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 5ยบ 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 (113ยบ F/45ยบC) 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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75 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 !!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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/

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. I would add that a pair of binoculars would be much needed and although I am not a hunter or weapon owner I sometimes wonder ( only for an emergency pack) but I realize that is a very controversial issue.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. This is a great post. My family lost our home in a tornado a few months ago. I am so thankful that I had a folder with all of our personal documents prepared and was able to grab it just before we went into our basement. We were only able to grab that folder, two flashlights and our cell phones before the tornado hit. I strongly encourage people to have emergency supplies. I also agree that at a minimum, a clean pair of underwear and socks should be in your packs. After being rescued from our basement which had collapsed on us, we were so dirty, and I just wanted clean clothing.

  13. I would also add a couple of chemical glow sticks and chemical ice and heat packs. I realize not everyone will be on board with those but they can be helpful if your batteries run out/chargers quit working (in the case of glow sticks) and if you have a sprain or strain or really cold weather (I live in MN in the use and winters routinely have weeks with temperatures well below zero degrees Fahrenheit).

    Great list Brandy! We need to update our packs so this was great timing!
    Lea

  14. 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.

  15. Great post, Brandy. Thanks for the time and effort you put into it. I keep quite a bit in my car including MREs that I purchased at Costco. For food, I’ve also included Carnation Instant Breakfast. I like the taste and it would make instant milk drinkable for me. I store the food in a repurposed cooler.

    In the house, I have a grab and go bag for documents and keep it under the shelf where I keep my keys and wallet. In my bedside table, I keep a flashlight and an extra dog leash and collar. In the middle of the night and dark, I want to know exactly where those are so both my dog and I can leave safely.
    Even with all I’ve done, you’ve given me some great things to add. My first aid kit is the first to be updated.

    I would add fishing line to your list. It is very lightweight and strong and has many uses besides fishing. For the weight, I would personally chose fishing line over paracord. I would also add a small trowel at a minimum or small folding shovel in case it was needed to dig a latrine for sanitation.

    A friend bought a wheeled garbage can to use for their kit. Although that would be too much weight for me to manage, I might consider a very small wheeled suitcase. I guess it’s all a matter of what I’m trying to prepare for – am I leaving with 5 minutes notice or am I trying to live here in my apartment with no services for a week or two?

  16. As I sit here reading this wonderful post, I have the national news on the tv. There is a man rushing to load a few things in his truck saying he has to grab his mother’s medicine because of a rapidly approaching wildfire. I, myself, have lost everything a couple of times because of flooding before I was even 18. My aunt, cousin and his son wound up living with me for a couple of months after Hurricane Katrina. My aunt had ALL of her important papers with her when she arrived here. She was able to start the insurance claim process long before most people. And I do NOT have 72 hour bags!!!!! Thank you Brandy for this extraordinary post. I start tonight!

  17. Brandy, this post, on the heels of several other of your recent posts, has finally brought me out of lurkdom because I just have to speak up to say: Thank You! My favorite part is your links and helpful discussion of each supply category. My 19-year-old son and I just shared reading One Second After from the library, which was very thought-provoking, and which has fanned the flames of our determination to get better prepared. So our family will be studying and using this information.

    Years (decades) ago, I went through a week-long wilderness program, and one of the things the instructors taught us was to never throw away a twist-tie. To this day, I never do! I also collect rubber bands and paper clip, because these are such useful items to improvise with. The newer version of twist-ties and rubberbands are of course zip-ties and bungie cords! And I think these are must-haves for everyday and emergency use. Get a good assortment of zip-ties and a couple of small bungie cords, and you can bind/attach/connect/secure just about anything — especially if you also include the duct tape from your list!

    One more thing — your comment was so poignant about how seeing the refugees now in the news made you “think about what we carry.” Yes. It reminded me of another book I shared reading with my son (for one of his college English courses, then I borrowed it) actually titled The Things They Carried. It’s a heartbreaking, shocking book about survival — spiritual survival of soldiers living through war’s horror — and it begins with page after page listing and exploring the meaning of what each soldier chose to carry with him day after day. It really does make you think…

  18. A very interesting article and very thorough. I, being 72 years old, have questions about the elderly, although I do not normally think of myself in those terms. I do regularly take several medications, and while it may be possible to have a 72 hour supply, it’s not possible to go much further than that. My insurance won’t refill a prescription more than 1 week before I run out, and if you need any controlled drugs, they often won’t fill them until a day or two before those run out. Also, many would be very limited in physical exertions. My yoga class has recently gone from 1 day a week to 2 days. My effective amount of time for staying on my feet is about an hour due to arthritis and a back problem. A short sit down and I’m good to go again, but getting around is certainly a consideration. I have friends about my age who range from very energetic and able to work quite hard, to almost totally disabled and dependent on canes or walkers for various reasons. I know you speak of your parents often and I assume they are in your general area. Have you made any emergency plans to meet or communicate in an emergency? My only surviving child is 2 miles from me and her husband is 100% disabled with back pain and nerve damage. We ARE the older generation–no living parents. But my only grandchild is 30-35 miles away in the city and would need moral support and communication if unable to travel this far. She’s self sufficient with electronics and cell phones and coffee shops but is not the camping and cooking outdoors type.

    Just wondering if you have given thought to any of these areas? My husband and I have camped extensively when we were younger, so I don’t have a problem getting along in the out of doors except for extremes of temperature and wind, which we have often here. We have some experience with snowstorm emergencies and lack of heat and power, but only for limited times–36 hours has been the longest I can remember. You have certainly given us plenty of food for thought today. Thank you.

  19. Marcia,

    You make some great points. I can’t answer the prescription medication one because I don’t take anything, but others have in the past; hopefully someone will on here.

    I don’t have a plan yet but I should; that is a good idea. My parents actually live next door and they work from home. My grandmother lives within walking distance (for us, not her; she has a walker and can’t go far). My father-in-law lives with my sister-in-law and within walking distance of another sister-in-law, so they are close for emergencies.

    There is a big age difference; I am the eldest child and was born when my parents were 21; they are 61 this year. My husband is the youngest of 6 and is 13 years older than I am, so his father is the same age as my grandmother (they were born the same year). My parents have been walking each morning to be more physically able to walk.

    My husband is 52 and we have been walking lately, with the plan to hopefully lose weight but also to keep him actively moving.

    We gave my parents shake-up flashlights several years ago as Christmas gifts. I know some people like to give items for 72-hour kits as gifts; even a small kit to a college-aged grandchild could be useful in an emergency–something she could keep in her dorm room/apartment and throw in her backpack if need be.

    Having extra gas on hand so that you can drive out if a place is being evacuated is good (no waiting for gas like during hurricane evacuations). Needing to walk is going to be difficult on the elderly. If you have a kit in your car, you will at least have some food, water, and a blanket and you may be able to sleep in your car.

    A couple of things you may want to consider: Buy a nice, thick camping pad to go under a sleeping bag. They are expensive–$80 to $100, depending on width–but very helpful. They are 3 to 4 inches thick, and very helpful to older bodies who have trouble sleeping on the ground.

    Also, get a garden cart of some kind (they have folding lightweight aluminum ones) and put your items in that. You can hold the handle to push it and you can put your items in there, since it would be had to carry things as you get older. My husband bought a used one recently and extended the handles so that it can be used as a handcart and pulled. If you had a child or your granddaughter with you, you could also use it to pull a person as well. We tested it–even my 3-year-old was able to pull grandpa around the yard without a problem, so for someone who can’t walk, this is an option as well, to help that person. Of course in a couple one of you would have to be able to be up and walking, but it would certainly be helpful in reducing the weight off your back for your kit or helping a disabled person if need be. Because the cart folds it could go in the trunk of a car as well.

  20. I like Brandy’s idea of using a folding garden cart. However, what came to my mind when I read your walking dilemma, Marcia, is to consider purchasing a used walker with a seat and, if possible, a basket attached. This way you could place your bag on the seat while you are walking, but you can move the bag and sit down on the seat as needed to rest. I know you normally don’t need a walker, but it might be helpful if you had to walk long distances.

    Unfortunately a 72 hr bag won’t solve every problem in every emergency. It is only meant to help you out, so you can make it through the initial 3 days after the emergency, until help can arrive. There are too many variable with the potential of different emergencies, making it impossible to pack a perfect 72 hr bag. Just do your best to consider what could happen and prepare something to help you through it the best you can. Think of the basic necessities for survival: food, water, and protection from the elements. No matter what you do, it will still be chaos when it happens, so be prepared to adapt and improvise your way through whatever the situation that may arise.

  21. One quick tip about washing wool blankets – I add a cap of hair conditioner to the wash and it greatly softens the wool. Sheep’s wool and human hair are similar enough in composition. I’ve done this for 20+ years and no negative impact on our wool blankets.

    Having grown up on the water, wool keeps you warm even when the wool is wet. Blue jeans on the other hand suck the heat out of your body when they are wet.

    Plastic film cannisters are great for keeping items dry like matches or spices.

    I echo the thank yous Brandy for taking so much time to put together this incredible post.

  22. Can you recommend a USB charger for AA and AAA batteries that would connect to the power bank? All of our chargers are regular AC.

  23. Marcia and Brandy, this is what I do for prescriptions. I have an extra 3 months of mine. I am the only one in the family who takes any prescribed medicines. I bought a 3 months supply of all my meds and paid cash. I explained to my doctor what and why, he documented in chart and had me sign. Now, none of my Rx are controlled so not sure how one would deal with that factor.

    When I pick up the newest refills those go into storage to keep the packed meds from expiring. By the way I started doing this back when everyone was worried about y2k
    happening. Occasionally over the years the rheumatologist might want to make changes but it is not so urgent that must change immediately, so I have a chance to use up what I have and start then.

  24. 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.

  25. I would add face masks, especially if you have anyone in your family with asthma and allergies that is prone to bronchitis and would be susceptible if you were housed with a large group of people or to the cold winter air or camp smoke. I get mine 20 or 10 for a dollar at the Dollar Tree, the kind that have elastic that go around your ears not the back of your head.

    Thanks for the post Brandy!

  26. So if I were to buy the harbor freight Ines would washing them lessen the stuffness? I was going to buy off the website cause they were 7.25 each but shipping to California was the same price as buying then I needed… yikes! Buy we have a harbor freight here in town. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. Katy, I am sorry you had to lose your home in that tornado. I’m glad you were all safe. Are you rebuilding?
    Tornadoes are a problem here…that is the disaster we most worry about.

  28. Thank you for this list. I’m curious on how to address this issue (if it’s in here somewhere. I’m sorry I overlooked it), how do you have space in a backpack for a sleeping bag, blanket & tarp in addition to everything else? I know families with several people could divide up some items, but household made of empty nesters or single people , what are suggestions for them? After reading this post, I looked at some other posts on 72 hour kits. Some people mentioned that the backpacks could weigh as much as 50 lbs. I realize it depends on type of emergency. If you are simply without power in your home for several days due to ice and snow, that is a lot different from literally being driven from your home by some emergency evacuation. In some cases it might not be possible to leave by car. I’m just curious on other peoples’ thoughts who aren’t currently die-hard survivalists. Thanks for all the tips, and I’m not disagreeing with anything you said, I’m just thinking how to pack everything to be able to physically survive carrying it. Thanks in advance for anyones insight.

  29. What a wonderfully detailed and thorough list! Thank you for posting it! I live in “earthquake country” (California) and I have some of these items, but not all.

  30. Weight is a very real concern, so each person has to decide what items they think are most important for them, and see how much they can reasonably carry.

    There are different products out there. There are lightweight tarp/ponchos that you can wear as a poncho but that can also work as a tarp. Not everyone carries a tarp, or a blanket. It depends on what you decide. Some people carry a sleeping bag or a blanket, but not both.

    Some people choose to keep extra items in their car, such as blankets and water. Do remember that your pack is going to start heavier than it stays; you’ll drink the water (one of the heaviest items) and eat the food, so it will get lighter as you go.

    As you choose each item, look at weight and decide what you think will be best for you. Rather than carrying a mess kit, for example, you may decide to purchase a stainless steel water bottle that has a cup on bottom that can be used for cooking. You may also decided to leave out a mess kit altogether.

    A single person will obviously not need as heavy of a first aid kit as a family would need to carry, so that is a help as well.

  31. I don’t know how much softer they will get, but they should get a bit softer. I would check them out at the store and see if you like them. Yes, the others are $14 shipped (which is why I mentioned the shipping price as part of the whole) but many wool blankets are over $100, so still a great deal :). My husband saw the Harbor Freight ones after we bought the others and the price was definitely worth mentioning.

  32. Thanks Brandy for this post. We have most if the items and I have had very good success this year with getting more 100% wool blankets. I didn’t realize how expenive they have become! Ironically my Dad is a sheep farmer and sells wool. Now new pure wool blankets here are $300 or so. And more! I started looking in op shops (thrift stores) and knowing their value I still watch for them. I have purchased some for $4 and $5 each. I will only buy them with a label to prove they’re all wool. Some I have seen I think might be wool but am not sure so I leave them.
    We live in a bushfire area. We are told if in a car and a fire goes through to wrap yourself in a wool balmket. To always keep one per person in the bar.mand this is what started me in buying wool blankets. Many are quite old but in good condition.minwash them in wool mix with eucalyptus oil in the water. Then add fabric softener. This makes them much softer and smell lovely. Then I line dry them in the sun. They are lovely then. I have some in my car at all times. (When I say here I mean Australia) wool blankets are worth collecting. They are getting rarer and more expensive all the time. Many thanks. xxx

  33. A tornado also hit our town this summer, but our house was undamaged. Our fire department had a couple of good suggestions. First, make sure everyone is wearing shoes when they go to the basement or keep extras down there. You may be climbing out through debris. I’m keeping shoes down there for everyone in case the tornado warning comes at night when no one is wearing shoes. Second, take your car keys with you to the basement. They said sometimes a house will be damaged by a tornado but the vehicles may be fine. But you’ll never find the keys in the debris! We keep a weather radio (with battery backup) on standby all the time. It comes on if there are any alerts for our area. Our cell phones also alert us to tornado warnings.

  34. Margie,

    Thanks for sharing! Those are some great ideas that I had not thought about. (Growing up in California, we were taught in school to keep shoes under our beds for earthquake preparedness). I had not thought about car keys!

    There are also wind up radio/flashlight combinations that don’t take batteries that would be great to keep on hand; if someone doesn’t already have a radio, I would consider one of those.

  35. Brandy, thank you for the fantastic list. I definitely see some things I need to add to my 72 hour bag. If I may, I’d like to mention my “other” 72 hour bag.

    I live in a beautiful area that has evacuations every few years because of river flooding. The safe zone is only a few miles away. I go to a local motel. I keep a bag ready just for that. It has things in it I’d need if I can’t get home for a while. It has copies of important documents and pictures, several days of clothing, extra makeup, checkbook, emergency credit card, solar cell phone charger, a few paperbacks, and a cross stitch kit. This isn’t THE emergency bag, but has been so helpful.

    I thought I’d mention this for your readers who live in a flood area and who might not have thought of it.

  36. 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.

  37. Just a few notes:
    Don’t just make up a pack – learn the skills necessary to actually use what is in the pack. Starting a fire is not as easy as it seems when all you have is flint and wet tinder!
    If you don’t know how to fish, hunt or trap – you are going to be mighty hungry when the food in your pack runs out. Learn how now, before you are in a long term emergency situation. And once you catch it, you need to know how to butcher/process and cook it safely.
    Don’t forget your animals! I just read about a family in Cali? that could only grab their essentials and their 4 dogs and only had time to open the pens doors for their rabbits, chickens and goats and had to abandon them ๐Ÿ™ In a wildfire situation, you will be lucky if you get 5 minutes – keep a close eye on where the fires are and be prepared – load animals up and get out before it becomes such a panicked dash! Tornadoes don’t give you any warning – there is not much you can do for outside animals in that situation but be prepared to be w/o power or water for long periods of time and give thought to how you would provide for not only yourselves but your 4-legged critters as well. Hurricanes you do get warnings for – leave if you can and if you can’t get the animals up to high ground and as safe as you can make them – again – be prepared to be w/o power and water. Earthquakes are w/o warning – and again, think thru how you will deal with no power or water.
    Our dogs have their own BOB and I will be making a “saddle” pack for our dane to carry their supplies (Due to his size, it is way to costly to buy one pre-made!). I have freeze dried dog food (Honest Kitchen base mix – just add protein and water) as well as a roll of Natural Balance food. The roll will be the protein to mix in with the base mix. By the time it runs out, hopefully we will have a better plan in place for long term. I am working on getting one together for the cats. Hopefully we won’t have to ever bug out, but I do have cages to get ALL the animals out including the chickens, ducks and rabbits if we have enough warning. Garage sales and Craigslist free ads are where most of my bug out cages/crates came from.
    and finally ROTATE the food and medical supplies!! We chose January 1st and July 4th as our date to check the bags for expiration dates and replenish what is about to expire. Since the items in our packs are ones we regularly use anyways, we can just put the about to expire items into use in the house and replenish the items from the pantry.

    And just a side note – Check out “meals in a jar” for ideas on making your own freeze dried meats and dried veggies back packing meals. You can even dry your own cooked rice and pasta so that they can be rehydrated with just boiling water and won’t take so long to cook. Don’t forget seasonings – they can help with morale – Mine are packed in the bead storage containers that screw one into the next (picked them up at Joannes with a 50% off coupon) but I have also seen them pack in the weekly pill organizers.

  38. My controlled med is taken on a “as needed” basis. I try not to use it and have built up a three month supply this way.
    My other med, I began taking one daily dose out. Then when I refilled, I took another daily dose out and so on. Each time it is refilled I count out how many pills I have “saved up” and switch them out so that I never having old meds in the “for emergency” bottle. (That maybe as clear as mud – but I can’t think of a better way to say what I did). I am slowly working towards a one month supply at this point. I cannot just stop taking it due to what might happen (seizures) but I will be able to wean myself off slowly if things are going to be bad for a long time.
    My husband on the other hand is diabetic and on a whole pharmacy of drugs – he will be in trouble without his and at this point, he has not been able to convince the doc he needs a 3 month supply.

  39. Our sleeping bags are not actually IN the pack but attached with Velcro straps to the bottom of the outside of the bags. We do not yet have the extra blankets but they will fit there as well. Our packs were bought at a gun and knife show and are something like a military pack with LOTS of straps and loops to carry things on the outside and multiple zippered “pouches”. Only one of us carries the mess kit/stove. Yes, the packs are VERY heavy but as Brandy mentions, it will get lighter as you eat the food and drink the water. And if you carry a gun – the pack will be even heavier due to the weight of ammo. I choose to carry a knife, bow/arrows and a fishing rod on mine instead. I do have a gun, and know how to use it but it would be very heavy to have to carry it any distance. If we bug out in a vehicle, that would change whether I chose to bring it with.

  40. We keep our bags in our vehicles. Ours are a combo of the 72-hour kit and a “get home bag.” We both work outside the home, and I remember 9/11 and all the people who had to walk out of lower Manhattan. I keep a pair of old running shoes (my husband keeps strong heavy desert boots) & a couple of thin, easily packable extra clothing layers in mine (leggings, a thermal top). I also suggest a filtration mask (again remembering 9/11) in case you are evacuating through wildfires, building collapse, or something similar. Even an inexpensive paper one is better than nothing. If you store your bags in your vehicle, as we do, I strongly, strongly suggest the “lifeboat ration” bars – like the SOS emergency bar Brandy has posted. They can withstand a wide range of temperature fluctuations and have a 5-year shelf life.

  41. Regarding weight – I mentioned in my other response that ours are a combo of a 72-hour kit and a ‘get home bag.’ We do not carry sleeping bags or wool blankets in ours. Bear in mind, we are 2 adults with no children, though, so we can get by with less creature comforts. We also live in a typically hot climate. I think this is one that has to vary based on your situation. We each have 2 compactly-folded survival “space blankets” and a couple of the small plastic rain ponchos. These items are very cheap at most stores in the camping section. It wouldn’t be the most comfortable thing, but it’s a huge space/weight saver, and would be “do-able” for us for a couple of days. You can wrap yourself in it or make a quick lean-to.

    I also suggest checking to see if you have a military surplus store in your area. They will have MREs and wool blankets much cheaper than most retailers.

    For the first aid kit, applicator-less tampons are a great addition. They work well as a compressed bandage and for things like bloody noses (or emergency feminine hygiene situations).

  42. I also save the safety pins my drycleaner uses to attach tags to clothes. They are very handy in a first-aid kit or to help hold a blanket or shelter closed in an emergency.

  43. Love THIS. I have most of these items but not all in one place. We did at one time and then somehow they were disassembled. I have one larger rolling soft side suitcase. Neither of us is able to carry much of a backpack so we would use the rolling type. One item I retrieved from the ‘going to the donation box’ was a foldable cane that was needed a few years ago. It can be used as a walking stick even if not needed as a cane.

    For important papers for four legged family – keep your vaccination info along with the ‘chip’ info (we have all of our animals chipped – did that after Katrina when so many people’s pets were lost and couldn’t be reunited as they were shipped to other states.

    One thing I remember from a few years ago watching a ‘what if’ type documentary is the need to make sure your vaccinations are current. I know this is controversial but we’ve chosen to be vaccinated. We tend to forget as adults about the need for tetanus shots. They are good for 10 years but most of us forget to get them after awhile (especially if you aren’t required to have them for a job or live where it isn’t usually an issue). We keep them current due to living on a farm where there are lots of ways to get cut or scraped by something.

  44. My Target and Walmart carry it. If you have a Target, check the “$1 spot” area. They usually have the individual packets, the kind that go into 1 bottle of water. Those are small & easy to carry. I have also seen those at Dollar Tree and even in my grocery stores near the regular bottled Gatorade.

  45. Face masks are a good idea. I that makes me think of adding some waterproof gloves, vinyl or latex for example. During a clean up there might be times you have to get into some dirty situations. There might be times you might need to clean wounds also.

  46. 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.

  47. Hi Brandy and thank you for taking the time out of your hugely busy days to post this for us all.

    Like the idea of the personal little towels and didn’t realise you could buy these until I read your post. My husband has massive injuries from a military accident and due to his high pain levels he perspires much more than the normal person. So I will be getting some of these both for our kits and for everyday use as well.

    One thing I would put in the 72 hr kits is a printed emergency plan including alternative places for meeting outside of the home should a child get lost in a crisis. That way if a child is stressed, young and worried they only need refer to the printed instruction sheets in their bags and go to the designated spot that the whole family would know about. They should also be instructed to if no-one turns up in a certain period of time to find police officers or emergency workers for help too. Practicing these designated spots regularly would get the children used to the alternative meeting spots too.

    Just my thoughts as until recently I served as a nursery leader and know how quickly young children can get worried :).

    This could also have a dual purpose in everyday life and if children get lost while shopping or on errands as well.

  48. Hi Marcia and I have a husband who was in a military accident, in which he broke his back, has misaligned hips that pop out of place when he walks, sustained 146 fractures, and received burns to most of his body and has the body of an 80 yr old in a 46 yr old body. He has no feeling or nerve reactions in his legs from the hips down, a fact that his military orthopaedic surgeon just looks at me and mouths the words how is he walking, to which I reply stubborn as the day is long :), but love him the way he is.

    He has very limited walking capacity such as yourself and has rheumatoid arthritis right through his body, so yes we both have experience with this situation. May I recommend a few ideas I have, a battery powered garden cart with an emergency solar charger if you can get one for it & or spare charged batteries on stock, or an ordinary one which would be lightweight to carry all of your items in. Another option is a battery operated wheelchair, carry spare charged batteries, see if it comes with a solar charger option too, which also have baskets you can attach to them, and some have the an option for adding attachments for bags and things too. A three wheeled pushbike with motor with a trailer, that has the mountain bike size wheels, you can also get covers made for these that have solar panels over the pushbike and trailer, and can have a battery pack which sits under the trailer. Another left of field option is a golf chair, you can get them from most golf professional golf stores, they have a handle at the top, small storage bag underneath and a spike on the bottom, which can double as a walking stick and a chair for you as well. Also consider a battery powered golf cart.

    For my husband and myself these are purely the options we have chosen as we don’t have earthquakes, tornadoes and things in our area but have risks of flooding to block our access out of our small country town.

    We have chosen the bug in the house option for us. If in an emergency situation we can bug out to friends homes, who own farms nearby with our car and trailer. May I suggest that you inquire with friends around you should an emergency occur, that you may be able to stay with them and visa versa.

    Here is what we have in the house to bug in the home with in an emergency situation & supplies –
    – enough water in collapsible rain water tanks at the side of the house & bottled water to last the 12 months should town water be cut.
    – a solar heated camp shower.
    – flint fire starters and waterproof matches.
    – a wood fire in the lounge room we can cook in & heat water on if necessary.
    – a butane canister powered camp stove to cook on.
    – a bbq and 2 backup gas cylinders to cook on.
    – enough cut & split wood we have cut to last 12mths ahead.
    – 6 months emergency pantry food supplies ( all we can fit in a small workers cottage) that we rent.
    – a 200 sq M vegetable and herb garden growing for additional food besides pantry stocks.
    – extra supplies of thermal underwear & warm clothing for winter as it gets below 0oC here and sometimes down to -7oC.
    – a walking stick, battery powered wheelchair always charged up, for my husband to put in trailer for bug out.
    – a substantial medical kit including stitching items and injectable pain meds. ( we have a doctor friend who gives us the out of date pain meds from his kit that he can no longer use and has to write off from his medical bag). The only reason he supplies these to us is that I am an ex nurse and my husband has past training in military field & battle medical as well. For everyone’s information most meds will last for up to 5 – 7 yrs after the expiry dates as long as the packaging is intact, on injectable pain meds the bottle rubber silicone seals are not deteriorated etc. They will loose their effectiveness gradually after the use by dates though so swap them out with new stocks regularly.

    I hope this has given you some alternative views on how to prepare for emergencies in your home based on mobility, injury and medical limitations as well.

  49. A good time to do this is when you change time…just like changing your smoke detector batteries-change out the perishable supplies in your 72-Kits!

  50. My son and I backpacked with the scouts and I found that a backpack that fits well, and that has a waist strap enables me to carry much more weight comfortably for long distances over rough terrain. So fill your bag, strap it on and walk until you can’t go another step. Then you will be ready to repackage your bag or start saving for one that fits better.
    My son and I (he is now a college student) keep our bags packed. My husband just fills his car with everything he might ever need, but I have a backpack for him stashed.
    Great article!

  51. Brandi – thank you so so much for this post. We’ve always had *some* of what we needed in case of emergency (that would require us to leave our home) *sort of* together. This post was a kick in the pants for me to really research more, consider what our needs could/would really be, search for the best versions of the items we didn’t have, and put it all into backpacks for our main vehicle. I feel lucky that we live in an area where backpacking and camping are easily available to us – so we have a lot of gear on hand already that we can put in our kits that people who stay in large cities might be less likely to own. Unfortunately, we live in an area where it can get into the 100’s in the summer months during the days, and into the lowest double digits depending how high up you go during summer nights – not to mention that we can field cold weather and snow about half of the year! This means we need a wider range of items in our kits that we’ll only be able to rotate out *some* (not much) of seasonally. If anyone is reading this post – and subsequently my comment (which is being submitted much later than the post was published) – and feels overwhelmed, I just want to further encourage you to start with what you have. We each have smaller backpacks from college, as well as an extra we came by for free, that I feel comfortable having in the car (if we truly had to leave on foot and had time we would quickly change out to our better-fitted (larger) backpacking packs). I got a smaller child-size pack for our 4 year old from the second hand store for very little. By moving duplicates of water bottles, toothbrushes & small pastes, floss/ers, washcloths, small soap bars, lighters, long underwear, socks and the next size up in some clothing for the boys, cardstock and printer paper stapled into booklets for coloring/writing, permanent markers, I was able to fill a lot of the needs for these packs without extra purchases. Other things I put into these kits were from our camping gear that we use only in the summer months (I will move it back over to our (car) camping bins when each trip comes): handkerchiefs, silver wear, headlamps, compasses, whistles, magnifying glasses, etc. Things I did purchase (that I’ve had for a while or recently bought) include a child-size thick rain poncho, the cooling towels and frog spears Brandi mentioned, a set of Sawyer filters, travel stoves (check out REI for these tiny lightweight simple stoves for about $4!) and fuel pellets for them, emergency mylar blankets, convertible pants for 3 of the 4 of us (boys got sizes larger than they are now), plastic bags you roll to get the air out to help on bulk with clothing (verdict is out on these, but they are thick and will keep clothes dry too), and food, some to be ready to eat, some that can be easily cooked. I know lots of people don’t like to have clutter in their homes, so when things come their way they already have, they donate them. I would strongly suggest keeping some of those extras! The pencils and sharpeners we have, a few handkerchiefs, magnifying glasses, toothbrushes & pastes, floss, small novelty toys for the kids (mini Rubix cube, cloth frisbee, mini Lego pack, ball/maze game), playing cards, water bottles, hats and hard candy are just a few of the things in our kits that were ‘giveaways’ from one place or another. I’m kicking myself now over a handkerchief and ballcap we were given but I didn’t keep when our oldest was younger. Those would have saved me a few dollars and fit the bill for our kits just fine. By following some ‘deal blogs’ I was able to get our waterproof matches, folding scissors, colored pencils and baby wipes for free or close to it! One last tip — at some point I think everyone who goes the route of using what they already have on hand will find themselves trying to figure out how to drop weight in your kit without sacrificing what you have packed. Google “ultra-light backpacking.” Obviously, a lot of what you will find will be geared towards childless adults in warm weather, but there are still some really great ideas out there!

  52. I just read a post on fb from a counselor and she was saying how at the shelters they are desperate for underwear and menstrual sanitary supplies. I know in my kit I have one extra pair packed, I think I need to make some adjustments.
    Blessings,
    Gayle

  53. Wonderful and thorough post Brandy, thank you. I come back to this post a couple of times a year just to remind myself, and do an inventory of supplies.

    One tiny thing I’d like to mention: you said you got Superglue instead of Dermabond because of price. Dermabond is intended for use on the body, and has medical grade/approved ingredients. Superglue does not., which is why it is cheaper. If I needed to suture a deep cut, I would be hesitant to use something that may contain harmful ingredients.

  54. Brandy, this is a great thread. I haven’t read all of the comments, so some of this may be covered.

    I’ve been working on the 72 hour kits. I bought the sleeping bags (we needed them, anyway) and one water purifier for 3 people. I may need to buy several more things, but I’m focusing right now on what we already have. I have a wind-up radio with light. We have rain ponchos. Forgot to mention, these are on my wish list: https://www.amazon.com/EverBrite-Headlamp-Flashlight-Running-Camping/dp/B01CTX7BX4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1506010450&sr=8-3&keywords=headlamps. They are handier if you are carrying other things and can be worn with the light on or off…thus lightening the load. We already use LED headlamps when we have to walk the dogs in the dark.

    I also made my own first aid kit. I had a red Cordura case that I’d gotten free a couple of years ago from Walgreens, and I stocked it with gauze, tape, etc.–my husband is an amputee and frequently rubs sores on his stump, so we have a lot of supplies. I emptied the contents of a freebie travel first aid kit into the red bag for the bandaids and packaged meds. I found a pair of surgical scissors in my husband’s stash. About all I need to do now is make a 40 inch cloth bandage and rustle up some alcohol wipes.

    I have a couple of ideas that I don’t believe I’ve seen in the articles I’ve read. Since an emergency can be caused by a car wreck, an auto emergency tool–a gizmo that cuts seatbelts and will break window glass–seems like a no-brainer. I bought a set of two for around $10 and we will keep one in each vehicle. Also, while cell towers may be down in an emergency, you may have service, depending on where you are. A solar cell phone charger would be invaluable. They can be strapped to the back of a backpack. (I have to check and see if my wind-up radio has a cell phone charger).

    Brandy, I realize you are building your kits for any emergency. We are in our early 70s. I have assessed our probable risks and they are a prolonged power outage after an ice storm and having a wreck or getting stranded in the middle of nowhere in winter.

    Ice storms normally occur about every 10 years here, and we haven’t had one since ’96–we are waaaaay overdue. We would be sheltering in place without electricity and possibly without water for up to 2-3 weeks. I have a gas range and the burners (but not the oven) can be lit with a match. We also have a gas fireplace, although the blower wouldn’t work. We would want to close off the room in order to keep warm. People with electric stoves would be wise to have a camp stove. I’ve never had much luck with the traditional Coleman stove, but propane camp stoves are dandy. So are propane lanterns. When I sold our camping equipment last year, I kept those out. I’d lend the stove to anyone that needed it.

    As for a car wreck in winter, our son lives in Jackson Hole, WY, and we go there every Christmas (since he has to work). We travel through 575 miles of northern Idaho, SW Montana, eastern Idaho and western Wyoming…I think that speaks for itself. Our 72 hour kits will be accompanying us this year.

    We are in the process of selling our home and building another. We MAY have gravity-fed water at the new house (some parts of Coeur d’Alene do)…here, when the electricity goes out, the pump goes down and there is no water. Besides my gallon jugs, I’d also fill the bathtub with cold water at the start and be prepared to drain my water heater.

    One last thing: know how to use what you’ve got. If you’re going to make a shelter from a tarp, watch a You Tube and make one in your own backyard first. Change out clothing (winter to summer, changes in size, etc.) about every 6 months, as well as OTC drugs that may go out of date. In an emergency, I wouldn’t hesitate to use outdated drugs. They don’t go bad, but they might lose some potency. Still, much better than nothing.

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