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The Get Home Bag and its Contents

get home bag contentsYou’re driving home from work one day, and BANG, it goes down. The Shiz has hit the fan. Your car is out of commission and like most commuters, you’ve got a good distance to go to make it home. You quickly check your Get Home Bag, strap it on and start moving!

What separates you from everyone else stuck on that stretch of road? The contents of your GHB (Get Home Bag) and a few items from your Automobile EDC Supplies is what separates you from them!

The Get Home Bag and its Contents

First let’s figure out what constitutes a Get Home Bag.

I like to think of a Get Home Bag as a backpack, filled with enough tools and supplies to get me home. We may not have to hike a thousand miles, but some of us might end up on foot for more than 40 miles.


You don’t have to use a backpack, but I want something I can strap on and go!

You’ll probably want to avoid anything expensive,  fancy or tactical. I used an old computer backpack. You’ll want a backpack that looks very similar to what the other commuters would carry.

You don’t want the other stranded motorists to think that you may have anything that they don’t. People get real sketchy in life or death situations. See our Post: Covert Prepper Backpack

Get Home Bag Contents:

The contents of your Get Home Bag should contain these types of items:

  • Extra Medications / Fever reducers
  • Flashlight or Headlamp (have extra batteries)
  • Sensible Walking or Hiking Shoes – If you wear heels or dress shoes to work, keep a comfortable pair of sneakers or walking shoes in your car.
  • Knife. We’re talking about a survival knife. One that can baton wood, cut cord, skin game, and do all the things a good, rugged, outdoorsy knife can do. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be decent. This is exactly why I have a Cold Steel Bushman knife. $15 for a pretty tough knife. We did a couple posts on knives: Budget survival Knife: Cold Steel Bushman knifeBecker BK2 Companion Survival Knife, and the recent Bushcraft Buyers Guide.
  • FireFiresteel, waterproof matches or a bunch of Bic Lighters, just have some way to make fire.
  • Military Rain poncho – This can act as your rain gear and your shelter tarp, or in a pinch you add a poncho liner or jungle blanket and you’ve got a weather-resistant sleep system. That’s right multi-use gear, 3 birds with one stone (I know I just blew your mind). If you can’t envision how a poncho becomes a shelter here are a few links to help you out: 9 Military Poncho Survival Shelter Configurations and Poncho and Tarp Shelters
  • Rope / Cordage – pick up at least 100 feet of 550 paracord. You’ll need it to rig your poncho into a shelter and you’ll probably need it for a bunch of other things.
  • Duct Tape – I just take an old plastic card (library, shoppers rewards, etc) and wrap a decent amount of duct tape around it. I don’t want to carry a huge 8 inch thick roll of duct tape, but I want some, so I make sure to have about 1/2 inch thick roll of ductape, conveniently off the roll and around the flat card. This will fit easily in our GHB.
  • Multitool
  • Backpack first aid kit – You can buy one or make your own.
  • Bandana or Shemagh – Head covering, sling, sediment water filter (will not purify water) and a trillion other uses. Trust me, these are awesome to have.
  • Hat – Keep sun off head, if winter have a stocking cap (WOOL).
  • Compass (or GPS) and MAPS! – Get the Delorme atlas for your state and keep one in your car.
  • Sun Screen
  • Insect Repellent
  • Food and Snacks
  • Water / Water purification tabs or Water filter
  • Stainless Steel water bottle – This can save you from buying the $4 bottled water on road trips and can be used to carry and boil water if you find yourself stranded far from home! If you don’t go stainless steel, you still need a way to carry water so consider a Nalgene bottle or a Collapsible water bottle, if space is tight.
  • Toilet Paper – Walking a long distance sucks, and you will have nature call.
  • Sunglasses – to protect eyes from sun and debris (goggles might even be good).
  • Work or utility gloves
  • Wet Wipes / Baby Wipes
  • Cash
  • PrePaid Calling Card (in case you need to use a payphone)
  • Prepaid Credit Card

Bonus Items

  • Personal Defense items (legal in your area) – Mace, Pepper Spray, etc.
  • Solar charger for phone (and GPS)
  • Small Binoculars – You’ll want to be able to check for obstacles and “situations” before you get to them. These don’t have to be pricey. I’ve linked to a small Coleman 10×25 pair for about $17.

Make sure to grab your EDC Survival Kit and some extra gear from your Automobile EDC SuppliesMake sure to grab that Automobile Sun Shade from your car before you head out. This can act as a makeshift sleeping pad, and to reflect heat back to your body when it starts to get cool or cold. You should probably make a list of these items and put it on your GHB so you don’t forget to grab them from the Car supplies.

Make sure to add any other item that makes sense for the season, your region, commute or personal needs!

Download the printable Get Home Bag Checklist in pdf format.

get home bag checklist

Printable Get Home Bag Checklist in PDF format


Last but not least, take your brain. There will be a lot of lost, scared and predatory people. Use your wits. Watch out for traps. Gangs use “helpless” damsels in distress to lure in people all the time. I’m not saying don’t be a good Samaritan and don’t be chivalrous and charitable, but use your binoculars to observe for a while to make sure you don’t become the victim.

No matter what happens, you want to get home. What separates you from everyone else stuck on that stretch of road? Your Get Home Bag and your planning is what separates you from them!



  1. Can’t believe you didn’t mention a gun and extra ammo.

    • I am 100% for having a firearm and ammo in your get home bags. In Maryland, where I live, there is no legal way to carry a firearm in your car. You can only have a pistol or regulated weapon in your car, if you are going to the range or coming home from the range. If you stop for gas or anyplace else along the way, you just committed a felony.

      If you can carry legally where you live, then do so!

  2. Having had a firearm stolen from my truck, it was hidden, I am leary about leaving a firearm in my vehicles at all times. I do have a ccw so I carry all the time anyway.
    Extra ammo is a good idea. If that gets stolen then you are only out a little bit of money, not a complete firearm.
    The nice thing about anything happening is that there will be confusion for the first few hours. Keep your head about you and bug back home fast. Or if you are at home secure your perimeter and hunker down. Keep the lights off and keep quiet. Let things settle for a few days.
    Remember, you are your responsibility, not law enforcements. They may not even be there to help.

  3. Great list! Woobie to go with the poncho. Option: spare clothes bag. If it is winter weather and/ or one works in a suit, a change of clothes to get home clothes would be ideal. Easy to always have in the car ( just incase a non emergency such as you dumped your 72oz slurpee into your lap while driving). City dwellers may wish to have a ‘universal key’ for doors etc.. Distance from home is the real deciding factor in size and amount of gear. Just be careful not to overload ( easy to do). Workout once a week with the bag on. Pushups, climbing stairs moving through doorways. If this cant be done easily then the size needs to be parred down ( or one needs to grow stronger).

  4. Good sensible list. I might add for city dwellers that if you must walk through the urban jungle to pack some safety type items including heavy work gloves, safety glasses and an N95 mask. Also, a way to pry open doors/gates or snip through fencing is not a bad idea depending on what may lie between you and your home.

  5. + Many pre-paid cards will expire a year after you purchase them. Others, will expire if they haven’t been used after so many months. Make sure and check the cards before purchasing. And add to your calendar a month notice before they do.

    + Most smart phones have free flashlight apps. Of course, you need a regular flashlight. But some will automatically do S.O.S.. Which could come in handy. (Hey, you have room on your phone for Candy Crush, you have room for this!) There are also ones where you type in a message and it’ll do morse code for you!

    + Clear swim goggles. I know, sounds stupid. But when we have a bad snow/rain storms, I’ll wear them while walking to work. They’re small and easily fit in a coat pocket.

  6. The most important thing is to have a non-tactical appearance.
    Nothing screams “I’ve got a gun” as some military knock off with molly web.
    Plus it may not be advisable to be mistaken for a member of the military.
    That British soldier who was killed by radical muslims on the streets of England is proof of that.
    Tactical is not practical.

    • K.I.S.S. I disagree completely. Predators will be looking for soft targets, i.e., YOU. I recommend open carry and a back-up. They’ll be much more polite if they know you can defend yourself.

      • Yeah, I’m a skinny guy with really tough tattoos (know that’s not a survivalist look, however. . .). You could always wonder if they’d attract trouble, but after 20 years, it’s always been the opposite. I think people give me more respect, and I’ve never gotten into a fight over them or anything. Been through a lot of bad areas many times, too.

        Maybe it’ll be different in different areas of the country, but in my area, I don’t especially think people would see a guy in army/navy store clothes and thinks, “There’s a prepper, get him!” I guess we’ll see if / when SHTF.

        During normal times, most crime is committed against friends/family members/acquaintances and against people perceived as weak. I’m sure you may have heard that. Of course, SHTF is different circumstances.

        At least there’s some kind of logic to the idea that the prepper-looking guy will be targeted, but it seems like a better gamble to appear strong instead of weak. People will try to commit a violent crime ***if*** they think it’s not going to ruin their day.

        Like what’s that advice about confronting a bear? You may yourself look large and make a lot of noise instead of running away?

  7. My husband and I just put together our GHBs. Of course, his is over loaded, but he’ll figure that out soon enough. Just wanted to suggest measuring the distance from your job or the most likely place you’ll be when tshtf, to home. Make mental notes during your commute (or on a map) of distances (5 miles from work to the tracks; 4 to the water tower, etc) then you have an idea of how much further you need to go; make yourself aware of places that you might find water, where you might possibly camp for the night or hide along the way; something else to think about is getting past downed bridges, over passes, anything that might block the way.
    Decide if it would be better to spend the night in your locked car and rest up or start off right away. My husband works 20 miles from home and is on his feet all day. He’s also wet by the end of the day. I suggested a change of clothes and boots, hang wet stuff so they might dry, and sleep before starting out. I’m gonna have to hike 15 miles, about 10 miles is uphill. I’d probably do the first 5 miles right away just to get out of town.
    So far we have everything you mentioned except the compass and prepaid cards. I’m thinking pepper spray might be a good idea also.

    Now for a question—I’ll take answers from anyone. Traveling home—main roads or side roads? Also, our daughter goes to college 80 miles away. She said she’d like to try to get home. I suggested she better ride her bike. Except for the first 3-5 miles and the last 11 miles, the majority of the distance is freeway. So for her—the back way or straight down the freeway? Only problem I see with the freeway is other people on foot who might try to take her off the bike. Opinions?

    • How about a unisex or masculine-looking baseball cap and lightweight zipper hoodie in her bag so she can basically disguise herself?

      Not sure if there’s enough of a single right answer to the main roads or side roads question. I think it depends on more specific circumstances than that. Normally, more concealed areas are dangerous places for women, but it seems like there may be pretty bad stuff about the main roads, too, at the zero minute when SHTF.

      • Think I’d be giving you too much of a pedantic, theoretical, abstract answer if I tried to pick one or the other. I think it would depend on the people at the specific place and on how people react to it when SHTF. Those commuters getting out of their cars may be taking it pretty calmly and acting principled, and I don’t know anything about who lives on or frequents those side roads.

  8. Resist the urge to over pack. You are just trying to get home, not going on vacation. Don’t be afraid to work of “the list”. It is a guide, make it your own by adding and taking away as it suits you or your situation. Good Luck!!!

  9. Some (like me) travel every week – I’m as far as 375 miles from home. My GHB is geared more for long-term hiking/camping than anything.
    My top 10 items I refuse to be without:
    G21 (Glock.45)
    Buck 124 Fixed Blade
    Firemaking (I use small jars of Vaseline-smeared cotton balls w/Bic lighters strapped to them)
    Flashlight and headlamp
    Fishing kit
    Stainless mess kit
    Heavy duty poncho
    20 oz silver

  10. Thanks for the ideas of carrying maps and a last ditch kit. I think those were the best ideas you had that I didn’t think of myself for a bugout bag or get home bag.

    Like the auto sunshade idea, too.

    My take on it:

    Don’t try to go too James Bond or anything. Go light. It’s just a bag for getting home without getting too rattled by anything, for helping you avoid any big problems. And the situations or dangers that you think you need really special gear for are too unlikely to happen. It’s more kind of just like an overnight bag. Yet it’s also supposed to just start to provide some capability for when getting home doesn’t end up being that easy, but turns into something that goes on and on, or when it ends up being pretty crazy out there.

    That said, the commercial bugout bag is making you think the wrong things because of its elaborateness and James Bond factor.

    And maybe the more important item than the bag itself is a folding bike for the trunk. Or even snowshoes?

    The bag itself could be any backpack that fits the gear, and isn’t too heavy, and most of all is comfortable. It should have the standard foam straps used nowadays on most backpacks, not like any kind of fashiony, thin canvass straps. It shouldn’t be any kind of heavy, large hiking backpack.

    Some of the items may be things you tend to carry on your person or in your car, but just include the duplicates in the bag anyway in case anything gets left behind, dropped, etc., if you’re fleeing your car in a rush.

    This version of a get-home bag stays pretty appropriate for all seasons:

    -granola bars and cookies equal to maybe 1,000 calories. If you can eat more than that in one day normally, why carry only 1 – 3 granola bars for bugout / get home conditions?
    -a bottle of water, neither very small or very big
    -a collapsible canteen
    -disposable plastic cup (for sharing out or obtaining water)

    Replacement/additional clothes
    -sneakers, or at least moccasins or driving shoes with walking soles that aren’t that bad
    -thin, long pants like athletic pants or cargo pocket pants made of light material
    -1 underwear
    -1 pair socks
    -thermal underwear or base layer top and bottom
    -thin gloves
    -winter hat
    -neck gaiter type scarf
    -visor hat

    Money- maybe $20

    Other gear
    -small, cheap 16×32 binoculars like Celestron
    -Coleman campfire tinder stick
    -folding knife
    -space blanket
    -cheap, fold-up, disposable plastic poncho
    -1/2 finished roll of toilet paper
    -LED light
    -HotHands chemical hand warmers
    -travel size bug repellent, sunscreen, and aloe
    -a few various band-aids for blistered feet
    -a few water purification tablets

    All that fits in a medium sized backpack with no problem. And it’s cheap, and includes maybe compact and lightweight items. But anything more might be the point at which the bag starts to become heavy. That said, here are my suggestions for possible additional gear:

    -very small bottle hand sanitizer /individually-wrapped wet wipes
    -cell phone
    -walkie talkie
    -a few antacids or a few aspirin
    -small radio
    -mini umbrella
    -pepper spray
    -glow sticks
    -trailmarkers / fluorescent tape

    Good ideas for bagging it- cheap waterproof bags for campers. Everything goes in these bags and then into the get home bag
    Last ditch kit- put some of the stuff, maybe a lot of the stuff besides the clothes, into up to three belt pouches, such as molle pouches. At a convenient time when / after you bug out of your car, take them out and put them on your belt.

    Don’t think of it as much as like an action-adventure story or an apocalypse movie as for just an unexpected, very long walk home. Then the bag won’t get too big or weird.

    Last thought- Maybe a lot of people would decide to stay with their cars or their building at their place of work and try to wait for the authorities to rescue everyone. I think you should consider whether it’s a good idea to just wait the night through rather than immediately bugging out. It’s just not necessarily a good move to rashly leave your car just because you happen to have a bugout bag. If it hasn’t worked out by the next morning, though, I think you should try to get moving very early, before there are other people getting up and starting walking.

    • And if SHTF and you have to leave your car, and you find after a while your bag is heavy and uncomfortable, take some of the stuff out and leave it

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