Prepping 101 – Get Home Bag

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Last Updated on February 14, 2021

There are numerous concepts used in the Prepper 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 almost 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 preppers 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 survival bag with the basic supplies to keep you alive if some disaster happens is difficult. You already know how to pack for a trip right? Take that to its next logical conclusion and any average person could do this with a little thought.

But we humans like things neatly package for us. Frequently some of us want a prepper checklist of items we can go purchase because it’s easier. Actually, it would be better if we could go down to Wal-Mart to 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.

Building your get home bag

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?

If you are forced to make it home on foot after a disaster, a get home bag could save your life.
If you are forced to make it home on foot after a disaster, a get home bag could save your life.

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 several months. I commuted an hour and 10 minutes each way (highway time) for 6 months.

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 really need your GHB, NO method of transportation is available and you are using your LPC’s to transport you back 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 hours (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 ways to the bottom until you see a list of bullet points, 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.

Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack
The multi-functional Jumbo has a quick release buckle and tuck-in flap for immediate access to multiple pockets & dividers, a spacious rear compartment with Hook-&-Loop interior for CCW, a paracord cinch pouch fitted for 32oz/1L water bottle or radio, and a quick-release ergonomic shoulder & waist strap for fluent mobility.

Your mileage may vary.

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.

Preppers usually have a get home bag within reach should they need to make it back home on foot.
Preppers usually have a get home bag within reach should they need to make it back home on foot.

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 everyday 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.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

About Author

Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

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.


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.


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.



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

Duct tape = blister prevention. 😉


soap & toothpaste would also help.


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


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… Read more »


Great comments and suggestions!


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… Read more »


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.



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… Read more »


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… Read more »

PG Wootown

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.

Kyle Williams

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

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.



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… Read more »

Pat Henry

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… Read more »

J'R' Cook

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

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!



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… Read more »


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?


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… Read more »


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

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.



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!


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

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


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

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x