DIY: Build Your Own 72 Hour Kit + Emergency Kit List PDF

72 Hour Emergency Kit List

With my many years of experience in disaster preparedness and other prepping pursuits, not to mention my law enforcement experience, I think I’ve probably seen it all – from hurricanes to wildfires and more than my fair share of street violence and full-blown civil unrest, even the odd zombie apocalypse or two. Ok, just kidding on the last one, unless we’re counting my kids 😉

I’ve helped many people put together their own customized 72-hour emergency kits, carefully planned to cater to their unique requirements and personal risk profiles. I’ve also produced a free printable 72 hour kit checklist which you can download for free below.

In this article I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to build your own 72-hour kit, ensuring you’re ready for any unexpected disaster (maybe not including the zombie apocalypse!)

What’s The Purpose Of A 72 Hour Bug Out Bag?

A 72-hour kit, (sometimes known as a ‘go-bag’ or ‘bug-out bag’ because it’s usually portable), is a collection of survival gear designed to sustain an individual (and sometimes their family) for a minimum of three days in the event of an emergency like an earthquake, tornado, riots or other unexpected disaster scenarios

Family Disaster Scenario

Remember, most 3 day survival kits include just the basics to sustain life (not enjoy it!).

It must be small, light and easy to keep with you for it to be of practical use in a real-world emergency. It should provide the necessary supplies to weather the storm (literally and figuratively!) and hold out until help arrives.

The first seventy-two hours after disaster strikes is by far the most volatile, dangerous and unpredictable period. It’s when the worst stuff happens and, sadly, when many people will probably die, most of them from lack of water causing dehydration.

There are many different types of 72-hour kits, as there are many different types of disasters and emergencies that any of us could be facing at any time. But broadly speaking they all fall into two main categories, so this is the first distinction we should look at:

  • Pre-Made 72-Hour Kits
  • DIY (Homemade) Emergency Kits

I’ve already published an article reviewing my top ten premade 72-hour kits where I also explain why you should have one. This article is for people who don’t want a factory-produced, generic (cookie-cutter) survival kit, for people who want to make a ‘custom’ or completely bespoke 72hour survival system personally designed for them, for their own individual needs, environment, and risk factors.

Personalized Bespoke Emergency Kit

I’m guessing you can already tell that I have a strong preference for the idea of building your own emergency SHTF bag!

HomeMade Emergency Kits – Why Make Your Own?

Well I guess I should give my reasons for that preference. There are many reasons why a personalized survival pack beats a factory-made product. The biggest one for me is the fact you won’t be carrying anything you don’t need, in place of something you do! Let’s go through what I think are the main Pro’s and Con’s of the D.I.Y. ‘roll your own’ approach:

Advantages:

Cost

Low Cost Used Bargains

This one is a big one for me, but bear in mind I am pretty darn good at ‘economizing’ (My wife calls me a ‘cheapskate’, if that gives you a better idea!) 

Over the many years I’ve been involved in survival and emergency preparedness stuff, I’ve bought a LOT of survival equipment from friends and people I’ve worked with. As far as I’m concerned you just can’t beat a ‘used bargain’. That said, you should not ‘scrimp’ on second-hand gear when it comes to food and water. Anything consumable or with a sell-by-date should always be purchased brand new.

But most survival supplies you’ll want in a ‘bugout bag’ don’t fall into that category, especially knapsacks and tools, even flashlights and radios can be bought second-hand for bargain-basement prices. Between Craigslist and Ebay (not to mention friends) I’ve bought some really great quality gear at a fraction of the retail prices. So I have a real fondness for used equipment. For this reason I think building your own emergency bag can offer significant savings on buying one brand new ‘off the shelf’. 

One final point I’d make on cost is that for some people, building a custom 72hr kit can actually turn out more expensive. This is because the factory ‘all in one’ style kits are mass-produced so they can cut costs down due to bulk purchasing. So my advice would generally be:

If you know your gear, have specific requirements and like high quality accessories, building your own kit will be cheaper. But if you don’t know much about the equipment, you might be better off with a premade kit as they usually have at least a basic and functional version of each necessary item inside.

Better Quality

The knock-on benefit of this point is that you can actually have higher quality gear in your 72hour kit without spending more.

An example is a flashlight I have. A friend of mine paid something ridiculous like $500 for it when he was working a security job (with high risk). The contract ended in under 12 months and he had no more use for it. I was offered it second hand and I bit his hand off! The thing is freaking amazing!

I would never pay that sort of money for a flashlight but for $150 (still a lot of money on a light!) I had this incredible 12 thousand lumen unbreakable light which doubles as a charger pack for my phone and other electronics. Having said all that, you do need to know a fair bit about your gear to be able to buy used without getting ‘fleeced’, and you do of course run that risk regardless. 

Personalization

I often talk to people about what I call their “prepping fingerprint”, I even wrote an article about it! I believe that the more unique you are, or the more different from ‘average’ you are, the more benefit you’ll get from choosing to build your 72-hour emergency system yourself, carefully designed for nobody but yourself!

Personalized Homemade Kit

The bespoke nature of a home-made survival kit means you can build it to your exact needs, so if you have a lot of ‘quirks’ (think diet, allergies, weight, power and strength (or lack of), medical problems etc) then you can really tailor this package to yourself, down to the finest detail.

Again, some people don’t have many quirks and are ‘average’, average size, average knowledge, average diet etc. For those people a homemade kit doesn’t have such big advantages, but it will always have some.

Knowledge

I am a firm believer in knowledge being one of the most important emergency survival tools, and it doesn’t come shrink-wrapped in even the most expensive disaster kit, whether you buy it or make it yourself! 

The process of building your bugout bag can be a massively educational experience, and that’s another reason I always advise people to go this route if they can. When you’re thinking it through, writing your own 3 day supplies checklist, researching products/items and so on, you’re constantly gaining knowledge about not just the items but also about survival in general.

Emergency Kit Knowledge

You’ll spend lots of time watching YouTube videos and survival movies, reading articles about emergency survival and talking to suppliers and maybe getting involved in social groups or online forums etcetera.

This process is packed with information you’ll be absorbing and keeping with you wherever you go. And remember, God gave us all our own completely customized personal survival kit, it’s called the human brain!

Helping Family & Friends

By doing all this research and learning about what you need in a crisis situation, you will be well-equipped to help others. 

I have known many ‘beginner preppers’ and it frequently amazes me how quickly they develop skills and knowledge. Very often, as soon as they finish building their own go-bag, they immediately start helping others do the same. Usually an older relative, but then friends soon follow. This ‘viral’ nature (72-hour prepping is quite a serious bug once you catch it!) spreads and more people being prepared can only be a good thing in my book. A damn good thing.

Disadvantages

Of course with any upside, there’s always a downside or two. In fact, as is the case here, the upsides for some can actually be the downsides for others. Below I’ll list some comments I’ve heard about the downsides to home-made 72hr kits:

Delayed Readiness

This one is hard for me to argue against. If you decide right here and now that you’re going to build your own kit, you won’t actually be ‘disaster-ready’ for a good month or two, sometimes longer depending on how picky you are about your decisions and equipment choices. It’ll take you a good while to pull it all together, and there’s just no getting around that fact. On the other hand, if you bought a ready-made 72 hour kit today, you may have it in your hands as soon as tomorrow. 

DIY vs $30 Kit

To be completely honest with you, with this being a very real issue, I would suggest you grab yourself a very cheap but very good value 1 person kit which you can pick up for under $30. You’ll then have something totally usable (and don’t let the price fool you, these are way better than nothing) immediately on hand. You can keep that while you build a bigger/better kit yourself, and when that job’s done you can always give the premade kit to someone you know or just keep it in the trunk of your car. It won’t be a waste of money, in other words.

Time-Consuming

As mentioned above, it does take time. I have heard some people have complained about how much time they have to invest in learning and planning their gear properly. You know my opinion on that (why the hell would that be a disadvantage, it’s time better spent than time on Facebook or TikTok, isn’t it?!), but I know people vary and some just don’t have much spare time to invest in these things. If that’s you, you might be better off buying something ready made and if that’s the case, I’d suggest you spend more and get a much more extensive kit such as the Seventy2 Survival System.

Mistakes and Oversights

If you’re in any way careful this shouldn’t be a problem, but just bear in mind that when you do this yourself you do run the risk of forgetting items, choosing something unsuitable or making other errors in judgment. This is removed when you rely on someone else’s decisions, at least it’s removed from you anyway!

I’m the type of guy who’d rather starve to death due to my own oversights than someone else’s that I stupidly chose to rely on for my own future survival!

What Container Is Best For Your Homemade 72 Hour Kit?

There’s a long list of storage containers, bags, cases, boxes and more that you can keep your supplies in. I will just mention the two most common options people consider.

Non-Transportable Box or Tub

This is the most common choice for a ‘home emergency kit’, often chosen by people in big cities where they are probably better off staying indoors than venturing into the chaotic streets outside, depending on the specific situation you’re dealing with of course. 

These containers are usually sturdy and durable, providing reliable protection for your gear.

Build your own DIY home emergency kit

They’re also typically affordable and readily available at most stores, making it easy to get your hands on. They are usually airtight (if not watertight, which is another option with its own advantages) and this can help keep your supplies safe from moisture and pe(s)ts!

However, there are some drawbacks to consider as well. Non-transportable plastic containers can be bulky and heavy, making them less than ideal for grabbing on the go in an emergency situation.

Non-Portable 72-hour survival kit

Their rigid structure may also limit the amount of gear you can fit inside, potentially forcing you to prioritize certain items over others. Additionally, if not stored properly, plastic containers can degrade over time, compromising the integrity of your supplies.

So, while these containers offer solid protection, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before committing to this storage option. On the plus side, it sure is a cheaper way to go if you’re only interested in having a contained box for a disaster kit you only intend to rely on at home.

Pro Tip

Store it in a dark place or wrap it in a trash bag to block UV rays. Sunlight will quickly degrade the plastic, causing it to go very brittle and risk it falling to pieces when you need to use it for real.

Mobile Backpacks, Rucksacks, Fanny Packs / Waist Bags

Homemade 72 Hour Waist Pack

The smaller varieties of personal carry packs are a good addition to an emergency kit but in my view they’re not sufficient for a proper 3 day kit. They complement one nicely, especially for quick access to the most urgently needed items such as a firearm, flashlight, cellphone or knife.

A bag you can carry on your back is where you should be focussing for a practical survival kit. There’s too much gear to fit in smaller bags, and a pack carried on your back allows full movement of your body, especially your hands.

Backpacks are extremely versatile and they allow you to grab your entire stock of supplies in a matter of seconds before hitting the road straight away if necessary.

Their multiple compartments and pockets provide good organization for your gear, making it easy to access specific items without trawling through a myriad of different items. As well as that, the hands-free design of a backpack leaves your hands available to accomplish other important tasks or carry additional items as you evacuate to safety.

But there are a few drawbacks to consider as well. While a backpack offers great mobility, it may not provide the same level of protection as a sturdy plastic container against external elements like water/moisture or impact damage.


Pros and Cons of Backpacks

Pros
  • Versatility and ease of transport
  • Quick access to essentials
  • Multiple compartments for organization
  • Hands-free design for convenience
Cons
  • Limited protection from external elements
  • Physical strain from carrying heavy pack
  • Risk of theft/damage due to open design

Depending on the size and weight of your supplies, carrying a fully loaded backpack for an extended period can also be physically tiring and uncomfortable for the uninitiated. This is something I routinely ‘harass’ people about (so i’m told anyway!): You must practice everything, including just carrying a pack, working out which clothes it will fit comfortably over and which ones it won’t. This is all the sort of stuff to find out when you’re not in a panic or stressful situation.

Mule carrying heavy kit

Also, the open design of a backpack may not offer the same level of security for your supplies compared to a sealed container, especially a lockable one. This can leave your equipment vulnerable to theft or damage in certain situations, depending on your environment.

Overall though, I think a portable bag of any description gives you significant benefits over a hard non-mobile container. For this reason I’ll focus on these below. Just make a mental note as you read the rest of the article, all of the information can also apply to a solid container solution if that’s your preference.

Pandemic Emergency Measures

Also note that the recent pandemic (and the seemingly insane response to it by government) definitely gave us a prime example of why a plastic storage system can work very well when you’re not allowed to go anywhere, even to visit a dying relative in the case of a very close friend of mine. Mass lockdowns again anyone?!

No thanks.

Choosing A Backpack To Carry Your Emergency Supplies

This is a very important decision and one you definitely shouldn’t rush into when you decide to build a kit yourself. I have known people who spend several months picking the most suitable bag for their emergency essentials, mainly due to comfort reasons which is obviously a major factor (probably the most critical one of all).

I will outline the most important points to bear in mind below, but for a more thorough guide you can read my article on the best 72-hour backpacks for 2024. In that article I reviewed what I think are the top five backpacks currently available, but I also give a more detailed breakdown of the many factors you should consider when buying. These factors are briefly listed below:

Size and Storage Capabilities

The first and most obvious question to ask is “Will it fit all my gear in?!”

Choosing A Backpack For Homemade 72-Hour Kit

You’d be surprised how many people mess this up, believe it or not! Most of the time it’s because people have a tendency to rush out and buy a bag before they’ve even thought about their 72-hour survival kit list! In other words before they know how much they intend to put inside, oops! 

Generally, for people who are just starting out with emergency preparedness, I’d say it’s best to consider a medium-sized bag for a good balance between capacity and portability. The higher the quality the better, but it’s not worth obsessing over too much as this is designed for temporary use remember.

Your back-pack should be spacious enough to accommodate your emergency essentials without being too bulky or overly demanding to move around with. A capacity of around 30-50 liters is a good guide for most people, providing ample room for food, water, clothing, and other necessities while remaining highly portable and lightweight. Read more about storage capacity.

Comfort

Make Your Own DIY Earthquake Backpack

Comfort is a crucial factor to keep in mind, especially if you plan on wearing it for extended periods (assume you will!). It’s the one factor that can make or break your survival bag, making the difference between moving with it quickly and safely, or not being able to move at all.

Blistering and sores caused by ill-fitting packs have mentally destroyed tens of thousands of soldiers the world over, avoid chafing at all costs! Look for something with well-padded straps, a hip belt ideally, and plenty of back and shoulder cushioning, breathable ideally. Read more about comfort and load-bearing.

Features

Home-made Disaster Preparedness Knapsack

There is a long list of possible features found in most good quality modern packs these days. Many of these features can dramatically extend its functionality and convenience, both are vital to survival under stressful circumstances. So get something with multiple compartments and easy-access pockets to help you stay organized and efficiently plan where you’ll store your equipment, with your most important accessories stored on the side of your dominant hand.

Having well-thought-out features can make your daily routine more manageable and certainly can save your life by speeding up your access to critical supplies when you need them, especially your emergency medical supplies where the difference between seconds and minutes can be the difference between life and death for you or someone you care about.

Consider features like velcro side pockets, MOLLE webbing for attaching extra gear, hydration bladder compatibility, and waterproof pockets for matches/firestarters, paperwork, maps and identity documents.

Durability

Yes, we’d all like a bag that can withstand a year in a war zone! And it’s not a bad idea to get one as rugged as that if you can. But you should keep in mind the idea we are focusing on here, this is about 72-HOUR emergency preparedness, not 12 months of battle. I hope not anyway!

Sure, you don’t want something to fall apart on you in a crisis, but honestly there aren’t many rucksacks you can buy these days, assuming you buy from a reputable brand anyway, that wouldn’t be durable enough for a 3 day survival purpose. So by all means focus on quality if you wish, but you can easily spend a lot more than necessary.

durable bag for prepping

Remember that the zippers won’t rust in a few days, or even weeks (if they are in regular use anyway). The velcro closures won’t wear out in that time, the padding won’t flatten or weaken in that time, and so on. Modern water-resistant materials like nylon and polyester, even from lower quality manufacturers, will provide ample wear resistance and longevity for our intended purpose.

That said, if you expect to keep your complete 72 hour kit rolling around the floor or in a vehicle long-term (months or possibly years), while you wait for a time when you need it, that’s where a more rugged design will definitely become a more important issue. Read more about durability.

Cost

While quality is definitely something to focus on, you definitely do not need to spend a fortune.

With a bit of effort and time spent researching, you can easily strike a good balance between affordability and durability, aiming for a pack that offers the best value for your personal budget. Read some more tips on low-cost ideas for survival kits and bug out bags.

Complete 72 Hour Kit List: What To Put In An Emergency Kit

Even the most basic emergency kit should satisfy 10 essential points. These are listed below in order of priority/importance. I will go into more detail on each of them below but it’s worth memorizing the list (or at least printing it) as it contains all essential human survival needs.

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Shelter
  4. First Aid Supplies
  5. Emergency Lighting
  6. Toiletry & Hygiene
  7. Multitool and knife
  8. Communications Gear
  9. ID Documents & Cash
  10. Clothing & Boots

72-Hour Supply Of Drinking Water

72-Hour Supply Of Drinking Water

Water is without question the single biggest key to survival, there’s nothing more vital to your ability to stay alive other than breathable air.

A day or two without water and you’ll be getting into some serious trouble, whereas you can go without food for a week or two without much harm other than the discomfort of the hunger itself. Aim to have at least one gallon of water per person per day. More if you can, but never less than that.

As well as safe drinking water, consider including water filtration systems, purification tablets, and water bottles for gathering water quickly when you’re on the move.

Emergency Food: Non-Perishable Rations

During an emergency, you’ll need nutrient-dense, high-calorie emergency food to keep you going.

You should stockpile and pack non-perishable items such as rice and beans, granola bars, tuna packs, survival food bars, protein bars, oatmeal packets, beef jerky, peanut butter, freeze-dried meal pouches, dried fruits and anything else you can get your hands on.

While food isn’t as vital as water, especially for just a few days, it sure does make things a lot easier if your stomach isn’t growling at you all day. Always consider any special dietary needs such as diabetes or allergies etc, especially if you’re helping someone else to build their 72-hour bag.

Shelter: Staying Dry and Warm

No matter what your environment or climate, some form of shelter will be useful for most of us. 

There are some environments where it’s not all that important, usually places with a nice temperate climate and low rainfall, but I’d still say it’s wise to consider the worst possible weather and plan for that if you can. (Hope for the best, Plan for the worst)

For most people a shelter is about staying warm and dry, hence why I say in some places it’s not such an issue. Although even in warm climates, you may well need protection from that warmth (i.e. the sun itself!), and a bivvy or tarp can provide good protection there.

Assuming you’re not fortunate enough to have to ‘worry about’ facing a desert island survival situation (if so I am jealous!), you should consider 3 important elements:

  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Concealment
Shelter and Concealment

Most people don’t think about the last one, and you may not need to. But for me personally, I always consider the possibility of needing to ‘hide’, whether that be from zombies, or just other people who didn’t prepare as well as me, those who may want to ‘borrow’ some of my gear, if you get my drift!

Generally, any kind of tent, tarp, bivvy etc, will suffice for a shelter for 3 days. You can use it to at least sleep somewhere dry, and if needed you can use it to shield yourself from winds which can help with getting a fire lit if necessary.

In addition to a rain/wind shield, think about items like rope, emergency blankets, sleeping bags, inflatable pillows, and any other gear you think you’d need for sheltering from the elements.

Pro Tip

These days you can get some very effective ‘pocket warmers’ powered by a Lithium battery. I have a friend who bought a jacket lined with similar heaters and has batteries stitched inside the lining.

It’s excellent for keeping your core temperature up. Something like that would be a luxury in my book, but as someone with relatives who suffer from circulation problems and therefore feel the cold much more than I do, I can see why something like that might actually be a very useful item to some, perhaps even a lifesaver.

First Aid Kit (Personalized)

A well-stocked first aid kit is absolutely crucial to have on you in any disaster situation.

By default they should include some form of bandages, gauze pads, scissors, tweezers, antibiotic ointment, pain relief and sterile surgical (latex ideally) gloves.

For your own personal first aid supplies you should obviously consider any health issues unique to yourself, or whoever the kit is for. Consider things like allergies (is an EpiPen needed?), sunscreen if you burn easily, asthma inhalers etc. I have written more on the importance of customizing your emergency first aid kit.

Flashlights, Light Sticks & Headlamp

Dealing with the dark when power grid goes down

A total ‘grid down’ scenario is many people’s worst fear, but many other incidents can lead to the lights going out even just temporarily. It’s pretty scary too, in ways you wouldn’t even think of until you’re in a power outage for real. Even more so in a city disaster scenario, believe it or not.

Aside from the obvious difficulties of being without electricity, the biggest one comes at night: not being able to see anything. If you can’t see anything, you can’t really do anything, and that often includes even just movement. This can restrict any kind of travel to daytime only, which is a big loss especially if you have somewhere you need to get to ASAP. Losing the entire night is a very big deal.

So you must have several alternative sources of light. Glow sticks are good for signaling and lighting an area such as when in a shelter or lighting a fire, but headlamps, lanterns and flashlights are a must for safety and traveling on foot.

Don’t forget spare batteries, or if possible get a hand-crank flashlight, some of them now come with solar panels to charge during the day, these are a great thing to have and I think everyone should have one in their bugout bag.

Sanitation, Hygiene & Toiletry

Maintaining proper sanitation and hygiene is not just vital for staying physically healthy. It’s also needed to boost morale when stressful challenges are coming at you from all sides. 

If you lose the ability to have basic hygiene and deal with going to the bathroom, washing and cleaning teeth etc, people can quickly become depressed and lose the will to battle on.

So your kit should include any items you’ll need to keep your personal sanitation and hygiene in good order, consider things like wet wipes, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene items, trash bags, and maybe hand sanitizer (I prefer soap, had enough of sanitizer in the past few years, if you know what I mean!)

Multi-tool, Knife & Other Survival Accessories

Multi-tool survival knife

This can be an endless list, and it gets heavy fast when you start looking at the long list of exciting SHTF tools available. Don’t go overboard on it but do think carefully about what you may need in your specific environment, as it varies a lot.

If you’re nowhere near the woods, I don’t see much point in you carrying a ton of wood-carving gear! But if there’s any chance you could be surviving outdoors, you may still want to consider that sort of equipment. 

I was brought up on the phrase “carry a knife, save a life”, so I would never be anywhere without at least one small sharp knife on me around the clock. I am being totally honest when I say the only place where I don’t have a knife on my hip, is in my bed at home.

As an absolute minimum, no matter where you live, I’d say it’s essential for you to have at least one folding pocket knife, one multi-tool, and one strong belt or sheath knife.

On top of that you can think about whether you need other items such as: axe, shovel, duct tape, hunting/fishing gear, binoculars, firearms etc… (all that sort of stuff is for you to think about, if I were to suggest every possible item for every state/jurisdiction/climate/person, the list would be a mile long.)

Pro Tip

Get yourself a very cheap and very small knife sharpener, ideally a fairly coarse diamond or if you can afford it, a DMT Aligner kit. They weigh virtually nothing, take up very little space, and will save you from the horrible experience of having a knife that won’t cut! (Yep, been there!)

Communications & Signaling Equipment

Emergency Communications Equipment

At the most basic level of survival, this isn’t strictly speaking essential for everyone. Knowing what items you need depends on how good your survival skills are. Obviously we are all very different, from age to sex, from knowledge level to physical strength, there are so many variables at play when trying to think of what items should be included in the best 72-hour kit, and emergency communications can add a fair amount of weight to your survival bag.

That said, I do think everyone should at least seriously consider having some form of communications in their kit though.

The options are numerous and varied. You should have a cell phone of course, but it’s wise to assume they won’t be working due to whatever disaster may have happened. Despite that, even if cell towers are down, a smartphone is still a very useful device to have. There are many useful apps like compasses, morse code flashing light, camera, audio player and many more handy functions that work without internet access.

I generally recommend at least a hand crank radio (mostly for sanity and listening to news and NOAA weather alerts), as well as a whistle of some kind, just to call for help or grab someone’s attention from a short distance. A pair of walkie-talkies can be useful if you’re with other people, or likely to pair up with someone. Some of these can be very small these days, so they don’t have to add much weight, especially if you only carry one of the pair.

Modern walkie talkies have a pretty impressive range (1-2 miles as a minimum in open country, often more), and they are pretty cheap too. The one problem I have with them is the energy they use. They eat through batteries very quickly, ten times faster if you actually transmit with them. So unless you have a solar charger of some kind (which is a good idea if you can afford it), you’ll need to carry at least two sets of spare batteries.

From a psychological perspective, every little helps when it comes to the ‘survival mindset’. Feeling ‘alone’ is very unsettling for most people, and just hearing a voice or some music over the radio can be extremely comforting and reassuring, worth thinking about especially if you have ‘weaker’ people likely to be with you, children for example.

Pro Tip

If you’re in a group with some smartphones and a way to recharge them, you can get apps that work exactly like walkie-talkies between your phones, using Wifi or Bluetooth as well as the cellular network.

If I remember right, one is called “Push To Talk”. I don’t know much about it as I’ve never used it, but you might want to look into it if you think it would be useful for you, pretty neat from what I’ve heard!

Documents, Papers, Maps & Cash

Having copies of essential documents has various benefits, from gaining trust with strangers or proving your address/identity to authorities, to helping you rebuild your life quicker after a disaster.

Emergency Identity Documents

I have first-hand experience of the trust-building effect documents have, especially Identity documents. When two strangers come into contact for the first time, particularly in a crisis situation, the natural (and sensible) inclination is to be very wary.

Just the simple act of opening your wallet and showing your driving licence or something with your photo and address on for the other person to see you are happy to give real details about yourself, it can build significant trust immediately, allaying any fears they may have had. Think about the types of people who would not do this when meeting a stranger, and you begin to see why it’s so useful and puts people at ease.

Pack just the most essential items though, paper gets heavy real fast! I’d suggest essentials would be things like driver’s licenses, social security cards, credit and bank account information, birth certificates, medical information, vaccination records, or anything specific to you (such as your badge if you’re a cop). I’d also keep any proof of ownership, such as real estate and vehicles, just in case of squatters or other issues where your ownership is challenged.

It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that ATMs and banks may not be accessible in a disaster situation so you should keep small denominations of cash on hand to buy things if you’re able to, maybe from other people if not from stores. Spread the cash around in different pockets and compartments to minimize the risk of losing it all if you get a tear.

Finally I’d suggest a waterproof pen and paper is a wise addition to any emergency kit. I feel lost without the ability to write stuff down, such as directions or some sort of record of an event (like witnessing a serious crime and noting a description or license plate while it’s fresh in your mind). 

Pro Tip

If you have to evacuate, rather than carrying tons of papers, use your phone to take photos of your most important documents.

You’ll need to keep some originals on you to identify yourself, such as your driving license. But you can take photos of other documents, maps or news reports, anything you think might be useful.

Clothing & Footwear

This is again dependent on your individual needs but as a rough guide, I suggest at least 1 t-shirt, 1 long-sleeved shirt, a sweater, jeans or other hard-wearing pants, waterproof jacket, beanie/hat, socks and undies. 

If the cold is an issue where you are (night time is cold most places) this would be adjusted, maybe including gloves, neck-warmer, and extra socks. 

Survival Boots

For footwear I’d personally prefer strong boots but softer shoes or sneakers may suit some people, children or elderly people for example.

If you’re going to be in the woods, a spare set of laces for each pair is a wise move, something I learned from experience!

(Try covering miles in boots with torn laces, it ain’t a whole lotta fun I can assure you!)

Printable 72-Hour Emergency Checklist

We’ve produced a printable PDF emergency kit checklist which is offered freely for you to download and use when building your emergency preparedness kit. Click the button below to download your copy now.

How To Maintain Your 72-Hour Kit

So you’ve got yourself nicely prepared and now have a super-duper customized emergency kit sitting in front of you. Great! But what should you do with it while it’s not being used? (And hopefully never will!)

It’s very important that you don’t just throw it somewhere and forget about it, as too many people do exactly that. Your survival system was built to save your life, so it deserves to be carefully looked after to make sure it won’t let you down when you need it most. 

Routine maintenance of your emergency bag is easy, there are just 3 things you must do:

Safe Storage

Storing your survival kit

Make sure you store your kit in a cool, dry position well away from direct sunlight. (I would advise a lockable place if possible.)

This is imperative as UV can do all sorts of damage, not just to the contents of your kit but to the bag itself.

I’ve seen backpacks that have been sat in a sunny spot inside a garden shed for a year or two, and when picked up they literally fall to pieces.

Different construction materials will behave differently, some being more resistant than others. But the safest approach is always to keep it in the dark.

I use garbage bags which help keep dust and cobwebs away, not to mention unwanted prying eyes! Throw it inside one, loosely wrap it then throw it into another one. Job done!

Also try to regulate moisture and temperature as best you can. Obviously keep it away from direct heat like radiators, but equally you should try to avoid temperature changes affecting it as much as possible too. The same goes for damp, just keep it dry, at room temperature, and dark. It will last many years like that.

3 Month Checks

You should set a calendar reminder to check over the kit every 3 months. Some people only check once or twice a year, but experience has taught me that 3 months is the optimal period for various reasons.

  • Replace any expired food, water, medications or any other perishables.
  • Check expiry dates – replace anything due to expire before the next check.
  • Check the function of all zippers and adjusters. Grease as needed.
  • Recharge all rechargeable batteries – Modern batteries are known for dying if not topped up every few months, and the quality seems to be getting worse in 2024, not better!
  • Test all equipment, check knives are sharp, multitool opens properly, flashlights work etc

Annual Checks

Depending on how thorough your 3 month checks are, you may not need this. But at least once a year it’s a good idea to just empty the kit, lay it all out on the floor and have a fresh think about all the items included. A good prepper always takes his prepper inventory seriously.

Doing annual 72-hour kit checks

Think about what you might want in there now. Have you developed a medical condition you didn’t have a year ago that requires special medication? Has your eyesight got worse and maybe some reading glasses would be useful?! Just think it all through again and add/remove items as needed. 

Finally, if you have a 72-hour kit checklist in your bugout bag, read it through carefully and make sure it’s all still relevant. Are your papers in order? Are your emergency plans, phone numbers, addresses etc all still corrrect? 

Many people also use the annual check to replace some of the food items. Personally I think that’s best done when needed on the 3 month checks. A lot of these foods have years of shelf life, they’re designed with long-term storage in mind, so I don’t see any point in throwing away money by replacing perfectly good non-perishable food.

TEST IT – Take Your Kit For A Test Drive!

Testing is something I am a big believer in, especially when it comes to survival systems which you may one day literally be depending on for your life. I would never build an emergency kit and then store it without testing it in a real-world live environment. 

The solution is a nice one though: Take a camping trip!

Test driving Your 72-Hour Emergency Kit

All this requires is a weekend and a bit of courage. Why courage? Because you don’t plan it! Unlike most of your vacations, this one will be totally unscheduled. Here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Give yourself just 15 minutes to get what you need before you have to leave your home.
  • LEAVE!
  • Ok you can have a rough idea where you will go, but the objective is to leave in a hurry, maybe even leaving stuff behind you know you need. If you don’t think of it in that 15-minute window, go without it. This is the best ‘real world’ test you can do, because that’s exactly what can happen when the world is collapsing all around you, think earthquakes or riots starting with no warning at all. 
  • See if you can survive just 24-48 hours with nothing but the contents of your bug out bag.
  • Treat it like an adventure, because it will be! 

More importantly, it will definitely teach you how stressful a real world scenario will be, and this knowledge/experience is truly priceless in terms of real-world disaster preparedness. Spend a day or two wet and cold because you forgot your jacket or your hat, and you’ll come home with a whole new respect for this kit and its importance to you.

There is absolutely nothing you can do that is more valuable (and probably more life-saving) than testing not just your kit, but yourself. So put yourself under a bit of pressure, and see how you do. Expect to struggle. It’s good to struggle, and more the more you struggle now the less you will later, when the pressure will really be on you.

Test your bug out bag, test your survival skills

Your kit should ensure you get through it just fine, but the discomfort and stress is worth its weight in gold as an experience to fully prepare you for an evacuation or disaster situation.

Here at 72 Hour Prepper we’re about real world preparedness, and one of the most important things we’ve learned is that all the gear in the world is as useful as a chocolate fireguard, without a significant amount of testing and practicing, that means every item in the kit.

Doing that, more than once ideally, will mean when you’re in the scary situation of grabbing your 72 hour kit and running out the door while people are probably screaming, you won’t have any worries in the back of your mind about what your carrying, whether it will all work, and whether you know how to use it to stay alive.

Practice, practice, and practice some more.

(If you need any help, I am here to answer questions any time.)

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