How To Build a Get Home Bag

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Just over one year ago I wrote a post about how to build a 72-hour disaster survival kit called a Bug Out Bag. Much of my time between then and now has been spent writing a book on the same subject — a more detailed and thorough version of that post. The title of that book is Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit (to win a copy, see the giveaway section below).

If you liked the post about how to build a Bug Out Bag, then you are going to like this post as well. Your Get Home Bag is just as important as your Bug Out Bag. Look at it as your Bug Out Bag's little brother. They are similar in concept and design, but the end goal is altogether different.

I'd like to open this post with an excerpt from my book — actually the first opening paragraph:

You can hear the sirens in the distance. Your electricity is out, and your home phone has no dial tone. When you try to use your cell phone, you get the same message over and over: u201CAll circuits are busy.u201D You know a disaster is quickly approaching. And you know that waiting this one out is not an option. In the breath-taking stillness, you can hear the clock on the wall. Tick-tock, tick-tock. The eleventh hour is here.

Now, imagine this… YOU ARE AT WORK! As you reach under your desk to grab your Get Home Bag (GHB), thoughts of your wife and children rush through your mind. Then, you quietly say to yourself, u201CThis isn't going to be my typical commute home today.u201D

As a whole, we spend surprisingly little time at home. Between our time in a vehicle, at work, in school, running errands, visiting friends, attending meetings and making appointments, some of us spend more time AWAY from home than AT home. Many of you are nodding in agreement. These countless hours away from home must be considered when developing your disaster preparedness plan.

What Is a Get Home Bag?

The name says it all. It is a survival kit designed to get you home in the event that a catastrophic disaster occurs while you are away. I sometimes call this bag my 24-hour bag, and you'll rarely find me away from home without it. A Bug Out Bag is a much more substantial supply kit (typically 72 hours) and stays at home. It's not practical to tote your BOB back and forth to work every day. Your Get Home Bag bridges that preparedness gap. Depending on the situation, just getting home can be a survival journey in and of itself.

A GHB can take a variety of forms depending on your personal preference.

My GHB is a small backpack and that is what I recommend. However, I have friends who use duffel bags, fanny packs, web-gear, sling packs and even spare briefcases. Ultimately that is your decision, but I prefer the hands-free utility of a backpack.

Is a Get Home Bag Even Necessary?

There is an infinite list of events that could warrant the use of a Get Home Bag. Many are regular occurrences. A GHB doesn't have to save you from TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) to be a worthy investment. Even if never put to that grave test, a GHB can provide for you in countless other less catastrophic scenarios. Below is a short list of events from the news headlines in the past few years that could possibly interfere with your immediate and uninterrupted commute home. I'm certain several people reading this article can account for some of these from personal experience.

  • Severe weather
  • Power grid failure (black-outs)
  • Vehicle Break-Down
  • Terrorist Attack
  • Acts of war
  • Bridge collapse
  • Tornadoes
  • Tsunamis
  • Flooding
  • Winter storms
  • Zombie apocalypse!!!

Certainly, some disasters are more devastating than others. Millions of people have found themselves in need of a Get Home Bag at some point in their lives. For some, not having one has cost them their future.

I was watching a documentary the other day which interviewed survivors of the 9-11 terrorist attacks years later. I was surprised at the severe lung problems people have developed from inhaling the dust, fumes, smoke, and pulverized building material while escaping from in and around Ground Zero. It was an after effect I had never considered. An N95 face mask (mentioned later) in a Get Home Bag could have eliminated these ailments.

Assembling a GHB is not a daunting task and can easily be done in one afternoon. For the investment of time, money, and energy, I know of very few other things in life that can have such a dramatic and lasting effect on your future than a Get Home Bag — should you ever need to use it.

Your Get Home Bag Packing List

Below is my list of recommended GHB supplies. I fully expect for you to make your own additions and subtractions from this list. After all, it is YOUR kit. Different lifestyles, careers, and environments are all factors that will dictate the items in your kit. These kits are very personal.

1 Liter of Water in a Metal Container. I suggest a metal container because it gives you the option to boil water and/or cook in if necessary. I also carry a metal cup that fits snugly on the bottom of my metal Nalgene.

Food + Water

3-6 Energy Bars. Don't over pack with elaborate meals. High calorie bars are simple and sufficient meal substitutes. They require no heating or preparation — now that's my kind of meal!

Rain Poncho + Tarp

Rain Poncho. I personally use a military version with grommets in the corners which can be used as an improvised shelter if necessary. Being wet is not only miserable, it's deadly. Hypothermia is the # 1 outdoor killer, and your vulnerability skyrockets when you are wet — even in temperatures as high as 50 degrees.

Lightweight Tarp. I pack this to use as a shelter canopy. It can also be used as a ground cover and many things in between.

Boots + Change of Clothes

Walking Shoes / Hiking Boots. Especially for people who wear dress shoes to work, this is a really important addition. Pack a comfortable pair of tennis shoes at the very least. A good pair of wool hiking socks isn't a bad idea either.

A change of clothes and a pair of leather gloves allows you to change out of your suit and into something that offers more protection and maneuverability.

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