Day Trip Bag (Get Home Bag)

I woke up today to the terrible news that a mosque in New Zealand was the target of a terrorist shooting. I’ve spent much of the day in a mix between sadness, confusion, and shock, just as I did after Grenfell, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, and many of the other tragedies that plague the world with depressing regularity.

But reading that many witnesses and survivors were stuck in lockdown or police cordons, it made me think again about Get Home Bags, or as I like to call them “Day Trip Bags”.

If you were in the area when something like this happened, how well equipped would you be to get back home safely? What if you were held in lockdown for hours at a shopping centre? What if the cordon wasn’t lifted until nightfall. Would you have a plan and the ability to get home safely?

The Day Trip Bag is designed as a small, lightweight pack that contains some helpful items for getting you out of the danger zone and back home safely. It’s not a bugout bag or a wilderness survival kit, it’s just a bunch of things to take with you when you’re travelling beyond a half hour walk from home.

It’s just a bunch of things to take when you’re travelling beyond a half hour walk from home.

I use a 10 litre rucksack that measures about a foot square. In my experience, anything larger will end up being a hassle and left at home more often than not. Fully packed, mine weighs just 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs), and that’s without actively trying to reduce weight and including 500ml of water.

Start by finding the right bag for you, and add items as you find them. My favourite brand is Dakine as they make really great quality backpacks but avoid the military look. The pack in the image is not Dakine, it’s the Protector Plus from aliexpress. It’s a great size and shape, but quality-wise I’d put it at just below karrimor’s entry-level packs.

But I don’t want you to spend loads of time or money on this  – scour car boots, eBay, and facebook marketplace and it won’t cost much to assemble. Don’t get hung up on exactly which head torch is best or which brand of bag to use. Just get started as best you can so it’s ready to use as quickly as possible.

Contents

Another Bag

I can’t count the times I’ve had my GHB on me and someone has said “Hey can you put this (wine bottle / desk lamp / football / etc) in your bag?” and I’ve had to say “Err, no, it’s full of stuff”. For that reason I’ve packed another bag into my kit. A bag-for-life folded into a triangle like a crisp packet works great and is super neat. I also pack a few bin liners for use as rubbish bags or to keep wet things separate from dry.

Local Street Map

An actual printed A-Z is small, lightweight, and doesn’t use signal or battery power. They’re also generally better designed and more detailed than online maps, and will allow you to quickly orientate yourself and find nearby public spaces, transport links, and local infrastructure. If I see a map on street signage I usually take a photo on my phone. Remember that these often don’t have north at the top like most maps – they’re oriented based on which way the viewer is facing. I have a small compass to help with local navigation, but it’s not essential. For a GHB I prefer street maps to OS maps as they are easier to flip through, and have much more information than OS maps for urban areas.

Street map signpost in London.

Cash

Cash is king, if you can spare it. I pack around £70 – enough for a hotel, train, bus, taxi, meal, or bribe. If you can’t afford to set aside that much it’s fine, just try to put some money in there – even just enough for bus fare is great. Include coins for payphone and parking, and to avoid having to flash notes or ask for change if you can avoid it.

Battery Pack

Include lightning and microUSB cables. Even if you only use android or iPhones, in an emergency others may need to charge their phones too. Many companies sell ‘lipstick size’ chargers, which are the ideal size and capacity for a GHB. Anker and EasyAcc are two brands I’ve used before and trust.

500ml mineral water

Always good to have a bottle of water handy. You don’t need more than 500ml for a GHB. It’s heavy and noisy. To reduce noise when the bottle’s half full, squeeze all the air out before screwing the lid on. Many sites suggest a steel water bottle so you can cook and boil with it too, but personally I think that’s overkill for a GHB.

Head torch

I prefer head torches to handheld as they offer hands-free operation. They’re not as cool looking, but they are much more practical. Just remember to tilt them down before looking into people’s faces! I do also carry a pen torch in my coat for, erm, well OK it’s for spotting dog poo when I’m walking the dog at night. I’m not going to strap a head torch on for a quick check like that!

Space blanket

Cheap and it can provide heat, shelter, rainproofing, a clean surface, folds up tiny too. No brainer. Why not pack 2. Can be used to screen out windows if you also pack some duct tape.

Rain Poncho

While the space blanket could probably be rigged into some kind of waterproof coat in a pinch, rain ponchos are so cheap and tiny that it makes sense to carry a few in your get home bag too.

Towel / Flannel

Not a great big bath towel, but a simple flannel or microfibre towel might prove useful in cleaning yourself up or drying yourself down. Worth packing. Antibacterial gel is a good idea too.

Socks and Hat

In an emergency, the likelihood is that you’ll be using your feet a fair amount, so a spare pair of socks seems sensible and doesn’t add too much bulk. For hats, I find even a simple baseball cap protects against rain and cold well, in addition to reducing glare from the sun (though not offering much UV protection).

Face mask & eye protection

An FFP3 mask, properly fitted, will protect you against dust inhalation. I bought mine after hearing about what happened to those who inhaled the toxic dust on 9/11. Another item I carry multiples of, because I’m not going to tell my wife I didn’t pack her one if we ever get caught up in something like this. Also blocks out smoke and all manner of other nasties. I carry a printout of the fitting instructions with them. Consider swimming goggles too, or sunglasses if that feels a step too far.

Pen and notepad

This is just a really useful thing to have with you for thousands of reasons.

Small first aid kit

In mine I include: Steri strips, micro tape, bandage, resuscitation mask, gloves, plasters, medication as appropriate to you. For me that means; paracetamol, ibuprofen, hay fever tabs, aspirin, dioralyte, cold & flu tablets, and migraleve if you can get hold of any. I usually carry 2 of each the medication, by carefully trimming the blister packs so as to preserve the type and dosage printed on them. The use-by date I often write in sharpie on the plastic.

Nitrile work gloves

They are coated with a supple plastic on the palms, which makes clambering and lifting things a LOT easier. Also good for warmth. Plus they make you look like a ninja. I suffer from eczema on my fingers which is really sensitive to abrasion, so these are a must for gardening too.

Baby Wipes & Toilet Paper

These things are just too darn useful to omit.

Bic Lighter

Another one of those small cheap items that just makes sense to have. Chuck a tealight in there too and coupled with the space blanket you’ve got a rough and ready shelter and warmth for the night.

Misc Other Items

  • Whistle
  • Nail Clippers
  • Sanitary Towels
  • Fold up shoes if you wear heels
  • Paracord. It’s such a cliché I almost didn’t include it but then I remembered it’s great for making shoelaces and belts, so it earns a place.
  • Swiss army knife. I have a bunch of these lying about anyway so one might as well go in the pack. The Climber or Huntsman is the best model in my opinion.

Things that didn’t make the cut

Here’s a list of things I considered including but haven’t (yet?). They might be perfect for you, so here they are 🙂

  • Ear Plugs.
  • Walkie Talkies. (I do own some but they are heavy and bulky).
  • Pack of Cards.
  • Glowsticks.
  • Energy Tablets.
  • Cutlery.
  • Cupasoup / Cocoa sachets.
  • Mini stove.
  • Hand warmers.