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How to Pack a Go Bag

A man running on a city sidewalk in Barcelona carrying a brown duffle bag

Morsa Images, Spain / Getty Images

Although rare, earthquakes, fires, and similarly unplanned incidents can disrupt your travel. Keep a go bag packed with essential supplies in case you need to temporarily evacuate your location.

What is a Go Bag?

A “go bag” is an easy-to-carry bag that holds everything you need if you have to leave in a hurry or in an emergency. Think of it like a small backpack or duffle bag with your essentials.

What to Pack in a Go Bag

Strike a balance between being well prepared and having a go bag that’s easy to maintain and carry. Exactly what you pack depends on you and your location (e.g., weather; cash-based economy; availability of food, water, and medicine).

Go Bag Checklist

Medical supplies and information

  • Prescription medications and copies of your prescriptions
  • Over-the-counter pain and inflammation medicine
  • Over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Medical insurance card and copies
  • International SOS card
  • Basic first aid kit

Travel and identification documents

  • Personal identification cards and copies (e.g., driver’s license, School ID)
  • Passport(s), visa(s), and copies
  • Itineraries and copies


  • Currency
  • Credit cards, and copies of the front and back

Communication devices and information

  • Cell phone and charger
  • Portable charger
  • Pen and paper
  • Contact list

Also consider a secure, cloud storage option so you can access copies of important documents from anywhere you have a secure internet connection. Harvard University's preferred password manager can store documents.

Clothing and personal items

  • Light, warm jacket that protects against rain
  • Bandana or scarf
  • Comfortable and safe walking shoes
  • Eyeglasses, contact lenses, and copies of your prescription
  • Cleansing wipes and toilet paper
  • Menstruation products
  • Hand sanitizer

Food and water

  • Water and a refillable bottle
  • Water purification tablets (if local water isn’t potable)
  • Small protein snacks or bars

Safety gadgets

  • Flashlight
  • Personal security alarm

We have a supply of various safety gadgets for Harvard affiliates traveling on University-related trips. Contact us for more information.

Considerations for Remote Areas

If you’re traveling to a remote area, or a country with limited emergency capabilities, you need a more extensive go bag and emergency planning. Consider talking with a member of our International Safety & Security team. We can help you plan for challenging and remote environments.

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