Assembling a Get Home Bag, often called a Bug Out Bag, a Get Out Of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) Bag, or just a backpack survival kit, is often one of the first things a new prepper does as part of their journey through preparedness. However, I deliberately waited to present this lesson until some of the other basics had been addressed. My reason for this is you are more likely to need your supplies at home than you are when out and about.
With that said though, a Get Home Bag is a vital component of your plan and it is time to put one together if you’ve not already done so.
The first step is not, as some may think, to purchase a backpack. Instead, you want to work in reverse. First, get together what you feel you should have in a Get Home Bag, then find a suitable pack for the contents. Otherwise, you run the risk of either buying a pack that is too large, which them psychologically compels you to fill it, or buying one too small to carry what you truly need.
A Get Home Bag has basically one purpose, to get you from Point A to a safe location, on foot if need be, by providing for your basic needs. These needs include water, food, first aid, and shelter/warmth. Most experts suggest having enough supplies to last you three days or so.
Water is one of the most important needs to be met. However, water is heavy and difficult to transport in any large quantities. A reasonably fit person can probably carry two liters of water without too much trouble. It is best to split this into two bottles. First, this allows you to balance the load and second, should you come across a source of water you will want and probably need to refill your supply. Having two bottles, you can treat “new” water in one bottle while still drinking from the second. This begs the question of how to best treat found water. A supply of water purification tablets will suffice in most cases. There are also water bottles available with built in filtration you may consider. Berkey does make a small, portable water filter that while pricey cannot be beat for quality.
Next up is food. For your Get Home Bag, stick to things that require little to no preparation before consuming. Being that you cannot predict the circumstances in which you’ll need to rely on your kit, it is best to not plan for being able to cook much of anything. Remember, this is one time where you want to bulk up on calories, forget the diet. Calories are what fuels the body. Some suggested food items for your kit would be crackers with peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, hard candy, and protein bars. Some people like to store MREs but I find them to be too bulky for most folks. The idea here isn’t to put together a three course meal but just to stay alive.
Your first aid kit should be extensive without being too large to handle comfortably. Think about the most common reasons why you’d need a first aid kit while bugging out. Scrapes, bruises, stomach upset, strains/sprains, slivers, blisters. In your first aid kit, you’ll want to have plenty of supplies to deal with those sorts of things. Adhesive bandages, pain relievers, antibiotic ointment, gauze, elastic wrap, tweezers, alcohol swabs. Don’t forget over the counter remedies for nausea and diarrhea. Things will be bad enough if you’re having to find your way home on foot, let alone dealing with a case of the trots.
Warmth and shelter are very important needs to be met. Hypothermia can kill and it will sneak up on you. Be proactive on that front. Carry a few space blankets. They will help you retain body heat as well as ward off the elements. A wool cap will keep you warm even while wet. Gloves are essential during the colder months. Put together a fire making kit as well. Butane lighters, strike anywhere matches, and ready-to-use tinder like dryer lint. Keep those things in a sealed plastic bag to keep them from getting wet. Hopefully you won’t have to spend more than a night or two out in the field but even a single night can be a trial without a campfire.
There are several other odds and ends to include in your Get Home Bag.
–Sunglasses and a wide brim hat.
–Toilet paper (take out the cardboard tube and crush the roll flat).
–Paracord. Many uses, from helping build an expedient shelter to lashing items to your pack.
–Flashlight, headlamp. Having both is ideal. Don’t forget extra batteries.
–Small portable radio. Depending on the nature of the emergency, it will probably be beneficial to be able to gather news on the situation.
–Bandana. Several uses from a sweat rag to tourniquet.
–Extra socks and underwear. Both for comfort and hygiene.
–Empty, extra ziplock plastic bags. Many uses.
–Compass and maps of your area.
–Cash and coins. Again, you have no way of knowing exactly what the crisis may be that results in you having to rely upon your Get Home Bag. Could be you’ll come across a working vending machine or pay phone. You may also have need to pay for transportation if that becomes an option.
–Self-defense weapon(s). If you’re on foot during a disaster, there is a significant chance someone may try to take what you have.
Now, how to carry all of it? A backpack is the most efficient method, in most cases. Find one that is both comfortable and durable. This is one instance where you probably don’t want to just stuff everything into a pack you found during the Back To School sale at Walmart. Instead, you want something with a frame to help balance the load across your hips and back. Load everything into your pack and walk around with it for a while. Get used to the weight as well as how it sits on your body. Make adjustments as necessary. A far second would be a duffel bag. While better than nothing, they will cause you to walk unbalanced, increasing the chance of a stumble. I know a few people who use wheeled luggage, like the small suitcases you might use as an inflight carry on. Personally, I’m not sold on those as they aren’t meant to be used on rough terrain and if you have to carry them, they are pretty darn heavy.
Your assignments this week:
1) Put together a Get Home Bag for each member of your family. Use the above as a guide, not set in stone instructions. Each bag will be unique and should be tailored to the user.
2) If you already have these set up for your family, use this week to go through each bag thoroughly. Check the contents to make sure nothing is expired.
Have a great week everyone!