At SurviveOutdoor we believe that safety and survival go beyond the outdoors to our daily lives, some of the same practices we do in the wilderness are also easily applied to a disaster scenario whether it be natural or man-made. Living within one hour of the recent Terrorist Attack in San Bernardino, California, I know first hand that bad things can and do happen in our own backyards. It is imperative that all people be prepared for disasters of any kind, have a plan in place, and be ready to enact that plan when or if ever necessary. The time to start thinking about a plan is not “after” something has happened. You don’t walk into the woods with no plan of how to return safely, and you should be leaving the safety of your home without a plan to return safely as well. In this series we will walk through three different survival pack types that are important to have in place.
- Get-Home-Pack – This is designed to provide you essential items to get you home in the event of a disaster (natural or man-made).
- Shelter-In-Place Pack – If you away from home and cannot leave, or it is not safe to leave, you will need a few basic supplies to get you through until help can arrive or it is safe to go.
- Bug-Out Bag (preppers commonly call this a BOB)- This is the bag you grab from home if you need to get out quickly, most people are given less than 3 minutes to evacuate when ordered by emergency personal during a disaster.
The largest population of America works at a location away from their home, i.e. office building, but rarely do they think about what would they do in case of a disastrous event that damaged or clogged the highways/roads preventing them from driving home. Are you prepared to walk?, would you shelter-in-place?, do you have a plan? Ideally you should have planned ahead and have the items you will need to get to a safe location, or to shelter in place.
In this article I am going to go over a Get-Home-Pack and show you how to build one yourself. Geographic location has a lot to do with what items you will pack and why, so someone in the upper mid-west obviously is going to pack a few things differently than someone living in Florida. This bag should remain in your vehicle at all times, you never know when you might need it so don’t leave it out for any reason, if you don’t drive to work but commute by carpool, train, subway, etc. then you should find a secure location at your work location to store it.
The following is a list of the items in my Get-Home-Pack, I have linked almost all items so that you don’t have to spend time searching for them. I will explain many of them in detail and why I choose those specifically. There are of course some items that are not listed for obvious OPSEC (Operational Security) reasons, but the majority is all here including brands where I felt it was relevant because of quality.
Your pack should be discreet, it should look like any ordinary pack, avoid military or tactical style packs. I use the 5.11 Covert 18 Backpack, it is the perfect size for what I need, has great organizational zippered pocket, a hidden handgun pocket, flip-down ID panel, and separate hydration bladder compartment. I have personally used this backpack for several years, traveled on over 50 airlines, airports, trains, and a few boats, and it has held up to a lot of abuse with no rips or tears.
- I have used the Garmin 76CS GPS for close to 13 years+, it’s an older model but reliable and the map updates from Garmin still work. If I can take advantage of technology to get me home I will, I can input all the important way points that I will need, and I carry a paper map and compass as a back with pre-planned get-home routes that help me avoid major highways. I trust the reliability of Garmin and the eTrex 20x is a good buy for what it is needed for. You’ve probably seen my review on the DeLorme inReach Satellite GPS, however I don’t use it in my Get-Home bag because let’s face it I am cheap and I don’t want to pay a monthly service while it just sits in my bag in case it’s ever needed.
- I also carry a Timex Explorer watch with hands which in an emergency could be used to get direction using the sun. (Hold a watch with 12 o’clock at left of sun. Move your arm so the hour hand points at the sun. The spot halfway between the hour hand and the 12 is south)
- The Coast HL7 is a great headlamp and is under $30. The point here is to keep your hands free so that you can do other things without holding a light. I don’t worry a lot about using up the batteries since I would probably be using them very sparingly anyway so as not to draw attention to my location if unnecessary.
- Glow sticks have obviously many uses, and have a very long shelf life. I have found that if I put a strip of duct tape on one side I can make more of a focused light rather than shining in my eyes when you are using it. They also make great camp area lighting especially the longer 12 hour ones. I use Northern Lights, some prefer Cyalume, both can be found on Amazon.
Personal Hygiene, Body Comfort and Clothing
- A positive morale and hygiene are important in a disaster and/or stressful situation, something as simple as brushing your teeth can help bring some sort of normalcy to otherwise chaos. I prefer the ones that include the toothpaste right in the handle, it’s convenient and easy to keep up with, Fresh & Go 2-in-1 Brush/Paste.
- Depending on your location, myself being located in a valley/desert region it can get pretty cold at night, the temperatures can swing drastically in this type of environment. What little comfort I can provide with minimal weight is worth it, you have to keep your core body temperature up. I like the HotHands brand myself, they have always worked for me.
- A bandanna has multiples uses including; head wear to shield from the sun, bandage, pre-filter water, etc. I also keep a ball cap in my bag, it is much less attention getting than walking around wearing a bandanna if people are around.
- Leather gloves, these are great for protection of your hands, and give a little protection against the cold.
- Nail clippers, if you ever have a torn nail you will appreciate having one of these in your kit!
- Adventure Medical Kits Emergency Bivvy, think of a more durable emergency blanket in the style of a compact sleeping bag, gets cold just unpack and slide in, it’s even waterproof and reflects 90% of body heat.
- First, if you do not have a Ham Radio license, I suggest you get one! The Technician License is the lowest needed to operate a Ham Radio legally, study and pass the test! I choose the Baofeng UV-5R because it is very affordable at under $30 (I have a Yaesu VX-6R that I keep in my Home Bag). If there is a disaster or terrorist attack, the first thing to happen is that all cellphone lines will be so jammed with others trying to call family or friends that you will be extremely lucky if you can use your cellphone, (some experts say texting has better odds of getting out than calling). Ham Radio communication however has been around for decades and is used widely during an emergency to pass information along. You can use it to scan local emergency personnel channels to get valuable information, as well as communicate with other people. My wife and I keep a Ham Radio in both our Get-Home bags, along with a predetermined frequencies and repeaters that we will try to contact each other on (be sure also in addition to setting the frequencies in advance, to also keep a printed copy of the frequencies in the bag with the radio, I also keep the manual with the radio because some are confusing if you have not used them very often).
- Ear buds allow you to use your cell phone or Ham Radio in a more restricted quiet mode, no sense in promoting others to listen in on conversations.
Food, Water, and Cooking
- The JetBoil Utensil set come with a Fork, Spoon, and Spatula, I use the fork in my kit and the spoon in my wife’s kit, again I am cheap. I choose these because of the lightness and compact-ability they offered, so far after 10 years, and lots of abuse, none have broken, which is saying a lot.
- The LifeStraw is one of the simplest portable water filters on the market, it can easily be carried in any bag. The LifeStraw filters a 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, with no chlorine, no chemicals or iodine. It can filter up to 1,000 liters of water. When finished drinking, blow a breath of air back down into the LifeStraw to purge the remaining water out, shake, and recap. If you drink from murky water and the water flow stops, blow back into it to purge the water and mud from the filter. When you return home from a hiking trip, drink some tap water with the LifeStraw, purge the filter by blowing back into it, and leave it to dry with the caps off.
- I prefer to use the MRE heaters with my Get-Home bag because I can get a nice warm meal without needing to start a fire, by using a combination of magnesium, iron and sodium. This enables me to have a warm meal in varying weather conditions, and does not unnecessarily draw attention to me like a flame from a fire or stove would.
- I always keep a few Emergency Water Packs in my bags, cars, boats, RV, just about anywhere I can shove a few in. They are great for emergency and are a perfect size at 4.2oz per pack, there are larger on the market but I find them harder to pack.
- I carry two complete MRE Meals, I like these because they are compact and easier to fit in my bag than most dehydrated food packages, plus I can use my MRE Heaters with them.
- Beef bouillon cubes have about nil for nutritional value but are great physiologically because they make boiled water taste better and can be used to spice up something to make it more edible.
- A few Trail Mix bars will give you added protein and sugars need for a long walk, and they are easy to eat on the go! I prefer the ones with nuts and honey myself.
- I also carry a Nalgene bottle with 19 oz. of water that is not listed.
- I carry several fire starting devices for various methods depending on my location or weather. The simplest is sometimes the easiest means, so I carry a BIC lighter which generally gets the job done nicely unless I am working in rain or high winds.
- I also carry a Magnesium Fire Starter (DOAN’s).
- I carry a couple packs of WetFire Tinder because this stuff will get a fire started when other times it seems impossible, and yes just like it says it lights even when wet.
Power Storage and Generation
- I love the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus because of the ability to charge both AA and AAA batteries in the same device, whenever I can combine the ability to charge two different battery sizes it is always a plus. The USB connector allows me to charge several USB devices like a cellphone, GPS, etc. (I get an average of two charges for an iPhone or my GPS). I can also connect it to a portable solar panel such as the Goal Zero Nomad.
- AA and AAA rechargeable batteries are for the various electronics and lights in the bag. These also fit in the Goal Zero Nomad for solar recharging, then go into my Goal Zero Guide 10 for charging USB devices.
Medical and Rescue
- Oral Rehydration Salts are used to prevent or treat dehydration due to diarrhea. I carry at least one of these in my bags, you never know when you get some bad water and out here especially in the desert areas nothing will dehydrate you faster than having diarrhea.
- Storm Whistles are the loudest whistles you’ll probably find anywhere, be sure that when you blow you hold the whistle between your teeth so that you can have your hands free to plug your ears! It generates a 3150 hertz frequency that can be heard for miles, and even up to 50 feet under water. This is the whistle used by many military and police forces across America, and was also recently in the book/movie “Wild”.
- There are numerous medical items so I won’t repeat the whole list here again, look at the list above for a complete list of all the items.
- In case there is the need for change like a vending machine for water, food or possibly pay phone. If the electric is out most retailers would accept it when Credit/ATM machines will not be working.
- I carry the Slingshot and ball bearings as a long distance self-defense weapon. It can also be used to get someone’s attention for help or possible rescue.
- I also carry a 5.11 Black folding knife, which can be used as both a tool and as a self-defense weapon if necessary, however close quarters fighting is extremely dangerous so unless you are highly trained in this type of combat I suggest you avoid it unless there are no other options!
- We won’t list any other items for personal defense here for obvious reasons 🙂
- Binoculars give you the advantage of being able to see far ahead of you to adjust your plan or route in case you need to avoid an area for various reasons; damage, crowds, bad elements, etc. I carry the Nikon 10×25 binoculars because of the compact size, they are also water resistant in case of rain.
- The General 744 is a nice compact mini screwdriver set, that has two standard flat heads, and two phillips head screwdrivers. Many times I’ve needed one for various reasons so I don’t travel without it and its lightweight size makes it ideal for any bag.
- I use the TOUGH-GRIDTM Paracord almost exclusively because of its superb strength, at 750LB test it is one tough paracord! At only 1/32 larger than 550 paracord it is ideal, and the uses are limited only by your imagination. TOUGH-GRIDTM Paracord is built with eleven triple strands of 100% Nylon. Don’t go anywhere without it in your bag too!
- Kevlar Tactical Survival Cord is 200LB test strength, with a very thin diameter at .05″, this makes for great traps and snares.
- Brown Twine has many uses and blends in better with a desert environment or late fall conditions in forested areas.
- Super Glue, everyone pretty much knows the many uses of Super Glue, I’ve also used it to seal a minor cut in an emergency.
- Single-Edge Razors, also many uses and take up very little room.
- Leatherman Style PS Multi tool is a great small compact tool with knife, scissors, nail file, tweezers, flat head screwdriver, and pliers.