Here is an excellent series of post from DTG on things to think about when considering needs for a “Gotta get home” situation. These recommendation are very applicable in other areas of preparedness as well, and you would be wise to heed his advice.
Essential Skills: Getting Home
The first post of the year is going to focus on the importance of equipping yourself to make it home from wherever your commute may take you during the work day. For those of you working from home, ‘good on ya’! For the rest of us, we may have a ways to go, and our personal vehicle might not be available for part, or all, of the trip.
That said, let’s look at what we might need for winter (adapt for your own locality and weather patterns) every day in order to stay functional:
- Complete set of sturdy clothing – If you work in an environment that ‘business’ or ‘business casual’ is the norm, your dress slacks, button down shirt/bouse and sport coat/blazer is not going to cut it when trying to make it home, especially in bad weather. If you have to traverse any less than hospitable areas, the dress clothes will mark you as a target to the local mutant zombie biker types lurking about. You’ll want long sleeve shirts/blouses, field capable pants with belt (no camouflage, earth tones or greys are good – anything that won’t stand out, color wise), a weather appropriate jacket that’s minimally water resistant and optimally Goretex level water proof, and well-broken in boots and good, sturdy socks, such as the Vermont ‘Darn Tough’ USMC type of socks. You get the picture; this needs to be in your vehicle every time you leave home. Get a small storage container to keep it in so it’s unobtrusive.
Personally, for my Get Home Bag, I keep a pair of Danner ‘Combat Hikers’ with a rolled up pair of Vermont ‘Darn Tough’ USMC Over-The-Calf socks in them. There are other good quality boots and socks available; I prefer the Danner’s and the ‘Darn Tough’ brand for SHTF scenarios. A note on the Danner hikers – they seem to run about a half-size bigger than usual, which really surprised me, as my experience on other Danner boots is the opposite – they run a tad smaller than size – so to make them fit perfectly, I put a pair of these in them (well worth the money) and it worked beautifully:
I’m not relying on theory here or other folks’ experiences; I’ve put about 40 miles on the combination pictured above doing training walks with a ruck weighing between 65 and 80 lbs for distances between 2 and 10 miles. Very comfortable, very durable, and they don’t look any different than when I bought them. Interestingly enough, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for these – I got my Danner’s on eBay for $60 out the door. The insoles I bought at Amazon for about $35. Less than $100 all told, and worth every penny. Next, they don’t necessarily look, ‘military,’ which, when you’re trying to blend in to ‘everyday’ scenes, might be a good thing.
I don’t necessarily think that walking will be my primary means to get home (the farthest I reasonably travel for business during a day is 50 miles from home), but if I end up having to walk, I won’t fail because my feet gave out due to poor quality footwear. Consider that for a bit and then make your choice.
Pants & Shirt – I don’t like blue jeans as cotton is, ‘the cloth of death’ in cold, wet weather. I prefer a blend, such as the cotton-poly or nylon-cotton pants available. Brand doesn’t matter, so long as you remember earth tones or greys, and no camouflage. The idea again, is not to look like some sort of tactical ‘operator’ walking the route you’ve chosen. The idea is to look so unobtrusive that you may not be noticed, and if you are, scant attention is paid to you. Remember the primary objective: Get home to take care of your precious cargo. Remember, you get what you pay for, so get the best you can afford. Here’s a couple of examples:
Jackets we use include the Tru-Spec H20 coupled with the Wiggy’s jacket liner. Check that out,here. Wiggy’s products are extremely well made and really will make the difference in nasty, cold, wet weather when you’re walking. The material used for insulation actually repels the water and keeps insulating much better than wool, even when wet. As always, your call, these are only suggestions based on what we have and do use in training and every day preps.
Last item for clothing: A hat. We recommend having two. One for rain (boonie type) that’s either water resistant on it’s own, or treated with copious amounts of Camp Dry or other brands of silicone. The other hat should be a fleece or wool ‘watch cap’ so that you lose as little heat as possible in really cold weather. Sure, when you’re walking you can regulate your body temp by taking the hat off for short periods (more than 80% of your body heat loss is through the head), but having it will also warm you up quickly.
Next time, we’ll talk about the ‘get home’ bag and various options you can choose for personal protection that are unobtrusive. Oh…one more thing: To actually get home, you’ll need to be in somewhat decent shape physically. That means PT. Great time to start, too, as it’s the first of the year!
Using the building block concept, we laid the foundation of the, ‘Get Home’ kit with clothing necessarily kept in your vehicle against the time you may have to get home in SHTF circumstances. You can read that here. It’s essential to understand that the clothes you wear to work or to a gathering for function might not be suited to a long walk or being in the elements overnight, and, being such a liability, could, in fact, be the factor that defeats you in your attempt to get home to your ‘precious cargo’.
The next item to consider is your personal protection. Your choices in today’s market are limitless; your choices when compared against the scenario you’re preparing for are not. The environment you’re going to operate in has a great deal to do with what you will carry.
First, understand the entire purpose is defensive in nature; not offensive. Do not make the error of engaging in any ‘wargaming’ that includes you being fired on and ‘taking it to them’ from whatever ‘walking dead’ or other show you may have seen. Your primary mission is to get from wherever you are when SHTF happens to your home with no hostile engagement whatsoever if you can help it. Add to that the weight factor. Whatever you choose can’t be so heavy that it becomes a burden to you because your fitness level is not what it should be, and unless you have a regular PT routine that includes strength and stamina exercises as well as long walks with heavy packs, you’re not in the shape you should be. You may want to get started on that……today.
Now that we know we are going to carry a defensive weapon, it will most likely be a pistol. The ‘why’ is simple: AR’s, AK’s, shotguns, or whatever don’t fit the bill because of their typical alarm raising capability when seen by people in their residential areas. They possess this capability because they’re not very concealable and when someone sees you peacefully walking toward where they are and identifies that you have one of these visible (especially if you’re carrying it in a ‘patrol carry’ position), they will raise an alarm, and if S has HTF, some neighbor or mutant biker zombie might engage you with their AR, AK, or shotgun, which will most likely significantly delay or defeat you in your primary mission to get home, as there will most likely be only one of you and unknown numbers of them. Maybe not, but in any event, you’re stacking tolerances against getting home if you’re carrying it openly. “Ah,” but you say, “I can break it down in my back pack!” Absolutely – if you choose to do that, it could come in handy in certain emergency conditions where you have no way to avoid a really bad situation. You’re still going to have a pistol, though, for ‘immediate needs’, right? Getting to your broken down AR, AK, or shotgun will require you to put it together and load it, which can take precious seconds if you’re being attacked, and if you haven’t sought and obtained a secured, covered position in this scenario. Remember, the bottom line here is that your primary and best defensive weapon for a Get Home Bag will be a pistol. If you have a carbine or shotgun in your pack, it’s going to have to be, by necessity, broken down and undelployable for immediate needs. Your pistol can be on you and concealed, ready to deploy in a second. Carry as many loaded mags as you deem prudent. Depending on what you carry, 5 to 9 is more than enough, especially if you select a double stack capable pistol that has 13 to 17 rounds in each mag. Make sure you have a good holster for the pistol, too. Make sure that you wear and practice with your pistol and holster regularly (goes without saying, right?).
Next up, as it is not total societal break down….today….and we are still subjected to laws we may not agree with, ensure that you get appropriate licensing to carry your chosen pistol. (NOTE: This post is not about the constitutionality of such laws; so don’t go off on a tangent.) It is prudent to get this done. Many law enforcement types may help you in one way or another or minimally let you pass in any semi-SHTF scenario if you are a CPL (Concealed Pistol License) holder. They know you’ve had a background check and are most likely not a criminal type. Circling back to the AR, AK, and Shotgun paragraph, what reaction do you think ‘Officer Friendly’ is going to have in the same scenario with you walking down the street with what most consider an offensive weapon displayed (open carry laws notwithstanding; we’re talking about SHTF scenarios here)? Probably not the same as your contact when you politely inform him or her (if that is legally required) that you are licensed and carrying and trying to get home. Always keep in mind the primary objective: Get home to your precious cargo intact.
Recommendations? Glock 17 or 19 and 5 mags with 2 mags on your belt and 2 mags in your pack. Your mileage may vary. Also, this is not an argument for or against a particular caliber or pistol. Carry what you will. Personally, I’m a 1911 guy. Been shooting one for half my life. However, understanding that under stress I will not rise to the occassion but sink to the level of my current training and physical abilities, I chose the Glock because it’s idiot proof, accurate, can reacquire a target more quickly (for me), and with 124gr JHP’s, provides enough ‘fire power’ to meet or exceed my expectations of performance. Mag wise you may carry more or less; remember it’s your pack and you will determine what you do.
Knives are next. You’ll want omething that can take a beating and keep an edge. It will be your primary tool for helping you weather a storm or setting up a place to rest (unless you find a structure that is somewhat safe to stay in) by making a shelter. The most useful folder for this kind of kit is a multi-tool. Typically, they have two blades and an assortment of tools. You might also want a simple folding knife as a back up. Recommendations? Either a Gerber or Leatherman Wave or similar. Look on eBay. You can find used ones for very reasonable prices. You’re after function, not looks on this. For the folder, the CRKT spring-assisted are very nice; your local laws (again, we’re not debating which laws are good here) will govern what you can carry with you. We like any knife that can open with one hand for emergency use (say, helping cut someone out of a seat belt after a car crash or something similar). As always, whatever you choose, get the best you can afford balanced against the robustness of the product.
First Aid naturally follows the subject of defensive tools. An Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) focused on cuts, sprains, blister management, and minor pain relief (aspirin/tylenol) with a tourniquet thrown in for severe emergencies is essential. If you’ve got small packets of Celox, great. You can certainly take your S has REALLY HTF IFAK with chest seals, et al, just make sure you’ve got what you will most likely need on your trek home. Again, your mission is to get home in one piece, not engage barbarian hordes.
Next is navigation. You’ll need a couple tools. First up is a road map. The most recent road map of the area you may be traversing either on vehicle or on foot. In some states, you can write the Department of Transportation and get one free, like in my state, Michigan. Here’s the link if you’re interested. If absolutely necessary, you could follow the roads by ‘hand railing’ (not walking on them but paralleling them) if you didn’t have a compass or a sense of direction. This is much easier if you’re trained in land navigation and terrain association (we’ve got a class on that coming up in the March/April time frame, stay tuned for details.) In addition to the map, a compass can certainly help you determine direction if you become disoriented due to inclement weather or darkness if you’re traveling at night (which is not a bad idea, but more on that later). The compass doesn’t have to be a top of the line instrument, either. Something that will give you general directions will suffice, like the Suunto wrist compass or something similar. Just make sure it’s in your pack right next to your map. An additional ‘nice to have’ item would be a mechanical pencil (if it’s really cold out, the ink pen you choose might not work) with a small note pad.
Shelter is next on the hit list. A light tarp and 50 feet of 550 cord ought to be included, along with an ’emergency blanket’ (we like the ‘casualty’ blankets that are OD on side and silver on the other due to their more robust construction) to keep warm if you have to stay over night or dry out from a wet or cold storm (snow, freezing rain, rain).
Fire Starters. A ‘fire steel’ or ferro rod with a striker and some easily lit tinder (cotton balls soaked in vaseline, drier lint, etc). You could, if you didn’t mind the weight, add in a 120 hour emergency candle (I and my wife keep one in each of our vehicles in case we end up in a snow bank somewhere). It’s not that heavy, but as a friend of mine is want to say, “Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain…” when it comes to carrying a load. We like the ‘Fire Steel’ brand itself because of their construction and ease of use when hands are cold.
Food. 30 to 35 gram protein meal replacement bars. At least 4. That’s a couple days. Light, no muss, no fuss, done.
Water. This can be tricky in the winter time, as freezing becomes an issue. I keep 4 bottles near a heating vent in the vehicle so that whenever I’m on the road, they’re at least liquid while I wait for help or start out on my trek home. I change the water out every 6 months at the latest.
Toilet paper. Have a roll. ‘Nuff said.
The pack it all goes in. First, don’t use a ‘tactical’ camouflaged, MOLLE with a lot of different pouches hanging from it. You don’t want to draw attention or look like anyone special that might have something worth taking. Go buy a used, serviceable, ugly pack that’s not too big. Maybe what we call a 3 day or ‘assault’ style pack. In any event, get an earth tone or a grey or something. Garage sales or flea markets are a great source for a pack that you’re not going to carry much, and will spend most of the time in your vehicle waiting to be used. Right now I’m using a sling bag that I received as a present. It has too many MOLLE straps on it for my taste, but it’s black and I have nothing on the outside of the pack. It also looks like a small overnight bag when in my vehicle, so it doesn’t draw a lot of attention.
Lastly, remember weight considerations. You’re going to carry this all the way home. A good idea is to pack it up and take some practice walks in the clothes you would wear for varying distances. You’ll have a much better idea of what you need to do with your pack and contents and will get in better physical condition at the same time. Win-Win!
Putting it all together, when you’re making up your ‘Get Home Kit’, it will most likely be made up from several components that include clothing, sustainment, and personal defense items. It most certainly won’t fit into one small or medium day pack, especially when the weather turns colder. Right now in my vehicle, I have a small storage container that contains the following:
- Coat & Liner
- Silk Long Underwear
- Socks (seasonally appropriate)
- Sunglasses or wind goggles (seasonally appropriate)
The pack contains all other items, so when I grab it, I don’t have to think about it. I stow it next to the storage container and I’m off. I can add or delete any other items I might deem necessary for a single trip as circumstances warrant. For example, if I’m traveling to or through heavy snow country or winter storms, I may include snow shoes, trekking poles, heavier gloves, insulated pants, water purifier, utility pot, a small stove (the 120 hour emergency candle doubles as a stove), comfort foods, small shovel, hatchet, etc.
Whatever you put together, as another professional, JC Dodge over at Mason Dixon Tactical, is wont to say, “ounces make pounds and pounds make pain,” so make sure you can, in fact, carry it. Over-packing is a serious drawback, and as such, let your decisions be based on NEED v. WANT balanced against your environment and trip plans. Wirecutter provides a good explanation of what his kit includes, here.
Your fitness level is directly related to your probability of making the trip home on foot. Remember that, and take appropriate measures. Don’t plan on being able to drive, though every mile put behind you in your vehicle helps immeasurably in your effort to get home to protect your ‘precious cargo’. Discipline in your fitness regimen will save you from regret during the ‘real thing’ when you’re trying to get home and just don’t have what it takes.
Keep the primary objective in mind at all times: GET HOME WITHOUT INJURY IN ORDER TO PROTECT PRECIOUS CARGO. Only pack and carry what you actually need to achieve that objective. And during the trip, every thing you do should be guided by that objective as well.
Well said. HEED OR BLEED people. Your choice.
American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE