There are numerous sites and lists online to get you thinking about building your emergency kits. Some are pretty good. A lot are dreadful. Who actually thinks a packet of oatmeal or a stick of jerky and some hot chocolate is going to make an acceptable meal in a disaster?!?! Apparently, more than a few. I'm not talking about nutrition here. For a day or two, we can let good nutrition slide, if necessary. Calories will be most important. And there's no way you're going to get sufficient calories, in a time of stress, from a packet of oatmeal and hot chocolate.
So when you look at these lists, the most important factor to keep in mind is that you must tailor your kit to your family and location. Consider ages (infants and elderly), medical needs, location, and climate. Some items are irrelevant—do you really need coins for phone booths and vending machines? Some things just don’t apply—there's no fishing for miles and miles around, so there's no point in including fishing gear in our kits.
My husband and I have put a whole lot of kits together for our family in the last 30 years. Fortunately, we've never had to use them, other than in camping and practice drills. We have thrown a bit of gear away. And that makes us sad.
The first thing to share (not the first thing we learned, because it took us awhile) is that when building your kit you want to put absolutely everything in Ziploc bags. This keeps everything looking new and usable. Stuff that gets thrown in willy-nilly ends up looking dirty or just tired, and is much more likely to get wasted and thrown away. It's easier to keep everything organized and to update what needs updating (like clothes for growing children), to rotate foods and batteries, and to find what you need when you need it when it is well-organized and clean. We feel better, physically and mentally, when we are clean. Also, the bags will protect their contents from leaks of water, battery acids, and other liquids that are within the emergency pack, as well as water, insects, and dirt getting in from the outside. Furthermore, the bags are easily labeled so that you know when items need to be rotated. Everybody’s name is written on everything so that when something gets separated, it can go back to the right person.
- Clothing. In a gallon-size Ziploc bag, one change minimum:
- socks (pure wool to minimize potential problems with sweaty feet and/or athlete’s foot)
- medical scrubs--they're lightweight, compact, loose-fitting (adjustable for growing teens and adults who may experience changes in waistline)
- baseball cap
- reading glasses
- mini sewing repair kit (Mini Sewing Kit in a Straw)
- bandana (keeping dust and smoke out, sling, bandage, holding hair back, etc.)
- Blankets. In a gallon-size Ziploc bag:
- fleece blanket
- cheapie Mylar emergency blankets alone are not going to keep a body warm
- they tear too easily
- they suck the heat right out of you if they come in contact with your body
- they more effective if combined with a blanket, with the blanket next to the body and the Mylar on the outside
- rain poncho
- when worn over everything will provide marginal protection to the Mylar blanket to keep it from tearing
- sleeping bags
- don't fit in our backpacks
- put in kitchen garbage bag, squeeze as much air out as possible, and twist tight
- store on shelves next to emergency packs
- grab if time permits
- Tent. Our tents don’t fit in our emergency packs, but they are located right next to them in the garage to be grabbed if needed and if possible.
- Fire. The fire starter kit includes, all in a snack-size Ziploc bag:
- matches, strike anywhere (seal in plastic drinking straw to keep them waterproof--instructions here)
- tea light candles
- large birthday candles
- fire starters (we use petroleum jelly-cotton ball fire starters, in their own baggie)
- two hand warmers
- Sterno cans
- don't have to gather sticks and kindling
- they light easily
- the flame is easily controlled
- the flame is quickly extinguished
- handheld flashlight
- batteries (stored separately, in a plastic baggie, and rotated every six months)
- pepper spray
- Bottled water. Six to eight ½ liter water bottles
- six bottles for women, eight for men
- additional cases of water bottles are stored right next to our kits, ready to be loaded into our personal kits when necessary
- Filters. One personal water purifier each
- Water purification tablets
- Katadyn Micropur water purification tablets
- 100% effective against bacteria, viruses, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium
- Juice boxes. two juice boxes per person
- instant carbohydrates
- change from drinking plain water
- emergency sugar source
There are a few factors to keep in mind when planning what foods you are going to carry. On a normal day, men consume an average of 2500 calories, women 2000 calories. However, during a time of stress, such as any situation where we are packing up our emergency kits may constitute, we need up to 1000 calories more just to compensate for mental stress and moderate physical exertion. And we will need a whole lot more calories for cold temperatures or strenuous physical exertion. Without adequate calories it is hard to think and people become much more easily irritated. Believe it or not, this is not a good combination in a time of crisis.
In addition to planning for adequate calories, we want food that is ready to eat or requires only hot water, and food that is lightweight in case it has to be carried a long distance. Before packing any food in your kits, make sure you actually like it. Ready-to-eat food ideas include canned soups, pastas, beans, and meats. MREs can be eaten as is or heated (some actually have an MRE heater with them). Dried fruits, fruit rolls, jerky, nuts, crackers, peanut butter, and trail mix are all relatively lightweight and calorie-dense. Water can be boiled for hot cocoa, instant oatmeal, instant soups, freeze-dried entrees, and ramen.
In a time of stress, comfort foods are going to be really important (and provide some extra calories as well). We’ve packed hard candy, fishy crackers, gummy bears, gum, chocolate, chewy peanut butter granola bars. You should include whatever your personal comfort foods are, and especially comfort foods for small children.
- In a sandwich-sized Ziploc:
- hand sanitizer
- toothpaste/toothbrush/floss pics
- ponytail holders
- emery board/nail clippers
- lip balm
- mosquito repellent wipes
- In a quart-size Ziploc bag
- 40-count package of baby wipes (ten per day--three for a daily “shower”, seven for handwashing)
- sanitary stuff (girls)
- toilet paper
- First aid. Each person has his personalized Boo-Boo Kit.
As you build your kits, don’t forget to plan for special needs of your family members. Infants, small children, and the elderly will all have their own particular dietary and hygiene requirements. As noted previously, we have people with medical challenges in our family. One requires a special diet, so his food is entirely different from what is packed for the rest of us. My husband is a type-1 diabetic, so we have a portable solar cooler for all the insulin, not just an emergency supply. The year’s supply of insulin that we have built up is the most precious commodity in this house and one that is expensive to replace (and which insurance won’t cover), so it goes where we go. Make sure you have plans to meet your own family members’ medical needs.
96-Hour Kit, checklist only
96-Hour Kit, part 2
Katadyn Micropur Tablets
For more information:
One-page 72-hour kit checklist, bare bones
Emergency Essentials' 72-hour kit checklist, via another website
PreppersSurvive.com checklist, better
Best list, but over the top for some
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