Contributed by Charles T
Have you ever imagined being stranded far from home with no transportation available to carry you back quickly? What would you do if you were at work and something prevented you from getting back home the normal way? Or your car got stuck during a blizzard and you had to stay in a stranger’s house while you waited for the plows to clear the roads? Would you have what you needed to walk home or stay in place for a few days?
These are the questions that get you thinking about the concept of a Get Home Bag (GHB).
A Get Home Bag is similar to a bug out bag, except that instead of being focused on leaving home like a 72hr Bug Out Bag, the Get Home Bag is designed to provide the tools you need to get home in an emergency.
What you need to pack and where you keep your Get Home Bag depends on your lifestyle.
Where to keep your Get Home Bag
If you have a car and drive a distance to work, the most logical way to pack is to have a bag with the supplies you need to walk from your work to home stored in your vehicle. Keeping it in your vehicle ensures that you have it even if an emergency strikes when you are out doing errands. It also allows you to complement your car emergency kit with the gear that you may want in an automotive emergency and what you need if you need to go mobile. Keeping these items close together but separate saves time if you need to leave your vehicle quickly.
If you take public transportation to work, it makes sense to store your get home bag at your place of employment. If you go this route, make sure you do not have any items in your bag that violate your companies policies.
Packing your Get Home Bag
The supplies you will put in your Get Home Bag reflect the difficulties you expect to face on your journey home. They should follow the same general guidelines for what you would include as for a 72hr Bug Out Bag, but with a much more limited scope.
Your Get Home Bag assumes that you are trying to get home as soon as possible. Therefore it is essential to pack very light, and therefore not include some of the “luxury” items you may have in a 72hr Bug Out Bag.
As is commonly discussed for Bug Out Bags, the four major factor to think about are air, shelter, water and food.
In many emergencies that may cause you to leave work and head home, there is a good chance of airborne pollution being a problem. People fleeing their workplaces during the attacks on September 11, 2001 were inundated by toxic smoke from burning and pulverized debris as can be commonly seen in footage from the event.
To prepare for this, having two (or more if you are planning on being altruistic since you probably won’t be alone in the emergency) n95 face masks at the top of your Get Home Bag could be extremely useful.
The first idea of shelter we need to talk about is clothing.
Many jobs require attire that is less than optimal for spending a few rough nights on the side of the road. Both men and women’s fashion calls for good looking but impractical footwear in the modern workplace. Either strapped to or kept near your Get Home Bag should be a pair of functional shoes that will help you on your trek. These can be changed depending on the season or the route you are expecting. For most summer/spring/fall seasons, a pair of almost worn out sneakers will be better to have on hand then anything you would normally wear to work. In the winter pack some boots that you are not afraid to walk through snow in. These could prove very handy as a pairing with your Automotive Emergency Kit as well in case you get stuck in snow while driving.
Socks appropriate to the weather should be packed as well, bring at least as many pairs as days you expect to walk home. A full day of walking will result in some sweaty socks and having a fresh pair to change into at night can help keep your feet warm and prevent blisters and foot fatigue through extended walking.
If you don’t do a lot of walking, in general, plan on getting some blisters. The best way to do this is to get some Moleskin for your bag that you apply when you start to feel chafing. Don’t wait until you already have a blister, it’s better to reinforce the area at the first sign of trouble then try to fix it later.
Once you are set in the shoes department, look at what you need to keep your legs and torso sheltered.
A pair of lightweight convertible hiking Pants should meet most needs during warmer months, and in the winter switch out with heavier material with a wool underlayer for extra warmth.
In any temperature range you should plan on bringing two spare pair of hiking Compression Shorts. These will help minimize chafing and discomfort on the trip.
Depending on your climate either a Long Sleeve or Short Sleeve undershirt can help keep sweat away from your body. This helps either in cold or hot temperatures, so having a good undershirt is very important.
The top layer of clothing is especially seasonally dependent. In the summer an extra t-shirt or two may suffice. In the winter you will want to make sure you have access to multiple layers in case you need to survive a frigid night outside.
Your extremities such as your head and hands need consideration too. If you keep a pair of Mechanics Gloves as part of your Car Emergency Kit they should suffice for hand protection in the warmer months and be of some help in the fall. In the winter though you will want to make sure to bring a good pair of mittens to keep your fingers warm.
All of these items are great as long as the weather is good, but if it is raining out you will need to either draw on some Emergency Ponchos from your car emergency kit or have another option. If you have ever used the cheap plastic emergency ponchos you know they don’t work well in the wind and tend to move around. The Frog Togg Brand of Ponchos are lightweight alternative and provide a great addition to a get home bag.
This covers the immediate shelter offered by clothing. The next step is looking at additional items to bring that can help you if you need to plan on staying the night outside.
If you are walking home following some emergency that happened when you were driving in your car or at work, you need to bring what would allow you to be self-sufficient until you got home. In a better case scenario, you could stay at a coworkers house or check into a hotel and ride out the crisis out of harms way. For this reason plan on having at least, $300 in cash in mostly 20’s with $100 worth of 10, 5 and 1 dollar bills. Having the cash will allow you to stay even if the credit card systems are down. The money can be used also for things like taxi’s and vending machines in the case that cards aren’t accepted for normal items as well. Throw in $5 worth of quarters and you should be set as far as cash is concerned.
If you can’t find a hotel or a friend to crash with, you may have to spend a night outdoors. Since this is a short-term emergency, you should not worry about a tent or hammock or advanced sleeping system. As long as what you have allows you to moderately rest and protects you from the elements you should be ok. Either a Cheap or More Expensive emergency bivvy should suffice for a few nights. If you have lots of space in your bag, you could consider a ground pad, but realistically this luxury can probably be left behind unless you really want it and have the space. In lieu of a pad make sure to pile up some pine needles or some sort of layer so that you have something to insulate you from the ground.
It is essential to think about how you will provide yourself with enough water for your trip. Keeping lots of water in your get home bag may be impractical, but having at least 3 half-liter water bottles is a good start. These won’t get you very far though, so bringing a good lightweight Water Filter and Iodine Tablets is very important. Pair you filtered water with Powdered Gatorade to cover any odd tastes and to provide you body with additional nutrients.
If you live in an arid area where these is no potential for resupplying your water, you should plan on packing all the water you need to get home in your bag. Yes, this is heavy and impractical. But without enough water you won’t get home. And that is what this bag is here to help you do. Ditch some other items, but do not skimp on water.
Because of the short duration of the trip, do not plan on boiling water, as this would require you bringing pots and to make a fire on the way, which would be time-consuming and probably very impractical/illegal if you are walking in a city or suburban area.
To minimize weight in your get home bag, it is recommended that you only bring food items that are ready to eat with minimum (ideally no) preparation. So no foods that require additional water or cooking. Civilian MRE style foods are your best bet here. Pack one for each day you expect to be on the road. You don’t need a ton of food to get by, and it is ok if you get home hungry. Pair the MRE’s with Cliff and Power Bars to provide some extra energy. The key thing to remember when eating is that food requires water to digest. If you don’t drink while you are eating, your body will pull the water from your cells and dehydrate you quickly. If you don’t have anything to drink, DO NOT EAT. You will kill yourself from dehydration and you can go a lot longer without food than water.
This covers the primary elements of Air, Shelter, Water and Food for your get home bag. But what else should you bring?
Depending on your route home there are other specific tools you may need. Thes are:
Compass (if you are expecting to stay off the main roads).
Backup Cell Phone Battery (if you want to make sure your phone has juice in case you can’t charge it).
Lighter (in the unlikely case you need to start a fire).
Fixed Blade Knife (for applications where a multitool may not be strong enough, potentially defense).
Multitool (for anything and everything if it is not already in your every day carry.
Mini Bolt Cutters (if you will be going through an urban area and expect to hit a lot of chain link fences and are OK damaging other people’s property).
Mace (for a non-lethal defense tool that may be okay to store at your employer).
Whistle (for signaling, scaring off potential attackers who don’t want attention).
And while you may survive just thinking about the main concerns of air, shelter, water and food, you want to make sure you have a small medical kit to keep any minor injuries from becoming big problems. The Adventure Medical Kit 2.0 offers a decent foundation to start with, but it needs some extra items to be really valuable. Make sure you include:
Keep all of your items in a medium sized backpack. Ideally, you want to pick something that will not draw any attention. Stay away from tactical or molle type bags. In an urban area nothing stands out more than military looking equipment. Just a regular bag by SwissGear or another reputable brand should suffice.
Your get home kit is not meant to be an extensive all-inclusive survival package. It is the bare minimum of equipment to help you make it to your home in case of an emergency where you are left with only your feet for transportation. Let’s hope you never need to use it!