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Put Together a 72-Hour Kit for Less

A 72-hour kit is a bag filled with the things that you need to survive for 72 hours in the event of an emergency.  

Often, help is at least three days away (U.S. Residents, FEMA says to expect at least 7 days before help arrives).

Sometimes, however, help is further away than that. When the second earthquake struck in Nepal earlier this year (17 days later), I read that rescuers had still not made it to all of the outer villages to help people in need. Most people were sleeping still outside in case of aftershocks when the second earthquake occurred. Keep this in mind when planning your kit: in an emergency, you may only have the items in this kit for a long time. 

Whether you deal with earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, evacuations due to wildfires, or another emergency, it's helpful to have a 72-hour kit ready where you can grab it and go. If you're asked to evacuate your home,  you often have less than 5 minutes to gather items. Having everything ready to go will make this easier. Some people keep their kits in a closet by their front door. Others keep them in the trunk of their car.

We have been slowly working on putting together the items our family needs over the last 9 months. We've been researching the best prices to make our money go as far as possible. Here are the items I think are important and the best prices we've found.

 

72 Hour Kit Backpacks The Prudent Homemaker

Backpack

To start with, you're going to need a backpack of some kind. It doesn't have to be a fancy bag; you just need something to carry your supplies. This is a great time of year to find clearance sales on backpacks. You can also check your local thrift stores. Ebay is another great option. Each member of the family should have a bag. We found the bag on the right at Walmart in the camping section and the price was around $35; the bag on the left was from Ebay for around $30 (but you can find bags for around $15 on Ebay, depending on what style you like).

 

Sleeping Bag

Should you find yourself misplaced and possibly needing to sleep out in the open, in your car, or even on a friend's floor, a sleeping bag is essential. I recommend purchasing the warmest one you can find, as keeping warm is essential to survival. We have found that Big 5 has these 5º F Suisse Sport Alpine Adult Mummy Sleeping Bags on sale every few weeks, so we have slowly been purchasing them over the last year for our family (they usually just have a few in stock at a time). For just four dollars more, you can purchase them from Amazon. You can use Swagbucks to earn points towards an Amazon gift card to purchase these. The first $25 gift card ordered in a month can be ordered for 2200 points, which makes your points go further. You can add each gift card to your Amazon account until you have enough saved up to order a sleeping bag.

 

72 Hour Kit Wool Blanket and Pin The Prudent Homemaker

Wool Blanket

A wool blanket can add much needed warmth. When choosing a wool blanket, look for one that has a high wool content.

A wool blanket can be worn as a coat or skirt, as well as used when sleeping. This video was rather helpful in explaining how to wear a wool blanket. I suggest having a belt in your kit to help you do this, if you don't normally wear a belt every day.  A blanket pin is also useful to have to wear a blanket (Ebay is a good place to look; my husband made the one pictured above with steel and piano wire).

We found used Israeli military wool blankets  (82% wool) online from this source, which are $14 each shipped. These are thicker than the U.S. Military blankets. I looked on their site and they now have a 100% wool option for $5 more per blanket, however, they are older and have had repairs made to them.

Harbor Freight also has 80% wool blankets for under $10 each. These are a little more stiff than the military ones we bought.

You can wash wool blankets on a cold gentle cycle in your washing machine and hang them to dry. This will help to get rid of the stiffness and make them smell better.

A wool blanket (or two) is also great to keep in your car for emergencies.

 

Waterproof Tarp and 4 stakes

This can be used to make a shelter. There are some great videos on You Tube on how to make a shelter from a tarp. If your tarp has loops at the end or grommets, it is even easier to make a shelter. Stakes can be small aluminum or large plastic stakes.

 

72 Hour Kit Water Bottles and Filter The Prudent Homemaker

Water, Water Filter and Bottles

It is recommended to have one gallon of water per person a day, solely for drinking (and 2 gallons per person per day in the desert). Carrying three to six gallons of water is no easy task!

In an emergency situation, you may need to find additional sources of water.  Having a water filter, in addition to carrying water, can keep you from getting sick.

We've been researching water filters, and we decided to purchase a few Sawyer Mini Filters, as they can filter 100,000 gallons of water, which is more than others (all filters have a limit of how much water they can filter), and are washable. Here is a video on how to clean them

For water bottles, we visited the thrift store. We found both Nalgene and aluminium bottles for $1 to $1.50 each. These normally sell for $16 to $20 each brand-new. Consider two per person. Have them filled and ready to go in your bag. Note that if you have a metal bottle, you can use it to boil water.

Bottled water is also important to have in addition to water bottles. You can keep water with your kits to grab, as well as water in your car trunk.

 

A Change of Clothes

At the very minimum, a change of underwear and socks in your kit is important.  Back to school sales on these items right now makes this a great time to purchase a few extra pairs to put in your kit for each family member.

We also found great prices on wool blend socks (think winter warmth) at CalRanch; they had the best prices I could find on high wool content socks. They are soft, too; my husband and son wore them to Scout camp and liked them a lot. (They sell both high and low wool content socks).

Thrift stores and garage sales are a great way to add an extra pair of jeans and a shirt to your pack for very little.

I recommend having two pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, and a shirt and pants in your kit. If you are packing a kit for an infant or small child, a couple of bibs would be helpful (the bigger the better) to protect clothing.

Cotton bandanas are important in your kit, to use as a face mask to protect you from dust, to bandage a wound, as a sling, to filter water, as a napkin, and as a handkerchief. Purchase 2 or 3 per person. To get a lower price, you can buy them by the dozen. If you want to make them instead using cotton fabric you already have, they are 22 inches square. 

If you live in a cold climate, thermals would be a very good thing to include in your kit.

A warm hat is good, even if you live in a warmer climate (winters here can still be cold, especially at night). If a hat is an expensive purchase for you (and you want to have something now, rather than waiting for a clearance in spring), consider making a wool hat from a wool sweater (look at thrift stores and garage sales) and lining it with fleece (or even making a double layer fleece hat). There are a lot of online tutorials to make these. Joann's has fabric sales on fleece often.

A rain poncho is also important, and can be worn over your pack to keep both yourself and your items dry. 

 

Glasses

If you wear glasses, have a spare pair in a case in your kit. Zenni Optical is a great way to order a spare pair of glasses for very little (complete pairs, including lenses, start at $6.95, and shipping is $4.95,  even if you buy multiple pairs). If you go through Ebates first, you'll earn a percentage back.

 

72 Hour Kit Solar Charger The Prudent Homemaker

Light

Regular batteries are heavy, expensive, and short-lived. For longer lasting light, consider a wind-up, squeeze, or shake up flashlight, that you recharge by hand. These do not last forever, but they do last for a long time. The shake-up ones are heavy, and are harder for small children to charge than the wind-up kind (there are, however, smaller shake-up flashlights that are lighter). When comparing, look at the number of lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light.

A longer lasting option is to purchase a bright (high lumen) flashlight that takes a 18650 lithium ion battery (this is a long lasting battery that can be recharged). You can then get a Portable Folding 5-Watt Solar Charger and hang it off the back of your backpack while walking during the day. You'll need a power bank that plugs in to the charger to charge your lithium ion batteries (have a second battery). The power bank can also charge your cell phone. (The solar charge pictured above is 7 watts; a 5 watt one has one less panel.)

72 Hour Kit Solar Charger Closed The Prudent Homemaker

Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern or a LuminAid solar lantern is another option. This small, inflatable solar lantern can be clipped to your backpack and charged during the day.  (Update: Aug 2017. We have been using the Luminaid Lanterns in our bedroom at night. Our intense heat here (113º F/45ºC) can burn out solar batteries in a day if they are placed in direct sun; we have charged these inside the windowsill and used them at night; they have been bright enough to read by if put on a pillow and have a high number of lumens.)

 

Keeping Cool

Sometimes, it's not the cold, but the heat that gets you. 

A brimmed hat is important to prevent heat exhaustion and sunburn. A cloth hat can be rolled to fit into your bag. Again, garage sales and thrift stores are a great way to do this for less. Summer hats will go on clearance now for Northern hemisphere readers. I've also found that our local nursery has good hats for fair prices that are designed to shade the back of your neck while working in the garden. Also, as silly as it may sound, a cloth sun bonnet also offers great protection for your face and the back of your neck (and you can find free patterns online).

An Insect Head Net can go over a brimmed hat to keep flies and mosquitos away from your face. There are also ones that come attached to a brimmed cloth hat.

In addition to a hat, for our own kits, I purchased each of us a Sammy Cool `N Dry Towel. Several years ago, my mom gave us a few of these, and we have used them when working in the garden. You get them wet with any temperature water, snap them in the air, and they keep you cool. Once they start to get warmer (after a few hours) you can wave them around again, and they will become cool again. They were very helpful when putting in our white garden in June and July two years ago. These fold flat (but are stiff when dry; only unfold them when wet!), are lightweight and don't take up a lot of room in your pack.  There are other brands out there that are similar, such as Frogg Toggs. I don't have any experience with this brand, but depending on your color choice these may be cheaper. These are also good to help reduce a fever.

 

Hand Protection

Gloves are important to protect your hands from freezing weather, as well as to protect them when doing such tasks as clearing trees or rubble after a storm or gathering firewood.

We purchased warm gloves on winter clearance earlier this year.

For work gloves, you can watch stores right now for gardening supplies on clearance.  Nurseries are also great sources for work gloves, and they have them available all year long. Our nursery carries canvas gloves for .99 a pair in a men's large size. Leather palmed gloves are more heavy duty. Consider having both in your pack.

 

Food

Ready to eat food that is not too heavy is important to have in your pack.

You buy lightweight backpacker food, such as Mountain House, where you just add water. However, these are fairly expensive.  A 3600 calorie ration bar is a less expensive option. (These are also good to put in a child's school back pack, in case you were separated in an emergency, or in your desk at work).

For less expensive options than that, you can include:

Fruits you've dried yourself, such as bananas and apples (or dried fruit bought in bulk, such as raisins, apricots, and cranberries)

Granola bars (store-bought ones go on sales with coupons for back to school sales; you can also make them yourself)

Granola

Oatmeal in a plastic bag (or oatmeal packets)

Powdered eggs (bought in bulk and repackaged in Ziploc bags)

Krusteaz pancake mix (just add water) or you own homemade version made with powdered milk and powdered eggs

Nuts purchased in bulk

Hard candy purchased in bulk

Hot cocoa packets, bullion cubes or powder, powdered Gatorade, instant milk powder

Dried carrots/onions/celery/chard/garlic powder/chicken bullion powder/parsley and salt and pepper for soup, or a store-bought package of dried vegetable soup mix, and/or ramen noodles

Rice

Homemade rice mix portioned out individually in a bag, or Knorr rice dishes or noodle mixes (serves 2; these are .78  each at Winco right now)

Macaroni and cheese in Ziploc bags. Buy the cheese powder in bulk and pasta on sale for .49 a pound and separate it for each pack

Instant potato flakes. You can buy these in bulk or in sealed packets for your pack.

Instant non-fat pudding mix with powdered non-fat milk (milk powder measured and poured into a bag to go with the pudding, $0.49 to $0.58 each for the store-brand at Winco; the non-fat will set with skim milk, so you can use powdered milk)

Shelf-stable sausages (these are usually sold at Christmas time)

Tuna fish in a packet

Jerky

Baby formula if you have a baby who drinks formula

 

A mess kit is helpful if you want to way to have a warm meal or to heat water to sterilize it. For more long-term emergencies where you may find yourself displaced from your home, this is an item you will be grateful to have. Aluminum ones made by Coleman are less expensive and lighter than stainless steel ones, but you may prefer Stansport's Stainless Steel Mess Kit. Prices on these seem to be pretty similar everywhere I've looked, be it Amazon, Walmart, and at several different sporting goods stores. You'll want to include some utensils as well; thrift stores and garage sales are good places to pick up extras for around .25 each.

Should your emergency go longer and you need to get your own food, the following items would be helpful:

Frog/Fish Spear to attach to a stick for hunting. Look for one that doesn't screw into a pole, so that you can use any stick you cut.

A book or guide on foraging wild plants for your area, such as Foraging the Rocky Mountains: Finding, Identifying, And Preparing Edible Wild Foods In The Rockies (Foraging Series).

 

72 Hour Kit Tools The Prudent Homemaker

A Knife, a Leatherman Multi-Tool, Paracord, Bankline and a Way to Cut Wood

 

A good knife is one of the most important things you can carry. I suggest watching this video on choosing a knife before making a decision. (It also shows how a knife is used with a ferrocerium rod to start a fire, and shows the difference between knives when fire starting, among many other things). Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Black Tactical Knife is a lower end good knife to have in your pack. A knife will be one of your most expensive, if not your most expensive, item in your pack (and you may want to carry two). My husband recently watched a survivalist's video where he explained the following: "Two is one and one is none." Tools get broken, and in an emergency situation, this is one thing where you are definitely going to want to have a backup plan. We've found knives on Ebay.

A Leatherman Multi-Tool with a sheath. Choose one with the tools you need (for example, you'll likely need scissors more than a corkscrew). One that fits in a sheath on your belt is nice. My husband found the lowest price at Walmart, and it came with a sheath.

100 feet of 7-strand  550 paracord or #36 tarred bankline. We've been able to find the best prices on paracord and bankline on Ebay. Paracord can be made into a bracelet that you wear, making it an "everyday carry" item that you would always have with you in an emergency. Bankline is smaller than paracord, but can hold almost as much (450 pounds, instead of 550)--note, don't buy the Walmart brand bankline; it unravels. These are useful in making a shelter, among other things.

Duct tape is also good to have on hand, and can be purchased in 1-inch widths as well. Wrap some around an old debit card to reduce weight and bulk in your pack.

36-Inch Pocket Chainsaw is lighter than a hatchet and can be used to cut wood for a fire or to make a shelter, but if you can carry it, a hatchet with a sheath is also useful.

 

Hygiene items

Brushes, combs, hair elastics, bobby pins, and toothbrushes are great items to purchase at a 99 cent or Dollar store. I have bought all of these there; I found really great deal with packages of 100 hair elastics, and 4 packs of toothbrushes there. 

Toothpaste and dental floss can be bought on sale and with a coupon.

Fingernail clippers and a nail file.

Vaseline and/or lip balm. (I realize in some countries Vaseline is not used as a lip balm, but in the U.S. it is, and it is excellent in preventing and healing chapped lips).

Add soap and a washcloth, and package items in Ziploc bags.

If you have children in diapers, having diapers and wipes, as well as rash ointment is important. It's hard to carry enough disposable diapers in a longer emergency situation; consider some cloth diapers to add to your kit as well.

Toilet paper. You can smash the roll flat or remove the roll and then smash it flat. Put this in a Ziploc bag to prevent it from getting wet. 

Consider a travel bidet and cloth (cut old cotton t-shirts or a double layer of serged flannel), in case your toilet paper gets wet, you run out, or your emergency goes longer. In longer term emergencies, leaves are great in the summer if you live where there are leaves. If you live in the desert, however, sagebrush and cactus don't make good toilet paper. Consider winter situations as well, where leaves are not available. (A less expensive option is to purchase a perineal bottle.)

Baby Wipes. These are good for so many uses, If your package gets dry, a little water will rewet the whole thing. These can be very heavy, so consider carrying a smaller travel-sized package.

 

Feminine Hygiene Supplies

The last thing you want to deal with in a short or long-term emergency is a shortage of feminine hygiene supplies.

You can combine coupons and sales to purchase disposable items to put in your kit. Target often has coupons and sales on their store brand of supplies, which can lower your cost even more.

Another idea is to make a set of cloth supplies. There are lots of free patterns available online. This one looks particularly interesting This is also a great long term option for saving money. If you don't sew, there are a lot of options to purchase cloth supplies. These are what I have purchased and my eldest uses on a regular basis as well as what we have for our kits.

A great option is a menstrual cup. There are many brands out there to chose from; Lunette has high reviews and I found it to be easy to use. This is a fantastic long-term option for saving money, as well as ensuring you have something to use in a long-term situation; you'll always be supplied, and you'll never need to buy feminine hygiene supplies again. These are sometimes sold as a two-pack; keep one at home or in your purse, and the other in your 72-hour kit.

 

First Aid Kit

 

You can buy a ready made kit, or put one together on your own. It can go in a small bag. (Through Saturday, Target has a buy 3 selected first aid items and get a small first aid bag for free. A large pencil case, on clearance now, would also work.) Your kit should include at least the following:

Pain reliever/fever reducer  (buy the store brand of acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen to save money)

Anti-diarrhea medicine (again, store brand)

Allergy medicine (buy the generic Benadryl)

Adhesive Bandages (I find this is a great low price for a huge lot)

Antibiotic ointment. Store brand works just fine. 

Chiggerex. This is the best bug bite relief medicine we've used. It isn't easy to find in places where chiggers aren't common (though it treats all kinds of bug bites, and is very effective for ant bites, spider bites and mosquito bites). Where you can find this on your store shelves, expect to pay $2 to $3 a container. I had my mom purchase 5 of these for me while she was in Missouri earlier this year.

Anti-Itch cream. This works well for rashes, eczema, and some bug bites (though I prefer the above Chiggerex for ant bites).

Moleskin to protect yourself from blisters. It's cheaper to buy uncut rather than precut moleskin.

Teething tablets (for babies)

Colic tablets or gas relief drops (for babies)

Tweezers

Powdered Gatorade. Buy this in bulk at Sam's Club and divide it into smaller bags, or  buy electrolyte salts.

Super Glue. Target has this in the dollar section sometimes. Superglue will hold skin together and it's a less expensive choice than Dermabond (which does the same thing), New Skin liquid bandage is another great choice.

Antacids

Acidophilus in capsule form

Multi-vitamins

Cold remedies

Cough drops

Willow/Garlic Oil This works really well for us to get rid of ear infections.

Iodine Solution

Any prescription medications

 

I've included a link at the bottom of this post to an exhaustive first aid kit list.

 

Fire Starting Items

 

You should carry at least 3 ways to start a fire.

Ferrocerium Rod Use this and the spine (never the blade) of a good high carbon steel knife to start a fire. Though you should have more than one way to start a fire, if you only had one way, this should be it. It will throw sparks even when it is wet. The longer the rod, the better. If your rod doesn't have a handle, you can wrap duct tape around the end for an easier grip.

Waterproof Matches in a container. You can also waterproof them yourself rather than buying the more expensive waterproof ones. You can buy a container, or use a prescription medicine bottle.

Lighters. Buy these by the dozen online and divide them up among the packs for the members of your family.

Magnifying glasses. The higher the magnification, the better. Fresnel Lenses are small enough to stick in your wallet. We've found these as low as $0.99 with free shipping for a pack of 5 on Ebay.

Charcloth is 100% cotton that has been "pre-burned" and just a tiny bit can be used to help when starting a fire. You can make it from scraps of old clothing, as long as it is 100% cotton (cotton balls also work well). There are a lot of videos on You Tube on making and using charcloth; this is a good one to get you started.

 

72 hour Kit Map and Compass the Prudent Homemaker 

Getting Around

A paper map of your state/region, surrounding states and/or country and a compass are important if you end up having to walk to safety, or even if you are driving out and need to find an alternate route when roads are blocked, crowded, or damaged.  Cell phone towers can go down in earthquakes, and phone batteries die. A paper map can be essential in finding roads and water sources.

If you are a AAA member, you can get maps for free as part of your membership; you just need to ask at your AAA office. 

Visitors Centers in your area may also offer free maps.

If you cannot find a free map, I strongly suggest you purchase one. Again, you can use Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards to order maps. If you can find a laminated map, that would be ideal, but it not, pack your map in a ziplock bag to keep it dry.

As well as a road map, a topographical map is also extremely helpful in an emergency situation

When choosing a compass, you want a reliable one.  Liquid-filled compasses are generally more accurate. If your compass is clear and lays flat, you can set it down on your map. Learn how to use a compass so that you can find water and safety. I've included a link at the bottom of this post on how to use a compass. Consider printing this to include in your kit.

 

Documents

Copies of important documents are important. If you leave your home due to hurricane, tornado, flood, or fire evacuations, it might not be there when you return. You'll need insurance information, loan information, car insurance, etc. You'll also want copies of birth certificates, social security cards,  life and health insurance, etc. Consider both paper copies in a large-sized Ziplock bag, as well as a thumb drive with copies of these, along with copies of important photographs. 

Another backup option is Google Drive; you can backup your computer (including photos, files, etc.) to Google Drive, so if your computer is damaged you can get to these. Make sure you have public file sharing turned off on your mobile devices to keep these files from being hacked when you're in a place with public wifi.

Laminated small photographs of each member of the family, as well as a family photo, put together on a ring, with identification on the back, is helpful for identifying family members if children are separated from the family. They can also be a source of comfort.

 

Sewing Kit

This can be as small as a metal tin box (Michael's sells these for $1 each, or you can purchase them on Etsy) that includes buttons, small, good scissors, needles, a piece of thin cardboard wrapped with several colors of threads (including heavy duty jeans thread), and safety pins in several sizes. If you are looking to make something from cloth, I've pinned several I liked on my projects board on Pinterest.

 

Something to Do

In emergency situations, having something to do is important! 

For our own kits, we are purchasing small sets of scriptures. Look for pocket-sized or military editions to find small ones. 

We also bought card games. For a family, each family member could carry a different card game, such as Rook, Uno, etc.  Dice and instructions for Farkle are also small, lightweight items. Yard sales are great way to purchase games for less (I bought Rook and Milles Bournes earlier this year for .50 each at a community sale). Keep these in a Ziploc bag to keep them dry.

A small pad of paper and a pencil (including a sharpener) is also helpful. These items are good to purchase now on back to school sales. A good sharpener can also be used to sharpen sticks for a fire or a frog/fish spear if need be.

Lightweight Folding Pocket Frisbees can be used to play frisbee and can double as a fan to keep you cool or use to fan a fire. I bought some of these to add to our packs for both fun and as fans. 

A hacky sack to keep a youth occupied. Put this in your child's bag.

The Night Sky: A Glow-in-the-Dark Guide to Prominent Stars & Constellations North of the Equator to keep your family entertained at night. (Obviously, southern hemisphere readers would need a different guide.)

A small toy to comfort and occupy a small child. A tiny doll or stuffed animal would be helpful, and/or finger puppets. For a baby, pack a teething toy. A garage sale or a children's resale shop would be a good place to find these inexpensively. My very favorite baby toy came to me as a used hand-me-down. It is this one and when I got it,  it did not vibrate, but it was one that my three youngest children preferred as babies for the longest period of time.

 

Cash

Carry small bills and coins. When the electricity goes out, cash is important if you're in a place to buy anything. The store owner may not be able to make change, so carry small bills and coins. 

 

Remember, weight is important! You want to be able to carry your pack a long way if need be, so make sure it is something that you can carry. 

 

A couple of additional links I suggest reading and watching :

36 Lessons Learned Testing a 72-Hour Kit

Bug Out Bags (read the comments for additional great ideas)

Field and Stream's Altoids Survival Kit This is something you can always carry with you, in a purse, in a drawer at work, or in your car. There are several different tiny kits featured.

A Nurse's Fully Stocked Medical Kit An exhaustive list

Using a Compass: The Basics Print this to include in your kit if you aren't familiar with using a compass.

Use Desert Survival Skills to Get Drinking Water During Floods A great article on getting water in the desert, or in case of floods where water is contaminated. You may want to keep oven cooking bags in your pack for this purpose.

Wilderness Outfitters has some really great videos on making shelters and other wilderness survival skills. If you want something to carry with you, his book, Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival, would be excellent to have in your pack for a long-term survival situation.

This Can Happen To Anyone  No matter what country you live in, you too could find yourself a refugee one day. If all you have is your backpack, what would you want to have in it? This poignant 1 1/2 minute video is thought-provoking. 

 

I mentioned Ziploc bags and small plastic containers for several items. There are a lot of coupons for these right now and you may find an additional back to school sale. I purchase mine in bulk at Sam's Club; these go on sale there on occasion, too.

 

If you're wanting to make a kit for each member of your family but wondering where to find the money, consider selling some items you're not using on Facebook garage sale pages, on Ebay, or at a garage sale. Skip a couple of meals out, or an entertainment activity, and put that money towards items that will be invaluable in keeping you alive in an emergency situation.

 

What other suggestions do you have for 72-hour kits? Have you ever had to use your 72-hour kit, or have you tested it? If so, I would love it if you would share what you learned from your experiences!

 

Note: This post contains Amazon referral links. This means that if you go through one of these links to purchase items from Amazon, I will make a small percentage. 

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Comments

  • Nora September 11, 2015

    Great tips!

    We have found that the dollar tree can be a great place for first aid and other needed supplies. Not everything is a great deal and you can usually save more if you buy in bulk at Walmart or a warehouse club. However, it's still worth a visit for most people.

    They have lots of medications in small bottles. Instant cold packs, emergency dental filling kit, gauze, medical tape and more.

    They also sell shelf stable milk, tuna salad kit, crackers, drink mixes, instant coffee, creamers, beef jerky, sugar packets, etc.

  • Linda G September 15, 2015

    While many, many things at the dollar store are great, beware of first aid items. Bandages, soap and towels are a good dollar store buy. Be careful about medications purchased there though - many are not as advertised and can even be harmful. Our local WalMart carries many medications for 88 cents, including a generic Zyrtec that works as well as the $23 kind.

  • Miriam in Estonia September 11, 2015

    Thank you, Brandy, for this wonderful post! I think it is very important to be prepared.

    I don't have anything physical to add to this list, but I really do recommend to get to know what using your 72-hours kit means in practice. Have a drill! So that you know how to use the amount of water wisely... Learn how to make the fire, don't just buy those items and so on. And most importantly, if you are a healthy adult (especially if you are a coffee drinker...) and you have never fasted, fast. You have got something to eat but don't rely on it too much. Children can be included, too, according to their age and understanding, as long as they don't have any medication.

    Fasting is an excellent way to get to know how your body reacts, so in the case of emergency you know what to expect: if you feel weak and unable to think logically, or you get a massive headache, or you become passive and slow etc. Add all this to the stress and to the unknown, while others around you may be whining or expressing their discomfort aloud. I think I'm trying to say that prepare yourself for chaos. I have been fasting 1-5 times a year (12-25 hours without eating and drinking) and every time I learn something about myself.

  • loyda September 11, 2015

    Excellent article ! My BFF in Seattle has 3 sons and has been wanting a BOB ! I will forward your website to her. We just put together a mini bob to put in their big bob. I kept everything loose in the box, so they could put it together themselves. She said it was a hit !
    Happy Friday !!

  • Rhonda A. September 11, 2015

    Brandy, I love your suggestions for a 72 hr survival bag. It is always interesting to read the different takes and suggestions that everyone has for such a bag. I have to admit, I do not have bags put together. But I have heavily thought of what I would put in one. I just need to actually do it.

    I do have a could suggestions to add. In regards to fire, another suggestion is to learn how to start a fire with flint and steel. I learned it this summer and it is actually quite easy to do. Flint rock comes from Ohio area and a steel striker can be purchased on line or you could commission a blacksmith in your area to make one. Here is a YouTube video on how to use it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg65rB-z66Q. Also, the "tobacco container" with the magnifying glass lid that is featured in the video is identical to the ones we use as our fire starter kits at the pioneer village. They are quite nice to have.

    Two other items I would highly suggest is a manual can opener and a really good pair of scissors for general use. Also, instead of an extra pair of jeans, a pair of sweat pants might be lighter weight and they can be cut into shorts if need be. A pair of legging tights would also be useful as a spare pair of pants that doubles as thermal underwear. They are also lightweight and can pack into a small space.

    Thank you so much for this post!

  • Andrea Q September 11, 2015

    Great list and links! A hacky sack is an awesome suggestion.

    If you keep traditional pre-packaged food and water in your car, rotate it every 4 to 6 months, because the temperature fluctuations cause it to spoil quickly.

    These backpacking stoves can be made for a couple of bucks and are very easy to transport and use:

    http://andrewskurka.com/2011/how-to-make-a-fancy-feast-alcohol-stove/

  • Heather in L.A. September 11, 2015

    Those alcohol stoves are great, we use the cans from Sam's club canned chicken. They are larger, sturdier and boil water faster. Last year my husband made several, we gave some as gifts and they were a great hit!! I would also suggest to check behind the pharmacy counter behind Sams club. They have OTC medications cheaper and you do not have to purchase large quantities. For example I found our family's allergy medication for .87.. Yep a whole bottle for less than a buck!! We usually purchase it at Walgreens and the off brand is $4 for the same size.

  • Laurie in central NC September 11, 2015

    Brandy, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to make this post. Though I do have 72 hr kits (1 in the car & 1 in the house), you have listed some great ideas, and I will be looking at my packs with a new eye. I also appreciate the helpful comments given. Excellent ideas all around, that could really make a difference.

  • Heidi Neeley September 11, 2015

    Another very affordable option for keeping cool is to make a neck cooler. They are long narrow tubes of fabric with water absorbing crystals (typically sold in the garden center) sewn into the center third of the tube. You wet the neck tie, the crystals swell and absorb water, and then you tie it around your neck like a bandana. For a few dollars you have a very nice evaporative cooler...or several (only a small amount of crystals are needed for each cooler). See the link below for sewing instructions. The other great thing about these coolers is that they use a small amount of fabric and the beads are very small when dry, so these are space savers for a 72 hour kit!

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Sew-Very-Useful-Neck-Cooler/

  • becky in central iowa September 13, 2015

    just wanted to add that they can be used over and over i like using in the garden i have used many yrs you soak in cold water i just hang then to dry and then you can pack in a small space i even wore to church when we had construction work going on and no air in bldg you will be tempted to put in more crystals longer aoak they fill that whole area thanks Heidi for bringing this up.

  • Roberta in So. Cal. September 11, 2015

    Thanks so much for compiling this very thorough list.

  • janet September 11, 2015

    Have you weighed your bags? One gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds so 3 gallons would weigh 24 pounds with nothing else in the bag and not accounting for the weight of the bag. I have thought a lot about putting together emergency bags, but I cannot see my daughters carrying such heavy bags for any distance or length of time. Do you have different weight bags based on the ages of your children?

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker September 11, 2015

    That's the problem with water. Recommended amounts are too much to carry. You can always have an extra bag/box that stays in/goes in the car that stays with your bags. This is why the water filter is good to have. You need to have some water at least.

    You have to limit it to what you can carry, so you have to choose what you think is most important to you.

    Our youngest children have smaller bags with a lot less stuff in them, but they at least have a sleeping bag, a water bottle, underwear and socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and cash, and I will be adding soap and a washcloth (it could be a hotel-sized bar of soap for weight).

    Our middle-sized children have larger bags (regular school sized backpacks, not hiking backpacks) and they can carry a bit more than that, so they have more in their kits, but they don't carry everything.

    Our two oldest have larger backpacks, but they don't carry everything, either. I don't have a first aid kit in everyone's bag, for instance (but you could always include a few bandaids in each bag as they are very lightweight). We recently bought a leatherman and a knife for Cyrus (who is 12, and taller than I am). The leatherman he was able to take with him to scout camp, and he made a leather case for his while at camp this summer. He wanted a small first aid kit to take to camp, so we made him one, though it didn't have everything listed above. He has a compass (pictured in the photo) that he has learned to use while earning his orienteering badge. The smaller children don't need to carry that, or fire-starting items, or several other things.

    You have to choose a bag and items depending on what they can carry. If you have babies, you have to carry their stuff, too, in addition to the child.

    Don't let the weight stop you from getting started! Start with something--a bag, at least a bottle of water (even if it's just a plastic bottle to get you started), a change of socks and underwear, an extra toothbrush, a bandana, etc.

    Seeing the images of refugees this week, carrying only a plastic shopping bag, or a purse, made me think about what we carry, especially if we had to leave in a hurry. Better to have a bag with some items in it if need be that you can grab in a hurry, and it's easier to carry items on your back than in your hands. This is a good time to get backpacks on clearance, so I think I would get a bag first if you don't have one.

  • Onevikinggirl September 12, 2015

    I'm concerned about the weight too but primarily the lack of knowledge for most people on how to camp and living rough. Most Americans I know have never even peed outside. In an emergeny, already stressful, a lot of unknown stuff is not the solution. Do you ever take the kits and live 72 hrs out of them? It may show what really gets used. I camp wild every year and live out of my pack for weeks. I'm 47 and I do not need most of the things on your list.

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker September 12, 2015

    Tell us what items you take with you!

  • bethany September 17, 2015

    I'd also love to know what you think are the most important things to carry!

  • Karen September 11, 2015

    Are all of the items you listed above in every backpack?

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker September 11, 2015

    No, they are not. For my family, we have 3 water filters total, for example. Small children don't need to carry a knife, for instance They have little bags and carry just a few things (including a sleeping bag and a water bottle). There are lot of great items to have in 72 hour kits--you have to decide what you think you need the most and how much you can actually carry.

  • Precious September 11, 2015

    Thanks so much Brandy for this invaluable post. I really appreciate all the time it took for you to do this. One quick question.....do you know where I can find powdered Gatorade? I have looked everywhere in my little town to no avail.

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker September 11, 2015

    I found it at Walmart! They have three flavors at my store; orange, lemon-line, and Arctic blast (not sure how that tastes but I hear it is good). It is in in the aisle with soda.

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