Go Bags on the Go: Emergency Kits for Your Vehicle, Workplace, and Bedroom

"You gotta be prepared for anything" GIF
Mostly you have to be prepared for disasters, though.

I can picture you now. “ANOTHER emergency kit?” You’ve just made one to keep at home! Everyone needs MULTIPLE EMERGENCY KITS? It’s just too overwhelming to figure out what you’ll actually need for each one. Much better to give up now than to try at all.

WRONG! You’re going to try, and we’re going to make it easy.

First off, let’s get everything out on the table. We lured you in with the Go Bag for home, and you’re fully invested in your survival now. This is a great start. You should actually have three or more emergency kits, depending on how many homes, cars, and workplaces you have.

  • Go Bag: A kit designed to go with you when you evacuate your home—it’s what you grab when you need to GO! Typically includes enough supplies for one person to survive for 72 hours.
  • Stay Bag: A kit that covers survival essentials when you need to hunker down at home without resources like tap water or electricity. Can include as many supplies as your space and budget will allow. Ideally, Stay Bags have enough food, water, and warmth for the entire family to last three weeks. If you have a vacation home, keep the disaster basics and a week’s worth of supplies there as well.
  • Get-Home Bag: A Go Bag for your car. Hopefully, you’re already carrying tools that will help you if you have a car-related emergency, but adding some basic gear like extra clothes, non-perishable food, and bottled water can make a huge difference if you are caught in a storm or get stranded. Make sure every car you own has one.
  • Work Stash: A Go Bag to keep at work in case of a disaster that traps you in the building or forces you to leave unexpectedly, with no way to return home. If you regularly work in multiple locations, it’s ideal to have one in each workplace.
  • Under-Bed Kit: A bag full of PPE specifically for earthquakes that strike while you’re sleeping. It’s all the stuff you’ll want at your fingertips if the earth shakes you awake.

You might have heard about Bug-out Bags, too!

Bug-out Bags are Go Bags that might contain more outdoor survival gear so the user can live totally off-grid if necessary. Feel free to make your Go Bag a Bug-out Bag if you are excited about the possibility of total societal collapse.

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Remind me how to make a Go Bag?

Go Bags are all about survival. You’re probably not going to make it to the top triangle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with just the stuff in your Go Bag, but as long you satisfy the bottom layers (physiological needs and safety needs), you should have plenty of time to get back on your journey to self-actualization later.

As you’re packing your Go Bag, think about whether each item is meeting a physiological need or a safety need, and imagine the scenario that would require you to use it. Depending on the size of your backpack, you may not be able to fit every item recommended, so we’ve bolded the ones that are must-haves for every disaster. Many survival items are also multi-taskers, so keep an eye out for those opportunities to save space.

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This is the quick and dirty version, but for a more in-depth dissection of Go Bags, check out Breaking Down Go Bags.

Rule of Thumb

Real talk: Most people aren’t strong enough to carry three gallons of water (25lb) and all of the stuff listed above. Most backpacks won’t even have the space for all that water. Try to carry at least a gallon of water in each Go Bag, and make sure each bag has a refillable container, so you can gather water when you’re able. Always be looking for opportunities to gather clean water, if there isn’t a guaranteed source.

If you have some water on hand and the capacity to hold three or more gallons at once, you should be okay in most evacuation scenarios. Hydration bladders and collapsible five gallon water carriers will come in handy if you have to move water during your evacuation.

FEMA also recommends a list of additional items that could be helpful, bag space permitting:

  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches or lighter in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, and hand sanitizer
  • Mess kits; paper cups, plates, and disposable utensils; paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children

Whether you’re making your entire kit from scratch or starting with a prepackaged kit, consider buying a large internal frame backpack that will allow you to add more items. If you are planning for the possibility of evacuating on foot at any point, only assume you’ll be able to carry about 20% of your body weight.

Set aside some time and put in the effort to make a Go Bag for yourself to get a feel for it. Every member of your family who can carry a Go Bag should have one, so once you feel good about yours, make one for each of them as well. Your Go Bags can stand in for your Stay Bag as well, in the event that you have to shelter in place instead of evacuate.

You’ll be happy to hear that Stay Bags are just like Go Bags, but way easier to put together, since you don’t have to plan around carrying them somewhere. Many of the items are similar, with a few extra items for safety at home. Check out our Stay Bag guide when you’re ready to graduate to the next step!

What Should Be in Your Get-Home Bag?

Even the most spacious cars have pretty limited storage capacity. The Get-Home Bag streamlines your emergency supplies to maximize your chances of survival or rescue if you’re stranded. Put them in a bag, in a bin, or in a cardboard box… whatever works well for you! You can even split them up and store your items in the cab; that will make them more accessible if you can’t exit your vehicle. Whatever you do, just make sure you have some emergency supplies in the car at all times, and throw an extra coat in the trunk in the winter.

Person putting oil in a car
If you drive an older car, you may want to carry an unopened quart of oil in the trunk, as well.

What Should Be in Your Work Stash?

The amount of space we have to store things at work ranges wildly depending on our jobs, from entire warehouses to absolutely no space at all. If you do have some space at work to keep emergency supplies, choose items that will be most effective for you. If you get stranded at work, you’ll have the items in your break room. If you have to evacuate and your car is nearby, you’ll have your Get Home Bag.

Store your entire Work Stash in a bag that can easily move with you if you have to evacuate.

If you have a secure place to keep your Work Stash such as a locking desk drawer or a private locker, consider including the following items as well. Do not include these if you feel uncomfortable keeping sensitive items at work.

  • Cash and backup credit card
  • Your prescription medications

What Should Be in Your Under-Bed Kit?

We’ve saved the easiest for last! Assuming you spend about a third of everyday in your bed, about a third of the earthquakes you experience will happen while you’re there. Most of us wear pretty minimal gear to bed, butso that’s not ideal from a survival perspective. Stash a bag with some key items under your bed, and you’ll be in much better condition to take on a post-earthquake landscape.

  • Sturdy shoes
  • Glasses or contacts (if you wear them)
  • Flashlight
  • Dust mask
  • Whistle
  • A full set of durable clothes (long sleeves, long pants, socks)

You can include additional items, if you like, such as things you would need to be located while trapped or to get out of your home if parts of it were damaged. Here are some more items to consider:

  • Headlamp
  • Hard hat
  • Work gloves
  • Crowbar
  • Glow sticks
  • First aid kit
  • A bottle of water
  • Some high calorie food

Is That It?

Repeat the process for all of your cars, and workplaces, and beds, and you’ll be all set. Remember to check the items in all of your emergency kits on an annual basis to make sure they’re replaced before they expire. After all this, making your Stay Bag is going to be a piece of cake!

Person with small, cute backback
It’s cute, but I don’t think there’s a full gallon of water in that Go Bag.

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.

Writer, editor, and professional joker with an environmental science background. Like most trivia nerds, she's an ardent admirer of Only Connect competitors, but more at home on the QI field.