The bug out bag might be one of the most talked about bags in the prepper community, but the get home bag (a.k.a. EDC bag) just might be the bag you are most likely to use in a crisis situation.
The get home bag is precisely what its name implies, a bag that is filled with the items you will need to get you from wherever you are when disaster strikes to the safety of your home.
If you work or go to school outside of your home—and you probably do—then this bag is essential for your safety and survival. You will build your get home bag tailored to your specific needs, but before we get into what it takes to build your EDC bag list, here are some general tips.
7 Things You Need to Know about a Get Home Bag
1. Not Just for TEOTWAWKI
A get home bag is not strictly for “the end of the world as we know it” events. Even a severe winter storm, hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster can warrant the need for a get home bag.
This is a bag that will ensure you have what you need while you make your way home when you have to go on foot or even ensure you are more comfortable if you have to stay the night somewhere.
2. Blend In
Your get home bag should not stand out like a sore thumb (think grey man). Whenever you are carrying it, the backpack should blend in with the environment because you don’t want to draw attention to yourself or what you are carrying. If you’re in an urban area where tactical backpacks have become common, then it’s okay to go tactical. But, in some cities it’s not so common (especially overseas), so make the call based on where you’ll be spending most of your time.
3. Distance to Travel
The size and contents of your get home bag will depend on how far you are from home. If you work 3 miles from home, you won’t need as substantial a get home bag as if you work 15 miles from home. We’ll talk about this in more detail later on.
Everything to do with your kit should be of the highest quality you can afford, from the bag itself to the get home bag contents. These supplies are meant to keep you alive and safe and that is not to be taken lightly.
5. One for Everyone
Make sure you have an appropriate-sized get home bag for every member of your family. Ensure they know how to use everything in the bag and that they know how to make their way home in any type of situation.
6. Keep It Close
Always keep your get home bag as close to you as you are able. If you can take it into the workplace with you and keep it at your desk or work station, that is ideal. At the very least, keep it stored in your vehicle.
7. Mode of Travel
Hopefully you will be able to make it to your vehicle and drive home, even if you have to detour, but that isn’t always possible. For this reason, design your get home bag with the assumption you will have to walk.
Best Options for the Bag
First you need to choose a bag in which to pack what you need to help you get home. The ideal bag is a good, sturdy backpack that offers waterproof protection for the contents and is comfortable and easy to carry.
The bag you choose will depend on the following:
- The size you need: You can stick with a smaller bag if you work or go to school closer to home, but the further away you are, the larger the bag will need to be.
- Your body size and weight: When choosing a backpack, make sure you choose one that fits the length of your torso, has straps that will help distribute the weight, and is comfortable for you.
- Type of bag you prefer: While most people consider a backpack to be the most suitable bag, some people prefer to use another type of bag as their get home bag. Other options include a duffle bag, computer case, briefcase, sling pack, messenger bag, large purse, and fanny pack.
- Subtlety: Again, you want to blend in, not stand out. For this reason, ensure your bag fits in with the norms of your area, is not bright in color, is not expensive, and is not so big it draws attention.
With the above in mind, here are some options for backpacks. Of course, these are just a few of the choices available, but it will give you something to start with.
- Rush 24 Tactical Backpack – 5.11 Tactical
- Rush 12 EDC Backpack – 5.11 Tactical
- Moab 10 Sling Backpack – 5.11 Tactical
- Push Pack Everyday Carry Bag – 5.11 Tactical
EDC Bag List – Supplies You’ll Need
No matter how close you are to your home on a daily basis, there is a minimum of food, water, and supplies you will have in your get home bag. These contents will form the basis of your get home bag and you will add onto that if you have a greater distance to travel.
For this reason, we have split the contents of the get home bag into three categories, based on the amount of time it would take you to walk home. The first category includes the basic supplies you will need and the other two categories will build on that.
Category 1: Up to 3 Hours
These are the food, water, and supplies you will need when you can walk home within three hours. This is the smallest and easiest get home bag to assemble and carry. This bag should include the following:
- 1 liter of water: It is best to carry your water in a stainless steel water bottle. If for any reason you use up that water, you can get more and boil it for purification right in the bottle.
- Food: Keep it light and simple. Include some snack bars, trail mix, or any other food that is highly nutritious, calorie-packed, and easy to carry. You don’t need whole meals, just something to keep you going during your walk.
- Firestarter: Carry three lighters and/or waterproof matches at the very least. Ideally, you will also include a good fire-starting kit.
- Tinder: Some dryer lint or commercial fire-starter is important when you need to start a fire, especially in wet conditions.
- Folding knife: A knife is a given for any type of bag you are making. It has many uses and is a must. Ensure it is good quality.
- Multi-tool: A good, sturdy multi-tool will provide you with a saw, knife, screwdriver, pliers, and a number of other useful tools that can help you along the way.
- Flashlight: Make sure this is a high-quality, small LED flashlight. Alternatively, you can use a headlamp.
- First aid kit: A basic first aid kit is all you need, but be sure that you also have an Israeli bandage and blood clotting agent in case you end up with a significant wound.
- Cash: Make sure you have some cash on hand in case you have the need and opportunity to purchase something. At least some of this cash should be in the form of coins that you can use in vending machines.
- Radio: Keep a small emergency radio in your get home bag, ideally one that is solar-powered or hand-crank-powered.
- Rain gear: You must be prepared for rain. The last thing you want to do is have to make it home in less than ideal conditions while you are wet to the bone. Good rain gear will keep you dry, which will help keep you warm and avoid hypothermia.
- Good footwear: Have some good hiking boots or another sturdy type of footwear. You don’t want to get caught with nothing but dress shoes or high heels.
- Gloves: These can keep your hands warm and protect them from anything you might have to do with your hands.
- Hat: Good weather protection, rain or shine.
- Sunglasses: These offer good sun protection
- Sunscreen: Sun protection is important. You will be outside for enough time to get burned.
- Insect repellent: Depending on the time of year and your geographic location, this can be a life-saver. Well, at least a sanity-saver.
- Bandana: This item has so many uses that you should never be without one. You can use it as a water filter, a sling, a dust mask, and more.
- Duct tape: Enough said.
- Paracord: Again, multiple uses. A must-have in any situation.
- 4-way sillcock key: This will allow you to open most valves located outside commercial buildings, providing you access to clean water.
- Mask: You should pack at least one p100 mask, which is ideal if there is a biological threat.
- Map and compass: Keep a map of the area with all possible routes you can take clearly marked on the map. A compass is good to have, in case you need navigational help.
- All-weather pen and notepad: It never hurts to be able to take notes or leave messages.
- Self-defense: It is important that you have a concealed-carry weapon and enough ammo. Just be mindful about concealed carry laws and do what you can. If you cannot carry a gun, then carry another type of self-defense weapon, such as a stun gun or pepper spray.
In addition to the items in the Category 1 get home bag, you will need the following:
- Extra food and water: Include additional energy bars, trail mix, or other survival rations.
- Extra clothing: This includes warm socks and a good base layer of clothing that will help keep you warm and dry. If there is a chance of cold weather, make sure you have wool or a wool blend.
- Warm hat: If there is a possibility of being out at night or when it is cold, you will want a wool or fleece hat to help you stay warm.
- Extra batteries: For your flashlight and any other equipment you need to power.
- Blanket: Get a good wool blanket or even a bivvy sack in case you need to hunker down or need some rest time. At the very least, you will need an emergency blanket.
- Poncho: This, or a tarp, will help keep you and your pack dry and can double as shelter if needed.
- Medication: If you take medication, it is wise to have some in your get home bag.
- Garbage bags: These are lightweight and compact and have many uses, including having something dry to sit on.
- Water purification: Include a good water filter and some water purification tablets.
- Toilet paper: If you are walking for such a long time, you’re going to need to potty. Toilet paper is comforting to have in these situations.
- Personal hygiene kit: You can include hand-sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, or anything else you think you will need.
Category 3: More than 8 Hours
In addition to the items in the Category 1 and 2 get home bags, you will need the following:
- Extra food and water: Consider adding in an MRE along with your food bars, and carry 2-3 liters of water.
- Large knife: This is good to have on hand if you need to cut firewood, clear brush, or run into other tasks that require a good, strong blade.
- Enhanced first aid kit: Add additional items, such as tourniquet, mole skin, Potassium Iodide tablets, and Sam splint.
- Sleeping bag: Make sure to choose this based on your climate and the time of year.
- Walking stick: This is good to have to take the pressure off your knees when walking. It has other uses, as well, such as self-defense or to combine with a tarp to make a shelter.
- Extra ammo: If you are carrying a weapon, then an extra magazine is useful.
Packing Your Get Home Bag
Finally, make sure you pack your get home bag in such a way as you make it easier and less bulky to carry. Put heavier, less-frequently used items to the bottom of the pack and lighter, more-frequently used items near the top. This will help distribute the weight better, particularly if you need a larger get home bag.
You might be in a situation in which you cannot carry a get home bag due to physical or job limitations. If so, then your next best option is to carry EDC gear.
Ultimately, your get home bag will be enough to keep you alive and safe as you make your way home. Once there, you can decide how to best handle the situation at hand to keep you and your family safe.
Anything that you think we missed that’s in your get home bag? Let us know in the comments below.
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