HOW-TO GUIDE: MAKING A REAL-LIFE GET HOME BAG
How you create a get home bag is a very personal choice. There are countless lists on the internet that tell you all of the random things you should include in your get home bag but in reality, your get home bag should specific to you and the most likely situation you will find yourself in.
Consider this, most of us will spend the majority of our time away from home at work. We could spend countless hours considering the innumerable situations that we could end up in and this is a good exercise to perform, but you can’t prepare for every possible situation. I am very pragmatic in my thinking and am playing the odds that if I do need a get home bag, I will probably be within five miles of home.
How did I come up with the number? Well, I work 3.5 miles from home. Most of the friends I associate with are 2-7 miles from my home. Between work, grocery shopping, errands, spending time with friends, etc. I probably spend 90% of my time away from home within a 2-7 mile range. Sure, 5 miles is not the average of 2-7 miles but I spend most of my time at work and I have averaged up to be on the safe side.
Now, using that five mile range as my basis for a get home bag, I need to take into consideration my physical abilities and my survival skill level. The premise of a get home bag is that you can’t drive your car and don’t have access to public transportation. Looking at my own physical ability, I can easily run five miles. I am an active runner, lift weights, and am in the middle of training for an Ironman. This is my own personal ability and it changes all of the time. If I wasn’t currently so active, I probably wouldn’t be as confident in running five miles. But that is the key to creating a personal get home bag. It is never a one-size fits all. It is specific to you and your plan should be constantly evolving.
With the five miles in mind, what are the survival skills I need to know? Sure, the five miles is never guaranteed and it may not be a straight shot home. Who knows what obstacles may be in my path. With that in mind, I need to determine if the amount of time I am away from home is longer than what it would take me to run five miles and how this will change what goes into my get home bag?
Below is a list of what would go into my get home bag and why I chose these items.
- First Aid - For a lot of people, first aid may not be the first item in their get home bag but I have added it to the top of my list for a couple reasons. If I am not able to get into my car and drive, then there is a good chance that the reason is a natural disaster. Here in Utah, I live along the Wasatch Fault. This is an active fault along the edge of Salt Lake City. Many people say we are overdue for a large earthquake. If this is the case, a co-worker or I may very well need medical attention before I even begin making my way home. I built my own first aid kit using the 3V Gear Large Medic Pouch which I put in the main pocket of my get home bag.
- Water Bottle/Water Filter - Water should always be at the top of everyone's list of survival essentials. Sure, I can run five miles without needing water but it is the unknown that I am concerned with. I keep a 1-liter water bottle in my bag but I also have a small water filter in my bag as a backup. I have chosen the HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter because of its simple design. It is lightweight and the filter is hollow fiber. Hollow fiber removes bacteria and other larger contaminants, and is very versatile in the way you can use it. I do carry one of HydroBlu's Collapsible Canteens also as a backup water container.
- Fire/Heat - A fire source and heat is also something that should be at the top of the list. You never know what situations you will face and having the ability to create a fire is incredibly important. I keep a lighter and a container of waterproof matches in my pack. They are lightweight and having a backup or redundancy is important.
- Food - Being so close to home, I don’t need to carry a lot of food. In reality, I may not need any food at all but I am preparing for the unknown. It is easy for me to add a few high-calorie protein bars to my get home bag. They are low cost, lightweight, and would provide enough nutrients for me to get home if I needed to take a longer route or wait out a situation.
- Communication - I have put this lower on my list for a few reasons. I always have my cell phone with me. If there is a cell signal, then I will have communication with my loved ones. If I am needing to use my get home bag, then I would guess that there is not going to be a signal. My wife and I have a get-home plan and a backup meeting point. If there are no phones, then we will depend on these plans for finding each other.
- Knife - This almost seems like something I don’t need to mention but a knife has countless uses. I keep a small knife with me all of the time and also keep an additional knife in my get home bag. It is always good to have redundancy.
- Light/Headlamp - Daylight may tie up most of my time at work but during the winter months it is dark before I leave work to go home. I keep a headlamp in my get home bag as it is multi-use and I can wear it if I am running and it keeps my hands free.
- Wet Wipes - Wet Wipes may seem like a bit of a luxury but they are actually great to have for many reasons. Sanitation is important, especially in a survival situation. Wet Wipes are also great for keeping yourself clean and keeping your tools clean as well.
- Shelter/clothing - I put this item at the end of my list because I don’t plan on carrying a shelter. What I will add to my get home bag is additional clothing to make sure I am warm. During the Spring and Summer months, this will be a waterproof jacket. During the Winter months, I will replace the waterproof jacket with a compressed down jacket. Having a beanie and some gloves in the bag year round doesn’t add a lot of weight and may come in handy during Summer nights as well as in Winter conditions.
- Miscellaneous - There a few things that come and go in my get home bag. Some of these include a paracord bracelet on the outside of my bag, a pen, a Sharpie, a notebook, and a small battery pack. I don’t consider any of these a requirement for my bag but they are all lightweight, beneficial, and may come in handy.
What bag do I use?
I don’t think there is necessarily a “right” bag for a get home bag. The bag needs to fit your individual needs. Obviously, I work for 3V Gear and have a choice of any of our bags. They all have their specific uses but for my needs, I chose the Outlaw Gear Slinger. I chose this bag because of its size, its versatility, and quick access. The bag is large enough to hold all of my gear, even if I am carrying a down jacket. At the same time, the compression strap condenses the bag down so everything isn’t flopping around. Plus, with the stabilizer strap, I am able to really synch down the pack. I can run with this pack and it isn’t bouncing around on my back. I also chose this bag in the coyote tan color. Most of my bags and backpacks are black, so I chose coyote tan because I wanted the bag to stand out. As this is the only bag I have in this color, I will be able to recognize it immediately, even if I have other bags or gear in my car.
Let us know what you carry in your get home bag and why you chose the items you did. We may feature you in a future blog article.
Great article, keeps the supplies to a minimum and within reason. Seeing lots of lists lately including the kitchen sink. Only thought on your bag would be a reflective safety vest, few ounces but very visible.
Very well written article and I like the reasons behind carry items. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
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