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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
14 comments on “Get Home Bag List – How To Make The Best Kit For YOUR Needs”
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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,
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.
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?
I’m assembling a couple of Get Home bags now and have read a few suggestions – from packing spare pants to not. I think it all depends on an estimate of how long it would take you to walk home from…wherever, plus the season/weather. Remember, this is a Get Home bag, and from what I understand, it doesn’t need all the supplies a Bug Out bag might contain. Having wet/dirty pants for a few hours may be uncomfortable, but so might having to carry an extra pair of pants. Another option is to have lightweight, water resistant pants as the back-up pair.
I’m going to skip the extra outer pants and include extra underwear and a pair of wicking socks. Hopefully, that will do it, but at the end of the day, it’s all a SWAG.
A solution to your problem could be a vacuum seal bag. They are relatively cheap and compress down surprisingly very small. The long pants that I carry in my BOB are the hiking type that have the zip off legs, so they can be used on hot or cold climate.
hope this helps.
Thanks for having a very good site. ( there are quiet a few over the tops out there.)
I’m in Australia and I work in the city, about an hour and a half by car from my home. I have a Get Home Bag that I use which is a normal small hiking pack. I like to keep away from the military style MOLLE covered packs so I don’t draw attention to myself by people thinking I’m military affiliated. The same goes for clothing and hat.
For compact storage, I can not over state the usefulness of vacuum seal bags for compacting extra clothing. they are fantastic.
I also have 2 BOB’s. 1 is stored at home and the other is stored at a cache halfway home in case the route home is compromised.
Your article clearly defines the purpose of each bag type or kit, but I would contend that for those who prefer one bag, that a get home bag can serve as a light or minimalist bug out bag by simply adding a few items or having an extra bag at work or in the car that one can grab to augment the get home bag.
I am never far from home, but if I had to “camp” somewhere, some plastic sheeting or a few large trash bags, a pocket sized stove, some paracord or bungee cords, etc would allow me to squat till morning or trouble passed. And I’d add a food pack, water filter and canteen, but would have that in my car. It’s easy to get water (Free everywhere), but filters are small and it’s extra insurance. And the weather here doesn’t change much even in the winter. No heavy clothing is needed in Florida.
I routinely carry a few items in my pockets and in a waistpack, so that helps to deal with a few needs. The bulky items, boots, shoes, clothing, larger food and medical kits require a larger bag or a couple of bags. There isn’t really anyway to get around it, but it amazes me to see how much survival gear one can pack into a shoulder bag or small backpack. For many of us we have to get to our cars, get to our homes and then get our bug out bags if evacuation is necessary.
Good article, it seems to be a very well thought out general purpose get home bag. While I only work 4 miles away from home the most I pack is a rain poncho, two one liter bottles, and some protein bars for the g.h.b. itself, I’ve combined it into a bushcraft bag. On top of what I already carry on my person as e.d.c. For those who don’t seem to know better, it’s not required to follow this list to the letter, find out what you need and just stick with that. No need to go overloading yourself with items you’re not going to need just to get home or to a rally point.
What if the GHB for him to GH and the wife needs to meet him somewhere and she must grab the BOB and flee? Isn’t is a great idea to have a mutual meeting point so they both survive an event? While he is on his journey to wherever that meeting point is, she can grab his BOB as well so they have what they need once they meet.