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I have a whole article on choosing your emergency backpack, but this article talks about how to fill it. This go bag list focuses on what you need for a family emergency or evacuation. We aren’t talking about survival tools for this one. I keep a separate survival gear bag that doubles as my camping and backpacking kit, and we will cover that in another post.

What’s on my emergency go bag list?

To be ready for family emergencies and evacuations, everyone in your family should have an emergency backpack or duffel bag. The following go bag list covers clothes, toiletries, tools, and personal items you might want for your kits. Everything on the list is an item I personally use and keep in my kits. I’ve linked to Amazon for ones you can buy online!

Staying organized

Make a checklist of everything you need to wear or add to your bag that doesn’t stay packed. This includes things like wallets, hiking boots or snow boots, or heavy winter coats. This checklist can be attached to the outside of the pack so you don’t forget to use it!

I use stuff sacks and mesh packing cubes to keep my items organized inside my pack.

Also, make sure to include your emergency grab-and-go binder with your emergency bag!

Clothes for your go bag

Your go bag should be comfortable enough to carry around, which is why most people use a backpack, duffel bag, or piece of carry-on luggage. Obviously, there’s not a lot of room in there so you can’t pack your whole closet! Instead, think of a minimalist travel wardrobe that will keep you comfortable and allow you to layer for warmth if needed. This is what’s on my list:

  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 sports bra
  • 1 pair athletic leggings or sweat pants
  • 3 pairs of underwear
  • 1 pair cargo pants or joggers, or zip-leg pants that convert to shorts
  • 1 base layer tank top or long sleeve shirt (silk, wool, or thermal)
  • 1 pair base layer pants (silk, wool, or thermal)
  • 2 t-shirts (short or long sleeve)
  • 1 hoodie (I like wool)
  • beanie or baseball cap
  • waterproof hiking boots

What kind of clothes should be on your list?

Outdoor and athleisure brands are a great idea for your go bag. The clothes will be comfortable, and durable, and won’t make you stand out from the crowd. I buy many of my clothes second-hand anyway, but definitely consider doing that for your go-bag clothes. A brand new head-to-toe look might turn heads, which is more trouble than it’s worth during an evacuation or when you are traveling.

All of my clothing items can be washed with shampoo or bar soap in a hotel sink and dried overnight in a pinch. This way I don’t need to worry about finding a laundromat.

Plan to wear any bulky items. This usually includes footwear like hiking boots and outerwear like coats and jackets. Store those next to your bag.

Other lightweight ideas that work well for go bag clothes include:

  • A t-shirt dress and leggings
  • Sweatpants
  • Change of pajamas or sleep clothes
  • shower sandals, flip flops, or water shoes
  • foldable travel shoes (usually a ballet flat or similar)
  • a packable down jacket or vest

Tip: Make sure to change the clothes in your bag seasonally if you need to make big changes between summer and winter.

Toiletries for your go bag list

The best toiletries to keep in your go bag are the ones that you use daily. Travel sizes will be less bulky, but I usually just stash full sizes in my bag and rotate them out when I use up my daily ones. Here’s what I keep in mine:

  • unscented antiperspirant
  • unscented bar soap in a travel soap dish
  • nail clips
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush
  • biodegradable dental floss picks
  • shea butter
  • shampoo
  • comb
  • hair elastics
  • razor with extra cartridges
  • microfiber travel towel
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray
  • period supplies

Personally, being able to shave my legs is a big morale boost when I’m stressed, but if you don’t want to include a razor feel free to leave it out.

I use shea butter instead of lotion because I also use it to condition my hair. It’s a good facial moisturizer and lip balm, too.

If you wear makeup and want to include that in your bag, consider a simplified version of your daily routine for your go bag. I don’t usually wear makeup because I’m allergic to most of it anyway, it’s not something that I store with my preps.

List of tools for your go bag

You may want a few tools for your go bag, depending on your potential scenarios. If you will be getting out of town quickly during a natural disaster, evacuation, or family emergency, some ideas include:

  • power bank for your electronics
  • spare charger for your phone
  • alarms or security doorstops for hotel rooms
  • small flashlight
  • bandana
  • small first aid kit (purse/pocket-sized)
  • extra face masks for air quality and/or pandemic safety
  • LED night light (especially if you have kids who are used to having one)
  • pocket knife
  • small multi-tool

Personal items for your go bag list

This category is for things like sanity savers, personal defense items, and miscellaneous things that will make life easier.

  • cash and extra debit card
  • personal defense items of choice (pepper gel, personal alarm, etc)
  • sunglasses
  • sanity savers (things that don’t require electricity like a paperback novel, book of sudoku or word puzzles, deck of cards, or travel games are best)
  • a small booklet of your favorite family photos or memories (online companies let you create little flip books directly from your phone!)
  • snacks (granola bars, trail mix, hard candy, or other items that won’t crumble)
  • refillable water bottle with a filter (I use Lifestraw) (#affiliate)

Tip: Choose sanity savers that reflect your favorite things, hobbies, or parts of your normal daily routine. My personal sanity savers include a notebook for journaling the day’s events, a small softcover sketchbook for capturing scenes from daily life, and a pencil case with drawing supplies. My herbal comfort kit is another important part of my personal items. This has my favorite herbal blends for stress, digestion, and immune support. Read about it in Herbs for Emergencies to Keep in Your GOOD Bag.

Make your own go bag list!

My list should give you a good place to start, but now it’s time to sit down and decide what will work for you. Use the ideas I’ve given you to brainstorm your own list and then put it into action.

Photo by Josiah Weiss on Unsplash

About Post Author

Agatha Noveille

Agatha is an herbalist and author in Atlanta, Georgia. She founded Indie Herbalist in 2011. Her herbal recipe book, The Complete Guide to Adaptogens, is available wherever books are sold. To listen to her podcast, visit Indie Herbalist's sister site, Teacup Alchemy.
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