We each have our own needs and we’re all going to have to go through different areas to get home if a disaster strikes. Because of this, there isn’t a single list of gear that will work for everyone’s get home bag.
We’ll discuss the minimum gear needed to have a fully functioning get home bag and we’ll discuss what to think about before you put other gear on your get home bag list.
The Purpose of a Get Home Bag
A get home bag honestly doesn’t require a whole lot. Everything that you put on your list should help get you from where ever you may be and back to your home when a disaster strikes and you need to walk home. There’s a lot of reasons that you could be forced to walk out of an area, this list is just a few.
These are some of the things that could cause you to have to use your get home bag:
- Financial Collapse
- Civil Unrest
- Natural Disasters
- Foreign Military Occupation
- Martial Law
- Terrorist Attack
- Cyber Attack
- Food Shortages
- Water Shortages
The good thing is very few of these events are likely to happen without any kind of warning. I would argue that we all need a get home bag in our vehicles or in the offices. Don’t leave your survival up to chance!
Most of us spend a ton of time away from home every day. This means that if a disaster strikes, we’re almost as likely to be out and about or at work as we are to be at home.
Normally all that time is usually spent in one or two locations so we can plan out get home bag lists with that location in mind.
If you happen to deliver packages, drive a cab or do something else that keeps you moving around during the day, things a little more difficult. If you fall into that group, plan your list as if you have to walk from the farthest distance that you usually travel to.
By doing this, you’ll have what you need in case something happens when you’re out there and you can always dump anything extra that you added if you’re closer to home than expected.
What Should be on Every Get Home Bag List
These are the things that must be on a get home bag list:
- The bag that you’re using
- Water and a water filter
- Food to keep you going
- Comfortable footwear
- Light shelter to protect from the elements
- Personal first aid kit
If this is all that you have in your get home bag, then you’re still in good shape. Everything else that we may add to that list is just extra.
You can get our downloadable get home bag list PDF here. (Right click and choose “save link as…”)
Remember to count your EDC as part of the items that will be part of your get home bag list. If you always have the same things on you when you’re at work, it doesn’t make sense to add the same things to your get home bag again.
Get Home Bag
The bag that’s going to hold everything should blend in with your environment. For most people, I would suggest getting something that would be at home in an office, a school or a gym. No one is going to give you a second look if you follow that suggestion.
You can even get creative and fit everything into a large fanny pack or camera bag. Sling bags, messenger bags, and laptop bags are options as well.
With large bags, you need to make sure that you’re overloading them and just carrying things that you simply don’t need. With smaller bags, make sure that you have everything that you’re going to need.
Using a bag other than a backpack also comes with some potential limitations. Backpacks have 2 shoulder straps and sometimes a chest strap and a waist strap. When you go with a sling bag or camera bag, you may end up causing yourself unneeded strain and stress because they only have a single strap.
- The North Face Unisex Classic Borealis Backpack is a solid contender for just about any get home bag list but you can go with anything that fits into your environment.
Water is really the most important thing to have on a get home bag list. For the most part, we’re planning on walking home within one day so that makes a lot of the other items less vital.
Have at least 2 liters of water in your bag and ready to go and a small personal filter to make it easier to get water later on when those 2 liters of water are gone.
- These Nalgene Stainless Bottles are 38 oz. and give the ability to boil water or cook food in them on the off chance that you need to.
- The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle has all the water filtration ability of a normal LifeStraw but lets you just fill up the bottle and go.
- A Sawer MINI is also a good option. It can be used as a straw style filter, a squeeze filter and even be attached to a hydration bladder.
Food is a comfort item when you’re walking for a day. You’ll be hungry when you get home, but there’s no danger to your health. Even a couple of days of walking without food isn’t going to kill you, but it is going to make you miserable.
Pack enough MREs, PowerBars or Clif bars in your bag to keep you comfortable throughout your trip home.
- MREs are light and don’t need to be cooked so you can eat them as you’re walking if you have to.
The most important thing other than water on your get home bag list is a pair of comfortable shoes. I just use an old pair of hiking boots or sneakers that are broken in and won’t cause blisters and undue pain.
You’re probably going to be walking a lot more than you’re used to. Make sure your shoes are comfortable.
A light shelter is a necessity for almost any environment. This means that you should throw a couple space blankets or a poncho on your list.
Your shelter is going to include the clothes you’re wearing so make sure you take that into consideration. As you get into more and more extreme weather, you may need to pack a sleeping bag and bivvy to stay warm and dry.
First Aid Kit
Don’t overlook a first aid kit on your list. Just because you’re only going to be on the road for a day or two, doesn’t mean that you don’t need a first aid kit. There are a lot of things that can lead to an injury during man-made and natural disasters.
Make sure that you add any prescription drugs that you need as well.
- The Adventure Medical .5 Kit, the Adventure Medical Trauma Pak, and the SWAT-T Tourniquet combine to make a great personal first aid kit.
Other Items to add to Your Get Home Bag List
Everything listed above is pretty much a necessity for a get home bag. The items that we’ll discuss from here on out are more along the lines of nice to have rather than much have gear.
At first, it seems strange to say that hygiene items aren’t a necessity for a get home bag. Once you really start thinking about it, it makes a lot more sense.
No one wants to be dirty, have bad breath or just stink in general, but none of these things are life-threatening in any way so that makes hygiene second to the items that we’ve already talked about.
- Adding a female urination device like this one from GoGirl can make going to the bathroom outdoors a lot easier on women.
As far as beg home bag hygiene goes, I like to add some kind of baby wipes or adult wipes and the little disposable toothbrushes that don’t need toothpaste or water. Women probably want to have some kind of option to deal with feminine hygiene issues as well. Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot that you need in this area.
Other hygiene items you may want to consider:
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- Dry shampoo
A light source can easily be considered a requirement by some people for a get home bag. I personally wouldn’t put one together without one, but it’s also not a deal-breaker or going to keep you from getting home without a light of some kind.
I usually go with a headlamp in all of my survival kits, and my get home bag is no different. It makes more sense to go with a headlamp in order to keep your hands free, but any kind of flashlight will work.
- The PETZL – TACTIKKA + Headlamp gives you 350 lumens in a super small package.
If you carry a pistol every day (and you should), it’s a good idea to put additional ammo for your EDC pistol in your get home bag. 1 or 2 spare magazines is all you need.
You’re not looking to get into a shootout so you don’t need to add a ton of weight to your bag when you should be doing everything in your power to avoid confrontation.
Laws are different all over so having a pistol may not be possible for everyone. You can also add a fixed blade defensive knife, or a collapsible baton if they’re legal for you to carry.
Things like pepper spray are okay but I would rather have an actual weapon that you can defend yourself with than a deterrent like pepper spray. Pepper spray may make sense for you, but I stay away from it.
If you happen to live in an area where you can’t carry a weapon, then one of your first goals should be to get your hands on something that you can use to defend yourself. Be on the lookout for pipes, branches, even rocks while you’re walking so you at least stand a chance if things go bad.
Knife / Multi-tool
If you always carry a knife with you, then you’re good to go and don’t need to add another knife your get home bag list. It could still be beneficial to carry a multi-tool just in case you need one, but it’s going to depend on your situation.
A purpose-made defensive knife is useful if you can carry knives but not a firearm for defense.
For a get home bag, your cell phone is probably enough for communication. Adding a radio to your list probably doesn’t make sense for anyone.
You can add a signal mirror or emergency whistle if you’re looking for a way to signal to other people in an emergency.
550 cord is usually the go-to for everyone’s survival kits. It’s strong by itself and has multiple strands inside that you can use which makes it really versatile and pretty compact considering the amount of cordage that you can get from one length of 550 cord. 20-30 feet of 550 cord is all you need unless you have a special circumstance that requires more.
One or two Bic lighters are enough for your get home bag list. You probably won’t need a fire but it’s nice to be able to light one in case you need to warm up or have to boil water.
You can find a pair of $20 binos these days that will do everything you need them to in a get home bag.
Disasters can start fires, throw tons of dirt and dust into the air, and make it dangerous to breathe the air. An N95 approved dust mask will protect your lungs while you’re leaving the area.
You can try to wrap your face with a bandanna or shemagh but they aren’t nearly as good at protecting your respiratory system as an N95 dust mask.
Glasses / Goggles
A cheap pair of goggles or impact rated glasses make a good addition to a get home bag. Protecting your eyes from dust and debris is good for obvious reasons.
It’s always a good idea to have gloves on when you may have to deal with broken glass, debris or other things that can cut up your hands.
The Mechanix Wear – MultiCam M-Pact Tactical Gloves are some of our favorites and they’re about half the price of other tactical gloves.
Money / ID
Most of us will already have some form of ID on us so there isn’t a need to add an additional ID unless you want to.
Some cash in small denominations should be added to your get home bag list so you have some kind of means to buy additional food or water if power is out or you can’t use a card.
Navigation is minimal in a get home situation, but you still should add a map of the area between your workplace and your home with your primary route and alternate route on it. You should also do some research about the areas that you’ll have to travel through and make note of any high crime areas, where you can get food and where you can find water.
I add a compass just in case and have a GPS watch as part of my EDC. Your phone should also have a map app on it but it may not be usable during a disaster.
What to Add to Your Get Home Bag List for Multi-day Travel
If you live more than 25 miles away from where you work, then you should plan for additional days of travel.
If you live 25 – 50 miles away from work then you should good with just adding a little more food and making sure that you have some way to filter water.
Those that live 50+ miles from work should look for more creative ways to make the trip. I like the idea of putting a folding bike in your trunk in case you ever need to get home under your own power.
When you’re putting together your get home bag list, make sure that you’re putting together the things that you need for your situation and not blindly following a list from anyone (including me). Seriously consider each item before you add it, and make sure that there is a specific purpose for it.
As long as you follow those two guidelines, your get home bag is going to do its job and get you back to your family if there ever is an emergency.