There is constant discussion on survival sites regarding bug out bags. However, get home bags do not get nearly enough attention. What is even more common is that people assume that a bug out bag and a get home bag are the same thing. They are far from it. While a bug out bag has supplies to help you leave your home for an extended period of time, a get home bag list is much more specific. It is geared towards getting you home, most commonly from wherever you work. This means your pack is focused on foot travel and only needs to have supplies for a few days.
Sure there are plenty of other scenarios where you may need to get home. Maybe you took a day trip to the zoo on a Saturday or maybe you live 30 miles from town and are out shopping for the day. However, you need to pack your bag based on the most likely scenario. For most people this is getting home from work. Determine the distance from your work to your home and divide by the number of miles you think you can comfortably travel in a day. This will tell you how many days you need to account for. Most people can walk home from work in two to three days.
Because you will be taking this bag to work, you need it to somewhat blend in. It needs to be a bag you feel comfortable toting around in your office. A backpack or gym bag may be your best bet. You can also use a courier bag or computer bag if you like. Any of these will do fine to disguise what you have packed inside.
When building a get home bag, you want to pack light and focus on covering ground quickly. You likely will not build an elaborate shelter or hunt for food. In most cases you will spend almost all of your daylight hiking, and you may even hike at night. This may change the type of gear you pack, but you still need to account for the four pillars of survival: food, water, fire, and shelter.
Unlike a bug out bag, your path of travel could take you through a variety of environments. There is a much greater chance that you would be traveling through an urban or suburban area, so your gear needs to account for that. Clothing and your pack need to help you blend in with other people, and self-defense is more likely to be a concern.
Get Home Bag List
Please keep in mind that in some of these categories you only need to pick one or two items. Use whatever you think will be the best fit for you. Pick your items based on what will save you time and save weight in your pack. Remember that your goal is to get home as quickly as possible.
- Energy bars – These will give you some nutrition, but mainly will give you carbohydrates and protein to help you keep hiking.
- Nutrition tablets – These pills actually have all the nutrients needed for you to entirely skip meals if needed.
- Hard candy – This snack will give you an energy boost if you start to slow down during your hike.
- Jerky – Dried meat is a great source of protein if your energy is waning.
- Dried beans – When you stop to make camp, cooking some beans is a good way to get a hot meal and restore energy that you may have lost.
- Nuts – This snack is great on the go and provides protein and carbohydrates.
Below are the items related to water that you should include in your get home bag list:
- Straw style filter – This is possibly the best option because it is small and can purify water from any source along your path.
- Steel bottle with filter in the lid – This is my personal favorite since you can carry water with you. You can also leave it on your desk at work without anybody asking questions.
- Bottled water – To get home quickly, bringing water with you may be your best bet. However, do not take more than a couple bottles as the weight ads up quickly.
- Iodine tablets – This is another small option that can purify water from any source, but it takes 30 minutes before the water can be consumed.
- Ferro rod – This is a great fire starter that can be used even when wet.
- Zippo lighter – This creates a windproof flame and can be refilled with several flammable fluids.
- Waterproof matches – Always a good staple for any bag.
- Fire cubes – This product allows you to shave off the waxy substance and light it with one spark. It will say lit for a few minutes and replaces tinder.
- Fire sticks – This must be lit with a flame, but will stay lit in the wind and rain for 20 minutes. It replaces kindling.
- Small gas camp stove – This device can save you the time and effort it takes to gather firewood and get a fire started.
- Small natural camp stove – This makes your fire burn more efficiently so you have less wood to collect.
Below are the items related to shelter that you should include in your get home bag list:
- Emergency blanket – This can be used to build a shelter or just to wrap up if you are in a hurry.
- Tarp – A medium sized tarp should fit in your bag and make for a solid shelter which you can set up in minutes.
- Paracord – Having cordage on hand is useful for several reasons, but it greatly speeds up the time it takes to build a shelter.
- Hatchet – A small hatchet is great for taking down small trees and limbing up the poles for a lean-to or debris hut shelter.
- Folding saw – This is a small and lightweight tool that is great for trees that are slightly larger, but limbing up does take longer.
- Emergency sleeping bag – These are small enough and light enough that they can fit in your pack. They do a great job keeping you warm if you do not have a traditional shelter.
- Zip ties – These are excellent for building a quick shelter. They can save you several minutes of tying cordage in most cases.
- Lightweight shirt – If it is summer time and you work in a suit and tie, you will want something cooler for your hike.
- Heavy coat – If it is winter you will want something to keep you warm day and night. I suggest a down jacket if you can afford one. Once compressed they do not take up much space.
- Running shoes – When hiking for miles you need to have shoes that will go easy on your feet. Foot issues are one of the most common problems that could slow your progress.
- Thick winter hiking boots – If it is cold outside you need to keep your toes warm. It is more of an issue when you stop to rest than it is when you are hiking, so insulation is key.
- Thermal underwear – During the winter and extra layer of insulation for your upper and lower body is important.
- Insulated winter hat – A good portion of your body heat escapes through your head so having a winter hat is vital.
- Ball cap – During any season the sun can beat down on your head and face. A ball cap can shade your head and face. It also makes it easier to see when you are facing the sun.
- Insulated gloves or mittens – In cold weather your hands are one of the most likely areas to suffer from frostbite. More importantly, you will need your hands functional for several tasks. Keeping them warm will help with everything else.
- Open finger tactical gloves – In warm weather your hands still need to be protected as you travel and set up camp. Tactical gloves are perfect to protect your hands in warmer weather.
- Wool socks – Wool will keep your feet warm even when wet and are good at shedding water. They dry out quickly when needed and provide good padding to protect your feet.
Below are some other items that you should include in your get home bag list:
- Handgun – Having a way to defend yourself as you travel is very important. I would suggest a small handgun to help get you home safely.
- First aid kit – You never know what could happen when you are trying to get home, so a small first aid kit is smart.
- Hand crank radio – Staying informed is essential to getting home, so a hand crank radio will help you stay posted on any changes to your SHTF situation.
- Tactical flashlight – It is likely that you may need to do some walking in the dark. A bright and reliable flashlight would be required for this. Tactical flashlights often have a strobe setting to disorient attackers as well.
- Headlamp – This could be used in place of a flashlight, but it is also much better for setting up camp to keep your hands free while you work.
- Money – This scenario likely takes place at the very beginning of an emergency, so it is possible that you could stop in a store to get supplies as you travel.
- Knife – A good fixed blade, full tang knife is the most valuable tool you have. Make sure you have one in your pack.
- Duct tape – It has a million uses and needs to be in every single pack.
- Emergency whistle – If you get stuck on your way home, this can signal help from a long distance.
- Signal mirror – Just another option to help you signal for rescue.
- Medical tape – This will help if you have blisters that need to be wrapped.
- Ankle wrap – One of the most common issues with getting home is a twisted ankle. Having a wrap or even an inflatable brace will help keep you going.
- Rain suit – if it starts raining, this will allow you to keep hiking without additional risk of hypothermia.
- Rain poncho – This option doubles as a tarp to build a small shelter, but it does not keep your legs as dry as a rain suit.
- Map – Plot out your route in advance and have a paper map handy to get you home.
- Compass – Have this backup handy in case you get turned around.
- Tactical pen – This is an item that you can use every day at work, but when added to your pack makes for a good close quarters weapon.
- Glow sticks – These are great to give you some light without burning out the battery on your flashlight. They work best for your camp when you are not moving.
Make sure you adjust the items in your get home bag list based on the seasons. Your clothing and footwear will change drastically based on the weather, but some of your other items may change as well. Making these adjustments will help you keep your pack light and organized. Keep in mind that you do not need all of these items. Be selective and only take what you think you will need. Remember that travelling lighter equates to travelling faster.