When you’re preparing for the worst-case scenario—natural disaster or otherwise—it’s all about having the right supplies. Maybe you’ve already packed your bug-out bag, have kits stashed in the car and the house, and you’re ready to roll if and when the time comes.
But if you haven’t checked your kits in a few months (or since last year), dig them out and make sure you have the basics covered in each one. You’ll want to rotate food and test fire starters and batteries on a regular basis anyway because your kit won’t do you any good if the items aren’t working properly when you need them. Consider checking your bag seasonally to make sure the items are appropriate for the weather. A spare wool hat and gloves would only take up precious space in your bag in the middle of August.
Some people keep multiple bags tailored to different locations. For example, the bag you keep in your car may need things like road flares or tools that your home survival kit would not. If you live in a rural area, your survival bag will look a little different than someone who lives in a city due to the distance you would need to travel to reach help.
Here is our list of the basic components all survival kits should contain, so check this list against your own to make sure you have everything you need at your fingertips in an emergency situation. If you’re building your first kit, this list is a good place to start and you can add on from here.
Don’t skimp here—your survival kit should be stored in a durable, high-quality, comfortable pack. Avoid duffel bags or suitcases, in case you need to carry the bag for extended periods of time. If your kids have gotten older since you last built your kit—or you’ve added a new member to your family—make sure you have a pack for everyone.
Your survival kit should contain at least one gallon of water per person, per day, in durable bottles. Remember that some plastics degrade over time, ruining the water inside, so make sure what you’re storing is designed to last. Don’t forget at least one form of water treatment, as water conditions can be uncertain. The last thing you want is to get sick during a disaster scenario. We recommend a pump filter like the Hiker Pro from Katadyn. If you go with UV or micron filters, bring a backup like AquaMira or iodine drops.
You should have enough food to comfortably eat for three days, and include a variety of lightweight, nutritious, calorie-dense options. Freeze-dried meals, high-calorie energy bars, and MREs are a good place to start building out your food supply. You’ll probably be working hard or under stress, and your body needs adequate fuel to stay focused and strong. Between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day is a safe bet for adults.
Make sure you have updated copies of your bank account information, IDs, insurance information, and medical forms, including prescriptions. A list of important names, locations, and phone numbers should be here as well. Stash these items in a waterproof pouch and make copies for all members of the family.
Start with several (labeled) doses of over-the-counter pills for pain relief, allergies, and anti-nausea. Add in spare doses of daily medications for individual family members, and don’t forget an inhaler if someone suffers from asthma.
This supply kit should also include basic first aid supplies—a store-bought set will work fine. These typically include burn cream, bandages, antiseptic wipes, and a splint. If you use any items on a practice run, replace it as soon as possible. For a truly professional setup, we recommend Adventure Medical Kits full range of solutions.
A headlamp with extra batteries is key. Avoid rechargeable lights, as you don’t know what the electricity situation will be. A sturdy multitool with a screwdriver, several folding blades, pliers, tweezers, and scissors should be stored in an easy-to-reach pocket, along with a fire starter in a sealed, waterproof container. The fire starter should include two lighters, magnesium, waterproof matches, and tinder.
A pencil and several sheets of paper will be handy to write down information. Wrap a few feet of duct tape around one of these items so you always have some on hand without hauling around a full roll. Last but not least, choose a sturdy, reliable field knife. It can be used for many things in a survival scenario, from splitting firewood and building shelter to preparing food and performing first aid.
If the power goes out, the credit card machines won’t be working. Keep at least $200 hidden in different pockets of the pack. It might be difficult to make change, so keep the money in small bills.
Clothing will vary based on location and conditions, but all survival kits should have a spare set of wicking base layers, wool socks, a waterproof shell, an insulation layer, and a lightweight pair of gloves and a hat. Tip: Keep these items in a waterproof compression sack to ensure they stay dry. It is a good idea to review this portion of your Survival kit as the seasons come and go so that you can adjust the contents as needed.
Your shelter system can be as basic or as complex as you wish. Some people like to keep a full-size, free-standing tent in their kit with an inflatable sleeping pad and zero-degree down sleeping bag. Others keep it simple with a tarp set up and an emergency blanket. No matter what you choose, be sure the protection is adequate should you need to spend a night (or a few!) outdoors.
Above all else, make sure you have the skills and the knowledge to use your gear, should the unthinkable become reality. You can take disaster preparedness as far as you are comfortable with, but we suggest that you at least cover the basics. Set your tent up in your backyard a few times for practice. Assemble your water filter and give it a test run. Familiarize yourself with the contents of your first-aid kit and know where it is located. If you want to take your preparedness training even further, you can spend some time camping and backpacking with the big ticket items in your kit. Take a course on survival tactics or join a preparedness group in your area to learn from seasoned outdoorsmen. Knowledge can be your greatest resource in a time of uncertainty.
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