Breaking Down Go Bags

Man lifting a large, heavy backpack GIF
Lift with your legs.

What things would you save during a fire? Are they all in one place? Would your family be able to survive for a few days on the items you grabbed in the heat of the moment? If that doesn’t seem likely, now is the time to make a Go Bag.

What the heck is a Go Bag? And how is it any different from an earthquake preparedness kit? And what do you do if you don’t have either? Why are these questions making me so sweaty?

Sweat not, dear reader! Disaster preparedness is a journey, and it begins with a single step. We’ll be here with you through it all, until your Go Bag is ready to go and beyond. You’ll be on top of the world with your backpack full of your most important… hold on; let’s break this down:

Your Go Bag is the bag you grab when you have less than 30 minutes to get to safety. In some disasters, that window could shrink to as little as one minute because something really bad is happening RIGHT NOW.

Your Go Bag is what you will grab when you have to evacuate your home.

It’s full of the items that will help you get through the first three days of a disaster.

It’s also what you’ll be carrying when you walk into the gymnasium that has been designated as an emergency shelter and register for a cot. Can you even imagine? Here’s hoping there’s some good stuff in there.

Rule of Thumb

Here’s hoping the exhausted volunteer running that card table has enough cots for your whole family, while we’re at it!

So… What type of bag? And how many?

Unless you have very small children who cannot carry their own stuff, you will want one bag for each person. We recommend a light but sturdy backpack, with a belt strap to take advantage of your child-bearing hips for support. (If you don’t have child-bearing hips, click here to order a pair.)

If you do have kids, internal frame backpacks or other larger capacity backpacks might make it easier to carry all everything they need to stay alive. For such small people, they do tend to need a lot of things.

A bag that straps onto your dog’s back would be genius if your dog is the backpacking type. Make your dog pull their weight. If they love that kibble, they will be happy to carry it.

Dog and three people hiking

If you have a cat or fish or ferret who is willing to wear a backpack, you are probably fabulously wealthy from their TikTok career, so you should stop reading now and hire a professional to do all of your emergency prep for you. If your cat wouldn’t carry a backpack, you’ll have to calculate enough space in your bag for their belongings as well.

You’ll want a Go Bag for each car you own and your workplace. Keep your fingers crossed that whatever apocalypse befalls us doesn’t impede motor travel, because if you thought trying to get your cat to wear a backpack was hard, you don’t want to try asking it to walk more than a mile.

Now that we know what a Go Bag is, it’s time to break down what you should put in it.

Person petting a cat
“Come on, Sir Meows-a-Lot. We have to keep moving or we’ll never reach the shelter by nightfall.”

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Professional worrier. Mom, entrepreneur. Lifetime student of brain science. Passionate about surviving what's coming (climate change, wtf) and staying as sane as possible. Determined to make the best of the end of the world.