Building a get home bag is one thing, but if you are wondering how to build a small get home bag, that is something else. It is easy to just pile more and more gear into a bag and call it good, covering all of your bases, but if you actually have to get home – on foot – you have to carry all of that gear. That can be tiring and slow you down!
Alternatively, if you are building a get home bag to store in your car (you may also need to unexpectedly walk), storage space might be tight – particularly if you have a smaller vehicle. A small get home bag would also be useful then. Let’s cover how to build one, what goes in a get home bag, and a few other related things. But first…
What is a Get Home Bag?
A “Get Home Bag” is a bag or tote designed to carry gear necessary to get you back home in case of an emergency.
I have built many get home bags over the years. It has evolved over time and these days it’s more of an EDC/get home bag. I’ll even hike with it. It’s a lot more than just a bag that sits in the vehicle. I use it pretty consistently for everyday items and it’s always being updated.
Mine is a bit smaller than most people’s, I think. I carry necessary gear to get me from point A to point B with little to no stops. I also use it regularly so I’m always replenishing the items inside of it frequently.
Important Things to Consider
We need to have some purpose behind the bags that we make, whether it’s a get home bag or bug out bag. We can’t simply throw gear into it and hope it’ll work. Let’s think of some questions we should ask ourselves before making the bag.
- How far do you work from home? How far do you usually travel for routine errands? Knowing how far you might have to walk in an emergency is a great baseline for determining your bags contents.
- Your physical abilities will determine the weight and supplies you will carry. The length of time it takes you to get to your destination may also be dependent on your physical ability.
Before I had kids, I walked home from work with a small get home bag. It had very little in it except for some very necessary items. I used a handful of items, but the majority of time was simply focusing on getting from point A to point B. I wasn’t stopping to sleep or make food; I was walking to get home.
It was a huge eye opener to what was really ‘needed’. More than anything I noticed my physical ability needed some adjustments.
Of course, I now have kids and I adjust the contents of my get home bag based on my past experience, but also what my kids need.
Why Build a Small Get Home Bag?
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my walk home is that I hardly touched my bag. I had some snacks, I drank some water, I took out my headlamp, I used my phone charger. That was it.
Of course, we’re talking about peacetime, so I really didn’t have anything to worry about. I had all of my gear and was prepared to use it but the gear that I used the most made me realize that if I were put into a position of having to get home as quickly as I could because of an emergency; I’m not messing around.
I’m going to be getting home as quickly as I possibly can, especially if I have my kids with me. I’m not going to compromise their safety, I’m just going to get home.
A small get home bag will be:
- Easier to carry long distances
- Easier to keep in a vehicle without taking up too much
- Easier to handle with kids
- Easy for anyone to grab and go
Sometimes we can’t just think about ourselves in an emergency. What I mean by that is, what if you’re injured? Could someone else that normally travels with you, carry and use that get home bag?
It’s versatile so everyone can take advantage of it at any time.
Plus, sometimes I need to carry my kids, so having a smaller bag is quite helpful.
Get Home Bag Gear
The gear inside of your bag should be deliberate and well organized. You need to be able to find these items quickly. They should be focused to get you through a 24-hour period such as
I put diapers and wipes into one Ziploc. I’ll then put extra clothes into another Ziploc. I know that I can access my external battery and phone cord in the top pocket. I can access my first aid kit in the front zipper pocket, same with my tourniquet. Food is in another Ziploc.
Everything is organized.
If you don’t use the items in your bag regularly, be sure to inventory it at the change of each season. This is especially important with kids because their clothes will most likely need to be changed at least every year, if not more.
Food is another item that should be inventoried regularly.
Get Home Bag Food
What types of food should go into a get home bag? We have some suggestions.
Personally, I think get home bag should be ready to eat. I shouldn’t need to stop and boil water for a freeze dried entree.
Ready to eat foods are especially important with kids. I can hand my child a piece of jerky and she can keep walking.
Same with myself, I’m not interested in stopping to have a quick meal. If I’m having to walk home because of an emergency, I’m not sure I’m going to want to be stopping anywhere for any extended period of time.
Ready-to-eat Items for Get Home Bags
- Cereals (individually packed)
- Fruit, yogurt and vegetable squeeze pouches
- Formula (if applicable)
- Tuna pouches (or the cracker/tuna packages)
- Gold fish and other individually wrapped crackers and snacks
- Granola/protein bars
- Survival tabs
- Gum and/or hard candies
- Small bags of chips
- Trail mix
- Ration bars
- Fruit snacks
Of course, food is subjective. I mentioned formula, but if you don’t have a baby on formula, that wouldn’t apply to you. Take a walk around the grocery store and find ready to eat foods that will work for you and your family.
Get Home Bag Checklist
These are general ideas, not an end-all-be-all. Use this checklist as a source to get ideas.
- Bag – backpack, roller bag, wagon, whatever.
- Footwear and extra socks
- Sillcock key
- Proper Seasonal Clothing
- Defense item
- Pocket Knife
- Fire Starters
- Quality Flashlight or headlamp
- Pocket Weather Radio
- First Aid Kit
- Cook stove
- Mess Kit with Utensils
- Hand Warmers
- Gorilla tape
- Mylar Blankets
- Pen & Paper
- Bandana or a Quality Shemagh
- Map & Compass
- Diapers (if applicable)
- Sunscreen/bug spray
Small Get Home Bag Summary
Take the time to practice carrying your bag over a distance. I take my bag out when we go hiking, it not only helps me examine my needs for me and my kids, but it also helps me generally train with it.
Remember, a “Get Home Bag” is different than your Bug out Bag (BOB). Your BOB will contain more items for survival and is designed to get you to your destination over a period of several days or more.