After an EMP Attack – How To Get Home When it’s 700 Miles Away

If an EMP attack happened and you were on the other side of the country, what would you do? From time to time, my work required me to have to go out of town on business just like millions of other people each year. The distance and locations all vary with the need, but in a lot of cases, I am unable to be as equipped as I would normally be around my home town. In some cases, I travel internationally, but that is rare.

Last Updated on November 21, 2020

If an EMP attack happened and you were on the other side of the country, what would you do? From time to time, my work required me to have to go out of town on business just like millions of other people each year. The distance and locations all vary with the need, but in a lot of cases, I am unable to be as equipped as I would normally be around my home town. In some cases, I travel internationally, but that is rare.

Sometimes I only travel an hour or two by car so I opt to drive. In this type of situation, I can take my Get Home Bag and usually a firearm (or two) with me. Most often it is several hundred miles away from home and to cities where firearms are not allowed. On business trips, it is harder to pack your survival supplies in sufficient quantities to last if some disaster happened and you needed to get home.

I started to consider what a person would need to think about and could possibly face if they were in a situation where an EMP attack, delivered by a warhead exploded over the US, total chaos ensued and you were forced to make it back home over a considerable difference.

In my scenario, the distance would be about 700 miles and the assumption with an EMP attack would be that there were not many electrical devices working. All cellular communications would be down as well as landlines were out of commission. TV and Radio networks had been taken offline even if some of the TV sets and radios themselves still worked. I don’t imagine every single electronic device in the world would go out forever, but it would be enough to create massive confusion, fear, and panic.

In addition to communication and access to news all access to money was cut off. Banks would slam shut and a bank holiday would be declared. Hospitals would quickly fill with the sick and injured and you would be on your own. How would you get back home and what would you need to consider if your home was 700 miles away and you had no survival supplies and no way to procure them.

Plan for an EMP attack before you travel

The average, healthy person on level terrain can comfortably walk about 20 miles in a day. In our scenario above, with no issues whatsoever, it would take you about 35 days to walk back home if you didn’t stop anywhere to take pictures. That is a very long time to be walking. There are a myriad of issues to consider in even starting a challenge like that.

Most backcountry hikers, who have plenty of gear and some expectation they are going to be roughing it, rarely set out on trips that long. Even backpackers, who hike the Appalachian Trail stop into towns, eat hot meals and pick up packages of goods they have stored along the way.  How will you with minimal supplies even begin to hope to make it home alive? There are some items that I think you would need to have squared away in your mind first.

  • Should you stay in place or set out on foot?
  • What gear will you need?
  • How will you eat?
  • What route will you take?
An EMP attack could leave major metropolitan regions without power for weeks or years.
An EMP attack could leave major metropolitan regions without power for weeks or years.

Should you stay or should you go after an EMP attack?

This will be the first mental challenge that you will be faced with and could determine if you will live or die. In all seriousness, the plans you make and more importantly your actions affect the situations down-line that you find yourself in.

We have all probably heard stories about travelers who had a “gut-feeling” that they shouldn’t get on a plane and the plane ended up crashing. Similarly, your “gut” is going to be screaming at you in a disaster. It is the well-known fight or flight response and you will need to figure out for yourself what you will be capable of doing mentally and physically before you set out on an expedition.

Hiking for over a month is a very monumental task that not a lot of people (including me) have any experience with. In days long past, a travel plan like this wasn’t so far out of the norm. We haven’t always had cars, trains and wagons to get us around and people walked. This is certainly doable, but for a lot of very good reasons, people didn’t live as long back then. Journeys of this scale take time, planning and skills.

Deciding whether or not you would even consider a trek like this is something you can do now. I know that I personally would try to make it back home to my family.  I don’t know if I would make it, but I would be on the road somewhere. In my situation above, I would stick around a couple of days most likely to procure supplies, get any information I could, plan and prepare.

I think that a couple of days after an EMP attack everyone will be in shock, but that won’t last long. Eventually, people will panic and that is when you don’t want to be around. My wife already knows that if something like this happens, I am headed home but it might take me a while.

What are the chances of an EMP attack?

An EMP attack would be devastating to our entire way of life. If you stop for a second and think of just how many systems rely on electricity. From fuel pumps, to vehicles, to shipping and unloading machinery to refrigeration. Loss of electricity for a prolonged time could kill millions.

EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of
catastrophic consequences. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of
sight to the nuclear weapon. It has the capability to produce significant damage to critical
infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of US society, as well as to the ability of the
United States and Western nations to project influence and military power. – The EMP Commission

What gear will you need?

As I said in the introduction, if I am driving anywhere, I pack a lot of supplies that would help me get back home in a disaster scenario like this. If you weren’t able to  pack your Get Home Bag or any firearms, what would you do?

It helps to consider the journey back home and the different factors that you will encounter. Is this winter or summer? Will you have extreme temperature that needs to be planned for. What will you use for shelter? Security?

A good exercise if you find yourself in a scenario like this is to take stock of what you have. Empty your pockets of everything and conduct a simple inventory. When I travel, regardless of where I go I always have a bandanna, flashlight, multi-tool, and small hank of paracord. This is part of my everyday carry.

These items can really come in handy, but they wouldn’t be the only things I would count on to get me back home over 700 miles away. Depending on the season, I would try to acquire additional clothing if I needed it, but usually, I pack appropriate clothes for wherever I am going. What I don’t normally pack are clothes designed for living out in the woods for a month. Some modifications might have to happen.

A simple tarp and rope/bungie cords will provide shelter for you and will keep the elements off your head while you sleep. A big sheet of plastic would do the same. Is it the same as a nice backpacking tent? No, but it works and is lighter and speaking of lighter… You need an easy way to start a fire also.

Depending on the time of year the EMP attack happens could affect your get home plans.
Try to fit everything I needed into a standard size backpack that most everyone has. This way you will look just like everyone else headed home.

Great walking shoes that are already broken in would be a huge advantage. Actually, I think sturdy leather boots would be the perfect choice, but some people might have to hike back in dress shoes. If possible, I would look for boots as quickly as you can after deciding you are walking.

For security, you have to take what you can get if the grid crashes like this. At a minimum I would find a large stick or pole. Baseball bat would be my second choice but may be harder to find than a good old wooden stick. This needs to be sturdy enough to use as a walking stick or club to crack someone’s head open with if necessary. Additionally, it can be used to support your tent.

Money could either be worthless or crucial to you getting supplies in an EMP event. If you have your head screwed on tightly and have cash on hand, you may be able to run down to the sporting goods store and buy some needed supplies before you make your trip. When I travel I always try to have cash in my wallet. It isn’t enough to buy out the store, but could get me some crucial supplies.

I would caution you though to try and maintain a low profile. If you are all set up for a big backpacking expedition with the latest bag, gear and clothes you may be a target. Someone might want what you have (because they can’t get it) and try to take it from you. It’s better to keep a low profile and low weight will help the trip too.

I would try to fit everything I needed into a standard size backpack that most everyone has. This way you will look just like everyone else headed home.

How will you eat?

This will probably be the toughest part about a journey like this in my opinion. I think most people can walk long distances. Most people will be able to carry or find some relatively decent source of water, but most people won’t be able to find food. What do you do?

There is no way you could ever pack enough food to last you your entire journey. You more than likely won’t be able to set up traps like Bear Grylls and catch rabbits or fish from a stream with your pocket survival kit, but I could be wrong. I think a lot of people are going to be going several days at a time without food. Could you hole up somewhere and catch wild game? Of course you could and I am not knocking those skills. What I am going to try to do though is to get home as quickly as possible.

This may be where timing comes into play. Food from grocery stores will be wiped out in days. You could be one of the early birds and grab enough food to last you a week or so and set out. After that week, you will need to find food along the way. Will people have any to sell you or will there be some form of bartering set up already? I don’t know, but I think the sooner you can get home the better. As the realization that the power isn’t coming back on hits, people will be stingier with their food I imagine. The old rule is you can go 3 weeks without food but I don’t want to try and put that to the test.

What route will you take?

The final item to consider is how will you get back home. What route are you going to take to get there and this is where having maps will be invaluable for a couple of reasons. First, you want to plan your route and make sure you know which way you are going. I have on more than one occasion gone the wrong way and had to turn around and backtrack. Its easy to do this for twenty miles in a car, but if you are walking and realize you took a wrong turn, that could waste a day.

The second reason is I would use secondary roads as much as possible and not highways. I would also try to steer clear of major cities in my path. A highway is faster if you are traveling 70 miles an hour, but it might not be the most direct route you can take. Maps that show the secondary roads to your home will be good to have. Some may even be able to help you determine good places to stay. I would personally camp outside of cities and avoid people as much as possible, but I would want the flexibility to change that plan if needed. Everyone’s circumstances will be unique.

Hopefully, this was useful and gave you something to think about as you plan for your next trip. Please let me know if you have other suggestions in the comments below.

  1. One good resource for those trying to get back home is the Emergency Kit Backpack offered by Food Insurance. I believe you have recommended them in the past. This smaller emergency kit weighs in at only 22 pounds and has most of what you’d need, including rations for 2 weeks, at 3 meals per day. In a true emergency you could stretch that by cutting back to 2 meals and add almost another full week. It’s a great value, and at around $250 it’s within the budget of most people.
    If you go to any sporting goods shop you can pick up a small two man pup tent or small dome tent that collapses into a nylon package that can be added to the backpack with minimal additional weight.

    1. Thanks for the comments Larry!

      Yes, that kit (or any kit really) would be a great advantage if you have them with you and you are away from home.


      1. I have been thinking about the same scenario. I too work frequently 600 miles from home. But almost always it is in the city where the home office is located. Usually there are two or three of us traveling together.

        Most of the time I fly which leaves me defenseless in case of an EMP. Oh sure, you can pack your hiking shoes, sturdy outdoor clothes, cash, etc. with you. But you’re still SOL as far as I’m concerned. No weapons, not even a stinking pocket knife! I carry a backpack for laptop and work papers. All that I would dump out and leave behind. Most of my clothes I’d leave in my roll around suitcase and I’d drag it as long as the wheels would hold out. I have my suspicions that it wouldn’t make 100 miles before the wheels wore off.

        If I was at the office which is walking distance from the hotel I would just have to hike down 10 floors to ground level. But the hotel uses electronic card keys and w/o some power I’m not sure I could even access my room . Maybe a sledge hammer or pry bar but I doubt the bellhop has either.

        This has got me to thinking. Hiking 600 miles ain’t gonna happen. I’m too old and being on foot on the high plains is a bad idea no matter the season.

        So here’s my idea to get us home in one piece. I know quite a few people at the home office including a pretty good friend who has a small farm 30 miles or so from town. I think I can persuade him to let me park a pre-computerized ignition car or pickup on his place. I’m leaning toward a car so I can pack the trunk with supplies in hard sided suitcases so no mice can get in. Have it ready with a full tank and enough gas stored in jerry cans to make the 600 miles home.

        A 30 mile walk to my buddy’s house is do-able. 600 miles is not.
        I know there are details to be worked out but it’s all very reasonable.

        1. Thank you for the comments and great suggestions Bob!

          I agree, if you can pre-position some transportation and possibly enough gas for a couple of tank fulls (assuming the roads were passable) you would have a huge advantage. That being said, you could have a later model vehicle too as long as you take the additional step of disabling your starter and ignition and store those in a Faraday cage in the trunk. It might take a little longer and maybe some busted knuckles to get going but there are more options. I don’t really have that option, but it sounds like you have a great plan already.

          You have the extra advantage of being able to store energy bars, a few MRE’s, medical kit and some water as well.

          Worse for me is an upcoming international trip. That it gonna take a lot more thought. 🙂


        2. I think driving would end up being the death of you. First off, the roads would be impassable due to the number of dead vehicles. Secondly, you would be a HUGE target for anyone or a gang because you would most likely be the only thing moving, so it’s going to draw lots of attention and be very noisy in a quiet new world, which is the last thing you are going to want at a time like this when everyone is panicking. As bad as it would suck, and I mean royally SUCK, hiking is going to be your best option.

  2. I have a lot of experience in Mountaineering and may be able to make a few suggestions…

    First, learn Naismith’s Rule, a person can walk 3 miles an hour on a flat surface. Off trail closer to 2.5 and you need to add 1 hour for every 1000 feet of elevation. Second, Naismith was an optimist! The point is it’s often better to stay on a road that winds than to go off trail. As I recall, it takes as much energy to move up 1 foot as it does to walk 10 steps on a flat road.

    As far as food is concerned, the rule is “Eat S**t to stay fit.” The point being you’re burning thousands of calories when you are hiking. I’ve seen guys survive on gummy bears and butter so concentrated calories are great and Beef/Turkey/Buffalo Jerkey will give you all the protein you need. Don’t schedule meals, graze through the day, it keeps your energy constant and helps your body to burn off your fat reserves.

    Boots/Shoes are probably your most important bit of equipment. Something that wraps the ankle and has Vibram soles will protect your feet and ankles. It’s hard to walk with a broken ankle (BTW, sports tape wrapped down your leg, around your heel and back up the other side for about 10 strands then wrapped around the leg and ankle will allow you to walk on a broken ankle) but if you can’t travel with these, get water shoes. They’re light and have a good sole that can cover some distance (get them at least 1 size too big).

    Even if you can’t navigate, a compass will make sure you stay moving in the correct general direction. Even mountaineers can get lost at night.

    I hope that helps

    1. Thanks for your comments Posthole! I completely agree on the boots. Flying in them isn’t as simple as slip-ons but they will be worth their weight in gold if you have to hike a long distance.


  3. Gosh, I guess that EMP is my biggest SHTF worry…..I am 70 years old and can’t see myself traveling more that 200-300 miles on foot, especially if a lot of other people, some (or most..)younger and stronger than I am are trying to do the same.
    As far as what gear to have with me, it would have to be minimal,as I am sure there would be many opportunities for, again, those younger,stronger,and quicker to take it away from me…my strategy there is to wear a long coat with inside pockets and keep a low profile…..I would DEFINITELY carry a big stick though!
    I drive twice a year between Maine and Florida and so if EMP struck while I was on that trip I think my best bet would to make it to the coast and “find” a boat to take me home (Maine).I have been a boater all my life but know that idea is not for everyone.
    I don’t fly any more out of concern over EMP as if it came about then I really think ALL of those on planes would have had it for sure.
    Short of Atomic attack I can’t think of any other situation that would occur that would keep me from using my car to get home…..

  4. Consider a bicycle to get home. With panniers and a handlebar bag, They can carry lots of supplies. 45-75 miles a day is possible with a load on the flats if your in shape. Less uphill, more downhill.

    1. Thanks for the comments Steve,

      I agree a bike makes a great option if you have one with you. They are a little hard to travel with though unless you are driving but you are right, they would make the journey back home much better.


  5. LOL was just discussing a 700 mile walk about my husband that drives truck, googled how long a 700 mile walking trip would take and was pleasantly surprised.

  6. This is all fun speculating but an EMP attack is NOT going to happen. Sorry it’s Sci Fi. LOL.

    It just makes you all look like a bunch of conspiracy theorists which will only fuel the media and make the government want to open up the FEMA camps to put those of us who resist the NWO.

    The NWO will NOT let an EMP happen because it will backfire on them and they won’t be able to control us.

    1. You are clueless if you believe it cannot happen. The best way to cripple a technologically superior country and not have to physically invade it is to use an EMP device. No destruction of buildings and you can then take it over after 75% of its inhabitants have died. An ideal weapon for the likes of Iran or N Korea to use on us. NOW do still feel the same way?

      1. Did you forget the fact that an EMP doesn’t have to come from a weapon? Ever heard of solar flares from the sun? All it would take is a massive flare and…boom, out go the lights.

  7. I would recommend 30 food pouches in a ruck sack, high calorie emergency pouches,
    Also if you break it down you still have room in a ruck sack for other things, I am an otr truck driver and I am regularly 700 miles away from home, I am also an owner operator and own my truck so if u company drive this might not be as much of an option as it is to me, my get home bag has 30 high calorie meals 1 gallon of water, consolidated into 20 ounce bottles, fire starter, a small fire log, a utility shovel my go to knife and my combat knife , extra pairs of socks, 7 15 rd 9mm mags, and a box of 100 more rounds, i conceal carry a Taurus pt 92
    I have the permit for it, know blue jeans and a t-shirt are not ideal for this, so I keep brown light weight bdu pants two pairs and
    Light weight brown or green T-shirts, you can’t carry more than that so when you get to standing water it’s best to hand wash them out and let them dry, I also have a few personal hygiene items also like monkey butt powder and tooth brush. I would recommend sleeping during they day and traveling at night, no flash lights.

  8. My back pack is a military ruck sack capable of holding 80 pounds, I am a bigger guy 30 yrs old and I train a lot, I also am a combat vet, so I know a little, I know the routes I drive very well as I am gone 700 miles plus everyday, I know that water is easy to come buy on my route and is usually a day of walking away from each other on my route sometimes a litter closer or farther, so I have a camel back and water purification kit bc getting water will be easier than finding food, so I opted for 30 days of meals on my ruck. My other comment covers mostly everything I have, remember travel at night, use noise an light discipline and other people at all costs,
    When u take a trip but a map of the corridor of your egress and note bodies of standing water of rivers. Now train train train, people say they don’t have time, you won’t have time I you don’t make time, bc when your life depends on it your physical condition is going to be your weakest link, wake up early, run 30 mins a day, push ups sit ups and move your body throughout it’s whole range of motion, I drive a truck and I make time to do this.

    1. Good advice too Michael,

      One of my upcoming posts will be on physical fitness. As a nation that is one of our weak points and could really impact you if as you describe hiking long distances is what you have to do in order to get back home.


  9. I have also thought about this because I too drive a truck long haul and I finally came to the conclusion that it’s waste to carry a bunch of additional stuff with me other than what I already carry from week to week.

    If you think about it, on your journey back home you are going to come across everything you need because after an EMP people are going to start dropping like fles. People that are dependent on medical devices, medicine and insulin, and people that will just plain panic and commit suicide. There will also be those that just haul ass as soon as they figure it out and leave everything behind to get to loved ones – maybe they make it, maybe they don’t. Anyway, their stuff becomes your stuff; that’s just the way it is. Keep in mind, it would be a new world and would quickly become survival of the fittest. In other words, if you choose this time to still be a good person and have a conscience while trying to get home to your family you are either going to die trying to get there, or they are going to die waiting for you to dummy up and do what needs to be done to get to them.

    I just think there would be lots of opportunity to stock up on everything that you would need, including firearms and ammunition to get you wherever you are trying to get to assuming you didn’t wait until everyone went from panic mode to scavenge mode.

    It would also be a good idea to have your family back home follow a pre-determined plan and stick with it while waiting for your return. And to also give you a set amount of time to make it back home before counting you as part of the recently departed. After that time, they should have their own plan, or trek out with other people if they have a chance. No sense in them waiting around like sitting ducks and becoming a target in what would surely become a very dog-eat-dog world. It sucks to think of it that way, but that’s just the reality of it.

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