Chance favors the prepared!

How I Built a Go Bag for a “Non-prepper”

Go bag, get home bag, non prepper bag

If you are like me, you probably have people in your life that you love and care for who are not “prepared”. Either they do not believe in it, or they simply don’t do it. But for a multitude of reasons, you cannot simply write them out of your life. It might be a spouse, or a sister, or an adult child. So in some ways, maybe you are like me and prep for them “on the side”.

I have a girlfriend who seemingly understands the importance of being prepared for an emergency or disaster, but just cannot put it into practice. (I’m teaching her…so that’s a start.)

I decided, over the past year or two, that she and her son would be a part of my plans should we have a disaster, big or small. I began helping her become more prepared. In some ways, I started prepping for her.

When we sometimes go grocery shopping together, I have her buy a few extra cans of food, and a gallon of water. At the moment she has a 2-3 day supply of food and water. She also has an incredibly warm Teton sleeping bag. (I have this bag and love it!) I gave her a hand cranked flashlight. As I mentioned in a previous article, for a beginner that’s a good start.

But I knew a good start wasn’t enough. If she was to be a part of my “long term” plans, I knew that I would have to help keep her going.

Began with a Plan

To start off with, the girlfriend and I sat down for a few minutes. We came up with a plan should she find herself in an emergency situation. If the situation was bad enough that calling 911 would be pointless, I told her the plan was simple, she and her son were to come to my house. (We also discussed a few different routes to take.) I have more than enough supplies to take care of her and her son, so if she could drive, she was not to worry about packing food or water.

I told her to grab warm, rugged clothing/blankets for her and her son. I have enough of everything else. But petite women’s’ clothing or clothing for a small child I do not have.

I told her to grab as much clothing as she could. And when it came to her son’s clothing, the larger the size the better. For her I told her don’t bother with nice dresses or high heels. The clothing needed to be tough and as durable as possible.

Most all of her clothing is cotton, but for the time being there isn’t much I can do about that. (I can remedy that over time.) So she would have to make do with what she had. The focal point would have to be the most durable and rugged clothing she had.

But what if she were unable to drive? I know that it is about a 15-18 mile walk to my house from hers. (It’s closer to 30 miles if she is walking from work.) I figured that if she could not drive, most likely I could not drive, and in many scenarios I would not be able to come get her. So she would need supplies to help her with her journey. She would need a “Go bag” to help her get to my place.

I knew that as a petite woman with a small child, what she could carry that distance would be limited. I would have to make her bag as LIGHT as possible. In the worst case scenario, she would need to be able to carry it for the walk to my house with a 3 year old in tow. And she would need to get to me as quickly as possible. For her, that would not be an easy task.

I decided that in order to keep the weight of the pack as light as possible, I would need to put just the bare essentials in the bag. I also knew that she did not really have many survival skills. So I knew that the equipment I placed in the bag, in addition to being light weight, would have to be simple to use. Nothing too complex.

I’m not saying she is dumb. Far from it. But in a true emergency situation, for a person who is not reasonably trained to deal with it, the more simplistic the gear is, the easier it will be for them to use.

The Pack

I used a backpack that my son had outgrown. I had purchased it at Walmart a few years before, and it served him well. But as he grew taller, he needed a bigger pack to hold more text books. After his old pack sat in my closet for a year, I found a new purpose for it. The backpack fit the bill for a small “Go bag” for her.

For me, this pack has a single purpose: hold the items she needs in an emergency to get her and her son to my house. I figured if it survived the rigors of junior high school and was still in decent shape, it could survive a 15-30 mile walk to my house.

It was small enough for her to easily carry, but still big enough to pack the items I felt like she might need. It has two front pockets and a pocket on each side. And it was black, “school” backpack. For Opsec purposes, it will do.

The Items

Typically, I believe in purchasing high quality/durable gear. I want supplies that will last. But for her bag, most all of the items I either already had on hand or purchased at Walmart….cheap and lightweight.

As I stated, my primary goal is to keep her bag LIGHT weight. (Typically, the more durable items tend to be heavier.) In my mind, those items’ sole purpose was to get her to my house as quickly as possible. That’s it. I wasn’t concerned with long term durability. Once at my house, I have the long term/durable gear she would need. So lightweight gear for just a few days’ use was all I was concerned with.

– Clothing

The first thing I added was a pair of her tennis shoes. She had a few pairs, and I asked her which pair she wore the least that was still comfortable. The pair she identified went into the bag. I went with shoes over sturdy boots to keep the weight of the bag down. I did treat those tennis shoes with Atsko silicone water repellent. (I treated the pack as well.)

If she had to walk, I told her to put on the shoes and leave whatever she was wearing in the car. There would be some exceptions, such as heavy boots in the snow. But flip flops or anything with heels stay in the car. They don’t go into the bag.

Tough clothing for tough times

Next, I purchased her a pair of Carhartt wool socks. I felt like her feet HAD to be taken care of, and durable wool socks fit that bill. (I’m also slowly trying to increase her wardrobe with clothing other than cotton.) So those went into the bag.

After she discovered how warm the socks kept her feet at night, I bought her a second pair so she would quit taking the first pair out of the bag and forgetting them in her bedroom!

I then added a few disposable diapers and wipes. Potty training (for her son, not her!) has begun. (Throw a cheerio in the toilet…tell him to aim for it!) But in a disaster scenario, keeping him dry is much more important than potty training. So a few diapers will keep him dry AND help speed up their arrival. The wipes are sanitary and would also be used to help keep her clean.

These also come in handy if she is in the car and he has an “accident” in everyday life. The diapers could also serve a bunch of other needs in an emergency setting. But I’ll save that for another article.

I included an extra outfit for him and an extra shirt for her. Also packed was an extra set of undergarments for her PLUS some feminine hygiene supplies in a zip lock bag. With winter ending, we will replace the winter outfit with summer ones. Along with the clothing, I put two baseball hats in the bag. I also included a small towel and a clean wash rag.

All of these items I place in a zip lock storage bag to help keep them dry.

I put two emergency ponchos in her bag. I swear by Frog Togg rain suits, but in this case I went with the ponchos over the suits for spacing purposes. The suits would have taken up more space in her bag than I wanted to use. Two small ponchos take up the same space as a pack of tissues and weigh next to nothing. For a single use, they should work well.

– Lighting/Radio/Tools

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Next, I bought her an emergency AM/FM weather radio. The beauty of this product is that it also includes a LED flashlight, a USB port to charge cell phones, and a wall AC adaptor. But the best part is that it has a hand crank. Sixty seconds of hand cracking gives you about 15 minutes of power. So I don’t have to add weight to her bag with batteries, and I don’t worry about whether her batteries have died. I help keep the radio dry by placing it in a zip lock storage bag.

I also included a small Rayovac flashlight with AAA battery. (She is learning about redundancy.) It is small, but as a light weight back up to the radio light I thought it would be great. I also threw in a glow stick. What kid doesn’t love glow sticks?

I put an inexpensive multi tool in the bag. I’m a firm believer in Leatherman tools. But for a one or two time use, this cheap one would be ok. In re-evaluating the bag, I am always on the lookout for a multi-tool that might be smaller and weigh less.

I put 25 feet of light weight rope and an inexpensive folding blade pocket knife in the bag. I also put a small roll of black electrical tape in the bag. I went with electrical tape over duct tape because the electric tape is smaller and weighs less. I also threw in 6 plastic clothespins and a few bungee cords. A simple way of keeping some items attached in a pinch. All of these are in a zip lock storage bag.

– Food/Water

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I initially put a Lifestraw in her bag. She usually has several unopened bottles of water in her car, but better safe than sorry right? However, I decided to upgrade over that. If you have ever used a Lifestraw, you will know you have to build up some pressure to get the water to come through the straw.

I wondered how difficult that might be for a small child. So I replaced the Lifestraw with a LifeStraw Go Water Bottle. There is still some pressure required, but I thought it might be easier for her son if he can hold the bottle while he drinks.

The bottle takes up a bit more space than just the straw, but for ease of use I decided it was worth it. As for weight, it is less than 4 oz. And it will remove 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and parasites. (It won’t remove things like metal contaminates. So don’t use it on flood water!)

She keeps some pop tarts and fruit snacks in her car at all times for her son. So I just added a few Clif Bars for her. I thought about just putting an MRE in the bag. But the space and weight made me choose not to. Neither she nor her son eat a lot. And a few pop tarts and Clif bars don’t take up a lot of room. Plus, you can eat Clif bars and pop tarts while walking. Much easier to deal with than an MRE.

I had initially put in some sturdy plastic spoons and forks in the bag, but later decided against them and removed them. The Clif bars and pop tarts you can eat by hand. So why add to the weight and space of the bag when you do not need to?

go bag, get home bag, non prepper bag, home made med kit

Homemade med kit

– Protection/Medical

I put two N95 respirator masks in the bag. These masks are designed to help keep you from breathing in things like dust and smoke. I have some N100s at home, but decided for weight and space, the N95s would be ok. I put these in their own zip lock storage bag. They weigh next to nothing, and are VERY compact.

I also included a small bottle of Bullfrog sunscreen/bug repellent. Along with the hats, they should be ok with their protection from the sun. I also included a small, homemade 1st aid kit. In the kit I put the following:

  • small tube of antibiotic cream
  • several band-aids of various sizes
  • some gauze bandages
  • some latex gloves
  • a small roll of medical tape
  • mole skin
  • pair of tweezers

As for fire sources, I went with the K.I.S.S method. Keep It Simple Stupid! It’s a box of water proof matches and a butane lighter. I also put a very small bag of dryer lent in there as a source of tinder.

I also included a few extra zip loc storage bags and an empty, plastic “Walmart” sack should she ever need them.

Other Considerations

Walking 15 plus miles with a small child would be a monumental task. For me, that is the biggest potential problem with the plan that I see. The 15 miles or so is all flat, and most of it through residential areas or state highways, which would make it somewhat easier.

I have been looking at collapsible wagons that she could pull with him in it. The problem is that her car is about the size of a pregnant roller skate, so her trunk space is limited. She already has a small road side emergency kit, her sleeping bag, bottled water, and her pack in there. I wonder if a wagon like that would fit.

For the moment she has a regular red wagon at home. The issue with this is that she lives in “Tornado Alley”, and it is a real possibility that she could not make it to her house or her house even survive.

Currently, the bag weighs a hair under 12 lbs. She has tried it on and it fits well. But if she had to walk, she would have to attach the sleeping bag to the pack, and that is another 5 pounds. That is a concern for me. But that is something we will have to work on.

I thought about having her leave the sleeping bag at my house, but I know the sleeping bag would keep her warm if she lost power at her house, or if she had car problems and was stuck on the side of the road for a while. I have also toyed with the idea of leaving the sleeping bag at my house and giving her a wool blanket for her car instead.

You might notice a lack of a firearm in the list. That is something in the works, but we both feel that she needs more training and practice before she feels comfortable carrying one on her own.

Final Tally

Overall, I spent less than $75. (Not counting the sleeping bag, which I had already given her.) The emergency radio and the Lifestraw bottle were the most expensive items and I bought those brand new. But many of the items I already had on hand. Those that I didn’t have, I picked up on a single trip to Walmart.

In the end, I feel better about her every day safety and her ability to get to my house if disaster struck! To me, having some peace of mind is priceless.


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14 Responses to How I Built a Go Bag for a “Non-prepper”

  • This is late to the party, but for the wagon, perhaps look at a folding platform dolly? They fold pretty flat and if need be could support an adult or two’s weight.

  • Nice of you to do all that. Sorry about your loved ones’ experience with the tornado, but…yeah, that’s one powerful real-life lesson for all involved. Mega kudos for your foresight.

    A couple of suggestions for gear you still need: Since electrical tape and duct tape are similar only in the “tape” part of their names, and dissimilar in almost every other way, I’d like to suggest you reevaluate duct tape and add some. If the go-bag lacks a ballpoint pen, then you could simply roll several wraps of duct tape onto a Bic Pen — say, 2 or 3 yards worth — and tuck that into the bag; then she’d have a pen as well as some very versatile duct tape. It probably wouldn’t add more than three ounces total (less if you eliminated the roll of electrical tape) but some day could prove to be invaluable. What you can do with electrical tape you can probably do with duct tape, but not the other way around.

    Finally, I’d like to suggest you add a small bag of 25 or 50 zip ties, the 6″ ones. Stuff breaks (tennis shoe laces), and zip ties often come in handy. Pretty light, too.

    • Actually, look for another article in the next few weeks as I update this. She used the bag last week as a tornado hit in our area. And yes, zip ties will be added.

      As for the tape, another reason I selected electrical over duct is because this bag is stored in her trunk. So I worry about the long term effects of the heat. I think the eletrcial tape would hold up better. But I am not anything if not adaptable, and would always consider updating or changing things out if need be.

  • As my girlfriend and her son gathered in a communal tornado shelter last night during the tornado, she had her bag with her. She used the emergency radio I got her. She was the only one in there with one, so it became their only source of information. It was a HUGE success and everyone was asking her where she got it.

    She also used the towel as she and her son were drenched getting to the shelter.

    It wasn’t that she was not appreciative before, but now the light bulb has gone on. She is seeing things she wants to add to it.

  • A 3 year old. Heck even a 5 year old will still fit in a collapsible umbrella stroller. They really take up no more space than a large umbrella. She could push him. And as an added bonus some have a small pouch underneath the seat that could hold a few things – like his cup. To make her bag lighter. They maneuver easily and cost under 25 dollars at Walmart.

    • Funny you should mention that…we were looking at strollers just the other day. I’m thinking that is the route we might take.

  • You could modify a skate board, they are slim and she could always sit her son on it and pull or the bag, either way. it would be handy and cheap to place one in a small car

    • My concern would be him staying on the skate board. At least in a wagon he could lay down and sleep.

      At this point it isn’t the cost so much as the space. But I’m open to all ideas and suggestions. 🙂

  • I was at Walmart the other day saw a fold up wagon in the camping section, it was about $39.00. the size was about 2ft tall and about 10″ x 10″ It had metal frame and a fabric body. with the wagon she could have more she could take with her.
    Put 2 or 3 contractor trash bags in her pack, 55 gal 3 or 4mil black. they are wind and water proof. makes a good quick shelter. if one is not big enough for her and the 3yr old cut 2 open and duct tape them together to make the right size.
    God bless.

  • What about a backpack carrier for the kid? A 3 year old is not going to be able to walk far at all. 1/10 of a mile? A 1/4 mile? Definitely not 1 mile. But Mom could carry him on her back, which would be better than carrying him in her arms. Of course then you have to deal with the backpack full of supplies. But they will be irrelevant if she can’t carry the kid when necessary.

    • Very true. You raise a good point. That’s why I mentioned the wagon. I’m also looking at a bigger sized stroller. It’s just getting those plans aligned with her trunk space that I’m working on.

      Thanks Gino

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