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The names pretty much say it all. The differences between a Bug Out Bag and a Get Home Bag are not so much in the gear, but in the application of the kit.
The typical Bug Out Bag is for a situation where you must leave your familiar stomping grounds, and set up camp in a new location. There are usually a lot of backpacking and lightweight camping items in this bag to give you the gear to create a new, temporary home in the event of a localized disaster or a variety of other situations.
Your Get Home Bag is leaner and meaner than the average BOB, and its purpose is clear–to get you home. If you are using a Get Home Bag, you’re planning on camping out in your own house, not in the woods. So, why should you consider having both?
The most straightforward answer has two parts. The first part is that you can keep multiple bags in different places, which gives you more gear to work with. The second part is that you keep your important stuff locked up at home, which gives you more security in an emergency and during your day-to-day life. The cash, sensitive documents, handgun and other valuable things in a BOB are just too important to leave in a bag at your desk (where your co-workers will freak if they find it) or in your car (where burglars will rejoice if they find it). So a GHB makes much more sense for most people who are storing a bag at work or in their vehicle. The BOB can stay at home, in a more secure location.
If you’re not sure what you’d need to get home in the event of an emergency, use this skeleton to get started and flesh it out to match your needs and your concerns Security Items: Most people can’t afford the cost or the risk of keeping handguns and ammo in several different places. This is where an Every Day Carry pistol makes even more sense. It’s on your person, where you can keep an eye on it and where you can always access it easily.
However, you could afford to keep a knife in each GHB, as a tool and as a back-up defense item. Keep your spare handgun in your BOB at home, locked up where the kids or casual thieves can’t get it.
Shelter Items: The ultra-light tent and sleeping bag of your BOB have no room here. Just stick with the bare bones tarp and fleece blanket. These items are light; and they pack down small. 100 feet of 550 cord can be of great service turning the tarp into a shelter, among hundreds of other uses.
Water: Buy 2 quarts of bottled water, as they will keep for a while. Also get the Micropur tablets from Katadyn. Each tablet will disinfect one quart of water, so you can refill your two bottles as needed.
First aid: The standard camping first aid kit will work for either a GHB or BOB.
Food: Remember, lean and mean is our slogan here. There are no snares or fishing gear in this thing. You don’t have time to stop for such things, and you can eat a proper meal when you get home. One Mainstay 2400 Emergency Food Ration will be about right for a GHB, or a fistful of Snickers bars, if you can keep them from melting. The Mainstay block of food cubes has a 5 year shelf life; can’t melt or freeze; weighs only 16 ounces; and has 2,400 calories.
Supplies: Walking shoes or hiking boots are of key importance in this kit, as is a seasonally appropriate set of clothes and outer wear. Also consider a small roll of duct tape; a contractor trash bag; a head lamp with spare batteries; some cash in small bills; waterproof matches; a lighter; toilet paper; hand sanitizer; a compass; a local topo map; a multi tool; some signaling gear; and one of your old cell phones which is fully charged, but turned off (it can still dial 911).
Now, think about the merits of each of these items, and the group of them as a whole. All this stuff would definitely help you if you got stuck in your vehicle somewhere; or you had to bug in at work for a while; or if you had to get home and the roads were gridlocked or otherwise blocked. The cost of a little more equipment isn’t wasted as long as your gear isn’t stolen, and the expense for a little more peace of mind should more than pay for itself.