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Packing a 72-Hour Emergency Bag for Your Family

Photo credit: thewhimsicalphotographer.com

Emergency bag, bug-out bag, emergency survival kit, Get-Out-Of-Dodge bag, Personal Emergency Relocation Kit–no matter what you call it, it’s something every family should have ready in the event of an emergency.

These bags or kits should prepare you for all kinds of emergencies, from natural disasters like hurricanes or flooding, to technological disasters like black-outs, to apocalyptic events like Zombie-invasions (just kidding).

An emergency bag is meant to carry the essentials for survival for 48-72 hours. But bug-out bags, emergency kits, and survival kits all include the same basic things. Keep them in your home for emergency evacuation, keep one in the car, or take them along when you travel.

Remember, you don’t want your bags to be too heavy, they should be easily transportable and easy to store. How you implement them is up to you and you should customize them to your family’s needs and environment. Read below for items to get you started.

Water & Food

  • Keep a few liters of bottled water available. A good rule of thumb is an individual needs 1 liter per day at minimum. Bottled water should not expire, but just in case, change out the bottles every 6 months or so.
  • For long-term emergencies, you’ll want to have some kind of water purification system such as purification tablets. Consider a collapsible bucket for water collection. You can also use stainless steel bottles to easily boil water.
  • Freeze-dried meals
  • Energy bars
  • Canned foods such as sardines or tuna
  • Hard candy

Tools & Supplies

  • Rope, twine
  • Duct tape
  • A knife and multi-tool that includes a can opener, screw driver, etc.
  • Folding shovel
  • A tarp. You can use this as a makeshift shelter to keep out wind, rain, and the sun.
  • Several flashlights, preferably solar powered with LED lights
  • Spare batteries
  • Glow sticks
  • Kitty litter, for traction when stuck in snow
  • Power inverter for your car to charge your phone or other electronics
  • A hand crank radio
  • A whistle for each individual
  • Waterproof matches
  • Lighters
  • Magnesium fire starting tool


  • Emergency blankets. Mylar foil blankets are a popular choice.
  • Rain ponchos
  • Warm clothes. Synthetic is better than cotton as it will dry faster.
  • Change of clothes for each family member
  • Working gloves
  • You might also consider including sleeping bags. You can find ones that compress down to a small size for easy transportation and storage.
Tip: If you want to get fancy and conserve space, vacuum seal your clothes.

First Aid & Personal Items

  • A basic first-aid kit. You can buy assembled kits but if you research and build your own you’ll have a better knowledge of what you need and how to use it. Basics include: band-aids, gauze, cloth tape, anti-septic wipes, antibacterial ointment, scissors, tweezers, non-latex gloves, a CPR mask, saline solution to use as eye wash, and dust masks.
  • Over-the-counter medications: anti-diarrheal medications, pain and fever medications, and anti-histamines.
Familiarize yourself with pediatric doses of adult OTC medications. Also, never cut or crush pills that are time-release.
  • A handbook on first aid, possibly one for first aid for children
  • Personal items such as bar soap, mouthwash, toothbrush/toothpaste, hand sanitizer, toilet paper
  • Essential prescription medications. Rotate these out when you rotate the food/water.

For the Kids

  • A sling to carry infants and babies, such as a Moby Wrap
  • Cloth diapers
  • Ointments
  • Emergency formula
  • Multivitamins
  • Boredom busters: A book or two, portable games such as cards, activity or coloring books. Pack colored pencils instead of crayons which can melt or markers which can dry out.

Other essentials

  • Forms of identification. Some people also like to include copies of birth certificates, social security cards, insurance policies, and so on.
  • Cash in small denominations
  • Laminated list of important phone numbers and information
  • Map and compass
  • A book on survival. The SAS Survival Handbook is a popular and well-rated book to have on hand.

Lastly, don’t forget pets! You might want to include any medications they take or a few cans of food, and perhaps a collapsible water bowl.

While on the topic of emergency preparedness, create a plan with your family. Do you know where you would meet if your family was separated at the time of a natural disaster and you could not communicate?
{Follow the NEST category for more tips, ideas and information on home and organization.}

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Laura is a wife and a new mom living on the East Coast. She and her husband welcomed their first child in September 2013. She has a passion for photography and an incurable case of Wanderlust. In her spare time she enjoys blogging about photography, travel, married life, and motherhood at The Whimsical Photographer.

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