Get Home Bag vs Bug Out Bag: What’s the Difference?

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Situational awareness is one of the most important factors in any disaster situation. Knowing what’s going on around you can help you stay out of danger, and it can also help ensure that every decision you make has a purpose.

Having a backpack ready to go at all times is an excellent way to prepare yourself for daily disasters. The two main types of backpacks are bug-out bags and get-home packs.

What’s the difference between a get-home pack and a bug-out bag? What should be included in each one? Read on to find out!

Get Home Bag vs. Bug Out Bag

The main difference between a bug-out bag and a get-home pack is its intended use. Bug-out bags are designed to help you escape danger, while get-home packs are designed to keep you safe until you can return home.

As the names imply, get-home packs are geared more toward helping you survive during your trip home than they are in long-term survival situations. Bug-out bags, on the other hand, are designed to help you survive for at least 72 hours or longer, and are meant for long-term disasters.

A get-home bag might be the simple pack you keep in your car for if you break down on a country road. A bug-out bag is the backpack full of supplies you keep ready for when sh*t hits the fan.

How to Prepare a Get Home Bag

Seeing as how a get-home bag is geared more toward helping you in short-term scenarios, it doesn’t need to be super-extensive or expensive. Only bring the bare necessities in a get-home bag!

Let’s start with choosing the bag itself.

There are a couple of routes you could take. You could use an existing backpack, tote bag, or duffel that you have lying around the house, or you could purchase a bag specifically for this purpose.

Seeing as how the bag will probably sit in your car or your office at work for a while, it has to be inconspicuous and ordinary. You don’t want someone breaking into your car to steal your $200 tactical survival backpack!

Regardless of whether you use an existing bag or buy a new one, it should have the following features:

  • Waterproof (or at least, water-resistant)
  • Multiple pouches/compartments for easy sorting
  • Is comfortable to carry or wear for a few hours at a time
  • Is discreet (not overly colorful or flashy)

If you’re looking for recommendations, the Reebow Gear tactical sling backpack or the Mardingtop small tactical backpack are good, inexpensive options.

Where To Store Your Get Home Bag

We mentioned this earlier, but storing your get-home bag is kind of the most of important part of the whole affair. You want it to be in an accessible location, but it shouldn’t be in a place where other people can tamper with or steal it.

Obviously, you’re not going to keep your get-home bag in your house, because then it kind of becomes a bug-out bag. You want to keep your get-home bag in a location that you frequent often, like work.

If you spend most of your day at an office building or a warehouse, keep your get-home bag in your desk or locker. If you do a lot of traveling for work, maybe you work in construction or sales, then you should keep your get-home bag in your car.

We suggest keeping it in your trunk, that way it doesn’t get in the way when you have passengers or groceries in your vehicle.

Get-Home Bag List

Now that you have a bag, it’s time to start filling it up with all the gear you need to survive until you get home. Remember, you don’t have to pack like you’re going to survive the apocalypse, just for a few hours before you get back to your house and family.

The following items should be included in your get-home pack:

  • Bottled water (1-2 bottles)
  • High-calorie protein bars/snacks, like beef jerky or energy bars
  • Basic first aid kit, including bandages, antiseptic, and pain reliever
  • Multi-tool knife/pliers/wire strippers (the more variety the better)
  • Survival knife
  • A collapsible weapon or firearm
  • Ammunition
  • Lighter and/or matches
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • A lightweight rain jacket or poncho
  • LifeStraw
  • Recent photos of your family and friends, as well as a list of their phone numbers in case you lose your cellphone

As you can see, you only include the basics in your get-home bag. If you have to drive or walk back to your house from work or school while a disaster is happening, these few essentials should help you stay out of trouble.

How to Prepare a Bug Out Bag 

A bug-out bag is the one you keep in your home for when sh*t hits the fan. This is the duffel bag that will keep you alive during times of civil unrest or natural disaster.

So, while building a get-home bag might only take you a day or two, building a bug-out bag is a constant activity. You’re always adding new items to it, improving it, and keeping a running tally of all the items in it.

Your bug-out bag should follow the same principles as a get-home bag, but it has to be larger and more durable, because who knows what kind of environmental stress you’re going to subject it to. It might have to survive a plunge into a flooded road, or it might have to remain sealed while you’re climbing through the brambles or rubble.

Here are the most important features of a bug-out bag:

  • Should be made of durable, military-grade materials
  • Needs to be waterproof and fire-proof
  • Has to have multiple storage areas with specific compartments for gear
  • Must be comfortable and supportive, like how hiking backpacks support the weight
  • Should have multiple connection points, like D-rings
  • Should fold out to easily access your gear

If your home and car are destroyed in a natural disaster and you’re stranded in an apocalypse scenario, your bug-out bag will mean the difference between life and death. Not just for you, but for your family.

If you have a large family, you might want to invest in making more than one bug-out bag. Each should have similar gear. Don’t make the mistake of separating gear by type into different bags. For example, don’t store all your rations and cooking supplies in your spouse’s bag, because if you get separated, you’ll go hungry, and they’ll have nothing but food.

Where to Store Your Bug-Out Bag

Storing your bug-out bag is pretty simple! It should be at the place where you spend most of your time, like your house. But it shouldn’t be sitting out on your coffee table for everyone to see and mess with.

Make sure it’s in a secure place, like a closet or in a trunk. If you have a large or rather nosy family, it’s even more important that the bug-out bag is in a secure place. You don’t want to get knee-deep in a disaster to realize that someone took your lighter or matches from your pack to start the grill and never put them back.

If your family members have access to your bag, you need to stress the importance of putting things back where they found them or replacing things they take out.

Maybe consider starting a list of all the things in the bag, that way people always know what’s in there, and what needs to be added.

Bug-Out Bag List

The bug-out bag can be customized for various scenarios and timeframes. Just like how the get-home bag is only designed to carry the bare minimum to help you survive for a few hours, the bug-out bag can be used for survival over a few days, weeks, or even a month.

Depending on the length of time you want to design your bag for, you’ll have to invest more money, but also get a larger bag to store extra gear.

For starters, we’ll just go over the essential items that should be in your bug-out bag regardless of whether you’re using it for a few days or as a constant survival tool.

  • Water bottle – starting off, you’ll need to keep hydrated, so have some water readily available
  • Water purification tablets or a filtration straw
  • High-protein foods like nuts, jerky, dried fruits
  • Meal rations like MREs or emergency food supplements
  • A camping cup and camping utensils
  • GPS, map, and compass
  • Flares, emergency light, whistle
  • A good first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic, NSAIDs, ointments, etc.
  • Survival knife
  • A collapsible weapon or firearm
  • Ammunition
  • Flashlight or headlamp – extra batteries too
  • Duct tape and zip ties
  • Lightweight tarp – you could use it as a tent, rain shelter, or to collect water
  • Small sewing kit and safety pins
  • Sunscreen and chapstick
  • Personal hygiene supplies like hand sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Emergency radio with batteries
  • Paracord – can be used for shelter building or to help you escape more efficiently
  • Small fire-starting kit including matches, lighter, steel wool, etc.

Depending on what types of disasters you expect in your area, you might need to add more supplies. There are hundreds of things that could be useful for survival situations, so don’t hold back!

Make Both Survival Packs for Optimum Preparedness

The discussion shouldn’t be around the get-home bag vs the bug-out bag, you should have both! Having both bags is a great way to prepare for any kind of scenario. Your get-home bag might just be your insurance policy if your car runs out of gas or gets a flat tire, and your bug-out bag might double as your camping emergency kit!

No matter what the case, being prepared for whatever life throws at you is the best way to protect yourself and your family in the long run!