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Emergency go bag: what to pack if you need to leave the house as soon as possible



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An example of a good go-bag.

Alina Bradford / CNET

Game season is here ̵

1; and so far more than 600,000 acres in the United States have already been burned. Experts predict that the weather will be a difficult season for forest fires and other natural disasters. If you live in an area where one or more natural disasters occur, it is important to be prepared.

Once considered a safety blanket for conspiracy theorists, a go-bag or bugout bag is now considered an important piece of safety gear to have on hand. Government officials even recommend having a travel bag on hand at all times.

The idea behind the go-bag is simple. If an emergency arises, grab your travel bag and … To go. It includes items to keep you safe until you can go home: your phone, medicines, important documents, and even outdoor survival gear like portable water purifiers. Here’s everything you need to know to put together your own travel bag.

Why do you need a travel bag?

If you are lucky enough to have some kind of weather warning, you may have more time to evacuate. But many disasters are so damaging because they are sudden. In the blink of an eye, you may have to flee your home to find new accommodation because of:

  • Earthquakes
  • Forest fires
  • Tornadoes or hurricanes
  • Tsunamis
  • Flash floods
  • Mudslides
  • Ice storms
  • Zombie apocalypse (kidding … could be)

What kind of bag is best?

The city of Chicago, no stranger to strong storms, recommends each family member have their own travel bag. However, if you are the parent of small children, you can use one large bag to hold everything you need.

Remember, the best kind of bag is one you can carry. Don’t buy a huge travel bag unless you are very strong and can handle it. When you’re driving, you want a bag that fits easily in your car. You don’t want one so big that you have to leave one of the kids to take it with you.

A hiking backpack with several compartments is the best choice. Make sure it is made of strong canvas and has a belt that can be fastened around your chest. This will relieve your back when you have to walk a long way.

Also look for a package with a water reservoir that you can fill with drinking water. These are often referred to as camelbacks or hydration packs. Water-resistant packaging can help keep your belongings dry inside, but you can also put a plastic garbage bag in it.

The Bugout backpack Sandpiper of California ($ 100) is an example.

Make your water, don’t carry it

While many experts recommend having a three-day supply of water at home in an emergency, evacuating with that amount of water can be impractical, especially if you don’t have a car. The alternative is to keep a device in your bag that can turn water from ditches, streams, ponds and other water sources into clean drinking water.

Some options are the LifeStraw Go water bottle ($ 37) or the Liberty LifeSaver ($ 125). Both can be clipped onto the outside of a go-bag, so they don’t take up valuable space in the pockets.

Be warned though. Many emergency filtration devices like this one need to be primed with potable water before they can be used as a filter for dirty water. Make sure to read the directions and prepare your bottle before snipping it into your travel bag.

Provide lighting that lasts

In an emergency there may be a shortage of batteries. That’s why it’s a good idea to put a lighting system in your bag that can be powered by a renewable resource.

The ThorFire LED flashlight ($ 18) can be powered by sunlight or a hand crank. A solar-powered flashlight or crank that doubles as an AM / FM radio is also a good choice.

Read more: Best Flashlights: Rayovac, ThruNite, Olight, and more

Other supplies

Water and light should be at the top of your list, but there are many more things to throw in your bag:

  • Non-Perishable Foods: Ready meals (MREs) are a popular choice, but freeze-dried foods also work. Just make sure they are light; provide a lot of calories and proteins; and have a shelf life of months, if not years.
  • A good multi-tool with a knife, pliers, can opener and other tools.
  • Paracordalso called 550 cord, can hold up to 550 pounds and is compact, so opt for it instead of regular twine.
  • Carabiners: These metal loops with a spring-loaded latch have a million and one uses, like locking stuff on the outside of your travel bag.
  • A whistle to warn others when you need help and can’t yell.
  • Something to light a fire, such as a lighter or matches.
  • SPF sunscreen for sun protection.
  • A poncho and clean clothes.
  • Your family’s prescription medications for a week and copies of your prescriptions. You’ll probably want to toss these in the go bag when you leave as it will be impractical for most people to keep extras in your bag.
  • A small first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic, pain killers and gauze.
  • Personal care items such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products and so on. Put these items in waterproof bags.
  • Your extra house and car keys.
  • A warm blanket. Put it in a plastic bag, use the hose of your vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of the bag and quickly seal it to save space.
  • A recent family photo for identification, also in a plastic bag to protect it from moisture.
  • Cash in small denominations and coins.
  • A regional map and compass, so you can find your way without a phone when the cell towers and GPS are not working or busy, or when the battery is empty.
  • Paper, pens and tape to leave messages for others.
  • A dust mask.
  • Copies of important documents such as insurance information, IDs, address cards and passports, all in a waterproof plastic bag.
  • Your family photos on a USB stick. This one is optional, but I like the assurance that I know I have some of my family’s precious memories with me.
  • Pet supplies such as a leash, folding water bowl and food.






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