Note the difference between a Get Home Bag vs a Bug Out Bag. A Bug Out Bag is a full size backpack a lot bigger than a Get Home Bag. A Bug Out Bag can typically carry enough goods to survive for a week or more in the wilderness, and could weigh fully packed anywhere from 60 - 100 pounds.
The focus of this article is on a three-day Get Home Bag, one you'll carry in the trunk of your car or keep in your office or apartment in the city, as well as one you should consider giving to your children and even your elderly parents.
Compared to a Bug Out Bag, a Get Home Bag is much smaller, light weight, and will allow you to evacuate an area and not slow you down. The Get Home Bag is made for people who need to get somewhere in a hurry and want to make do with the least amount of supplies as possible.
Like the original use of the term Bug Out Bag, having a Get Home Bag means you're ready to flee at a moments notice and won't be empty handed, having food and water and essential survival supplies to last you the next 3 days, at the minimum.
Every item in your Get Home Bag must have an important use -- if it doesn't have an important use, don't bring it. You can quickly pack too many items in your Get Home Bag, some of it you may never actually use, or perhaps don't even need to bring when you can make the tools you need out of items in your environment.
That handy folding shovel that weighs 10 pounds -- that's 10 pounds of dead weight on an already over-loaded back pack. You don't need the folding shovel -- learn how to make a shovel out of a sharp rock or tree limb or hub-cap right off a car.
About that rock, tree limb or hub-cap -- go practice digging (don't just not pack a shovel) and trying different size rocks with different edges as well as different size branches (break them down to smaller pieces). Get a feel for how these things can be used to dig dirt -- you'll get an idea of what a good rock or tree branch looks like (or hub-cap) and you'll have experience actually knowing how to dig with something other than a shovel.
If you have the time and initiative to put together a Get Home Bag consider the weight of every item and then figure out how to find the lightest or smallest item that will perform the same job. Think like a survivalist.
For example, a hatchet is a nice tool ... but you're not going camping. You can simply break tree limbs, you don't need to chop them down, and you don't need to chop firewood. Instead of a hatchet consider a small folding saw (of good quality) that backpackers carry. This thing weighs a 1/3 of what the hatchet weighs (plus it makes a lot less noise when it's being used -- if you're concerned about alerting people to your location then you don't want to bring anything that makes noise).
These are just suggestions. If you love your hatchet, hold on to it. I'm just giving examples of where you can really trim down on weight to the bare essentials and make do with improvised tools in your environment.
How easy is it to get a fire going in a Solo Stove?
That depends on how good you are with a lighter (or wooden matches) and getting a fire started out of dry (or even damp) tinder. This is Camping 101 we're talking about and something even a child can light a fire in safely. (A Solo Stove should make any Cub Scout or Boy Scout's birthday wish list for the outdoors. It's a proven survival tool for both kids and adults alike.)
Bic Lighters are small, efficient, light weight, and it would be smart to have more than one. I suggest you pack 5 -- keep 3 in your pack and two in your pants pockets (that way, if you have to make a run for it at any point, and you are separated from your backpack, you will still have two Bic lighters on you as back up).
Why a Bic lighter? The fact is you don't have to be a Bear Grylls and work yourself into a frenzy trying to get wet tinder started with your bare hands using only a primitive bow drill. Starting a fire from scratch is a great skill to know but it takes a ton of practice, and then it's still not guaranteed -- especially in a wet climate. Your lighters are a constant source of fire. Protect them. Care for them. Carry several into the backcountry, keep a few in your home and in your vehicle. Not only will you have more than one as back up, but you can also pass out a few extras to anyone else in need of a fire source (which, in a major disaster, could be several people you come across).
In addition to including 5 Bic lighters, be sure to pack an emergency candle ("emergency" rated candles burn longer than normal candles) such as this 55 hour emergency candle made by Sterno.
Not only can you use a reliable emergency candle as a light source -- within a small, enclosed shelter an emergency candle also gives off heat (be sure to leave a small opening at the top of your shelter for candle smoke to escape from). BE VERY CAREFUL with your candle placement so that you don't knock it over and set your shelter on fire while you sleep. Placing this candle in a small coffee can and or just setting several rocks around it can do the trick.
You can also use your candle use as a fire-starter: I've discussed this in other articles: placing a lit candle under your damp tinder is a great way to get your damp tinder to eventually start burning. Be sure to pull the candle away before the heat from the burning tinder melts the top of your candle (so keep the tinder at a distance even if you have to build an elevated platform to start your fire). You can get the next 20-30 fires going with just one good long burning emergency candle.
What to do: Create a small pyramid of rocks and or wood that enables you to set your damp (or dry if you have it) tinder above the lit candle. Once the tinder bundle is lit, transfer it to a larger area of tinder and kindling and you should have a roaring fire going in no time.
Now, let's look at water -- water for drinking.
Check out Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle (consider the 40oz size, which is largest, and that means you can carry more purified water at any given time). With some light-weight metal wire you can hang it over a fire - you don't need a grill to stand it on (a grill is another item you don't need in your Get Home Bag). (Note: Do not boil water in a Klean Kanteen with an insulated design. Only boil water in the simpler models that specify in the product description (see link) that it's safe to put over a flame. Always take the cap off first. It's plastic and might melt from the high heat, plus the steam from boiling water may cause it to simply break apart.)
With a backcountry water filter you won't need to carry as much water in your Get Home Bag, because you can quickly pump water through your filter right out of a stream or lake and fill up your water bottles as they empty.
In addition to your stainless steel water bottle, pack a large empty jug or 96 ounce Nalgene bag (which you can use to carry water that has not been boiled or filtered yet and then only use as needed later in the day).
Next, we need to look at food, clothing, shelter, maps, communications, self-defense, artificial light, and first aid.
That's a lot for one small backpack.
Now you understand the challenge to putting together a great Get Home Bag and why items such as weight and quality and necessity are all important to consider when creating a Get Home Bag.
If you're a typical American eating the typical American diet then it's time to learn how to live off a lot less calories.
If you don't learn how to eat a calorie restricted diet now it's going to make a survival situation a lot more traumatic than it has to be. Start teaching yourself how to fast from foods (fasting means to go without food completely). Don't swear off food completely -- begin with a partial fast (which is advised if you're new to fasting). Over time condition yourself to go without food for up to 3 days (that way you'll also know what it feels like and having experienced it you won't be in for such a shock if you ever have to go without food for a lengthy period of time). Remember, humans can go without food for up to 8 weeks. Yes, you'll be skin and bones by the end of those 8 weeks but it's a reminder that you're not going to die of starvation in the early days of survival when you start restricting your calories to make your 72 hour supply of food last a few days longer. Make sense?
Considering this is a Get Home Bag and it's main purpose is to get you out of the danger zone in the first 72 hours of a widespread disaster.
I'm going to make choosing your survival foods really simple by recommending standard trail-mix, natural beef jerky, and shelled sunflower seeds or another nut like almonds or pistachios. Each is light weight and has a decent shelf-life. Throw a couple chocolate bars in there as a morale booster. Fact is, this will easily get you by for three days, if you have just enough. If you're more health conscious, then go for the energy bars. Either way, you're only surviving off this food for a short term; when you pack your Bug Out Bag (which is a lot bigger than a Get Home Bag) that's when you should pay a lot more attention to nutritional content of food items.
At most you'll only have two outfits, two sets of underwear, two pairs of socks -- the reason for having two outfits is so that everything can be layered in case of cold temperatures the first few days of a disaster. Finally, you'll have rain gear (pants and jacket) to wear over the top of everything.
A summary of essential clothing to include: Wool socks, wool cap, waterproof jacket with hood, rugged work gloves, cold weather work gloves, and base layer long underwear (the type made specifically for the cold from materials other than cotton -- cotton is a bad choice for cold weather -- cotton retains moisture, and in the cold that can kill you); also on this list I recommend pants to wear over your base layer long underwear, and then also rain pants to wear as a third layer to combat cold temperatures, chilly nights, and of course rainy weather.
Note: Rain pants typically make loud noises, crinkle, pop, and swish when you wear them. Nowadays manufacturers of hunting gear are making rain pants with a fabric on top so they're a lot quieter; consider going with one of these brands or simply wear some nylon workout pants over the top of your rain pants and that will eliminate the swishing noise as well.
Depending on the climate of the area you live, if there's rain, mud, sewage (yes, sewage, which can contaminate an area after a disaster strikes), shallow streams, or river banks, you may do a lot better with the waterproof boots.
Note: If there's any chance you'll be in a wet environment, it's a good idea to learn how how to care for your feet. In a wet environment there's a danger of "trench foot" taking place when you wear shoes or boots in wet conditions for an extended period of time. (Here's how to help avoid trench foot).
The good news -- shelter building isn't that difficult. Not when there are abandoned cars and trucks you can sleep in, or when you can come across shelter-making materials either in an area devastated by a natural disaster, or in the woods, where you can build yourself a simple lean-to out of tree branches, or find a place to bed down under a fallen tree, a stump, or a small cave. What you can have in your Get Home Bag is both a medium sized tarp folded up to take very little space and also 2 or 3 large heavy duty 55 gallon garbage bags -- check your local hardware store. These bags are a lot bigger than household garbage bags, a lot stronger, and make a great instant shelter. If you happen to have dry leaves or grass handy fill the bag and use both as insulation. Crawl inside and bed down for the night. But before you do that, cut a hole in the top of one of the other contractor bags and put it over your head like a poncho. You'll have your feet in one bag, and your torso in the other. Other than your head, the rest of your body will be completely covered. Which only leaves your head... That brings us to...
You can buy mosquito netting cheaply by the yard and then with just some duct tape and scissors cut it into custom lengths for however you need to use it. Let's say you bed down in a car or truck, but it's 90 degrees out and the dead of summer. Role the windows down and tape up mosquito netting so you don't die of heat stroke in the hot vehicle. Or lets say you're in the forest, under a fallen tree, and bedding down in a large garbage bag as described in a previous paragraph. Your head will be exposed so build yourself a custom "mosquito hood" (again out of duct tape and a section of mosquito netting) and wear it over your head. You can sleep exposed to the elements without getting bitten by bugs. Of course just purchasing a mosquito head net is an easier way to go about this.
Finally, you'll want an up to date map that details actual trails, as well as records elevation changes in the terrain. Fact is, if there are other people who will be making the escape with you, you're going to want to study your maps and choose the easiest trail rather than choosing a trail that may be more popular with mountain climbers. Your goal isn't to climb to the highest peak. Your goal is to get you, your family, your friends safely out of the area as quickly as possible, knowing that many of them may not be cut out for a long hike up and over a steep mountain. If you can find a route that skirts a mountain (rather than climbs it) and makes its way through a valley, it's likely to be a much easier hike, especially if you and your party are carrying excess gear.
An AM-FM radio is good for one thing: to bring you the news as it's happening. Specifically look for an emergency radio that's going to carry several news and weather stations simply because bad weather may be what's in store, especially if major storms are striking and if any sub-zero cold temperatures are coming your way. You'll want to prepare your shelter for a freezing night in advance, rather than have to suffer an uncomfortable night in the cold.
In a worst case scenario, what if the news you're looking for pertains to a nuclear attack somewhere in the region? News stations may tell you what direction the winds are blowing so you know which way not to flee so as to avoid nuclear ash and radiation being carried by any strong winds.
The radio at this link has both a hand-crank and rechargeable battery. That means that you re-charge the battery with the hand-crank and never need electricity or a back-up battery. It is also a two-way radio, which means you can communicate with others on many different frequencies.
"The best advice for a Get Home Bag where we are considering the car as a part of the overall gear we can use, is a CB radio. Yes, shortwave and Marine Band have a greater range. CB is limited to 4 watts (or effectively a little more than twice that using single side band technology). However, in terms of 'Get Home' practicality, installing a CB radio in your car is a very simple, affordable thing to do, and can give you more than line-of-sight depending on the time of day/night and the current solar flare cycle. Right now, we are in a peak time of the 11-year solar flare cycle, which means it is possible to 'shoot skip' much further than line of sight at times since the CB operates across 40 channels in the 27 MHz band. This is the upper portion of High Frequency, and for a 12V powered system that is working on channels that truckers and other people on the road are on, this is not necessarily a bad choice for a 'Get Home' plan. Additionally, you can easily invest in a good CB antenna which will boost your practical line of sight.
While HAM (amateur) radio is undeniably a must-have for the post-disaster, serious prepper, CB is a cheap, easy and quick method of 2-way radio communication that can at least be in the car to help you find out what else may be happening on the road, or listen in on conversations that may have been relayed from further away, even."
What if you have to abandon your car due to the condition of the roads? Remove the CB radio from the car, take the antennae, and stash the entire system in your Get Home Bag. You can set it up in another vehicle later in your trip.
Pack Ibuprofen -- Ibuprofen brings down fevers (though not everyone can take it); in the case of illness or infection, it's a band-aid that may buy you a couple more days when antibiotics are needed. Pack multiple size bandages for mid-size cuts to severe lacerations; adhesive tape to keep these bandages in place; also include self-adherent wrap, which may work even better than adhesive tape as it's flexible and allows movement; cloth wrap commonly used for sprains; finally, pack antibiotic ointment, anti-itch ointment for bites and stings, and include something for wound-cleansing and disinfecting.
Surprisingly things like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and iodine are not the best items to include, they are said to hurt cells when used in cuts and impede healing. See this article. It turns out that clean water is the best way to cleanse a wound, then apply first-aid ointment such as Neosporin, then your bandage. What if there's no clean water? Go with the rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol -- though not the best choice for wound cleaning as it can damage cells -- will still cleanse the wound of bacteria when no clean water is available. Rubbing alcohol is commonly used in hospitals to clean the skin prior to any needle puncture as well as to sterilize medical equipment and even for tick removal.
First-aid in a disaster can take on many shapes -- for people badly injured you simply won't have most items needed in a Get Home Bag. Instead have a knowledge of emergency medical care for a disaster: Know how to tie a tourniquet to stop the bleeding when an artery has been cut, how to make a make-shift splint or sling for broken limbs, know when an injured person is safe to be moved, and what kind of injury may be too dangerous for moving a person, such as a broken back or broken neck.
In your Get Home Bag pack a reputable handgun and of course a concealed carry license. This handgun is a last resort when threats are closing in and it's the only way out. Learn how to shoot, how to re-load in a hurry, and how to care for your weapon.
An important question to ask yourself is this: In the heat of the moment, will you keep your wits about you and even be able to get to your gun in time to make a difference? This is where law enforcement and veteran military have an advantage over the average citizen who hasn't been through psychologically challenging situations when it comes to firearms. A good course on firearms as self defense can help you through that learning curve and be more ready for firearm self defense should you ever need it (and one day you just might).
Now let's talk about your knife: In a Get Home Bag, a big, bad Rambo style survival knife can have it's place, especially if you have to pass through an area of a city where rioting and looting is taking place. Keep it tucked away and only use it as a last resort. Held in an aggressive and threatening manner, a bowie knife (as more commonly called) can scare away crooks and would-be rapists. For actual usefulness though, keep a second, smaller survival knife on hand.
Each person's Get Home Bag should have the bare essentials as gone over above and include things like extra medicine and an extra pair of eye glasses should a person need prescription medicine for health purposes or glasses to see.
Your children should have emergency information in a waterproof container and kept inside their backpacks with instructions on what they should do in the event of a catastrophic disaster. In the event of emergency, children should stay where they are, if they have that option -- school or child care for example -- because you can go to them easier than they can go to you.
So, have a plan, and don't be afraid to bring it up in conversation.
It's an important topic and each person in your family should be on the same page.