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Ultralight Get Home Bag List

Do you have a get home bag prepared for emergencies?
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4.08/5 (131)
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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from John Ferry. Each of us has responsibilities and they all come in different sizes. In times of crisis or emergency, many of us won’t be at home. We will be working or traveling away so the Get Home Bag concept allows us to carry gear that can aid us should we find ourselves away from our stash of prepper essentials. John’s own Get Home Bag list below might help you with ideas if you are still forming your own Get Home Bag for emergencies.


This is my stab at a Get Home Bag after reading endless posts and recommendations, as well as experimenting with my camping gear. The total weight of my personal get home bag, minus water and handguns is 13.7 Lb.

There are a number of criteria I considered during this exercise:

  • Distance – how far will I likely need to travel?
  • Why – why am I’m being forced to walk home anyway?
  • Terrain – lakes, streams, rivers, roadways, built up areas, residential areas and sub-divisions.
  • ClimatePiedmont area of the Carolina’s, although I travel through the Appalachians and further south on occasion.
  • Flora/fauna – what sort of natural resources are available?
  • Most importantly – My own aching back.

Distance – Daily commute is 32 miles each way, although straight line is significantly less.

Why – The only reason to be hiking home would be due to some regional or larger disaster. This area takes hurricanes in stride, although an inch of snow will bring the place to a standstill. So WHY implies the roads are down for the duration, IE: I can’t just camp out and wait for the government to unscrew whatever has been screwed up. We don’t get earthquakes, and snow does eventually melt. And those are pretty much the only thing that can shut down the road systems here. So it has to be something very bad, probably due to external forces, and most likely dangerous, with curfews, checkpoints and the like.

Terrain – Since my assumption for the reason to walk home is that there’s been a SHTF event of some sort, (See WHY), the terrain aspect becomes one of how to avoid contact with anyone else as much as possible. This in turn means avoiding as much as possible all roadways. This in itself has a problem: we have lots of waterways of various sorts, and waterways imply bridges to get across, and that’s where the roads are. Which I want to avoid.

So I acquired the best maps I can lay my hands on. In this case they’re aerial photo, aka, Google maps, with topology superimposed.

These allow me to chart a number of routes out of the semi-suburban area I drive to every day using non-road paths. The power line and pipeline right of ways show up clearly on photo maps, and typically avoid high density population or dwelling areas as much as possible. The companies that build these things know that getting a grant for a right of way costs money, and right of ways through built up areas are especially costly. They use legions of surveyors to plot the most cost efficient routes, which just happen to match up with my goal: minimal possibility of contact with others.

Climate – Seasonal variance of ~ 20F to 100F+, sometimes colder, but rarely. So my clothing load-out changes somewhat on a seasonal basis, but that’s primarily changing the outerwear I carry in the car anyways. In summer I always have a relatively light, IE; down to 40F jacket, in the winter it’s much more substantial with heavier backup garment.

Flora/fauna– there is a ton of usable and edible stuff wild here. Just need to know what it looks like, and if it needs special preparation to be edible. Think burdock root, or Jerusalem artichoke, and small game.

My aching back – I assume, based upon my current hiking/camping trips that I’m good for roughly 8 – 10 miles in broken country per day without killing myself. So I judge seven miles per day given my security concerns.

So a minimum of four days of cross-country hiking, while avoiding everyone, at the same time everyone else is either trying to get out of the city, or into the city, along with an unknown, but probably poor security situation.

Breaking out my standard camping gear gives me an immediate starting point, but I want to:

  • A – Lighten it up
  • B – Make it fit inside my car spare tire, IE; out of sight.
  • C – Add some security items.

What I’ve come up with is described below, with the various items grouped roughly by purpose. This set of equipment goes far beyond the basic needs of a four-day walk in the woods: I explicitly decided to expand the resources under the working assumption that Murphy never takes a vacation, and if worse came to worse, I wanted the ability to live off the land for a while if need be, due to injury, or possible adverse government or militia control. Thus the radio and binoculars for comms and surveillance, and the specific planning for travel off maintained paths. Am I a TEOTWAWKI paranoid nut case? No, but having been in NOLA during Katrina, I have somewhat less than inspired faith in the government, and am a firm believer in the Boy Scouts motto.

Also note that I have a static car kit that includes a woolen watch cap, gloves, flash light, head lamp, fixed blade knife, my best hiking boots, wool blend hunting socks, MOLLE first aid kit, and a couple liters of water.

From my camping kit I’ll subtract the sleeping bag, ground pad, tent, stoves, propane canisters, cooking gear, and sub my rucksack for the full size pack. I’ve also made heavy use of a Food Saver to vacuum pack as much stuff as I can.

Categories in no particular order:

Fire stuff: a bit on the overkill side, but it weighs virtually nothing:

FireStuff

 

Food and refreshment cache:

  • Three MREs – packaging removed, sealed in vacuum bags. A bit on the heavy side, BUT: They heat themselves without fire and are calorie heavy.
  • Four dehydrated chicken soup packets.
  • 1 dozen packets of good dehydrated coffee.
  • Two plastic sporks. No biggee if lost or broken: a spoon or chopsticks can be whittled from wood.
  • I’m thinking I should add a few packets of Gatorade powder too.

Food

 

Protection:

My daily summer concealed carry: Kimber in .380. This weapon lives with me no matter what else I may have with me. Small enough to fit in my front jeans pocket in a soft pocket holster.

 

GetHomeBagProtection

 

My routine camping/hiking weapon: Ruger long barrel MK III in .22. It’s far more accurate than I am out to 50 yards or so. Lives in the rucksack now with 50 rds and an oiled leather holster.

 

GetHomeBagProtection2

 

Health & Comfort – 1

Didn’t know what else to call this group…..

 

health

 

Health & Comfort – 2

  • Sanitizing wipes
  • TP
  • Lotrimin: if you use your feet a lot and stay in your boots for days on end, you want this stuff. Just believe me.
  • Tooth paste and mini brush
  • Three specific meds:
    • Ibuprofen- 30
    • Benadryl – 20
    • Immodium – 6

health2

 

Water is critical, right up there with warmth.

Water

Knives & Tools – 1

I carry a folder at all times: not shown here, it was in my pocket. Browning survival knife with self-sharpening sheath and a ferriconium stick on the sheath. This knife is well made, full tang, four-inch blade. I wouldn’t be real keen on banging on it to split wood, but for everyday camp uses it’s fine. The handle is a bit small for my paws, or if wearing gloves.

My longtime friend the M-7 bayonet. It’s much heavier than the smaller knife, and doesn’t have the fire stick attached, but after years & years of being abused its my favorite over a bunch of traditional hunting/camping/survival blades I own. I could probably kill a bear with the thing too.

The bayonet lives in the get home bag, and the Browning in the center console of my daily driver.

  • Fifty feet 550 para-cord – no explanation required.
  • A few 10 hour glow sticks.
  • A mini pry bar. Lowes calls it a trim bar; at seven inches long it’s quite capable of opening ordinary windows or doors.
  • Folding camp saw. Works far better than the wire or chain “survival” saws. Weighs in at 4 ounces so I don’t mind.

Survival

 

Knives & Tools – 2

  • Sharpie – leave messages, or mark an area for surgery.
  • Mini razor
  • Pencil with 25 feet of duct tape
  • Fishing kit – Plastic container with: 50 ft. 50 lb. line, 6 small hooks, 3 swivels
  • Can use the line for snares as well.
  • Twist ties – light repairs, etc.
  • Tie wraps – repairs
  • Orange surveyors tape – mark trails, etc.
  • Mini tool
  • Four feet plastic tubing – use w hydration kit, siphon fuel, etc.
  • P-38 can opener
  • Bunch of safety pins

Survival2

 

Electrical stuff

  • Baofeng hand-held. Programmed with the local HAM, EMS, sheriff, state police frequencies for use as a scanner, I also programmed in the FRS, CB, GMRS channels for two-way comms.
  • Headlamp
  • Extra batteries.
  • Micro LED light
  • Solar battery with adapter cable. 5000 mAh output. Will recharge the radio or my cell.

Electronics

 

Navigation

Tools to get from here to there, and to see where you’re going and who’s around.

  • Mini binoculars 7X
  • Tradition lensatic compass
  • Wrist compass
  • Maps not shown, but a set of satellite maps with topo overlay for the entire area I tend to travel through.
  • I’ve also pre-planned a few off-road routes to get from work to home or other “safe houses”. If one looks closely there are pipeline and power line right of ways that cut through everywhere, and mostly avoiding residential areas.

Navigation

 

Shelter and such like

  • Two 35 Gal contractor bags. Cover your pack, flotation, rain poncho, ground cover, etc, etc.
  • Rain poncho
  • Single person bivi sack.

Shelter

 

The ruck

Amazon grade, 15 liter, MOLLE compatible ruck sack.

The most important features are: having a bazillion compartments, pass through holes for the camel-back hydration tube, and both sternum and waist straps. I like the MOLLe feature as well. I’ve a surplus combat aid kit, that’s been expanded to accommodate lesser problems than combat injuries. Also a water bottle carrier. Both use the MOLLE attachments.

Rucksack

 

If you liked this article, please rate it.

  • Super Steve

    A very well thought out and considered article by Mr Ferry, I’m impressed by the planning he has gone through to come to his final choices.
    May I respectfully suggest that Mr Ferry like many others in our community MAY ( only may) be missing one point, that is much of the gear he has set to carry in his ULGHB should in fact be carried about his person and not in his bag. Its an unfortunate fact that many of us appear to fill up a back pack / tote/ rucksack etc will all the essentials of the BOB or GHB to sustain and protect them on their journey. But Sirs as I learned in the army in the 70s what happens if you get separated from your pack???.
    The reason how and why we could be separated from our survival bags are many and varied, that’s why we were taught that most of the ABSOLUTE essentials go in your pants, jack pockets or on your belt. I know that both sides of the Atlantic many in our community wear M65 or DPM or similar multi pocket jackets and cargo pants EDC I would respectfully suggest that much of the gear Mr Ferry has so wisely chosen should be taken FROM the pack as soon as TSHTF and be put about his person thus lightening the weight of the pack even more?
    At the very least the Fire Arm, Knife, Compass, Radio, Binos, Fire lighters, Em rations, mini FAK , multi tool, mask etc should be worn about the person and not kept in the pack when TSHTF?
    I thoroughly enjoyed his article.

    • Cruella DeVille

      RE: “respectfully suggest that much of the gear Mr Ferry has so wisely chosen
      should be taken FROM the pack as soon as TSHTF and be put about his
      person thus lightening the weight of the pack even more but keeping
      those life saving essentials on his person even if he loses his bag.”

      No argument with that at all, and for the same reasons.
      My employer, being CA based and all has restrictions o what may be brought into the buildings, firearms and the bayonet are most certainly prohibited, and would result in immediate firing. So the bag lives in the center of my vehicles spare tire center well. Sigh. At least it’s only a four story building, and I can see my vehicle from my desk.
      I DO have a cargo vest, and your idea of transferring essentials is excellent. I’ll start keeping it in the daily driver as well.

      However I DO keep some other items with me at all times..
      Mini-BIC, mini swiss army knife, P-38, 70L micro-light, roll of waxed dental floss, couple of band-aids, clean wipes, N95 mask, pencil wrapped w duct tape, a few 6″ tie-wraps, and 20′ para-cord.
      It all fits into a hard-shell prescription eyeglass case.

      • Super Steve

        You Sir are a proactive thinking mans prepper rather than just a procedure follower 🙂 Its generally warmish and dry in CA, over here its generally windy, wet and cool so I carry an ex BRIT army combat jacket

  • tman

    I might upgrade the firepower a little. Maybe a Keltec sub 2k. Sounds like you live in Florida or some other gulf state. I think that you would be fine having that in your vehicle as long as you bring it out only after shtf. Everything else seemed good. Never thought about following powerline cut thrus. Very interesting article.

  • Eric Bergmueller

    I hit “rate” and it came up zero, but I wanted to rate this article a solid 5. Change out the .380 for my .38 Colt and my gear is very similar. I assembled my own MREs which are a bit bulkier than the real thing, and don’t heat themselves. I carry a little more first aid, and some ready to go water bottles, but your kit is very good IMHO. Again, I’m sorry for fouling up the rating button.

  • Huples

    Loved the article but…

    This is Preppers overkill. Too much, too slow, not focused on the single goal.

    The job is to go from work to home ASAP. That said why are you carrying all this stuff but hardly any food? Sure you can forage but get home ASAP. Think and carry 4000 Cal a day. Hiking at speed burns calories. Obviously small caches along your likely routes is needed.

    Gatorade? Yup. Lots of it and different flavours. Also dump the mre. Weight to have hot food on a fast run from work to home? Buy some Mylar rice packets ( there’s loads of these available ), chocolate bars, nuts/raisins, oat meal. Add water to the oat meal packet and wear next to your belly for a few hours = hottest food! Ditch the coffee. You going to make fires and brew it? Carry coffee beans and chew them.

    Cell phone. Keep it charge and text at specific times. Drop the charger, Facebook is not an option! Ham radio? You are at work, sthf happens, you will be home in two days. Seriously 16 miles a day is easy if you train and drop the weight. The full 32 in under 24 hours should be the aim here. Get home ASAP

    Fishing? Trapping? Get home ASAP.

    The glow sticks are for what exactly?

    Fire starting. Use two ordinary bics, some matches, and carry tinder. It is a Go home not a bug out bag.

    One N95? Carry ten. Pandemic one is worse than none. Hum. Maybe an article about that is needed!

    I gave it 4/5. My comments are response to the bits I think need looking at. It is a great article

  • Super Steve

    Some good comments on this thread, don’t you think that the DISTANCE/ TIME involved in getting home when TSHTF is a major point?, EG My commute, my wifes commute and many of my associates commutes are all less than 15 miles, a colleague works 23 miles from home but its mainly all downhill from his office to his house so he can probably cover more ground than my wife whose journey is mainly uphill though her journey is shorter.
    I guess if you live in town A and commute long distance to City B then food, shelter, water is definitely of much greater importance . Each of us need to tailor our GHBs to meet our own specific needs and not follow a set packing list.
    I hazard another guess that in many US areas there are lots of things that bite n sting like Snakes, Africanised bees, Soldier ants etc So perhaps a sting / bite treatment kit could be a prudent addition if you plan on going cross country to get home quicker.
    I think we all NEED to physically assess both of our possible routes home and load our kit to meet those specific threats and hazards we may face.

  • Brasilian guy

    Yours plans are similar to mine. I am from Brazil. I think of buying a monowalker to solve the weight problem.

    https://youtu.be/eskz93xa1HE

  • Arcangel911

    The only thing I would add is a med bag:
    – Basic medical supplies- tape, anti-friction anti chafing creme for the middle of the legs.
    -some basic pain killers, benedryl, antibiotic creme and some bandages or band-aids.
    -Sunscreen
    -Alcohol hand sanitizer

    • BobW

      Watch out for the monkey nut in the heat of summer. One of those little bottles of Gold Bond powder in lieu of the buck knife would be a good swap. Once those thighs are chaffed, rate of movement will be reduced.

  • TJ

    I work 35 miles from my home in a city of 350000+…. fortunately kids and husband are only 4 miles from home most days.
    I will not wait around but head out at any sign of issues. I was thinking a bike could get me out faster but will be on road in town (trails once out of town and lots of small dirt roads) although w a town this size there are no off roads until I get on the outskirts. Thoughts? Suggestions for a woman to get out quickly?

    • MrApple

      In my humble opinion:
      Head home as soon as you realize the world has fallen apart.
      A bike might be a great choice and could carry supplies for you.
      Keep your load down to only a small backpack.
      Be armed and try to avoid problems (listen to that inner voice).

      • BobW

        If you can secure a bicycle at work I’d strongly consider garage saling one. Mount the pannier frames on the bike, then store the pannier bags in your desk/cabinet full of extra food/sweater/garbage bags, etc.

        If something happens, grab your bags and mount them on the bike and roll out. Dump all the non-true essentials in the pannier bags, carrying just true minimum essentials in the backpack.

        • MrApple

          Good points.

          • TJ

            Thanks Mr Apple and Bob. I loved the idea of storing a bike at work but I work at different buildings so I may opt fora fold up bike stored in my car. Prefer to drive out but need a backup to get home.

            • MrApple

              Just don’t forget a method of defending your supplies. Otherwise you are just stocking up for the person who seizes the opportunity to take your stuff.

  • BobW

    A solidly built ULGHB build. I’d like to see the price and weight breakdown of the items purchased. A 5.11 Rush 12 bag is not light. I’d be surprised if the Amazon knock-off was all that much lighter. Not questioning your listed weight, just curious about the itemization.

    I’m of the opinion that I’d rather have a bit too much than too little. Never know what can happen on the road (or trail). For me, this build is heavy on cutting power, and a touch light on things that keep you moving toward home.

    I’ve long thought about how to build some real protection into a true GHB that stays under say 20lbs. I’ve thought about adding an AR-7, AR-15, or one of those break-down 10/22s to the kit. Maybe build the lightest possible AR-15, and store the halves in food saver bags and secure them to the side walls of the bag before everything else is loaded.

    • BobW

      Oh, I forgot this part. I really like the idea of adding the long barrel .22LR to your bag. I can knock wings off of flies with a .22, but have to be happy hitting the arm of a man-sized target with the larger center-fire pistols. It increases versatility.

  • EvanW8

    Thanks for article and talking about your kit. I like a lot of what you decided on.

    If you don’t mind I’ll offer a couple of general suggestions and a couple of specific ones. General…you’ll never solve all problems in one bag any more than you can solve all problems with one jacket or one hat. An emergency bag (what folks used to call this type of thing before we started reinventing the wheel) should be targeted to a specific task. Otherwise you’ll try to account for all manner of problems, most of which are highly unlikely and the result will inevitably be dramatically excess weight. Lightweight and smart should be the goal, not a one stop shop mobile sporting goods store. This is a general statement, not a ding on your setup.

    For me, no way I’m using a bladder. In the winter, the line freezes and it’s undrinkable. Has to be a nalgene or Kleen Kanteen, or both. This is derived from experience not here say or theory.

    Three knives? Why? A folding knife of very good quality will take care of 90% of your needs in this scenario. I recommend a Benchmade Griptilian or something Zero Tolerance. Something tough as nails. Fixed blade? For what purpose? Fire wood, pry bar? You already have a folding saw and a small pry bar. If you still feel the need for a fixed blade, perhaps a Mora (light and effective enough to get home). Is it necessary with a top notch folder? Probably not, but a Mora is a heck of a lot lighter than a bayonet. I might just go great folding knife, small pry bar and a folding saw or a swiss army knife (saw blade, can opener, and spare blade). In a BOB I would definitely have a top notch fixed blade (ESEE 5 or Katmandu type).

    Two pistols? Why? Having one lighter weight pistol (unless you’re in Alaska) should be plenty adequate to get home. Even in a dire SHTF scenario, the first couple of days the idea of squaring off against roving gangs of mauraders is extremely unlikely. You’ll likely have more of an issue walking around brandishing any weapon that soon after an event. I’d suggest keep it small and light and probably concealed. Any idea of hunting for game while trying to get home is just crazy in my opinion. Exception? You’re way the hell out in the boonies somewhere and you’re hundreds of miles away from home.

    I like your water filtration system but how will you get the water into the dirty water reservoir? Quite a few folks find they need some type of small cup or scooper with the bladder systems. Again, use the gear on camping trips or expeditions and the particularities of your kit will become apparent. Good to know before a bad situation arrises.

    Two compasses is a good idea as I’ve seen them fail on long pushes.

    Why not two flashlights? Consider adding a small handheld as a backup to the headlamp.

    I like the radio idea. I currently carry a crank emergency radio receiver. Fairly small and I can hear the emergency broadcasts. Communication in any major event will be horrible to non-existent. You’ll be lucky to get a text message out. Best to have a family plan discussed before the event so everyone knows the expectations. Rally point (home). Alternative rally point(s).

    I might add a topographical map of your area. My area is very easy to navigate; valley with a large mountain range, but in the event of an earthquake I might have to circumnavigate entire neighborhoods or smaller cities to avoid hazards (downed power lines, impassible roads or bridges, liquefaction, etc.). I.E., I need a map.

    Medical. I’d recommend at least a small med kit. Something to clean a small wound, some bandages and a small quantity of drugs (general pain/fever, GI issues, allergies). Perhaps throw in a cravat or bandana (1000 uses) and some sterile gauze. Then, learn how to use them.

    Food. I’m uncomfortable with your food setup. Only because I know what I burn when I hump a ruck over time, distance and terrain. I need calories. Your body can burn its reserves but with much more stress and little sleep (inevitable after a major event) you’ll only increase your risk of making poor decisions and weaken your immune system. A gun for hunting(?) and a small fishing kit for fishing? Well, I suppose if your particular situation warrants that approach but I’d rather not rely on local game/fish after a bad situation has occurred. I’d rather have the calories on me and just get the heck home. I’m ok with MRE main meals as they work, but they are heavy. I carry four main meals and other items. I won’t count on fire to heat up meals as I’ll be in a major city for half the trip and would rather keep things simple. Water acquisition is a far bigger concern of mine.

    Sleep system. I like that you don’t have just the 5 dollar emergency mylar blanket… SOS makes a better product, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable with your set up where I live. Depends on what you’re dealing with but in my area winters go below zero with snow and wind. I layer it from clothing to three different sleep layers (mummy sack, 40 degree bag (highly packable) and an advanced SOS bivy) as well as a ground pad to avoid convection heat loss. In addition a H2O proof tarp along with the 550 cord might give some needed shelter if I have to bed down for a night in the mountains (likely) with inclement weather.

    I also like M95 masks in the event of an eruption, an earthquake, a pandemic or anything else I can’t think of. Bandana as a backup.

    I like to keep two bags in my car. One bag is a small duffle with things I’ll wear on my person, the other is the actual Get Home Bag (GHB). I consider lack of water and exposure to be the primary threats, seconded by large population density hazards and general fatigue second. General fatigue is mitigated by being in very good shape and condition, staying warm and dry and having enough water and food.

    Taking a realistic accounting of your specific situation and primary threats is important. Example, our area is dramatically overdue for a major earthquake. Any notion I have of hiking 15 to 20 miles per day I consider to be highly unrealistic when considering how many obstacles might be in my way. That changes my thoughts about water and food and I leave home what I don’t absolutely need in favor of what I know I will. A gun is the most unlikely tool a person will need immediately in a post disaster scenario. Better to have just one and know how to shoot well (invest in training and practice). Same with knives and ammo. Keep it light and simple and be as proficient as possible with what you carry.

    Our mission in this scenario is to stay out of harms way, avoid trouble and get home as quickly as possible.

    I also enjoyed the article. I immediately whipped out my bags and went over them again. M95’s will be added shortly.