Average Joe’s ideas on survival and getting home after a disaster strikes

This guest post is by “Average Joe” Jim H and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

I have been reading the many wonderful entries sent in by the Wolf Pack, but I have set here and been silent thinking that I may not be qualified to comment or to enter posts on my own. Then I thought, I’m probably not the only one like that. I have been prepping for years (before it was “cool” to be a prepper) and what if some of my experience could help someone, or what if it was my post that made someone get out of their chair and do more than think about prepping? Remember, a thought without action (any size action) is dead or lays dying on the floor as you surf to another website. So, with that being said, please read through this post and all of the other informative posts and feel free to take some notes. Write some ideas down and begin to prepare you and your family.

GHB – not the drug, the Get Home Bag

I have carried several different bags as my personal choice changes and depending on where I may be traveling. The farther away from home you are, the more supplies you may need to get you home. For some, a small duffle bag will work, for others a school type book bag. Currently I am using a 3 day assault pack that attaches to my bug out bag when I get home. My GHB is a woodland camo pack with the molle attachment points. It was a good deal on a surplus web site or Ebay. The total cost for it was less than $20. I live in an area where if they saw someone with a camo pack, they wouldn’t think anything of it. Color and size are both factors. You don’t want to have one that will make you a target. Get one that will blend in with your environment. Your pack must be reasonably sized and sturdily made. Depending on your physical condition, weight may also be a factor (not only of pack contents, but the empty pack).

Contents of the Get Home Bag:

Remember the basics – food, clothing, and shelter. They used to teach that in school. What they didn’t tell you was that you would need some protection from your fellow man. Here is what I have in my get home bag:

  • Poncho – mil surplus
  • Emergency poncho (commercial type)
  • 100 feet 550 cord (cord plus mil surplus poncho = shelter)
  • Folding shovel & case (case attaches to the backpack)
  • 1 Gerber Multi tool
  • 1 Spyder Fire flashlight (SureFire knock off)
  • 8 extra batteries (CR type) + 2 in the light (10 year shelf life)
  • 1 fixed blade knife
  • 2 boxes water proof matches
  • 1 fire steel & striker
  • 2 sticks Coleman fire starter tinder
  • 2 mini Bic lighters
  • 2 emergency candles
  • 4 light sticks
  • 2 quart canteen & carrier (soft sided takes less space until needed)
  • 1 quart canteen & carrier with cup (attached to outside of pack)
  • Nalgene water bottle with built in filter (immediate water needs – fill bottle and drink through the straw filter built in while continuing to move)
  • Water purification tablets (enough to make 3 days water)
  • Katydyne hiker water filter system
  • 2 packages Mainstay 3600 calorie food bars ( Has a 5 year shelf life and is packed ready to Eat. Each package has 9 measured 400 calorie meals.)
  • 1 MRE (stripped of external packaging to fit better in pack)
  • 2 one gallon size zip lock bags
  • 1 box of instant coffee pouches (removed from box and kept in a zip lock bag)
  • 10 beef bullion cubes (makes a warm drink and can improve morale)
  • 1 contractor grade black trash bag
  • 1 mini roll of duct tape (about 15 feet)
  • 1 battery booster for my cell phone
  • 2 pair of socks
  • 1 First aid kit – bandaids, burn cream, Neosporin, asprin, alleve (2 alleve = 4 advil), blood clotting bandages (expensive about $10 each, but worth it in an emergency), antiseptic wipes, and a tourniquet (for an extreme emergency)

The last items in the get home bag will be what ever is in my truck that I think will have some use as well as any personally identifying information in the vehicle (no need to tell a possible attacker or criminal where you are headed. )

I purposely left out the security item from the list. I will say that I carry four extra mags (double stack, high capacity) and they are preloaded so I am not trying to hide and load. Check your laws – no need to get popped by Johnny Law with an illegal gun or mag (depending on your location)

My goal with this bag is to get home to my family – hopefully in one piece.

Once home, when the time is right we can bug out if needed.

My wife always knows what area I am traveling in and has a general idea of how long it would take to walk home. If I am not home by a certain amount of time, she knows to consider that they are on their own and take appropriate steps to preserve and protect our family.

Have a plan A and at least a good idea of what plan B and C are. In an emergency nothing will ever go as planned.

Now that you have read about my get home bag, act on some of the ideas that popped into your head and start prepping for your family’s well being.

This contest will end on October 10 2012 – prizes include:

  • First Place : $100 Cash.
  • Second Place : $50 Cash.
  • Third Place : $25 Cash.

Contest ends on October 10 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. axelsteve says:

    Good article! The list also seems workable.Not allot of people in my area would panic at the sight of a woodland cammo pack either.Mossy oak would work better in my area except for summer and it would need more brown to actually be cammo.

  2. I like your list. Since I have a little more room in my vehicle, my sidearm is light weight and loaded for “close encounters”. My main firearm is a 16.5″ barreled 357 Mag lever action rifle. It’s relatively small and light, uses a variety of readily available ammunition included shot shells, and for my area is relatively common. It’s also enough to let causal observers know to go another way.

  3. I also just received a Ultralight Backpacking Canister Camp Stove with Piezo Ignition from Amazon. I was simple amazed at the size and the weight, 3.9 oz and about the size of 2 packs of 100mm cigarettes! I’m looking for fuel locally as the Amazon cost is as much to ship as a 4 pack costs.


    Although I would not depend upon something like this for a long term solution, for the GHB it is exactly what I was looking for.

    More info later once I get fuel and try it out.

    • JP in MT,
      This is our groups low end standard. At $5.00 it’s essentially disposable and for the price works extremely well. One group member purchased one and tried it in the field a few weekends ago. We now have a group purchase waiting to be delivered. Good little stove.

  4. Tim Guerrini says:

    I am not criticizing your GHB because you know what you will have to deal with and I don’t. But for my situation, your list would be crazy overkill. It would take a zombie apocalypse for me to need three days to walk home from work, but I might have to do it at 100 degrees or 10 degrees. So everyone’s situation and weather are different. And since they are different I would suggest that people consider adding some sort of blanket. I use a mylar blanket to save weight. I would also look at hiking shoes/boots, since neither dress shoes nor work boots are great for walking long distances. I also carry a small nylon tarp with tie straps. With a little practice, a small tarp can handle a wide range of shelter needs as well as doubling as a carrier. I would also suggest some sort of handy wipes in addition to the antiseptic wipes. I am sure other people will have needs different from mine, so hopefully they will add some suggestions.

  5. I truly appreciate the humble attitude of “Average Joe” Jim H. in his article. The Wolf Pack, I assume, consists of a whole lot of Average Joes. But they don’t always come across as such. But Jim H. does, and it is welcomed. I also liked his list of stuff which, as axelsteve said, is doable. Some lists, simply due to the length of them, seem overwhelming. I envision an old man like myself bent underneath the unbearable burden of my “survival kit” on my back. But this list provides all the essentials (in my humble, Average Joe opinion) to get back home safely, D.V. Thanks for an excellent post!

  6. My GHB weighs in at about 30 lbs and contains enough for the missus and I to get home safely with. We carry it in the car or truck everywhere we go, including shopping or trips to the movies. Just makes good sense. I like Average Joe’s plan-seems complete. My bag is a 511 24 hr. bag in camel color. IMHO camo out of hunting season sends a message.

  7. My $0.02 (inflation adjusted, so it’s actually less): map(s) of the area in a ziplock baggie.
    My normal path from work (or places I’d most likely be) is mostly freeway; assuming a situation erupts in which I’ve got to hoof it freeways and highways would be in my estimation the most dangerous of places, crowded with desperate people. Maps of the area to circumvent (where possible) heavily trafficked routes could be put to great use. I bought an old, outdated Rand McNally map book for a dollar at a used book store – the newest of roads aren’t in there but it is highly unlikely that any road (bridge, railroad, river, etc.) in that map would *not* still be in existance, and the paper seems like it’d last longer than printer copies. A cheap compass might also be considered.

    I’d also like to comment on camouflage: ‘blend into their environment in order to avoid being seen by predators or prey’; in my city environment – the Dallas Fort Worth area – that would mean a school-type backpack in muted colors (my BHBs are black w/dark gray) mainly to not draw attention. ACU or woodland style camouflage would stand out, as would molle attachments or anything mil-surp.

    And my final $0.02 because I’m now broke until next payday – my GHB also doubles as an WNGAHUtTTA bag (We’re Not Goin’ Anywhere Honey Until the Tow Truck Arrives), one tailored for each vehicle. Why yes, my wife does roll her eyes when I call it the wing-a-hut bag, thanks for asking!

    I like your list as well as your ideas; its great to compare against because I’m always seeing items/events that I just hadn’t considered (like the personal information left in the vehicle).

  8. Thank you for this article. While I’m new to prepping, I have put some thought into a GHB. My real concern is that I often travel for work, often to the east coast and sometimes to Europe. While my company does have emergency procedures for those of us that travel, I am constantly thinking of how I might get home to my husband and family if something went really wrong. This is my first post here and appreciate any advice one might have. Thanks for a great site!

    • BlueCaribDreams says:

      My opinion is that 1st you need to have your husband as well educated in prepping as possible. It’s important to have him onboard with you just in case it takes months for you (if ever) to get back. This will also ease your worries while overseas.
      I beleive that if you are hundreds of miles away from family when the SHTF, then it might be best for you to first plan for your survival. After a few months, the mobs should have starved themselves out and traveling should be easier.
      If you are overseas, same as above but with a twist. Make your way to the coast or major river. There you will find people willing to use their ships to smuggle goods/people for a price. You may have to work to pay your way… or even worse. But remember, how important is it to get back to your family? There is nothing I wouldn’t do to get back to mine.
      As for a GHB, yours might be a little large while traveling, but just explain it as luggage.


  9. NewNormal says:

    my office is 25 miles from home, not on interstates but straight four lane highways none the less. It is mostly urban/suburan areas so I wouldn’t relish a walk home in a panic situation. I haven’t put a ‘get home bag’ in my car but I have been seriously considering it. I don’t know what kind of backpack would look right for a 50 year old woman but I’m thinking pink would appear very subtle to the average person and off putting to most men with an idea of stealing.
    I’ve been surveying areas along the route to try to figure out where in an envirnoment of office parks and fast food restaurants would someone sleep for a night. Anyone have any ideas?

    • BlueCaribDreams says:

      I think you would want to blend in with your surroundings. I suggest that you add a black garbage bag in your pink backpack. I would make my route home along alleys, backside of the restraunts/offices. I would try to blend in with the homeless; when not hiking, use the black bag over your backpack to look like you don’t have anything worth stealing.


  10. I enjoyed the article. I like to read what other folks find necessary to get home. Everyone’s situation is different. For me, well I live in Californoguns, uh, California. OMG, you can’t even transport a pistol anymore without the risk of a felony conviction for mass murder. I would appreciate others’ view points on this terrible state of affairs. My wife is looking at hunting bows, though pistol lessons are still a possibility for home defense.

  11. SurvivorDan says:

    My get home bag is a little different but I could be hoofing it home from 40 miles away and I am in the desert. So my packs are different.
    All in all a very good list. I like the dual use for the poncho.
    Glad that other’s have acknowledged the difference in circumstances for all of us that determine the optimum get home bag. Some comments about the unlikelihood of needing three days to get home. are a bit short sighted. No offense to anyone but as an ex-grunt I once spent three days to travel what would have been nine miles to a bordering country because I had to spend time hiding and trade extra distance to maintain a low profile among anti-social local militias. Such could be the case in some TEOTWAWKI scenarios.
    At my advanced age it might take me three days to walk the 40 miles and then I may need to backtrack or even hunker down along the way. I carry much more water and food consequently.
    Nice article and very good contribution. Thanks Jim H.

  12. SurvivorDan says:

    As an ex-grunt, I love the extra socks. Through in some mole skin and I wouldn’t be averse to carrying a similar pack.

  13. Didn’t seem comfortable shoes listed, which is probably the most important add, IMO.

  14. Swabbie Robbie says:

    Good article.

    One thing I try to carry in my GHB is a little extra money. A particular emergency may not be a “zombie apocalypse”, so stores may be open along the way but only taking cash.

    My commute is usually about 45 miles from the small city I work in to my rural home. Much of my walk would be in the country, so I don’t worry about desperate urban people too much. I think that an event where I would need to use my GHB would tend to be at the start of a problem. People would likely still be confused and waiting for the lights to come back on. Further into a disaster I would probably be hunkered down at home, and not venturing out for much of anything.

  15. Good article, and lists are always nice to see and compare with what you have. Only issue I have is how much all that weighs. Once upon a time, when I was a teen/twentysomething, I could hump forty-fifty pounds for ten hours a day. Not that it was easy, but possible.
    Fast forward three decades, and my former GHB weighed 28 pounds. I won’t bother listing what was in it, but it carried everything I might possibly need for 3 days to a week in a hostile world.

    Then one day, I performed an experiment just to see how everything would work. I’m in horrible shape, bad back, a ton of old injuries, the usual, along with about 50 extra pounds on my frame. I set a fairly easy goal, a point about five miles from my house where I knew there was a bathroom and a place to rest up (and call for a ride home, if need be! 😀 )
    It was a disaster. The first mile wasn’t so bad, but miles two and three were marked by longer and longer rest breaks. That pack started acquiring mass from somewhere in the universe, and by the fourth mile, I swear it had reached a full 80 lbs. It took me almost three hours to reach my goal, and yes, I called my neighbor to come pick me up.
    This was a full dress rehearsal, as if something had happened and I had to get home. Weapon, ammo, water, food plus all the cool gadgets I’ve collected over the years, and it was a failure.
    Yes, I can and will get in better shape, but I’ll always have limitations and so will others. My new bag is a trim 8 lbs, because I omitted a lot of the stuff one simply doesn’t need in an urban environment. Strip everything down to the bare minimums. Water, protection from the elements, and health was what I focused on, and the bag needs to change with the seasons. I all but omitted food, (refer back to 50 lbs overweight), just a couple granola/energy bars (don’t forget to rotate ’em, they get mushed fast), one of those combat casualty blankets that are green on one side, mylar on the other, a waterproof match safe, and a baggie with some bandages and disinfectant wipes. For light, I have one of those headlights with red and white LEDs because its small, light, and since I need a cane to walk, frees up one hand.
    As a part of my job I’m permitted to carry, so that and one spare mag is all I have and probably need. I have a good clip-on folder, and on my keyring I have a can opener and a screwdriver. I added a dishtowel to the bag for general use, and that’s about it.
    I still have the larger bag for when I take longer road trips into the hinterlands, but the smaller one is what I have available everyday in my car.

  16. SurvivorDan says:

    That’s a great post Rick. I was preparing for my first 4 day mountain trek in a long time so I lightened my pack to 35 lbs and got only two miles out the first day. Within a month I was double timing five miles with it. Didn’t realize that age had sapped more of my strength than I would have thought possible. Now I regularly do a brisk walk with a 35 lb pack.
    The weight was no problem while trekking but I had forgotten what 9,000 ft altitude would do to me. Oy!
    Point being – one has to periodically test one’s physical capabilities……and limits. I gotta quit smoking…… 😉
    Nice reminder for folks, Rick.

    • Thanks, SurvivorDan. It was an eyeopener for me when I tried it. As I mentioned, I have a bad back and walk with a cane. Add to that 48 old broken bones and a 4″ screw that holds my left foot together and you get a guy who has an issue with humping big loads.

      The (new) pack I have is one of those dollar store specials, basically a bag with two straps and a string closure at top. I purposely chose the lightest and cheapest things that still worked for one reason: I leave it in the car 24/7, and if it ever gets broken in, I’m only out about 20 bucks in total. One of the guys in my club has a GHB that probably is worth 700 to replace with all the stuff he has inside.

      Also, the stuff I have doesn’t take up much room, so I have extra space in case I find some choice goodies on my trip back home. Not advocating looting, as per se, but in a situation, all’s fair, right? I forgot to mention a couple other items I have as well. I have a large handkerchief (perfect for bundling, head protection, bandages, etc), a couple old bootlaces, and a pack of cheap smokes and a book of matches I hot-sealed in a sandwich bag.

      The bootlaces are the ones left over when you break one and replace with new, because it just looks odd to have a new lace and an old one, right? They’re about three feet long, strong and flexible and are already lashed at the ends. Instead of having a coil of paracord that you have to melt to keep it from fraying, it’s already done for you.

      I’m a smoker too, and I know I should quit, but the cigarettes I consider a survival tool. I sealed them by placing both in the bag, pressing as much air out as I could (use a hardpack so they don’t crush), and seal it with an old paid of scissors heated over a candle to melt the trim line. Since they’re sealed, I don’t use ’em if I run low, and they’re more or less waterproof. Why have them? A couple reasons: One, if you need to calm down after TSHTF, there ya go. Two; as a firestarter. Light one up with your match, and if it takes you a bit to make the tinder catch, it’s not a problem. Three; I find it keeps the skeeters away, more or less. Four; they’re a potential barter item.
      I weighed the bag again after my first post, and I was wrong. It actually weighs five pounds. I have an insulated water jug I leave in the car I intend to use for that purpose. It holds a quart and had a shoulder strap. I also tossed in a filtered water bottle I got for ten bucks,empty. Last night, I added a steel cup I bought at a yard sale for twenty-five cents in case I have boil water (which may be unlikely).
      I do have an old duffle I keep in the car for stuff like jumper cables, bungee cords, and my tool bag, but if I have to abandon my vehicle, that stuff stays behind. I keep a change of underwear and socks in that, but as I said, I have room in my GHB for stuff.

      I have a plan to start walking more each week. I have a planned route that is exactly one mile back and forth from my house, so I won’t be needing to call my neighbor when I run out of gas again. Maybe in a couple months, I’ll be able to do the five miler without assistance.

      One last thing: remember the seasons! In my old bag, when the weather started getting cooler, I’d toss in a pair of those knit stretch gloves and a watch cap as insurance in case the ones I already have gets wet or lost. Weighs next to nothing but is sure better than freezing fingers and heat loss through the head!

  17. Great article and comments.

    I recently made the choice to give up one aspect of my job (which was 45 miles from my home) to go to work about 10 miles from my home. My wife had to take a job that is 20 miles from our home and I wanted to be closer to the school and kids should TSHF. Now my GHB stays the same and hers has had to be modified.

    Comfortable shoes is a must. I keep a set in my car and she keeps 3 in hers (1 for her and the kids just in case). Since her GHB sits in the minivan the food and water in it gets rotated regularly.

    Make sure you are check and practicing your skills and equipment. All the wahzoo-tacticool stuff in the world won’t get the job done if you don’t know when,where and how to use it.

    • Homeinsteader says:

      Have you considered bicycles for all? Keep them on a bike rack, on the car?

      • I seriously thought about it, but opted against it for a couple reasons. The main thing is having a bike strapped to my car. It gets in the way if I need to get into the back, presents a tempting target for thieves, and reduces fuel economy by the added drag.

        Then I considered a folder, but they’re pricy for a good one, cheap ones are just that, cheap, and when you start adding moving parts to any system you just increase the things that can break down. If you have an economy car like I do, you simply don’t have the room to store one, and even the cheapies look pricy sitting in the back storage compartment.
        You can probably tell I’ve been ripped off a few times already, huh? Where I live there’s been an influx of folks of sketchy virtues, and even leaving change in the console can result in someone breaking in, thus my logic of having an el-cheap-o GHB.

  18. Thanks for great article, I have very similar GHB and BOB configuration although, as most people here knows, I make things local or buy cheaper stuff being in the third world and financially challenged, like I make my own cotton tinder with vaseline and insert it inside plastic straws to waterproof it…I also have a soda can alcohol stove I made myself, a cooking tool that can boil water to make instant noodle soup in a jiffy, and would attract not much of attention. Two months ago, I tried walking home from work as an exercise/training, with my “reduced look pack” so not to catch attention, empty everything of “deadly weapons” and took a route home. I asked a friend to monitor me…its was a futile exercise as I got tired (i eventually took a cab back to the workplace), a big learning thing for me…walk/exercise more to get fit and soon to get home! Also to carry some stick, stray dogs in my country could be scary, and we are in the CITY! I have completed most in your list in my GHB/BOB pack, albeit its on the cheaper version. Thank you.

  19. survivalken says:

    Bugging out not only takes prep but also training. A good training school such as Sigma III is essential (www.SurvivalSchool.US)

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