The Value of an Emergency Kit – Part 1

Having some kind of emergency kit in your home, ready to use, is an essential part of your personal or family preparedness.  My first line of defense in an emergency is to shelter in place within my home as this is where I have all of my food storage and supplies.  In this case, my entire home is my emergency kit.  This blog entry however will be referring specifically to a kit that you would take with you if you had to leave your home suddenly.

Some people use the name emergency kit or some may call it a 72 hour kit.  If you visit many preparedness web sites you’ll see people talk about GOOD kits (Get Out Of Dodge), BOBs (Bug Out bag), or even INCH kits (I’m Never Coming Home).  I have seen online forum and message board entries arguing the semantics of the name but I will be using the name bug out bag as for me, that describes its function…a bag of basic supplies for me to take with me if I have to bug out and leave my house behind.

I have been carefully and methodically researching bug-out bags and the supplies I want to have.  For me and my family we have chosen to prepare for a three day absence.  Most of the items will be used for whatever length of time I may be gone.  The three day timeframe is generally only a limiting factor for food and water.  However, this limit also comes into play for the bag I have for my two-year old daughter, who is still in diapers.  As an aside, this brings up a valuable point.  Your personal bug out bag is not something that you simply purchase, put in a closet somewhere and don’t use unless you have to.  At a minimum you should be regularly reviewing your bag every couple of months…does food need to be replaced?  Is the water still good?  Are any batteries that have still good?  Are there any medications that may be expiring?

But before you can review what’s in your bag however, you first have to create one.  I will be sharing what I have in my bag with some thoughts about the various items.  Be aware that my bug out bag is for me and my situation.  My wife’s bug out bag will have some items the same and some items that are different.  My daughter’s bug out bag will have many things that are different from her mom’s and my bags.  You need to review your specific situation and needs and plan accordingly.  This is why I like using my account to keep track of my bug out bag supplies.  I can add, delete or revise my requirements at any time and know how I’m progressing.

Bug-out bag list

First, if you’re going to have a bug out bag you’re going to need…a bag!  There are almost an infinite variety of backpacks, duffel bags, sport bags, etc. so it is exceptionally likely that you’ll find something that suits your needs and budget.  After a lot of research balancing cost with capability and need, I chose three Paratus packs from 3V Gear.  The screen shot shows the dashboard of my actual account.  You can see that all of the items have quantities that are a multiple of two…my pack and my wife’s pack.  The third pack is my daughter’s pack which I’m tracking separately because of the many unique items her bug out bag contains such as the aforementioned diapers, a teddy bear, a blanky…you get the picture!  By the way, the order of items shown does not imply any kind of priority.  The items appear in the order I wrote them down in my research notebook.

Second, I’ve added hydration packs.  These are bladders that sit in the pack and hold drinking water.  I purchased three, 3 litre bladders also from 3V Gear.  I don’t actually keep the bladders full of water while they sit in the bags.  Instead, I have six 500ml bottles of water in each pack which keeps the water fresh until it may be needed.  My plan is that I will transfer the bottles to the bladder at an opportune moment when the need arises.

Third, I had originally decided to standardize on AA batteries.  They are cheap and widely available.  Every store in the smallest of towns will have them.  That said, as I did my research on flashlights I ended up selecting a model that didn’t use AA batteries.  This is why the battery shown in my list is a 18650 type.  More on this later.  A good point is made here though…don’t slot yourself rigidly into any one item based on pre-conceived ideas.  Be open to change if your research indicates value in doing so.

Fourth, rain ponchos.  I have not made a decision on what I want yet but many options are available.  My personal philosophy typically leans towards the middle of the road.  I generally don’t want the cheapest item because the quality is often lacking.  At the same time, I can’t afford to buy the best of everything.

Fifth, sleeping bags.  From my many years involved in scouting I already personally have an excellent sleeping bag.  However, I’m still researching what I want to have that will be dedicated to my bug out bag.  Even if it means duplication I always purchase items specifically for my bug out bag.  This provides assurance that my gear is available and ready.  My day to day gear is used regularly and I often lend it to my older children for their events.  In an emergency I don’t want my bug out bag gear to be somewhere else.  I may end up buy the same type of sleeping bag I already have but I may not.  Since I bought my current sleeping bag over eight years ago looking for one for my bug out bag will give me an opportunity to research the newest types.

Sixth, a map.  I know my community and my city extremely well and could get anywhere I needed.  However, if I have to leave my city for my bug out location I may not be able to use the main highways or roads so I purchased a backroads map which shows not only every highway but also all of the township and range roads, ie. the country roads, typically gravel, that criss-cross every state or province.  A bridge may be out, there may be flooding somewhere or I may just want to avoid a population center.  Whatever the reason, it may take longer but I can get pretty much anywhere I need to go via these backroads.

Seventh and eighth, a notebook and pen.  These seem pretty straightforward and you probably find what you need for almost no cost.  Based on my philosophy of not going with the cheapest items I purchased Rite in the Rain notebooks along with the pens to go along with them.  These notebooks, as the name implies, can be used in stormy weather and, in fact, can be used underwater!  Hopefully I won’t be in a situation where that is necessary!

Ninth, a knife.  My research for this is still on-going due to the extensive choices available.  I already have some simple (ie. cheap!) knives that I’ve acquired over the years.  Part of my research is learning not only what knife I want, but also learning about the various situations that make one knife better over another.

Tenth, a flashlight.  I did a lot of research on flashlights that used AA batteries.  But as I searched I eventually made a decision to go another way and chose a Fenix PD35.  It has numerous brightness settings and is made to withstand drops plus it’s waterproof to a depth of 2m.  It uses CR123 or a rechargeable 18650 and I’m using the latter battery type.  This light is fairly expensive, especially if you compare it to the many, many varieties that are available at department or discount stores.  That said, my research also found flashlights that were more than triple the cost of this one so I definitely picked something that wouldn’t break my bank account, especially considering the fact that most of the time this flashlight is sitting in my bug out bag waiting to be used.

Next week I’ll post part 2 which goes over the rest of my list and what I know is missing.  Do you have a bug out bag?  What’s in it?  Share your thoughts in the comments section.


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