Build a Get Home Bag

My get home bag

You are half way home and the car dies. No problem right? You'll just call someone and be on your way. Oh you didn't charge your phone last night and now its dead. So off you go on a ten mile hike back home. On the way home you deal with rain, blisters, a bad neighborhood, mosquitoes, dehydration, and exhaustion. By the time you reach home you are in no condition to do anything. You look at the couch and just collapse on it unable to move from being so physically drained.

In the past I've found myself in a similar situation a number of times. Most of the time I was lucky enough that a friend answered their phone and gave me a ride home in the middle of the night. There have been a few occasions though, where walking was my only choice so that's what I did. Every time basically ends the same way tired, thirsty, and sore.
Enter the get home bag (GHB.) A dead cell phone is no longer a problem if you happen to have an external battery bank with you. Mosquitoes are easily dealt with if you have bug spray. Rain becomes a bit more tolerable when you have a poncho. Bad neighborhoods are easily avoided if you have a map of the area. These are just a few of the things a GHB can help you with. Of course the bag can only help you if it is with you, which is why it should become an EDC that you carry at all times. My GHB goes everywhere with me and even serves as my lunchbox. Having a GHB can make the walk home a bit more bearable. Exhaustion is still likely and the walk still sucks but at least you can have piece of mind knowing that you are prepared if you need something.
Car trouble isn't the only reason a GHB can be useful. If you don't believe me just stop and take a look at what happens in the world around us on a daily basis.
  • tornado
  • hurricane
  • earthquake
  • wild fire
  • flood
  • winter storms
  • other severe weather
  • terrorist attack
  • bridge collapse
  • black outs
What is a get home bag (GHB)

A get home bag is an everyday carry survival kit that is designed to get you home and if needed survive self contained for 24 hours. It is not a bug out bag so there are no machetes, axes, or tents. The pack needs to be kept as lightweight as possible so you can keep moving towards home as quickly as possible. This is one of the most personal survival kits and no two will ever be the same. Remember the goal is to get home not run to the woods and survive for a year. While you are assembling your kit only choose items that are absolutely necessary to survival and items you can use in your day to day activities. To help you get an idea of the gear needed you should consider the following
  • What kind of work do you do?
  • What is your normal work attire?
  • How physically fit are you?
  • How far do you commute?
  • What terrain do you face?
  • Wilderness or urban?
  • What season is it?
  • What weather are you most likely going to face?
  • Bad neighborhoods that can be avoided?
  • How long will it take to walk your route?
  • Where can you find water on the route home?
  • What disasters are you preparing for?
By answering these questions you can at least start to get an idea of the gear you may need. For example, if you work in an office and wear a suit and dress shoes then you know a change of clothing and comfortable shoes is essential. Now that we've established what a get home bag is lets look at choosing a pack and gear.

Choose your pack

One of the most important pieces of gear is your pack. This is what you need to have on your shoulders the whole walk home. Depending on the distance and how much gear you have you could choose any of the following.
  • small day pack
  • gym bag
  • duffel bag
  • fanny pack
  • vest
  • spare briefcase
  • laptop bag
  • old backpack
  • a purse
The pack you choose should blend in with your surroundings, not be overly tactical looking, not draw attention and above all should be comfortable. I chose a smaller assault pack for myself. This pack is light, durable, comfortable, and cheap. Nothing top of the line about it but it does the trick. I don't need to worry much about the look of the pack because most of my walk is in the country. If I had to walk in a huge city I would probably carry an old Jansport pack.

Choose your gear

***Everyone's gear is going to be unique to their own situation this is just what I carry and some other suggestions of what you may want with you***
*** Gear should be cycled to match  the time of year ***
 My pack is water proof but I still have my gear in baggies just for added water proofing and organization.

Footwear

Skate shoes are terrible for hiking
Take care of your feet. A good comfortable pair of hiking boots or running shoes is essential. I thought my comfortable skater shoes would be ok and they were but only for a few miles. After about ten miles I felt every single rock thanks to the somewhat thin soles. Before you head home take a minute to change your socks and shoes and put on some foot powder. Sore ankles and blisters will slow you down within a few miles especially if you don't do much long distance hiking.





Main tools I use daily


Tools
I have a few tools that I use every day. I keep them in an external pocket of my pack so I can easily access them if needed. The tools are bug spray, coast hp7, Mora companion, Lanskey sharpener, and my leatherman. Not pictured here is my Kershaw folder that is always in my pants pocket.





Light sources
Light sources
Walking home in the dark is unsettling and dangerous. In my case the walk is pitch black except the headlights from cars as they whip past me. The snap lights can be used as a light source but I hung one on the shoulder of my pack to help increase my visibility to drivers. I only need to carry one size of batteries because both of the flashlights use AAA. having a flashlight along helps make the walk home a bit more pleasant. After testing the kit I ordered a headlamp. Headlamps are great because they are small and keep your hands free.


Navigation

Navigation
We all know the route to and from work very well but that is in a car. Walking the same route is much different. Your mind keeps telling you that last corner before home is coming up soon. This is why printing off a map of the area is important. I also have a memo pad, a sharpie, and a compass. If bad neighborhoods are a potential you'll want a route that avoids them if possible. If a bridge collapses a map will help you find an alternate way home.






First aid kit
First aid kit
A nice small first aid kit that will help treat minor injuries. My kit contains Band-Aids, blister pads, antibiotic ointment, gauze, med tape, a bic, personal meds, ibuprofen, Benadryl, alcohol wipes, tweezers, and safety pins. This is not a trauma kit but it will get me home under most circumstances.


Fire Kit


Fire
Stopping to build a fire and set up camp is not really what a GHB is for but since fire is so important I still chose to include a basic kit. One of the bics is wrapped in duct tape just in case. I have 3 bics, a 12,000 strike Swedish firesteel, a case of UCO storm proof matches, and a container of cotton balls coated in Vaseline.






Shelter


Shelter
As stated earlier your primary goal is to get home. For the shelter part of my kit I have an SOL emergency blanket, a disposable poncho, a contractor's trash bag, and 20 feet of paracord. If setting up a shelter is absolutely needed you should be able to build a basic one with what's here. The poncho is lightweight and  better than nothing if it starts to rain.





Water

Water
Water is the one thing no living creature can go without. Staying hydrated will help you move faster. Muscles cramp up and you are more susceptible to pain when you are dehydrated. Making the walk home with no water may not kill you, but it will kill your morale. I carry a sawyer mini, a 24oz stainless container, and a 32oz Nalgene Tritan wide mouth bottle. You may want to include water pure tablets too. On my 4.5 hour trek home I used  around 48oz of water so I am considering adding a second Nalgene bottle.


Electronics

Electronics
Remember the dead cell phone in the scenario above? I got tired of worrying about my phone dying when I need it most so I included a Jarv Tank external battery bank. The Jarv unit is dust, water, and shock resistant. It is plenty durable for every day use. I also have 8 extra batteries, a usb cable for my phone, and a wall charger for my phone.




Small stash of food
Food
Food is a morale booster and a way to give yourself some energy. I don't have any mre's or trail meals, but I do have some sugary foods to keep on truckin. The granola bars will stick to your guts for a bit, the snickers always help, and the hard candy is a way to trick your mind into  thinking it is getting food. Surprisingly I wasn't very hungry on my trip home. I also keep two extra tins of chew because I'm not going to go through a stressful situation without nicotine.




Clothing
Clothing
Keeping some extra layers in your pack is important even during the summer. 60 degrees is nice but if it were 60 and raining it would start to get chilly. I did have a hoody in my pack as well but took it out because I felt it was just dead weight.  A thermal long sleeve and a hat should be more than enough to keep a person warm during the summer.




Self Defense
Self defense is important in a GHB just like it is in a BOB. I am not including any pictures of my personal defensive gear. Good self defense gear gives you options. Pepper spray, a stun gun, and a pistol with a few extra clips should get you through any attacker met on your way home. Keep information about your self defense weapons to yourself and do not discuss with anyone. Remember not to compromise OPSEC.

Other Considerations
Above is the gear I have chosen to include in my bag. Some other considerations may be-
  • Toilet paper
  • Sunscreen
  • Bandanna
  • Crowbar
  • Tarp
  • More water bottles
  • trac phone
  • Weather radio
  • N 95 dust mask
  • Ear plugs
  • Sunglasses or safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Handwarmers
  • Penny stove
I can't say for sure what you will need. The best way to find what you need and don't need is to test the pack. Which is exactly what I did.

Testing My Get Home Bag

Anyone can say this is the gear I have and I hope I never need to us it. I'm not that guy. To test my gear I caught a ride to work with a friend, worked my normal shift, and intentionally stranded myself at work on a Friday night. My shortest route was on a county road that was currently torn apart for construction. The road was covered in rocks and mud but still saved me around 6 miles of extra walking.

The test
Walk home from work on a Friday night
start time 10:00 pm
Time awake at start 13 hours
distance approx. 17 miles
pack weight 21.68 pounds
pack weight after testing and changing gear approx. 15 pounds

There are two short videos below that I recorded on my hike home.

video


I learned a lot on my 17 mile journey home. The first thing I learned in a hurry was shoe selection. My skate shoes are comfortable for work but not for long distance walks. By the time I got home I had blisters, and my ankles were killing me. I think some of the blisters could have been avoided if I would have taken the time to change my socks and put on foot powder before I left work. Instead I left with sweaty socks and powdered resin in my shoes. Heat and friction adds up to bad blisters. If at all possible walk on the road except when cars are coming at you. Within ten miles of walking, gravel will make your feet sore as hell.  The next thing I noticed is my body instantly kicked into self preservation mode. I didn't have any nicotine cravings, didn't really get hungry, and didn't need quite as much water as I thought. My senses kicked in on overdrive as well. My eyes adjusted to the dark quickly and I heard every animal that moved around in the brush.
***Always remember to walk on the left side of the road and sidewalks when available.*** By staying to the left you face oncoming traffic and can make eye contact with the drivers. I clipped a glow stick to my pack so drivers would be able to see me better.
video

The bugs were horrible but I had bug spray and after I doused myself I was good.
You can only rely on yourself in a get home scenario. Of the hundred or so cars that whipped by me, I only had one stop. The one guy to stop was my partner at work and he knew I was making the trek home so he was looking for me. Aside from Joe not one person even cared to slow down. A Dodge County Sherriff slowed a bit but didn't stop to see if everything was alright. This is good because I don't like being harassed but at the same time it is bad because it reinforces the fact that police have no duty to help or protect citizens only enforce laws.
I probably would have been smart to stop and take a break every few hours but the only thing I had in my mind was reach home. After four and a half hours walking I finally made it home. When I walked in the door and took my pack off I felt great. I sat down for a second and was overcome with shoulder pain, ankle pain, lower back pain, and blisters on my feet. Rather than get up and take some ibuprofen I just went  to sleep right then and there. I am not at all out of shape but I normally don't go on 17 mile hikes. I would have gladly traded all of my gear for a good pair of hiking boots that night. If this were TEOTWAWKI I would need at least a day or two before I'd be ready to bug out.

Basic Gear Checklist

Clothes and shoes
  • comfortable shoes
  • change of socks and foot powder
  • change of clothes or extra layers
Light
  • flashlight
  • snap light
First aid
  • bugspray
  • first aid kit
  • sunscreen
  • personal meds
Navigation
  • compass
  • maps of the area
  • sharpie

Electronics
  • charger for your phone
  • extra batteries
Water
  • container to boil water
  • water bottle
  • water filter
Cutting
  • multi tool
  • EDC folding knife
  • small durable fixed blade
Shelter
  • trash bag
  • poncho
  • paracord
  • duct tape
  • emergency blanket
Fire
  • 3 bics
  • tinder
  • Storm proof matches
Self Defense
  • EDC pistol
  • 3 extra clips
  • pepper spray
  • stun gun
Other
  • spare key for your vehicle. I keep mine in my wallet.
  • Cash and change

Feel free to add to this list as you see fit. A get home bag is as unique as the person wearing it. Above is a brief overview of what you should have and my own personal gear. Test your bag and your routes. It's the only way to know for sure you are ready. A GHB is an essential every day carry tool that will help you make it home if a minor problem or the unthinkable stands between you and the front door.




3 comments:

  1. Rob, thanks for taking the time to give food for thought. My wife and I both work 50 + miles from home and have been considering taking this same trek to determine if we could handle the haul in a two day time period. Definatley like the advice on the hiking shoes, we were thinking of regular tennis shoes since they are light weight. Stay strong and committed dude.

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    Replies
    1. Not a problem Russell and glad to hear you enjoyed the article. Like you and your wife I wanted to be absolutely sure I could handle the walk. The hiking shoes would have been a god send that night. Lesson learned.

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  2. Rob, would you be interested in sharing some of your experiences over on the site, http://TipsForSurvivalists.com ? We have over 175,000 monthly visitors who would love to hear more about you!

    -Steven

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