Getting Back Home with Small Children

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We have discussed the subject of a Get Home Bag before on the Prepper Journal, but in light of the winter weather snafu last week in the South I thought it was appropriate to revisit this topic. What started out as a normal day for a lot of people ended up being a long night because they were either trapped in their cars due to snarled traffic from the snow and ice or they were lucky enough to sleep on the floor of convenience stores.  It is times like this that cause me to think about what steps I can take to reduce the chance of an event like this impacting my family adversely. What would I wish I had with me if I was trapped on the side of the road and faced the possibility of having to walk home?

A Get Home Bag is one item you can have with you in your car that could have supplies to help you in a time such as this. A great Winter Survival Kit for your car would be another great option, but so far I have really only addressed getting yourself back home or making an individual’s life better if stranded. What if you were the parent of small kids and the roads were closed? What if you had two or three little ones and were looking at the possibility of walking somewhere because for whatever reason, your car wouldn’t work or the roads turned into a parking lot? What if we had an EMP attack and nothing worked? How would you go about planning your job of getting back home with small children?

I can’t take all of the credit for this topic though. A reader left the following comment on our post about a Get Home Bag that I thought worthy of an entire post. JM asks:

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.

That is an excellent question or should be for anyone who is a parent. I know that I was speaking primarily from my viewpoint of being the one away and needing to get back to my family, but what if my wife was out and needed to get back home with our kids? Or, let’s say I was out with my children and this happened. What would I do?

How far away is home?

Everything is relative isn’t it? If you are stuck in the middle of the desert in August and home is 500 miles away, you have much bigger problems than someone who is only a few miles from home in June. Are you in a city with plenty of people/friends/cabs around for alternate transportation? What if none of those were available? Knowing your travel plans should dictate how you prepare for any potential event like this. For longer trips, I normally include a wealth of additional resources that I don’t normally pack on my daily commute but we are talking about a surprise event here, aren’t we?

The benefit of being to discuss topics like this is that we aren’t living in the moment of this crisis. Prepping in my eyes is planning for the future. Maybe these plans are based upon events in the past, or a concern about future events. For a single mother like JM, she is asking because she wants to be prepared ahead of time. To do that, you have to live like the event could happen. To be prepared, you must by definition have your preps with you when you need them.

Like almost anything with children, the ages of your kids and their abilities have to be taken into consideration. It will be hard to make concrete recommendations, but let’s take a stab at it.

The first thing I think you should take into consideration is the distance you will be traveling or could be traveling on foot. If you never know where you might be around your local area, take the farthest distance (average) and use that for a guideline. Let’s assume you live and commute to work in a modest sized town of 100,000 people and your daily commute to work, shopping, babysitters or anywhere else put you max at 18 miles away from home. This is what I would start with.

So, how would you get home 18 miles away if the SHTF? How would that change with your child or children?

The assumption is that we are all walking here because some event (weather, EMP, civil disturbance) has prevented us from using our or anyone else’s car to make it home. Not much point in reading this article if you can just call a cab is it? 18 miles is a good hump for an average, in-shape person. For that average person you figure 20 minutes a mile if you are walking at a good clip. Add inclement weather, breaks or a slower pace with children and that might go out to an hour per mile. What about a mother with 2 small children? I have personally had children under 9 so I can appreciate what JM is faced with.

If you have children this young I wouldn’t plan on them carrying a pack. Maybe, I could see them carrying a backpack with just the basics (water, food, jacket) because even a 9 year old is going to start pooping out on you before too long. Even if they have the energy, most kids that age I know will get tired, whiny and start complaining.

Depending on the age of your children, weather and terrain, you have a couple of options I think. The one that seems to make the most sense is a good jogging stroller. I am not talking about the kind you wheel around the mall, strollers now very off-road capable. The won’t do all of the work for you but they will hold your children and usually give you additional storage room for that Get Home Bag you had packed. This will make getting from point A to point B much easier assuming you aren’t trying to walk on snow and ice. It may not seem to make a lot of sense to have one of these if your kids are too big to fit in there and that’s fine. I still think you should plan on the walk taking longer and to anticipate more rest breaks being necessary.

I do think that an 18 mile walk like this is doable even with small children. With smaller kids you will have the stroller, they won’t get tired and you can walk as fast as your legs can go. So what do you need in this case?

What do you need to pack?

Mothers are the first preppers and I have even seen posts dealing with the subject of a diaper bag being just as stocked as a Bug out Bag. Usually, these bags already have enough supplies for a week out. There are diapers galore, several varieties of snack foods, extra clothing, medicine, toys etc. Mothers will generally have extra food, clothes and diapers for their children but what about these unexpected scenarios? How many times have you left the house thinking, I’ll be back before night time or we will be inside all day so no need for warm clothes? You have to start thinking to some extent like you might not make it home and pack that bag appropriately.

Water – You should always have enough water on you or in your vehicle for everyone for a day. We have a case of water that sits in the back of the car that my wife and kids call survival waters. They do end up getting used all the time, but that keeps it rotated. When we get near running out, we just throw another case in there. On long trips we also each have our own Nalgene bottles for an extra supply.

Food – In my Get Home Bag I have enough food for two days for myself even though I am never so far away that I can’t get home easily in a few hours. I would have the same two day supply of food for your children as well. Children are picky so you will have to pack their favorites. One long-lasting emergency food bar I have found is Mainstay Emergency Rations. These will keep even in a hot car and are perfect for emergencies.

Clothing – Nobody likes to be cold or wet. In the summer time you can take off layers, but you can’t add them if you don’t have them. I always leave the house wearing what I would need to be outside, not inside. I admonish my kids to do the same and this works most of the time. My middle child always says, “but I am going to be inside all day” and that is not the way to think. Pack or have supplies packed for the weather if you have to get out in it.

Shelter – A walk of 18 miles could require spending the night out in the elements. Of course we are talking extreme disaster for this to happen, or remote locations but it is very possible. Emergency space blankets are cheap, light and pack up the size of a deck of cards. Have one for each member of your family and you will stay alive in most environments.

Protection – Unless there are very special conditions, I always have a firearm on me. For those with children I would ask that you consider carrying something to protect yourself and them. This may be mace or a tazer. It could be a good old 9mm with some wicked hollow points.

Even as long as this article is I feel like it just scrapes the surface. There are so many variables that creating a perfect (or even a good) plan is difficult. What I try to do is imagine the worst and work backwards from there. If you do that and plan accordingly, the worst thing you will have is too much stuff. If I am walking home with kids, I would rather have that problem than be missing something to either keep them safe or alive until I walk back in that door with them.

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T.
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T.

Great article. My spouse and I are “elderly” I guess you could say. I have packed a Get Home Bag and we take it with us whenever we leave the house. But – given the fact that we both have some physical restrictions, I worry. I have included in this bag two days worth of medications for each of us. Also, in addition to whats in the bag, there are a few items (like extra water) in the vehicle that we could take with us. Do you have any recommendations for older, not so spry people? I’ve considered a walking… Read more »

lisa
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lisa

Have you considered the nordic walking sticks? My dad used a pair on the hikes we took in Colorado last fall. He felt they helped him go faster and farther as well as helping his balance.

JM
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JM

Thank you so much for addressing my concerns! Mothers are natural preppers, but many of us need to expand our skills to be prepared for more than a day of running errands or a commute home. I’ve had to SIP with my kids when weather got extreme and I can’t help but think of what would happen if the conditions lasted longer than a few hours. Love this page, such a great resource. Thanks again for helping me know how to take care of my brood when the SHTF.

alison
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alison

Fanny packs are great for children. Not to heavy but they are contributing for themselves. Most can carry an emergency blanket, granola bars, pack of gum, trash bag and a reusable light stick.

Echo
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Echo

i have found that if you can carry space blankets you can also carry ponchos. you can easily carry 4 to 6 space blankets and 4 to 6 emergency ponchos in the glove box of your vehicle if nothing else. when my 2 were young i carried the blankets and the ponchos both in the glove box in addition to their own personal bags with a change of clothes, snacks and a small toy. now days i would sure expand on that depending on the season! and never ever forget flashlights!!! one for each person you travel with. even if… Read more »

Nobody
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Nobody

Made a rookie mistake and forgot a stroller on a out door family event, used a shemagh as a sling to carry a little one of 6 months. I’m sure a large sweater or scarf would have worked also.

Practical Parsimony
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In the late 60s and in the 70s, I was harassed daily by my husband for packing boots, heavy coats, blankets, and food/water when I went out with the children, neither able to walk a mile, one in arms at first. When I went to shop or visit anyone, I had to drive 20 miles on a road that part of the way was a two-lane with little civilization. People told me when we moved there that without warning, the weather could change from 70 degrees to snow. While they would wear a light jacket or sweater, there was a… Read more »