DIY 72 Hour Emergency Kit

DIY 72 Hour Emergency Kit

With winter approaching {gasp!}, it’s time to start thinking about being prepared for crazy weather fluctuations.

Having a 72 hour kit that is more or less centered around your climate is a pretty smart practice, I think.  It’s peace of mind–so when the power goes out or a storm keeps you off the roads, you’re covered…for 72 hours at least. :)

It’s best to prepare one of these for each member of your family–you can put them in backpacks, 5 gallon buckets, or if  you want one for the whole family, a rolling garbage can is a good choice.  Whichever container you choose, it needs to be accessible and easily mobile, in case you need to evacuate your home.  You can obviously tweak a 72 hour kit, but here’s the basic bones of one:

case of clif kind mojo bars


Bottled waters are a good choice because they are clean and immediately accessible {plan on 1 gallon per person}.  For food, think convenience AND satiety for the littlest package.  Protein bars and Beef Jerky are a good choices.
If you pack canned food, make sure to throw in a can opener.  Little packets of cookies and candy can provide treats for the kiddos in a potentially stressful situations.  Remember canisters of formula if it applies and increase the water accordingly.

thrift store prom dresses goodwill


Pack a change of clothing for everyone in the house.  Remember socks and underwear.  Think about the weather in your area–if a rain poncho is in order, throw it in.  If a winter coat, gloves, hats, etc. is more suiting, make sure to include it.

family sized tent


Depending on your situation, you may need to make a make shift shelter.  A tent would be ideal, but even a tarp could provide you shelter in a pinch.  Sleeping bags work great for a quick stow and go bed–they make emergency heat blankets too that fold up small and cost next to nothing.

Emergency Solar radio

Miscellaneous Items/Tools

Think about all of the things you may need in any given weather scenario.  You may need to slightly adjust your kit with each major season change.  Here’s some ideas to keep in mind:

Can Opener
Emergency Radio {solar powered or hand crank is best–they even make them to charge your cell phone}
Metal Coffee Can {great for making a fire in}
Lighter/Matches {water proof is best}
Duct Tape {because no one should leave home without it}
Lantern/Flashlights {solar powered or hand crank is best}
Dish Soap

Toiletries/Personal Items

Consider the needs of everyone in your family {i.e. if you have babies, your list will be different than if you have teenage girls}.  Here’s a pretty standard list:

red metal first aid kit

First Aid Kit {make sure it includes bandages, wipes, neosporin, allergy pills, pain killers, and any regular medications, like inhalers or blood pressure pills}
Toilet paper {this has a million uses besides the obvious–it can double as Kleenex, Fire Starter and Bandage if it needs to}
Soap, Shampoo, Hand Sanitizer
Feminine Hygiene Necessities
Chapstick, Lotion, and Sunscreen
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Small Scissors {to clip finger nails or cut bandages, if needed}


Remember to stash some cash into each of the packs.  Some people even pack their insurance policies, passports, etc.  If you live in a place where returning to your house means returning to the destroyed remains {i.e. floods, hurricanes, etc.} this would be a really good idea.

Chicks With Sticks


If you have extra room, don’t forget about creature comforts.  A book, pack of playing cards, knitting supplies, or crossword puzzle can help to pass the time and keep your mind off the emergency at hand.

I think that is about it.  Did I miss anything?  Have any of YOU needed your 72 hour kit?  Did it have everything you needed?


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  1. Marie says

    YES! Dog/ cat/ bunny food! Could be a stressful situation for your little ones and having something they can offer to your pets would be comforting too. A leash? Ropes? Inflatable air mattresses? Once u start planning there are lots of ideas. Just do it!

    Don’t forget a whistle too.

  2. Pam says

    I would add photos, social security numbers, birthdates and hair samples for DNA for each member of the family in case of separation during a major natural or man-made disaster that could result in death. It would make body identification or registration of a missing person in a national registry easier.

  3. Cecily says

    I have ER Bars in our emergency to go bags. Its a 3 day food supply bar and lightweight at only 27 oz. I purchased them from Quake Kare. Also large heavy duty plastic garbage bags are a good idea. They have tons of uses such as ponchos, bedding, rain catchers, shelters or for sanitation.

  4. Gail says

    Here in California earthquake country, we remind folks that can openers in emergency kits need to be hand operated. Also, lean towards low/no salt food options or increase your water supplies accordingly. Finally, including pictures of family/loved ones is comforting in the likely event that you are separated for any length of time.

  5. Rebecca says

    Don’t forget medications, including those for your pets! And set yourself a reminder every month or so to check the condition of your kit to make sure nothing has expired/leaked/been nibbled/dead batteries/etc.

    A grim but good reminder that I’ve never seen elsewhere about hair samples in the earlier comments! I’d also recommend a printed copy of a recent photo of each family member along with a description (height, weight, hair & eye color, tattoos, scars, other distinguishing features) just in case you are separated and need to find each other.

    And on that note, have a series of meet-up points planned ahead of time. If you can’t get on your street, where will you meet in town? If you can’t get in town, where will you meet in your area? If you had to leave your state, where would you meet? Better to plan it & not need it than need it & haven’t planned it!

  6. Sarah says

    I would just add two things: extra set of keys for the house and vehicle(s), and cash/coins.

    Thanks for the great list!

    • Sarah says

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to repeat the cash part, but I will add that a survival guide of some sort may be helpful (how to build a fire, how to make a shelter, etc.), especially if one is concerned about more widespread problems like earthquakes.

  7. Kim says

    If you are making a 72 hour kit you will need 3 gallons of water per person…it is 1 gallon per person per day! Water is the absolute most important item in the kit. If you know there is no way you can take a gallon per person per day, add a LifeStraw. For about $20 you will have a constant supply of clean water even if it is from a puddle on the side of a road. I would also add a headlamp which I prefer since it is hands free. Add a list of important phone numbers to relatives both in state and out of state. Sometimes you can reach someone out of state who can then call around to let others know you are ok and where you are.

  8. Suzy says

    Here in Alabama as we approach tornado season, there is a Tax Free Weekend, February 21 -23, for all emergency supplies purchases. Everything from manual can openers to cell phone batteries to generators.

  9. Kenzi says

    I found some britta water filtration bottles (that have a built in filter) at kmart, maybe place candy, protein bars or something inside when packing (for space saving) since you won’t need them until you finish your bottles of water, but if you finish those and still don’t have access to purified water this might be useful!

  10. Catherine Foster says

    I might add pillows, sleep masks, ear plugs and sleep meds, in case you’re housed in a large shelter and are a light sleeper. Plus flip flops.
    Anyone know how many gallons a day of water a dog or cat needs? It’s probably also a good idea ahead of time to get them chipped.

  11. Catherine Foster says

    PS. Thank you so much, Mavis, for posting this now. In Southern Oregon, we’re just a few miles from a small town, Weed (pop: 2000ish) that was nearly leveled by a wildfire. So your timing is excellent.

  12. Deb says

    I would add gloves, masks and garbage bags in case of contaminants, injury, and/or bleeding scenario. Water clarifying tablets are important too. Make a paper sign that says , “need Help” or “we are ok”. which can be taped to a window with a bandaid if a house to house search is made in your neighborhood. Thanks for your emergency list, this is a great time to refresh or make you r home Emergency kits.

  13. Carol says

    Very good ideas–thanks, Mavis and everyone. I noticed that nobody responded when Kenzi mentioned Britta filter water bottles. These would be great, if they filtered out parasites, bacteria and chemicals. I know that the regular Britta pitchers with filters don’t do this. It’s important to know what the filter does filter out, before you invest in it to filter rainwater or surface water.

  14. JJ says

    Everyone has such great suggestions!

    A couple of other things I would consider adding to the list:

    A standard 100% cotton bandanna (In a bright color). The bandanna is up there in the lists with plastic garbage bags and duct tape when discussing versatility for emergency uses. The bandanna can be used as a signal, a band-aid or gauze, a pre-water filter, a sling, a tourniquet and so many more.

    Also consider adding your standard hand sanitizer. This is great for of course sanitizing but it can also be used as an accelerant when trying to start a fire. Better to use a few drops of your hand sanitize rather than half a box of matches.

    Also as a few people have mentioned, the most important, is to make your plan for an emergency, know it and even practice it. All of the supplies in the world would not be able to help you if you can not get your family to a safe place and then know how to use the supplies that you do have once you get there.

    Side note: Another great DIY fire starting accelerant is to take your dryer lint and mix with a little bit of petroleum jelly. Works like a charm when you can’t find dry tinder while you are out camping and beats buying fire starting sticks or similar products.

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