The 72 Hour Bag should be packed and ready to go at all times (one in each vehicle is my recommendation). If there is an emergency that forces you to leave your home because it is no longer safe there, then you will have enough supplies to get to a safe place. (If you don’t have to leave your house then the 72 Hour kit can become part of your supplies for in-home survival…
72 Hour Essentials: Water
The first thing that goes into our 72 Hour Kit is Water.
We can’t make it more than about three days without water, and our physical and mental well-being begins to suffer after a couple of days without hydration.
We stated before that 1 gallon per person per day is needed for the long-term. In the short term you won’t be worried about washing clothes and cleaning things. so 0.5 gallons per person per day are sufficient. A three day supply is 1.5 gallons per person. This is 3 two litter soda bottles per person. For my family of 5, I need 7.5 gallons. I have a 5 gallon plastic water jug and 5 two liter bottles in each car. One of those cheap plastic crates can be used to hold the 2 liter bottles and keep them from rolling around in the trunk.
72 Hour Essentials: Food
The food that you want to store for your 72 Hour Bag (3 days) should be compact, easy to prepare (no heating), and high energy. Nutritious is also good and is easier to achieve by planning ahead. Figure on 2000-2500 calories a day or thereabouts per person, for a total of about 6000-7500 calories each…
Some good food items for your 72 hour BOB (“Bug Out Bag”):
- granola/trail/Clif bars
- packaged trail mix (fruits, nuts, seeds, etc)
- dried meats (jerky, slim jim, etc)
- canned meats (tuna, chicken, corned beef, etc) *don’t forget you need a can opener
- dried fruits
- packaged nuts (almonds, peanuts, etc)
- peanut butter crackers
- cheese and crackers
- MREs (government issue “meals ready to eat”)
- freeze-dried hikers meals (many are outstanding and require only water)
- candy bars/hard candy
- protein/energy powder mixes
- powdered Gatorade
- instant powdered milk
- sugar cereals
- pop tarts
- Grape nuts cereal
- instant mashed potatoes
- instant cereals (oatmeal, cream of rice, grits)- make sure they are instant
Each family will have their own preferences and you don’t need all of these items. You should rotate these items occasionally (the freeze-dried food and MREs will generally last 5 years or even longer) by eating them and replacing with fresh items.
Both the food and water that was discussed previously don’t have to be stored in your car at all times if space is at a premium or if you don’t want to have these survival items staring you in the face all the time. Just have them near your car where you can throw them in at a moments notice and bug out.
If you have two of these food kits, then you already have enough food to survive a week in your house without the need to cook.
72 Hour Essentials: Cash
There are many emergency situations where you may need to evacuate your home (Bug Out) or make some last minute purchases and the credit card/debit card system is not functioning. In addition, it would not take long for all the cash in the ATM machines to be stripped clean. This would leave you without a way to make emergency purchases like GAS…
(You are keeping your gas tank at least 75% full at all times, right?)
So, you should always maintain a cash reserve in a safe place… Diversion safes will be discussed in a future post, see the link at left under “Trusted Resources” for a great selection…
This is going to vary by individual, but at a minimum I would recommend you keep $300 in small bills (no larger than $20) on hand at all times for emergencies. $500 or $1000 would be even better…
In addition, it is a smart idea to keep a $100 bill in your wallet for on-the-road emergencies. Fold it up and tuck it far away in the wallet. You may also want to keep a $100 bill (or 5 – Twenty Dollar bills) in your car registration/insurance paperwork in your glove comaprtment…
Last but not least, your spouse and any children of driving age should also have this $100 bill hidden in their wallet/purse. It is only for emergencies– and a new pair of shoes is NEVER an emergency.
And a roll of dimes and a roll of quarters in your glove box to make emergency phone calls at a pay phone (remember them) is another example of thinking ahead. In an emergency, it very likely that cell phones will be overloaded or not functioning… (about half the payphones I see are $0.35 and the other half $0.50 so a roll of dimes and a roll of quarters helps at both price points).
72 Hour Essentials: Light
In your 72 Hour Emergency Kit (aka Bug Out Bag) you should include ways to see at night in an emergency… remember you have left your house and you do not know exactly what is ahead of you. There could be roads out, or massive traffic, and you might need to get off the road and wait out bad weather or other situations.
If you are forced to walk or hike in the dark, a head lamp is the best tool. They are simply a headband with a flashlight incorporated into the webbing, and if they are more convenient than carrying a flashlight because your hands are free. Many of these are LEDs and they will last a long time on a set of batteries.
In addition your personal kit should include at least a reliable small flashlight. In the darkness it can be very difficult to do anything without being able to see.
In addition, you should have an eight-hour candle in your 72 Hour kit. A survival kit candle can be used for more than just light. It can warm your shelter or dry enough kindling to start a fire even when your wood is wet.
72 Hour Essentials: Shelter and Warmth Supplies
I hope that you are finding this mindset to be liberating rather than ominous…
Remember when we talked about the Law of Threes? You can ONLY survive three hours without shelter assuming that you are in bad conditions. If you are bobbing in the North Atlantic clutching your Titanic room key, you have even less time. People in southern California can likely survive much longer without shelter, if they can survive their government. Your warmth and shelter needs will vary depending on the time of the year greatly.
Warmth at Home…
In the case that the emergency allows you to “hunker down” in your home (aka Bugging In ro Shelter in Place), then you will want to gather extra blankets and if it is very cold, then you will want to move everyone into one fairly small room with all the blankets and sleeping bags. This is where if you have a small generator then a few small electric heaters can easily keep a small room warm.
Warmth and Shelter while Bugging Out…
If you are forced to evacuate your home and head out on the road (aka Bugging Out), then you will be taking your 72 Hour Essentials Kit with you and it needs to be stocked to allow you to survive in bad weather for a period. You might get somewhere and be forced to leave your car on foot to get to safety or a shelter (which may or may not be heated) and should be ready to survive in this situation. Having tents with enough space for your family to sleep in could also be a life saver.
First, you need at least one blanket for each person, and I would add one of those reflective space blankets thay you can get for under $5-10. In addition a disposable rain poncho as well as a more substantial rain gear is also useful, I bought military grade ponchos at a surplus store for $20-30 and they also have snap in liners for $15-20 if you live somewhere where it gets cold. Buy them a little large so you will have room for your pack or to carry your 72 hour bag underneath it. I have bought things from ArmyNavyDeals.com with good success…
Also, you should include two pairs of dry socks for each person, (maybe thermal underwear) and a windbreaker. If it is cold season when you bug out, everyone needs to wear a winter coat and shoes/boots that you could hike ten miles in if necessary. And don’t forget a hat or a watch cap, gloves and a scarf if you are somewhere cold.
Putting all of this bulky stuff tightly packed into those big plastic storage tubs available at Walmart or Home Depot, allows you keep it ready to leave quickly. Mark it “Warmth/Shelter with a piece of duct tape and keep it handy. Keep the rain gear and basic stuff in your 72 Hour Kit.
72 Hour Essentials: Fire-Making Supplies
Fire-building is critical in many outdoor survival situations. Fire can warm you, allow you to cook meals, keep away dangerous varmints, and it can raise the spirits of people who are in survival mode.
Your 72 Hour Kit should have multiple ways to start a fire in the woods. Just a box of matches or a lighter is not enough. You should have at least 50 strike-anywhere waterproof matches in a waterproof match case. A candle is also a good thing to get a flame going that you can use to light kindling and in many cases will save matches.
Lightweight firesteels aka Magnesium fire starters can be a lifesaver (there is a cool short video at the link). And they are waterproof. The magnesium burns at a very hot temperature which helps start a fire even in very damp and awful conditions.
When the wood you want to burn is damp, a cotton ball soaked in petroleum jelly is very easy to ignite and will usually burn hot enough to get a blaze going. I also collect dryer lint in small ziploc bags, that stuff is extremely flammable.
Lastly, you could carry a small supply of fatwood kindling in another ziploc, this is wood that has been impregnated with flammable material to make it easier to light and also keeps it from absorbing moisture.
To collect wood in the outdoors, there is usually a lot of old dry stuff laying around, but an axe might come in handy to cut some pieces to a better size. An axe can also double up as a hammer to drive tent stakes if you need to pitch a tent.
Last but not least, you should practice outdoors with these supplies to learn how to start a fire. If you have any Boy Scouts nearby, they are almost always pyromaniacs and welcome the opportunity to show their fire-making skills off.
The basic idea is…
- Build Tinder Nest (lint, cotton balls or paper)
- Have Kindling Ready (small sticks)
- Create Spark
- Add Kindling in Organized Fashion
- Give Oxygen
- Progress to Larger Fuel (ever bigger sticks collected ahead of time and kept dry as possible)
- Add Occasional Logs
A good resource for basic outdoor skills is a copy of the Boy Scout Merit Badge book for Camping and Cooking merit badges.