I have seen a great deal of information over the years concerning the “Bug Out Bag” but very little that addresses the “Get Home Bag”. Considering the fact that most of us spend a good portion of our day away from our homes, I would have expected to see a greater amount of attention paid to the subject. Benjamin Franklin said it best, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
I reside in a semi rural area outside the megatropolis of Southern California, I work in downtown Los Angeles which requires a 1/2 hour drive to the train station, a 1-½ hour commute by train and a 10 minute subway ride to reach my place of employment. A very small number of people in this corner of the world are fortunate enough to be able to utilize public transportation. I consider myself lucky in a sense, not having to battle through the daily road war. It comes at a cost however. At a minimum, I am away from my home 14-1/4 hours a day during the week and the commute costs me $17 a day.
Observing my fellow train commuters, almost no one is carrying a pack of any kind. The packs that are being carried contain laptops or other personal items. I get delayed 2-4 hours a month on average for locomotive failures, accidents at crossings or freight activity. Nothing serious has happened so far but you would think folks would realize something could happen and we could be on our own. I was on the subway platform the other day with a fellow employee who also rides the train; I asked him a hypothetical question. Assume that a massive and sustained power failure just occurred, what would you do? He said that he never contemplated that possibility and had no plan to get home. Given the fact that we live in Earthquake country, I find that irresponsible to say the least but sadly, not unexpected.
I feel the need to carry some items with me that might improve my chances of returning home in reasonable condition should a major “Event” take place. If heading home does not appear possible, I will head towards an alternate rally point to meet up with my wife. I always have a Get Home Bag with me. Over the years I have redone my bag a number of times. Currently, my bag is actually not a bag, I use an aluminum attaché. Something that had always bothered me in the past was the inability to secure the contents of my bag. The attaché I am using solves that problem providing me a locking device and some degree of EMP protection which I never had previously. The hard case also provides the contents impact protection should something fall on it or I drop it.
I selected an aluminum Samsonite attaché. It measures 18 x 13 x 4 inches and has a very stylish business appearance. If I were a tradesman, I would have selected a model suitable to the field I worked in to avoid drawing any unwanted attention to myself. The first thing I did was to beef up the case. I have used Armorcore ballistic protection products on a couple of projects at home and got the idea to have my case do double duty by providing me with some personal protection in addition to carrying my equipment. I acquired some level 3 ballistic fiberglass. It is 7/16” thick, weighs 4.8 lbs per square foot and will stop a 240 grain .44 Magnum traveling 1,350 fps. I fashioned some brackets inside on one side of the case that permit me to remove the panel if necessary. I had it welded in by a professional as I do not weld aluminum enough to trust my work. I refinished the case in a gun metal gray. It should provide center mass protection and will defiantly protect my equipment from most gunshots. I do not wear body armour everyday, aside from a law enforcement individual, who does? My thoughts were some potential protection is better than none at all. To secure the case contents, I purchased some Pick N Pluck Foam from Pelican Case. The Model 1520 case is close to the size of my attaché and it allowed me to easily fashion cut outs to cradle my equipment.
To a certain degree, the contents of your bag, or case, are personal choices depending on your perceived needs. I consider the basics to be Water filtration, Personal Protection, Communications, Shelter and Food in that order. In the worst case scenario I expect it to take 48 hours to reach my home or rally point if I have to start from the furthest point away from my destination. To fulfill my first requirement, I carry the Life straw for water filtration. They are small, easy to use and are good for 20 gallons of filtration. I have a couple of coffee filters for pre filtering if necessary and carry a couple of 1 quart Mylar water containers. If I am at work when something happens, I have a 100 oz Camelback hydration pack in my file cabinet and more water available to me than I could carry.
I have a trio of options for my Personal Protection needs: a Glock 36 .45 ACP. As this is California, it must be carried unloaded in a locked case. I keep the magazines on my hip in a leather pouch that also has a locking hasp. This setup is not great for a quick response but it keeps things legal. I have two additional defensive tools. As Los Angeles has restrictive knife laws, I carry a CRKT M21 tactical folding knife in town. When not in Los Angeles , I instead carry a Cold Steel Bushman Knife with a Paracord wrapped handle. The 4 oz Fox Labs Mark 5 flip top pepper spray rounds out the field. Having choices permits the appropriate level response for a given situation.
My next priority is information and communication. I use the Puxing PX-888K Dual Band Handheld Receiver. This radio has VHF, UHF, 2 meter/440 MHz, NOAA weather and public safety frequencies. I have a nice tactical headset for hands free use. It also works with Dakota Alert products which I utilize at home. For me, a 200 channel scanner was my next choice. Monitoring police and government communications could prove useful. I also carry an older Smartphone in my case. I replaced one recently with a newer model but retained the old unit. Although I have no cell service associated with it, you can still make 911 calls, a feature that will most likely prove useless in a major incident. However, the phone has a 32gig memory card that I permanently installed. I have an extensive electronic library, how to videos, pictures of important documents, insurance and bank account numbers, a movie or two, music, Kindle e-books and some games. I have a spare battery and the device is password protected
Sheltering maybe required during my journey so I carry the Emergency Zone Mylar sleeping bag as well as an emergency blanket and Poncho. I carry some Survivor Industries Mainstay 1200 emergency food bars. I maintain a two month supply of A-Pack MREs at work and I can carry some in my hydration pack if I am starting from work.
So I can see into the immediate future, I have a small monocular in my case. Spotting trouble in advance will enhance my ability to avoid it. I do not expect trouble initially, maybe the first 12 hours, but as people get past the initial shock of an event, things will change quickly. To deal with darkness, I have a Streamlight Strion hand-held light and the Argo headlamp, more than enough lumens to light the way but I will need to careful not to draw attention to myself.
As some unforeseen task will undoubtedly come up requiring tools, I have the Leatherman Surge on hand which should prove useful. I carry Padlock shims; they will come in handy when I find that someone inadvertently locked a gate or access to something. The remainder of my goods are fairly standard. Cash in small denominations, basic first aid items, dust masks, means to build a fire, Kleenex travel packets, not necessarily for my nose, handi-wipes, bandana, chamois, compass, a map etc.
My goal was to keep the weight of my Get Home Case under 25 lbs. The weight of the attaché came in at 20 lbs and change. I pull it around on a small luggage dolly. I removed the wheels that came on the dolly and I installed larger balloon tires so I can traverse uneven terrain with ease. I can collapse the handle and carry it all if I am in a hurry. I can also carry the case contents on my belt by means of clip, nylon carry case and in my pockets. This would allow me to travel without the case or use it to carry other items.
When I finally reach home or my rally point, my Get Home Case becomes my Bug Out Case, if required. It will be supplemented with additional weapons platforms, ammo, food, larger water filtration equipment and more of everything which I can carry on my luggage dolly should my other means of transportation be unadvisable. My wife has a similar case in her car. She is only a couple of miles away from home at any time but has what she needs if it all goes wrong.
The majority of you have likely taken all of the above into consideration and planned accordingly. If not, I guess I will not be seeing you at Bartertown.
JWR Adds: One advantage of a locking attache case is that in many jurisdictions, a locked piece of luggage is not subject to search without a warrant or the most dramatic "probable cause" situations. (Consult your state laws, for details.)