The Get Home Bag

| 7 July 2010 | 1 Comment

While we discuss constantly the subjects of guns, ammo and gear for their various lawful uses, other subjects are also important even if a bit more mundane. I include in these the subject of ‘survival gear’. Obviously, this term covers an extremely wide variety of things depending on just what it is you wish to survive, so in order to narrow the focus here I have decided to take a look at what I call the ‘Get Home Bag’.

The object of this article is not so much to solicit agreement as to which items you should pack in your bag, but rather to make you start thinking more seriously about the possibility that you may, in fact, need such a bag or backpack, etc. and what you think it should contain for best results for your situation.

In SA today it seems like there are almost daily incidents of service delivery protests, taxi strikes and protests, xenophobic riots, etc. Usually, the Police show up, shoot some rubber, thump some heads, contain the situation and except for those in the immediate area, life proceeds as usual with maybe some inconvenience here and there.

Mob mentality is an ugly thing. People will sometimes commit the most unspeakable acts when caught up in a mob, some because they feel anonymous, others because they get caught up in the frenzy or feel like they, too, will be singled out by the mob if they refuse to participate. Whatever the reason or motivation, to doubt the homicidal potential of a mob is foolish thinking, indeed. With the Cup here, there is also the potential for things like bomb threats, hooliganism, and mass demonstrations…not to mention maybe much worse.

At the stage when you can confirm to your satisfaction that there is, or almost certainly will be soon, trouble on your route, you have two basic choices…stay where you are, or leave and head for your destination, be it work, home, or elsewhere. The natural tendency is to believe that “it won’t be that bad”…and maybe it won’t…or it just might be every bit ‘that bad’ or worse. The point is that you will have to make a judgment call based on what you know at the moment and not on all the information you may have later.

If you make enough judgment calls, sooner or later you will be wrong, but that’s the way of the world and no one has a crystal ball. I don’t know about you, but if my safety and that of my loved ones may be at stake, I prefer to err on the side of caution. Better to use up a sick leave day or just not open the shop, or maybe keep the kids home from school, etc. than to find yourself right in the middle of a huge mess wishing you had.

But as always, there will be those who really do have to go in…emergency workers, farmers with fresh produce loaded and ready for market, some who own their own businesses and will have employees coming in, court personnel, etc. There will also be situations where incidents start and spread into an area that will effect you while you are AT work or away from home or a place of (relative) safety. While it is certainly possible that your home may not be the best place of safety for you and a different choice (‘Bug Out’ location) would be a good idea, that is a subject for another time. For brevity’s sake we will confine this discussion to getting home. Thus the ‘Get Home Bag’ concept.

Don’t allow yourself to be too insulated from what is happening around your area. Check the news now and then, and certainly check before you leave for work or head home. The very last thing you want to do is to drive right up in the middle of a mob intent on taking out its’ frustrations on whoever happens to show up! Stay as up-to-the-hour on what may be happening as you possibly can.

So let us say that you are at work or several miles away from home and a bad situation develops on your route back…what to do? Obviously it is a good thing if you know several ways to get back and forth, so if you don’t, start scouting out alternate routes now, before you need one for real. Find out which side streets you can take, back roads, parallel routes, etc. Maps and / or GPS are good, but verify either before you trust them. Construction zones may have roads blocked or detours, etc. that don’t show up, and we all know someone who has been led astray by their GPS!

Best case scenario is you are able to drive around the trouble area and you get home safely with only minor inconvenience…worst case is that you have to ditch your vehicle for whatever reason (car crash, blocked streets, tyres cut, too much unwanted attention, etc.) and set off on foot. Now is when that Get Home bag will come in handy.

There are all sorts of bags, backpacks and such available at prices from very low to some that will take your breath away. My preference is for a good quality backpack that does not scream ‘tactical’ or ‘well to do yuppie’ etc. Something dark and in a neutral colour (gray, green, brown, etc) with maybe just a little decoration…stripes or such…like you see normal people and school kids carry every day. ‘Low key’ is the word here, and while it needs to be sturdy, it does not need to be so well made that you could drag it through 7 kilometers of thorn bush with no damage. If a friend sees it in the boot of your car and says something like ‘Wow! Cool bag dude!’ it will probably attract the kind of attention you are trying to avoid.

I prefer a backpack simply because you can sling it one armed or you can wear it, and it carries high enough that it won’t be banging your thighs when you walk. Whatever your choice, it is what you pack in it that will help get you home with the least amount of inconvenience. Note that there are some items that simply will not keep well if stored in a hot car boot or inside your SUV, and others that will.

First, you should make a realistic appraisal of how long it would take you to walk all the way from your workplace back home if you had to detour around what you would consider the most likely potential area for trouble. Not how long it would have taken you back when you were in great shape and didn’t smoke…I mean today…now. Add to that another 20% for unforeseen issues and you will have an idea of what items you should be packing.

I like to start with any medications you must have, such as blood pressure meds, etc. and make certain you have enough for a full day away from home. Find out from your doc or research on the web if the meds will stand being stored in your vehicle…many will but not all. I also like to include an extra pair of glasses if you need them to see well…store them in a hard case so they are intact should you need them. I use an older pair that are slightly wrong for my eyes now, but still work lots better than none at all.

Since most will only be looking at a day or less to get home, even on foot, I think that something like a couple of good energy bars (not the candy that masquerades as energy bars in many grocery stores) and 2 liters or so of water should be enough. Those bars go down better with water, and if it is hot weather staying hydrated is good to do. Still, water is heavy, so if you can make do with 1 liter it will lighten your load.

Use a container for your water that won’t break or split easily. Those flimsy plastic bottles you buy bottled water in, in the store, are almost worthless…get something like a few nalgene bottles or similar from a camping store…with these you can also distribute the weight more evenly…you can thank me later.

If you can, wear clothing at work that will blend in and be useful for a hike. You mainly want to be certain you have some decent socks and boots in case you have to negotiate rough ground or glass, etc. on streets. If you wear a suit and tie, pack a change of clothes or you will stand out like a sore thumb. Ditto for women who must dress in office clothes or who usually wear heels, sandals, etc.

While takkies are good for walking on some surfaces, they give you no ankle support and will shred quickly if you have to go through rocks, glass, etc…even worse if they get wet. Your boots should be broken in and not new when the are packed…getting home is not the time to break in new ones.

Some sort of rain gear can be nice to have, and in winter you will probably need a jacket of some sort. Fleece is light but bulky, and does not stop wind or water. Nylon does stop wind and will suffice in a pinch during a light mist or sprinkle, etc. but it does not breathe well.Some of the newer wonder fabrics do very well but the jackets are expensive. I like wool simply because it will still keep you warm when wet, but good wool is both expensive and heavy. If all else fails, a large, heavy duty lawn trash bag can become a makeshift rain jacket with some slits for the head and arms. It will also help you ‘blend’ in some not so nice locations.

I am a ‘550 cord’ fan. It is light, takes up very little space and can be used for all sorts of things, so I always have some in my bag. 50ft should be enough but 100ft is what I carry…use OD or black, etc…not light colours.

Since there is no guarantee that you will only need the bag in day time, I always keep a small, bright LED torch with a set of spare batteries in my bag. I use the Olight 20 I got from Khumba here on the forum but there are several others that are also good for such use. What I really like about the little Olight is that I can select one of several levels of brightness quickly in case I do not need enough light to land a large airplane.

I like to have a couple of spare magazines for my CCW along and a good, sturdy fixed blade knife. If I had to wear dress clothes I would also include a sturdy belt…either a good thick leather trouser belt made to carry a gun with or something like the Wilderness Instructor belt. (Make certain the belt will fit your belt loops) I also like some sort of waterproof container for my cell phone in case it rains…water will kill one quickly. If nothing else, a clear, zip lock bag will work fairly well. On that note, be sure and keep your cell phone charged up as much as possible. SHTF is no time for a dead battery!

Duct Tape (also known as ‘100 mile an hour tape’ or GI tape, etc.) is available at Home Centers and also in OD green / brown at surplus stores. I usually have a meter or two of it wrapped around a writing pen.

Same for toilet paper…take it off the roll and wrap around something flat…drop in zip lock. It takes up much less space that way, stays dry, and it is an essential if you are out for a while. (ask anyone who knows what stress does to your system)

Last but not least I add my IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) which includes a military style ‘blow out’ kit (Israeli Battle Dressing; Quick Clot; Some varied bandages; a tourniquet; adhesive tape; a triangle bandage; a pair of EMT shears and some Nitrile gloves. To that I add a small ‘boo boo’ kit consisting of Ibuprofen, various size plasters, some triple antibiotic ointment, eyewash, hand sanitizer, a cold pack, some moleskin (for shoes / boots) and some burn ointment.

Nothing in this bag is what I would call a ‘large’ item, but weight adds up fast. The lighter you can travel the better, so if you really feel like you can skip something then do so. To recap…after we put on our get home clothes and boots, we will be carrying…

Water (1 to 2 liters)
2 to 4 Energy Bars
Poncho and / or jacket
1 or 2 large yard trash bags
550 cord
Toilet paper
Duct Tape
Spare magazines
Syurdy Fixed blade knife
Blow Out Kit
Boo boo kit

The water is the big item but water is absolutely essential, so I feel it is worth the weight. There are other items you might want to add, such as a small transistor radio, a pair of small binoculars, other food items, etc. but the list above will get you back home if you are not too far away and can manage to skirt trouble.

Variations of this bag can also be made up for spouses and children should they be with you and need to bail out as well. Even a 6 or 7 year old can carry a small pack, although you will obviously have to adjust walking speed for them.

No one wants to think that such a bag will be needed, and I certainly hope I never need mine, but better to have and not need in my opinion than to need and not have.

Good Luck

This article was written by Ikor, a GunSite SA Forum Member.
Many thanks.



Category: Guns & Gear

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  1. Panda Bob says:

    Good down to earth advice, thanks for sharing.

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