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72 Hour Kit

Over the past few years I have put a lot of thought into what a good 72 Hour kit should contain. The following list is what I believe to be the best compromise between price, size, and functionality. Sources for most items is included.

Small, light, reliable, and easy to use, were the four qualities I looked for when deciding on items for the kit. Even so, a kit for an average family, is likely to be fairly large, 4 cubic feet, and weigh 50 lbs or more. For that reason, I picked small, light weight items over larger items, in most cases the smaller items didn't loose any significant functionality over the larger, and were just as high quality. However, they were sometimes more expensive. In an emergency, you are likely to have to evacuate with short notice, the quicker you can be ready to leave the better off you will be. For this reason everything should be in one place in as few containers as is practical.

The list is broken into two main sections: "Must Have" and "Nice to Have". The must haves are items that are very likely to be need in a 72 hour emergency. I have further broken items down into categories. Links to online retailers where most of the items can be purchased are included. I have done business with all of these retailers, and found them to be reputable companies. If there is no link, it is because the item is generally easier to purchase at a local store.

Must Have

Protective Case
First you need something to put everything in. An ideal choice is a strong plastic protective case. The two major brands are, Pelican and Storm. They both make strong, water proof, plastic cases. It's likely to be the most expensive single part of the kit. If it is going to be for an emergency, it needs to hold up in emergency situations. I prefer Storm cases because they seem to be little nicer and less money than Pelican cases. Both can be found at the link listed below. They range in price from $25 for a 9.5" x 7.5" x 4.25" case, to $250 for the 24" x 24" x 24" Pelican cube. The size needed will vary depending on the items picked, and the number of people it is for. If money is tight, consider a duffel bag or a standard suit case. Be sure to put clothes, papers, blankets and other things in zip lock bags to protect them. Another very inexpensive option is 5 gallon plastic buckets. They are generally very durable. When comparing them to other options it is handy to know that 5 gallons is equivalent to 1155 cubic inches or .668 cubic feet. Another handy number to remember is, there are 1,728 cubic inches in a cubic foot.


Tools & Repair

If something is going to go wrong, it will happen at the worst time. Being prepared to make quick repairs is very important in an emergency.
Parachute Cord, 100 feet
Very handy and strong. $3 to $ 15 depending on the length.

Note: this online retailer has good prices and products, but their customer service is horrible. Many items may be out of stock, with no indication before you order. It can take days for them to notify you, and they don't bother doing anything till you tell them what you want them to do about the out of stock items. It can take two or more business days to get a respond to emails or calls. Finally, their packing leaves a lot to be desired. It's not that big of a deal most of the time, since most of the things they sell are rugged. I have ordered from them in the past and will in the future, but it can be frustrating. If you are in a hurry, do NOT order from them!

Knot Reference Cards
Rope and cord aren't much use if you don't know how to tie good knots. These may be better suited to the "Nice to Have" section but they are only $5 so I left them here.

Very high quality knife. Any good knife will do, it doesn't have to be a fixed blade, I just picked this one because it is my favorite knife. I do recommend the Cold Steel brand as they make a wide range of quality knives, $20 to $150.

Amazon.com (good price)
1stopknifeshop.com (much better selection)
There are millions of these things, find one you like. The best brands are Leatherman, Gerber, and SOG. They are a little expensive, generally starting around $50 and going to near $100. With a "real" knife, pliers, screw driver and maybe a small saw, you have the same equipment only better and probably less money. You may even find those items around the house.


Klien 10-in-1 Screwdriver/Nut Driver
Any screw driver will be better than none but this is a very hand one and is only $10 with 8 different bits!

Vise-Grip Locking Pliers with Wire Cutter
One of the most versatile tools around, $10.


First Aid Kit
They come in too many shapes, sizes, and prices to list. Find one that is the best compromise of your needs and your budget. Be sure to include any medications you take and any special medical needs you may have when deciding what to include in a first aid kit.


Assorted Size Safety Pins
Cheap small light and very handy in a pinch.

The following items are all standard hardware store items and can be found at the ultimate online hardware store, McMaster Carr. Go to www.mcmaster.com and search by part number or description.
Description Part Number Price

Roll of Duct tape 7612A8 $17
Braided Nylon Twine 2057T35 $3
Stainless Steel Safety Wire 8860K14 $6
Twine, Duct Tape, and safety wire come in various sizes and lengths. Search for the part number on that site and then click on the "catalog page" link to see other sizes.


Tooth brush and tooth past
Bar of soap
Handy wipes
Toilet paper
Paper Towels
Trash Bags


CMG Infinity Task Light
Very long battery life LED flashlight, well over 10 hours on a single AA. Not very bright, plenty for finding your way in the dark. Also very small and light. A little expensive at $17 but you will make up for it in batteries.


Energizer L91 AA Lithium
At $2 each, they are not cheap, but they have a 10 year shelf life, longer run time, and work in cold temperatures better than regular batteries. Standard batteries would be fine too, just remember to rotate them every 6 to 12 months. Used in AM/FM radio listed bellow too.


Streamlight Twin-Task 1 Cell Lithium Flashlight
Very Bright and very small flashlight with low power LED as well, in one flash light. Great when you need a bright light, $20 to $25. Uses CR123 lithium batteries.


Spare bulbs
For an incandescent bulb flash light spare bulbs are a must. They cost $6, not sure why the store that had the light didn't list spare bulbs.


CR 123 Batteries
They can be VERY expensive if you buy them at the wrong place. Like the Energizers, they are lithium and have a 10 year shelf life, and work better in the cold, $15 for pack of 12.


Backup for the flash lights, only $2.


Wind proof and water proof matches


Shelter and Protection

Military surplus blanket
I picked this blanket because, at $10, it was the least expensive large blanket I could find.


All weather blanket
Not as warm as a real blanket but tough and water proof, $10.


Vinyl Poncho
Because, as they say, when it rains, it poors, $3.


Sun block

Insect Repellent

A few changes that are appropriate for the climate.

The following items are all standard hardware store items and can be found at the ultimate online hardware store, McMaster Carr. Go to www.mcmaster.com and search by part number or description.
Description Part Number Price

Leather work gloves 9655T63 $10
Heavy duty Nitrile rubber gloves
resistant to many chemicals
14945T143 $2
Disposable Respirator Masks 5450T65 $5
Silver Film Gloves
These resist almost all chemicals
6075T13 $5
Large Zip lock bags 18" x 24"(10 pack)
For blankets, clothes and other items,
as a second layer of protection from water
19215T92 $12
Gloves and zip lock bags come in other sizes. Search for the part number on that site and then click on the "catalog page" link to see other sizes and types.


Not knowing what is going on in an emergency can be extremely frustrating and could prolong the time you need to live off of your 72 hour kit. The following is a list of what I consider to be a minimum to keep up with what is going on. I also strongly recommend looking into the communications options in the "Nice to Have" section.

Sony ICF-S10MK2 Pocket AM/FM Radio
Very basic, inexpensive, small, and good reception. There are many to choose from, but, at $10, this is about the best bang for the buck.


Emergency Phone Numbers
Phone numbers of doctors, lawyer, friends and family, laminated on index cards for easy access. Letter size paper can be hard to deal with on the move. Keep in mind friends and family that live out of state in case you have to evacuate.

Water proof note pad
Collecting information can be very important in an emergency, with this note pad and pen, it will make it easy in even the worst of conditions. Comes in various sizes $3 to $7


Fisher Space Pen
Writes upside down, in very cold and hot, and under water, $6.


Signal Mirror
If you need to be rescued, this mirror can help draw attention to you quick $6 to $9.


Storm Alert Whistle
The worlds loudest whistle. If you are lost or need help, this is a very good way to get attention. Much louder than you can shout and requires a fraction of the energy, $6.


Personal Data
Keep this on paper or a Computer USB flash drive. Account numbers, bank phone numbers, etc. However you keep this information, be sure to encrypt it in some way. If you keep it on paper, come up with a unique way or rearranging the digits in the account numbers, so no one will be able to use it, if it is stolen. Be sure to memorize one of your account numbers, that will help you figure out how to decrypt the others, in case you forget the method you used. Again, laminated on index cards for easy access. Letter size paper can be hard to deal with on the move. If you use a USB flash drive be sure to get some good encryption software, keep a copy of the install files for that software on the flash drive. Above all do NOT forget your password. If you forget your password it is very unlikely you will ever get the data decrypted!!

Food and Water

It's hard to carry a lot of water with you. For a family of four, the recommended one gallon a day per person amounts to 100 lbs of water. You can survive on much less. Plan is to carry as much as you can, and have the means to obtain more water in the event that an emergency lasts longer than the water.

This is about the best way to store water in an emergency kit. It has a minimum 5 year storage life. The price isn't too bad, but as you might expect, water is expensive to ship. This company will ship anywhere form a three pack of the 8.4 OZ boxes, to a pallet full of 135, 27 count cases. Placing a group order and having it shipped to a business with a loading dock, will reduce the shipping cost.

8.4 OZ (1/4 liter) size
$14 for a case of 27
One Liter size
$15 for case of 12



2.5 Gallon Folding Water Container
Available in other sizes, $6.


Emergency Germicidal Drinking Water Tablets
If you can't find clean water, use these as a first step to clean the water, by killing the bacteria and viruses in it, $5.


Water Bottle Water Filter
This would be my step 2 of the process. After the bacteria and viruses have been killed this will help clean out particles and make it taste better, $30.


Water filter straw
Another option for a small water filter, $10.


Box of Granola bars, crackers, candy, and or beef jerky. Something you like to eat, and can rotate on a regular interval so it doesn't go to waste. Vitamins could be a good addition. Some think you need whole meals planed out. I think that is over kill. This is for 72 "hour" emergencies, you just need something to eat and drink, not having a balanced meal for 3 days isn't going to kill you, unless you have some medical condition that requires it.


In a sever enough emergency, with lots of infrastructure down, credit cards may not be usable. Having some extra cash on hand may be the only way to buy things.


Your not going to want to carry fuel in your emergency kit, but keeping at least 1/2 tank, at all times, in all off your vehicles, will make life much easier if you have to evacuate.

Nice to Have

Tools & Repair

Folding Shovel/Pick

The World's Fastest Cutting Pocket Saw

Cold Steel Vietnam Tomahawk

Survival Cards By Lee Nading

The following items are all standard hardware store items and can be found at the ultimate online hardware store, McMaster Carr. Go to www.mcmaster.com and search by part number or description.
Description Part Number Price

Titanium Crow Bar
Any crow bar would be handy. This is just in keeping with the theme of light weight. Many different kinds can be found at www.mcmaster.com
3500A1 $46


Outdoor shower
A bit extravagant for an emergency kit, but would be nice if nothing else was available.

Shower Tent, $25
Sun Shower Water Bag, $25



Candle lantern
If you want to be fancy, $17.


120 Hour Candle
Supposed to be good for cooking as well as just light, $11.


Shelter and Protection

In an emergency, a tent would be better than sleeping in your car. They come in numerous shapes, sizes and prices, try and find the best compromise between your wants, needs and budget.



Two Way Radios

When a large tornado, or any significant disaster hits, cell phones are all but useless. Often land lines aren't much better. If you want to communicate, especially away from a land line, a two way radio is what you need. There are several choices here, ranging from FRS to amateur radio. The least expensive are FRS and CB. Both of these are fairly cheap, the FRS is the most popular. There is also a less common radio band called MURS. All of these can be used by anyone with the radios, no license is required. The disadvantage is range, which is due to power and or antenna restrictions on these bands. FRS will go maybe 2 miles under ideal conditions, normally 1/2 mile is a more realistic range. CB and MURS aren't much better. The next step is GMRS, to use GMRS radios you need a license from the FCC. There is no test to take just a $80 fee. One license is good for everyone in a family, including extended family for 5 years. More details can be found on the FCC's web site at fcc.gov

For the most flexibility and the ability to communicate longer distances, amateur radio AKA ham radio, is the only choice. The disadvantage is you have to pass a test to get a license from the FCC to use the ham radio bands. If you have money for radio equipment, and are even slightly interested in ham radio, I would strongly recommend getting a ham radio license. The test isn't very hard and is only 35 questions. A good portion of it is on FCC rules and the rest covers very basic electronics and radio theory. For more information go to ARRL.org

Amateur radio operators play a big part in emergency communications. In any significant disaster, there will be quite a bit of traffic on amateur radio bands helping to coordinate emergency services with organizations like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, local emergency services, law enforcement, and many other smaller groups. After hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, about the only people who could communicate were amateur radio operators.
Garmin Rino GPS and FRS/GMRS radio

Great if you get separated from your group. There are many other less expensive models than this one. Note: the GMRS frequencies of this radio require an FCC license. Getting the license requires a $80 fee and filling out an application.


Bearcat BC72XLT Scanner

Even with out the ability to transmit, a scanner can help keep you informed as to what is going on in an emergency. With this scanner, and many others like it, you can monitor FRS, CB, MURS, GMRS, four common amateur radio bands, aviation band, weather band, police, fire, and other emergency services, $100.


Food and Water

Five Piece Mess Kit


Flat ware travel pack


Snow Peak Titanium Spork


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