Prepping 101 – Get Home Bag

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There are numerous concepts used in the Prepping community and the concept of a Get Home Bag is one of the easiest to understand because the rationale is very obvious and could potentially affect most anyone. The practice of assembling and using this tool is another matter. A Get Home Bag (GHB) is just what it sounds like. It is a bag that contains supplies to help you Get Back Home. Pretty simple, right?

The next obvious question is what do you put in the Get Home Bag? This is when the answer becomes more complex. Not because it is hard, because I do not believe constructing a bag with the basic supplies you need is difficult, but we frequently want a list of items we can go purchase because its easier. Actually, it would be better if we could go down to Wal-Mart purchase our get home bag along with the latest DVD and some chips and be done with it. Either give me simple instructions or make it easy for me to acquire it and I’m there.

The Get Home Bag is often grouped in with its larger sibling, the Bug-Out-Bag or bugout bag, but the two are vastly different tools and should have two distinctly different uses. While the bugout (BOB) usually contains the same items from situation to situation, this doesn’t necessarily make sense in a get home bag. Let me explain why.

The scenario for a bugout bag is that you are forced to evacuate your home and you are heading somewhere else for an extended period of time. You may or may not be coming back. Your bug out bag carries the basic necessities for living away from your home for an extended time. The bug out bag is usually pretty closely aligned to your Survival Kit List and the bags are larger because you have more stuff that needs to go in there. Most people would share the same necessities (food, clothing, shelter, security) so the general contents of the bag would be similar regardless of location. You would need some type of shelter, but the type of protection from the elements you need may be different for someone living in Alaska as opposed to Mississippi.

The Get Home Bag is not something you should be packing to live off of. This bag’s contents depend largely on how long it will take you to get back to your family and the obstacles you envision facing on your journey. If you are traveling away from home, your GHB should take a completely separate state of scenarios into consideration and it should be packed accordingly. If you are right down the street at a party, would you need the same equipment?

How far will you have to travel?

According to data I was able to get from the US Census Bureau website, the average commute time in the US was about 25 minutes. I know this is an average and some of you out there drive an hour each way. Uphill. In a car made of cardboard… Actually, I used to do that myself for a month. There will always be situations that are on the outside edges and I can’t take all of them into consideration so we will just take the average as our baseline and work out from there. So taking that amount of 25 minutes into consideration we can assume if you jump into your car and start driving at 60 miles an hour right away the average distance would be 25 miles. I know this isn’t the case, so I am knocking this in half for traffic, public transportation, etc. 12 miles away from home for the average person.

OK, now that we have our base distance of approximately 12 miles and knowing that all things being equal, the average person (I am going to use that term a lot) can comfortably walk a mile in 20 minutes. 12 miles X 20 minutes is about 4 hours. If you are being chased by Zombies, that amount of time goes down and you could make it home much quicker, but the average person should only need about 4 hours to get back home. But wait you say, this is a grid-down type of scenario and you don’t know what could be involved with actually trying to get back home. What if I am not at work and I am visiting relatives? That’s correct so we will take another set of assumptions.

What could cause me to need my Get Home Bag?

For the purposes of this article, some emergency has happened, your normal method of transportation is not available and the location you are in (maybe it is a visit to friends) isn’t going to work so you must get back home. We’ll take that one step further and say in order to realistically need your GHB, NO method of transportation is available and you are using your LPC’s to transport you back to home. For those of you who don’t know, LPC stands for Leather Personnel Carriers – shoes. If we had a situation like 9/11 where a catastrophe happened, no public transportation was available but the basic infrastructure was in place, walking is perfectly reasonable. Again, this is your average person, not someone who is in a wheelchair or injured. If this is the case, what needs to be in your GHB? That depends on what you think you will need for your 4 hour (or so) walk home. Do you need a complete first aid kit, cutting torch, welding gloves and hazmat suit? Probably not.

Let me pause right here and say that I am not poopooing the idea of a Get Home Bag. I have one and it is with me daily in my car. I am just trying to put things into perspective. If you work 3 hours away or are on vacation, your bag’s contents need to be adjusted.

OK, back to the scenario where a disaster has happened, no public transportation is available and you are forced to walk back home. There are a ton of factors that could influence what you carry. Is it Summer or Winter? Is there snow and ice on the ground? Do you work in a high-rise office and wear high-heels to work? Are you a lifeguard and only wear a bathing suit? Is it evening time when you are forced to get back home? Are you likely to be in a situation where you are trapped inside a building and need to escape? Could you possibly be trapped underground in a tunnel? All of these factors start to influence what we pack but they should individually be evaluated against the percentage of likelihood that you would encounter a situation like this. Could you possibly be in a car that is plunged into an icy river and you would need oxygen tanks to survive until you can swim up to the surface? Sure, but is that very likely? Nope.

OK, I think I have circled the wagons long enough here and if you have been like me and scrolled all of the way to the bottom until you see a list of bullets, here you go. I keep all of my stuff for my get home bag in a Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack because it has more than enough room for what I need to carry.


Your mileage may vary.

Do you need this many medical supplies to just make it home? Probably not. This is a good emergency medical kit for your family though.

Is this going to be enough for you to chisel your way out of a collapsed parking garage, fight the mutant hordes, set up a shelter to weather the meteor storm and feed a group of individuals you have met up with after the disaster for a week? No, but this will get the average person home in a day or two without dying in most situations.

Can you add more water and food? Of course and if you live in hotter climates or have further to go, you should absolutely do that. For me in my every day use though I don’t believe this is necessary. I have reviewed other Prepper’s bags and they account for a lot of situations mine doesn’t. For example, I have seen some that suggest rope (to rappel out of your office window) and bolt cutters and topographical maps and compasses and pry bars and lock pick sets. My belief is that if you can’t figure out how to make it back home without a map, you are very likely to not know how to use a map in the first place. Perhaps you want to take this so someone else can tell you how to get home?

What about a more substantial first aid kit? That’s a great question, but what are you planning for? Most every first aid kit I have seen comes with 250 Band-Aids and a lot of aspirin tablets for the most part. If the world around you has collapsed so completely that you are forced to walk home 12 miles are you really going to stop and put a band aid on a boo boo? No, but you may be injured more seriously so I recommend a basic bandage to stop larger blood loss and patch a bigger cut.

What if you are vacationing and are several hundred miles away from home? That would require you to change the contents of your get home bag. For instance my normal EDC firearm is replaced with a full size Glock and two spare magazines. My water is increased and so are my food preparations. I also have clothing appropriate for walking in whatever weather is forecast. If I am traveling with others, the get home bag starts to look more like a bug out bag but that’s fine.

What about the roving hordes of mutant zombie bikers? Again, if the world has gone to crap like that, carrying more stuff isn’t necessarily going to help you. Your mileage may vary, but this is the basic list of items that can keep you from starving, dehydrating and safe for a day. You may be tired and hungry, but you aren’t going to die.

I am curious to hear what others have packed in their get home bags.


  1. Cornelia Adams

    February 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Great post, Pat. You forgot to add Oreos.

  2. prettyprepper

    April 16, 2013 at 10:09 am

    other things in my bug out bag are solar blankets, important documents (ID), sport travel burkey water bottle, wool socks (water resistant), trash bags (can be used as ponchos or to gather needed things), flint, If you have a dog have his Bug Out bag (dog hiking bags are about $30) ready too with dog shoes in case of toxins, their version of power bars (lentles, rice, veggies or unsalted or unspiced jerky), collapsible water bowl, proper chest harness.

  3. Bev

    May 20, 2013 at 12:55 am

    I would add some kind of tissues/tp and some moleskin or other blister prevention to the kit. If a person isn’t used to walking that far, blisters could be a major issue. Great list.

    • prepperjournal

      May 20, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Thanks for the comments Bev!

      Yes, I think that is covered under simple first aid and blisters can cripple someone who is trying to walk. Very important to protect your feet especially if you are counting on them to walk you out of harms way.


      • Scotttret

        November 10, 2014 at 4:18 am

        Yes they do I bought a simple First aid from Wal-mart and it came with multiple 1″ moleskin. So most should have it.

    • J'R' Cook

      January 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      Duct tape = blister prevention. 😉

  4. Carla

    July 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    soap & toothpaste would also help.

    • RHLee

      September 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Some Wet Wipes and a Colgate Wisp mini brush will do ya.

  5. oops

    September 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    There are 2 kinds of get home bags that i carry. The small one that is packed for everyday carry in the truck (my truck is always with me it seems) and the big on that is carried in the winter and when i am farther away from home. My small bag has first aid, ammo, poncho, bungee cords (these and aponcho make a great hootch for the night) signaling devices, hatchet, saw, compass, map, light, fire starting, gloves, water carrying/purification and other small odds and ends. This bag is not meant for the long term basically it will get me home alive from a relativively close proximity (100 miles). The bigger bag is my long term / winter bag. i carry the same stuff plus some winter clothing. I have doubled the water carrying capacity and each canteen has at least 1 bottle of purification tabs with it. There is a small stove, tomahawk, e-tool, more first aid (trauma heavy), sleeping bag (I use the army patrol bag in the goretex bivy), poncho liner, entrenching tool, low silohuotte tent and again the poncho and bungee cords. The bungee cords are used for shelter, clothes drying first aid and general secureing of items. The Big BOB ways about 45 pounds, I use the medium MOLLE pack from the army and all of my equipment is camo or subdued. I can go for an indefinate period of time with this bag and survive temps down to 0 F for short bursts. I also carry a single shot 243/20 ga combo gun for hunting and defense although I primarily rely on stealth for my defense. There is also a handgun that I carry. For general carry i carry the Smith and Wesson Governor with mixed loads.
    Using military equipment fulfills several requirements:
    1) durable
    2) drab color or camoflage
    3) it has been tested in some of the harshest conditions
    4) readily available for a relatively low price
    5) typically it is thought out and each piece has a certain purpose but in the end all of the pieces fit together

    • prepperjournal

      September 7, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      Great comments and suggestions!

  6. oops

    September 20, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I have been in the Military for quite some time now and as I read some of these articles I learn things. I also read the posts that people leave with their comments and sometimes learn other things. After the Colorado floods I sat back and did some thinking about my families plans for emergencies. I do not plan for the zombie apocolypse, I plan for Mother Nature, who as we all have seen in the last few years is showing us that she still rules our lives no matter how much we want to think otherwise. The elements are going to be your worst enemy in a bugout situation. Yes, the zombies (unprepared population), will be a threat, but you can avoid them with a calm head and motivation. Many say stay away from populated areas until you no longer can avoid them. That is good advice. It seems that most of the time I have been in trouble because of people has been around population centers. Now you ask yourself ….”what is this rambling idiot saying…” I am saying this, learn how to read a map and compass and keep both in your bag. Go cross country, learn what Mother Nature can provide for you. There is plenty of food wandering around aimlessly. During the late summer and early fall there are nuts and berry’s. There are fish almost all of the time and in almost every locale. Learn these things. Carry the tools to harvest them. Our ancestors lived like this for how many years?
    As for carrying soap and all of that, go natural. You are not trying to impress anyone. Think about something that is something more useful (food, water, shelter, fire) that can be carried. Not to mention being freshly bathed attracts attention, sometimes unwanted attention. The perfumes can be smelled a good distance away alerting both game and any enemies of your presence. If you need a bath, use snow in the winter and a cold creek in the summer. What good is a bugout bag when it is filled with useless crap that will do nothing in aiding your survival.
    We as a society rely too much on comfort items. I do not carry toilet paper (more room for essentials), I do carry hand sanitizer but that is for first aid (it smarts a little but it works. Instead of putting your dog on a leash, train your dog. Train them to do what they do naturally, HUNT. Make them a part of your food gathering. Teach them to alert to the presence of people. They don’t have to attack them, that is my job to decide friend or foe. My dog will let me know if someone else is in the area. Learn to speak your dogs language and they will fill you with a plethora of information. One more thing aobut soap, if you walk around smelling good it detracts from your ability to smell what is present.

    • prepperjournal

      September 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks for your comments and great suggestions! I am going to hang on the the TP as long as I can though…

      I will be talking about foraging in upcoming articles because you are absolutely correct that people hundreds of years ago knew what to eat off the land. We have forgotten almost all of that knowledge. Even with a book on edible plants, our manicured neighborhoods have been sanitized from most of the plants you can eat. Knowing how to find food that is growing naturally could save your life.


  7. Marie

    October 15, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I disagree with your comment about ‘putting bandaids on a boo boo’. Yes, I understand what you mean; but band-aids are actually quite a good idea. Perhaps a functional spray-on would be better than the 250 small ones, but either way, the main idea behind it is that when you’re in the wilderness, you are very susceptible to INFECTION. Having an open wound, no matter how small, open to the elements can give you infections galore and can make you very ill, and you aren’t going to make it home if a small scratch on your leg ended up making you so sick you might have to cut it off to save your life. So, while it may not be necessary to have quite so many, it’s generally a good idea to have a couple small ones and a couple specifically shaped ones so that if you do get small hurts (which you are likely to, just as likely as getting seriously injured if not more so) you can prevent a deadly situation arising from something as simple as a ‘boo boo’.

    • prepperjournal

      October 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      We might be talking about the same thing Marie and thank you for your comments.

      When I say Boo Boo, I am talking about from my kids perspective mostly. If you have a little scrape or small cut that isn’t even bleeding, your body will take care of that with a nice little scab.

      Large wounds are another thing completely and should get proper attention. That’s why I do recommend something larger to stop blood loss or dress a wound properly. Remember this is a get home bag so my perspective is someone who is less than 20 miles from home and plans on getting home within 24 hours. You will have a full compliment of medical supplies back home waiting for you. Hopefully.

      In a bug out bag, then we are talking about an entirely different use so a more robust first aid kit would be necessary.

      So, can we compromise and pack 5 band-aids, and a big blood stopper in your get home bag, but not an entire first aid kit?

    • PG Wootown

      October 18, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      Perhaps as well as Band Aids, maybe a small tube of Super Glue. I use it on cuts at work, mainly because I can’t keep running back up to the truck every time I get cut.

  8. Kyle Williams

    November 26, 2013 at 10:24 am

    What about maps? I work 110 miles from home and there are multiple terrain and weather considerations that I would need to take in consideration should I need to get home after the SHTF. It’s a good idea to carry a state atlas & gazetteer with pre-planned routes. The quickest routes home may not be the most ideal depending on the season or mode of transportation.

    • Pat Henry

      November 27, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Absolutely Kyle,

      Maps are a vital element if you have that far to go. Each GHB is going to need to be unique to the person, situation and distance you expect to travel. For your case, I would definitely pack a couple of maps and pre-plan a route based upon avoiding population centers if needed.


  9. fenris67

    January 4, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    I stumbled across this post and it looks like its been a while since the last comment but I am hoping its still active. I have started researching this subject in earnest. I am a road warrior… I travel almost every week for business. My travel is mostly domestic US, mainly in central, mountain and pacific timezones but in those areas I am all over the map. I have been slowly assembling a GHB that also functions as my work bag that contains my computer and other items I need for my day to day job.

    I have come across many dilemmas to creating the GHB that I would really like to have mainly due to the restrictions placed on us by TSA for travel. So my first questions for the group here, concerns protection: When you travel for business or pleasure what do you do for carrying a firearm and a knife? Do you go through the hassle of checking these every time you travel? The movies always show the Jason Bourne types of having a cache in a locker in some public area. Does anyone have any first hand experience with this? Is there a viable way to cache some of the GHB items in strategic areas for someone like me? I would love to hear from any fellow road warriors on the subject.

    • Pat Henry

      January 6, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting fenris67!

      I’ll take a stab but I am sure others have great ideas too. I also travel for business and try to have at least my legally allowed in most places minimum EDC with me at all times. This is my knife, multi-tool and flashlight. Because of this I always check my bags.

      For travel to any place that my Concealed Carry is honored, I will check a pistol. The only exception is if I am traveling internationally because outside of the US is the last place I want to get arrested or places like NY or Chicago.

      For any trips short of 500 miles I usually drive so I can pack a more substantial Get Home Bag, but for flying I almost always have the necessities.


  10. J'R' Cook

    January 15, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    My GHB is just like yours, except I keep $100 in various bills in mine. I don’t always carry cash in my wallet, and in the event my debit card won’t be accepted, I know I have a little cash in my bag. It’s saved my butt already!

    • Pat Henry

      January 15, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Great ideas JR. I have cash on hand, but not in the GHB so you reminded me to fix that right away. Thanks for the comments!


  11. JM

    January 31, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    What about traveling with kids? I’m a working single mom so there are roughly zero scenarios that wouldn’t involve having to get my kids home too. Do I pack a larger bag? My kids are all under 9 so do I have some smaller bags for them to carry? I’ve also considered the need to strap my 3 year old to my back if we’re making a longer trek (toddlers aren’t known for hiking well). I’m trying to come up with some solutions on my own but I’d love to hear suggestions from other people too. I have a feeling I’m not the only mom worried about prepping. TIA!

    • P. Henry

      February 3, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Great question JM!

      I plan on writing a post to address this topic sometime this week. Hopefully you will check back and that we can give you some ideas or generate more comments on this subject.


  12. Bryson

    February 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I know it’s not a huge deal in the big scheme of things but what about your meal replacement meals melting in the summer in your car? What kind do you use?

    • P. Henry

      February 4, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks for the comments Bryson!

      I think it is pretty important though and the only thing besides sawdust I have found that can handle the heat of summer is Mainstay Emergency food rations. 5 year shelf life. Withstands Temperatures of -40 F to 300 F and they are part of our Bug Out Bag giveaway! I think they make a much better option than power bars or MRE’s and I have switched out my stash already.


      • Erik

        March 26, 2014 at 11:50 am

        Pat, I also recommend the Millenium Energy Bars. They come individually wrapped in various flavors, five year shelf life, and extreme cold or heat will not damage the bars in the least bit.

        Needless to say in Fall and Winter we can add various other food items and leave them in a pack in the car. Again, though, come summer, Mainstay bars, Millenium Energy bars are a no brainer. I also like the idea that if you have to be on foot for a little while, eating on the run is more convenient than stopping and boiling water for a meal.

        • P. Henry

          March 26, 2014 at 8:38 pm

          Thanks for the tip. I haven’t ever had those, so I need to check them out.


  13. Mike

    June 26, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I really like the way you think. I would add to your list a sheet of 6 mil plastic sheeting. you can pick it up pretty cheap at Lowes, Menards, etc. For the weight it has multiple uses, you can cut a rain poncho out of it, or use it to making in impromptu shelter. (home made tube tent) Throw in a wool blanket and you can stay fairly warm and dry till you reach safety.

    • Pat Henry

      June 26, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks Mike,

      And, Excellent idea! I think I will add some to my GHB too. I had another reader who has got me looking at a 5.11 Rush Moab 10 bag. Its bigger so I could carry more items but still has the compartment for a gun.


  14. Oneshot

    December 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I realize this thread has been up here for some time and I found it from another site.

    One thing I put into my GHB is a “Lifestraw”. Just in case weather or distance or weight of gear (or whatever a worse case scenario ) might befall me. It’s small, light weight and allows me to harvest water. While I do realize it isn’t totally fool proof, when it comes to contaminates . It still beats just dipping an empty bottle into a pond or any source of water when I absolutely have to have water!

    • Pat Henry

      December 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks for commenting Oneshot!

      I think the Lifestraw is better than nothing, but for me, a water filter like the sawyer mini is much better. I can filter a whole bottle of water as opposed to just drinking my fill. Lifestraw now has a version that allows you to fill a bottle I believe and use their filter so they must have heard the same thing from others.


  15. Optimist

    February 17, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    I travel 150 to 450 miles multiple times a week. 14″ bolt cutters(bicycles), hatchet, folding shovel, Tylenol, immodium, triple antibiotic ointment, fishing kit, and heavy duty poncho.

    • Pat Henry

      February 18, 2015 at 9:41 am

      Good additions to the list. If I had that long of a commute, my GHB would be very different too.

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    June 5, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Keep a bike in my truck the average person can ride a bike a lot faster than walking my commute on a bike would be about two hours opposed to walking four

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