Twice last year I needed a 'go bag' when I had to rush to the hospital after Mom was admitted, and had only a few minutes to throw some things together. Twice I was unprepared. (You'd think after the first time I'd have figured it out, but I'm kinda slow.)
But I resisted putting a go bag together until after my aunt and I were cleaning out some of Mom's stuff after she died. My aunt found the little suitcase Mom kept under the bed and said, "Isn't this the suitcase your grandmother kept packed in case she had to go with someone to the hospital?" And suddenly I didn't feel so paranoid at feeling like I ought to have a go bag.
There's a very useful Making Light post that gives some good tips, which I just reread. Now I have a small list of things I need to add to my go bag. Of course, my go bag is not just for emergencies; it's also in case someone ever says to me, "Let's go! Now! Adventure awaits!" Not that that will ever happen, but it might.
Instead of a backpack, I used a small, attractive (I think) messenger bag made of sturdy brown canvas. I can sling it over my shoulder and carry it comfortably, leaving my hands free, and it won't make me look like I'm about to go camping. Here's what I have in it currently, in case anyone else is interested in making one and would like some ideas:
*toiletries in two small makeup bags (they wouldn't fit easily in one bag, so I split them into things I need daily and things I need frequently but not daily)
*a light, sleeveless nightgown and change of underwear
*a small notebook
*a ballpoint pen and a spare ink cartridge for the pen
*a paperback book (Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers, which I can happily read again and again)
*a few bandages and a tiny bottle of aspirin
*a spare pair of glasses
*one of those travel sizes of Kleenex
*my passport in a holder that also contains a few dollar bills and a card that tells me what to do if I lose my passport (of course, if I ever lose my passport I'll probably also lose the card, but at least I feel like I'm trying)
*a copy of all my important documents--driver's license, credit/debit cards, health insurance card, car insurance card, etc.--front and back. On the back of these two sheets of paper I've jotted a list of passwords to certain important websites (like my online banking account) that I don't use often. (In a weak stab at not making it entirely easy for anyone who steals my go bag to take over my identity, I didn't label the passwords or write down the matching login information.)
*a spare car key and house key
*a flash drive that I update at least weekly with whatever writing project I'm working on
Things I plan to add to the go bag now that I've reread that Making Light post:
*space blanket (those things are really tiny and only cost like a buck)
Even though that makes what looks like a mighty long list, the bag isn't heavy and has plenty of room left for small things that I need to add. I keep it in a hidden but easy-to-get-to location in my house (I'm not leaving it out where anyone can grab it, duh, it's got money in it).
If I do ever have an emergency that requires me to leave home on short notice--say, a flood or fire--or a weather emergency like a tornado that makes me have to leave while repairwork is done on my house, I've now got a bag that will make it a lot smoother to stay a few days in a hotel or shelter. And if I ever need to go with someone to the hospital again, I have a book, a nightgown, and dollars for the vending machines--and those little comforts make all the difference, trust me.