October 4, 2021
Of course I’ve been thinking of you all!
So I wanted to share; this has crossed my mind more than a few times this last few days.
Do you have a “Go Bag” packed?
By which I mean whatever you might need in an emergency.
What’s an emergency? Well, it could be a natural disaster, or a problem in your home that you have to evacuate quickly, or you (or a loved one) may become suddenly injured or ill.
Does your family know what to pack if they would have to pack such a bag for you? What clothes you would want (sweat pants, a shirt that buttons down the front, warm socks?) in such an instance? And would they know where to find them?
For me, such a bag would probably have a sweatshirt in it, and some warm socks (I’m fixated on warm socks right now…), and probably a pair of leggings. Maybe my denim shirt, which is long enough to wear as a tunic in a pinch. I would toss in a week’s worth of prescription medication, as well as a list of such meds (asking someone else to reconstruct the medicines and supplements that you take is tossing them quite the challenge!). A backup battery for my telephone – definitely!
What else would you include?
Of course this bag has to be visited and refreshed – especially the medications – every month or two. And this would require that you own duplicate garments to the ones that live in your bag. As much as I’m not a fan of a lot of duplicate clothes, having extras for such a purpose doesn’t seem wasteful to me.
In the case of an emergency, this bag could save you important time, or make the efforts of your friends/family much easier as they come along to take care of you.
I will be back soon – I honestly miss working on wardrobes to share with you all!
Spare glasses and a watch, earplugs and an eye mask.
Yes on all those, though I don’t wear a watch anymore.
This is such a thoughtful, practical post, thank you, Janice. Most of live with the fear of this happening, this was a polite nudge for us to be proactive, prepared and happy with choices that we’ve made in advance.Take care!
Great idea! For the person who doesn’t have the space or desire for a packed bag of extra clothing etc, what about a checklist? You could pin it to your to go bag so that you (or designated person) could quickly pack it. Maybe keep your medications all together in an easy to grab container so it could be added to the bag effortlessly.
Not knocking down the prepared bag idea. Just a different take on it.
You might even have more than one checklist so that you have seasonally appropriate items.
Mitzi Ann says
I love this idea❣️
We have go bags for both of us, with everything except medications and clothing. Both our wardrobes are so small I think it would be no problem finding an outfit to quickly pack. Another benefit of a small wardrobe! Lovely photograph today. Take care, Janice!
Hello All, about a year ago I did quite a bit of reading about this and went down a long rabbit hole. In addition to spare glasses, I would add a wind/rain jacket, sneakers, baby wipes, maybe small first aid kit, bottled water and somehow a physical list of important account numbers and contact info. If I was trying to help someone else and they couldn’t talk/remember things – I think this information would be very helpful. One suggestion I read said to put all important papers in a binder and keep the binder in your go bag. For privacy/theft reasons I am undecided about that one. Practical matters aside, I would try to include 1 thing that brings emotional/spiritual comfort. Maybe a photo, a certain type of tea, a special blanket or scented candle would do it. When life gets scary – small comforts are priceless!!
Copies of important papers could be kept in a go bag. The originals would be safe in a fire safe box, safe deposit box or lawyer’s office.
Kathrin Pfefferkorn says
I am saving scans of all my important documents in my Dropbox. There they are safe (although you can argue this regarding cybersecurity reasons) and they are accessable for you anywhere and anytime.
In Australia we had to evacuate once for Bush Fires and I remember vividly arriving at my home with smoke haze looming from one direction with my two kids as babies in the pram after being at a playground for afternoon walk. I don’t come from a country with natural disasters (Ireland) so I was completely unprepared for what to do. I tried to run through what I wanted to bring and I realised for me that I either bring everything (Posh china wedding presents) or nothing. So I grabbed the fish pie defrosting on the kitchen counter and passports (I don’t actually remember but surely I took these) and fled staying ahead of the fires.
So lessons learned for me were:
1) Have the important family docs in an easily grabbable item. I rejected a binder as it doesn’t fully protect documents being so open at the edges. I have a plastic box designed to take 10 suspension files with sealed lid. There are various versions of these around and I think were originally designed for travelling salesmen. This has been brilliant addition as it can take anything. Flexibility is required due to various sizes of passports, birth certs and kids school photos. It’s super useful to have everything together and is not just for evacuations.
2) Do bring a change of clothes. I didn’t want to waste time because if I tried to figure out changes for myself and two young children in nappies it would have been another hour. But I was working full time in a large corporate office and ended up going back to work two days later in a cleaned but utterly not appropriate for work denim mini and top. The outfit I’d pack now for an evacuation would be one that can be appropriate anywhere.
3) Anything medical or evacuation related… Have comfortable and appropriate pajamas, two changes!
Janice Coyle says
I would definitely take my laptop computer, mouse pad, mouse, and my phone with cords and chargers, etc. Including battery packs and solar rechargers. Then I would make sure I have good and durable shoes. A warm fleece jacket and my rain jacket. Maybe a parka. Then a couple pairs of pants, sweaters – a warm pullover and a cardigan, with several tops of various weights and length of sleeve. Toiletries, supplements, sun hat & glasses, two pairs of reading glasses, I also now have a small wardrobe and it would be easy to do. Just make sure I have what I need other than clothes. I think I’ll make a list right now! Thanks for this Janice, so helpful.
Janice Coyle, Washington, DC
I like the idea of a checklist. The things I would probably want are those that are in constant rotation, and so broken in and comfy I’m not sure it’s possible to have two! And as someone else mentioned, the season could make a difference. I can’t seem to slow my brain down enough today to actually come up with such a list, but something to think about..
Beth T says
Pack a book or two or Kindle. There will always be moments when you need solitude and escapism. When my kids were little I had an bag packed with necessities, spare clothes, toys and books that I took everywhere. I’ve not thought about needing a Go Bag as our most elderly relatives are only a few miles away. However, whenever they go to hospital, we often need to stay with them. A rucksack packed with a drink, snacks, a book, tissues, sanitiser and a warm wrap would be useful. I would hope to have more notice for a long distance journey.
Beth, my husband was in the hospital for much of May and June. I found a large shawl/wrap to be essential! Hospitals are so COLD! A shawl was easy to put around me and adjust for the changing temperature, and it folded up to put in my tote bag when I left the building. I also carried my iPad and charger, some snacks, and water. Because I read on Kindle, I didn’t need a physical book with me – I had an entire library on my iPad.
Diane T says
My husband has spent a lot of time in a hospital many hours from home in the last 3 years. I heartily agree with your comments, especially regarding the shawl. I have a merino shawl I crocheted that has buttons down 1 side so it can be worn as a scarf, a wrap, a poncho, or opened up as a narrow blanket. It was my constant companion for comfort, physically and even emotionally, in his cold room.
Beth T says
The picture is stunning by the way. Hope you are coping.
If I kept a go-bag with clothing packed, it would surely be an incentive to keep my weight down! Imagine getting somewhere with that bag and finding out nothing fits. ???
I sure do have a go bag packed for both of us. Peace of mind! Plus a head start packing for fun travel.
We live in fire country, & have aging relatives who live a plane trip away from us. Going up the highway to see grandkids can mean an emergency overnight if the highway closes due to weather or fires.
I keep a pair of black pants, 2 tank tops in black and white, a white T-shirt, a thIn black merino wool pullover, a beige & cream striped chiffon scarf and my emergency earrings- pearl studs. Those will all coordinate with anything I happen to be standing up in at the time. Dh: pants, 2 shirts, thin merino wool pullover, spare suspenders (learnt that on a trip when his current pair broke). Underwear and socks for 4 days for both of us. I don’t ever count these as part of our wardrobe.
2 puffer down jackets that fold down to nothing & 2 fold up windbreakers for emergency warmth and rain protection. I’ve used my ultra mini folding umbrella on many occasions for both sun and rain.
3 weeks of Rx meds for us both in small ziplock bags, to save room, ditto supplements, and a list of Rx plus a copy of our glasses Rx.
I rotate fresh meds, toiletries like my favourite deodorant and makeup items through the go bags. Same with the first aid kit items like the small tubes of polysporin, antacid, Tylenol, Bandaids etc.
A small tube of moisturizer, a small refillable travel pot of Clinique cleansing balm, mini toothpaste & travel size of my shampoo and conditioner in a couple of TSA compliant liquid allowance ziplock bag. That way if we’re making a last minute flight I can quickly pack our liquids aside for TSA. Meanwhile it prevents leaks and I have stuff that won’t flare my allergies.
Makeup: fresh backup of my mascara, brow & lip pencils & spare sharpener, foundation, and bronzer plus a mini powder blush in the kit. I keep a powder compact and 2 current favourite lipsticks plus lip balm in my purse so I’m covered (literally) for my usual makeup.
I keep a tiny notebook with essential information to reconstruct our lives if we got burnt out as happened to 2 of our neighbouring towns here— plus a tiny address book so if my cell phone dies I can make calls anyway. Off site online backup for essential computer files is peace of mind for tax info, photos etc.
Chargers for our kindles, iPads, phones and laptops all of which are tested and kept packed so we can just toss our electronics in last minute. Dh has a knapsack specifically for the electronics and his travel CPAP machine. It’s his extra carryon item while mine is my purse.
Earplugs and a silk sleep mask in case I need to relax en route or drown out noise and light wherever we end up sleeping. A tiny sewing kit for repairs. Folding scissors, a couple of needles, a thimble & some thread. The smaller I pack the more I need it. (I always keep tweezers, hair pins, safety pins, and a nail clipper with file in my purse.)
It fits into 2 trolley handle rolling carryon suitcases that live in the guest closet. Grab and go.
Beth T says
Goodness, you are organised. The most common emergency we have in the UK is flooding. I keep a small address book in my handbag all the time.
This is a brilliant idea – thank you for bringing it to our attention! I had a go-bag ready in the last month of both of my pregnancies but it never occurred to me to do the same for this life phase.
I especially love the idea posted in the comments to include something that would bring comfort.
Spare charge cords for devices would come in handy and would be easily forgotten in the rush of an emergency.
I hope that you and yours are doing well, Janice!
Today’s picture is absolutely stunning!!!
I should add, the reason my kit is so fusspot complete and detailed is because under fire evacuation alert status people in my area can have less than 15 minutes to leave. The neighbouring town of Lytton BC had only moments not minutes.
It pays to know what you need in those circumstances —but even if fire isn’t likely it’s hard to remember stuff when the adrenaline hits.
I had a check list all summer long at our door listing the last minute things to go into DH’s knapsack of electronics and the plastic box of essential papers with marriage and birth certificates etc. We’ve been transferring all other documents and photos to online storage.
Zaidie Brown says
Yes – I have 2 bags in the boot of my car. The bag for me has Tshirt, white shirt, skirt, jeans, scarf, dress and jumper. It has work shoes, underwear, pads, handbag with costume jewellery and chargers.
The other bag is for hubby and children: a spare outfit each and pyjamas for the two youngest. Also blankets and jackets for all.
The smaller third bag has a selection of toys, games and books (for all ages). I never thought we would end up playing snakes and ladders for hours while waiting for my sister to finish work, but it kept the children happy.
Oh yes, emergency masks in there too these days!
I don’t live in an area where I would need to evacuate but it is nice to be prepared for needing to drop everything and visit family, for getting drenched on a walk, or for staying out later than planned. Or just spilling lunch down my outfit while at work. Even an emergency hospital stay, the bag has been useful.
As a fan of Douglas Adams I would have a towel. Or is that not so important? Genuine question!
Happy to say I have never had to deal with a natural disaster in my corner of the world but I do worry about sudden illness or a house fire. I try to ensure my handbag is packed by my bed at night just in case, including some toiletries which I like to have anyway when I go out. I will definitely prep a checklist for just in case.
Janice I appreciate your focus on comfy socks as in the last week it’s got pretty chilly!
Fellow DA fan here & extensive traveler – unless you’re camping/hosteling, I’ve found that my towel-equivalent is a pashmina-style wrap. Keeps both chills & too much sun off, packs down to nothing, and dresses up anything. Plus it’s just comforting to snug up in!
@Janice – hoping that whatever you’re helping cope with resolves swiftly, smoothly & happily!
Oh good point! I like to take a wrap on a plane and I could just as easily use it to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. I’ll add it to the list :)
Beth T says
A microfiber towel is an excellent idea because they dry quickly. I’m now going to take this idea seriously. It has occurred to me that although we aren’t in a flood prone area unless the drains overflow, the road to my in-laws does flood in places. It might be more the case of not being able to get back when we’ve visited them….
Hearing aids and spare batteries essential, along with reading glasses, telephone and charger.
If you are in bush/forest fire country, a fire blanket per person. I think a check list is a great idea, and
this post has made me realise I need to make one. Some things can be prepacked (essential toiletries, a few changes of underwear, and a small laundry bag for example).
Wow! I had never given any of this much thought before. Since we camp, I do have a toiletries bag which gets restocked after each trip. Another tote carries chargers, books, spare keys and spare masks. We keep important documents in a small lock box which would be easy enough to grab. I will have to evaluate the many great suggestions presented and make a list!
Andi Kent says
As a Floridian, I definitely have a go-bag (or two) including for the pets. I keep some emergency things in the back of my SUV (things that can stand being hot like rope, $10 of quarters, toilet paper, a crank radio), the pet carriers are sitting at the ready in the garage, and the rest is easily grabbed. I have a binder with copies of important papers, phone numbers, and $50 each in $1 and $5 denominations. We have a 72-hour food kit plus I have other things in a rolling cooler like peanut butter and pet food. These I rotate out every 6 months.
We set up a meeting place in case one of us was away from home when the other had to evacuate. There are several good resources out on the internet for various levels of preparedness. When I first set everything up I used a blog site that had things you could do every week for 8 – 10 weeks so it wasn’t so overwhelming all at once. I don’t remember the site (sorry) but you could google it if it’s something you’d be interested in.
I have a true go bag only during active emergencies (fire season). I have a smaller version in my car at all times with spare clothes, walking shoes, toiletries, charge banks, etc. I do have a binder with insurance information, contact information and a thumb drive with pictures of all rooms in the house and contents of closets and cabinets in safe, ready to grab in case of evacuation. Meds are listed in Notes on my phone.
Such good ideas! I am not nearly so organized, but have gotten good at packing quickly. I live in Florida; we’re inland and not in a hurricane evacuation zone or threat of fire or flooding. We do make frequent trips to help family members, sometimes on very short notice.
Stay well, Janice! Family emergencies can be so stressful.
While living in the Bay Area, we had city group that was quite helpful in teaching us to be prepared. For easy access to your important documents- scan them & put them on a password required thumb drive & put in a water proof box in your go bag. Or if you feel ok with it scan them to your email- then you can access anywhere. Keep important documents at the bank in a safety deposit box and tell a relative or friend living out of state about this location. If an emergency does occur while you & family members are not together- have an out of state person you can call to report you are okay in case you are not able to meet up together at a predetermined location. Phone trees for your neighbors or apt floors is a great idea so that all can be accounted for during a fire or an evacuation of another means. While living in San Antonio during hurricane Katrina and people came to our city from Houston & others, it was impressed upon me to have cash in our go bags & comfortable shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, a deck of cards etc. Remember how the news showed all the evacuees stuck on freeways for hours on end? Definitely need to think of dealing with that too. When I had a dog, always had dog dishes, dry food in gallon bag & a gallon of water & a toy & blanket in my car for her. Just changed it out every 6 months when we change our 72 hour kits food supply. We change our 72 hour kits every time we change clocks. Also we check our carbon monoxide monitors & smoke detectors every 6 months. Great reminder for us. Thank you Janice for this post.
Susan H says
Coming up on the anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. I was home alone and could see smoke plumes from fire
above us in the hills. DH was at his office. I parked my car at the top of the driveway and filled it with a few things: photo albums, some documents, some clothes including a lot of underwear for DH, who regarded it of upmost importance. Later it turned out I had packed mostly tops, no bottoms. Didn’t need to evacuate but had a laugh later.
Life was simpler then. No cell phone but I had a battery operated portable TV and could follow what was happening in the Bay Area. Didn’t need so many medications back then.
An important post and a timely one. Better to be prepared.
Thank you so much for this reminder, especially from Janice, Margery, and Nonchi for this reminder that this is real life and every day somewhere in the world there are people with little and big emergencies who are very grateful when they have at least tried to think ahead!
Excellent post and comments here today. We recently experienced somethings that were a wake-up call in how NOT to be prepared. So much so that my husband and I are currently in the process of updating everything: passwords, wills, trusts, passports, etc. and making calendar reminders of when to renew some of these documents. Whatever is going in your life right now, Janice, you’re in my thoughts and prayers.
Donna Isbell says
You’re a very smart lady, thanks for making people to prepare for emergencies.
Wow! What a post, and what comments!! I’ve always struggled with this because I haven’t wanted to take things out of rotation, so the idea of duplicates is brilliant!! And the comfort items are so practical. Will get on this for both myself and dh right away.
Oh, when the boys were school age and I was parenting alone I had a series of “bug-out bags” for all of us with sub-bags for meds, medical & identity papers, electronic necessities… but then I live in disaster country, the “do we bug out?” question comes up yearly. That said, I haven’t updated my own in ages—thanks for the reminder.
So much helpful advice in this thread….when my children were young, I kept a go bag for them. It included many of the things already listed. But the clothing (and diapers) I packed for them was the next size up from what they were currently wearing. Babies and children grow so quickly! I decided that slightly too big would be better than too tight/too small. And the clothing wasn’t wasted – when they reached that size, I could take it out for use and update the bag with the next size up. And I second the idea of games, etc….all of those kid’s meals come with a small item or book. I just tucked duplicates of those into the diaper bag and go bag for entertainment when needed. A second copy of Goodnight Moon or some such bedtime necessity for the go bag was deemed a worthy investment in our household.
Linda in Bluffton says
Thank you, Janice, for sharing when you probably don’t have the time and energy to do so. I am sending up good thoughts for current sphere.
There are so many good ideas here … I am putting this topic on my short-term to-do list! I have many non-clothing things pre-organized, because I live in a hurricane area, but I’m clearly not thinking through all the possibilities of needing that go-kit.
I am going to develop checklists with pictures for the clothing portion, especially because someone else may need to pack for me. They include topics like: hurricane evacuation, loved one in hospital, me in hospital, loved one emergency (cold/warm weather), funeral.
I am also going to look through the posts and make sure my non-clothing kit is complete.
Sincere gratitude to all of you!!! May you never need your kits.
beth byrd says
This post is SO thoughtful and helpful. My husband and I are fortunate that we don’t live in an area prone to natural disasters, however earlier this summer the house across the street caught fire. It was awful. No one was injured, but they did lose their sweet little dog.
It certainly gave me pause … have things on hand, ready to go, just in case you need to evacuate immediately. We have an emergency preparedness kit (meds, water, towels, propane stove, etc.) but we need to have a tote with important papers, etc. ready. We were without gas heat for several days a year or so ago. Important to have heaters and/or a generator.
Betsy P Cornell says
Last year at the start of the pandemic, I began this process. As many of you probably did, I was compelled to clean out closets during my stay at home time. I ended up with piles of things for donation. This pile included two very small suitcases. We hated the idea of donating them, but never used them; then the idea of bug-out bags took hold. Extra clothes, comfortable sneakers, jackets, socks. . .you name it. Money in different denominations, extra contact lenses and glasses, toiletries. All these along with what many of you have listed. We keep these two small, packed bags in our hall closet, ready to grab if necessary. This post was a great reminder to check them– I loved the comment about doing a re-check when you do your smoke alarms or the time change. Blessings to everyone that we will never need these.
vi herron says
i have a go bag, as for quite a few years now, either me, or my husband has been hospitalized for about a week at a time. (the latest was me with covid) my bag has a few pairs of underwear, socks, leggings, a hat, sweater or shawl and nightgown, -toiletries including dental floss as i am addicted to flossing. a real paper book, kindle, sketchbook, watercolors and graphite (i’m an artist-i have a small art go bag as well) phone/kindle recharging brick, plus cords for all. spare eyeglasses. prescription meds, as the thyroid meds i take the hospital never has. my daily vitamins and supplements- a list of people and their phone numbers that need to be informed. we also have animals so folks need to be notified if they need to help out with the ducks or the cats (sometimes the one that isn’t in the hospital can go home daily to take care of everyone)
i learned after the first time i was in for a week that i needed to get this put together so my husband or i can grab it. when he was in the hospital it saved me, as i stayed with him except for the hour home to take care of the animals
i update it all periodically
Beth T says
I’m so impressed with how well prepared many of you are for natural or man made disasters. We’re always taken by surprise in the UK, then the media delight in finding people to moan about the ‘authorities’ and emergency services not being quick enough to deal with the situation. What about taking personal responsibility and providing neighbourly assistance? The UK media would do well to promote the idea of emergency kits etc.
I had time because the plane wasn’t leaving till evening but your 4×4 wardrobe made such a difference in my packing when I had an family emergency two years ago, while not knowing how long I was going to be, I knew I would have what I needed, if I just quickly followed it, and I did. I was very grateful to feel put together for everything that came up.
Thank you. Sending you strength for your unexpected journey wherever it ends up taking you.
Deloris K Geiss says
Janice, hope things are going well for you. We have “go bags” both in the car and in the house. We live in the pacific-northwest so only worry about fires and earthquakes! The bag in the car is very small but we also have two terriers and they have their own bag. The house kit are more complete, but both have meds, change of clothes (don’t forget the underwear). The house kits are backpacks with fleece, pants, wind shirts, rain shells, sturdy shoes, etc. Both dogs have a crate packed with everything they would need. I change the meds twice a year and add or subtract anything that we still might need. We were recently stranded on the freeway for about three hours and could feed the dogs and we had our snacks (can even make coffee in the car). Hope we never have to use the other kits!
glenda moran says
i told my girls when they had their children to have ready on bedroom chair…a black T-shirt/sweat pants and black cardigan and slip on sneakers. in middle of the night when you need to rush to hospital with a child your clothes are ready. it has proven useful over the years.
Lots of good advice, both in the post and comments. I heartily agree with the book any time you may have waiting or lots of sitting, as well as a mindless magazine or two, and a large enough notebook to write notes, lists, even journalling. Yes, you can do it on a tablet or phone but paper is more soothing. This also applies to positive trips as well since hotel rooms and beaches also have down time.
I don’t live in an area prone to natural disasters but, as others have commented things happen such as broken water mains, fire in nearby house, gas leak etc when anyone could be asked to quickly vacate a home.
I have had two emergency hospital admissions and explaining what I needed to my husband was hm…impossible! My DIL stepped in and organized so I was fine. Janice’s post has me thinking that a simple bag wth socks, underwear, toiletries, wrap, washable slippers etc would be helpful. My husband can deal well with technology but personal stuff is another thing entirely. Since most people have their phones with them all the time a photo of prescriptions for meds, glasses contact lenses is helpful. I don’t think it’s been mentioned but an extra epi pen ( if used) in a go bag is a good idea.
We once had a chimney fire and the items we took out of the house were important documents (all of them are stored in a portable metal binder), our laptop, toiletries and underwear. Fortunately the house didn’t burn down.
On another note, I remember when I broke a leg I asked DH to bring me toiletries and a night dress to the hospital and he chose my cutest and more see-through one LOL !
Coach Laura says
I have one packed all the time. I have it in my suitcase with my travel toiletry kit and my two main medications. When I get a new prescription, I put the new pills in the old bottle and put the new bottle with 10-14 days’ worth of medications in the bag. So the meds I’m taking are always current. And then when I run out of meds in the bathroom, I know to reorder the prescriptions. Then I don’t run out.
Sweatshirt, tshirts, jeans, comfy shoes, socks, lightweight jacket, nightgown. Phone charging cords and plug and battery pack. A bit of cash in hidden compartment.
This has been on my mind lately, thank you for bringing it up! I had a bag packed already but have adjusted a bit based on your post and the comments. So helpful!
When we could travel, I always had basic toiletries and things in the suitcase. Your post is a reminder that we never know what can happen next. Everyone has such good suggestions! Hope your situation is improving and you are back to normal soon.
I will add one thing that is often forgotten for an emergency bag. Many of us have addictions of one kind or another, mine is caffeine. Withdrawals are not fun and you wouldn’t want to be combining that with an emergency. My bag contains instant coffee and a water bottle.
Kristine Moore says
During the back-to-school sales last year I bought a cheap Jun- Sports backpack. I added one bra, 2.bikini underwear, 1 LLBEANOERFECT Fit pants in black trousers, one black tee shirt in black, one open front cardigan( in black of course (LAND, End) socks, Rother’s, windbreaker, stocking cap, gloves) always dress I layers, to Target allowed me to get travel cosmetics, and done). I keep in the truck of my car. Easy!