Get Home Bag vs Bug Out Bag

get home bag vs bug out bag


In August of 2014, a man named Ted who lived and worked in Ferguson, Missouri found himself in a very tough situation.  Earlier in the day protests had begun in response to a police shooting of an African-American male.  The tensions continued to increase until it spun into a full blown riot where protestors began to burn down and loot buildings.  Ted was currently working in the vicinity leaving him with a decision to either grab his get home bag vs bug out bag.

The streets were crawling with looters leaving it impossible for him to drive on the streets.  This would force him to find other alternatives to getting home safely.  His ultimate goal was to get home where his gear and supply were stashed.

In the prepper community, there is a lot of confusion between the application and purpose of using a get home bag vs bug out bag.  These two survival kits were designed with different purposes.  Yes, it is essential to have both but you need to determine when would be the best time to utilize each.

The get home bag is not meant to be used in a bug out scenario and vice versa.  In the next few points, we will discuss the purpose, usage, and size of each.  This will help you to determine when you would need to use a get home bag vs bug out bag.

Get Home Bag vs Bug Out Bag

Difference in Purpose

The bug out bag is designed to help you survive as you journey to your bug out location if you are forced to bug out.  The get home bag is designed to help you survive until you are able to make it home where your survival items are stored.  It could be that you are trying to make it home to bug in or you need to get away from a disaster that has happened.

Bugging out is more for extreme scenarios where you do not have the option to bug in or you are not properly prepped at your current location.  Most bugout scenarios include a widespread effect with a long term recovery time.  Such scenarios include:

  • War/invasion
  • Nuclear attacks
  • Incurable epidemic (Ex: black plague)
  • Martial law
  • EMP attack/grid down

This doesn’t always mean that you should bug out.  To help you to fully understand then read How to Determine If and When to Bug Out.  Most of these situations wouldn’t happen instantly while you are working or traveling.  There are warning signs that can help you to be prepared beforehand.

However, there are some scenarios that could happen or escalate quickly not giving you to time to get away.  Such situations would force you to escape and try to find some way home.  These scenarios wouldn’t necessarily warrant you to bug out because they are locally affected areas with a short recovery time.  Such scenarios would include:

  • Automobile breakdown/accident
  • Natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc)
  • Bridge collapse
  • Social unrest
  • Blackout/temporary grid down
  • Terrorist attack
  • Escape and evasion

In Ted’s case, he just needed to find a way to get home.  This riot only affected the local area and would be a short-term recovery.  There was no need to bug out.  He just needed to get home where he knew there was safety.  In this situation, Ted would grab a get home bag vs bug out bag.

With a get home bag, you really want to be the gray man and blend into your surroundings.  During these types of scenarios, the bad guys are going to be looking for easy and profitable targets.  This is in comparison to a bug out scenario where everyone will really be targeted.

This means that you don’t want to stand out and be “tacticool.”  You also don’t want to give the impression that you are holding valuable items.

Difference in Time Use

You have to consider the difference of time use when determining to use a get home bag vs bug out bag. A bug out bag is designed to help you survive up to 72 hours until you can reach your bug out location.  The get home bag isn’t built around a time frame.  It is built around the distance of your travel to get home or somewhere safe until you can get home.

For example, maybe if you worked in a big city like New York and are dependent upon subways or trains to get home that maybe many miles away outside of the city; you would be forced to find another way home if there was a black out or grid down scenario.  This would force you to find a hotel or somewhere safe to sleep until the power is back up.

Some people like myself have a shorter distance of 5 miles to travel in order to make it home.  In that case, my get home bag will be built using the items that I would need to walk 5 miles in order to make it home.  This would be an easier journey home compared to someone who has to travel 60 miles in order to get home from work.

The average person can walk 15 miles per day.  So a 5-mile journey is not going to take all night to get home. You could crawl like a snail the whole way home and still wouldn’t take a whole day. If you have a 60-mile journey then there is the possibility that it may take you a night or 2 to get home.  Now when I say get home it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to walk all the way home.  You just have to get home.  This may mean you can catch a cab or train ride.

Difference in Size

When it comes to a get home bag there is not a one size fits all for everyone.  Since everyone’s journey is different, the necessities are going to be different.  This is unlike a get home bag where it is built around a 72-hour time frame.

Since I only work 5 miles away from my house I don’t need a super huge camping backpack.  In fact, I carry a regular Under Armour backpack that helps me to be the gray man.  It isn’t so huge that it attracts attention.

If you work further away or have a longer distance to travel to get home then you may need something bigger to accommodate the needed survival items.  Don’t pack your bag around how much space and how many compartments your bag has.  Instead, you need to identify what survival items you need first and then find the perfect bag that will provide the organization and space that you need.

In either survival bag there are some important features that you will need in both the get home bag and bug out bag including:

  • Snug fit
  • Lightweight
  • Compartments for organization
  • Water Resistant
  • Durability
  • Comfortability
  • Quick access to water

When it comes to the bug out bag I am totally in love with the Condor 3 Day Assault Pack because it meets all of those needs.  For a get home bag, I am currently using the Under Armour Quantum backpack.  Unfortunately, Under Armour discontinued this bag but there are few other options that I would recommend.

5.11 Covrt18 Backpack

The 5.11 Covrt18 Backpack is great because it doesn’t have a “tacticool” look but provides all of the needed functionality.  The bag is made of strong, durable 500D nylon material with YKK zippers which are hard to rip off.  It also provides secret compartment to store your concealed carry weapon.  Finally, there are many compartments for organization including a laptop sleeve, sunglass pocket and ID panel.  5.11 consistently provides high-quality gear.

Maxpedition Incognito Laptop Backpack

Maxpedition is another great company that produces high-quality backpacks.  They are known for producing tactical looking packs.  However, they recently updated their line to give a more covert/gray man look.  The Maxpedition Incognito Laptop Backpack is off of that line.

Of course, the Maxpedition Incognito Laptop Backpack is made of their high quality 100% Denier.  Not only does it provide compartments for organization for items such as laptops but also provides a lockable CCW pocket that holds Full-Size Handguns.

Vertx EDC Gamut Bag

The Vertx EDC Gamut Bag is another covert tactical backpack.  Not only does it provide you with plenty of compartments for organization but also provides a hidden pocket for placing your CCW.  Another great thing that I love about this pack is that it provides with a pocket to place a soft armor plate into it.  That way it can be used for protection if you are caught in a jam with a bad guy.

Altogether, these would be my tips on how to differentiate a get home bag vs bug out bag.  Please leave any feedback, questions or suggestions in the comment section below.  Your feedback helps the prepper community prepare the smart way now so that we can thrive later when SHTF.

Thank you to Smart Prepper Gear Patreon Community for helping me to produce helpful blog posts, podcasts and videos!