How To Build A Get Home Bag The Right Way (before SHTF)

By "Just In Case" Jack | Updated: 05/19/2024

Get Home BagToday, I’ve got something incredibly important to share…

A Guide On Building A Get Home Bag For Across-Town Emergencies

Because IF you work outside the house, you should build a get-home bag.

No excuses.

Because emergencies happen when you least expect them.

You need tools and supplies to get back to your home base safely…

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
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Jump Over River

What Is A Get Home Bag?

It’s a small bag with gear and supplies to help you get BACK home.

Why? Because even the most resilient among us travel away from home occasionally.

And without critical gear and supplies, you’re vulnerable if a crisis hits.

So even if you intend to ride out a massive disaster (and not bug out), you still need tools and supplies to make it home.

What good is stockpiling survival food, storing water and resources if you never make it home to those supplies?

The bottom line is:

If you get stuck across town, you need basic survival tools and supplies to help you get home quickly.

As survivalists, there are several different bags we build for specific emergencies.

So it’s worth defining exactly what a get-home bag is (and is not).

  • It’s a portable survival bag full of key supplies to support a dangerous trip back home during a widespread survival situation.
  • A bug-out bag provides supplies to travel for several days to move from a dangerous location to a secure, safer one.
  • A survival pack is a bag built for outdoor adventures. It includes survival supplies if you get lost or injured in the wilderness. It’s a pack for hiking, fishing, climbing, or hunting adventure.
  • A medical first aid kit (or trauma kit) is a bag of medical supplies for quickly responding to traumatic events.
  • An inch bag is an “I’m Never Coming Home” bag. It’s a bag filled with long-term survival gear. The equipment is necessary for a nomadic lifestyle because you’re “never coming home.”

walking home

Who Should Build A One

This one’s easy…Everyone!

Especially those in an urban setting who spend significant time away from home.

Some people even call it an “urban get-home bag.”

It’s a must for:

  • Adults who work outside the home.
  • Students who spend many hours at school or on campus.
  • Active retirees who are constantly on the go.

Honestly, the list of people who don’t need one is shorter.

If you leave your home regularly, you carry one.

So, the only people who shouldn’t are those who are completely homebound.

If this is not you, get one!

traffic chaos

Reasons For Building One

OK, so if nearly everyone should have one, there’d better be a damn good reason.

Yes, there is one; it’s a basic survival tool.

It’s on the same basic level of preparedness as having 2 weeks’ worth of survival food and filtered drinking water.

They help you return to your supplies and loved ones following a widespread disaster.

Especially one that disrupts your ability to use modern transportation.

A widespread disaster where you’re forced to ditch your vehicle to hike home.

But how many scenarios are there where you can’t just drive home?

Quite a few…

The most likely is a massive transportation lockdown.

Traffic jams happen in major cities all the time without significant turmoil.

So at the first hint of widespread panic, what do you think will happen?

Long-term gridlock.

Or how about an emergency where roads are not passable?

Downed bridges or destroyed roadways can become permanently unpassable. Then what?

The most likely “get home” situation is where you (or a loved one) work at an office across town—where you spend nearly 25% of your hours.

That’s why you should build a get-home bag to help you make it home safely following a widespread disaster.

Especially during a disaster where panic rules the day.

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Want a free 104 item bug out bag checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

The Best Get Home Bag For Your Build

I’ll advise you on what to put in your bag shortly…

But before we do, it’s critical to choose the right bag for you.

You need a durable, rugged, portable, well-designed one at the right price.

No old gym bags or free cheap tie bags, please!

Do this right if you want a bag you can depend on.

The most important aspect is its size.

Too big, and it’ll be cumbersome to carry and take with you every day.

A full-fledged 72-hour bug-out bag is too big.

Too small, and you won’t be able to take all your critical survival items with you.

Purses, fanny packs, and small pouches are typically too small.

You also want a bag that can handle real abuse.

It should be made of tough materials and seams.

You also want durable zippers that won’t break or jam in wet or dirty conditions.

It also helps if your home bag is well-designed with many compartments for different supplies and quick access to the most important tools.

Finally, you want a bag with colors that make sense to you.

A camouflage one may not fit in with your “professional” office setting – get a black laptop bag instead.

The Combat Bag from EVATAC is one bag that would make a perfect bug-out bag, go bag, or get-home bag.

Check out my full review of this excellent bag (in the following video review, I call it a bug-out bag, but it’s a small BOB and perfect for getting home):

↓ Bug Out Bag Review – The Combag Bag By EVATAC

Interested in this bag?

Click here to see the insanely affordable price of this quality bag.

Get Home Bag Checklist

1. Stainless Steel Water Bottle

klean kanteen stainless steel water bottle

You need a vessel that carries water, but choosing the right type of container is important.

You don’t want plastic, and you don’t want double-walled.

Why? Both plastic and double-walled water bottles are terrible options for boiling water.

And boiling water is one of the best ways to purify contaminated water in a pinch.

Plastic bottles will melt when direct heat is applied for boiling.

And double-walled insulation makes it difficult to transfer enough heat to the water to get it to a boil.

Double-walled insulation is perfect for keeping liquids inside hot or cold longer.

They are good at reducing heat transfer, which is the opposite of what you want if you’re trying to boil water.

In a get-home emergency, cold water or hot coffee is not the goal; the goal is survival.

Plus, there’s a chance a double-wall insulated bottle can explode under intense heat.

Trapped air between the walls will increase in pressure when heated.

When pressure rises to the point where the walls of the water bottle fail, that’s called an explosion!

So instead, get a stainless steel single-wall water bottle.

Always keep it full of fresh water so you have H2O at the outset of an emergency event.

You’ll also want several methods to purify and filter any water you grab while on the move.

Sawyer Mini Filter

2 & 3. Water Filter and Purification Tablets

It’s impossible to know the number of miles you may have to travel to return home.

Yes, you know your typical distance from work to home, but what if you cannot safely take the most direct path back?

That’s why you need several days’ worth of water. But water is heavy, so you’ll need more than you can carry.

However, drinking from rivers, lakes, ponds, or streams is risky without the right tools.

Natural water sources can be contaminated with viruses or chemicals – or worse.

So I recommend you pack a survival water filter and water purification tablets.

You should pack a Sawyer Mini Water Filter.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

I highly recommend you get a couple of Sawyer Mini’s.

Not only is it small to pack and lightweight, but it can also filter 100,000 gallons of water!

Sawyer Mini Inline Water Filter 1

Sawyer Mini Added Inline To A Pack

This little water filter is ideal for travel and a worst-case get-home survival scenario.

What makes the Sawyer Mini so powerful is its inline design capabilities.

Use it as a straw or an inline filter to remove 99.999% of harmful bacteria.

Here’s my full video review of the incredible Sawyer Mini.

↓ Sawyer Mini Water Filter Review – Can This Filter 100,000 Gallons?

Now, it cannot filter certain infused chemicals, but it filters most harmful impurities, viruses, and bacteria.

You’ll also want to pack a few water purification tablets.

These small and lightweight tablets make them a no-brainer.

Plus, they are simple to use; drop them in your water bottle and wait.

It’s safest to purify any suspect water with a tablet and then use it to filter it as well.

TACT Bivvy Main Image

4. Lightweight Emergency Shelter

You can’t assume you’ll return home in only a few hours of walking – it might take several days!

For frigid overnight temperatures, pack a lightweight shelter option (like a survival blanket).

TACT Bivvy In HandFortunately, this one’s easy; add a Tact Bivvy Emergency Sleeping Bag.

This super lightweight shelter is made of a thin material called Mylar.

Mylar is a technology originally invented by NASA.

Mylar is powerful because it’s an airtight material, allowing you to trap your body heat inside the bag.

This keeps you warm enough to survive freezing temperatures.

I know no other technology that’s as lightweight and good at keeping you warm in cold weather conditions.

I even tested the Tact Bivvy in my backyard.

Temps – Outside vs. Inside The Bivvy

It was a balmy 40-degree day, and within 10 minutes, I was reading temperatures inside the bag in the 80s! (see the image for proof).

The Tact Bivvy is a “no-brainer” survival essential.

Here’s my video review of the Tact Bivvy.

↓ Bug Out Bag Shelter – TACT Bivvy Review

5. High-calorie, Non-Perishable Energy Bars

This may surprise some of you, but food is a low priority.

Don’t get me wrong; you should stash a few calories.

But you can survive several weeks with zero calories.

So even if it takes several days to “get back home,” you won’t die of starvation.

But it still makes sense to have a few calories to keep your energy up.

However, the calories you add should be a small percentage of your bag’s weight.High Calorie Energy Bars

The way you do this is to pack a couple of high-density energy bars.

The higher the density of calories per ounce, the better.

Also, the food needs to be completely nonperishable.

You don’t want any food you pack to spoil or go bad if it is exposed to high temperatures or moisture.

That’s why we recommend stashing these in your bag, and you’ll be all set.

older tactical knife

6. A Survival Knife

Most survivalists understand how versatile a quality survival knife is in the right hands.

A powerful survival device is a tool that can cut, slice, shave, and chop natural or man-made materials.

Now, my bag has a shoulder strap pouch and provides quick access in survival situations (see image).

I like having immediate access to my survival knife without rummaging through my bag.

I want to be able to get my hands on my knife fast, and this setup allows me to do just that.

Paracord Bracelet

7. 550 Paracord

The sheer number of paracord survival uses are vast.

So you should always make sure you have some paracord with you at all times.

I wear a survival paracord bracelet every day.

But if that’s not your thing, you can always roll some up and stick it in the bottom of your bag.

Oh, and make sure you know how to use it. It’s not worth much if you don’t understand all the survival possibilities.

8. Small Hand Crank Radio

When it comes to emergency disasters, communication is key.

The more information, the better.

You can never have too much intel in a catastrophe!

But most radios are bulky, heavy, and don’t power themselves.

Yes, most are, except this Scorpion hand-crank radio from Eton.

This powerful radio is perfect.

You have a radio and a hand crank generator all in one.

This way, you won’t need batteries to tune into emergency stations.

And it’ll help keep any of your other electronic devices powered up.

That’s why this Scorpion Radio might be my most recommended gear.

9 & 10. Solar Charger with Batteries

Another new technology is the Anytime Charge Power Bank.

If you carry any electronics, you’ll want to plan for the continued use of those devices.

The best way to keep your radio and cell phone charged until you return home to your family is to use the sun’s power using a portable solar charger.

The Anytime Charge Power Bank is the perfect size and design.

Add some AA USB rechargeable batteries for the perfect setup for your survival gadgets.

11. Detailed Topographical Map

If you were forced to hike 50 miles outside your city to get home, would you know the best, safest route?

Do you know where all the natural water sources are?

This is where a local detailed topographical map is an essential item for your get home bag.

You need to be able to pull out the map and plan an alternative route while looking at the terrain and the emergency at hand.

Use your Scorpion Hand Crank Radio to get intel on the disaster, and then use your map to figure out the safest/fastest route home.

  • Are there cliffs where you live and need to avoid?
  • What about swampy areas or steep ravines?

Every city has unique terrain, and a topo map helps you navigate this terrain in a worst-case situation.

You can find Free digital topographical maps of your area online and print them off.

Navigation With A Compass

12. A Quality Compass

A map is great, but if you want to navigate successfully in unfamiliar areas, you’ll also want a compass.

Humans walk in a slight arch without a compass, especially in dense forests.

So, over time, you can accidentally walk in circles if you have limited visual cues.

Now, most people won’t walk in circles in urban surroundings.

You’ll have buildings and roads to keep your bearings, but a compass is still helpful.

I’d rather have a compass and not end up needing it than desperately needing it but didn’t pack one…

13. Tactical Pen

You should always have a writing tool with you.

Sometimes, you need a pen to sign a check or write a quick note.

But why not upgrade your pen to a tactical one?

A pen that you can use as a self-defense weapon in a pinch.

Tactical Pen - StrikePen Ape Survival

Multi-use tools are ideal for survival, so upgrade your cheap pen to a tactical weapon.

When this post was published, you could pick up a StrikePen for FREE – pay for shipping.

Click here to see if this deal is still available.

14. Small Medical Kit

We’re focusing on lightweight and small, so don’t pack a full-fledged medical kit.

However, add a small one like this with the necessary items in a multi-day trek across your city.

Ensure it has painkillers, bandages, gauze, and antibiotic cream.

Medical items you need to help get you home safe.

15. Tactical Flashlight

You should always have the power of illumination in your pocket.

Not all natural disasters happen in the middle of the day, and emergencies often include power outages.

So if you’re in an office building and all the lights go out, do you have a high-powered LED tactical flashlight?

You better.

Don’t settle for a cheap plastic flashlight that requires several D-cell batteries.

First, they’re prone to breakage with very little abuse and are clunky and cumbersome.firehawk tactical flashlight

Instead, get a Firehawk Tactical Flashlight.

It only takes a single AA battery, weighs less than four oz., is super bright for its size, and can withstand a beating.

When this post went live, you could get a Firehawk Tactical Flashlight for FREE (pay S/H).

Click here to see if this deal is still live.

↓ Get A FREE FireHawk Tactical Flashlight (+S&H)

16. High-Powered Taser

If you always carry a firearm, you can pass on this one.

But for everyone else, you’ll want something you can use to defend yourself in an emergency.taser

Tasers are high-powered electrical devices that will neutralize a threat fast.

You should also have a tactical pen, but it takes more training to use it effectively.

With a high-voltage taser, it’s as simple as pulling the trigger and lunging.

If you want more reach, get a stun baton.

17. Survival Lighter

If you must spend the night in the wilderness or a dark alleyway, you’ll want the option to start a small fire.

Again, knowing how to start a fire is handy in a survival situation.

But I want a fire FAST and RELIABLE in a get-home situation.

So you can either go with a cheap lighter or upgrade to one of these best survival lighters if you want a reliable lighter you can trust.

zippo lighter

Tough Tesla Electric LighterYou could always use the long-standing zippo lighter or get an even more windproof, waterproof electric lighter.

The Tesla Electric lighters are about as foolproof as you can get.

You also have a means of charging it (hello, Anytime PowerBank Solar Charger).

18. Stormproof Matches

You should always have multiple ways to start a fire.

You never want to depend only on a survival lighter if you drop it in a river or get crushed underfoot; that’s why you need survival matches.

19. Tinder

It can be surprisingly difficult if you’re not experienced at starting fires.

To be successful, you must start with fine ignitable tinder.

Then work your way up to kindling and then full-sized logs.

Sorry, but you’ll be severely disappointed if you try to set a large log on fire with your lighter.

The good news is you can prevent this disappointment with Wetfire Tinder.

WetFire Fire StarterThe last thing you need in a serious emergency is struggling to get a fire going.

These remove that issue so you can focus on other “get home” survival priorities.

20. Rescue Whistle

I’ve always recommended having a loud survival whistle as part of any survival pack or bug-out bag.

Sometimes, in survival, the goal is evasion; other times, it’s rescue.

It depends on the circumstances at hand.

Scream Whistle

Scream Whistle

But the sound of a whistle carries much farther than your voice.

So if you need immediate help or attention, a survival whistle is an excellent tool to include.

21. Personal Communication Antenna

In a widespread emergency, traditional means of communication will be severed.

So, getting in touch with loved ones becomes impossible.

Unless you have a couple of walkie-talkies.

That way, you can communicate with loved ones even if cell phone towers are down.

While it takes several days to make your way home:

  • What do you think is going on back home?
  • Is your family safe?
  • Are they being forced to evacuate?
  • If so, where are they taking them?
  • Should they try to wait for you or follow the evacuation orders?
  • Who’s got the kids?
  • Who’s got the dog?

If you don’t have a backup communication method, you will not be able to coordinate these emergency decisions.

I like the Rockie Talkie Radio.

Rockie Talkie Radio

This radio features a specialized lithium-ion battery that boasts over four days of life.

Even in extreme cold temps -20°F!

The transmission power hits the maximum legal limit for unlicensed use, which is 2 watts.

This offers a potential range of over 25 miles.

22. Walk Friendly Footwear

This is one of the larger items to add to your pack.

However, for some, it might also be the most important.

Are you prepared to hike home in dress shoes or high heels?

Not only will such long distances cause blisters and hot spots, but they will also significantly slow your progress.

Maybe you can keep the boots/shoes in your vehicle.

That helps to keep your bag smaller and lighter.

But either way, find a way to include footwear you can rely on with your get home plans.

23. Hat / Gloves / Poncho / Socks

This one depends on your local climate and season.

I add a stocking cap and gloves in the fall and use them daily.

I also recommend adding a poncho jacket.

poncho jacketGetting wet in cold temperatures can quickly turn into hypothermia.

It’s better to stash a poncho jacket with a hood and prevent walking home in wet clothes in frigid temps.

I also keep a fresh pair of smart wool socks in my bag.

If you have wet feet for a prolonged period, you can develop trench foot.

This is a nasty condition that can limit your ability to move quickly when moving fast is the name of the game.

24. Hand / Foot Warmers

Hand/foot warmers are always a good idea in cooler climates.

Frostbite at your extremities is a survival disaster in its own right.

Have you ever tried to start a fire with frostbitten fingers?

It makes this already challenging survival task nearly impossible.

Stash these, and you’ll never have to worry about that.

25. Compact Binoculars

You don’t need to add large and insanely high-powered ones—the smaller, more compact, the better.

You want the upper hand in an urban evasion and escape survival situation.

Spotting potential threats well before they spot you allows you to avoid these hazards.

This is an underappreciated survival tactic and essential to getting back home safely.

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Want a free 78 item prepper checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Additional Items Suggestions (from our readers)

Here are a few additional items SkilledSurvival readers have added to their own bags.

Survival Bandana

There are many possible uses for a good survival bandana.

Here are 23 uses.

You won’t find a lighter or smaller piece of survival gear with so many uses.

And nowadays – there are even better versions called neck gaiters or face shields.

Small Stainless Steel Collapsible Cup

A cup can be a useful survival device for drinking or mixing.

This one is highly collapsable and only weighs 8 oz.

Pocket Stove

sf pocket stoveA pocket stove is a simple way to start a small controlled fire to make meals or warm your fingers and toes.

Sure, you could pack a larger portable stove.

But the pocket stove is lightweight and pocket-sized, making it perfect for a get-home bag.

Action Plan

Action Plan

You now have all the information you need to take meaningful action.

If you’ve read this far into this article, it’s time to get this done.

One aspect of all emergencies is that they don’t wait until you’re ready.

They happen when they happen, whether you’re ready or not.

Don’t think back on this article during an all-out panic and this “damn; I should of, I could I of“…


There are no do-overs in survival.

So buy the best get-home bag for you, fill it with essential survival gear, and take it with you whenever you leave the house.

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