Bug Out Bag vs Get Home Bag

If you’re new to prepping you have no doubt stumbled across many acronyms by now. SHTF, WTSHTF, TEOTWAWKI, BOB, GHB are phrases thrown around all the time – and it’s enough to send you running for the hills (which you may actually have to do some day.) You might think BOBs and GHBs are the same but the truth is we are dealing with two completely different bags. This post will clearly illustrate the difference between a bug out bag and a get home bag.

The bug out bag

bug out bag

The bug out bag is the backpack you grab when the shit has hit the fan. The bug out bag has everything you need to leave behind everything you know and love. The bug out bag is locked, cocked and ready to rock for situations where you might not be able to return home  for a length of time. The reasons for why you cannot return do not matter. All that matters is you have everything you need inside this pack to survive on your own.

**Note** In most situations, you’ll only be bugging out for a short period of time. A typical bug out bag will have the supplies you need to survive 72 hours along with tools to secure your own resources for longer periods of time.

The get home bag

Example of a get home bag


The get home bag is a pack you carry with you at all times. This is the pack designed to get you back home in case of emergencies. Perhaps your car broke down in an area with no cell service. Maybe your bus broke down and you decide you don’t want to wait around for the replacement. Maybe terrorist cells or protest groups have blocked critical roadways and have begun to riot. Whatever the case, the GHB has all the goods you need to make it back to your home where you have access to a more comprehensive set of gear.

Contents of a bug out bag

I have written an extensive post on everything you need to include in your bug out bag. It’s crucial to cover the 4 elements of survival. Fire, water, food, and shelter. I will briefly cover the basics here but you should read the above post for a detailed look.

Fire – matches, lighter, ferrocerium rod. Very simple stuff. If you want to go all out you can take cotton balls and slather them in Vaseline. Store these in a watertight container for easy fire starters.

Water – 72 hours worth of water. This works out to about 3L in mild conditions or up to 6L in more extreme. The amount of water you bring depends on your unique physiology, your environment, and how much water you expel through exertion. Carry a water filter to replenish your sources.

Food – 72 hours worth of food. Clif bars, tuna packets, peanut butter, dried fruit etc. Think hiking foods. Foods with a lot of caloric density is what you’re going for here. Also foods that don’t perish.

Shelter – Either a tent or a tarp. Your choice depends on your comfort threshold. Trust me, you can survive with only a tarp but will you be comfortable? Probably not. A tent will provide you with a cushy environment but not entirely necessary in many environments. There are many ways you can rig up a tarp and it’s a lot easier to carry.

That’s the basics. Everything after this is pure luxury. Hell, they might as well put you up at the Ritz at this point. While the above is the bare minimum of what you need, there are items that will make life a lot easier. Here are a few gear recommendations.

Knife – What can’t you do with a good knife? It’s the most important survival tool in your bug out bag. Use it for anything. I’m a big fan of the Bk2 but there are many others to choose from. Read my post on choosing a survival knife. 

Paracord – You never know what you’re gonna need it for, you just always need it. Use it to rig up a fine shelter for the night or replace your boot laces. Lots of versatility here.

Headlamp – a headlamp or flashlight. I like a headlamp because it frees up my hands to do night tasks. Either way, you’ll want some kind of illumination in case things decide to crack off in pitch black darkness.

I could drown you in more gear recommendations but I’m going to stop here. You have your work cut out for. Now it’s time to find a decent bug out bag. I only have two requirements for a bug out bag. It must hold all of my gear and it must be durable enough not to fall apart on the road. If you want to shortcut the process of reading through a thousand BOB reviews, my choice is always the 5.11 Rush. It’s a solid backpack with marginal flaws. Really, anything but that Jansport you’ve had in your closet since you graduated highschool.

Contents of a get home bag

This list is going to be much shorter.

Snacks and water – Clif bars, dried fruit, granola bars, etc. Up to 3L of water in a steel container or Camelbak.

Flashlight – for those times you get stranded at night.

Light rain poncho – save yourself from getting soaking wet.

Lighter – You probably won’t need a fire but you never know. Lighters are too light not to have on hand.

Pepper spray – getting stranded in a bad part of the city is never fun. If anybody starts giving you shit blast them right in the face and get out of dodge. Don’t feel like a little bitch because you used pepper spray. Most guys think they can fight but are severely delusional.

Extra socks – not particularly exciting but extremely valuable. Walking in wet socks is a miserable experience. Pack an extra just in case.

Spare cash – If the power is out you won’t be able to make electronic transactions. Cash ensures you can get what you need without relying on the power grid.

The GHB – I like to keep my GHB light and agile. I’ve looked at many bags and finally settled on the Camelbak Mule. I love this pack. It’s a 12.5 Liter pack with an included 3L hydration bladder. I can run forever without stopping and it’s large enough to carry all my basic get home items. It’s something I carry with me wherever I go. In my city I do a lot of walking and it is always on my back – locked, cocked, and ready to rock.

That’s the basics. Consider adding a first aid kit, sunscreen, and an extra pair of glasses if you wear prescriptions. Other items to consider are spare chargers and batteries for your electronics. Some of you take certain medications which must be included in both your BOB and your GHB.

The thing is, there is no such thing as a perfect bug out bag or get home bag. Some guys carry everything and the kitchen sink. Some guys keep it light and only pack the minimal gear. No approach is “correct.” Start with the basics and expand based on your own personal preferences.

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