How to Make a Go Bag

A "To-Go Bag" is a bag which you pack today and hope you never need. You create this in case there is a situation which necessitates an extremely hasty evacuation. Since the events of September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security has provided guidelines for citizens on how to put together their own To-Go Bag.

Note that a Go Bag should not be confused with a "Shelter In-Place" Kit.


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    Purchase a heavy-duty, yet light, duffel bag. If you have a backpack you are no longer using, this can work. Ultimately, you want a bag that is large enough to carry the necessary items but not be filled.
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    Browse the list of recommended items below and determine what you must buy and what you already have. While it may be tempting to take things you already have, make sure you can do without it or you have enough to spare. For example, if you have a large box of disposable gloves, you can probably do without a few pairs. But if you only have one knife, you should purchase one just for your kit.
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    Pack your bag, with the heaviest items first. The bulkiest items should line the bottom of your bag, for easy lifting.
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    Put clothes in resealable plastic bags, such as Zip-Lock or Vacuum bags. This will ensure your clothes stay dry in the event of a flood.
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    Store the bag in a safe place where it can be accessed quickly.
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  • Pay attention to the news. If there is a fire burning nearby, or violent weather coming, consider staging a few things in boxes to be ready for an evacuation. Consider evacuating BEFORE it's mandatory, and you'll have a much better time compared to people who wait until everyone else is leaving and get stuck with traffic and shortages.
  • You can go crazy adding stuff to this bag depending on the potential for emergencies and the environment you live in, you should edit the bag. A bag put together by a person living in Montana worrying about wildfire would be more likely to have warm clothing than someone in Florida who worries about hurricanes.
  • Make arrangements for places to stay well ahead of time. Make a deal: If there's an emergency/evacuation, they can come to your home, or you to theirs. Crashing on someone's sofa or camping in their yard is infinitely preferable to a public shelter.
  • While you should not feel pressured to get all the supplies at once, it is important for you to put together the bag as soon as realistically feasible. After all, you never know when disaster is going to strike.
  • Consider well ahead of time what you'd take if you had a day's notice, a couple of hours' notice to pack the car, or five minutes' notice to 'get out now' (the go bag). Make a plan and a checklist.
  • If you have to take medications, make sure you keep them all in one place, and can sweep them into the go bag without any searching. Refill your prescriptions before you're nearly out of them.
  • A "shelter-in-place" kit and a "to-go" bag can share items as long as they can be moved from one pace to the other quickly. For example, it makes sense to have three-days worth of water in your shelter-in-place kit but take a day's worth with you when you leave. However, it is always best to keep things compartmentalized in case you have to shelter in place and then later leave.
  • If you are preparing more than one bag for specific situations, be sure they are clearly identified on the outside with a highly visible marking such as colored straps or luggage tags.


  • You should consider a to-go bag as a last-resort cache. Resist the temptation to raid your bag when you need something on a non-emergency basis.
  • Do not use a shelter unless you absolutely have too. The people there will be scared, desperate, and a mob of folks is no place to be in a Major disaster.

Things You'll Need

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • Non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • A mechanical (charcoal filter) or chemical (most commonly iodine) method of water purification. Iodine lends a bitter taste to water, but mechanical purifiers consume more space in your pack.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Important documents such as proof of residence, pictures of your family including pets, insurance policies, and tax records
  • Extra toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Cell phone
  • Money
  • Comfortable clothing and blankets for every weather condition
  • Unique family needs such as prescription medications, pet supplies, infant supplies, extra eyeglasses or any other needs your family may have
  • A Swiss Army Knife as they are small and light and come with a use for various different tasks.

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Categories: Hazard Survival Equipment