Emergency Kit Checklist
☐ Container for the kit, such as a plastic tote or a wearable duffle bag
☐ 1 gallon of water per person/day
☐ Portable tent
☐ Small tarp
☐ 2,000 calories of healthy food per person/day (nuts, grains, food bars, etc.)
☐ Compact sleeping bag and bedroll
☐ Hygiene products:
☐ Toilet paper
☐ Baby wipes
☐ Dust mask
☐ Potty bags
☐ Latex gloves
☐ Toothbrush and toothpaste
☐ Feminine napkins
☐ First aid kit:
☐ Roll of gauze ☐ Gauze pads
☐ Medical tape ☐ Painkillers
☐ Alcohol wipes ☐ Burn/wound cream
☐ Blood coagulant ☐ Petroleum jelly or other lubricant/moisturizer
☐ Pocket knife
☐ Hand warmers
☐ Duct tape
☐ Small rope
☐ Wire saw
☐ Self-powered flashlight
☐ Self-powered radio
☐ List of doctors and family contacts
☐ Spare cash
☐ Pet supplies
Building Your Own Disaster Kit
Define what survival means to you. It could mean retaining all your fingers and toes, or continuing to live in luxury.
Decide whether you want a ‘one time use kit’ with disposable items, or a kit that can be reused. This becomes quite important for two reasons, the first being that a one time use kit will only get used when death is on the line, the second is one time use kits generally fall into the “just survive – with or without my limbs attached” definition of survive. A reusable kit can become part of a lifestyle, turning many “disasters” into inconveniences or even adventures.
Avoid over packing (unless you have a spare Winnebago). It is tempting and it will take some discipline, but resist the urge to say “I might need this”. A kit that is too large or too heavy is many times just as useless as no kit at all.
Find shelter. This is one of the highest priorities. The sun will bake you, the rain will freeze you (hypothermia can set in quickly during the fall, spring, and winter if you are wet), and unless you are lucky enough to be stuck in a benign environment (like Tahiti), lack of shelter will be more than an inconvenience. Shelter can be a tent or tarp, a trash bag or tube tent (if you just want to survive), or a Winnebago. A great thing is a rip stop nylon poncho that folds flat and can be used as a tent. These are very versatile, they are lightweight, very tough, they do double or triple duty (a must if your kit is to be light enough to carry), and some of these can be used together to make a larger tent if you are with others. Make sure you have a small rope and stakes along.
Ensure that you have water. There are recommendations galore for how much water to put into your kit. Have 130-160 oz per day minimum, depending on your size. If you are very small take the former, larger, the latter. This is the lowest amount you should take. Any less than this and you will start to seriously gamble with your life. The government says one gallon per person per day – but this includes water for washing, cooking, etc. Options for water include sterilized boxes, sterilized Mylar bags, water bottles, and reusable containers. The sterilized water (bag or box) are awfully convenient if you don’t let their relative unavailability keep you from using them when you need to. They have a 5-year shelf life and you can just forget about them. Water bottles have to be replaced yearly and take up a lot of extra space – but are otherwise good. You can also get reusable containers (generally collapsible plastic) which work well if you sterilize the water (and keep it sterilized) or wash them and replace the water often. Water purification tablets are an option, but due to their taste (they can make you sick) you may not want them. Some Sporting outfitters have water purification systems.
Take 2,000 calories of food per person per day. There are plenty of options but the best require no preparation and no utensils or dishes to eat. Food bars of all types fall into this category, as do granola, GORP, etc. They all work well but should be replaced yearly or according to their expiration dates. The Coast Guard uses a food bar with a five-year shelf life. Get ones with lots of variety, such as nuts, whole grains, etc. Living on food bars for three days isn’t too bad except that you’d swim the English Channel for a burger by the end. The next best type of food is the Mylar type – Mylar bags of tuna, MREs (ready eat meals), etc. They do require utensils, but the tuna can be eaten out of the bag, as can the MREs albeit with a bit more difficulty. The excessive amounts of packaging and superfluous items in MREs might prevent you from using them as a serious food source if space and weight are an issue. Note: eat as healthily as possible. Do not fall for the “take plenty of candy and junk food for comfort and energy” gig. Sugar causes a crash in energy proportional to its high. It also stresses out the body, and in a stressful situation it is the last thing that should be eaten. Whole grains, nuts, etc. will give gradual, even energy and provide the necessary fats, proteins, and nutrients needed – needs which increase during times of stress.
Get warm bedding. Wool and fleece are the best blanket choices. Both retain heat even when wet, wool is flame retardant, fleece is very lightweight. If you are in an area where fire is likely an issue, stick with the wool unless it is just too heavy. Stay away from cotton, as it wicks heat from your body when it is moist. Get orange blankets if you can, this is a lot of surface area for signaling (even if a child is wrapped up in it). It is a good idea to include a foil type of emergency blanket. They fold up very small and can act as a ground cloth, they can retain body heat, act as a vapor barrier and wind breaker, etc. Don’t buy all the hype about its amazing heat reflection properties, though – it only reflects radiant heat – and it is, after all, just foil. Persons in very cold climates might investigate buying a down sleeping bag for all of your camping and storing it in your 72-hour kit. It packs incredibly small and light and is amazingly warm.
Pack the hygiene items you need to stay comfortable, but don’t overdo it.Toilet paper, cotton bandanna (for face mask, washcloth, etc), baby wipes, soap, potty bags, and an N95 dust/virus mask are essentials. Additional important items include a toothbrush/paste, latex gloves, and feminine napkins.
Prepare a first aid kit. Do not get a standard first aid kit with 3,200 band aids and a few aspirin. Get a roll of gauze, some gauze pads, medical tape, some painkillers, alcohol wipes, some burn/wound cream, some blood coagulant (such as cayenne, which is also antibiotic), and some petroleum jelly or some other lubricant/moisturizer. You’ll have to make your own band aids from gauze and tape, but you’ll be able to cover most other minor injuries.
Include tools and rescue aids. Again, do not over pack. You need light (light sticks or a crank flashlight), warmth (heat packs), and a whistle. Additional ‘might need’ items are: fire starting kit, multi-use pliers, firearms, small rope, hand crank radio, duct tape, and a folding saw. You might want to take a small pocketknife (with a saw, scissor, tweezers, sharp knife, hook) Generally everything else isn’t needed. If you live in rural Idaho, you might pack a bit of fishing string and a hook, but don’t overdo it. A well thought out selection of tools already in a kit is www.Gorgimi.com, follow the links to their “Tools”.
Decide what you will pack it in. A Rubbermaid is easy to access but don’t try to carry it anywhere and the lid can come off easily. Dry bags, duffels, day packs, etc are all viable options depending on your budget and location. If you want to be able to carry it, and want it to be waterproof (a good idea – keep in mind that most natural disasters in the US are related to water), a dry bag that can be carried as a backpack is the best option. Many are tough and waterproof, and a few can be carried in several different ways. Zip top freezer bags (these are heavier than “storage” bags) can keep like items grouped together within your pack and keep them dry, too. If it’s a vital item, like matches, pack the item in two bags, with the zippered ends pointing in different directions. Small recycled containers, like pill bottles and Altoids boxes can be used to house kits for sewing, fishing, personal hygiene, and an ID pack.
Try it out! Take it camping, use it often. Buy the items as camping gear and store them in your 72-hour kit. You’ll get your money out of it and know how it all works when you really need it. Likely, your kit will become that place where you always go when the lights go out, when you can’t get that bag of chips open in the car with your teeth, when you are stuck on the side of the road, when you can’t find a flashlight anywhere else, and of course when that 3 feet (0.9 m) of snow pins you down on a desolate stretch of Iowa highway.
Purchase “Self Powered Radios” AND “Self Powered Flashlights”. These provide light, info, especially about what caused the emergency, and batteries will not be available in an emergency situation. Also get glow sticks. Safer than candles, especially if that emergency is a tornado, quake that ripped up gas lines, you detect gas. Some of these devices are designed to charge cell phones, thus only a downed cell phone tower will be why your cell phone doesn’t work, unless you broke the cell phone yourself.