What is a Get Home Bag (GHB)?
A get home bag is a well-packed backpack or duffel bag that contains specific gear you may need if you find yourself stranded away from home. The items you choose to include in your GHB may vary depending on where you are located and the distance you will have to cover to get home. A GHB should be packed for at least a 24-hour trek and preferably a 72-hour trek. Packing for a longer term than that would make it too heavy and impractical to carry. There is a difference between a Get Home Bag (GHB) and a Bug Out Bag (BOB). A BOB is normally needed when you need to leave home in a hurry and you may not know when you will return.
Why do I Need a Get Home Bag (GHB)?
Imagine you are at work and something happens that makes travel by anything but foot, impossible. You are stranded, your wife and kids are weighing heavy on your mind and you are not there to protect them. You have one objective, GET HOME! Here are just a few SHTF scenarios that could impede your normal commute:
- Severe weather
- Power grid failure (black-outs, EMP or CME)
- Vehicle Break-Down
- Terrorist Attack
- Acts of war
- Bridge collapse
- Winter storms (especially ice storms)
Not all the scenarios above require you to abandon your vehicle and start off on foot. The fact is, in any situation where you are stranded, you will be glad you packed your GHB with quality gear.
Water in Stainless Steel Bottle
I suggest stainless steel in case you find you need to boil water. A quality single layer stainless steel bottle that can hold around a liter of water is recommended. Additionally, a stainless-steel water bottle has other uses which make it perfect for the GHB. Stainless steel is safer and stronger than plastic and the water will taste better. Stainless steel can be heated and ultimately used to heat food or even cook your catch.
You have heard it over and over again, water is the most important survival item you can have. Unfortunately, in a get home situation, water takes up a lot of room and is quite heavy to carry. It is very important that you have some way to filter water because you will run out. In wet weather it can be difficult to start a fire for boiling water so having another way to filter water for drinking is imperative.
High-Calorie Non-Perishable Foods
Food, much like water, can be heavy and occupy important real-estate in your GHB. When choosing food for your GHB, consider high calorie items that take up little space. You also want to consider what it will take to prepare the foods you choose.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Can be prepared quickly
- Does not require a stove or fire/heat
- High calorie content
- Can be stored for the long term
List of high calorie foods to consider:
- Peanut Butter
- Tuna and Chicken Foil Packs
- Beef Jerky or Emergency Ration Bars such as Millennium bars
Tarp for Shelter
If your walk home is going to take more than one day, you will need some sort of shelter. The easiest and lightest method I suggest is a simple tarp. A tarp can be hung to create cover from rain or snow or can be used as bedding in good weather. Many tarps fold up small and higher end tarps are extremely light weight. They come in many different sizes and materials so choose one that fits your area of operation.
First Aid Kit (FAK)
First aid kits (FAK) are often overlooked. They are extremely important because an injury you can’t treat may be the one thing that keeps you from getting home. Kits can include anything from tourniquets to antibiotic gel just keep in mind you are packing for 24 to 72 ours not a week-long hike. Keep it small and light weight because every little addition creates added weight that multiples the further you must travel.
Good Sharp Knife
Although this list is in no certain order, one of the most important items in your GHB should be a high-quality knife. I hope, if you are reading this article, you have already decided to make a knife an everyday carry (EDC) item. High quality doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Below are a few of our favorites, from the more affordable, to higher end knives.
- Affixing gear to your GHB
- Building a shelter (creating a tent from a tarp)
- Climbing or descending steep inclines
- Snare traps
- Fish traps
- Fire Bow
Protection or Security
In certain situations, you may find yourself needing to defend yourself from hostiles. If you already carry a firearm congrats, you are ahead of the game. But if you don’t, I strongly encourage you to get a CCW and take some self-defense courses to up your chances of surviving the bad guys. If you are uncomfortable carrying a firearm, you could choose to carry pepper spray or a foldable baton. At the very least, carry an emergency alert whistle to alert others if you are in trouble.
There is no guarantee in a disaster scenario that your cell phone will work. In many disasters in recent history, many found the cell towers jammed with people trying to reach loved ones. Having a backup form of communication is important. This could be in the form of a HAM radio, FMR or other form of communication such as a satellite phone. At the very least, I suggest you carry a small emergency radio, so you can keep up with the latest news and weather.
Flashlight with New or Charged Batteries
When considering gear for your GHB, it is a good idea to plan on the fact that you will have to spend at least one night away from home. Having a high-quality flashlight with new or fully charged batteries are paramount. Another source of light to consider is the headlamp. They are light, bright and free your hands for other tasks.
Fire staring gear
Since we are planning on spending at least one night away from home, having a way to start a fire could be a lifesaver. Fire can be used to keep critters at bay, boil water for drinking, cooking food and keeping warm. There have been studies that fire can have a calming effect in a stressful situation.
You may think you know your area well enough to travel blindfolded. The fact is, even the best woodsman get disoriented once and a while. Having a quality compass could mean the difference between getting home or dying in the woods. Further, a compass and an updated topographical map can help you change routes quickly to avoid dangerous areas.
Quality topographical map
Don’t plan on your normal route to be passable. Plan to have to replan. Having a good topo allows you to make changes to your route and avoid sketchy areas.
Warm Clothes for Cold areas or Change of Clean Dry Clothes
Depending on where you live, the clothes you chose to keep in your GHB should be carefully considered. It may not be possible in certain situations to keep dry or stay warm. Having a change of warm dry clothes could save your life. The tarp mentioned above can go a long way in keeping yourself and your gear dry. Don’t forget to get it out and cover your GHB when rain or snow is possible.
Last but not least, a good multitool can be worth its weight in gold. In today’s modern society, we have access to all kinds of tools and may not find a need for a multitool, but it will be a Godsend if you are in the wild trying to get home. When considering the purchase of a multitool, make sure you get a quality name brand tool like your life depends on it.
Create a Get Home Bag (GHB) That Fits Your Needs
Now, this is just a list of 15 items, I am sure you will have many more items in your GHB, but I think these are some of the most important. Moreover, your mileage may vary and what someone in the southwest may need will not be found in the GHB of someone in the far north. Choose your gear wisely and save your hard-earned dollars until you can afford quality gear. Trying to get home in a disaster is not the time for equipment failure.