A Get Home Bag recognizes that sometimes the SHTF when you are away from home. It’s loaded with the essential things you need to get back to your loved ones so you can either hunker down, or grab your Bug Out Bag and head for the hills.
Get Home Bags are not marketed as such. Instead, we assess the relative merits of the current crop of backpacks to determine which make the best get home bags of 2021.
1. SOG TOC 20L Backpack Grey
There is so much to like about the TOC 20L Backpack from SOG that it’s hard to know where to begin. It has discreet styling that will not attract a lot of unwanted attention. There are plenty of pockets both inside and out for all your gear. The laptop pocket doubles as a hydration sleeve. There’s an emergency whistle on the sternum strap.
And the top is ideal for carrying emergency first aid supplies. It is also incredibly well-balanced and has top, side or shoulders straps so you can carry it however works best for you in the moment. You’ll be wanting for nothing with the TOC 20L from SOG as your Get Home Bag.
2. Samurai Tactical Wakizashi Backpack
The Samurai Tactical Wakizashi backpack puts the emphasis squarely on practical functionality. There are internal pockets galore along with sleeves for your knife, pen, flashlight, notepad and whatever else you have in mind. The outside is covered in molle webbing, with Velcro patches lined up vertically on the back and high-quality, weather resistant zippers throughout.
There’s ventilated mesh to ensure your back does not get all sweaty, a top carry handle to give your shoulders a break, and a pocket to accommodate a hydration sleeve, should you have one. Durable and affordable you get a lot of bang for your buck.
3. Allen Tactical Lite Force Sling Pack
The Allen Tactical Lite Force Sling Pack is another discreet, versatile, durable Get Home Bag with a couple of twists on standard backpack design. The first twist is that you sling this pack rather than drape it over both shoulders. The other twist is that it has a dedicated pocket for your sidearm. Inside there are lots of gear sleeves and zippered pockets.
Along with plenty of secure storage for extra clips and such. The outside has molle webbing and compression straps that allow you to secure the load and keep it from flopping around as you walk or run. It’s available in camo and beige. But if you really want to stay under the radar, go with black.
4. Vertx EDC Commuter Bag
The Vertx EDC Commuter Bag is not for your average Westchester to Manhattan commute. It anticipates you will not encounter the well-behaved professionals that populate the Metro North line, and instead you will need to keep your powder dry and your guard up while you navigate the wasteland.
You have the option of picking up the ballistic panel which lets you secure your sidearm and clip in the main compartment. Besides that, the bag is highly water resistant, fashioned from ripstop nylon, and has an orbital strap that lets you swing it around from back to front in a hurry if need be. There is Velcro and molle all over the outside, and numerous zippered pockets for all your must have gear.
5. G4Free EDC Bag Tactical Sling Bag
The G4Free EDC Bag provides an embarrassment of riches in the form of 5 large zippered pockets, numerous sleeves for everything from sunglasses to your tactical pen, a strap pocket for your phone and other tech, and side compression straps to keep everything under control.
The single cross body strap is well padded and does a remarkably good job keeping the bag stable, no matter what you are doing. The bag is fashioned from ultra-durable 600D polyester and is very light at just 1.5 pounds. Even fully loaded it’s not so big it will slow you down, and it’s not so expensive it will cause financial discomfort.
6. XD Design Anti-Theft Laptop Backpack
We would normally be reluctant to propose such a stylish backpack for a Get Home Bag. But there is simply no denying the practicality of the XD Design Anti-Theft Laptop Backpack. It’s sleek and svelte and does not give a would-be thief the chance to unzip your bag and make off with your stuff.
Instead, it provides a solid, impenetrable front against intruders, while inside it provides a sleeve for a water bottle, zippered pockets for your tech and plenty of room for extra clothes. If you are intent on including a laptop with your Get Home Bag kit, this is the pack to have.
7. SOG 18L Evac Sling Backpack
SOG makes another appearance on our list with their outstanding 18L Evac Sling Backpack. This one is slightly smaller than the 20L pack that led off our list. But it’s no less impressive. The bag is fashioned from durable 500D nylon and has a polyurethane coating that makes it highly water resistant.
The wide, single strap works in concert with the adjustable stability flap to keep everything under control no matter what is going on. There is top, middle and bottom access to the main compartment. And inside, a plethora of sleeves, zippered pockets and clips.
8. Vanquest Maximizer
The Vanquest Maximizer is not fooling around. It wants to make sure you have all the space you need inside, and so eliminates (most) zippered pockets in lieu of every conceivable type of molle webbing.
Everything from socks to your tactical flashlight and your sidearm can be quickly and efficiently restrained using one of the several dozen internal loops. As we said, it eliminates most zippered pockets, but not all. There are two inside and one outside for those things that need special consideration.
9. Reebow GEAR Military Tactical Backpack
Although it has ‘military’ right in the name, this Reebow Tactical Backpack could easily pass as a standard work or school backpack. The sheer number of pockets, sleeves and clips is what draws us this way. You will find accommodation for all your Get Home Gear, including your sidearm, should you be so inclined.
10. Dunnta Tactical Sling bag
Sometimes folks need to carry a multitude of items to ensure a long successful trek through the disaster area. And some folks work pretty close to home and don’t need much more than some first aid gear, a flashlight and a couple of other essentials.
If you are in the latter group the Dunnta Tactical Sling Bag is likely just what you are looking for. It’s light, tough, water resistant and has a multitude of internal and external pockets, sleeves, straps and clips. It’s compact preparation at its best.
Why Would I Need a Get Home Bag?
Let’s say there has been a biological attack or some previously unknown pathogen is on the loose. State and local governments are declaring emergencies. Public transportation has ground to a halt. You need to grab your Bug Out Bag and head for your safe location before the Guard hits the street and imposes a lockdown. Problem is, you’re at work when the SHTF.
Whether the emergency is the result of bio-terrorism, a natural disaster, or civil strife you do not want to be caught empty-handed when the feces is flying and you’re at work. You cannot assume the authorities are going to act in your best interest. You need to be able to take control of your own situation. That means being prepared by having a Get Home Bag always at the ready in your work locker, or the bottom drawer of your desk, or wherever you can stash it safely.
What Kind of Bag Makes the Ideal Get Home Bag?
The Get Home Bag has to be versatile. If a natural disaster has befallen your area the bag needs to stand up to mother nature and protect the contents. If the disaster is one where law and order have broken down, it can’t call too much attention to itself because it could make you a target.
In any event the bag needs to be well-made, comfortable, preferably waterproof or at least water resistant (1), and mid-sized so that it can hold all your gear but not hold you back. The color should also be muted so that, again, it does not call too much attention to itself. Remember, desperate times drive people to desperate acts. Your Get Home Bag should not advertise you as a potential target.
What are the Benefits of a Get Home Bag?
A Get Home Bag exemplifies the American tradition of being prepared – People today tend to talk about being prepared as though it were some kind of sin. But it’s actually deeply ingrained in the American spirit and tradition. Plenty of people alive today can remember when their grandmothers made preserves or would ‘put up’ food in mason jars and store it in the basement (2). You do not have to look far for more examples of preparedness in the American psyche. For instance, the motto of both the Boy and Girls Scouts is ‘Be Prepared’. And of course, the motto of everyone’s favorite government agency (FEMA) is ‘Prepared. Responsive. Committed.’
A Get Home Bag provides peace of mind – If you spend all your time waiting for the four horsemen of the apocalypse to round the corner you will miss out on life. But a certain level of preparedness is just smart thinking. A Get Home Bag is a way to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, you have a way to get home where you can assess the situation and take additional steps if necessary. Knowing the bag is there can produce real peace of mind so you can get on with the business of living.
Being prepared is easier than being caught off guard – When the sirens sound and the walls come down there are two types of people: those caught off guard who are treated like cattle, and those who reach into their locker, retrieve their Get Home Bag and head for the exit. If you want to believe that a bunch of faceless bureaucrats know what’s best for you, then more power to you (3). If, however, you believe you are the only one qualified to determine your fate, then you should have a Get Home Bag so you do not wind up in the stockyard.
A Get Home Bag is more important than ever – Although the media has been dumping on preppers for the past couple of decades (4), it now seems preppers may have been the only ones living in the real world after all. Everyone is now aware of how quickly things can spiral out of control. What starts as a little-noticed story about a virus in a far-away city suddenly devolves into global lockdowns, job losses and social upheaval. A Get Home Bag ensures you’re ready to take control no matter what happens.
A Get Home Bag reassures your family – If you are caught at work when the SHTF it can be unnerving for your family members. If you are unprepared they may go through hours, or even days of wondering what has become of you, especially if phones and internet are out. Knowing you have a Get Home Bag can go a long way toward reassuring those loved ones that you will find your way back to them no matter what.
What Should be in a Get Home Bag?
Extra clothes – Extra clothes does not mean a sport jacket and Dockers. It means things like an extra pair of socks (or two), an extra T-shirt, a pair of shorts during warm weather and long underwear during winter time. A hat to keep the sun off your face can also be helpful. And while they are not exactly clothing, having a mylar ‘space blanket’ or two on hand is also a smart idea.
A means of self defense – You cannot assume that an emergency is going to unfold in an orderly fashion. In fact, you have to assume it will not. As such – and human nature being what it is – it’s crucial to have a means of self defense in your Get Home Bag. At minimum that means a survival knife, and a tactical pen or tactical flashlight. Pepper spray (5) is another outstanding option as it will let you clear away several weasels without having to engage in hand to hand combat.
Some way to purify water – Let’s say the emergency is something like an earthquake or hurricane and the public water supply has been compromised. You have a long, arduous trek across the wasteland to reach your loved ones. But the few stores you encounter are boarded up or have been blown away. So no water there either. Having a simple water filter and some purification tablets in your bag can go a long way toward ensuring you don’t spend the trip home doubled over in pain having to drop your pants every 10 minutes.
Food – Your Bug Out Bag needs to hold enough food to get you and whoever is with you to your ultimate destination. Typically, that means at least 3 days of food per person. The Get Home Bag is another story. First, because it assumes you will be alone, and second because it assumes work (or wherever you store your Get Home Bag) is not days away from where you live. So power bars, ramen noodles, and such should be enough. If you anticipate a full day-long slog to get home on foot, then you might want to include some of those dehydrated meals hikers eat.
First aid kit – It should go without saying that your Get Home Bag needs to include a first aid kit (6). This is one of those things that is non-negotiable. In the event of a natural disaster there could be all manner of hazardous materials underfoot. In the event of social upheaval you may need to fend off assailants and then tend to any injuries you incurred while doing so. It does not make much sense to head home if you reach there incapacitated.
A firestarter – It is possible that your trek home may take longer than anticipated and/or you may need to start a fire to purify water, cook food or just stay warm. To do that you will need a firestarter of some kind, and every Get Home Bag should have one. In most cases a simple disposable lighter will suffice. But in keeping with the theme here, two would be better than one. Just keep in mind that if lawlessness abounds, a fire may give away your location when you are trying to stay low key and out of sight.
Head lamp – If your trek home drags on past sunset you are going to need some way to see where you’re going. Earlier we mentioned having a tactical flashlight for self defense. Well, they also happen to provide much-needed light in the darkness. Ideally though, you would have more than one light source and one of them would be a head lamp, so you could keep your hands free for other things.
Radio – Cellphone towers are tall, not terribly strong and usually erected in an exposed position to maximize their ability to relay signals without interruption. As such, in the event of a natural disaster, they are usually one of the first things to go (7). If you really intend to be prepared you will have a portable HAM radio (8) in both your Get Home Bag and Bug Out Bag. Walkie talkies are a good idea for short range communication. But if you are 10 miles from home you’ll need something stronger than a walkie talkie.
A map – Chances are that in the aftermath of a hurricane, earthquake or serious social unrest phones and/or internet access will be down. Which means no access to Google maps. So it’s best to always have a detailed map of your area on hand, just in case. The map should include several pre-planned routes already laid out. And those routes should reflect different concerns. For instance, a route around low-lying areas in the event of flooding. And a route around dangerous neighborhoods in the event of civil strife.
Emergency shelter – This depends largely upon the distance between where your Get Home Bag is stashed and your home. If it is just a couple of miles, you can probably forego some type of emergency shelter, just to save on weight. But if it is 10 miles between work and home you have to prepare for the worst. If push comes to shove you could use the space blankets we mentioned earlier. But in all likelihood you will want something more substantial. Even if that’s just a tarp and some paracord to hang it.
Laptop – Should the SHTF in a serious way a laptop may not be of much use. However, if by some miracle you can still get a wi-fi signal, a laptop could turn out to be your most important ally. But, because you may just wind up carrying it around it’s best to make it a modest-sized one with a good battery.
Additional items – If your Get Home Bag includes all of the above you will be in pretty good shape. But there are a few other common sense things you should also have either in the bag or in your pocket. These include a set of keys to the house, car, and bug out location etc, credit cards, cash (stashed securely in a discreet pocket, sleeve, whatever), an emergency whistle, battery pack, duct tape and cell phone.
The Bottom Line
A Get Home Bag is your way of recognizing that you may not be at home, within arm’s reach of your Bug Out Bag, when the SHTF. The Get Home Bag fills that crucial gap in the preparedness chain and allows you and your loved ones to rest easy, knowing that no matter what happens you will make it back to them.
Get Home Bags take many forms, though none are actually marketed under that title. But what they all have in common is that they are small to mid-sized, durable, have lots of pockets and sleeves, are water resistant or waterproof, and they do not call too much attention to themselves.
Each of the bags profiled above has all the characteristics of a good Get Home Bag. Use the information here to determine exactly which one is right for you.