Unplanned Overnight Bag – Toby Cowern


With a large variety of foreseeable events occurring regularly, it occurs to more and more people that it is possible you could end up stranded overnight in your workplace or somewhere other than home. If severe weather rolls in, transportation shuts down, or some other incident occurs that affects your routine, leaving your work place could be ill advised at best. Rather than roll the dice and take your chances on hazardous journeys, you may be better off just hunkering down at your desk. By planning ahead and assembling an ‘Unplanned Overnight Bag’ you can turn such an event into nothing more than an inconvenience.

For a minimal cost, securing a few key items in your car or left in your workplace brings great peace of mind and a large degree of resilience in your lifestyle.

I would recommend assembling these items and keeping them in a sturdy bag (as opposed to say a box) for ease of movement and transport.

Start with a bit of food, such as granola bars, crackers, or perhaps some packs of nuts. Many of us routinely have some snacks stashed away in our desk but it is never a bad idea to have some extra goodies in your bag. Check out the list of ‘no cook’ foods at the end of this article for some suggestions.

Along with your food items have at least 2 x 2litre bottles of water in your bag.

Cash is king, and if there is a wide spread power outage, stores may not be able to process credit cards. Even if the power remains, having some notes and coins to use in vending machines is a good plan. Have a small amount of cash (in low denomination bills) and coins tucked securely in your bag. 20-30 $ or € should get you started.

A good flashlight (or perhaps a ‘hand crank’ flashlight, where turning a crank provides the power) will make you a hero at work, should the power go out. Many office buildings have the bulk of the work space with no exterior windows. If all the lights go out, it will become very dark in there! If your flashlight uses batteries, store an extra set or two in your bag as well.

A few hygiene items can help greatly with morale. These include a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small bar of soap, and a hand towel. Another thing to keep in your bag is your preferred feminine hygiene supplies. I realize most women carry a stash in their purse already but redundancy is always a good idea.

If your job requires you to wear business attire or, you end up dirty and sweaty from working in a factory, a change of clothes would be nice to have on hand. Comfortable trousers and tops as well as warm socks and comfortable footwear should be packed. The idea is to have clothes you won’t mind staying in for hours on end, rather than spending the night in a skirt or suit. A hooded sweatshirt might be a good option.

All workplaces should have first aid kits, often, these are poorly equipped and rarely maintained. Either buy a small first aid kit or assemble one with supplies you have at home. Adhesive bandages, pain relievers, and meds for stomach ailments should all be included. If you regularly take any sort of prescription medication, keep in your kit enough to last a day or two at least.

Given that you may end up spending a full night at the office, a blanket and inflatable pillow should be the minimum packed. Depending on your office furniture and layout you may wish to even have an inflatable mattress (and pump!) stored in your bag. Many easily affordable mattress options are available now, and these make a world of difference to the quality of sleep you are likely to get!

Finally, something to help pass the time will be of great benefit. A book to read, maybe crossword puzzles or word search puzzles, if that’s your thing. A deck of cards can be fun and is a good way to while away the hours.

Aside from you bag it is a good idea to discuss with your employer and co-workers what plans are in place to deal with these types of situations and make sure everyone is equally informed and prepared.

Assembling your bag need not take long at all, and once assembled can be tucked away in a discreet corner of your workplace until it becomes necessary to use it. Empower yourself today by assembling these items and taking them with you to your office the next time you are there!

Some recommended ‘no cook’ foods (having a small dish and eating utensils alongside your food in your bag is a good idea):

  • Military style Rations known as MRE’s (heat sensitive)
    Energy bars (high calorie)
    Almonds and other nuts
    V‐8 juice
    Canned pasta
    Canned meals (Such as chili con carne or hearty soups)
    Energy Drink mix
    Cocoa mix
    Coffee/Tea Sachets
    Peanut butter
    Dried fruit
    Canned fruit
    Fruit leathers
    Rice cakes
    Hard candies
    Tuna packs
    Cheese spread in jars
    Pudding cups
    Packets of dry milk
    Breakfast bars
    Sunflower seeds

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