Jun 192019
 
Is your family prepared?

I get asked these questions often enough that it deserves to have an actual page I can just refer to instead of retyping the same thing over and over.  With all of the tornado’s this year that has affected people near me, and with many of my closest friends knowing I do a lot of things related to wilderness survival, I keep getting asked “what should I have in a kit to protect myself or my family”.  So here we are … discussing exactly that.

Who Is This Article For?

I wrote this for someone who is concerned about themselves or their families safety and are being proactive about being prepared for a natural disaster.  I figure someone reading this may not have a lot of “survival skills” so I put together a kit that i think someone with no skills at all could use.  It may not be the best kit for someone who does have survival skills, and it may not cover all natural disasters that could happen in your geographic area but the “why & how” of creating a high quality kit is in this article and the kit serves as a solid foundation to build upon.  I also touch on some basic key terms, the gear used and why it was selected (10 c’s) and try to teach the most important aspects of surviving a disaster (the rules of 3).  I believe this article serves as a great foundation for building a kit that can get you through just about any natural disaster (fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, volcano, etc).  You may want to look at my get-home bag first before planning a larger kit.  I have designed it to be modular and that saves you from having to buy multiples of similar items.  If you based your 72-hour or 96-hour disaster kits on it (or any other larger kit), you really only need a couple of additional items to cover the two most important aspects of surviving a natural disaster … get home to your family, and getting your family safe! 

Key Differences Between The Get Home Bag & This Kit

  • The get-home bag is designed for use by 1 person.  This kit can be as large or as small as your family needs.
  • The get-home bag is designed to be light and fast and manageable by 1 person.  This kit is going to be larger, heavier, and will require more than 1 person to split the load.
  • The get-home bag is designed to be modular, meaning you can move key pieces of the kit to other kits like this kit.  This kit is not very modular but is easier to use.
  • The get-home bag requires some basic survival skills to work most efficiently.  This kit just requires you to have a basic understanding of how to set pieces of the kit up and use them (how to build a tarp shelter or how to set up a tent or how to screw the stove onto the canister and light it, how to boil water).
  • Both kits are based on the 10 c’s of survival and the rules of 3 but the get-home bag is designed more like a survival kit, short or long term.  This kit is designed more like a car-camping kit that will help you survive until help arrives after a disaster of some sort.
  • The get-home bag is my actual get-home bag and its contents.  It is what I use every single day.  My natural disaster/family kit, although similar to this kit in the sense it has the same categories of items, may not always be the exact items used in my kit for those categories (that is more based on skill set and what I feel is best for me – i do actually own or have previously owned all of the items in this kit so I am basing their recommendation on my own usage and experience with them, unless otherwise noted.  Many of the items mentioned below I do use regularly such as the Morakniv’s, the aqua quest tarps, the saws – knowing that, you can see the overlap of items used in the get-home bag for many of the 10 c’s categories.  In areas where they differ, are areas I felt would be easier for someone without survival skills – a great example is the fire starters in this kit verses the get-home bag.  In this kit, building a fire even when using wet firewood or materials is relatively easy.  In the get-home bag building a fire with wet materials is going to rely heavily on your skills building fires in wet conditions.  Another example, I would never recommend a tent for a get-home bag or a family/natural disaster kit but I do recommend them here because it may be an item someone already owns and is familiar with or it may just be easier and convenient for someone to use without having survival skills.  Also, I am amazed how many people won’t use a tarp as a shelter because of their fear of bugs crawling on them.).  Since both kits are based on the 10 c’s and the categories are both in order-of-importance, it is very easy to open two tabs and compare them side by side.  If you need clarification on their differences, or why I recommend something, just comment on the article and I can explain.  Also, any questions you have, I would be more than happy to help you out.
  • Can the get-home bag be used by a family?  Of course, if each person had the exact same kit.  As it is designed though, the limitations and problem area will be in the shelter.  As an example, one or two adults and x number of teenagers able to carry 28 lbs each approximately would be a good kit.  One or two adults and a small child could probably make it work with just the same number of get home kits as there are adults.  1 or 2 adults and 2 or more small children will have a hard time because of the shelter limitations.  For example, my get-home bag has two items that can be used as a shelter (one item is the primary shelter, the other is a rain poncho that could be used as a shelter if something happens to the tarp).  The first is the grabber tarp which is 5×7 and has ample room for 1 adult.  Its primary purpose is for shelter.  If each person in the family had their own tarp, and was ok sleeping separately, no problems.  But if they wanted to sleep together, it can be done.  If it was set up as a lean-to style it will fit two adult people who like each other a LOT if it didn’t rain.  If it rained, the outer edges of those two people will probably get wet (if you are not claustrophobic you could pitch the tarp at a very low angle to the ground and circumvent that issue for all but he heaviest rain practically blowing sideways).  If you expanded it with a second tarp over-lapping the first one and sealed it with duct tape, it would be approx 9×7 which is pretty much ample room for 2 adults and a child or two depending on their size.  Since its primary purpose is to provide shelter, you could simply leave them duct taped together if you had to move.  Three tarps would definitely work for a family of 4, again leaving them duct taped together if you had to move.  The second item is the rain poncho.  It is kind of the same deal as the tarp, more than ample room for 1 person used as a backup shelter if something happened to your tarp but when you start talking about more people, your options are to either have each person sleep under their own poncho or try to expand them in some way.  The duct tape isn’t such a great idea to expand the rain poncho because its primary purpose is to be a rain poncho for 1 person, not a shelter.  Removing the duct tape from the poncho’s when you had to move may cause them to tear.  Now you won’t have a rain poncho or a shelter.  Make sense?  With this being said, if you rigged them in some other way, you might be able to make it work.  As an example, there are eyelets on the poncho.  If it wasn’t going to rain and you simply wanted to protect your family from dew falling, you could use cordage to tie them together via the eyelets so they overlapped slightly … you could probably expand it to a size that will work for any sized family this way.  When you were ready to move, you simply remove the cordage and your shelter is now a poncho again.  A final option for this dilemma, is to simply get a single tarp suitable for the size of your family and have it in one of the kits or have a larger tarp in each adults kit just in case one adult is not present — i.e. a family of 4 could make due with a 10×10 tarp (i usually take a tarps size and subtract 2 feet from one edge to allow for rain blow-in, then divide what is left over by 2.  As an example, a 10×10 tarp would become 8×10 … divide the 8 by 2 and that gives you an estimate of 4 people – i.e., most sleeping pads are 20-25 inches wide – there are 24 inches in 2 feet.  Subtracting 2 feet initially accounts for any rain blow in that may occur along the shorter edges, which are normally the sides of a shelter in a lean-to configuration.  The extra space on the long end is used to store your gear under and protect it from the elements)  Would you want to have 2 adults and 2 additional adults who were strangers sleeping in a 10×10 tarp shelter together?  Probably not but for a family in an emergency the cramped space is ok and may actually be welcomed as the tight sleeping arrangements will give comfort and a sense of togetherness and protection.

What Is A KIT?

There are many names for a kit to help you prepare for a natural disaster but they all do similar things (they really only differ in their size and how long they will last before needing replenished or restocked with items like food) … they help you get by a few days until help arrives.  Common names include 72-hour kit, 96-hour kit, bug out bag, togo bag, survival kit, get home bag, EDC (every day carry), INCH (I’m Never Coming Home), etc.  These names often dictate in how long they will get you through a natural disaster (72-hour, 96-hour), or where the kit is used (get home bag dictates you are not at home, maybe you are at work or somewhere in your car and the kit can help you “get home”).  Bug out bag generally means you are leaving your home or apartment to go stay for an extended time somewhere else, extended time meaning more than 96 hours.  TOGO bag is a smaller version of a bug out bag and usually has key items next to a door you can just grab and “go” in a hurry as quickly as possible, i.e. there is a home intruder.  Every day carry includes basic items that you have on you at all times, for instance, your car keys and cell phone may be a part of your every day carry kit you are using now and you can expand it slightly with critical or most important items you feel you need to have with you all the time.  The INCH bag means you are leaving and you are never coming home.  This might be something you would want during a zombie apocalypse, California is finally sinking into the Ocean, or maybe some volcano is erupting near you.  An INCH bag is usually not carried by 1 person or even a family but by large groups who often contribute specific items for relocating an entire population of people, as an example, you might have a skill such as blacksmithing and you are contributing that skill to a group of people, so your inch bag might contain blacksmithing tools.  Other people in the group will fill other areas of expertise, and once everybody joins up at a designated area, most or all needs of the group are fulfilled by their combined experience. 

About Me

I’ve taken my 20+ years experience and training in wilderness survival, wilderness first aid/EMT, search and rescue, and community emergency response to put together many kits for myself and friends and family.  I don’t claim to know everything but I am a lot better off than most of the people I meet.  I live a very frugal lifestyle by choice and am about as close to off the grid as a person can be.  I rely on many aspects of ancient & forgotten skills just for my day to day homestead style of living.  If I wanted to take off and go live in the woods for months or years, I have the skill set to do that.  I’ve posted about these kits every year multiple times on my Facebook page, and answered numerous questions about this topic every time.  So this is a pretty hot topic and something you need to have available before a natural disaster happens.

Why Do You Need A Kit?

…it is all part of being “prepared”.  We as individuals prepare for many other things in life such as going to have regular medical checkups to make sure we are healthy, seeing an eye doctor to make sure we can see, going to the dentist to make sure we can smile, having automobile and homeowners or renters insurance to make sure our valuables are safe, and having a kit or multiple kits is assuring you and your family are prepared for natural disasters.  You can greatly reduce any suffering during a natural disaster and that long-wait of the unknown by simply having a plan and a kit ready to go.

The biggest reason you need a kit now I can prove with some examples … remember when hurricane Katrina hit the south in 2005 and the levee’s broke in New Orleans?  All those people were without power, food, water, and shelter for many days.  Everybody was depending on somebody to help them, but the disaster was so large that it took several days for help to come.  So, FEMA put together guidelines on how long it might take them to respond to another large disaster of that magnitude and that value became 3-4 days….hence 72 hour and 96 hour kits.  If the people of New Orleans would have been better prepared, their needs to rely on others initially may have been reduced and their may not have been as much chaos.  Another example, recently I was watching a YouTube video and the person was talking about how 36 (give or take) counties in their country have been under regular radioactive testing since Chernobyl 30 some years ago (and he is in Norway … over 1,000 miles away from the nuclear reactor).  More recently, people evacuating hurricane Rita got stuck in traffic outside of Houston which was at a standstill so instead of evacuating the hurricane many were forced to ride it out in their vehicles without food and water or entertainment which would have been in a get-home bag, bug out bag, togo bag, etc.  Even more recently, the wildfires in California, which affected several of my distant family, only had seconds to minutes to leave their homes with no place to go and no time to prepare (unless you were already prepared with kits).  Another large item that happened in 2017, remember the power outage in Puerto Rico cause by hurricane Maria?  How long did it take before power was restored to the island?  Can you believe, 2+ years later many are still without power?  Puerto Rico’s blackout is the largest ever in the United States and the second largest to ever occur in the world in modern times (since electricity was invented).  And just last month, multiple tornadoes hit in Indiana and Ohio with devastating destruction.  All of those people without homes were left wondering where their next drink of water, food, shelter, and basic clothing was coming from.  Help poured in but it took a couple of days.  And that is key because that’s the way it always happens … help arrives but it always takes a couple of days, sometimes even longer (Like Puerto Rico or New Orleans).  Something that affects me often are power outages.  I live in a very remote area.  I always talk about being 1 hour one-way drive from any major store and that is no joke.  I have had power outages last from a few hours to several days.   The longest happened during one of those unusually warm February days that got up to 60 degrees followed by a thunderstorm that evening and temperatures that dropped to 20’s over several days.  I was without power meaning no heat and no electricity for 6 days but I was cozy warm, had water which equals coffee, food to eat, books to read, a backup power supply for my phone which stayed charged the entire time so I was able to communicate with friends and family, and I played about a million rounds of solitaire cards by myself.  With all of this in mind, we aren’t always just preparing for disasters that happen near us, due to air streams we can be affected by things that happen thousands of miles away too.

You don’t have to go into this blindly either.  Myself and many other people posts videos on YouTube about how to put together these kits, how to use the contents, and even the federal government in the United States offers several classes you can take to help you be more prepared.  Some classes I can recommend happening all over the United States on a regular basis are “CERT” training and “Stop The Bleed”.  An additional course I can recommend is Search and Rescue Basic Training.  Usually these courses are offered for free and you often get free gear you can use in your kits.  You can find the FEMA training schedule at https://training.fema.gov/emicourses/schedules.aspx 

How Much Will A Kit Cost?

So right up front, you need to ask yourself these questions:  how much is my life or my families life worth?  That ended up being a pretty astronomical figure didn’t it?  Of course, so now realistically how much money can you spend to protect those lives?  (have a budget in mind and stick to it).  Follow this guide to help you put together a kit based on your budget.  If you can’t afford what you want now, get a cheaper alternative and upgrade it to something better when you can afford it.  Your location and what you are preparing for can also affect your kit costs.  For instance, if you live in a desert, you probably don’t need to worry about hurricanes and likewise people in coastal regions don’t need to worry about dust tornado’s either.  But this guide will help you determine what you need because its based on essential survival items.

One thing I want to tell you right now, there are a LOT of emergency kits available online from places like Amazon, even Walmart has them occasionally but you do not want to have your life depend on these kits.  They seem cheap and convenient and that is exactly what they are … cheap and convenient.  They are often put together with cheap items that will likely leave you in a bad spot when you need it the most and you don’t want to bet your or your family members lives on them.  As an example, almost all of these kits include “emergency Mylar blankets” but the quality of them is that they often will tear easily and even if they didn’t tear, Mylar blankets are better than nothing (used as a shelter or for some warmth) but there are better alternatives too.  So a great quality kit is going to set you back a single car payment or more, depending on your budget, and to some extend your tastes in vehicles too 🙂    The expensive items will be “the big 3” (more on that later) and fall into the top 5 c’s (also more on this later)

Survival/Gear Terms

Some kit and related terms you should know because I will refer to them often in this article.  They are pretty important to know, some more than others, so at least memorize the rules of 3 and at least have a basic understanding of the 10 c’s because if you have the 10 c’s you can live indefinitely:

  • 10 C’s of survival – this is an acronym easy to remember as taught by Dave Canterbury.  Everything I teach related to survival is based on this kit because I know it works.  Its basically exactly what I and many others use for long-distance hiking and being able to survive with whats on our backs for weeks to months to a year at a time.  So the kit has been validated and tested since the beginning of time (yes, otzi the iceman basically had the 10 c’s on him or the equivalent of those 8,000 years ago — google or YouTube ‘otzi the iceman‘).  The 10 c’s does not mean 10 items but simply 10 categories of items you should have for both short-term and long-term survival.  Also, one of the ways of keeping your kits size down is making sure that anything in the kit has multiple uses, with some suggesting every item should have a minimum of 3 uses.  The top 5 items of the 10 c’s is non-negotiable and required in a kit, the remaining 5 are helpful and absolutely recommended but optional.  The 10 c’s are (in order of importance):
    • Cutting – this would include a knife, saw, ax, or any other item with a cutting edge.  Usually to keep weight down, most people carry only a knife or a knife + saw but some still opt to do knife + saw + ax (and sometimes even backups of those).  The cutting tools are the most important item because with them you could create any of the other categories of items.  And you may ask then, why shouldn’t I just carry a knife and call it good.  And the answer is TIME.  During an emergency or disaster, you don’t want to be making cordage (which takes hours to days) so you can build a shelter, plus you need to build a fire and you can do that with a knife but you also need a specific type of metal in the knife along with a specific type of rock and finding that rock during a disaster is just too stressful.  Having a good quality carbon-steel knife is mandatory!
    • Combustion – this would include anything that helps you create a fire reliably and consistently under any circumstances including wet wood.  Starting a fire in pouring down rain is not fun, use every single advantage you have available to you.  Having multiple types of combustion devices is always a good idea.  This category is mandatory in a kit.
    • Cover – includes anything used to create a shelter or any clothing items that help you regulate your bodies core temperature.  Hypothermia in the summertime is a real threat.  Once your clothing gets wet and the wind picks up, you will begin to shiver and that is the first sign of hypothermia.  If you are unable to change into dry clothing immediately, a tip I can offer is do some physical activity.  Squats use the largest muscles in the body and doing 10-20 standing squats will quickly generate some warmth.  So people prefer jumping jacks or push-ups.  Cover is also a mandatory item in a kit!
    • Container – anything used to hold something else, as an example, a stainless steel cup, a backpack, a kuksa, a plastic trash bag.  Container is a mandatory item in a kit!
    • Cordage – any rope, string, line whether man made or mass produced.  Cordage is also a mandatory item in a kit!
    • Candlelight – would be anything that creates light such as a candle, flashlight, headlamp and helps you see in the dark.  Although this item is optional, they are multi-purpose and highly recommended.
    • Cotton Bandanna – multiple uses for signaling, fire starting, making splints, water purification, etc.  Also an optional item but highly recommended.
    • Compass – used for navigating and traveling (never rely on a cell phone during a disaster because they often don’t work).  A compass is practically useless without a map, so also have a map of the areas you travel or get the map suggested which includes the entire united states (you can photo copy only the states/locations you need and then add them to a large 1 gallon Ziploc bag to keep them dry.  If you do this, have multiples of the same map in different Ziploc bags in case one gets wet – see 2 is 1, 1 is none below.  Compasses with mirrors and magnifying glasses are preferred because that makes them multi-purpose, i.e. the magnifying glass can be used for starting a fire and the mirror can be used to remove dirt from your eyes or check that smile you have been years spending money to maintain but you still weren’t prepared for disaster (kinda sad when you think about it, yes?)  Also an optional item but highly recommended.
    • Cargo Tape – duct tape, used for repairing holes in tarps or tents, can be used to create bandages, can be used to create splints, can be used to start fires, can be used to seal drafts around car/home windows if there is some sort of biological threat, etc.  Also an optional item but highly recommended.
    • Canvas Needle – can be used for making clothing repairs, can be used for medical purposes, etc.  Also an optional item but highly recommended.
  • Rules of 3 – used to describe how long you can live without key survival necessities and also prioritizes your needs in your kit (read that sentence again).  And read it again.  This is very important and the reason is because one of the largest problems I see when people create kits is to have way too much food which creates a LOT of unnecessary weight.  During an emergency, you may not have time to eat.  You may not want to eat.  Your body will be generating so much adrenaline that you will have plenty of energy without unnecessary food.  Also, Food, from the rules of 3, is not as important as other items in the list because we can live so long without it. There are a few exceptions to this rule, for instance, a newborn infant will need formula regularly and pets will need food more often than 3 weeks.
    • you can live 3 seconds without hope – I mean, lets face it, if you don’t have hope or the will to survive, you probably aren’t going to make it
    • you can live 3 minutes without oxygen
    • you can live 3 hours without shelter – or a way to regulate your core body temperature (a lot of people don’t realize this but more people die from hypothermia in the summer time than they do in the winter time.  If it is raining, you absolutely must get out of your wet clothing ASAP … meaning, as soon as possible, i.e. you have moved to a safe place, you have shelter, you have heat to dry your wet clothing.)
    • you can live 3 days without water
    • you can live 3 weeks without food
  • The BIG 3 – this is actually from hikers jargon but it also relates to survival.  The big 3 is generally your backpack, your shelter, and your sleep system (sleeping bag, blanket, ground insulation, etc).  It is usually the most costly items in hiking gear and also is often the most costly items in survival gear.  Let me state this, the cost of these items is directly proportional to 2 things … comfort and weight.  The more comfortable something is, the more it costs.  The lighter the weight is of something that has the same qualities of something much heavier, the more it costs.  As examples, you can buy a sleeping bag rated for 40 degrees that weighs 6 lbs or 96 ounces for $40 but you can also get a sleeping bag rated for 40 degrees that weighs 9 ounces for about $200.  They are both sleeping bags, they will both keep you warm down to approximately 40 degrees, but they differ in weight and size (how much volume they will take up in your backpack) drastically.  If you are over 25 years old or you are out of shape, save your money and get the more expensive lighter one … your back and legs and knees will thank you time and again.  Also, if you are ex military and you carried a 60-70+ lb ruck 20 years ago, you will not want to do that today more than likely.  While I am on this entire size/weight thing, there is another reason you want the lightest gear you can afford – the lighter your backpack and all your gear weighs, the faster you can move and the more control you will have over your movement.  Probably what I would actually recommend if you can’t afford the lightest gear is to go ahead and buy the cheaper one and use it now but as soon as you can afford the lighter one, buy it and sell the cheaper one.  It’s more important to have a complete kit now, even if you have to sacrifice comfort initially.  Another example, you go to Walmart and they have a really nice backpack for $39 and it looks like it will hold all of your gear so you buy it.  You get home and place all your gear in it and put the backpack on and almost immediately your back hurts and the straps are cutting into your shoulders and you try to walk around but you keep falling forward or backward because your backpack is also top heavy.  That doesn’t sound like a very good survival backpack so you get on YouTube and you see everybody using tactical backpacks.  You narrow it down to a couple of brands you can afford, watch a lot of reviews, and make a decision.  You shell out the $100 for one on amazon that had great reviews on YouTube.  It comes in, you go to put your gear in it and it doesn’t fit (heavier cheaper gear takes up more room – which you end up paying for by having to buy a much larger backpack).  So you put the backpack on with not all of your gear and it is even more uncomfortable that the Walmart one.  Now you are out $140 plus tax and still don’t have a backpack that fits all your gear plus fits you.  But you did earn somebody some advertising revenue on YouTube and probably also earned them some affiliate money on amazon when you purchased their recommended gear.  So I am going to tell you how not to make this mistake – buy all your other gear and weight it.  Total up the weight of all of it.  Then find your local REI store (or some other outdoor store that specializes in backpacks) and take all that gear you bought to REI.  Ask them to fit you for a backpack able to carry x pounds (what your gear weighs) and tell them you have the gear in your car.  They will then ask you to bring your gear in and show you numerous backpacks with the correct volume and carrying capacity for your gear plus it is properly sized for your body (and they will even adjust it for you).  And on top of that, there is no pressure to even buy the backpack from them if you can find it cheaper at Amazon (but Amazon won’t adjust it for you and Amazon doesn’t have a no questions asked 1 year return policy).  A high quality backpack suitable in size is probably going to set you back $100 – 300 (may have saved you $40 if you had done this the first time vs buying two backpacks that didn’t work in my example above)
  • Ounces or Grams equals pounds – weight and size of your items is important if you couldn’t tell from the Big 3 rant I just went on.  As we get older, we get weaker (unless you are working out every day and lifting weights).  But a common saying is ounces equals pounds or grams equals ounces.  What they means is, when deciding on gear … 40 lbs might not seem like a lot until you have to carry it 1 mile or even 10 miles.  We don’t know what the distance will be.  Ultralight backpackers try to save every single ounce or gram to get their total gear below 10 lbs.  Why?  You can move faster, its not as hard on your shoulders, back, legs, knees, ankles.  Its easier to move (or move faster for longer periods of time).  You can cover more distance without feeling exhausted or sore.  Thinking about this, lets say you have 24 items (just a rough number) and each 1 of them has a couple drops of water equal to about 1 oz each item.  Now you have the weight of your gear and 1.5 lbs of extra weight.  One-and-a-half pounds  doesn’t sound like much does it?  Now lets look at this realistically with gear.  You go with a cheaper backpack, tent, and sleeping bag.  Their combined weight ends up being 18 lbs … and with the water is 19.5 lbs had you gone with the more expensive backpack, tarp, and down sleeping bag, it would only weight 4 lbs and with the water only 5.5 lbs… saving you from carrying an additional 14 lbs from just 3 items in your kit.
  • Moral – moral is that little thing that boosts your happiness, will to live, will to keep going, will to keep trying, will to persevere.  I can tell you I can be having the crappiest day ever and if I simply enjoy a cup of coffee all is better again, at least until the next crappy thing happens.  When I do long distance hiking, it is usually some sort of hard-tack candy that just changes my mood instantly (i only carry 1 per day so I really wait until I need it the most).  Some people may enjoy tea or gum or some other little thing so much, that it is worth sparing the extra few ounces or pounds in your kit to have that item with you in an emergency.  I mean, we can only live 3 seconds without the will to live … so we need those little pick-me-ups especially in stressful situations.
  • 2 is 1, 1 is none – this is a common saying regarding gear.  You should always have backups of critical items.  The reason is simple, if you misplace it and you only have 1, now you have none and it is a critical piece of gear.  Therefore the saying “having 2 of the same or similar items means even if you lose 1, you still have 1”

Are Backpacks Required?

You need a way to carry your gear but if you have back issues or some other problem, you can still have a kit.  Simply substitute a backpack for a rolling suitcase, a plastic tote (with wheels even better), and be prepared to deal with issues of tugging a rolling suitcase over debris or the tote may limit your visibility and also will definitely limit the use of both of your hands.  

What should I actually have in a 72 – 96 hour kit?

If you look at the rules of 3 above, we can tell what is most important … hope, oxygen (you can’t carry that with you but think outside the box … clean oxygen would be nice so maybe some sort of a filter in case flying debris or a dust storm or something else, then shelter, then water, then food).  How do these items work with the 10 c’s?  Right off the bat in the top 5 c’s non-negotiable, we need a cutting tool, combustion, cover, container, cordage … and they need to be multi-use.  Water can be stored in a container, and its a pretty important item .. we can live only 3 days without water, but water is usually required for food and moral boost (coffee, tea, sanitation, etc).  Cover could be a shelter, and its pretty important too.  A way to filter water could be a cotton bandanna.  A few non-perishable snacks can be some food.  Below I have taken the 10 c’s and listed them with suggested gear I personally use or own.  I tried to create a way for someone with a smaller budget to get a kit together now or maybe over a month or two.  Sometimes people just need direction … they know they aren’t prepared, they know they need to be, but they don’t know what they need or they get confused by so many possibilities.  So basing a kit on the 10 c’s and the rules of 3 makes perfect sense to me (its what I use and I would bet my life on it).  Make sense? 

Perfect … now lets get into some lists of gear I can recommend as a 72 hour family kit.  I own or have used all of this gear below.  I will create several lists based on different budget values.  The idea is that each adult will carry the same/similar gear in case something happens where 1 adult is separated from the family (2 is one, 1 is none).  As long as there is at least 1 adult, you have the critical items from the 10 c’s.  You also don’t have to remember which backpack to grab because the contents are mostly the same.  Teenagers can help carry some gear too (and should be treated like an adult … maybe they don’t need the knife, its your judgement, but helping spread out the weight will make everybody happier). Small children often should have a child size book bag with at least a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, a flashlight, and a whistle just so they don’t feel left out and can carry something too.  Babies … well, they make a combo backpack baby carrier but I have not personally used one so I don’t think I am justified to recommend one.

Cutting Tools – knife

Can be used to build shelter, start fire, process firewood, and even clean game animals.  Just so that you know, I specifically chose bright colors of these items below…the reason is because if you misplace one in an emergency, it will be easier to find even in the dark.  Hunter orange could be in a pile of fall leaves and it still sticks out like a sore thumb.  Each adult should have a knife and also a backup knife (2 is 1, 1 is none)  Both the mid-budget and high-budget knives include a backup fire starter.  You can buy a ferro-rod for the low-budget knife but then you will be near the cost of the mid-level knife.  The importance of these knives, unlike most home kitchen knives, is that the steel is high carbon meaning they can be used to start a fire.  Mora makes some of the best survival knives in the world and they have been around for decades.  They have more expensive knives and there are other brands but if I was going to recommend 1 in particular, I own 3 of the mora bushcraft black knives (not in hunter orange).  I own 1 of the mora companions.  I own 1 of the mora companion HD’s.  I own 1 of the mora garberg knives.  I own 1 of the light my fire swedish fire knives.  I own 1 tops brothers of bushcraft knife.  I own 1 tops neck knife.  1 own 1 custom bushcraft style knife that is more a heirloom to me than a survival knife.  So, now you know what my recommendation is based on what I own…its gonna be a mora and since I own 3 of the mora bushcraft blacks, its gonna be that one!   

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Cutting Tools – saw

Can be used to build shelter, can be used to self rescue (i.e. you are trapped under debris, a limb is blocking a door, etc).  Each adult should have a saw (2 is 1, 1 is none)  Again I tried to go with colors that would be easy to see at night if it is misplaced.  The bahco is not available in anything other than green.  If I was going to recommend based on what I own, I own 1 of the fiskars, I own 1 of the bahco’s, and I own 5 different silky saws (3 of the 210’s, 1 of the pocketboys, and 1 of the big boys) …so again, my personal favorite will be the silky saw.

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Combustion – lighter

used to start fires for purifying water, cooking, cleaning/washing up, staying warm, drying clothes, etc.  You never have enough Bic lighters for kits, each adult should carry at least 2 in different locations, i.e. one in each of your kits and one in your edc.  A note about lighters, there are other brands of lighters but the Bic, by far, is the number 1 choice of survivalist and preppers for a reason.  Make sure you get full-sized Bics.

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Combustion – material

If wood is wet, you may not be able to start a fire with just a flame of a Bic lighter.  There are many products to help facilitate fire even while its raining or snowing or saturated material.  You can make your own DIY by simply rubbing Vaseline onto cotton balls or dryer lint and storing it in a zip lock bag.  But sometimes its also just easier to buy something pre-made.   It wouldn’t hurt to have all 3 of these if you can afford it.  Make sure you test them and practice using them with wet materials.  It would be nearly impossible to not be able to start a fire using esbit tablets and even if you couldn’t, they burn about long enough to heat a cup of water to boiling by themselves.

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Cover – Option 1 (tarp)

Pick either the tarp or the tent from the cover category below.  This is a matter of personal preference but an 8×10 tarp will work for a single person to a family of 4 set up as a simple A-Frame or lean-to style shelter.  Tents are heavy and often hard to set up especially under stress.   Tarps are easy to set up, much lighter than tents, more versatile (it can be set up as an A-frame shelter, a lean-to, or simply as an overhead tarp to shield you from the weather .. whereas a tent can only be set up as a tent).  Also speaking of tarps, square tarps especially like the 10×10 ones mentioned below, can be set up in a million different ways and styles of shelters .. just search youtube for tarp tent shelters and learn a few.  For survival though, a frame and lean to are the easiest and quickest to set up in less than 1 minute.  Most tarps (at least the ones I am recommending) also take up way less room in your pack and they weight a lot less than any of the tents listed below.  For a larger family, buy a larger aqua quest tarp.  If you want best options, go with a mid/high end tarp and a low end tent as a backup.  You need a single tarp for a family.  As far as what I own to make your decision, I own 3 different models of the Aqua Quest tarps all 10×10.  They only differ in their weight and color.  I didn’t mention tent stakes for use with tarps, that is because the higher end one has them and you can seriously just use sticks or debris/rocks you find on the ground to stake out the corners.

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Cover – Option 2 (tent)

Pick either the tarp or the tent.  Tents take up a lot of room in a backpack. They are way heavier than tarps and also bulkier.  Most people think of tents because they have been “car camping” at some time or another in their lives.  But how far did you have to carry that tent before you set it up?  Usually, less than 100 feet from the car so it didn’t seem to hard to carry.  Personally, tents are fine for car camping but when talking about family survival, I would never use a tent!  If you have two adults, you can split a tent up so that each person carries part of it (most of the time tents are a main tent, cover, poles, stakes). If you get a tent, you are going to wish you had a tarp instead .. fair warning.  If you want best options, go with a mid/high end tarp and a low end tent as a backup.  These are for a family of 4, if you have a larger family, you need a larger tent and you are really talking about some heavy weight to carry around.  I’ve done everything I could to persuade you to not get a tent for an emergency shelter, but its your choice.

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Cover – sleep system ground insulating layer

The insulating layer goes between the ground and you.  Without it, you will be cold even in the summertime nights due to conduction heat loss (the earth is cooler than your body and it will literally suck the heat away from you).  To fix that, we add an insulation layer that stops conduction.  Each family member needs ground insulation.  You can cut in half one of the low/mid level ground pads for smaller children.  If you generally sleep on your side, you may be able to save a couple bucks and a few ounces of weight by getting a “small” pad instead of regular.  If you are over 6 feet tall, they also make a “tall” version of pads that should be available when you click the links below.  Some pads are one size fits all and you can simply cut them to save space and weight if they don’t require air.  The high end pad is an air pad, it packs up smaller than the closed cell foam pads and is lighter so it cost a LOT more.  As far as what I own if you want to make your selection based off of that … I own 1 of the therm-a-rest ridgerest, 1 own 3 of the therm-a-rest z-lite (2 regular and 1 short), and i own 2 of the therm-a-rest neoair in both a summer and winter version.  I only use the air inflatable ones a) if I am long distance hiking b) in wintertime I use the winter version sometimes along with the z lite pad too (i use both if the temperatures will be below 0 degrees).  So I would personally recommend you get the z lite pad as it is more versatile and easier to set up in my humble opinion.

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Cover – sleep system air insulating layer

This is generally a sleeping bag or blanket.  You are basically paying for the weight and volume … on the low end, the sleeping bag or the wool blanket weighs over 4 lbs and no matter how you try to pack them they are going to take up a LOT of space, the mid budget gear is 3 lbs, and the high end gear is close to 1 lb.  They all have about the same 35-40 degree temperature rating.  If weight wasn’t an issue, 2 wool blankets can keep your warm down to 0 degrees but that weighs 8 lbs per person and will take up all of the space in your backpack.  I’d recommend to have 2 wool blankets per person not in your kit but at home and then buy the lightest sleeping bag you can afford.  Very small children can sleep with adults.  Rectangular sleeping bags usually can unzip all the way and be used like a blanket.  Pillows are not really required and take up too much room plus add too much weight, in an emergency you can use your backpack or spare clothing as a pillow (which is what long distance hikers do).  If you must have a pillow, try to use a 1 gallon Ziploc bag filled with air and covered with a dry shirt … you’d be surprised how comfortable it is, especially if the world is collapsing around you.

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Container – water/cooking

I recommend a totally different water/cooking kit in the get home bag and there is a reason.  The reason is simple … in the get home bag I plan to be on the move as long as I can or until I get home.  If I had to camp, then I have time to use the solo biomass stove recommended in the get home bag kit.  It will take at least 20 minutes before that stove is even ready to use (you have to collect wood, light a fire, wait until coals start to form, add more wood, build up the coals then finally boil your water … the time from start to finish of boiling water is probably 25-30 minutes) whereas the kit below can be set up and have rolling boiling water in less than 7 minutes.  In the get home bag, I am trading time (it takes longer) for convenience (there will be wood or biomass about anywhere that I don’t have to carry with me and I use esbits as a backup in case there is not) but in the family emergency bag I want the most efficient and quickest way possible.  This stainless nalgene container is used to store water, boil water for cooking, water purification, and bathing.  The nalgene bottle fits inside the cup to save space.  The cup can also be used to boil water, cook meals, drink coffee/tea/hot chocolate.  The stove screws on top of the fuel canister.  A 4 oz fuel canister if you don’t waste the fuel by over-boiling water, will make enough water for 11 meals (about 20-24 liquid oz of water each).  The 8 oz canister will make enough for about 22 meals.  This system works so great and is relatively cheap, I am not even going to suggest anything else for a family emergency bag.  I would suggest each adult have 2 nalgene bottles filled with water.  You will also need a water purification system I will mention options below.  If the fuel canister runs out during an emergency, you can place the nalgene bottle which is stainless steel or the cup which is also stainless steel directly into a fire or hot coals to boil water also.  So you have backup heating methods.  The water pouch is lightweight and can be used to fill up water from a lake, stream, or even a public water source (faucet, hose bib, etc).  The sawyer filter (below) can attach to that bag to filter your water without boiling it.  2 is 1, 1 is none … so you have options on water filtration and carrying additional water too.  An additional note about the 2 fuel stoves and cook systems recommended between this kit and the get home kit.  When I do long distance hiking, I use the exact same brs-3000t burner as my stove and fuel canister.  I do not like using biomass when doing long distance hiking.  In a get home bag though, I think it is more appropriate to use biomass in case something keeps me from getting home .. there is always something I can burn as fuel whereas the canisters will eventually run out of fuel.

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Water Filtration

Since I was talking about containers and water, now is a great time to talk about water filtration. My personal preference is the sawyer filter with the evernew bag above. But a sawyer filter will also fit on most plastic water bottles too (hikers often use smart water bottles, those fit perfect).  I don’t like the lifestraw personally.  Look at the cost of the lifestraw, look at how many gallons it is rated to filter, then do the same with the sawyer.  The sawyer is not only the BEST in terms of cost vs longevity, but its also easier to use.  The Potable aqua tablets can leave a weird taste in the water (which if drinking you can circumvent by adding single serve energy drink or electrolyte drink to).  I have filtered some very questionable water sources with the sawyer and i have never gotten sick.  So whats in my bag when doing long distance hiking or my get home bag?  The sawyer filter, the evernew extra container, and the aqua tabs as a backup (you could also use either a small travel size bottle of bleach or a travel size bottle of iodine to make your water potable.  You simply add a few drops of bleach or iodine to the water, stir it up, and wait about 30 minutes for it to kill all the harmful bacteria).

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Container – backpack

Backpacks are sized depending on your body size, how much volume your gear occupies, and how much your gear weighs.  Make sure you get properly fitted at your local REI store unless the backpack has an adjustable suspension system like the keltys.  I would suggest you avoid “tactical” or “tacticool” backpacks which will not carry near as much weight comfortably or fit near as well (an exception to this is I do approve of using the Kelty Redwing Tactical Backpacks but they may not be large enough for a 72/96 hour kit – why do they get approved and other tactical backpacks do not?  Well, the kelty backpacks have all the comfortable features of hiking backpacks but made out of longer lasting tactical material without looking tactical … and comfort when hauling a lot of gear in an already bad situation will be very much needed)  If you are basing this larger kit on my modular get-home bag, the kelty redwing 50 may be large enough if you are a smaller family.  You basically have 20 extra liters to carry more food, clothing, a larger tarp suitable for a family, and your personal documents compared to the get-home bag.  If there are multiple adults or the children are old enough to also carry some items, the kelty redwing 50 may work (this is obviously based on how much gear you need to carry for your family because backpacks are sized based on gear volume and gear weight and your body size).  I am a single male, I use the kelty redwing 50 as my larger bag (and I also have a osprey aether 50 too that I use for backpacking and was also at one time my bug out bag – the osprey aether actually has a higher rated weight carrying capacity but since I am within the acceptable load carrying rates of the kelty, I switched to it … mostly because the osprey is a copper/red color and the kelty is green) along with the beast of a kelty red cloud 90 liter that to be honest is just way too big for me but for some reason I keep it around just in case because omg this thing can make carrying super heavy bulky loads a dream (about 10 years ago i once did a winter hike with a bunch of gear I wanted to test and I had the kelty red cloud loaded to about 85 lbs of gear (its only rated for 60 lbs) … mind you, I am about 5’6″ and weighed about 170 give or take at the time.  I hiked 13 miles round trip with that load in a mountainous area.  It was heavy, I was out of shape, but it was manageable although slow going).  The downside of having a backpack too large is that you will want to stuff the dead space with crap you don’t need…so always size your pack to your gear and not the other way around. 

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Cordage

Cordage is mostly used for shelter making but can also be used to secure things to the outside of your pack, can be used for medical purposes, etc.  550 paracord is multi-purpose but bank-line is lighter than 550 and not as strong and nite ize is lighter than bank-line but stronger than bank-line and not as strong as 550 paracord.  So many options and uses of each….i seriously use all 3 regularly (look at my get home bag article if you don’t believe me.  I just like versatility 

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Candlelight

Every kit should have a 9 hour candle.  It can not only provide light but can also help you start a fire.  I prefer headlamps to just about anything because they leave your hands free to work.  Every family member old enough to walk should have their own headlamp and a set of backup batteries.  The candle lanterns have one advantage the other two does not have, besides providing good ambiance lighting, they also provide some heat.  The 3 candle lantern will actually warm up an 8×10 sized tarp or a tent very well in cooler weather.  I will leave it up to you to decide to pick 1 or the other or a combination of these.  Something to consider, if the candles last 9 hours, that means you need 3 candles for 3 nights for the single lantern (assuming you let them burn all night for ambiance or frightened children) and 9 candles for 3 nights for the 3 candle lantern .. in a 72 hour kit.  You will notice in my get home bag that the headlamps and flashlights I use are pretty expensive.  You don’t really need those in an emergency survival kit but I use them in multiple kits plus for security around my home.  If you can afford the Olights in the get home bag, those are definitely going to last you a long time and since the get home bag is modular, you can transfer the lights to your primary kit.  In my get home bag I carry a single 9 hour candle mostly to use as a fire starter if needed but I have an olight h1r nova headlamp and a olight m2r warrior tactical light I use mostly as non-lethal self defense.  In my larger kit, I do have the single uco candle lantern because it is nice to be able to hang it up in your tarp/tent and be safe with not burning it down as the heat is shielded by the design.

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Cotton Bandanna

Everybody always asks why?  Well, there are so many uses for cotton bandannas that I couldn’t possibly mention them all.  But a few are to help purify water (say you have the nalgene bottle and you need to get water from a stream that is flooded, cover the opening of the nalgene bottle with the bandanna and instant water filter.)  Can also be used to make a sling for an arm injury, can be used as a wash clothe, can be used as a sweat band in summertime, can be used to cover your head for ticks, can be used as a pee rag for women, can be used as a poo rag when you run out of toilet paper or wet-wipes, can be used to start a fire, can be used to make char cloth to help start a fire.  A lot of people use shemagh the same ways as a bandanna (think of it as a really really big bandanna with even more uses than a regular sized bandanna) so I will list both.  In what ways can you use a shemagh that a bandanna can’t be used?  To wrap around your face when its cold to provide insulation, to wrap around your face as a dust mask, as a sleep system liner to provide just a tad more warmth, and many others.  Mix and match these as you see fit.  Every person in your group should have at least 2 or more each (and personally, think about how you might use them — as a man I might need 1 for a washcloth, 1 as a poo rag (backup), 1 as a water filter (backup) but as a woman I will also need a pee rag too or to use as an emergency feminine product – so women always need more than men and they don’t really weight much and they are reusable and washable.  However if you only have 1 and you run out of toilet paper, you don’t want to wash up using that one without washing it first so have many.  I have also heard of some people using them as emergency baby diapers too so have as many as you think you might need in as many multiple colors as possible to help differentiate them, plus a few extras because they have so many uses besides what I mentioned) .

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compass (and maps)

There are cheap compasses and expensive compasses but for survival purposes a compass must possess a few features in order to be considered multi-purpose  1) it needs to be a compass sufficient for plotting courses 2) it needs to have a magnifying glass (which can help you start fires or see splinters) 3) it needs to have a mirror (which can help you remove something in your eye).  A handheld GPS also has a digital compass but no mirror and no magnifying glass.  The only reason I even mention them is because most people don’t know how to use a compass correctly and the GPS can at least record their tracks so they can get back where they started if they get lost.  For a compass to work, you also need a map.  I actually carry the full sized map listed below in my get home bag.  If you wanted to save weight or bulk, you could scan and print the maps you need from this book or get maps online and print them.  I would recommend having multiple copies of the same map stored in individual Ziploc bags to keep them from getting wet.  If they do get wet, you have backup maps (2 is 1, 1 is none).  I own both of the compasses below along with both GPS devices.  The compasses I use in my get home bag and larger kit and I had a Garmin etrex that I later upgraded first to the Garmin gpsmap 62sc and even later to the Garmin gpsmap 64s – I mostly use the gps devices when doing long distance hiking and I wouldn’t rely on them in an emergency without a compass because the batteries could fail or maybe the gps satellites aren’t working.  

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Cargo Tape

Cargo tape, commonly called duct tape, is also a multi-use item.  It can be used to repair a hole in a tarp or tent or inflatable air mattress, it can be used to help start a fire, it can be used to make a bandage using your cotton bandanna as the gauze, and in the event of a biological attack or nuclear disaster it can be used to seal air drafts in your home or car windows.  I prefer the gorilla brand and its cheaper per roll to by it in bulk packs.

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Canvas Needle

Its always a good idea to have a few safety pins, sewing needles, and even a much heavier needle for making repairs to gear.  Safety pins can be used to make repairs to clothing you are wearing, i.e. the button popped off your jeans.  A sewing kit is also good to have.  They also have medical uses too such as popping a blister or removing splinters.  

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Clothing

Technically this is a cover item.  You should have 1 change of clothing for the current season (which means you have to rotate clothes in/out of your kit as seasons change).  You should have 1-2 pairs of spare socks for each family member, 1 spare pair underwear, 1 spare shirt, 1 spare pants/jeans or summertime shorts.  You should also have a pair of work gloves and in the winter time add a pair of winter gloves and a toboggan.  1 thing I am going to add here besides what you already own is a rain poncho, 1 for each family member (if you don’t want to buy them, then take a trash bag (children might be able to use a small kitchen sized trash bag, adults will need more yard waste sized trash bags) and in the closed end cut a hole for a head to go through – you could also cut holes for arms to go through .. instant rain poncho that is not breathable and if its hot or muggy outside you are gonna wish you had something else … but in a pinch, or emergency, a trash bag would certainly work).  I own multiples of both of these exact brands because I use them in kits, while hiking, in my vehicles just in case, and around the house.  I have a video on 10+ different uses for the frogg toggs poncho I will list here and the poncho is also multi-use because not only can it be a rain poncho, it can also make a shelter for 1 person if you have 1 and if you have a wife and combine them it will make a shelter for 2 people, and if each of your kits has one you can attach them and just keep expanding the size of your tarp to fit the entire family.  You only need 1 or the other though and if I was going to say pick just one … I would have a hard time because they are both so versatile but the frogg toggs poncho can’t be used to expand a tarp into a shelter for more than 1 person AND in my get home bag I only have the helikon poncho so there must be the answer.    

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Sanitation & Hygiene

This is mostly personal preference but I am going to list things a lot of people forget.  Don’t worry about deodorant .. everybody else is going to stink so you might as well too – the antibacterial wipes actually do a great job getting rid of armpit & body smells … ask any of the thousands of hikers that do long distance hiking each year.  Also the dig it thing is for digging catholes when you have to poo (always dig a hole and bury your poo so nobody comes along and steps in it.  It is also more sanitary that way too.).  Don’t forget feminine products.  The antibacterial hand sanitizer with the jelly wraps are nice for attaching to the outside of your pack … this allows you to quickly disinfect hands without removing your backpack.  You should also have a couple of empty 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bags for trash including used toilet paper.

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Specific to Women

There are some products needed in a family survival kit that are specific to women just by the design of their bodies.  I don’t want to leave you out and since I am a long distance hiker I know about products many people do not know about.  Think about this for a minute, if a man has to go pee .. he walks over to a bush or tree, unzips his pants, and pee’s with his back towards anyone who might be able to see him.  But when a woman has to go pee, she has to find someplace secluded because she has to take her pants down, squat into a sitting position, then begin to pee while hoping nobody can see her and nobody is going to walk up on her.  A person sitting in a squatting position is also in a very vulnerable place to be if there are hostile people or similar.  So lo and behold, someone created a device that allows women to stand up and pee just like a man with just as much privacy.  Now to be honest, when these first came out I snickered and I laughed and I probably said something like “who ever in the world would use these” and as time went on they got to be very very popular among women who do long distance hiking.  And then I started asking those women about them and they all love them just for the privacy they provide since they don’t have to drop their pants and squat to pee.  Now the most popular one among hikers seems to be the go-girl so I will list it below.  The second thing women will have that men do not have is menstrual flow.  We can’t control disasters and emergencies, nor schedule them around menstrual flows so somebody also designed a device that is reusable, its small, and its super lightweight (compared to the products it would replace, that is win-win).  And guess what, even though I laughed and snickered and wondered who would use these things … they too got very popular among women hikers.  So I will list the one most of them say they use here too.  There are actually other brands and doing some research on this subject or trial and error may be your best bet, I mean lets face it, I have no experience using either of these and am only relaying information I have been told by others who use them.  The diva cups come in sizes based on your age (i had to google this by the way) and this is what they say based on sizes listed below:  model 0 is for women 18 years of age or younger, model 1 is for women between the ages of 19 and 30 with medium flows, and model 2 is for women over 30 or for those who have heavier flows and i got this information from here btw:  https://amzn.to/2Iy7KH7 

 

Safety

I like to make sure everybody has a whistle.  As simple as it sounds a whistle can be used to signal help, find people who have become separated from the group, and can also be used if someone is in distress.  The walkie talkies are nice also and these in particular run on AAA batteries, kids will love them too, especially if an adult has to leave the group for some reason … stay in touch, cell phones may be down.  Make sure you have battery backups for anything that runs on batteries in your kits.

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First Aid

Basic first aid is a must and having a trauma kit may save you or someone you loves life.  Additional items you should have are pain reliever, personal prescription medications, immodium ad, extra eye glasses or contacts in cases, eye flush/contact cleaner (i can’t recommend because I don’t have contacts)

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Cash

you should have about $49 in cash in small bills along with $1 in coins (think change for a dollar so 3 quarters, 1 dime, 2 nickels, 5 pennies will fit most bills).  If power is out, atm’s won’t work and if you have to purchase anything from a store the prices are often inflated and cash is king during emergencies.

Survival Documentation

It is obviously better if you already have the skills necessary when a natural disaster or other threat occurs but without skills, I would highly recommend that you purchase these pocket guides.  These guides are cram-packed full of helpful information on how to use the various parts of your kit and they do not weigh that much.  At least pic the ones you need the most help with.  I would recommend at a bare minimum:  Building a survival kit; Knots; Wilderness First Aid; Shelter, Fire, Water; Basic & Primitive Navigation

 

Personal Documentation

Inside a Ziploc bag, inside of your kit, you should have printed photo copies for each family member of:  drivers license, social security cards, credit card, birth certificates, voter registration, medical information, vaccination information, contact information, emergency id cards.  Each family member should also have printed photo copies of their pertinent information on them in a Ziploc bag, whether its inside a backpack, book bag, or just in their pocket.  Some people recommend you keep this information on a usb stick but that makes no sense to me … if the power is out, what is that information on usb stick going to be worth?  Having it on a usb stick might work as a backup but having them printed will be a sure way to guaranty you have some form of identity.  These documents can also help identify you or family members in the unfortunate event that you should perish (hey, I am being realistic here and i bet you can recall at least once lately on the news that a child was found without any identification wondering because a parent has passed away)  

Personal Protection

Obviously if you have a concealed carry permit, a firearm will be your best option but I am going to list some non-lethal ways to protect yourself.  During almost every disaster, the good and the bad comes out.  Be prepared to defend yourself and your family.  If you can, have everyone old enough in your family take self defense courses.  People may try to take what you have, i almost guaranty if you are doing better than someone else who is suffering … they will at least think about robbing you of what you have, even if you help them.  I can’t think of a better time than the way the United States has become the last 10 years or so to admit that nobody cares about your life or values your life except you and your immediate family.  You are totally disposable to someone who does not know you.  During many natural disasters recently we have seen on the news people who have the belief “desperate times call for desperate measures” and if you think they won’t kill you over something as simple as food or shelter, you might as well save your money on buying a kit because you probably aren’t going to make it anyways.  We have seen this happen with almost every natural disaster to date.  Sadly, with desperation comes bad decisions if someone feels like they don’t have any other options available to them.  I have no preference on these but a little info on the Olight flashlight, it is 1500 lumens and if you shine that in someones eyes they are not going to be able to see you … so that gives you an option to take control of the situation or retreat away from them.  I’m not saying it will work every time, but its better than no way to defend yourself.  The red pepper gel and flashlight offers some distance between you and an adversary but the stun gun requires you to be up close and personal.  If I was only going to pick one, I would go with the flashlight because its also a “candlelight” backup item but if I could pick two I would go with the pepper spray and flashlight.  Another option besides the listed pepper spray that has a much larger distance, a wider spray pattern, and a larger can which might be helpful against crowds or multiple individuals is bear spray.  It can easily be attached to the outside of your backpack on the hip belt strap and that makes it always convenient and easy to get to.  

You may want any of these    

Entertainment

A plain old deck of cards and knowing a few card games will help pass time.  For a family, uno is also popular to play.  To be honest, I have played uno by myself when I have experienced long power outages and single games of solitaire start to get old .. plus when I play uno alone, I always win!  #moralboost  

You may want these    
     

Food

Do not go overboard on this, since it is the one thing that is the least importance to your survival (remember the rules of 3?), keep it small.  I’d suggest some single serve coffee/tea/hot chocolate packets as moral boosts.  2 protein bars per day per person, some beef jerky, trail mix single serve are nice and keep you from over packing them but limit them to only 1 per day, and maybe plan to have 1 hot meal a day per person in the form of dehydrated mountain house or similar (which can be eaten cold without hot water, you just need to double the time it takes to reconstitute them before eating).  I am recommending mountain house because that’s what I use and since all of the other gear is what I use, food will be too.  I really like the mountain house meals that you just add hot water too.  Hard tack candy is amazing.  Snickers bars always pick me up.  The way I know food is acceptable for emergencies is to use the same process I use when long-distance hiking.  You want food that is calorie dense.  What that means is it has at least a specific amount of calories per oz of food.  The ratio is usually 100 calories per oz of weight.  As an example, a regular 2 oz snickers bar has 266 calories.  That means it is 266 / 2 = 133 calories per oz and it passes the 100 calories per oz requirement.  Do that with any food I did not recommend and you will suddenly find out food you think is ok for emergencies suddenly is not, i.e. they weigh more than they provide in nutrition or calories.  A note about mountain house and similar dehydrated meals: many people complain about the sodium/salt levels of these…but you have to remember these are made for people hiking and sweating a lot (which will probably also happen during natural disasters or other emergencies).  If you sweat a lot, your body not only craves but requires more salt. A lack of salt can cause a condition known as hyponatremia which can lead to death.  The body uses salt for many reasons but the two biggest are regulating blood pressure and making sure cells and nerve endings work properly.  Without proper levels of salt, the body will start shutting down.  Symptoms of low salt include gastrointestinal issues (doesn’t sound like fun in an emergency); cognitive impairment (your judgement comes into question and you will start making really silly mistakes); muscle cramps or spasms.  The older you are, the more likely you will hit those symptoms sooner than someone younger.  So, having excessive salt in your diet during an emergency is a good thing (unless there is some medical reason why you shouldn’t).  You can’t overdose on salt, the body is simply going to get rid of it via pee or stool.

For the mountain house meals, I just picked some of my favorites in single serving sizes.  But they also have kits, i.e. 2, 3, 4, 5 day kit for 1 person.  The downfall of the kits is you don’t get to pick and chose what you will be eating … you just accept it for what it is and if it contains something you don’t like, you just have to eat it anyways because in a survival situation we can’t be so picky or choosy.  I listed the 14 day kit because 3 days and a 4 person family is 12 dinners/meals … but that 14 day kit weighs 12 lbs which doesn’t sound like much but wait til you have to carry it any distance along with your gear.  It will also consume a large portion of your backpack real-estate so try to spread this around so that everybody carries some food.  You could simply get the 14 day kit and call it good because it usually includes breakfast items, lunch items, dinner items, and deserts … but that also requires more stove fuel if you are cooking 12 meals a day (3 meals a day x 4 family members) and since the 4 oz stove fuel canister can only heat up about 11 meals, that means you need 4 canisters to cover your heating requirements (12 x 3 = 36 times you needed heat…the canisters are 3×11 = 33 so you need a 4th canister).

Single Serve – 1 / day / person 3 Day Kit 14 Day kit for family
 

Things to have around your home

These shouldn’t be in your kit but in a safe place of your home like a basement, i.e. if there is a tornado warning.   Already mentioned above, 2 x wool blankets per family member stored in plastic bins with lids and mothballs.  I keep mentioning wool blankets and now is where I want to tell you uses they have besides staying warm.  Wool is naturally fire resistant.  If there was a fire and you needed to get your family out but the only way was through a room with a raging fire, you could drape the wool blankets over you and have some protection from the flames.  Also wool will keep you warm even if it gets wet.  Research shows wool will retain its thermal properties with up to 80% of its weight in water added to it.  There are many benefits of having wool blankets,  I can’t stress enough how important they are around the home.  If you don’t want to buy them new, you can often find them in goodwill or similar stores used at bargain prices.  A weather radio (the one I mention below has a usb port to charge devices like cell phones (although they are usually limited to about 2000 mah in capacity, enough to charge most cell phones batteries to at least 50-75% and older phones to near 100% (current cell phone batteries are usually in the 3,000 – 3500 mah), it can run off AA/AAA batteries or by turning a hand crank so it works even when the batteries are dead, and it can be charged via solar panel built into it).  A battery operated lantern.  A spare isobutane stove with a larger fuel canister.  A spare stainless steel cup or pan for boiling water. 3 days of food for each family member. 3 gallons of water per family member.  A jacket, gloves, toboggan for each family member.

Low Budget Mid Budget  
   

I also have another article on get-home bags.  It actually lists what I keep in mine.  The article is here.

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