The Get Home Bag—Everyday Carry Items You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

Comments: 33 Post Date: January 4, 2017

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.

4. High-Quality

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.
    5.11 Rush 24 Flat Dark Earth Front Shot

    5.11 Rush 24: The Rush line of backpacks is a go-to for reliability.

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.

Again, choose a pack that is comfortable and the appropriate size for what you need to include in your get home bag.

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.
    Get Home Bag contents on white background

    Choose high-quality supplies for your Get Home Bag.

  • 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.

Category 2: 4 to 8 Hours

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.

P.S. Rather than making costly mistakes when building your survival kits, get help by clicking here

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Comments (33)

  • LILY JAN Reply

    You talk about blending in with the backpack and even mention having a backpack that doesn’t look tactical, yet every one of your suggestions is a tactical backpack that certainly looks tactical. Maybe you should revise that list.

    March 8, 2021 at 02:46
  • AJ Reply

    A bag I’m using is the 5.11 All Hazards Nitro for my GHB as it also doubles as my E&E bag since I tier it with the Rush 72 for my BOB. Yeah for some they might see this setup as either too small or potential awkward to carry. While it may look like that I have it setup that it carries very comfortably over long distances. Tested it a couple years back on a mock bugout over 70 miles. While I haven’t done a mock Get Home yet it probably should be done as I learned much on what I don’t need as with what I could really use. To bounce off of Squibnic with the skateboard, I keep an adult weight rated folding scooter in the back of my car. They work pretty nice as I originally bought it for playing with the kids. As for the gear listed I like what is seen, but something to add might be a ferro rod as these things are near indestructible and work well in wet conditions. There is a slight learning curve but pretty easy to master and an indispensable skill to have. While still on the fire topic, for those that are not good yet building fires, live in extremely wet conditions, etc. having the UST WetFire tinder tabs. These take only a bit of a spark from a ferro rod or touch of flame from a lighter and they are going and burn for a bit of time. They are light weight and fit into small spaces and you don’t need more than 1 or 2 at best. These can be found at most sporting good stores or online. All in all a very good list that covers the key points and gives folks a great starting point to customize for their specific needs!

    July 11, 2020 at 08:40
  • Kevin Boock Reply

    First and foremost, this is a great list! An individual can find a reason to carry every single item listed. There is no question there. I enjoy reading these types of lists but each reader needs to think logically/realistically about their own personality, their own goals, their own skillset, and be realistic about the options that they pack depending on the situation (e.g. assisting others/needing assistance vs avoiding people).

    Most individuals need to heavily consider the type of environment (e.g. desert vs. mountains vs. plains)/season (summer vs. winter)/population density/historical data on crime that they are likely to encounter within a “survival situation.” For example, if an individual were to find themselves mainly in a desert scenario, then water will be key and I would want a majority of my kit to be focused on how to carry as much water as possible (e.g. water bladder, jugs, etc.). If it’s midwest winters, then the exposure to wind/snow will need to be addressed but summer months I’m not worried about death from the cold so my bag will change. If your daily attire is a suit, like in my case, then a change of shoes/pants/shirt/etc. will need to be packed. The considerations go on and on.

    Individuals should keep in mind that there is a balance between the items listed and the likelihood of use, and weight. IMHO the more gear a person has in their kit, the less likely they are to carry the bag everywhere they go, which includes me. If they don’t have the bag when disaster strikes because the bag was inconvenient/heavy, then what is the point of a bag? How is an individual’s ability to “cover ground” impacted by the weight? What are the goals of the individual? Typically, the sooner an individual can get to their safe destination, the higher likelihood they have to the resources that they need to continue to live. Will you be someone that helps others, or is your goal to get back to your family as quickly as possible? There are countless scenarios that someone should consider. Think about different threats: power outage, EMP, terrorist attack, natural disaster/weather, riots/protestors, etc. The bag should have tools that make the most sense based on your own criteria and likelihood of scenarios.

    While food is great for nutrition, morale, energy, etc. My bag is very light on food items. An individual can go a long time without food and my likely goal will be to get home as quickly as possible to protect my family and have access to more resources. Fire is also unlikely for me in an urban environment even though I have a lighter, matches, and tinder packaged. The smell and light from a fire will be a giveaway to my location and I’m more likely to hunker down in a place out of the elements (e.g. car, storage unit, dumpster, etc.). How will I gain access to those locations should also be considered (e.g. pry-bar). Elements, external threats and dress attire are the biggest considerations for my get home bag (Midwest, large urban city).

    One other important consideration would be communication. I would highly encourage readers to think about this. While cell phones are great, they aren’t typically as useful in a disaster situation and we, as a society, have become very dependent on cell phones. Cell phones are not always going to be an option, whether that is caused due to outages or more than likely, so many individuals trying to call loved ones. If anyone has been to a major sporting event or been in a natural disaster, it’s very difficult to get a signal. A HAM radio is something to consider for communications so you can let loved ones know of your plans and communicate critical information. Keep in mind local and federal laws and necessary licensing…which may be a moot point in certain situations.

    Again, great list. Just additional thoughts for the readers.

    May 5, 2020 at 14:44
  • Survival techie Reply

    What type of compass would you suggest, because I currently use those multi-tool ones and it’s not as accurate and useful. Love the list!

    April 26, 2020 at 14:00
    • Roman Zrazhevskiy Reply

      I would recommend a Suunto compass, they are reliable form my experience.

      April 30, 2020 at 14:02
  • Sherry Reply

    Any additional items you’d recommend for someone with a service dog?

    January 6, 2020 at 13:02
    • Roman Zrazhevskiy Reply

      That depends on the reason for a service dog. Putting a backpack on the dog to carry their own weight is a good start. This would include some food, water, a bowl, and a compact first aid kit made for animals.

      January 7, 2020 at 10:55
  • Mary Moore Reply

    This is all great. I have a small child (20 months) do you have any suggestions on what I need to include to get him home safe too?

    May 23, 2019 at 17:18
    • Roman Zrazhevskiy Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Mary. For children, I would recommend setting up a small compression sack just full of their stuff. This would apply better for a Bug Out Bag, but here’s a basic list of what to add…

      Instant formula
      Baby Food
      Bottles for formula
      Refrigerated bottle bag
      Disposable diapers
      Cloth Diapers
      Travel package of tush wipes
      Muslin wrap
      Cotton wrap
      Several small comfort toys
      Gallon sized Ziploc bags
      Bulb nose syringe
      Saline solution
      Diaper rash cream
      Baby powder
      Infant Tylenol/Motrin

      For a Get Home Bag, I would say carry items you would typically find in a daily diaper bag as the GHB is intended for less than 24 hours.

      Hope that helps!

      May 24, 2019 at 10:34
    • Lora Reply

      I know this comment is old but I just wanted to add that I would definitely keep a baby carrier in my car or bag like an Ergo or Tula. That way you can wear baby on your front or back opposite your pack. Also extra clothes for baby and a sun hat.

      August 13, 2020 at 13:15
  • Chuck Haggard Reply

    Stun guns are absolutely worthless. Just sayin.

    May 20, 2019 at 19:00
  • Scott cromwell Reply

    Instead of rain jacket and pants, opt for poncho. It has the ability to cover you and your pack. It also can be used as a tarp shelter if you get stuck overnight.

    April 7, 2019 at 17:39
  • TIM CLARK Reply

    Only thing I don’t have yet us rain gear. Quality rain gear adds a lot of weight.

    December 23, 2018 at 16:26
    • JLS Reply

      Lightweight rain gear…Frog Togs

      January 19, 2019 at 21:42
  • Stephen Reply

    You talk about blending in with the backpack and even mention having a backpack that doesn’t look tactical, yet every one of your suggestions is a tactical backpack that certainly looks tactical. Maybe you should revise that list.

    October 10, 2018 at 17:03
    • Roman Zrazhevskiy Reply

      Good point Stephen, I can see how that can be confusing. In many urban areas, tactical backpacks have become the norm as many people have them, so you could pull off grey man. On the other hand, in some cities it’s not so common (especially overseas), so it’s best to keep it generic. At the end of the day, it all depends on where you live, and the norms of that area. I added some clarifications on that point, thank you for the suggestion.

      October 11, 2018 at 20:18
      • Stephen S. Reply

        You should include the 5.11 COVRT 18, it is both greyman and tactical.

        March 4, 2019 at 15:05
        • Roman Zrazhevskiy Reply

          Haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve been hearing mixed reviews on that bag. Mostly about some durability issues. Do you own it? How has it worked for you?

          March 5, 2019 at 09:20
          • Matt H.

            Can you explain further why you would need a fire starting kit for a 3 hour walk home? I think this would prob just be needed for an 8 hour +? Just curious if Im missing something. Also, Im torn on starting fires in general, especially in or around an urban area. I would think this would attract others including unwanted attention. If you need to boil water why not just carry the 30 pack of MSR tablets to disinfect? Should be more than enough for even an 8 hour walk home.

            November 14, 2019 at 11:36
          • Roman Zrazhevskiy

            Good question, Matt. Here’s how I think of it:

            -The walk home might not be 3 hours if bridges/tunnels go out.
            -Fire is always needed as you may find yourself in a situation where you need to camp outside for the night, and it’s cold.
            -Grey-man isn’t necessary for a get home emergency, in my opinion, so I wouldn’t worry about attracting unwanted attention.
            -Fire can be weaponized if you feel your life is in danger.

            There are other reasons, I’m sure, but that’s what comes to mind. Hope this helps.

            November 14, 2019 at 13:29
    • Michael Reply

      In cities with lots of veterans, everyone has a “tactical” backpack. I see the author’s point. I wear a rush 24 to school because my city has a military base (and I’m a vet). Rush 24 for the win

      November 4, 2018 at 17:38
      • Roman Zrazhevskiy Reply

        Thanks for the comment Michael. I’ve tried lots of backpacks, and the Rush 24 has worked out the best for an EDC/GHB. Plenty of room for all “get home” gear, plus a laptop and other personal items.

        November 8, 2018 at 13:48
  • Grey Man Reply

    Great list. I’m going to get my items first so I can then decide what bag will best suit my needs. The availability of a water proof cover will determine what bag I go with. Again, a great list. There will always be a need for personal customization, but a perfect jumping off point. Thanks

    September 30, 2018 at 19:15
  • harry kane Reply


    July 15, 2018 at 18:10
  • S. B Reply

    Nicely done… The only thing I added in my get home bag that I didn’t find on your list was an extra pair of shoe strings for my walking shoes. My trip home I estimate to be 3 days due to length of commute. (Thirty miles at 10 miles per day, worst-case in snow or ice).

    January 14, 2018 at 19:52
    • Anthony Lemons Reply

      Use paracord for replacement laces.

      September 4, 2018 at 00:04
      • Roman Zrazhevskiy Reply

        Good tip Anthony. Thanks for sharing.

        September 4, 2018 at 10:36
      • Laura Johnstone Reply

        That’s brilliant I’m very new to prepping a edc bag and have purchased the caribee Australia 30L pack equivalent to the 5.11 rush 24 I love my bag and I never really knew what you could do with paracotd that’s a awsome idea as I wear doc martens and my laces rub and break from the eyelets thanks heaps

        May 11, 2020 at 14:42
  • Squibnic Reply

    Among many of the items listed,I also carry and recommend a Yaqui holster, it is compact,lightweight,and can be used with whatever firearm I am carrying, I also keep an old skateboard in my trunk,good transportation option if it’s not snowing,beats walking 12 miles home

    January 14, 2018 at 15:44
  • Rhea Roberts Reply

    Great article. Very well written. Exactly what I was looking for. Keep up the good work!

    November 12, 2017 at 09:43

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