to carry extra gear. Multiple compartments ideal for easily accessing Level 1 items. Padded straps provide comfort for prolonged wear.
ALPS OutdoorZ Little Bear Hunting Lumbar Pack Lumbar Pack$Compact with mulitple compartments. Removable straps offer improved weight distribution.
Mountainsmith Lumbar Backpack Lumbar Pack$$Reinforced with high tenacity nylon wide. 14L capacity and extra mesh pockets on the waistband provide sufficient storage space for its compact profile. Shoulder strap pad for messenger carry or separately purchase Mountainsmith Strapettes for additional carrying options.
High Sierra Diplomat Lumbar Pack Lumbar Pack$HEX_VENT mesh padded back panel wicks moisture. Multiple compartments and 2 external water bottle holders (BPA-free bottles included). Webbing and tuck-away mesh pouch for loading additional gear.
Rapid Dominance Classic Military Messenger Bag Messenger Bag$Cotton canvas with polyester lining. Large 16L capacity and 2 inch wide comfort strap to handle larger loads. Subtle appearance conceals its purpose.
UTG Urban Messenger Bag Messenger Bag$No top flap enables all compartments to be readily accessible while on the move. Specialized slots for holding tools. Detachable pistol holster with belt loop. Discreet for daily carry.
Maxpedition Last Resort Tactical Attache Messenger Bag$$$Heavy duty water resistant nylon exterior. Removable divider lends to customizing main compartment. Multiple hook and loop pockets for smaller gear.
Camelbak HAWG 100 oz Hydration Pack Hydration Pack$$$Sufficient gear storage capacity plus 3L hydration bladder. High density nylon harness with EVA foam shoulder padding. MOLLE attachments on front panel for additional gear.
CamelBak M.U.L.E. 100 oz Hydration Pack Hydration Pack$$$Separated compartments for Level organization. Compact size easy to manuever thrrough crowds. Multiple hydration tubing exit points. fleece-lined pouch ideal for safely storing eyewear.
Osprey Men's Manta 36 Hydration Pack Hydration Pack$$$Weather protected with integrated raincover. Over 30L capacity rivals a backpack and hipbelt provides support for heavier loads. Airspeed suspension and BioStretch harness team up for a comfortable and ventilated fit.

Storing Your Get Home Bag

The essence of a get home bag is to get you home when disaster strikes, which is why it’s imperative to keep your bag with you as much as possible. Jackson carried his get home bag to and from work with him and kept it in his office. When an unexpected explosion suddenly left him without a way home, he was ready.

Leaving your bag in the car while you are at work is unwise, especially if you park in a parking garage. In a disaster scenario, you cannot be guaranteed access to your vehicle and you need your survival supplies on hand. If you can’t keep your get home bag with you while you’re working, consider using a gym locker, P.O. box, or public locker to store it. Just ensure that wherever you pick is a location you can reach immediately should disaster strike.

But….

The exception here is if you happen to have a job where you are driving around the majority of the time to see clients for example or visit job sites.  In this case, you car is obviously a smart place to keep your get home bag essentials as you will be more likely to be near it than your office when an emergency occurs.

get home bag essentials
Make sure you get your GHB right. Don’t rely on cheap, premade junk kits.

Avoiding Common Mistakes For Get Home Bag Contents

Size: Always remember – a get home bag is not the same as a bug-out-bag; they do not serve the same purpose. If the size of your get home bag rivals your bug-out-bag, you’ve over-packed. Only include those items absolutely necessary to get you home quickly. To save space and better organize your bag, you can group like items in Ziploc bags and vacuum seal clothing. By packing your bag using the three-level method described in this article, you can ensure the items you’ll need right away are easily accessible. If you’re going to include a pair of boots, these can be carried alongside your get home bag rather than inside to save space.

Supplies: Similar to your bug out bag, perform seasonal reviews on your get home bag contents to ensure you have essential items and are not carrying around extra weight. For instance, don’t get caught without sunscreen in the summer or warm layers in the winter.

Location: Make sure you store your get home bag where it can be accessed quickly, keeping it near your person when at all possible.

Anticipating Threats / Scenarios: It is crucial that you plan ahead and know your surroundings and what type of terrain conditions you will be facing. An urban get home bag for example will have different essential contents that a rural one.  No matter how far the distance is you need to travel, never assume you can make it before nightfall and pack accordingly.

Conclusion

As you well know, disaster can strike at any place, any time. Amid the chaos of an unexpected event, preppers like Jackson can remain calm and use their carefully packed get home bags to ensure they reach their families as quickly and safely as possible. No matter how fool-proof your bug out plan is, you can’t execute if you can’t get home – that’s why having a get home bag accessible at all times is essential.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have an item that you think it ESSENTIAL for any get home bag?  Do you keep your get home kit in a bag or backpack that you want to recommend?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

8 comments on “Get Home Bag List – How To Make The Best Kit For YOUR Needs

  1. Hi. Very nice article. Very complete and clear. I’m just missing a little of talking a bit more on the water bottle/recipient. What is the best in your opinion, or by your experience? Stainless bottle? Aluminum? Plastic, BPA free? Size? I’m 10 hours far by walk from home every day and not sure about the best way to store water or as an option to carry if I need to get home from a emergency situation (using my get home bag).

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Felipe,
      If you are only going to have 1 bottle I would go with stainless steel so that you can boil scavenged water in it. If at all possible though I would also have a hydration bladder incorporated into your bag as it makes carrying larger volumes of water far easier. Some are even compatible with a Sawyer Water Filter so you can purify water as you drink it.

  2. Nice Story,
    anyway it only fits the get home scenario. But you mention Jackson and his wife have also a bug out bag. What if Jackson faced a bigger disaster, riots or whatever. He only carries his get home bag. Most probably “in case” he will not be able to reach his home to grab his bug out bag. Many of the bug out bag people believe this scenario will only take place while they are at home and near their bug out bag. So if we think everything to en end you always should carry your bug out bag.
    Ron

    1. Hey Ron,
      In an ideal world we would always have everything we need on us at all times, BOB or otherwise. However, this is typically not practical. The GHB is a good compromise between discretion, size, and utility. It gives you the best chance you have to get to your home (or other rally point) and initiate your bug out plan.

      Thanks for your input!

      Chris

  3. Been exploring your site for 2 days now. I’m VERY impressed at the specificity of your recommendations and comments. I’ve been prepping now for 2 yrs, ever since a personal experience left me & my adult son in our (paid for) rural home w/o utilities, food or running water for 6 months! I’ve explored a lot of sites, looked at a lot of plans, read a lot of articles from the reasoned & rational to the flat out zealous but your site & info have been more helpful to me than any of the others simply because of the specific advice you give coupled with specific suggestions for tools/supplies. I am a (retired) RN with extra degrees in Writing/Communication and have taken a job in retail “just ’cause.” I would love to see the same kind of specific info you give to urbanites and suburbanites given to us “ruralists.” I live 20 miles fm nearest city center on a 25 acre piece of land. So unless SHTF is REALLY bad, plan to bug in. I know it sounds like I’m already homesteading but I haven’t made that leap primarily due to a lack of specific, concrete ideas about where & how to start. Love the site. Congrats.

    1. Hi Selene,
      Firstly, thank you so much for the kind words and I am glad that you are getting value from the site. Sounds like your personal experiences have really helped you hone your self sufficiency skills, that is great.
      I think your plan to bug in is a sound one given your location and setup. Flooding is really the only thing I could see that could alter it but I have no idea where you are located, if it is in a flood plain or on top of a mountain somewhere.
      As for getting started homesteading, I do not have much experience with it so I would not be able to write a great article. That being said, I will reach out to some other bloggers that I know to see if anyone is willing to write a guest post on the subject. Make sure you sign up to our email list to keep informed!

      Thanks and take care,
      Chris

  4. As I am rather new to prepping( I’m from the Netherlands btw) I found the information on your site fery usefull. the thing is, the netherlands is a small country and almost every where u go to for work or holiday there are roads, so I have to build a 2 bags for really urban situations, 1 get home , and 1 bob. a lot of info for then I do take away from here, thanks for that.

  5. I have kept a get home bag for several years now, and my biggest problem is PANTS. They take up so much space that I have been forced to compromise drastically on a spare pair of pants. In the summer this takes the form of swim trunks. In the winter I must content myself with longjohns. Any ideas for a dressing this issue without having to buy some $80 pair of specialty pants?

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