Build the Ultimate Get Home Bag that Will Get You to Safety
You might think of yourself as someone who as prepared for all eventualities, but if you don’t have a get home bag packed and ready to go, then you’re wrong. You can have all the supplies and survival gear you want stocked up at home. If you aren’t able to make it home, then it’s all for nothing.
How likely is it that you’ll be at home when disaster strikes? Probably about 50-50. Most people spend a good portion of their waking hours outside of their home. They have to go to work or school, or have to go out to run errands. So the chances are actually pretty high that when disaster strikes, you’ll be away from home – and away from all the painstaking preparation you’ve done in the form of stockpiles of supplies and tools.
That’s the purpose of a get home bag – it’s a bunch of essential items that will allow you to make it home, even in a bad situation. It’s something you should have with you or within walking distance of you at all times. If you drive to work, and use a car as your primary means of transportation, then keep it in your trunk. If you’re never more than 5 minutes away from your get home bag, then you’ll truly be ready whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
What Is A “Get Home Bag”?
The term Get Home Bag often describes a backpack that’s pre-stocked with a few essential survival foods, water and small survival tools in the event of a disaster where a fast evacuation is called for.
Note the difference between a Get Home Bag vs a Bug Out Bag.
The latter is a full size backpack that is a lot bigger than a Get Home Bag. A Bug Out Bag can typically carry enough goods to survive for a week or more in the wilderness, and could weigh fully packed anywhere from 60 – 100 pounds. Some bug out bags (or the even heavier INCH bags) are heavy enough that they’re primarily designed as emergency kits for your car, and aren’t really meant to be carried like backpacks.
The focus of this article is on a three-day Get Home Bag, one you’ll carry in the trunk of your car or keep in your office or apartment in the city, as well as one you should consider giving to your children and even your elderly parents.
Compared to a BoB, a Get Home Bag is much smaller, light weight, and will allow you to evacuate an area and not slow you down. The Get Home Bag is made for people who need to get somewhere in a hurry and want to make do with the least amount of supplies as possible. It’s worth noting that you can get survival kits that are essentially designed to be get home bags pre-packed for you. It’ll save you time, on the other hand you’ll end up paying more and you don’t have room for customization for your specific environment. Still, if you’re the busy type, it might make sense to take a look at one of these 72 hour survival kits which are basically pre-made, pre-packed get home bags.
Essential Items for a Get Home Bag that will get you to safety
If you just want a quick reference for the items you need without explanations of why you need them (we highly recommend that you read these in order to build your survival knowledge) click here – we have the full get home bag list at the end of this article.
BoBs And Downed Pilots
“””Bug Out Bag” has it’s word origins in the military (there’s a lot of overlap between survival equipment and military gear) (there’s a lot of overlap between survival equipment and military gear). It’s a term originally used to describe a bag carried by pilots that contained food, water, and supplies to keep them alive should they crash, especially behind enemy lines.
Much like the aforementioned BoBs, having a Get Home Bag means you’re ready to flee at a moments notice and won’t be empty handed, having food and water and essential survival supplies to last you the next 3 days, at the minimum.
Get Home Bag With Some Modifications
If you’re serious about survival, and serious about being ready for disaster, why not take your Get Home Bag the extra mile — take a lesson from modern day mountain climbers as well as elite special forces from around the world and make a few modifications to it.
Every item in your Get Home Bag must have an important use — if it doesn’t have an important use, don’t bring it. You can quickly pack too many items in your Get Home Bag, some of it you may never actually use, or perhaps don’t even need to bring when you can make the tools you need out of items in your environment.
That handy folding shovel that weighs 10 pounds — that’s 10 pounds of dead weight on an already over-loaded back pack. You don’t need the folding shovel — learn how to make a shovel out of a sharp rock or tree limb or hub-cap right off a car.
About that rock, tree limb or hub-cap — go practice digging (don’t just not pack a shovel) and trying different size rocks with different edges as well as different size branches (break them down to smaller pieces). Get a feel for how these things can be used to dig dirt — you’ll get an idea of what a good rock or tree branch looks like (or hub-cap) and you’ll have experience actually knowing how to dig with something other than a shovel.
Pack Light Without Sacrificing Quality
Mountain climbers, especially those going on multi-day hikes covering vast distances, have learned to pack lightly — but not sacrificing quality for the lighter-weight. The last thing you want to have happen is an essential piece of survival equipment breaking on you / falling apart in route.
If you have the time and initiative to put together a Get Home Bag consider the weight of every item and then figure out how to find the lightest or smallest item that will perform the same job. Think like a survivalist.
For example, a hatchet is a nice tool … but you’re not going camping. You can simply break tree limbs, you don’t need to chop them down, and you don’t need to chop firewood. Instead of a hatchet consider a small folding saw (top quality — you want to count on it repeatedly) that backpackers carry. This thing weighs a 1/3 of what the hatchet weighs (plus it makes a lot less noise when it’s being used — if you’re concerned about alerting people to your location then you don’t want to bring anything that makes noise).
These are just suggestions. If you love your hatchet, hold on to it. I’m just giving examples of where you can really trim down on weight to the bare essentials and make do with improvised tools in your environment.
Learn How To Make Do With LESS
The weekend-warrior from Suburbia, USA is likely to have one of everything. The experienced mountain-man or previous century Native American who lives off the land is going to carry less and be able to do more with it.
Make it a goal to become a lot more like that Native American or Mountain Man and able to make do with less.
What is the Best Get Home Bag Backpack?
For a survival backpack that you may have to carry while you trek long distances over a number of days, it makes sense to think about how a backpack weighs. The best get home bag is one that makes sense for your body’s build and for the likely situations you might encounter.
You most definitely want a backpack – an important aspect to surviving while trekking is having full use of your limbs. There are a number of different types of bags/backpacks that you can use as your get home bag.
Ultimately, there is always a trade-off between weight and storage capacity. The lighter the bag, the less storage capacity you’ll generally have.
We have two backpacks that we like, one heavier and larger and one lighter, but with less storage capacity. Choose the one that fits your circumstances the best.
For a larger (55L) Backpack, we like the 5.11 Tactical Rush72 Backpack. This is a quality tactical backpack that’s rugged and durable for disaster scenarios. Products from 5.11 are high quality and come at a little bit of a price premium but with something as important as a get home bag you don’t want to screw around.
For a lighter, more portable option (23L), we like the Maxpedition Condor-II
Again, decide whether you want a lighter weight pack or a more robust option and choose from one of our recommendations above based on your decision.
If you want to dig deeper into what backpack works best, check out our buying guide to the best survival backpacks.
Fire-Starting Tools For Heat And Cooking
First, let’s talk about your camp stove. A typical camp stove calls for bottled propane — too large an item typically to pack in your Get Home Bag. Here’s a better idea:
Item # 1: Small Camp Stove
Check out Solo Stove. The Solo Stove is a small, specialized wood-burning camp stove that is compact, light in weight, and useful in just about any environment. It burns a small fire within the stove and the way the stove is constructed (the shape of a medium sized coffee can) it focuses heat on a small area where the top opens, allowing food over the flame to cook quickly, or water in a small pot to come to a quick boil.
How easy is it to get a fire going in a Solo Stove?
That depends on how good you are with a lighter (or wooden matches) and getting a fire started out of dry (or even damp) tinder. This is Camping 101 we’re talking about and something even a child can light a fire in safely. (A Solo Stove should make any Cub Scout or Boy Scout’s birthday wish list for the outdoors. It’s a proven survival tool for both kids and adults alike.)
It’s lightweight and incredible versatile – unlike most camping stoves, it doesn’t require the use of gas or any kind of fuel that you wouldn’t find in your immediate surroundings. Being able to start a fire is absolutely essential to survival, and the Solo Stove pretty much gets you there. It’s an excellent first item for your get home bag.
Item # 2: 5 Bic Lighters
To aid with fire starting, your Get Home Bag should have a few Bic lighters.
Bic Lighters are small, efficient, light weight, and it would be smart to have more than one. I suggest you pack 5 — keep 3 in your pack and two in your pants pockets (that way, if you have to make a run for it at any point, and you are separated from your backpack, you will still have two Bic lighters on you as back up). Surprisingly, bic lighters are right up there in terms of the best survival lighters, primarily because they’re so incredibly affordable. You can have 50 of them with you and you’ll have 49 backups!
Why a Bic lighter? The fact is you don’t have to be a Bear Grylls and work yourself into a frenzy trying to get wet tinder started with your bare hands using only a primitive bow drill. Starting a fire from scratch is a great skill to know but it takes a ton of practice, and then it’s still not guaranteed — especially in a wet climate. Your lighters are a constant source of fire. Protect them. Care for them. Carry several into the backcountry, keep a few in your home and in your vehicle. Not only will you have more than one as back up, but you can also pass out a few extras to anyone else in need of a fire source (which, in a major disaster, could be several people you come across).
(As a backup you might also consider a ferrocerium rod – these things can spark even in very windy or wet conditions. It’s much more work and takes some skill, but in certain conditions these recommended ferro rod firestarters might work better than lighters.)
Item #3: Sterno Emergency Candle
In addition to including 5 Bic lighters, be sure to pack an emergency candle (“emergency” rated candles burn longer than normal candles) such as this 55 hour emergency candle made by Sterno.
Not only can you use a reliable emergency candle as a light source — within a small, enclosed shelter an emergency candle also gives off heat (be sure to leave a small opening at the top of your shelter for candle smoke to escape from). BE VERY CAREFUL with your candle placement so that you don’t knock it over and set your shelter on fire while you sleep. Placing this candle in a small coffee can and or just setting several rocks around it can do the trick.
You can also use your candle as a fire-starter: I’ve discussed this in other articles: placing a lit candle under your damp tinder is a great way to get your damp tinder to eventually start burning. Be sure to pull the candle away before the heat from the burning tinder melts the top of your candle (so keep the tinder at a distance even if you have to build an elevated platform to start your fire). You can get the next 20-30 fires going with just one good long burning emergency candle.
What to do: Create a small pyramid of rocks and or wood that enables you to set your damp (or dry if you have it) tinder above the lit candle. Once the tinder bundle is lit, transfer it to a larger area of tinder and kindling and you should have a roaring fire going in no time.
Fire And Water – Get Home Bag Tools to Master the Elements
We’ve covered fire — which means that light, heat and cooking are accounted for.
Now, let’s look at water — water for drinking.
Item #4: Stainless Steel Water Bottle That Can Be Used To Boil Water For Purification Purposes
Make that two stainless steel water bottles, the ones I’m recommending aren’t that big. You can easily boil water in one of these bottles and not risk melting it as can happen easily with a plastic or aluminum bottle. The choices for what is safe for high heat are limited though. Some have plastic liners which means you can’t boil water or you’re going to leach plastic liner right into your water when it melts.
Check out Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle (consider the 40oz size, which is largest, and that means you can carry more purified water at any given time). With some light-weight metal wire you can hang it over a fire – you don’t need a grill to stand it on (a grill is another item you don’t need in your Get Home Bag). (Note: Do not boil water in a Klean Kanteen with an insulated design. Only boil water in the simpler models that specify in the product description (see link) that it’s safe to put over a flame. Always take the cap off first. It’s plastic and might melt from the high heat, plus the steam from boiling water may cause it to simply break apart.)
Item # 5: Backcountry Water Filter
Most areas people are going to flee to are near a body of water, such as lakes, creeks, and rivers. If that’s the case, you may simply want a backcountry water filter like a Lifestraw or Sawyer Mini rather than loading up with a ton of water before hand. (Of the two backcountry water filters, Sawyer Mini has a longer capacity and a better choice in that regard, at the time of this writing). Most outdoorsmen and women we talk to prefer the Sawyer Mini because the pores in the filter are smaller, which means more is filtered out.
With a backcountry water filter you won’t need to carry as much water in your Get Home Bag, because you can quickly pump water through your filter right out of a stream or lake and fill up your water bottles as they empty.
An alternative to this is water purification tablets – but we prefer these survival water filters because they can “clean” more water over their lifespan and don’t take up that much more room.
Item # 6: Water Canteen For Carrying Extra Water
In addition to your stainless steel water bottle, pack a large empty jug or 96 ounce Nalgene bag (which you can use to carry water that has not been boiled or filtered yet and then only use as needed later in the day).
Next, we need to look at food, clothing, shelter, maps, communications, self-defense, artificial light, and first aid.
That’s a lot for one small backpack.
Now you understand the challenge to putting together a great Get Home Bag and why factors such as weight and quality and necessity are all important to consider when creating a Get Home Bag.
Item # 7: Food For 3 Days In Your Get Home Bag
So you’ve packed food for 3 days. Good job. Now guess what? With some new eating habits you can make that food last 6 days. It’s time to start cutting calorie intake. Not what you wanted to hear? This is survival. People are dying. Your life is in danger. It’s time to come out of your comfort zone and push yourself to new limits. Most Americans love their food. Most eat too much. The fact is, you can comfortably survive on a fraction of what the typical American eats on a daily basis. You’ll be healthier, you’ll live longer, and you’ll be a lot quicker on your feet if you’re not packing extra pounds.
If you’re a typical American eating the typical American diet then it’s time to learn how to live off a lot less calories.
If you don’t learn how to eat a calorie restricted diet now it’s going to make a survival situation a lot more traumatic than it has to be. Start teaching yourself how to fast from foods (fasting means to go without food completely). Don’t swear off food completely — begin with a partial fast (which is advised if you’re new to fasting). Over time condition yourself to go without food for up to 3 days (that way you’ll also know what it feels like and having experienced it you won’t be in for such a shock if you ever have to go without food for a lengthy period of time). Remember, humans can go without food for up to 8 weeks. Yes, you’ll be skin and bones by the end of those 8 weeks but it’s a reminder that you’re not going to die of starvation in the early days of survival when you start restricting your calories to make your 72 hour supply of food last a few days longer. Make sense?
Considering this is a Get Home Bag and it’s main purpose is to get you out of the danger zone in the first 72 hours of a widespread disaster.
On top of the items listed above, you can also go with standard trail-mix, dried fruit, and shelled sunflower seeds or another nut like almonds or pistachios. Each is light weight and has a decent shelf-life. Throw a couple chocolate bars in there as a morale booster.
Fact is, this will easily get you by for three days, if you have just enough. If you’re more health conscious, then go for the energy bars. Either way, you’re only surviving off this food for a short term; when you pack your Bug Out Bag (which is a lot bigger than a Get Home Bag) that’s when you should pay a lot more attention to nutritional content of food items.
Item # 8: Energy Boost To Combat Fatigue
What about packing coffee in your Get Home Bag? If you’re a coffee drinker like a lot of people in the world I recommend some caffeine pills. You don’t need to bring an entire bottle. Throw 30 pills in a Zip-Loc bag and you’ll take up very little space in your Get Home Bag. One thing that’s going to happen when you start cutting calories is you may find yourself a bit tired — especially if you’re not used to cutting calories. The caffeine pills will be a boost of energy and another morale booster for your life in the days following disaster.
Realize this: There’s a good chance you may be short on sleep or even having to walk, run, or hideout and unable to go without sleep during the entire ordeal. Caffeine can help you stay awake when you need to stay awake.
Item # 9: Have Spare Clothing in your Get Home Bag
If you’re in the city when disaster hits, or heading home from work, or anywhere, there’s a chance you’re going to be wearing clothing that you wouldn’t wear out in the weather. If you’re not in immediate danger take a few moments to strip out of the clothes you’re wearing and put on the clothing you’ll have packed in your Get Home Bag. Please note — you don’t need to have a change of clothing for every day you’re on the run. Be ready to spend the next two weeks in the same set of clothes if you have to. Often soldiers on mission, deep in the jungle or forest and behind enemy lines during wartime can go without a change of clothes for several days at a time.
At most you’ll only have two outfits, two sets of underwear, two pairs of socks — the reason for having two outfits is so that everything can be layered in case of cold temperatures the first few days of a disaster. Finally, you’ll have rain gear (pants and jacket or poncho) to wear over the top of everything.
A summary of essential clothing to include: Wool socks, wool cap, waterproof jacket with hood, rugged work gloves, cold weather work gloves, and base layer long underwear (the type made specifically for the cold from materials other than cotton — cotton is a bad choice for cold weather — cotton retains moisture, and in the cold that can kill you); also on this list I recommend pants to wear over your base layer long underwear, and then also rain pants to wear as a third layer to combat cold temperatures, chilly nights, and of course rainy weather.
Note: Rain pants typically make loud noises, crinkle, pop, and swish when you wear them. Nowadays manufacturers of hunting gear are making rain pants with a fabric on top so they’re a lot quieter; consider going with one of these brands or simply wear some nylon workout pants over the top of your rain pants and that will eliminate the swishing noise as well.
Item # 10: Footwear
If your Get Home Bag is stored in your trunk, you can also have a good pair of high top tennis shoes (cross trainers with thick tread patterns for dirt) that may do you better than traditional trail hikers next to it. With tennis shoes you can run faster, climb fences easier, and you have less danger of your shoes coming untied when you have to make a run for it. Most boots don’t have typical eye holes for shoe laces near the top, like tennis shoes. Go with the high top tennis shoes and you should get the same “high top” protection for your ankle as you would with the hiking boots. One area where hiking boots can have tennis shoes beat is that some makes are waterproof, and some do lace up through eye holes all the way to the top of the boot: Combat boots. They can also hold up better after long durations of travel on foot and make it easier to carry a heavy load over long distances (make sure to break in your boots well before hand to help avoid getting blisters).
Depending on the climate of the area you live, if there’s rain, mud, sewage (yes, sewage, which can contaminate an area after a disaster strikes), shallow streams, or river banks, you may do a lot better with the waterproof boots.
Note: If there’s any chance you’ll be in a wet environment, it’s a good idea to learn how to care for your feet. In a wet environment there’s a danger of “trench foot” taking place when you wear shoes or boots in wet conditions for an extended period of time.
Item # 11: Shelter (Tarp + Emergency Blanket)
This is a Get Home Bag. By definition it’s too small to carry a shelter, such as a tent. If you want to be a survivor and make do with a Get Home Bag you’re going to have to rely on actual survival skills and build your shelter along the way. Remember, shelter is probably the most important of a person’s basic survival needs – so it’s extremely important you know what you’re doing when it comes to improvising shelters.
The good news — shelter building isn’t that difficult. Not when there are abandoned cars and trucks you can sleep in, or when you can come across shelter-making materials either in an area devastated by a natural disaster, or in the woods, where you can build yourself a simple lean-to out of tree branches (find out how to build a shelter in the wild right here), or find a place to bed down under a fallen tree, a stump, or a small cave.
What you do need to have in your Get Home Bag is some medium sized tarp folded up to take very little space. Tarp is important because it’s super affordable, it’s waterproof, and it can work for you as a roof or a wall (or both) in a true survival situation. Hypothermia is one of the top killers in wilderness survival situations, and you get hypothermia when you’re exposed to the elements – wind, rain, snow, and so forth.
If you’ve got tarp with you, it’s a trivial thing to improvise a basic shelter – even if it’s just the tarp stretched out over the top of you and tied to some trees. that’s enough to keep the rain off you (and will allow you to start a fire) which could end up saving your life.
Ask any real survival expert and they will stress over and over the importance of basic survival materials like tarp and paracord (as an aside, a survival bracelet is a easy and convenient way to carry around a very useful length of paracord at all times).
Another very important thing to have in your get home bag is an emergency survival blanket – survival blankets are also known as mylar blankets. Mylar is a material that is super-reflective, meaning it will reflect your body heat back at you, keeping your body warm and preventing hypothermia. Having a mylar survival blanket with you in your get home bag is a good idea because it’s an incredibly lightweight, easily packed item that has a lot of lifesaving/emergency utility. This type of emergency blanket is your shelter if you’re too injured or too cold to put together a more substantial shelter. It’s your backup survival shelter.
A more optional item to have in your get home bag is a sleeping bag – we don’t love sleeping bags because we find them bulky relative to their overall utility, but if you or your family is used to more comfortable sleeping, a sleeping bag might make sense for you. If you don’t believe you’ll be able to fall asleep in rougher conditions, then a sleeping bag becomes more important – being able to get a good nights sleep is extremely important in any survival/life or death situation. You need your wits about you, and sleep contributes heavily to awareness and alertness.
You can also get 2 or 3 large heavy duty 55 gallon garbage bags (check your local hardware store). These bags are a lot bigger than household garbage bags, a lot stronger, and make a great instant shelter. If you happen to have dry leaves or grass handy fill the bag and use both as insulation.Crawl inside and bed down for the night. But before you do that, cut a hole in the top of one of the other contractor bags and put it over your head like a poncho. You’ll have your feet in one bag, and your torso in the other. Other than your head, the rest of your body will be completely covered. Which only leaves your head… That brings us to…
Item # 12: First Aid is Crucial in your Get Home Bag
Save room in your Get Home Bag and only bring the necessities, and don’t bring the plastic bin that store bought first-aid kits typically come in. Get rid of the bin and pack your first-aid items in a Zip-Loc freezer bag or other small waterproof container.
If you don’t have first aid supplies, we recommend the Surviveware small first aid kit – it’s not perfect, and definitely not as good as a first aid kit you put together yourself, but it’s more than sufficient for your get home bag. Anything larger than this size begins to become impractical when you consider all the other things on this list that you should be packing in your get home bag, which is why we recommend the small size kit by Surviveware over the larger version. The larger version might be appropriate if you’ve got a larger party – more than 3/4 people and you’ll probably want to opt for the larger version of the Surviveware first aid kit.
We actually have a special discount code exclusive to Secrets of Survival readers for Surviveware First Aid Kits – use the discount code SOSURV10 for 10% off on Surviveware products.
Pack Ibuprofen — Ibuprofen brings down fevers (though not everyone can take it); in the case of illness or infection, it’s a band-aid that may buy you a couple more days when antibiotics are needed. Pack multiple size bandages for mid-size cuts to severe lacerations; adhesive tape to keep these bandages in place; also include self-adherent wrap, which may work even better than adhesive tape as it’s flexible and allows movement; cloth wrap commonly used for sprains; finally, pack antibiotic ointment, anti-itch ointment for bites and stings, and include something for wound-cleansing and disinfecting.
Surprisingly things like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and iodine are not the best items to include, they are said to hurt cells when used in cuts and impede healing. See this article. It turns out that clean water is the best way to cleanse a wound, then apply first-aid ointment such as Neosporin, then your bandage. What if there’s no clean water? Go with the rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol — though not the best choice for wound cleaning as it can damage cells — will still cleanse the wound of bacteria when no clean water is available. Rubbing alcohol is commonly used in hospitals to clean the skin prior to any needle puncture as well as to sterilize medical equipment and even for tick removal.
First-aid in a disaster can take on many shapes — for people badly injured you simply won’t have most items needed in a Get Home Bag. Instead have a knowledge of emergency medical care for a disaster: Know how to tie a tourniquet to stop the bleeding when an artery has been cut, how to make a make-shift splint or sling for broken limbs, know when an injured person is safe to be moved, and what kind of injury may be too dangerous for moving a person, such as a broken back or broken neck.
Item # 13: Maps
Considering the maps for a Get Home Bag, your chief need for these maps is for evacuation purposes using little known roads, urban and backcountry trails and even railroad tracks or routes that travel under powerlines. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a wilderness or urban survival situation – a map of the area will give you paths that others won’t be aware of. Should disaster strike and you need to flee the area, you’ll want a map that details city and county streets, as well as a map that details gravel roads and outlying forest service roads (a lot of times these are gravel roads and sometimes gated — which may mean that if you’re able to make your escape by car you may have to turn around after a long drive down a forest service road if you come to a gate unexpectedly). Get to know your forest service roads well in advance. Check with the forest service about which roads are gated, which roads are washed out by floods (if any), and even which roads follow rivers and make their way completely through and over the mountains (or desert or prairie or grassland, etc).
Finally, you’ll want an up to date map that details actual trails, as well as records elevation changes in the terrain.
Fact is, if there are other people who will be making the escape with you, you’re going to want to study your maps and choose the easiest trail rather than choosing a trail that may be more popular with mountain climbers. Your goal isn’t to climb to the highest peak. Your goal is to get you, your family, your friends safely out of the area as quickly as possible, knowing that many of them may not be cut out for a long hike up and over a steep mountain. If you can find a route that skirts a mountain (rather than climbs it) and makes its way through a valley, it’s likely to be a much easier hike, especially if you and your party are carrying excess gear.
Item # 14: A Compass Will Help You Get Home
You don’t need the “ultimate” survival compass in your Get Home Bag, whatever that is. You just need a simple compass and some experience using it. That can’t be said enough. Plus, you need to be sure that your compass has been tested in the field and works OK and can stand up to being shaken around in your bag. Don’t spend a fortune but also don’t be cheap here. You may think that you’ve got everything under control just by knowing how to read your maps; but if something unforeseen takes place and you have to veer off course, crossing farmland on foot, or even attempting to short cut your way through the woods, before you know it you can lose all sense of direction and find yourself lost and many miles off course.
With experience using a compass correctly to get your bearings you can stay on course — follow your route on your map — even if you have to go off road and possibly even off trail. Once off trail you’ll appreciate having a map of the terrain (mentioned above) because if you look at the elevation changes it will also help you monitor your course by comparing the elevation changes on the map by what’s around you. Your compass and that map of elevation changes will be your best friend, after God that is.
Item 15: Communications In Your Get Home Bag
In a widespread disaster there’s a high probability that internet, land-line phones, and cell phones are all going to be knocked out. We may be able to pick up AM-FM radio signals though and at least get news on just how bad the disaster is and if and when it’s safe to return to a particular area. Also, you may lose contact with your family if you’re not prepared. That’s why it’s a smart move to have a survival two way radio with you (and with your loved ones) – so even in a disaster when cell phone coverage isn’t available, you’ll be able to communicate with and find your family.
An AM-FM radio is good for one thing: to bring you the news as it’s happening. Specifically look for an emergency radio that’s going to carry several news and weather stations simply because bad weather may be what’s in store, especially if major storms are striking and if any sub-zero cold temperatures are coming your way. You’ll want to prepare your shelter for a freezing night in advance, rather than have to suffer an uncomfortable night in the cold.
In a worst case scenario, what if the news you’re looking for pertains to a nuclear attack somewhere in the region? News stations may tell you what direction the winds are blowing so you know which way not to flee so as to avoid nuclear ash and radiation being carried by any strong winds.
The radio at this link has both a hand-crank and rechargeable battery. That means that you re-charge the battery with the hand-crank and never need electricity or a back-up battery. It is also a two-way radio, which means you can communicate with others on many different frequencies.
Also… Outfit Your Vehicle with a CB Radio
Sam Coffman, Army Green Beret and survival instructor at TheHumanPath.com, suggests:
“The best advice for a Get Home Bag where we are considering the car as a part of the overall gear we can use, is a CB radio. Yes, shortwave and Marine Band have a greater range. CB is limited to 4 watts (or effectively a little more than twice that using single side band technology). However, in terms of ‘Get Home’ practicality, installing a CB radio in your car is a very simple, affordable thing to do, and can give you more than line-of-sight depending on the time of day/night and the current solar flare cycle. Right now, we are in a peak time of the 11-year solar flare cycle, which means it is possible to ‘shoot skip’ much further than line of sight at times since the CB operates across 40 channels in the 27 MHz band.
This is the upper portion of High Frequency, and for a 12V powered system that is working on channels that truckers and other people on the road are on, this is not necessarily a bad choice for a ‘Get Home’ plan. Additionally, you can easily invest in a good CB antenna which will boost your practical line of sight.
While HAM (amateur) radio is undeniably a must-have for the post-disaster, serious prepper, CB is a cheap, easy and quick method of 2-way radio communication that can at least be in the car to help you find out what else may be happening on the road, or listen in on conversations that may have been relayed from further away, even.”
What if you have to abandon your car due to the condition of the roads? Remove the CB radio from the car, take the antennae, and stash the entire system in your Get Home Bag. You can set it up in another vehicle later in your trip.
Cell Phone Booster
There are small light weight devices that can boost the range of your cell phone. While there’s a good chance that cell phone service will be down in several regions in the event of catastrophe, there’s also the chance that for the first few hours and possibly days of the disaster some cell phone networks will still work. If you evacuate an area on short notice you can quickly be out of cell phone range and your phone is useless. With a good cell phone booster though (one highly rated and proven to work well many miles from a cellular tower) you may still be able to send and receive calls, or even just text messages if you’re really far out. (Please note: Even if you can’t send or receive a call due to a poor signal, you may still be able to send and receive text messages just fine.) Buy a cell phone booster that can be used in both a vehicle’s cigarette lighter as well as an electrical outlet inside a home or building or even from a generator (fuel powered generators have electrical outlets for plug in devices — generators can be found in hardware stores, industrial shops, and construction sites across America).
What if you run out of space in your Get Home Bag?
Your extra pants packed inside your Get Home Bag can be turned into additional storage compartments. This calls for carrying paracord or just string in your pack (A great way to carry a large amount of paracord in a convenient way is to pick up a paracord survival bracelet).
To add storage to your get home bag, lay your pants out flat and then tie the bottom of each pant leg with string. Now, to make room in your backpack, remove your clothing items — as clothing would be best for packing inside your pants — and stuff down into each leg hole. As a last step, run more string through the belt loops at the top of your pants “bag” and cinch tight and tie a good knot. It’s not going to look pretty but at the least you just created a secondary bag for carrying supplies. Tie it to the top of your backpack, so it hangs off the back.
Item # 16: Headlamp
This one’s really easy. Pack a small headlamp, which is a type of flashlight traditionally worn by coal-miners and underground explorers but nowadays available in most sporting goods stores that sell camping / hiking equipment. With a headlamp your hands are free — making travel through the darkness easier. (Be sure to pack a few extra batteries for each headlamp.) The Black Diamond Storm Headlamp is particularly durable and weather-resistant, and that’s perfect for survival scenarios – that’s why we recommend it.
Item # 17: Mosquito Netting
Mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects are common at different times of the years and in different regions. Mosquito netting is compact, extremely light-weight, and takes up very, very little space. It’s a great add-on to your Get Home Bag and an item overlooked by a lot of people. I gave mosquito netting a go in recent years and it was a life-saver in sweltering heat on multiple occasions, giving me relief from biting mosquitoes while sleeping outdoors.
You can buy mosquito netting cheaply by the yard and then with just some duct tape and scissors cut it into custom lengths for however you need to use it. Let’s say you bed down in a car or truck, but it’s 90 degrees out and the dead of summer. Role the windows down and tape up mosquito netting so you don’t die of heat stroke in the hot vehicle. Or lets say you’re in the forest, under a fallen tree, and bedding down in a large garbage bag as described in a previous paragraph. Your head will be exposed so build yourself a custom “mosquito hood” (again out of duct tape and a section of mosquito netting) and wear it over your head. You can sleep exposed to the elements without getting bitten by bugs. Of course just purchasing a mosquito head net is an easier way to go about this.
Our preferred mosquito netting is one that covers the whole body – hood, jacket, and pants. The good thing about this kind of netting that’s wearable is that you can use it when you’re up and about, and you can also use it when you settle down under shelter at night.
In certain parts of the country (and the world), mosquitoes can be extremely dangerous they aren’t just a nuisance. If you’re in or near an area where mosquitoes (and the diseases they carry) are an issue, make sure your get home bag has some form of mosquito netting inside of it.
Item # 18: Self-Defense
First, let’s talk about knives. In a Get Home Bag, a big, bad Rambo style survival knife can have it’s place, especially if you have to pass through an area of a city where rioting and looting is taking place. Keep it tucked away and only use it as a last resort. Held in an aggressive and threatening manner, a bowie knife (as more commonly called, like this Marine Corps KA-BAR) can scare away crooks and criminals, and can be used as a self defense weapon in a dangerous situation. Another option is a survival hatchet, which obviously doubles as a useful tool as well. Trust me – nobody will want to attack you if you’re carrying anything that looks like an axe.
Pepper spray is another good option for a non-lethal, immobilizing self defense weapon. In some cases pepper spray can also be effective against wildlife, which is a good advantage (especially the extra strength stuff designed for bears).
You may come across wildlife or loose, dangerous dogs that now pose a danger as well as crooks with bad intentions. You’re on a Christian website and we encourage people to grow in their faith in God and seek his hand of protection on your life — you don’t need to carry any weapons if God is going before you. But if faith in God is not your thing quite yet, or if God is leading you to arm up for a specific purpose he has in mind, then do what it is you’ve been called to do.
In your Get Home Bag pack a reputable handgun and of course a concealed carry license.
This handgun is a last resort when threats are closing in and it’s the only way out. Learn how to shoot, how to re-load in a hurry, and how to care for your weapon.
An important question to ask yourself is this: In the heat of the moment, will you keep your wits about you and even be able to get to your gun in time to make a difference? This is where law enforcement and veteran military have an advantage over the average citizen who hasn’t been through psychologically challenging situations when it comes to firearms. A good course on firearms as self defense can help you through that learning curve and be more ready for firearm self defense should you ever need it (and one day you just might).
Everyone Needs A Get Home Bag
Unless you’re retired, or you work from home, or you’re disabled and rarely leave your home or apartment, there’s a good chance you and the people you love are going to be away from home when disaster strikes. People go to work. People go to school. Children go to child care. Etc. That is exactly when a major event or disaster may take place and a chief reason why each person should consider a good Get Home Bag to help get each person by for the next few hours or in a worst case scenario, a few days. Food, water, and medicine may be in short supply in a region that has been struck by a disaster.
Each person’s Get Home Bag should have the bare essentials as gone over above and include things like extra medicine and an extra pair of eye glasses should a person need prescription medicine for health purposes or glasses to see.
Your children should have emergency information in a waterproof container and kept inside their backpacks with instructions on what they should do in the event of a catastrophic disaster. In the event of emergency, children should stay where they are, if they have that option — school or child care for example — because you can go to them easier than they can go to you.
So, have a plan, and don’t be afraid to bring it up in conversation.
It’s an important topic and each person in your family should be on the same page.
Full List of Essential Get Home Bag Contents:
- Backpack: choose between a large backpack and a small backpack
- Lightweight Wood Stove
- Supply of 5 Lighters
- Emergency Candle
- Stainless Steel Water Bottle
- Backcountry Water Filter
- Extra Large Water Container
- Emergency Food Rations (Canned Alaskan wild salmon, dried beans and beef jerky are a good start)
- Caffeine Pills (for an Energy Boost)
- Clothing (prioritize on warm, comfortable, water resistant clothing)
- Footwear (see above)
- Tarp for improvised shelter
- Portable First Aid Kit (10% Off with Code: SOSURV10)
- Maps (pick a map of your region)
- Simple Compass
- Two Way Radio
- Cell Phone Range Booster
- Mosquito Netting
- Self Defense Weapon (Bowie Knife)