Ounces equal pounds. Pounds equal pain. Bug-outs and evacuations are stressful enough without 50 pounds on your back.
Oh, don’t forget, because your get-home bag (GHB) is 50 pounds, you never practice with it.
That’s a lot of odds to stack against you when you need everything to come up in your favor.
One factor you don’t need is weight. Survival gear does not have to be heavy.
With attention to detail and a few key choices, you can be just as prepared as anyone with a painfully heavy bag.
Let’s look at lightening up your GHB without cutting corners.
What is a Get Home Bag?
The first task when outfitting your GHB is to define its purpose properly.
A GHB gets you home from your normal day-to-day travel in the event of an emergency. That’s it. That’s all.
A GHB isn’t a Bug Out Bag (BOB) that you can throw over a shoulder and disappear into the woods.
Nor does it take you hundreds of miles to your Bug Out Location. Its purpose is much more narrow.
Look at your daily life patterns and gauge it from there. Ask yourself the following questions.
How long is my daily commute?
How far away is the grocery store?
In some cases, this may be a few miles. In others, it may exceed 100 miles.
These daily activities define the distance you need to cover with your GHB.
Your get-home routes should be familiar, albeit possibly off-road.
With luck, your travels will begin shortly after the disaster.
This will hopefully make the human terrain easier to navigate.
What are the Chief Sources of Weight in a GHB?
The first step in improvement is identifying where you have a problem.
So let’s look at the heavy things.
Water! Can’t live without it… Pain in the back to carry it… Water is 8 pounds per gallon.
The average person needs one gallon per day. Do the math and you have a lot of weight to manage.
On a multi-day hike, your water could weigh more than the rest of the items in your bag combined.
Your environment will dictate how you manage water. If you are fortunate, you have one or more water sources on your routes.
If you’re not as fortunate, then it’s time to bulk up the muscles.
Next is shelter. We tend to go overboard on shelter.
Staying out of the elements is a comfort we are used to.
A get-home route won’t need much in the way of shelter.
Most people, when well-motivated, can hike straight through for 24 hours or more with minimal breaks.
Leave the tent at home.
Preppers love their tools and toys. A flashlight, or six, three sizes of leatherman tools, and an even dozen knives may look nice in a blog post, but they suck on the lower back.
Keep it simple. Keep it light.
What do I Pack in My Lightweight GHB?
Ok, let’s look where we can shave a few ounces.
Conserving weight starts with your pack. Choose one that isn’t oversized.
A smaller pack forces you to prioritize every ounce. A
n overly large pack makes it too easy to store too much, and the result is a heavy pack.
The Prometheus Design Werx S.H.A.D.O. 24 liter pack is right-sized for the task.
The ample storage compartments and organizational elements are perfect to keep your gear accessible and in order.
At a little over 60 ounces, you’d be hard-pressed to find a lighter pack with as much organization.
Keep in mind, there are a lot of options that fit the bill.
However, this is the model we are using for this particular build.
Fire is a necessity if you get cold, wet, or need to purify water.
The good news is that you can get away with a Bic lighter and some tinder.
You can even throw in a small fire steel for redundancy.
In other cases, you will need to be a little more self-contained.
If it’s inadvisable to have an open campfire, then a small cook stove is the perfect lightweight companion for a solution on the go.
Considering fuel stoves, you can use one such as the venerable SnowPeak GigaPower.
At 3.2 ounces, it is one of the lightest on the market when you consider its sturdiness.
- Backpacking Gear: This portable, lightweight camping stove is perfect for your outdoor cooking needs
- Outdoor Camping Stove: The auto-igniter means you don't need a lighter
- Portable Stove: The foldable design makes for easy travel, transport, and storage
- Outdoor Dining Bliss: Enjoy the outdoors with our products' minimalism and elegance
- Snow Peak: Our backpacking and camping products are made using a historic manufacturing process
You must, however, add the weight of a fuel canister which can really add up depending on the size you choose.
My recommendation is to go for the smallest size you can.
I like being able to nest my fuel canister and stove inside my titanium Toaks Cup.
- Material: Titanium (Grade 1 or 2 no coating) Weight: 2.7oz (76g) (cup only), 3.2oz (89g) (cup with lid)
- Capacity: 15.2oz (450ml) (measured to the top of cup)
- Dimension: Internal: 3 1/8" (79mm) (D) X 3 1/2" (90mm) (H).Profile: 3 1/2" (88mm) (D) X 3 1/2" (90mm) (H) (measured with handles folded)
- Gradation: Yes, in oz and ml.
- Notes: 1. It comes with a mesh sack. 2. It nests inside TOAKS 650, 750 pot and large wood stove.
If you wish to gather wood for fuel, you can substitute a folding stove.
The ATiAP Titanium Folding Stove is a titanium folding stove that uses the rocket stove principle to generate ample heat to boil water or to cook any meal.
- Titanium construction is durability as well as light weight. Wide opening design for convenient adding wood and improved air flow, higher burning efficiency.
- Cross-stand trivet creates a stable cooking platform for the 750ml pot size. Easy to set up and cook a meal with unlimited fuels: wood, twigs, branches, leaves. Weight only 7.2 oz and packs flat that fits into your pocket and backpack, very easy to carry.
- Compact & Portable. It could be disassembled to storage into your backpack, convenient to carry. Easy to set up, connect all the panels on each side, which just takes a few minutes to complete.
- Convenient to Use. Cook a meal with the fuel that easy to find, such as wood, branches, or leaves. Perfect for outdoor camping, hiking, backpacking trip. It could save space and cost, compared with the way that using the fuel canister.
- Package includes 1 piece ATiAP titanium wood burning stove(S size) and 1 piece storage bag only.
If you wish for a more complete set, consider a solid fuel set such as the Esbit 3-piece cook set.
Weighing just about 7 ounces, this includes the tablet holder and a 16 fluid ounce pot with a lid.
The fuel tablets weigh 0.48 ounces each. One suffices to boil a pot of water.
You can also use twigs in place of the tablets.
- Kit includes 585-milliliter pot, lid, and wind deflector/pot stand, and stores in included mesh bag.
- Stove and cookset is constructed from lightweight, hard anodized aluminum that weighs only seven ounces.
- Stove uses Esbit's unique, proprietary, solid state fuel cubes (sold separately).
- Pot includes volume indicators in both liters and ounces, and has two hinged stainless steel grips that fold flat against body of the pot.
- Stores in included mesh bag; ideal for backpackers and campers who like to travel extremely light.
Shelter and Tools
Shelter has the potential to be one of the heaviest components of your GHB.
For most get-home situations you will be able to power through with no shelter.
Therefore pack a poncho and just keep walking.
That being said, you may need to rest, camp overnight, or just get out of the weather for a few hours.
The lightest option is a garbage or a contractor’s bag. It’s not pretty, but it keeps the rain off.
For something slightly more elegant and comfortable, use a tarp.
The ultralight and bushcraft communities swear by their tarps.
There are configurations for every use and every size.
It’s easy to find a lightweight example such as the AquaQuest Guide Tarp. Large enough for one person, it weighs only .9 lbs.
- SUPERIOR QUALITY materials and precise fabrication go into each and every AquaQuest camping tarp. Established in 1994, AQ is the tarp brand you can trust for maximum confidence in your shelter.
- MORE WATERPROOF than most camping tarps, the Guide's dual coatings combine to create a waterproof rating that exceeds 5000 mm, far surpassing the industry standard for tarps and tents.
- ULTRALIGHT & COMPACT with minimal weight and maximum versatility, the Guide offers plenty of pitch options and reliable resilience when deployed in the backcountry.
- THE GUIDE 10 x 7 TARP KIT includes 1 tarp, 4 adjustable tarp straps, 4 lightweight aluminum stakes, and 1 stuff-sack. The tarp has 13 tie-outs, weighs 0.9 lbs and provides up to 64 ft2 of coverage. Can accommodate up to 2 users.
- LIFETIME WARRANTY included on all AquaQuest products, plus knowledgeable and responsive Customer Service based in the USA & Canada. With 30 years of experience, enjoy full confidence and no risk from a proven industry leader.
Shelter doesn’t end with a tarp or tent. It starts there. You must also include your first layer (clothes) and tools.
The first layer of shelter is your clothes. Depending on your climate, it may be best to invest in a set of lightweight socks, pants, and jacket.
You may not need to pack these in your GHB, as when you leave your vehicle you’ll have some awareness of the weather ahead.
Keep them in a box next to you your GHB and change into them if necessary. Otherwise, save the weight and leave them behind.
Next is tools. Never leave home without a knife. In this case, make it just big enough to meet your needs.
A lightweight GHB is no place for a Becker BK2, otherwise known as “The Sharpened Pry-Bar.”
Preppers are finicky about their knives. I’ll make two recommendations, but ultimately your choice depends on your needs and your budget.
The Morakniv is a stalwart of the prepping community. At 5 ounces, they take a beating for a decent price.
- FIXED-BLADE KNIFE: An iconic outdoor knife that can be used in many different situations; it makes an ideal camping knife, backpacking knife, fishing knife, hiking knife, or survival knife
- PREMIUM BLADE: 0.1-inch thick recycled Swedish stainless steel knife blade provides superior strength and stability with every cut
- HIGH-FRICTION HANDLE: Made with an ergonomic polymer handle with a soft friction grip and finger guard; this knife is safe and efficient for use in all weather conditions
- PROTECTIVE POLYMER SHEATH: Is symmetrical, meaning it’s suitable for both right- and left-handed users; and has a vegetable-tanned Swedish leather strap that can easily be connected to your belt
- SPECIFICATIONS: Blade length: 4.3 inches (109 mm); blade thickness: 0.10 inch (2.5 mm); total length: 8.8 inches (224 mm); net weight: 5 ounces (142 g)
For a more compact option, with half the weight, consider the ESSE Izula Fire Ant.
This skeletonized knife is 2 ounces and I’ve put mine through its paces, batoning firewood, and other more delicate tasks.
Finally, you need cordage. Leave the paracord at home if you want to save weight and pack Kevlar string!
- [High Strength Hollow Braided Cord] 100% Kevlar braiding creates a no ductile cord, not easily deformed, and is suitable as a kite line, ridge line, etc. The braided line allows for the creation of fishing assist jig hook lines, which are very common and popular among fishing enthusiasts.
- [Wear resistance] kevlar cord have excellent worn and cutting resistance. In the outdoor environment where it is often exposed to rough and sharp surfaces, kevlar thread can withstand most of the wear and tear, whether kevlar thread is used to hang bear bags, repair wind chimes, you can even use it as a simple cutting saw.
- [Fire Resistant] Kevlar Line has unique flame retardancy, so it can also be used for camping stove and chimney tie line, etc. It can also providing flame-resistant protection from potential fire hazards.
- [Lightweight Cord] A small spool of kevlar survival cordage you can put in any corner of your backpack and start your hiking trip with ease and pleasure.
- [Multipurpose Outdoor Line] 9KM DELIFE Kevlar string with high friction resistance, our kevlar survival rope is perfect for tough tasks such as camping, hiking, and hunting.
Stronger, smaller, and lighter, you can pack 50 feet and never notice the added weight. You will sacrifice the use of the inner core of the paracord but you’ll make up for in weight savings.
I pick up small rolls on Amazon and cut it into various lengths depending on what my need are.
Water is heavy, filters and purification tablets are not. Spend your weight budget on your water bottle and not on water.
The only exception to this is if there are no opportunities to refill along your route.
You don’t need a big filter, just one that will provide a few gallons of clean water.
The Sawyer Mini fits this need in only 3.5 ounces.
- Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and International travel, and emergency preparedness
- High-performance 0.1 Micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm of your hand and weighs just 2 ounces; 100% of MINI units individually tested three times to performance standards by Sawyer
- Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or use the straw to drink directly from your water source
- Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria (salmonella, cholera, and E. coli); removes 99.9999% of all protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium); also removes 100% of microplastics
- Filter rated up to 100,000 gallons; Includes one Sawyer MINI filter, 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw, and cleaning plunger. Before initial wetting- Filter is safe from freezing temperatures if it has never been wetted. After initial wetting-While there is no definitive way to tell if a filter has been damaged due to freezing, Sawyer recommends replacing your filter if you suspect that it has been frozen. During trips-If you are in freezing temperatures, we recommend that you store your filter in your pocket or close to your person so that your body heat can prevent freezing.
For an even lighter-weight solution, pack water purification tablets. Add two tablets per quart and wait an hour for potable water.
- Makes questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink
- Proven effective against Giardia Lamblia when used as directed
- PA Plus Tablets remove iodine taste and color from water
- Ideal for camping, hiking and travel
- Treats up to 25 qts of water and ready in just 30 minutes
As I stated, save your weight for the bottle. While lighter bottles exist, I still recommend a single-walled stainless steel bottle.
- Durable and High Quality Food Grade 18/8 Stainless Steel Construction
- Comes with BPA-free Polypropylene #5 cap with Stainless Steel bottom to create an all-stainless interior
- Large 2.125 inch (54 millimeter) opening fits ice, easy to fill and pour; Compatible with all Klean Kanteen Wide caps
- Easy to clean electropolished interior doesn't retain or impart flavors
- Backed by the Klean Kanteen Strong as Steel Guarantee
With this setup, the bottle also provides you with a container to boil water. With a wide-mouth bottle, you can even cook in it.
Freeze-dried foods win the weight wars. While you need water to rehydrate them, you can gather what you need for a day or two of travel, thus limiting your weight.
Most get-home routes will be relatively short, so you shouldn’t need much food.
Therefore, a few snacks may suffice. Protein bars are a great lightweight snack.
For an even lighter option, food ration bars are a perfect fit.
DATREX bars are a little larger than a box of matches however they pack over 200 calories.
- Pack contains Twelve 200 kCal bars
- 5 year Shelf Life
- Approved by U.S. Coast Guard
Not as appetizing as a full freeze-dried meal, but they’ll get you through in a pinch.
Medical is not an area to skimp on weight. While you don’t need a complete aid kit fit for your retreat, you still need to manage common injuries and trauma.
This is one area that I recommend you build from scratch. Most first aid kits are packed with extra gear, and you need a minimalist kit.
In fact, you can probably build a kit from spares in your other bags.
At a minimum, you need to manage the following:
- Scrapes, cuts, and blisters (bandaids and moleskin)
- Common and prescription medications (only pack what you need for the length of your trip)
- Orthopedic support (SAM splints, ace wraps)
- Trauma (tourniquet, hemostatic agents)
COMMS and Intelligence
In the opening hours of a disaster, information is king. You need the means to listen in and exchange information with others.
Listening is easy while saving weight. In most disasters, short of a full-blown EMP, local broadcasts will still be live. Think back to 911.
For many in the urban areas affected by the disasters, roads were closed but the radio stations were still broadcasting.
There are several inexpensive portable radios on the market. Look around and find one that fits your needs.
If you require two-way communications, then skip the blister-pack radios and go straight for a small HAM radio.
- Frequency Range: 144-148MHz, 420-450MHz. Please kindly know that UV-5R would not transmit without this frequency range.
- 128 Channels 50 CTCSS and 104 CDCSS Dual-Band Display, Dual Freq. Display, Dual-Standby, A/B band independent operation, High/Low TX power selectable: Busy channel lock-out(BCLO)
- High/Low TX power selectable: Busy channel lock-out(BCLO),128 Channels 50 CTCSS and 104 CDCSS Dual-Band Display, Dual Freq. Display, Dual-Standby, A/B band independent operation, Keypad Lock. Voice companding: 50 CTCSS/ 104 DCS coder & tone searching, Tri-color background light selectable: 0-9 grades VOX selectable. Large LCD Display, Emergency Alert: 12.5KHz Switchable, LED Flashlight: High/Low RF Power Switchable, Support manually program. Easy to program via PC. Support CHIRP quick programming
- Tri-color background light selectable: 0-9 grades VOX selectable. Large LCD Display
- Emergency Alert: 25KHz/12. 5KHz Switchable, LED Flashlight: Hight /Low RF Power Switchable
Unless it’s an emergency, you need a license to transmit.
The items above are a sampling of the “very” minimum categories you should be looking at. Y
our training, expertise, and environment will dictate how and what you should pack.
Be sure to take a detailed look at your individual needs as you are working on your kit.
Packing up GHBs
Hiking is a pleasure when you have time, energy, and just the right amount of gear for the journey.
Add a sense of urgency, perfectly bad timing, and a pack stuffed to the gills, and you have a get-home trip!
As preppers, we plan for the worst, and what can be worse than a trip home under emergency circumstances.
Things will be bad enough with the stress of leaving your vehicle, separation from family, and the timeline of collapsing society.
There’s no need to make this any worse than it already is.
What you don’t need to add to this is a pack that has three times the stuff and three times the weight of what you really need.
Slim your get-home bag down with these ultralight ideas. It’s the least that you can do to remove one stressor of a long walk home.