The 72-hour kit is an excellent way to get on the road to being more prepared. It can be a helpful first step towards getting people to prepare that have been reluctant in the past.
If you live in an area where natural disasters are fairly common, it might be second nature to you to have 72 hours worth of supplies on hand at all times.
For those that are in places where they don’t have to worry about annual natural disasters, it is still a good idea to have a 72 hour kit on hand.
If you don’t, now is the time to get started. Building a 72-hour kit yourself can teach you a lot about preparedness because it makes you think about lots of different areas of your life and how an emergency situation may impact your lifestyle and level of comfort.
I think it is important to showcase some quality 72-hour kits that you can just purchase as well. That doesn’t mean it is is not a good idea to add other items to these base kits to meet your own unique needs. Most kits just don’t have everything, even if they are on the higher end.
You may also need to carry some of the supplies for another person if you have children, elderly people, or disabled individuals in your household.
Organization: A single bag for each person regardless of age or ability can be helpful. Kids can carry some items based on age and ability but parents are going to have to carry some items for them in their personal bag.
For those that want to make their own, here are the basics.
Choose your bag
A mid-sized tactical sized bag is fairly standard but that doesn’t mean that you have to use a tactical bag if you don’t want too. The advantage of a lot of the tactical bags is they are often priced moderately and they have a lot of compartments for keeping things organized. It is important that your bag be waterproof. Look for bags that have strong zippers, especially if you are the type of person that tends to overpack.
You do not have to spend a fortune on a bag. There are plenty of great bags for under $75 and plenty are under $50. I have bags that range from $50-$300 because I get sent products for review. Sure there are some great features in the $300 handmade Go Ruck I have but it is the smaller Go Ruck and I would find it challenging to pack 72 hours worth of supplies in it. It has the best back support and padded straps I have ever had on a pack which is what you would expect for that price.
However, I have some $50 L.L. Bean backpacks that offer a lot of space and are very tough. We have used the L.L. Bean bags for years and they don’t have even a tiny hole in them or any major abrasion. I also have a $50 Molle Pack from Rothco that has a ton of different compartments and it opens up all the way just in case you need to do that if traveling or just for access to items.
This is a larger pack with a ton of compartments. You could fit enough supplies for 2 people in this bag if you took some care in what you chose. It is just a basic tactical bag that has the ability to have molle pouches attached if you want even more organizational space. As you can see, it opens flat for easy access.
Another basic yet well-designed bag that would make a great choice for a 72-hour kit. Lots of pockets and plenty of places to strap gear to the outside are always important features in a good gear bag. At 35 L capacity this is a mid-sized bag so if you found the LPV bag previously mentioned to be a little large, this is a good alternative.
Remember that sometimes if you have a big bag, it is tempting to fill it up and that can mean taking on more weight than you should. Settling on a mid-sized bag and working with that space, can help prevent overloading yourself or throwing in unneeded items.
Some people have told me that they didn’t care for this bag but I have had it for over a year and used it off and on and it has performed well for me. It is a reasonable size that prevents overloading. I have added some pouches to it to hold AK-47 mags or other small gear that I want to get to fast. It opens up flat and has a lot of compartments to organize things. This is what I am using for an upcoming post where I design my own 72-hour bag from things I have on hand or have put together.
Food and Water
[checkbox check=”empty”] Add some water and a water filter that you are able to comfortably use. [/checkbox]
A water bottle with a built-in filter is a good choice for many, especially if you plan on being on the go for any length of time. I would also never want to rely on government organizations or any group to provide me with clean drinking water. With a water filter of your own, you have a lot more freedom and peace of mind.
Have a few liters of water that you can make do with. I would also add a Nalgene or other water bottle that can be attached to your bag that is filled with either water from the tap or bottled water you have poured in is a good option. That way you don’t take up room in the interior of your pack. I get a little paranoid about water and my access to it because it really is one of the most important aspects of long term survival.
While 72 hours worth is a good rule of thumb, if you have to stick to a strict diet or have food allergies, you may want to have a few extra days worth or at least a few snacks just in case. I have eaten Red Cross meals before and while they will get you by, they are not made with special diets in mind. Perhaps things have changed a bit but I would never count on that. You can make your own MREs too.
[checkbox check=”empty”] Something to entertain yourself. This could be as simple as throwing in your e-reader loaded with books or a small tablet. [/checkbox]
[checkbox check=”empty”]A method to keep small devices charged [/checkbox]
I like my Jackery 9000 mAh Battery bank. It is tough, inexpensive, and charges devices fast. It also has a built-in flashlight function. Check out my full review for more information.
[checkbox check=”empty”]Small emergency radio[/checkbox]
Kaito makes some excellent emergency radios. You will want one of the very small styles regardless of what brand you choose. Some radios can double as a battery bank to keep small devices charged but in my experience, they do not work as well for this purpose as an actual stand-alone battery bank.
[checkbox check=”empty”]Compact but good medical kit and any prescription medications you need[/checkbox]
You will need to buy a small kit and add a few things to it. I have never found a kit that is small and that needs nothing added. I always add Benadryl Liqui Gels, Advil Liqui Gels, Steri-Strips, and blood stop powder. Sometimes I throw in a suture and needle if I have one to spare.
[checkbox check=”empty”]Raingear and a change of clothing[/checkbox]
You can get by a while if you have two sets of clothes with you. In an emergency, you may want to consider having clothes that you can wash and dry fast. There are some great fabrics out there that will keep you warm and dry, are antimicrobial, and they can be washed in a small container and air dried quickly.
[checkbox check=”empty”] toothbrush and toothpaste [/checkbox]
[checkbox check=”empty”]wet wipes[/checkbox]
[checkbox check=”empty”]dry shampoo[/checkbox]
If you cannot wash your hair often or to do so would waste precious water, dry shampoo is great and a little goes a long way.
[checkbox check=”empty”]small roll of toilet paper or tissues that are flushable and useful for blowing your nose[/checkbox]
[checkbox check=”empty”]travel size unscented anti-perspirant[/checkbox]
Sure you can do without deodorant but you may be in close proximity to others and sweating more than usual. I say unscented because I can be paranoid about smells giving away cover during a major SHTF. I love perfume but not if I am trying to be evasive.
Fire and Tools
[checkbox check=”empty”]Lighter and/or waterproof matches [/checkbox]
[checkbox check=”empty”]A few pieces of something for tinder or helping to get a fire going during not so great conditions. [/checkbox]
I like to carry a Leatherman but there are plenty of other good brands out there too.
[checkbox check=”empty”]EDC Knife that you can get to fast. [/checkbox]
While I love multi-tools, they are not the best for self-defense and for when you really just need a knife. I carry a Boker Kalashnikov automatic knife. The Boker is in my pocket for easy access and the multi-tool is on my belt so for me I would not even plan on these knives being in my actual 72-hour bag unless I had to hide them due to circumstances.
The premade kits out there vary a lot in cost and completeness. Personally I think a lot of them have some useless or poor quality stuff in them. The kits below are the ones that seem to show a little more promise but that doesn’t mean you are not going to want to add some things to them.
Water pouches are my big pet peeve when it comes to 72-hour kits.
Why on earth would someone want to order and pay for little packs of water? Consider how many times that water gets shipped. Ultimately that cost is getting passed on to you. It is a better idea to just keep some pints or quarts of water on hand for an emergency and also have a small and compact water filter that can make all the difference in a long emergency.
At the same time, it is quite challenging to find a kit that is already put together that doesn’t have the water pouches. I recommend ditching them and replacing them with a water bottle with a built-in filter at the very least. You can also just make sure to have some bottle water on hand and have a filter with a squeeze bag like the Sawyer Mini. I am not saying having a quart of good water to start with is a bad idea, but I wouldn’t take up a bunch of space in my bag when I can just attach a water bottle to the outside.
This is a fairly complete kit for two people. I would add in a change of clothes and some personal items in a second bag if traveling together. You may be able to fit those in a single bag if you ditch the water pouches. Also, there is nothing in here for entertainment beyond a radio so a notebook or e-reader might be nice. I personally think that having a second backpack for the other person would be best so you could split up some items between two people.
Valley Food Storage Premium 72 Hour Kit
I love the quality of Valley Food Storage. Their food is excellent and they have a lot of options. This 72-hour kit is currently on sale and it is a steal for what you get. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that you will want to add, but at the moment, for the money, you could do a lot worse when choosing a kit to be your base.
First of all, I have to give them credit for not putting in those water pouches. On the other hand, there is no water filter or bottle and there is no fuel for the stove.
I would add the following items to this kit in addition to any personal things that are needed or desired.
- Sawyer Mini with Sqeeze Bag or Bottle With Filter like the Lifestraw Go
- Propane fuel canister
- Mess kit to prepare foods and eat them
- Ibuprofen and Benadryl Liqui Gels and Blood Stop powder or band-aids that already have blood stopper on them.
- Canned, freeze-dried, or dehydrated meat for additional protein, calories, and flavor
- Emergen-C for electrolytes
This kit made the list because it is designed for family use and comes in at a reasonable cost for a base kit. On top of it all, they have thought to include an emergency kit for your pet. That is not something I have seen as an extra in any 72-hour kit. You get two backpacks full of gear with the idea being that two adults will be carrying. Of course, if you don’t have kids, this kit will last you 6 days and a full week if you add in a few extras.
Basically this kit has everything you need except for very personal items. I would recommend replacing the food rations with something tastier as well. It is still a good base kit for a family and a dog. Here is a list of what I would add and what I would ditch.
Ditch the water pouches.
Add the following:
- Flashlights, even if they are very small ones. Every member of the family should have one.
- Better food and some comfort foods.
- Water filter. If on the move, everyone having their own bottle style filter may be best. For families and groups, I usually recommend the Hydro Blu Versa Flow with 10 L Gravity fed bag. You can easily refill bottles and not have to pump water. For a lot of short term emergencies, just a water bottle with a built-in filter for each person is likely best. Lifestraw makes some specifically with kids in mind as well as adult versions.
- Mess kit to prepare foods and eat them
- Ibuprofen and Benadryl Liqui Gels and Blood Stop powder or band-aids that already have blood stopper on them.
- Small stove for heating up meals. A simple camp stove that attaches to a propane or white gas cylinder is something to consider. Tablet stoves are just not that practical for families. Sterno stoves can work but they are slower than propane when cooking for 2-4 people.
This kit is an example of one that has some better quality gear and a bag but it is not a modestly priced bag. I just wanted to include an example of what you can expect of a bag that is designed with better gear. As you can see, you can save a lot by just putting it together yourself over time. Even this kit is lacking some things. A lot of the things I listed that I would add to the Valley Food Storage 72-Hour bag and the Emergency Zone bags I would also add to this expensive kit.
I am designing my own 72 Hour Kit at the moment.
This article has inspired me to put together my own 72-hour kit even though I am set up in a way on this mountain that I really don’t see myself needing one except in the event of a crown fire in the woods or a nuclear event. I suppose the paper mill could cause some trouble. In my next post on 72-hour kits, I will show you what I came up with and give a cost breakdown so you can see what I mean about building a kit at home for less and having better quality items in it that would be beneficial for a much longer event than 72 hours.
Additions For Infants and Young Kids
If you have a baby or toddler you are going to want to have a go-bag ready for them in an emergency. Sometimes items like diapers are really hard to come by. Here is just a basic list to get started. A lot of parents probably have all this in a diaper bag most of the time anyway but it can be nice to have a bag that is separate and well stocked in case you have to leave fast in an emergency.
- Disposal bags
- A stuffed animal or other favorite toy
- Baby specific medications
Other additional gear and possessions.
Other items can be added if you have the space. Pouches and gear can be added to the outside of a bag or strapped to your body as well but remember that regardless of how well distributed the weight is, the more you have, the more it is going to slow you down. If you are getting out via a vehicle it can be tempting to pack more than you should.
While there is nothing wrong with throwing some extra stuff in the car, be careful to not try to pack too much and wind up in a situation where you did not leave in time. In some emergencies, you may even have to abandon your car at some point and it can be much harder to make that decision if you have piled a lot of valuable stuff in it. If you are going to take a lot with you, then it is best to get out as soon as you can.
Some emergencies are more predictable than others. For example, when it was clear that it was going to flood in my hometown my Dad would simply come get me at school and he would already have everything in the car. It saved us from dealing with a lot more danger than necessary.