72 Hour kit – to-go-bag, bug-out-bag, grab bag, ready bag … a bag by any other name is still your bag, baby!
The focus of your 72 hour kit, along with your 72 hour plan is straight forward:To provide for your needs for three days. Not very long, and certainly not the end-all-be-all of your preparedness planning, the 72 hour plan is a solid foundation to start your preparations. The 72 hour kit is based on the premise that you are not at home when the event occurs, or you are leaving your home due to the nature of the event.This kit is designed to get you back to your home or to keep your basic needs met until your alternate method of sustainable living is established.
Remember, your 72 hour plan is just that, a 72 hour plan. Often when I begin discussing the needs for a 72 hour plan, the person or group I am talking with quickly tries to lead me down the road of “what if” and “what about”. So let me reiterate this primary concept one more time – This is a 72 hour plan, not a 1 month plan, not a 3 month plan, not a 1 year plan. 72 hour plan. Although the website 72hourplan.com goes far beyond the first 72 hours of event planning, we recognize the foundation of any good response is in the basics. Just like math is based on addition and subtraction, so must we build a foundation to create the opportunity to move forward in a preparedness centered life.
The lynchpin in event planning is a solid communications plan. Building a 72 hour plan starts with the communication plan and then continues to include the 8 Pillars of Preparedness in a limited scope.
Have you ever been camping? Or hiking?Or backpacking?If not, I suggest you try it. There is no better way to understand the 72 Hour Kit than to use it, and camping is one of the best ways to try your hand at 72 hour planning without being cornered by an actual event. For those of you who have tried ‘roughing it’, think about your three days on the trail – what did you have with you?More importantly what did you leave behind that you regret leaving behind? There are more things to consider than just camping supplies. In fact, we will consider each of the 8 Pillars of Preparedness while we build a proper 72 hour kit. No one kit fits all – Thinking in terms of laying a foundation, the items discussed are in general the minimum you should consider for your kit.In addition to that minimum, I encourage you to add to your kit whatever you need to meet your basic needs.
First, complete your communications plan and have one of the ICE cards in each person’s kit. Keep a copy of the primary information pages in each adult kit.When you have a solid communication plan in place, then you will begin to stock your 72 hour kit.
Use the 72 Hour Kit checklist (here) to provision each of your kits.Keep a copy of the checklist and inventory cards with your communication plan for easy review of the inventory and semi-annual rotation of any items with expiration dates.
An inventory card is as simple as a 3×5 index card.Compartmentalize all items in plastic zipper bags with their inventory cards.This will keep vermin and contaminates out of food, keep your clothing dry and prevent loss of important items.List the items in a particular waterproof baggie on the 3×5 card, then insert the card into the baggie before you seal it.Be sure you can read the card without opening the bag.Without opening the bag, you want to be able to identify the contents of the bag and also if that bag contains items which require rotation.Color coding the inventory cards helps to easily identify those bags that require rotation.I like to vacuum out the extra air so I get a nice compact bag for packaging into my backpack.
Container – The container you choose should be portable and easy to move, without excess weight. I have found medium size backpacks to be very accommodating. Consider packs with wheels for younger children. Multiple backpack pockets ease the organization of your kit. Automobile kits might be stored in a bucket, but I prefer to use backpacks for the cars too. This approach allows for leaving your car behind and going on foot if necessary, with an easy to carry pack rather than a 15 gallon plastic bin.
As I go through each of the eight pillars for inclusion in the 72 hour kit remember what I wrote at the beginning of this discussion.We are limiting the scope to just the 72 hour kit. Addressing the 8 Pillars of Preparedness beyond 72 hours following an event is discussed in detail in other areas of this website.
Mental Pillar – Consider a small Red Cross booklet or a Boy Scout handbook, there are other reference books available, simply conduct an internet search or visit your local bookstore to find “Emergency Pocket Guides”. Attending classes provided by Red Cross, CERT, local schools or emergency organizations, even FEMA, will build your skill in event response. Keeping a handy reference will help you keep your wits about you during the stress of an actual event.
Energy Pillar – Our primary energy concern is heat. Humans subjected to even mild temperatures can become hypothermic in a very short period of time. Considering overnight temperatures, will you be able to stay warm without a heat source? Cooking is not an issue for my 72 hour kit because I expect to use prepared foods for those first three days. More on food later. Have warm clothing and consider a bivy sack. I also carry fire starting material in my kit.
Financial Pillar – Are you leaving your home due to a home event or a community evacuation? Can you access your bank or has an electrical outage rendered ATMs unusable? It pays to have some money in your kit. How much you keep is up to you, but you should consider what you might need and plan accordingly, i.e. hotel costs, travel costs, etc. Important documents also make up the financial pillar. So, keep copies of your insurance information, wills, deeds, immunization records, home inventory, etc. While having copies of these important documents on a flash drive makes them easy to carry, this should not be your only copy. Flash drives require electricity to access the information. Maintaining hard copies in both a local safe deposit box and your 72 hour kit is prudent.
Food Pillar – Food, along with water, is one of the easiest pillars to understand and address. Three days of food consists of about 6000 calories for an average person performing average activities. If you consider walking or hiking, you may want to boost this calorie store up to 7500. That gives you 2000-2500 per day. When determining which food to pack, know the food calorie count and the storage requirements for the items. Mark your food containers with clear expiration dates and rotate semi-annually. Energy bars, nut/fruit mix, jerky and prepackaged/precooked foods are a clear winner here. You don’t want to waste fuel or energy trying to prepare and cook food. Dehydrated food has some advantage in weight, but only if you are not carrying the water to reconstitute it. Consider available water sources when away from home. I choose foods that do not require water to prepare. If you choose canned food, include a manual can opener. I like to include jellybeans with the kids’ packs as a treat and comfort food. Comfort food is not a bad idea for the adults either.
Medical Pillar – First aid education and a first aid kit are the basis of the medical pillar. The 72 Hour Plan check list has the bare bones requirements for a first aid kit. It cannot be as robust as our in-home medical supplies. After all, we want it to fit in the 72 hour kit. Add items to this basic list when your kit must address specific medical needs.
Physical Pillar – Your physical list is highly customizable for your needs and desires. Think about the tools you may need, the sanitation products particular to your situation, and any other individual items you may want for comfort. Having a multi-tool, compass, and shovel are my bare minimums.
Shelter Pillar – A season appropriate change of clothing and a good understanding of your overnight temperatures are important. Think layers, layers, layers…especially if you will be walking or working, you will want to have a good base layer that will wick away moisture and keep you ventilated. Your comfort layer should be light weight and breathable. Your warmth layer is to keep the chill at bay as evening and overnight temperatures drop. In milder climates it makes sense to have a waterproof warmth layer. In colder climates you will typically have a separate waterproof shell layer. I like to use a base layer of long Lycra for lower and upper body, cargo type pants that convert to short pants for my lower body, and a t-shirt and heavier long sleeve button down flannel for my comfort and warmth layers respectively. Your shell should be wind and waterproof, such as a rain poncho or winter shell. And don’t forget warm footwear: ski socks, wool socks and sturdy shoes or boots.
Water Pillar – Having a clean water source is essential. Water is heavy (8 lbs per gallon) and if you have to move any significant distance carrying water, it will be cumbersome. Most agencies and organizations recommend having 1 gallon per day per person. That amounts to 2 quarts for drinking, 2 quarts for food prep and sanitation, and a total of 3 gallons for each person in their kit. Have you ever tried to carry three gallons (24 lbs.) of water? I recommend choosing foods for your kit that do not require water for preparation, thus reducing your water needs. Having a .5L or 20oz. bottle in your kit is a good idea. If you do not have any water sources, you will want to have all your water with you. If you can identify water sources near your home and in areas you frequent, you can plan to use a purification method to obtain water as you need it. I use either a portable water purifier or a water bottle with built in purification. My area has numerous lakes, rivers and streams. Even if these sources get contaminated I have quality purification devices to render safe drinking water.
Store your 72 Hour Kit (bug-out-bag) in an easy to reach location such as the coat closet or near the back door. I keep my kit in my car because my car is with me (or very close to me) at all times. Those with a garage may consider having a hanging rack with each person’s backpack within easy reach.
In closing, one more plug for rotation. Your 72 Hour Kit should be ready to go at all times. That means spending about an hour every 6 months to conduct an inventory, replace dated items, and verify that your needs are still being addressed by the supplies you have in your kit.
Don’t forget to download your 72 Hour Kit checklist and build your kit today!
What is essential in your 72-Hour-Kit? share your comments below!