The Get-Home Bag

A Get-Home Bag can be an essential item for people who are at work when an emergency situation occurs. I always hear people discussing Bug-Out Bags. However, they are normally kept at your home and you need to be there to get them. Also, you must keep in mind that you may not necessarily be bugging out. You may be heading home to bug-in. Don’t always assume that you need to get home to leave, you may just need to get away from the present problem and get to the safety of your home. Your car or truck may have broken down and you just need to walk.

I consider the “Get Home Kit”, an essential part of your Everyday Carry. Although you probably won’t carry it on your person, it must be with you every day in the event of an emergency situation. A Get Home Bag, kit, or Pack, has all the essential items that will help you get home in an emergency.

I recall 9-11 in New York City very well. I recall seeing people stumbling down the streets covered in white powder. They had to walk out of the city, some to New Jersey. I saw fancy dress shoes, high heels, etc. People without water or anything to cover their face. They were not prepared to get home in an emergency.

I recall on several occasions arriving at our local airport after returning from a consulting assignment and finding my truck plowed in with snow. Like others from the plane, I was in a suit and tie, dress shoes and an overcoat. But as soon as I got to my truck, I grabbed my winter boots, a winter parka coat , and a pair of insulated snow trousers to pull over my dress pants. They are just part of the winter gear I keep in my truck. I used the snow shovel that also lives in the truck, and in a short time I was on my way home.

Obviously, how much you carry has a lot to do with how far you are from home when at work. If you work only a couple of miles from home, you shouldn't have to carry very much. But if it will take you hours or even days to get home, you pack should allow you to make the trip. 

Selecting A Get-Home Bag

I have a proclivity to military style packs and equipment. Most of my survival kits are built for the “Wilderness” environment, so I don’t mind using military style packs and bags.

However, when it comes to a “Get Home Kit” I decided to use a pack that was civilian in appearance. My thoughts were I didn't want to look military or, worse, like a possible terrorist. I like looking like a plain “Joe” just trying to get home from work. This is especially true if there is any possibility that I might have to walk.

With that being said, there is a lot of discussion out there in regard to a "civilian" looking pack versus a "military" looking pack. I feel it is up to the individual person to decide on what they want to carry. You should choose a bag you feel comfortable with and don't worry what others think. After all, you are the one who has to carry it.

There are various types of side carry bags made for carrying laptop computers. I don’t personally like side carry bags because they pull on one side of my neck as opposed to a pack with straps that balance on both shoulders. I personally prefer a small day pack as it leaves both of my hands free for other purposes. But again, use what works for you.

I have my “Get Home Kit” in an old day pack made by The North Face” called the “Yavapai.” I like the fact that it is old and just looks like a regular pack that any civilian might carry. It has holders for two 32 oz. Nalgene bottles on the outside of the pack which provides me with plenty of water. You can see in the opening photo, with me wearing the pack, that it doesn’t stand out, look military, or raise any eyebrows. Just what I want when I’m trying to get home. You will also note that I don’t hang stuff like knives, hawks, or machetes on the outside. I don’t want it to look survival, but just a pack! By the way, this pack has been discontinued by North Face.

Depending on where you work, a Get Home Kit can be kept in a desk drawer in your office. If like me, you live in a more rural area, you can keep your kit in your vehicle, as long as you keep it out of site from casual observer.

So what do you need in your Get Home Kit? Many of the basics remain the same as with all your kits. Let's break it down into categories to make it easier.

Hydration & Energy

Water is essential in order to stay hydrated. Have a bottle or two of water in the kit. I also recommend some energy food. Some comfort food is important, as well as some power bars or a few Snickers® for that added energy if needed. If you work at a distance that will take you longer than a day to walk home, in the event your vehicle is not available, then add some emergency food as well.

As part of the kit, a small stove and pot could come in handy. A pot can be used to boil water as well as for cooking food. Some water purification tablets take up little room, and a small water filter could be handy as well. I also carry a titanium spoon. It is a comfort item, but for the weight, in my opinion it is worth it.

A small water filter such as the Sawyer Mini or the Frontier Pro can provide you with filtered water
quickly and takes up very little room in your pack.

Shelter & Protection

Shelter and warmth in this situation is more about having the proper clothing to walk home if need be. In the summer, you need a hat, sunglasses, rain jacket or poncho, and a wind breaker if possible. If your bag is large enough, carry a few contractor garbage bags, as they are handy for many things. A small emergency bivy and emergency blanket can assist with shelter and warmth. An ultra-light tarp takes up little room but can provide you with an adequate shelter as well. In the winter, clothes warm enough to allow you to deal with the cold are essential.

A real important consideration is footwear that can get you home. I see many women today in the city that actually wear sneakers to work and then change into their fancy high healed shoes at work. If you don’t wear walking shoes at work (many have to wear dress shoes), then I recommend having sneakers, or even better, a pair of light hikers, in your Get-Home Bag, or attached to it.

Have something to cover your mouth and nose. A couple of bandanas can be used to cover your mouth and nose. I carry two N95 Particulate Respirators, for this purpose.

You can carry safety glasses to protect your eyes, but I carry a small pair of swimming goggles (I prefer tinted glasses). Swimming goggles are better at sealing your eyes from dirt and debris. If you saw some of the people after 9-11, their faces were covered with white/gray powder. You obviously wouldn’t want that stuff in your eyes. Even a dust storm could be a problem.

Tinted or mirrored swimming goggles and a N95 Particulate Respirator may look funny, but you will
be able to see and breath.

I also carry IOSAT™ Potassium Iodide which is used to protect your thyroid gland against radioactive iodine released during a nuclear emergency. If you work in a high rise building you might also consider a smoke hood to help you get out of a building that is full of smoke.

If you live near a nuclear reactor, you might consider carrying Potassium Iodide.

A couple of pairs of Nitrile gloves and a pair of work gloves are handy to have. I also feel that a pair of ear plugs are important. Depending on the situation, you want to be able to protect your ears from loud noise.

Of course, if you wear prescription glasses, have an extra pair. I carry a mini pair of prescription glasses that fit in a tube, that I had special made.

This is the pair of mini prescription glasses I had made that fit in a small tube.

Depending on the season I carry sunblock, chap stick, and bug repellent. 

Medical Considerations

A first aid kit is essential! Whether you get a scratch or a serious wound, be able to handle it. It doesn’t have to be a full blown kit, but be able to stop the bleeding and handle minor problems. If you need prescription medicine have some in your kit. A small separate Trauma Kit is also advisable. For an article I did on DIY First Aid Kit Modules, click HERE.

A small First Aid kit  and Trauma Kit can be made yourself with basic items you might need. 

Hygiene Considerations

Some basic hygiene items can be carried in a very small space. At the least you should carry a small compact roll of toilet paper. A very small hygiene kit can be put together using some wet wipes, a comb, tooth brush, a small packet of toothpaste, some dental floss, a small bar of soap, etc. In the event it takes you longer than expected to get home, these items can keep you clean and refreshed.

Wet Wipes are handy to quickly clean any dirt off you. I also carry a couple of those Pee Bags. You go in the bag and it gels so you can just throw it in the garbage. In the country it is not necessary, but the city, especially a high rise building where the water isn’t working, they could be handy.

A small compact roll of toilet paper should be the minimum for hygiene.

Many mini hygiene items can be carried in a small space such as a zip-closure bag. This photo shows
the items included in a small 72 hour bug-out hygiene kit offered at Survival Resources.

Knives & Tools

If you don’t carry a knife as an EDC item (which is hard to believe), you definitely need one in your kit. A small folding saw wouldn’t hurt as well.

In regard to tools, I happen to like tools so I probably carry more than most. But if you don’t EDC a multi-tool it would be a good item to have in your kit. I carry a Leatherman Wave everyday in a small belt pouch. It has a loop on each side and I carry a small Microstream flashlight on one side and a Leatherman Bit Driver Extender on the other. The back of the pouch has a slip pouch for the two Leatherman Bit Kits. Takes up very little space on my belt but provides a lot of options.

This shows my small Leatherman Wave setup which takes up very little room on my belt but provides
me with many options.

I also like a pry bar. Most of the mini EDC pry bars are too small to be effective. I started with a small pry bar that is 8" long, the same as my Mini Bolt Cutters. It had a small nail puller on one end which I didn't need so I cut it off. I added a paracord wrap on the handle and made a Kydex sheath as the pry end is sharp. The Pry Bar measures 8" long and weighs 6.9 oz.

This shows the Small Pry Bar in the hand to show size.

This shows my small Pry Bar without and with the Kydex sheath .

In an Emergency Situation there might be a time when you could use a set of bolt cutters. Now I'm not advocating that you do anything illegal, especially breaking into any place. However, especially in a Get-Home Situation, you might find that your egress from a dangerous area (such as a Bombing, Riot, Fire, or a Shooting Situation) might be through a chain link or other type fence. 

I carry a set of Mini Bolt Cutters made by Knipex which are only 8" long and weigh only 11.6 oz. I did a video showing these bolt cutters cutting through chain link fence, which you can see HERE

This shows the Knipex Mini Bolt Cutters

Of course a larger tool kit can be carried with more options for repairs, etc. I like a kit as small as I can get it, but yet having a variety of tools that give me more diversity than just a multi tool. For my Get Home Bag I have a good assortment of tools in a Survival Kit Tin. It provides me with more than a multi-tool. Of course, as many of know, I’ve been building and modifying things my whole life, so I personally desire the additional options. If you’re not handy, just carry a multi-tool. I did a video on the Mini Tool Kit Tin which you can see HERE.

This is a view of my Mini Tool Kit Tin. It provides me with more options than just a multi-tool. 

Another handy item to carry, especially if you will be traveling through an urban area, is a 4-Way Sillcock Key. It is used to open the faucet on the outside of a commercial building, industrial site, and even some rest stops. These faucets are actually tamper resistant hose bibs, and will allow the owner to attach a hose to it. The 4-Way Sillcock Key allows you to open these faucets. You could also carry a short section of hose (I carry one about a foot long) with the female screw end, to make it easier to fill a container. This provides you with another means of possibly obtaining water, either for a radiator on a vehicle, or for drinking water. If the water is questionable, you can always purify it by boiling or other means. Of course I am not advocating that you break the law or steal water. But having the right tools allows you to survive a bad situation. I did a video showing how to use a Sillcock key which you can see HERE. You can purchase one HERE.

4-Way Sillcock Key for obtaining water from an exterior faucet on a commercial building. 

Miscellaneous Items

A flashlight (I prefer a headlamp as it leaves my hands free) as well as a couple of Lightsticks can provide that needed light to find you way home. Streets can be pretty dark when the lights are out. Have at least one extra set of extra batteries for each flashlight or headlamp.

A small headlamp allows you to have light yet have both hands free.

A small repair kit is handy and it should at least have some duct tape, cable ties and wire. These things can help you repair about anything. I carry snare wire as it is easy to work with, but I also carry a piece of coat hanger as it is stiffer for certain repairs. I place small rubber caps on the ends so they do not poke through the bag. As part of your repair gear, if you wear glasses, you should have a mini eyeglass repair kit.

A 4 mil. zip closure bag holds various items such as zip-ties, duct tape, and brass wire, to make
hasty repairs. Even a sturdy piece of coat hanger wire is included.

Cordage is always important and I always recommend some parachute cord because of its versatility. I carry 35' on a "pocket-pallet" that I made from a piece of Kydex. It fits comfortably in my rear pocket.

This is my "Pocket-Pallet" which holds 35' of parachute cord, and rides in my rear pocket.

Another thing I carry is a small door wedge. There are occasions when you might want to hold a door open and yet keep your hands free. They are light and take up little room so you might want to throw one in your kit.

Of course something to write with, and on, is a given. I prefer the Rite In The Rain® waterproof pads. I carry the smaller 3″ x 5″ and a couple of pens and a Solid Graphite Pencil.

A whistle, if not carried as part of your EDC, should be included and attached to the outside of your pack. Although usually thought of a just a signaling device, it can be used to draw attention to yourself in other situations. An example might be in a parking lot. I have seen domestic disputes with yelling and people just walk by. But if a person, especially a woman, starts blowing a whistle, people tend to listen and assume something is wrong.

A small fire starting kit is essential as you never know when you might need to start a fire for cooking, warmth, or purifying water, not to mention possible signaling. Do carry adequate tinder.

A compass and a map of the area you will have to travel is important. A USGS contour map is great if you’re going off road, but if not, at least have a good road map. You may have to take detours and you can better find another route using a road map. A GPS is another consideration, but I wouldn’t leave the map or compass behind.

Although not essential, I like to have a small pair of binoculars. Although I prefer small binoculars to a monocular, as they are easier to steady, either will allow you to look further than your eyes allow. It is nice to be able to view a possible problem area before you get to it.

A small pair of binoculars or a monocular can come in handy for spotting a potential problem area before
you approach it.


Last, but not least, is communications. I would assume you will have a cell phone, but don’t rely on it. On 9-11 in NY City, the cell service went down in about 30 minutes. I had to use various land lines to contact my wife up north and tell her I was heading her way. A simple AM/FM radio can keep you informed as well a weather Band radio. Of course if you have an Amateur Radio license, carry a small one. Amateur radios are a great communication ability with others with a license.

Although a cell phone is great as long as you have service, a small AM/FM/Weatherband Radio can keep
you informed. A small Ham radio can provide you with communication possibilities with other
Amateur radio operators.

I also have a small electronics bag that holds various items such as a mini multimeter, some thin rosin core solder with a mini Bic lighter (You can solder with a lighter by wrapping the solder around bare wires and melting with the lighter). A cigarette lighter adapter with small alligator clips allows you to attach the adapter to a battery (such as in a vehicle). I have a mini cigarette lighter plug with 2 USB outputs, and a couple of small cables which allow me to use the 12 volt battery to charge a cell phone or IPod. There are a couple of wire leads with alligator clips on both ends and some red and black electrical tape. Although not a lot of stuff, in conjunction with my mini tool kit, I can fix or modify various thing in an emergency.

You can see how small my electronics accessory bag is when packed.

This photo shows the contents of my small electronics bag, as discussed in the text above.

Of course, there are various types of re-chargers that can be carried in order to recharge your phone or other electronic devices. They come in various shapes and sizes. Instead of elaborating here, I have a complete article on the subject called "Recharging On The Go" that can be seen HERE.


I know it is hard for some people to put some cash away and not touch it, but make it a habit. A couple of hundred dollars in 20 dollar bills can come in handy to help you get home! Keep in mind that if the power is out, so are ATM's.

Well, this of course is not complete, and I’m sure there are some items that you might consider. But, it provides you with some ideas in regard to a “Get Home Bag.” If you work away from home, you might consider this type of kit.

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Copyright © 2017 by John D. McCann