What is a Grab & Go Bag?

A grab & go bag is an evacuation kit with personal items that will see you through a short while away from home, should you have to leave. They are known as 72-hour kits, bug-out bags, etc. They all serve the same function. The idea is to pack, store, and be able to grab it quickly and get out. FEMA once recommended a 3-day kit (thus the 72 hour kit) but thanks to Hurricane Katrina the recommendation is to prepare for as many days as is reasonable, considering that you will have to take your supplies with you. The main idea is to have what you need until help arrives or you can go back home.

One For Each Family Member

If you need to leave your home quickly, panic can set in and it could be hard to gather what you need in a timely manner, that is, if you are given enough time to even try. Packing now when you have time to think, will ensure that your bag will include all the essentials and even some of your wants, if you have the space.

  • One should be created for every family member.
  • It should be highly mobile, minimalistic, lightweight, and packable.
  • While there are core essentials for all bags, each family member may have their own needs which need to be factored in.
  • Pack for a minimum of 72 hours - more if you can.
  • If you pack for a longer time period, keep the overall weight of the bag in mind.

Weight matters most if you need to evacuate on foot. If you can drive away, it's less of a worry. Packing with attention to weight ensures you will have what you need most in either scenario.

What Type of Bag is Best?

There is no need to spend a lot of money and it can be what is easiest for the individual. Options include:

  • backpack
  • tote
  • plastic bin
  • duffel bag
  • suitcase
  • container on wheels

If you have a small child, consider using a bag that you can wear, enabling you to use your hands to carry or help your child.

While determining the type of bag for each family member, consider physical ability. All bags may be able to be placed in your family car, or everyone may have to carry them while walking. For this reason, totes are good for young children as parents and older siblings can pull their backpacks inside.

If possible, take your children on small backpacking adventures starting at the age of 3. This will help them get used to carrying their own packs.

Grab & Go Bag
Packing your grab & go bag

Here are some helpful suggestions for putting your grab & go bag together.

Packing tips

  • Zip lock bags come in many sizes and are helpful for packing items together. This also protects your belongings from getting wet.
  • Before packing away, write the name of the content category of each plastic bag (like hygiene, or lighting) by using a non-smudge marker. This is helpful for quick identification when you need something from your bag.
  • At the top of your bag, place a flashlight and a list of items you need to take with you but can't store in your bag. These include items like medication stored in the fridge, etc. Make sure you've left enough room in your bag for these remaining items.
  • The items that cannot be packed should be added to the family grab list as backup and used as a checklist and verification that the items needed are gathered and taken. Learn how to create a grab list.

Weight considerations

  • children: 10 to 25% of body weight (depends on fitness level)
  • youth and adults: 20 to 25% of body weight
  • fit adults: 25 to 33% of body weight

In an evacuation, you need to be able to carry your small child. The weight of your child needs to be factored into your gear. You’ll be carrying lots of extra weight because of your child’s supplies so be sure to cut the weight as much as you can with your own bag in any way possible.

Best Storage Location

Keep your family's grab & go bags together in one place where they can easily be found and grabbed on your way out. Store in a cool, dry environment.

Tips for Rotation
  • Check your bags twice per year.
  • Keep a list of expiration dates on all contents.
  • Rotate expired items like food, water, medications, etc.
  • Check children’s clothing for proper fit and adjust as needed.
  • Switch-out clothing seasonally as the weather changes.