Get Home Bags 101

Unlike the bug out bag with everything (or almost everything) you need to survive away from home, the Get Home Bag (GHB) has what you need to help get you home in an emergency. Without further ado, let’s talk about what it should look like and what to pack in it.

get home backpack with flashlight knife nuts multitool and first aid kit
get home backpack with flashlight, knife, bag of nuts, multitool, tactical pen, green hat, sunglasses, duct tape, and first aid kit

How big should the get home bag be? This will depend on the season, and the emergency you are preparing for – a winter GHB will be a bit bulkier than a summer GHB.

The GHB should be carried with you to work/recreation and not left in the vehicle. Obviously if you are travelling in the vehicle it will be with you and easy to grab should you need to get out quickly.

It doesn’t need to be huge but its compartments should have the basic stuff to enable you to get out of a situation, rescue others if need be and make it home safely within 24 hours.

If you load too much into it you are going to be jettisoning half of it as the further you walk, the heavier a load tends to get. Ideally, the GHB should not weigh more than 8 pounds when packed.

How long should I pack for?

The time it takes to get home will depend on your daily commute. If you work say 12 miles from home it will take around 4 hours depending on walking speed, which for the average person is around 3 miles per hour.

That is assuming there are no obstacles you have to avoid like roaming hordes of looters and rioters. If you have a 60-mile commute it will take a lot longer!

Why would I need a GHB?

There are various scenarios when you may need a GHB to help you survive the night and to help you get home. Here are some possible scenarios: riots, a terrorist attack, bombings, a snow storm, hurricane, a violent storm that washes away roads, a landslide/mudslide, a break in a dam wall, a tornado, an earthquake, roads blocked due to snow, power grid goes down, a vehicle break down in a SHTF situation, vehicle jammed in by other vehicles in TEOTWAWKI.

Most times there will be some services working, but there will be a great strain on those and you aren’t guaranteed that you can get outside help, so going it alone means packing the essentials to make the best of a bad situation.

20 Get Home Bag Essentials

#1 Water – your most important item. The problem is it is going to be the heaviest single item in your GHB. For around 6 hours ½ a gallon should be enough in average temperatures.

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For safe water carry a few Aquatabs. They are around $10.95 for 50 and come in various strengths for treating both small quantities – like a pint of water up to huge quantities for communities.

If you suspect the water you come across is not sufficiently pure for drinking, this will kill most organisms that could cause disease like giardia, cholera, typhoid and dysentery. The Aquatabs come in blister packs of ten and have a shelf life of 5 years. If you buy in a tub the shelf life is reduced to 3 years.

Other choices are Chlor Floc –water purification powder packets currently in use by the US military, they are a bit pricier, though.  This video  shows how they work:

Clean Drinking Water With Chlor-Floc Simply Amazing

When using these tablets or powders remember to wait at least thirty minutes after adding them to water to kill the bacteria.

Your water container should be stainless steel to prevent accidental breakage should your GHB come in for rough treatment and the powders or blister pack should be in a waterproof container with your medicines (see #16) in case your GHB is soaked.

#2 Shoes and socks

The kind of shoes worn to the office won’t be much help for a long hike home. You need ones that can cope with water, mud, rough ground and above all fit your feet comfortably providing some cushioning and support. You will also need fairly thick socks to avoid getting blisters. High top sneakers do a good job of supporting ankles.

Hiking boots can be hard on the feet in urban situations where you may need to climb over stuff – like walls and over fences. The more resilient and pliable the shoes the better.

#3 Headlamp – leaves your hands free. Besides allowing you so see where you are going, it alerts others to your presence if you want to be rescued. It also allows you to help extract others from vehicle wrecks, rubble or snow.

#4 Hat – the type depends on weather conditions. In summer pack a wide brimmed hat that can be used to protect from sunburn or scoop up water. In winter one that will keep you warm.

#5 Bandanna – stops dust getting in your face, can act as a sieve for water, can be used as a bandage, a sling (with some paracord to give the length needed) Stops sweat dripping in your eyes, protects you from sunburn on a long hike and if moistened with water will keep your head cool.

#6 Sunglasses – to protect from the glare from heat, snow glare, stop dust particles getting in your eyes in strong winds and protect your eyes from flying debris if you need to chop something down.

#7 Tactical tomahawk – you need one that is light and strong – full tang preferably. You may need it to break out of a wrecked car, break into a wrecked car to rescue someone, clear debris, break down a door, cut poles to make a stretcher, chop firewood to keep warm or defend yourself. Depending on the design it can be used for chopping, penetrating (with the spike) and hammering.

#8 Matches or lighter in sealed watertight bag to enable you to light a signal fire, keep warm or keep beasts at bay.

You never know when you’ll need to start a fire. You can include a ferro rod if you want to but I will stick with the trusty reliability and user friendliness of a modern lighter. A couple Bics will do the job, and take up almost no room.

#9 Underwater flashlight with wristband Most times emergency situations involve water – floods, mudslides, torrential rain. With an underwater flashlight you don’t have to worry about keeping it dry. You can pick your way through flooded areas, dive to locate someone, use it for signaling, or avoid obstacles on your way home.

#10 Fold up poncho/rainsuit

The little plastic ponchos aren’t heavy duty but do the job in warmish areas – they come with a plastic hood so you don’t get mind-numbingly chilled from your clothing being wet through.

They take up less space in the GHB than a coin purse. After all you aren’t going to live in one for days. If you are in super cold areas then you might need a full rain suit with pants and top  – but they can be noisy (you don’t want the people to know where you are) so you may want to buy the ones with the fabric overlay so you can move silently.

#11 Space blanket

In full summer in warm state,s you wouldn’t bother with this but it too folds up very small and the silver space or emergency blanket can be shaken out to cover you when resting or if you have to spend the night outdoors. It too doesn’t take up much room. If you have two you of them you can make a tent like this:

Space Blanket Tarp Shelter

#12 Gorilla Tape is useful for all sorts of things – like turning space blankets into a tent or taping shoes onto your feet when the upper parts company with the sole Always have some in your bag to tape up injuries, apply splints and more.

# 13 Emergency rations

When blood sugar levels drop people don’t think as clearly – and in order to get home safely in a SHTF situation you need your wits to be razor sharp.

Humans can survive without food for around 3 weeks but a small energy bar or two or a small pack of beef jerky or pemmican isn’t going to weigh down your GHB and will keep you feeling sharp.

Other high-energy foods are trail mix, hard candy, almonds and dates. The Manasir Bedouins of Sudan can survive on a handful of dates a day in the desert – they call dates al-Zad-al-negidh –  the food for travelling.

#14 Gloves

Choose your gloves according to the climate in your area. One pair of heavy duty well fitted gloves will mean not getting cuts and scratches when moving debris, branches or rubble in order to get through an area. They can keep you warm in cold weather or protect you from blistering hot surfaces in a fire situation or a desert.

#15 Jacket/long sleeve shirt

In winter chances are you have a jacket on or with you, so you won’t need another in your GHB but in hot areas a light jacket or  long sleeve shirt will protect you from the searing heat of the sun and cooler night air in desert areas. It also protects against nicks and scratches if scrambling through the woods or over rubble and debris.

#16 Medicine/spectacles

People who need an asthma pump or epilepsy pills or other vital medications should have them with them. Overnight a person who normally doesn’t need to take pills won’t need headache tablets and such stuff.

Also leave out the plasters – if you get a deep cut rather have a decent size bandage in your GHB with a pressure pad – you can use the bandanna for a pressure pad in an emergency. Put on some rubbing alcohol  – you should have a small amount of this or some Neosporin cream. Chances are you won’t even feel small nicks in a high adrenaline situation – doctor those when you get home. Your medicine, water purification tablets and bandages can go in a ziplock bag and then into a tight sealing tin – like an altoids tin –  that is puncture and water proof.

If you wear glasses and are kind of blind without them then make sure the sunglasses you have are prescription ones and have a pair of ordinary prescription spectacles (in a hard case) in case one pair gets broken.

#17 Firearm and spare ammo

Some people insist on carrying at all times – this may just be extra weight but in a SHTF situation you don’t know what kind of people you’ll be dealing with. But, it is important to have had proper combat training so that the gun can be used effectively.  Get training from a Special Forces veteran if you can. The Glock 17 is light and efficient, but the specific is each prepper’s personal choice.

# 18 Knife/multitool

Let’s not go for overkill here – you are just out for a few hours – forget the knife if you have a gun or tomahawk – thugs are less likely to argue with those weapons. All you need is a multi-tool, which has a small knife anyway to cut the gorilla tape.

No gun, no tomahawk? Well then take a Bowie knife to intimidate zombies. But you are seriously not going to need it for much else, unless you have serious trouble opening up the energy bars.

#19 Paracord

This shouldn’t even be in your GHB – it should be on your wrist fastened into a paracord bracelet like this:

Make a Mad Max Style Paracord Survival Bracelet THE ORIGINAL -

You can then use if for 101 things including lowering items a short distance to others who may be stuck in inaccessible places, creating a life-line, replacing shoelaces, supporting your space blanket between trees to create a makeshift tent or using as a tourniquet. By all means pack extra paracord if you think the one on your wrist won’t be enough.

#20 Cash is king when systems go down. Have enough on you for emergency transport if available, supplies, and other eventualities.

#21. Tarp and Cordage. A tarp with cordage can be used as a ground cover or to erect a workable, temporary shelter when called for. This is as much shelter as you should expect in a typical GHB (aside from the humble space blanket).

You Might Need These


These wouldn’t go into your bag as such but you could keep them in your vehicle. Most times it makes more sense to stay with the vehicle than risk exposure to the elements but maybe you need to get help quickly or to escape – then these would come in handy. It would depend on your situation and where you live if you choose to include these.

Directional/communication equipment

If you live within 10 miles of home you are likely to know alternative routes, back roads, footpaths, culverts to hide in.  If you don’t then make it a weekend activity to go for walks or runs in the area taking note of all the available alternative routes and hiding places that could be used when on foot. This way you won’t need a map.

Chances are you will have your cellphone on you and for a few hours you should have signal so can use the built in GPS or compass on your phone.

If you are seriously preparing for a longer time on the road or TEOTWAWKI then perhaps a small hand-held compass could help – but each item you put in the backpack adds to the weight – the idea is to move as fast as you can to get out of danger – not camp out unless it becomes absolutely unavoidable.

If you are worried about other members of your family and what is happening in your area then a CB radio could be useful.


Only put in a mosquito repellant if you have mosquitoes in your area and think you will be out overnight, otherwise this is just more weight.

Bear repellant – sure pack some if you know you are in bear country and are fairly sure you will meet one.

You won’t need pepper spray if you have a firearm or tactical tomahawk. Pack some if you have no other weapons.

Family Safety

Make sure you equip kids with their own GHBs and discuss with them what they should do in an emergency.

Do they stay at school of after care until you get to them or do they make for a nearby safe house that you have pre-arranged or get home by themselves if they are old enough?

This is particularly important if their school is in the opposite direction to where you work.

It’s easy enough to collect them on foot on your way home but if you have to go past your home and a couple of miles in the opposite direction then there should be an alternative plan made to get them home with a relative – assuming home is still standing and safe.

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