by John R (AKA SickSkilz)
There have been multiple discussions on getting home during a disaster and the contents of a GHB (get home bag). In the 11/18 weekly preps, I mentioned that I decided to test out my get home plan with the assumption that I would not have my truck available and would have to travel on foot. Here is how it went and what I found:
I work downtown in a medium to large city. I drive a bit over 25 miles to work each day and part in a parking lot. In January, I developed my plans to get home from work which included stocking my truck box with the things I thought I would need and keeping other things in my office.
If traveling by vehicle is possible and realistic, I am not too concerned about getting home. I have a path mapped out that avoids highways at least until I can get to one with a grass medium and shoulder so I could not get stuck. I also made a rough path to travel on foot.
I suspected that being in really good shape, I could get home in a max of 5 hours. However, I had never really tested a plan like that. So, with a day off work that my wife was going to be busy, I decided to test it out.
The route I would take during an actual event involves going near the highway in a north-south direction. I would not want to do this as a test because the path is more dangerous (and stupid) so I mapped out an east-west path that goes through similarly mixed terrain but not near highways.
I had my wife drop me off a similar 25 miles from home at about 10 am with the things that I carried in my truck and would have on me at work. I took my phone, but intentionally did not use the GPS on it as something like a solar flare or EMP that would stop me from being able to use my truck could also take out GPS.
The experience was a real eye-opener. What I thought would be under 5 hours turned out to be 9.5 hours despite the fact that I am in my early 30s and in the best shape of my life.
- The constant changes in terrain and rarely stopping was really hard on my feet. I was on concrete and grass and went up and down hills. The old tennis shoes I had were only barely better than my work shoes.
- My work route is 25 miles by car which is 90% straight highway. My test route was a similar distance on the main roads. I didn’t track it, but I presume that my actual travel distance was a bit longer. I know how to tell which direction is which, but multiple times I either got sidetracked or got to a place where I had to turn around. Note: for the purpose of this experiment, I didn’t do a lot of trespassing and stayed near a road most of the time.
- While I did have some food and did not get excessively hungry, I got very dehydrated because I only had two 12 ounce bottles of water
- Given that it took much longer than expected, my wife now knows not to freak out if I don’t get there quickly.
I also found that there were a lot of things in my GHB that I no longer think I would EVER need in a GHB or are things I could have with me at work or in my truck and only carry with me as needed depending on the specifics of an event. I figure I could have saved at least another hour traveling lighter. Below I have listed the contents and some changes I made.
* – would leave in my truck
** – would only take with me as the situation warrants
*** – removed from GHB
Get Home Bag
- Glock 19 with 2 clips and 100 rounds
- Mace ** – as needed unless I buy a smaller can.
- Fire starters *** – I decided this was not useful to carry. 1 lighter could last me weeks
- Minimal food/water for 1 day – Changed to 2 boxes of granola bars, a 24 count case of water and a few cans of Mountain Dew (my preferred method of caffeine intake. If I leave my truck, I’ll only take 6 bottles of water or so. Great for bartering as I have extra.
- First aid kit – It was way too big. I took out a respirator mask and 1 large bandage that I would take with me. The rest would stay at the truck. I would not be putting on band-aids and ointment in the interest of time
- Crank radio/flashlight ** – it’s a bit bulky and weighs almost 2 lbs. Nice to have in the truck but not that necessary to carry on me.
- Blanket and jacket ** – I wore the Jacket and ended up putting it in my backpack within 15 minutes. Though it was quite chilly, the pace I was moving more than kept me warm.
- Multi-tool and screwdriver *** – I will probably get some flak for this but I never conceived of a use for it that warranted their weight.
- Gerber machete – I debated bringing this but I loved loved loved having it. Multiple times I found myself wanting to cut through the woods and it was really nice. For those of you who have never done yard work with a machete, its way better than using pruning shears for clearing thin brush. The Gerber one has a saw on the back for trimming anything bigger. Really convenient
- Pen and Paper *** – Dear diary, I feel stupid that I even thought I needed this at all
- Rope *** – I only carried this because Boondock Saints told me too. However, not encountering any mobsters, I figure I am safe without it. Again, the usefulness does not justify the weight
- Hat and Gloves ** – I could see myself not needing a coat while moving but a hat and gloves would help a lot. Just not if it’s warm out.
- Medicine – Stress can give me a headache. A few ibuprofen are more than worth their weight
- Vitamins *** – more for long term well-being than immediate needs
- Backpack – while this was necessary, it was big enough that things jostled too much inside it. Needed a smaller one
More on Water
Riverrider aptly suggested I use a water purification bottle. I sort of go back and forth on this but decided to keep the water because the weight of 6 bottles of water would not slow me down as much the time and energy spent looking for water and filtering it. I could also use the water for bartering or to get out of a bad situation. Another option might be to go with 3 bottles and a water purification bottle. Water could also likely be obtained on the way home depending on the circumstance. I still debate this but for now, sticking with bringing the water.
- I got a smaller backpack packed with the bare essentials from above that I can grab quickly.
- If the plan is needed, the first step is to add anything extra from my stash at work to my backpack
- I had been keeping old backup shoes in my GHB (since I wear dress shoes to work) but I needed a better pair. So now I keep a much newer pair in the truck.
- Keep a change of clothes at work. Especially in the summer I will be way overdressed in my work clothes. Changing will make me faster.
- I had always kept a coat in my truck but now also keeping a light jacket in the office. I’m pretty warm and it rarely ever gets cold enough that I won’t keep warm constantly moving.
Finally, now that I’ve made changes, I hope to try it again in February. While I am not very concerned with the cold, traversing snow will definitely make a big difference.