The great outdoors can be a dangerous place
The great outdoors can be a dangerous place

Judy Garland may well have put it best when she played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and sang about home. She was dealing with a studio that made her smoke to keep her weight down, and jealous actors that wouldn’t talk to her, so it’s no surprise she sang with sincerity. We have all been away from home at one time or another in our lives and can surely empathize, but most of us do not have ruby shoes to click our way out of danger.

The best we can do is make sure we are prepared and one way to do that is with a Get Home Bag.

What is a Get Home Bag?

It is similar to a Bug Out Bag. However, unlike its bulkier counterpart, it only needs to contain enough equipment and provisions to last around three days. While a Bug Out Bag can weigh close to one hundred pounds and needs to account for almost every eventuality, you can be a little more sparing with a Get Home Bag. The aim is to get home, so you need to be able to travel fast and light.

Don't get caught out in a blizzard - be prepared
Don’t get caught out in a blizzard – be prepared

They can be stored at your place of work, at a vacation home or in the trunk of your car. And there does not need to be a state wide disaster to put you in a survival situation. A simple oil patch on the road could see you in a ravine or a blizzard could catch you out. It is invaluable to be prepared with the basics for survival for a few days until help reaches you or you manage to get home under your own steam.

If you do get in trouble, the best advice is to stay where you are and wait, but there are times when it’s not practical. If one of your loved ones has a medical emergency and they need professional assistance, you may have to bite the uncomfortable bullet and leave them to get help. This is where a Get Home Bag comes into its element. It should be light enough to let you move quickly, but it also needs to contain enough supplies to keep you fit and healthy as others may be relying on you.

How To Pack One

Every item needs to justify its weight and space. If you think you may not need it then you probably don’t. So throw away the inflatable pillow, your elbow will do just fine if you want to keep your head off the ground for a quick nap.

Water is top of the list. Unfortunately, it’s heavy but there is no getting around it. We need water to function and we need a surprising amount of it. A good rule of thumb is to judge how much you think you will need and then take twice as much. Water purification tablets take up very little space and weigh next to nothing. A little vial of iodine for disinfecting water in emergencies can also be a very good idea, and may get you out of a particularly tricky situation.

Chocolate is a great mood booster in the wild
Chocolate is a great mood booster in the wild

Food is next on the must have list. Some high calorie protein bars are a given. Chocolate can give you a quick boost of energy and improve your morale so you can push on to your next mini goal. It’s a good idea to have something a little more substantial to eat as well. Food that does not require cooking is best as you may not have room for a stove, and there is no guarantee you will be able to start a fire. If you do pack a small stove make sure you have a waterproof lighter, and keep the pots and pans to a bare minimum. To be perfectly honest, one small aluminum pot will be more than sufficient. A hydrated food pouch or two, or a couple of tins of meat and beans, will be more than welcome if you are hungry. Remember, you are on your way home. There will be steak available when you finally get there.

Other essential items

A pocket knife is hopefully something we don’t need to remind you to pack, but it’s equally important to have some sort of multi-tool. You can combine them with a Swiss Army or Leatherman-style knife. You definitely do not want to find yourself trying to open your tinned dinner with a rock when you are hungry and tired.

A small flashlight will make sure that you know where you are stepping after dark, and it can be used to signal passing motorists or rescue personnel. A basic first aid kit is also essential for the bag. After these basics, your location will determine the other items in the bag. Depending on the weather, a light emergency blanket could get you through the night, but if you are expecting snow then a bivy bag could save your life.

The bottom line is think ahead and imagine what could go wrong in your neck of the woods. Then consider what will benefit you most in your goal to get back home.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: John F, Rune B and Ruby M

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