A quick and cheap 'it will do' Disaster Bag
What if you’re not at home when disaster strikes? Well this Disaster Bag (also known as a ‘Get Home Bag’) is fairly cheap to put together and should contain everything you need to increase the odds that you will make it back home. Note: This is not a ‘Bug Out Bag’ (I’ll cover those at a later date) this is literally just designed to get you hope as safely as possibly.
Everything you need can be found on Amazon UK (links provided where possible) and is just the right size to shove in the boot of your car. I’ve put the approximate price next to every item that I link to as well so you will get a rough idea of what it costs.
Don’t feel that you need to buy everything at once, remember that the first rule of prepping is to be financially stable so blowing all your money on a get home bag is not a sensible solution.
Also this may sound a little paranoid but if I were you, I’d go for camo, black or a muted colour version of everything as scared and hungry people can be dangerous and whilst you are outside, you are vulnerable so it is better to do what you can to not be spotted by other people.
A point of note: Practically everything I list here is the absolute basic version, it’s a good start and it will make a difference to your survival in a disaster scenario but I would definitely recommend replacing pretty much everything in here with higher quality stuff later on down the line.
The backpack you use for your get home bag doesn’t have to be amazing, however it does need to be good enough to survive a few days out in the wilderness. A military style ‘assault pack’ is usually perfect for this sort of application.
Although I’ve not used this one myself, I recommend the Kombat UK Molle Assault Pack It’s reviews are fantastic and it features plenty of pouches and straps to carry all your gear. It even has Molle webbing on it too so you can add any Molle compatible add ons that you like.
Food & Water
Food and Water are the essentials that go in the pack so we’ll get them first, let’s start with the water:
I highly recommend the Mil-tec Water Bottle with Cup and Cover Not only is it a military grade water bottle with a decent capacity (1L) it also comes with a metal cup that you can use for drinking from, purifying water in and even a bit of cooking. Bonus points, it has Alice clips (these are the precursor to Molle) which is compatible with Molle so it can get attached to the front of your pack instead of taking up room inside it.
If you are out in the wilderness (or even getting water from an urban source you cant verify as clean), drop a one of these tablets in (1 per litre) and it will kill all the bacteria inside it.
It’s not 100% safe and I still recommend that you filter it and boil it but in a pinch, this will make a massive difference.
Speaking of filtering water, this is the perfect method of doing it for your get home pack, it won’t last forever (about 1000L) but it will do for a few days.
Ok now on to food. Many people make mistakes when it comes to food and think that energy bars is all you need. However this is a get home bag and isn’t designed to keep you alive for more than 2 or 3 days so to be honest, you don’t NEED to have any food in it, if you want to stick some energy bars in there to keep you going, then go right ahead.
However, if you’re like me and would rather not go days without food then you’re gonna need to pack some stuff.
When it comes to eating on the go, there is little that is more efficient than the humble spork, this one also has a serrated edge on one of the fork splines to use as a knife, careful though, keep it of your cheeks!
Technically you could get away without these as the cup in your canteen is a serviceable mess tray, however it’s small and not really designed for eating out of, these mess tins however are perfect for the job.
These are known as MRE’s (Meals, Ready to Eat) and are surprising delicious (I recommend the curries). I’ve included these as an option but I will give you a word of advice, the pack I have suggested to you is not massive and these meals will take up a fair amount of space also they are not a very cheap way of getting your calories, instead I would recommend packing a few tins of Tuna, baked beans and some crackers or leavened bread – They will take up less room, require pretty much no prep (which means you can also forget about the mess tins) and it will be considerably cheaper.
Warmth and Shelter
The next essential is making sure the elements don’t get you, this will mean you need to find a way to stay warm and dry.
Hopefully you will not have to resort to sleeping outside but if you then you will want to make sure you have the following:
A Lighter [£1]
Any old lighter will do, provided it’s reliable and has plenty of fuel. The ones in the link are storm-proof.
Windproof Matches [£3]
A good rule of thumb for prepping is to have three ways to start a fire, a lighter is a good first port of call but windproof matches should also be in your kit. I’ve even managed to get these bad boys to light when it was chucking it down with rain before so they are a definite must-have.
Magnesium Fire Rod [£2]
Also known as a ‘flint and steel’, this is your third (and most reliable) way to start a fire. Striking the steel against the flint rod produces a white hot spark that can set combustable material alight, giving you a good start for your fire.
I won’t give any links to combustable material but I would recommend you buy some cotton wool balls and soak them in regular vaseline, keep them in a water-tight box in your bag and they are the perfect kindling for your fire.
Baby oil [£2]
Even if you are in the middle of the woods, you still need to keep that rocking body of yours glistening and as a bonus, you can also squirt baby oil on a dying fire to make it ignite again.
Forget about packing a tent, those things take up too much room and are not practical in this situation. Whilst a tarp may not be as glamorous, it will keep you dry and that is the important thing. In fact, I would pack two of these in my bag so I can also use one as a ground sheet.
Tarp also has other uses, it can be used as a blanket, a water catcher and you could even make a hunting trap from it if you needed to.
Cordage is something that you will hear pretty much every Prepper, camper and bush-crafter say is one of the most important things you can pack and with very good reason too; you can use cordage to build a shelter (using the tarps above you can make a makeshift tent), you can use it to lash items to your bag/yourself, you can use it to create a snare for hunting, you can tie items to trees to keep them out of the way of animals and to keep them dry, you can even use it as tinder if you absolutely must.
Tip: Don’t keep it on the reel though, it takes up too much space in your bag. Split it up into about 5 or 6 4-5m long lengths and 2 or 3 10m long lengths. Keep the rest at home, just in case you need it. If you can’t afford to buy a reel then shorter lengths are available at a cheaper price.
A Hunting Knife [£12-100]
As you are hopefully only going to be out for a few days, you shouldn’t need to actually hunt with this knife, however it’s still an essential, you can use it to cut cordage, split wood, cut birch bark from a tree (makes great tinder) among other things. Again bear in mind that a knife is not an area you want to skimp out on but that this cheap knife will do the job for a few days. It’s a great get-home knife but I wouldn’t want to rely on it for long-term survival.
Point of note: This knife is NOT UK legal so if you are using it, then a disaster better have happened. In fact even carrying this in your car may be against the law. If you want to play it safe, this UK legal knife is also a good option although be very careful using a non-locking blade as they are much less reliable. (Update: The Amazon link changed from a non-locking knife to a locking one, I’ve changed it back but if the listing changes again, make sure that the knife you purchase is a non-locking blade).
A poncho is a great bit of kit for survival, it will keep you dry and warm but you can also use it as extra cover for your shelter and to collect water.
Poncho Liner [
This is one of the pricer things on this list but it’s worth it, a poncho liner – as the name may suggest – is a liner for the inside of your poncho. It’s great for keeping you warm but also doubles as a blanket and a sleeping bag.
Update: The price has recently been dropped to under £16 (thanks to mcscruffuk for the tip!)
If you are caught out in the wilderness then you are going to be at more risk of injury or sickness. In fact the stress of being in a survival situation is often enough to make people feel ill, so it’s vital that you have a well stocked medical kit with you.
Standard First Aid Kit [£10-20]
This first aid kit has Molle attachments so again, it doesn’t need to take up vital bag space, it can be strapped to it.
It contains bandages, antiseptic cream and everything you might need for basic first aid. However I would recommend that you don’t go ‘budget’ on this one and either add a suture kit to the pack (which is what I did) or buy a more full-featured pack which includes a suture kit with it.
Pills, pills, pills [£varies]
Pain killers, antihistamines, antacids, indigestion tablets and diarrhea pills are all essentials. Take them out of their boxes and stick the blister packs in your medical kit.
A map of your local area [£9]
I’d go for an ordinance survey map or a road map, as you will very possibly be walking a fair portion of the way (the roads are likely to be clogged with cars and impassable), you’ll want to make sure you know how to reach your home on foot. Don’t rely on GPS as you will have no idea what the state of things are going to be, for all you know the satellites may have fallen out of the sky.
Hygiene products [£varies]
A toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap are all great things for your kit, you will be out in the wilderness for days, you don’t want to get dirtier than you need to.
A bandana [£2-10]
Bandanas are another multi-purpose item, they can be used as face protection, water filtering, wrapping a wound and again at a push – tinder.
A survival guide [£13]
Hopefully you won’t have reason to need one of these but as we’re making an entire bag that you hopefully won’t have reason to use, lets chuck a survival guide in there for good measure, in the absence of the internet, this guide may save your life.
A penknife or multi-tool [£3-80]
This is especially useful if you are in an urban area as you can use it to interact with your environment to gain an advantage. Obviously the sturdier the better here but if you are going for absolute budget, this one will do you for a start. If you have a bit more wiggle room in your budget, I’d go for something like a Leatherman SideKick or better.
Again this is more useful for urban survival but it would also be good for breaking rocks and pulverising wood. It would also make a pretty decent weapon if the need arose. I personally would go for the crowbar as it has more uses and is sturdier but depending on your budget and space in your pack, the pry-bar may be a better option for you.
A Compass [£2-20]
Because it’s good to know which direction you are facing. Get a good compass that is designed for hiking with a map. These are usually much more useful than just a ‘this is north’ type compass. Obviously it should go without saying that you should also learn how to use a compass and map to navigate.
This list isn’t exhaustive and there are always things you won’t be able to pack, you can’t plan for EVERY disaster, however this is a damn good start. Remember this pack is designed to get you home, it is not a bug out bag, it’s only going to keep you going for a few days. I will make a bug out bag guide soon, so keep an eye out for that.