Think about all the time you spend away from home and what you would do if a disaster strikes during that time. How would you make it home? A Get Home Bag (GHB) is designed to keep you safe while you can get to your primary survival gear. It is designed to be small and something that you can carry with you at all times. A Get Home Bag is different than a bug out bag which is designed for 72 hours, think of the GHB as what you can use to access your Bug Out Bag.
Do I Need A Get Home Bag?
Unfortunately there are a number of events that can warrant the use of a GHB, anything from natural disasters to terrorist acts. Keep in mind a GHB is not only designed to help keep you safe during a national catastrophic event, but also localized events such as Tornadoes or even something as basic as car trouble. Imagine being stuck without cell service and your car breaks down, can you keep safe, warm, and dry until help arrives?
A quality GHB can be built in one afternoon and can have lasting affects on the rest of your life. The best part of building a GHB is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. A few simple items, some of which you may already own, combined with a backpack and you can build the perfect Get Home Bag.
What goes into a Get Home Bag?
One thing I want to make perfectly clear, a GHB is personal. What works for me, may not be what works best for you. Say for instance you are allergic to nuts/bees, or are subject to asthma, you may want to pack an EpiPen/inhaler. Take my suggestions as just that, suggestions, and make sure to consider your own needs as you build a GHB.
When building any survival pack including a GHB it is important to think of the Survival Rule of 3. The rule basically state that there exists 4 elements that need to be prioritized based on human needs.
- Air: You can survive for 3 Minutes without air
- Shelter: You can survive 3 Hours without shelter in a harsh environment
- Water: You can survive for 3 Days without water (if you have shelter)
- Food: You can survive 3 Weeks without food (if you have water and shelter)
How to Build a Get Home Bag
Keeping the above information in mind here’s a bit of the nitty-gritty practicality behind putting your own GHB together.
Stuff to Put in Your GHB to Keep You Warm & Dry
In a survival situation, there’s no two ways about it: Staying warm and dry will keep you alive. Barring injury, animal attack, or other unforeseen vagaries of living in a bona fide disaster zone, hypothermia (a fatal drop in core body temperature which causes lethargy, confusion, and finally, death) is perhaps the lead killer of folks forced into a survival situation. Constructing the best shelter you can in the shortest amount of time is the best method of hypothermia prevention in these scenarios.
Happily, whipping up a survival shelter isn’t all that hard, and can be managed with materials already packed in your Get Home Bag. You can see a basic example of bag-packable shelter construction materials below.
A poncho is one of the most basic shelter elements, capable of keeping the wearer dry and warm even in rainy or other wet environments or conditions. The poncho can have a dual purpose as a make-shift shelter protecting you or your things against rain while you sleep. Think of it as a wearable tarp. When looking for a poncho for your get home bag you want to look for a poncho that is compact, lightweight and durable. That is why we recommend something like the Froggs Toggs Poncho, which is waterproof, comes in a variety of color options, and includes a little carrying bag for things you need to protect from the elements.
Tarps are useful for so many things, including various elements of your GHB survival shelter, that it would be next to impossible to list them all here. A couple of high quality tarps like the Ultimate Survival BASE Hex model from Ultimate Survival Technologies will serve you well at a time when you couldn’t need dependable tools more. The tarps mentioned, for example, are designed to work as individual (one person) tents, thermal blankets, signaling / visibility enhancement tools, and more. Buying more than one (two at the least) is highly, highly recommended.
The virtues of fire and the ability to start one in even the most adverse of circumstances should go without saying. Still, it must be repeated here: Fire is beyond value in a situation like the one referenced in this guide – you must have it.
The good news about fire is that starting one when it counts is actually pretty easy. Lighters are the obvious choice for ignition; Bic sells six-packs of disposable lighters with child guards for next to nothing. When it comes to sustaining the flame, Wetfire Tinder cubes from Ultimate Survival Technologies, Inc. will have you toasting marshmallows in no time. You can buy them in packs perfectly sized for your GHB, they’re designed to burn better the wetter they become, and they’re quick-snuffing, which in its own way is just as important as its other qualities (always practice good fire discipline – forest fires are no fun at all!)
Did you ever have a safety blanket as a kid? Well, safety blankets like the Adventure Medical Kits Heatsheets are the grown-up version. Designed to retain nearly 100% of body heat, roomy enough for two people (individual models also available), and made of highly visible, anti-tear material with usage instructions printed right on the side, an emergency blanket is an invaluable component of any GHB.
Dressing for Success
Striking a balance between the economics of space and maximum utility when assembling and packing a Get Home Bag can be a challenge sometimes, but the payoffs are massive. When packing clothes, for instance, using only a few shirts or tops suitable for varying seasonal conditions can save you space for other things while simultaneously allowing for the quick addition or removal of layers (as weather or other conditions dictate). Pants / trousers should be durable, and making them one size too big – don’t forget a belt if you do this! – so you can fit long underwear inside them is a handy tidbit of survival sleight of hand.
A situation in which a Get Home Bag actually becomes necessary will inevitably take a toll on your hands. For both safety and comfort, make sure you pack some work gloves. A good representative of what you want to look for can be found in the Gripper Gloves line of products from Outdoor Research. With features like weather-resistant and grip-enhancing materials and a limited lifetime warranty, you could do much worse things than buying a pair of these for your GHB.
Footwear that can stand up to the rigors of a survival / disaster situation is one of the most important components of any GHB. After all, you’ll be doing almost everything in the shoes you’re wearing when the mess hits the fan, so it only makes sense to buy the best pair you can find and afford.
If you need a bit of a nudge in the right direction, consider the Salomon Quest 4D GTX. These shoes are designed for backcountry use, with features like waterproofing, a gusseted tongue, padding at certain stress points (primarily the ankles) for support and comfort, and a grippy sole. Check them out!
The only thing that will kill you faster than exposure to the elements is a lack of water. Experts estimate that an adult has about three days (seventy-two hours) before dehydration resolves itself in death, and that’s only if you’re not doing anything. Obviously, in an accident or survival scenario, physical activity levels will be even higher than they normally are, so a ready supply of clean water is of paramount importance. The two pieces of equipment that the average GHB should have when it comes to collecting potable water are these:
- A container / water bottle such as the dishwasher safe, BPA-free, filter accessible Nalgene Tritan
- A water filtration system that meets EPA minimum safety guidelines; The Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System is a good example, with its integrated drinking pouch and high degree of connectivity to exterior containers, a filter that removes 99.9+ percent of normally encountered waterborne contaminates, and a ~100,000 U.S. gallon filtration threshold (replace beyond this point)
With these two tools at your disposal, gathering, storing, and consuming adequate amounts of water should become much less of a concern than it otherwise might be.
Food / Sustenance
Believe it or not, food is right around the bottom of the GHB totem poll. The average adult can survive for up to three weeks with little to no food, leaving plenty of time to find some. To give yourself a head start before you have to worry about it in earnest, stick a few Clif Bars in your bag!
There are certainly plenty of options to explore when looking at energy bars, but Clif Bars are special. They were designed by an avid hiker and cyclist to be full of protein, vitamins and minerals, and other essential nutrients necessary for long-term energy. What’s more, they come in tons of flavors and taste great! If you’re going to literally live off of energy bars in a crisis, wouldn’t you rather have to live off one with chocolate chips?
Other Items To Consider
The following are a few items and necessities that you should consider putting in your Get Home Bag, they don’t satisfy one of the requirements listed above directly, but will make surviving an event much easier. You may never use them, but then again, you can never be too prepared, and as you’ll see in just a minute, you’d be foolish to discard some of these.
A multi-tool like the SOG B67N-CP, with its military grade construction and plethora of blades, screwdrivers, pliers, and other handy implements, will serve you well in almost any situation. The SOG multi-tool has the PowerAssist that uses high-tension coil springs to propel the blade open, making the cutting tool easily accessible with one hand. The only thing I don’t like with this multi-tool is the Fuse well spike and the file, luckily SOG makes it easy to customize the tool with other items like scissors and a Phillips screwdriver.
A headlamp or light source – don’t assume you’ll have electricity! – is vital in low-visibility situations, and that’s why a headlamp like the Northbound Train Ultra-Bright, which comes with several light types (normal, red for night vision preservation, and strobe / signal) + included batteries, makes so much sense. The best part is that this headlamp uses the ubiquitous AAA size battery, so finding power won’t be hard. The headlamp weighs in at only 4 ounces and has a dimmer mode as well as the spotlight that shines up to 30 meters.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is a total no-brainer, but finding one suitable for your Get Home Bag can be a little more of a challenge. Consider the waterproof, ultralight offering from Ultralight First Aid Kit Adventure Medical Kits, which is purpose-built for situations exactly like the ones discussed here. Includes +/- 48 hours’ worth of various sterile bandages, gauze, antiseptic and pain / itch relief meds, tweezers, and more, plus a handy carrying pouch.
Finding your way around can mean the difference between death and rescue, so always make room in your GHB for some maps or an atlas of the areas you anticipate being in and a compass. Maps are a matter of individual needs and preference, but err on the safe side in terms of detail and coverage. When it comes to compasses, consider the Cammenga Compass, which is virtually indestructible and comes with handy extras like integrated micro lights for use in poor lighting.
Military-grade parachute cord (aka paracord) can be used for everything from pitching a tent to catching game, which is why your GHB ought to contain at least a couple of spools – try out the stuff from Titan Paracord / 550 Cord (100 ft., 600+ pound weight threshold) if you’re looking for a good baseline product.
A little bit of money (we recommend approx. $50 USD in cash and $100 in plastic) can come in very handy if you happen to stumble upon a town or other hikers, backpackers, and so forth, so be sure to make room for it in your GHB.
Pad and Paper
Writing implements – a simple notepad and pencil will do – are great for taking notes, making lists, leaving signs of your presence for others to find, and so forth; consider the all-weather tactical notebooks from Rite In The Rain, which are waterproof and very tough, making them perfect for any GHB.
It might be a little Gilligan’s Island-esque, but a portable emergency radio like the Kaito Emergency Radio can really save your skin in an emergency, alerting you to all the latest news, weather, and more. Includes integrated high-power flashlight, a rechargeable battery w/ hand crank power, and a charger for iPods, cell phones – also something that belongs in your GHB! – Kindles, and other electronics.
No one wants to think about what it might be like to fight for survival, but when it strikes, the difference between those who fail and those who thrive is the amount of preparation for the uncomfortable. With this guide in hand, building a top-notch Get Home Bag for safety and security should be easy, quick, and fun. Thanks for reading, and good luck!
Do you have a Get Home Bag? What do you have in your bag? Was there something I missed? Let me know in the comments below.