Get Home Bag Checklist for Your Car: Low-Cost Peace of Mind

Last Updated on January 9, 2022 by John Martin
Get Home Bag for Your Car

Why you need a Get Home Bag as much as I do…

When a big earthquake hits, how likely are you to be in (or near) your car? Exactly. That’s a huge reason why you need this Get-Home Bag checklist. And you need this stowed in your car… yesterday.

Laughing at the size of the numbers in this photo? Yeah, I used to live in California. I know. But this is very strange for Kansas. Or maybe you don’t live in an earthquake zone at all. Why would you want to build a life-saving kit to stow in your vehicle?

Earthquakes in Kansas

Even the most optimistic person can’t ignore all the riots and civil unrest.

And then 2020 had the most named storms (severe enough to have a name) hit the US… ever… in history. On average, only 2 tropical storms make landfall each year. But in 2020? There were twelve. And many of them were hurricanes: Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta and Zeta.

And 2021 has been another record breaking year with 18 weather/climate disasters that each did over a billion dollars in damage. This includes droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, winter storms, cold waves, flooding, hail, ice, tornadoes, hurricanes and more.

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” – Murphy’s Law

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

Roads may become impassable. Without warning, you may need to get back home on foot. It’s more likely to happen now than ever before.

What will a bag like this do for you?

Expect that you’ll need to walk. And carry your stuff on your back. You won’t be able to bring lots of luxuries. Or supplies to keep you going for days.

But the stuff in this bag can save your life.

A lightweight get home bag, that is…

Especially since you should only pack a bag for the one who can carry the least. One they can easily carry for miles. So this bag is only designed to help you overnight, or at most a couple days.

It’s true, the more survival skills you know, the less you may need to carry… but plan a bag for the least trained person who might be driving.

Don’t be afraid to start with a budget bag

Don’t let buying stuff stand in your way of getting this kit packed and stowed in your trunk!

You could even buy a cheap backpack at Goodwill for now. And then get something better later. Just get something going.

Budget Get Home Bag

Maybe you’ve heard that cotton kills. That in cold, wet weather, it’s better to be wearing fast-dry polyester blend clothing. While this may be true, tech clothing can be expensive. So just go through your closet and pack what you have now. Get the better stuff later. Better something than nothing.

And if you’re building a go bag to keep in your home, why not buy first aid items in a pack and split them between your home and car supplies?

Why I recommend building your own kit…

I have never seen a good pre-made get home kit. Yes, there are some online with lots of good reviews. But remember… these people have probably never had to use their bag yet.

Some of these are $99 but skimp out on really essential stuff (recommended by experts) that you won’t have room for with their bags. Or they cost $499. To me, this is a ridiculously expensive collection of gear. (Not all of which may be necessary.) Unless you’ve got plenty of money, you don’t mind wasting some and you won’t be bothered to make your own bag.

The Get Home Bag Checklist…

  • Backpack*
  • Water Bottles (2+)
  • Water Filter
  • Rain Poncho
    • You can get a 5-pack for about $12.
    • Or Arcturus sells a good quality one for about $20.
    • Or pack a couple of commercial-grade, thick (3-mil), 100-gallon trash bags.
      • I’ve tried to find these bags in less than a 10-pack but having this many can be handy. You can put a couple in your get-home bag, plus another couple in your go-bag. (Two backpacks? Here’s the difference and why you might want both.) And you can always split these bags with friends and family.
      • Note: if you choose to use the trash bags, you might be able to skip packing a tent/bivvy and emergency blanket… IF everyone who might be using your backpack is skilled enough to convert a trash bag into a tent or sleeping bag.
  • Emergency Tent or Bivvy (such as a $20 Emergency Life Tent)
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Complete Dry Change of Clothes, including…
    • Pair of Shoes – stow a separate pair outside your bag in the trunk for everyone who might use the bag
    • Stocking Cap
    • Work Gloves
    • Fleece Jacket
    • T-Shirt
    • Pants
    • Underwear
    • Socks
  • Dry Bag… or at least a large Ziploc or Foodsaver bag for your clothes
  • Food and Snacks
    • Ready to eat and doesn’t need heat. Such as jerky, nuts, granola, etc. I carry Lara Bars in my pack.
  • LED Flashlight**
  • LED Headlamp**
    • Sometimes you need hands-free light, so pack one of these in addition to a flashlight. These are getting smaller and less expensive.
  • First Aid Kit – Best to build your own. Use the following as a guide: 
    • Sterile Gauze 4×4 (two 3″ rolls)
    • Large Sterile Adhesive Bandage
    • Wet Wipes (5+)
    • Lip Balm with Sun Protection
    • Disposable Nitrile Gloves (2+ pairs)
    • Tweezers
    • Tylenol
    • Ibuprofen
    • Immodium or other anti-diarrheal
    • Ex-Lax or another laxative
    • 1-Day Supply of any personal OTC or prescription meds you use often
    • Burn Gel
    • Moleskins
    • Small Pocket Knife
    • Super Glue
    • Hand Sanitizer
  • Pepper Spray Gel***
  • Phone Charger**
  • Charging Cable
  • Dust Masks
  • Disposable Lighters (2)
  • Matches
  • Tinder-Quik
  • Duct Tape
  • Paracord
  • Whistle (no moving parts inside is best, durable plastic, brightly colored so it’s easy to find)
  • Multi-Tool
  • Insect Repellant
  • Sunblock
  • Money
  • Bandana
  • Safety Pins
  • Zip Ties
  • Emergency Phone Numbers
  • Pencil and Paper

* What to look for in a backpack

20-40L capacity, not brightly colored (with some disasters you may want to stay hidden but take bright items along, such as a bandana so you can choose to be seen.) Tough material but not heavy. Some bags have super tough buckles and padded straps… you don’t need that for this kind of bag.

Bug Out Bag

For example, some “tough” tactical bags are 3 lbs and cost $90. You can find very practical backpacks on Amazon for half the weight and half the cost. For example, here’s the backpack I have.

Try the backpack out on everyone who might be using it – when it’s fully loaded. If they tell you it’s too heavy, believe them. It is.

** Rechargeable items

Make sure you check these periodically and recharge them.

*** Pepper Spray Gel

This works far better than pepper spray (less danger of the mist blowing back in your own eyes.) It also seems to disable attackers better than Mace.

Choose the kind that can spray a concentrated beam for a long distance, such as 18 feet. Better not to let your attackers get close.

As soon as you get one, practice with it and learn how to use it. You get lots of sprays from one can. Don’t just pack it away and hope it works when you need it!

Also be mindful that children may get into your pack… put this gel in a protected spot where it won’t accidentally be used.

Good for you!

You read this far. You know you need this. So don’t let time go by without taking action. Use the get home bag checklist above. Read more about the essentials. Do something to build your kit today. You owe it to yourself and your family to be prepared.

How did these tips help you? I’ve consulted experts but… did I miss something? Is there something I should leave out? Let me know in the comments below.