Home. At the end of the day, that’s where we all want to be. Not only does it contain all of our worldly possessions, but it provides a sense of familiarity, safety and routine. In most cases, it also houses the most valuable asset—family. For those reasons, when something catastrophic occurs, we need the ability and tools to get home fast. Unfortunately, the modern age of commuting and urban sprawl has made it all too common to be 30 to 50 miles away from home on an average day. So the question is, would you be able to get home should disaster strike?
The Get Home Bag Concept
A get-home bag, or GHB, is a compact and relatively lightweight pack that is filled with the critical gear needed to help you get home in an emergency. It is not an assault pack or bug-out bag for long-term survival. The GHB serves for intermediate distances of up to 50 miles that can be walked, if a person is in decent condition, in two to three days. There might come a time when you are separated from your vehicle, and that’s when the GHB will come into its own.
Listing every possible item that should be in a GHB really isn’t possible, especially in just one article. It might be different from person to person, especially if you consider the terrain, time of year and your physical condition. However, there are 10 core areas that would apply in almost all cases and should be considered before setting up your own GHB and tailoring it to your individual needs and skill level.
Your GHB should include clothing suitable for the season, comfortable and sturdy footwear, rain gear, hats, sunglasses and gloves. Spare socks are a must!
Shelter can protect you from the elements and debris, treat shock and keep you warm. A fire kit is also essential and should include at least a couple of methods for starting a fire (lighter, matches, a fire steel and striker) and an adequate supply of effective tinder.
Hydration is critical. Have a minimum of 1 to 2 liters of water on hand. For water found along the way, it’s helpful to have a stainless steel bottle or small pot for boiling the water and a purification method like MicroPur tablets or a LifeStraw adds additional insurance. Food is a low priority during this timeframe, but energy bars and trail mix might boost morale and tamp down hunger pangs.
4. First Aid
Forget scrapes and bruises. A quality personal trauma kit or IFAK is required at a minimum. Essentials like hand sanitizer and mole skin/duct tape for blisters will be handy as well. For hygiene, toilet paper will be really all the matters for a 24- to 72-hour period, and even that can be improvised. If weight allows, then you can add Band-Aids and ibuprofen.
5. Personal Needs
This category includes items like prescription medications, spare glasses, contact lenses and solution, EpiPens, glucose tablets and anything else you require to simply function on a daily basis. This may include coffee for some hardcore types.
Tools help you get things done along the way. They can be as simple as a knife and a multi-tool, or you can load up your kit with everything but the kitchen sink. Remember that weight is a critical factor in quick movement. Items to consider include a fixed-blade knife, small bolt cutters for fencing, a multi-tool, a pry tool, a flashlight or headlamp, a hatchet, paracord, a four-way Silcock key, a glass-breaker, a seatbelt cutter, rope, duct tape, an N95/P100 mask, work gloves and a couple of bandanas.
Even if you know where you are, items like maps, a compass and GPS will help you find alternate routes to your final destination and keep you going in the right direction. Other extras may include a notepad, a pen or pencil, a whistle, a signal mirror, a Sharpie or chalk for marking routes and communicating with others.
Getting a message home and receiving updates about the situation is vital. Possible equipment for the GHB includes a cell phone, a portable ham radio or a portable emergency radio.
9. Support Gear
This is what facilitates and supports your self-rescue. Items like spare batteries, spending cash, rolls of quarters for vending machines or a prepaid credit card can help get you out of a jam. A solar charger or portable battery bank with the proper cables might save your bacon as well.
For most readers, this category will encompass some sort of firearm or two, a less-lethal alternative, ammunition, extra magazines and accessories like holsters and magazine carriers. Pack only what you can carry and practice with what you pack to make sure it works and wears well with your gear.
While there is plenty of information about firearms in this issue, we felt like we should offer some other gear suggestions that might help round out your get-home bag. Some items will work well for novices who aren’t sure where to start while others will hopefully satisfy even the hardest-core gearheads.
5.11 Tactical AMP24
One of 5.11 Tactical’s latest offerings, the AMP24 is just the ticket for your journey home or any other role you’d like it to fill. Built from water-resistant 500 Dobby and 1,050-denier nylon, the AMP24 is the right balance of size, mobility and capacity. Its main compartment has a volume of 1,716 cubic inches and offers a full clamshell opening and Quad-Zip zippers for quick and easy access to your gear.
In addition to the main compartment, the AMP24 has multiple concealed pockets, even for water bottles, to help maintain a low profile. The AMP series of packs will also accept modular gear sets in place of the HexGrid load-bearing system on the outside of the pack. With the gear sets, the user can tailor the pack to specific uses or missions. There is an Admin gear set, the Two-Banger for carrying magazines and other items, and the Double Deploy which provides fast access to commonly used items like an IFAK. (511tactical.com)
Anker PowerCore 26800
For those moments when you’re away from a power source and the sun isn’t out for portable solar panels to work, the Anker PowerCore 26800 is an ideal way to charge electronics while on the move. The 26800 mAH battery comes with three USB-A ports and two micro-USB ports, and it can charge an iPhone six to nine times depending on its size and capacity. With a USB-powered battery charger, it can also charge AAA and AA batteries to use in your GPS device, radio or LED lamp. (anker.com)
Coast has been offering dual-power LED lights for a while, and this versatility works very well with the GHB concept. The FL75R headlamp takes AAA batteries, but it also comes with its own rechargeable battery. Using Coast’s Flex Charge technology, both the lamp assembly and the battery have micro-USB ports, allowing the battery to be charged either inside or outside of the headlamp. The FL75R offers three brightness settings of 65, 260 and 530 lumens, and red LEDs are included to preserve night vision.
The more robust Coast LED light for the GHB is the Polysteel 600R. Built like a tank, the 600R has a steel core with a poly-nylon outer shell. It’s waterproof and will still work after six hours of submersion in 3 meters of water. Like the FL75R, it offers three brightness levels, but since the battery has a higher capacity, it has longer run times—35 hours on low and almost six minutes on high. It comes with its own rechargeable battery and a cartridge that will hold 4 AA batteries as well. (coastportland.com)
Hardcore Survivalist Hatchet
Weighing in at 19 ounces with an 18-inch handle, the Survivalist Hatchet from Hardcore Hammers has a beautiful grind with a razor-sharp edge. Crafted from 4140 steel, the head has a profile just right for cutting and splitting wood, and it can also do fine work like carving and making feather sticks for a fire. Opposite the cutting edge is a hammer poll with a recessed and serrated striking face. But what makes the Survivalist Hatchet such a great tool is the attention to details like the protective collar for the shaft, the nail and tent-stake puller, and even the flap-and-stud closure for the leather sheath. (hardcorehammers.com)
Leatherman Free P4
No proper EDC set or GHB should be without a quality multi-tool, and Leatherman just raised the bar again with the introduction of its Free P4 multi-tool. Imagine a butterfly knife and a multi-tool hooking up and having a love child. With the clever use of magnets for retention when not in use, the Free P4 can be flipped and spun open with one hand to get to the needle-nose pliers. The Free P4 is designed with easy, one-handed access to all the tools, including knives; scissors; a saw; an awl; a pry tool; wire strippers, crimpers and cutters; bottle and can openers; a file; various screwdrivers; and a few other handy items. (leatherman.com)
L.T. Wright Trekker
The Trekker sports a 5-inch, drop-point, AEB-L stainless steel blade with a flat grind and a matte finish. AEB-L is an exceptional steel for this type of knife since it can weather the elements and still be sharpened quite easily. The Trekker I received bore Wright’s signature contoured handle machined from black canvas Micarta. It’s extremely comfortable and provides excellent traction during tough chores. The Trekker comes supplied with a superb JRB Bushcraft Sheath. It has a standard loop for high carry and a dangler loop for easy access below the waistline when sitting or doing chores. (ltwrightknives.com)
North American Rescue MFAK
North American Rescue produces absolutely top-tier kits for military, law enforcement and public-sector agencies for a wide variety of uses and needs. The company’s Mini First Aid Kit (MFAK) contains the critical components to deal with traumatic injuries in an ultraportable form factor. The kit consists of a rugged 500-denier nylon pouch that opens in a clamshell fashion. It includes a Combat Application Tourniquet, Bear Claw nitrile trauma gloves, and two Hyfin Vent Compact chest seals. A roll of gauze and a 4-inch Flat Responder emergency trauma dressing round out the kit. (narescue.com)
Available in a variety of sizes to fit everything from a keychain to a backpack, Rogan’s pry tools are fashioned from medium-carbon steel and heat-treated specifically to hold up to heavy-duty work without breaking when you need them most. The REX (Rescue Escape Xtract) EOD model is used by military and law enforcement personnel. It comes with a welded handguard that keeps it place when slipped into MOLLE webbing. At 9 inches long and 0.25 inches thick, it’s a serious tool for serious work and its uses are limitless. The Pocket Tool is also a must-have EDC item that has quickly found its place in my daily carry. It can do almost all of the tasks of its larger siblings with a little thought and elbow grease. (roganusa.com)
SOL Escape Bivvy & Emergency Shelter Kit
Looking for ready-made shelter solutions? The Escape Bivvy from SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) is essentially an ultralight, weatherproof sleeping bag. But it comes with a lining that will reflect up to 70 percent of the user’s body heat. It weighs 8.5 ounces and utilizes a breathable material that will stave off condensation. SOL’s Emergency Shelter Kit works alone or in conjunction with the Bivvy Bag. The Bivvy Bag increases comfort and versatility without adding a lot of weight. Coming in at just $25, the kit includes four aluminum stakes, a 90-by-60-inch reflective tarp, guy lines and glow-in-the-dark tensioners. (surviveoutdoorslonger.com)
SOL also offers an all-in-one survival kit that’s great for beginners. It can also serve as a backup to primary gear for more experienced users. The Origin is a compact kit that includes a variety of survival tools, including a Fire Lite striker. It comes with Tinder Quick tabs, a signal mirror, fishing gear, a liquid-damped compass, and safety wire. It also features a combination knife/whistle/LED light for last resort work. It’s a handy kit that you can throw into a coat or GHB so it’s ready when you need it. (surviveoutdoorslonger.com)
With the introduction of its new Compass sunglasses, Wiley-X provides the user with great protection and awesome style. The sunglasses I received had a lightweight Kryptek Neptune frame and polarized lenses. The lenses meet the ANSI 787.1 standards for high-mass and high-velocity protection. With its shatterproof Selenite lenses, the sunglasses also meet the military’s MIL-PRF-32432(GL) standard. It offers over six times the impact resistance of the of the Z87 standard. Even better, Wiley-X offers a service to build the spectacles to a specific prescription. (wileyx.com)