Where bug-out bags are intended to get you out of your home to safety, get home bags achieve the opposite goal helping to get you home to your loved ones so you can bug-in until an emergency resolves itself. You may choose to leave one within your vehicle in the event you need to abandon your car and make the return journey on foot, but can be cached in other areas you spend most of your time (such as at work).
Wherever you choose to keep your bag, they should be built with mobility in mind. This means keeping it as light as possible with only the essentials, such as water, some food, and options for shelter.
Why should you build a Get Home Bag?
Get home bags (GHBs), as the name implies, are intended to help you travel relatively short distances during an emergency back to your home.
They are extremely useful resources that can be employed in a range of scenarios, from civil unrest and natural disasters to simple car breakdowns. Whatever the cause, a get home bag is meant to help provide you with the necessities in the event you need to travel on foot.
With that said, many of the contents included in a get home bag apply to a much wider range of scenarios such as spare clothes for an unexpected overnight stay or food while waiting for breakdown assistance.
How big should a Get Home Bag be?
When choosing any bag, the size you select is important. Too big and you risk drawing attention to yourself unnecessarily, but too small and you will likely lack many of the important items needed for your survival.
One common approach we’ve seen to build a get home bag is to just copy your bug out bag (BOB). This can work and provide all of the essentials you need to make it home, but misses some of the most important aspects of a get home bag.
Firstly, if you’re using your get home bag, it’s likely because you need to cover a large amount of ground to your home in a short amount of time. A large 72-hour BOB is overpacked for this task containing many items not needed for a hike home.
Remember, a bug out bag is intended to help us establish a bug out location and therefore has many supplies not needed if returning to your home.
Secondly, many of us returning home are looking to do so in the shortest amount of time possible. An oversized bag carrying unnecessary supplies is guaranteed to be dead weight that just serves to slow you down.
Instead of a 72-hour bag, we recommend a daypack containing only the bare essentials. We’ll have a look in the next section at what exactly you may want to carry in your pack, but the smaller and lighter you can go, the better.
We’re a fan of the Maxpedition Entity for its compact size and ability to blend in easily in almost any environment, but any day-pack should be more than sufficient to act as a get home bag.
What to consider when building your bag
Although a get home bag should look and feel different to your bug out bag, there are still lessons we can take away from building a bug out bag.
Firstly, your loadout should be built around the environment you find yourself in. For example, if you know snow is going to be an issue for you as you attempt to hike home, your kit should be very considerate of your colder climate. Footwear may be an issue and something you should spend some time on.
Secondly, you should build your kit to reflect the average distance you expect to be traveling. For many of us, this will be based on the distance to work, but if you frequently travel further away, then the design of your kit should consider that additional distance.
Finally, remember your get home bag is not a car survival kit. We’ll have a separate article covering this aspect of car survival soon, but your get home bag is to get you home. Larger items, such as tools, have no place in a kit built with mobility in mind.
There is a difficult balance between keeping your kit light, while also being prepared enough to handle any likely contingency you may face, but remember that every item you place in your bag should be carefully selected with weight in mind.
So, What is in your Get Home Bag?
There’s no sense talking about what a get home bag is and not talking about what you should keep in int. Let’s take a look at a few of the essentials.
Food & Water
Starting with the most obvious items, you will want to keep some water and food in your bag. How much water and how you choose to carry it is largely dependent on how far you are expecting to travel, but we recommend at least 2 liters.
The food you carry is also largely a matter of personal preference, but with mobility in mind, it is worth avoiding food that needs extensive preparation or cooking.
While many options are available on the market, MREs can be a great option as 3000 calories should easily cover any day hike and can be consumed without heating.
Choosing to carry an MRE in your bag also has many other advantages, including items that can help boost morale and warm you up. The included chemical heater can be used to cook your food, but it can also be placed inside your clothing to warm yourself up and make the journey a little more bearable.
Once food and water are taken care of, it is worth including some rudimentary form of shelter. Although you are not expected to set up camp with your GHB, some circumstances are unavoidable (such as if you become injured) so a space blanket and small fire making kit are well worth including.
Space blankets are especially useful in this role as they can be wrapped around you, even while on the move, to provide additional warmth should you need it.
Finally, you will want some means of navigation in your bag. A GPS can be extremely useful, but a simple compass and map are more than effective and does not break the bank if someone ever breaks into your car and steals your get home bag.
A map may seem like a strange addition if you are using your bag to navigate through an area you are already extremely familiar with, but we still recommend including one.
They can be extremely useful if you unexpectedly need to divert from your original route, such as to avoid checkpoints or move around crowds.
Self-Defense in Your GHB?
Many of you will likely have noticed the lack of any self-defense options in our list of recommended gear and there is good reason for that.
As your get home bag is designed to be left in the car for extended periods of time, leaving an unsecured firearm in the bag is irresponsible. Cars get broken into and stolen on a daily basis, so it is important to take steps to prevent your weapon from falling into a criminal’s hands.
Another key reason a gun or knife is not included in our recommended list is that a GHB acts as a secondary line of gear and compliments your everyday carry.
Many of us already carry a firearm with us as part of our normal EDC, as well as a knife or multitool. Duplicating these items with your get home bag only adds to the weight of your bag and slows down your journey.
If you’re looking to increase your self-defense options within your get home bag, storing additional ammunition can be a good idea although is not always necessary.
Compliment your GHB with your Car Kit
While the contents of your get home bag should be selected with mobility in mind, you can also use your car to carry additional items that compliment your get home bag.
One of the best examples of this can be keeping a separate pair of shoes and change of clothes in your car.
You may not always need them, but if you make the decision to hike home from your car, changing out of your office wear can make the journey much more comfortable.
These additional items should again consider your environment, but regardless of the weather you face, the importance of a good pair of boots or other quality footwear cannot be overstated.
We live in uncertain times and the day may come where you need to quickly abandon your vehicle to make the journey home to your family on foot.
A get home bag when combined with your everyday carry should make this journey much more viable, providing you the essentials for what would otherwise be a very miserable experience.
Constructing your get home bag is a great option if you are looking for an insurance policy to get you home during an emergency, but what if you need to get away from your home and evacuate?
Be sure to check out our guide to bug out bags and let us know if there are any items you think are worth keeping in your get home bag.