Building a Get-Home Bag and Action Plan

Building a Get-Home Bag and Action Plan

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.

Significant Learnings

  • 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.
  • Lighter
  • 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.

Action Plan

  • 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.


  1. Good article. You are being very logical in your approach learning from your experience and making changes or adjustments. That’s the way to do it, not just following a list of items, usually someone else’s list, and trying to follow what others say or do, but to work it out for yourself. All the discomforts you experience will make you really try to do better. That would have the greatest impact and the most lasting impression on any of us. A test run or a drill is a great teaching tool.

    On the issue of water, I feel there is nothing wrong with canteens or bottles as the water is clean and in your hand, ready to drink. As you stated, you won’t expend time or energy looking for water or risk an encounter with other people.
    Since it will be consumed as you travel, the load will get lighter and as you eat and drink to keep up your energy, you’ll have an increasingly lighter load as you get to your destination. Once you figure how much food and water is enough, you’re set.

  2. The EIB standard is 12 miles in under 3 hours. I laughed when I read the part about ‘good shape’ , ’25 miles’ , ‘5 hours’.
    A quart of water per hour is the minimum. But you could down two bottles before starting and carry at least 6.
    If its raining, add time.
    If its dark, add time.
    If there is lightening you may be forced to stop and shelter someplace. This could require a ‘multitool’.
    If a curfew has been put in place you may have to take evasive actions to get around police chck points.
    Foot powder and fresh socks go a long way to reviving worn spirits.

  3. Thanks for writing the detailed article. I remember your original post on this test hike. You may recall I hiked at altitude at a similar time and it took me over 10 hours to go 22 miles. I think many people over-estimate how quickly they can cover a distance. Maybe you could throw in a life straw type filter, but I would definitely need the bottles of water since I live in a semi-arid part of the country.
    For your February test you might consider a couple of instant hand warmers, just in case. They don’t weigh much and if your feet get cold they might come in handy.

  4. Mr Creekmore, you sir have obviously been a very busy man with the myriad of helpful posting the past few months. You began when my family was in Cambodia and honestly, I am having difficulty catching up! Bravo. This article is no exception and certainly reiterates what I have always preached, your untested gear may be a useless waste of space and slow you down. One of the very first major modifications we made to our children’s get home bags (kept at school) was to separate the important items for travel on foot (bottles of water, spare socks, map to navigate around any road obstructions, energy snacks) they will need if forced to find their own way to home or Grandmothers home in the opposite direction. We actually condensed these items down into a much smaller and lighter bag for the hike they may one day need to make. The small “walking bag” is part of the larger kit. They have way more gear in their 72-hour kits than small Asian kids could comfortably carry any distance. Our plan is for the “crew” to hunker down at school with everything they need to be comfortable until a parent (or our school transportation service) can get to them. Only when there is no other way, the three siblings will take the smaller “walking bags” and find their own way. Naturally, we have done multiple practice hikes with each individual child as well as following the group of three as they do the route with parents far behind and observing. Maria and I both work home based so we are in a great place if something goes down. A camping trip away from home in our bugout vehicle (to practice skills?) may, in fact, be the most vulnerable time for us as we will be away from the bulk of our supplies. Good post and seriously something we all need to think long and hard about.

    • Jack,

      Thank you… I’m trying to get as much information out as fast as possible because I think the window left to prepare for what’s coming is short…

  5. In the Army they said,on average you walk 3 miles an hour. I am almost 80 years old and am sure I can’t walk that at my age. If I had to I would make it as I was taught “Don’t give up and stay on course.” I know my bag is to heave and plan on making it lighter. As in any action the “Mind” is what will get you thru.. Wishing all of you well.

    • Garmo,
      Much better to be living at your bug out location than to bug out, however, that’s not always possible. But that should be the goal that everyone should work towards…

    • To the Right of Attila the Hun

      Garmo, It’s good to hear from you and know that all is well. I too am lightening up my GHB and have taken up walking to and from the grocery store. It’s about a 4 mile round trip and it gives a good work out on the way home with the food. And it sure cuts down on the impulse purchases.. This article is really good and when I drive anywhere I think about how hard it would be to climb the hills and cross the streams if you had to “Hand Rail” the trail in order to stay out of sight. I turned 70 today and cannot carry anywhere near what I used to be able to do. Adjust to your limitations because it’s far better to at least have a plan and do something…

  6. George in Winnipeg

    Thanks for the great article. I’ve been playing around with the contents of my GHB as well and have taken a similar approach to yours. I work in an office but fortunately I live fairly close to work and walk to work often. I have stashed a change of “grey man” clothes at work and rotate out clothes depending on the season. I’ve also left a previously enjoyed pair of hiking boots at the office along with water and energy bars. Each day when I leave for work I think about what I would need to wear if walking home that day in an emergency. The first part of my route home traverses a fairly sketchy part of the city so I have included some dog spray, folding knife and a small baton in my bag. Being in Canada we cannot carrying a firearm such as a pistol in our EDC so I’ve had to adjust. If conditions were worsening and I was still making the trek or drive to work, depending on the circumstance I may consider taking a chance and bring one of my pistols and a couple mags well concealed in my bag. For me weather is the biggest concern, especially in the winter so ensuring I have sufficient clothing is the big necessity. For first aid I’ve stripped down my kit to ibuprofen, an isreali bandage, 4X4 gauze pads, assorted band aids, and some glucose tablets as I can get hypoglyemic. I also included wrap around safety glasses, a N95 mask and leather work gloves (the recurring video of people fleeing the Twin Towers in all that dust and airborne debris scared the day lights out of me) . I am still playing around with bringing a hand held ham radio (my baofeng UV 5R) but I am not convinced of its utility for the short distance home. I have my Ham shack at home with secondary power so my plan is to strike home fast and adapt from my base. Thanks again for a great article.

  7. I live 3 or 4 miles from work depending on rout taken. I can walk that without too much trouble,the hard part would be crossing the freeway on foot.I hope that does not happen it being a 4 lane hi
    way..I keep misc tools and supplies. In the back of my truck I keep a trucker chain . It is covered up by leaves so I doubt that anyone knows that I have it. I keep a bunch of water and a tire repair kit. I plan on putting spare socks and more comfortable shoes. Since I work at a school district I can`t have fire arms in my vehicle.