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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Get Home Bag

Outdoor backpack
The Get Home Bag
In my first guest article I wrote about the Bug Out Bag and some basic advice for an evacuation scenario. The Bug Out Bag (BOB) is an tool intended to be used in situations that requires evacuation from an area. The BOB can be designed in many sizes and forms but are normally quite heavy and stored in the home.
The Get Home Bag (GHB) as a tool intended to provide equipment to allow an individual to reach the home during a crisis or survival situation, for example if the person is at work when a disaster strikes. The Bag should not only serve as a tool for coping with disaster but also function as your every day resource for dealing with problems. What content your Get Home Bag should have depends on where you live, how long you may have to travel to get back home and your specific situation.

The GHB is only a small part of being ready for a disaster. For anyone how is serious about getting ready for a crisis I would recommend that you start out with your health and physical fitness. Go to a doctor and make a checkup. Also visit a dentist and fix any problems you may have with your teeth, in a survival situation a bad tooth can cause infection and a present a serious health hazard and great discomfort. Your physical fitness is very important if you have to make a long walk or march by foot. Start exercising three times a week with an activity that you find interesting and stimulating. The items in your bag is only tools, they are only valuable if you know how to use them. A fire steel is of little use if you can’t start a fire with it. Training this kind of skills is critical if you want to be able to use them in a real life situation. The same goes for all skills, no matter if it is self defense, starting a fire, first aid or navigation.

Your clothing provides your shield against the elements. Your clothing must be appropriate for your particular climate. Shell jackets provide excellent protection from wind and rain; also get a pair of gloves and hat or watch cap. Merino wool is an excellent material for t-shirts and socks, the material does not cool the body as much when it wets like cotton do. Your shoes are perhaps the most import part in any situation when you have to walk a longer distance. Make sure that they are comfortable and if possible also waterproof. A watch is also something that you should try to carry at all times. Your cell phone can be vital tool for communication in many emergencies, make sure that you have In Case of Emergency (ICE) numbers programmed if something would happen to you. A water proof container for the phone can help keeping it safe from the elements. Some phone may also have useful application like a flashlight, compass, FM/AM radio and GPS. If you have a phone that has a short battery life a spare battery can be essential.

The Bag
What kind of bag you should get depends on your every day activity. Ideally you should be able to carry both the items that you need for your everyday activities like a computer, notes, books, lunch box and other essentials in addition to the items you carry for crisis preparedness. Another option is to have a separate bag for emergencies in your vehicle or at your office.

The size of the bag depends on how much space you need and what kind of bag that you prefer. Back packs are generally the most comfortable solution especially if you have a heavy pack. Shoulder bags can be a good alternative but are not as comfortable to carry if they are heavy since al the weight of the bag will be on one shoulder. There are also bags that are a mix between backpacks and shoulders bags called gear slinger.
Maxpedition make some interesting bags in this category like the Monsoon, Sitka and Kodiak. There are a number of different companies that makes excellent bags like Fjällräven, Osprey, JanSport, Lundhags, Klättermusen, Haglöfs, Exped, The North Face, Norröna, Bergans, GoLite and Arcteryx. Find a bag that fits your needs and that is comfortable to carry.

Suggested items for the Get Home Bag
• A Get Home Bag should have some kind of shelter than can help shield you from the elements, this can for example be a light weight poncho,
bivanorak, Fjellduk, emergency blanket or light weight tarp.
• Water is something that can be critical in a survival situation and your bag should have at least one small water bottle, the bottles from
Nalgene and SIGG has a high quality a normal soda bottle can be used as well. This can also help you save money instead of buying soft drinks while on the move.
• A
Survival Knife is a useful tool but you must check what the specific legal aspect of this is for your country – what kind of knives are legal and where is it allowed to carry them? There are also credit card sized tool kits from Victorinox and Tool Logic that you can carry in your wallet at all times.
• A compact flashlight or headlamp can provide light in dark conditions and be used for signaling. Choose a compact light that doesn’t take up to much space in your bag. Compact flashlights thats using a single AA or AAA battery can be found from
Fenix and 4Sevens, the anglelights from ZebraLight can also be an interesting alternative.
• A compact First Aid Kit with some basic band aids and disinfection wipes can be a good thing for treating small cuts and treating wounds. The first aid kit is important but the most important part is that you take a course so that you know CPR and the basic skills. Also include some painkillers and anti-diarrheal tablets. If it is flu-season a small tube with alcohol based disinfection may also be a useful addition.
• Some kind of item that can help you start a fire like a fire steel, lighter or matches in a waterproof container.
• Roadmap / Citymap and Compass or GPS
• Notebook and Pen, excellent for writing down important information or for leaving a note. I personally like the notebooks from
Rite in the Rain.
• A 
Pocket Survival Kit
• Paracord or Duct tape
• Signal Mirror and Whistle

• Lighter and more compact than a Bug Out Bag
• The bag be used as an Every Day Carry Bag
• Provides an resource to deal with problems in your everyday life

• Not as comprehensive as a Bug Out Bag

A Get Home Bag is a concept that lands somewhere between your Every Day Carry and a
Light Weight Bug Out Bag. There is no clear line between the different concepts, the important thing is that you create a concept that fit your personal needs and provides the tools that you need. Disasters can strike without any warning and even if your Get Home Bag is not designed to provide the function for an evacuation you may have to make do with this bag or your Every Day Carry in a worst case scenario. Equipment is an import part of preparedness, but items can be lost or incomplete. The main focus of your efforts should always be too improve your health and physical fitness, learn relevant skills and your improving your knowledge since these are the things that is always with you, no matter the situation
This article is a part of The Free Online Survival Guide that can be found on the site Sibi Totique.
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1 comment:

  1. Great article and so true about physical fitness. I was at work in Tokyo when the earthquake struck in March. The trains stopped and we all had to walk home. I was lucky as I live "just" a four hour walk away; I had mates who walked as much as 6 - 8 hours home. I didnt have a GHB prepared so I had to wslk in my business shoes. The last 30 minutes were a real struggle and to add insult to injury when I finally stumbled into my apartment block the elevators were turned off for safety. I smiled at the irony on the way up the stairs to my apartment.

    I learned a few things from the ecperience though. Firstly was the need for a GHB. I have one under my desk now. It contains a pair of sneakers (although I'll switch these for a pair of Merrils soon as they will be more weatherproof), a rain coat and rain pants, sports socks, t-shirt (it's nearly summer), small umbrella, wallet with cash and coins, snacks. All this enough to get me home but in the event of a wide scale power outage a decent torch would be useful as would a first aid kit. My knee was just about done for so I'm adding a knee brace soon. Not so sure a knife is necessary but I've ordered a leatherman just in case.

    I guess it depends on what city you live in and what areas you have to through to get home. Tokyo is safe so i dont plan on carrying any real knives. Just dont forget to know your route home. I didnt have a clue but cops and fellow walkers helped.

    The second thing I learned was the importance of keeping your spirits high.
    When I walked out of Tokyo, there were thousands (literally thousands) of people all walking the same direction. This helped with the boredom and although mobile phobe networks were totally down, I was able to contact friends and family via twitter and facebook. Thankful that i have an iphone. The battery died about 5 mins from home but it was only through my twitter network that I knew trains were not likely to start up any time soon. A spare battery would have been a good thing to have. Havent bought one yet but i plan on it.
    Having snacks (just happened to have bought some that day during my lunch break) was a godsend as many shops were sold out.

    Since the quake I have spent a lot of time on the net researching and getting ideas for my BOB and GHB. I made a BOB for my wife, our daughter, and myself. Its all a work in progress but its a really fun project. I think the main thing is molding the contents to your situation. I really can't see myself in Tokyo setting animal traps or starting fires, but different strokes for different folks.

    Finally just to reitterate what you said, make sure you have the stamina to walk the distance. I consider myself just a regular guy and I was struggling with the 4 hour walk. I need some more exercise so I can do the same distance with less effort but it is absolutely necessary. I now know my limits Do you know how far you can walk without stopping? Certainly worth finding out.