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!