72 Hour Kits

I recently had a reader ask for my input on 72 hour kits. I am glad she did! We haven’t updated 72 hour kits since McKenna was born, so thinking about this post is just what I needed to keep it on my mind and bump this up the priority level! First, let’s cover some basic info about 72 hour kits. Let me first tell you, I am by no means an expert on 72 hour kits. I will link you to great resources. What I mainly want to accomplish in this post is to convince you that you need a 72 hour kit, motivate you to actually start compilining 72 hour kits, and give you some simple ideas on what is included in a 72 hour kit (as well as directing you toward some fabulous resources).

A 72 hour kit is a kit you create to help you survive for 72 hours after a natural disaster or other sort of emergency.

“They” say that it takes 72 hours for emergency crews and volunteers to respond in the event of a natural disaster. You need to be able to take care of yourself for the first 72 hours after an emergency situation. This is your job. No one elses. I know we live in a world of amazing technology and complete instant gratification, but when a disaster strikes, it pulls us back decades for a time. Don’t expect someone else (like any government agency or even paramedics) to sweep in within an hour and rescue you. If you are prepared, you will be able to do it. People lived on their own for much longer periods of time a century ago.

When my husband and I first got married, we were poor. We were so very, very poor. We were both going to school full time and both working part time. Despite our ridiculously low income that barely covered our living expenses, we set to work putting together our 72 hour kits.

Now, we live in Utah. Do you know how long it has been since Utah has seen a major disaster? A very long time. We could easily justify away the real need for a 72 hour kit. I know some of you live in places where a natural disaster is a very real part of your lives on a yearly basis. You probably don’t need much convincing to create a 72 hour kit. Natural disasters are possible everywhere on Earth. They affect good people and people who are not so good (I am talking about individuals; I am not lumping any group of people into good or bad categories). Hurricanes happen. Tsunamis happen. Earthquakes happen. Tornadoes happen. Floods happen. Severe snow storms happen. Fires happen. Volcanoes erupt.

These things all happen, and most humans live believing nothing bad will ever happen to them. Well, we should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”

And why not have a 72 hour kit? What reason is more compelling than being able to keep you and your family alive long enough to receive aid? Money? How much will you like your money if you die? Time? “It won’t happen to me?”

Okay, I think we all somewhere understand it could happen to us. We are all adults now with children, and having children is a huge motivator for doing a lot of things.

And remember my motto, better safe than sorry. I hope I have convinced you that you need to get going on the 72 hour kit (I have convinced myself to update 🙂 ).

A 72 hour kit sounds pretty simple. Enough stuff to last you 3 days. Ha! I don’t need much of anything for 72 hours! The problem starts when you realize you don’t really know what will be available to you for those 3 days. As you compile your list, it starts to become a little overwhelming.

In parenting, I often advise baby steps, and in 72 hour kits I do the same. Some of you might be able to afford to go out and purchase a 72 hour kit from someone like the Red Cross. If so, fabulous! Go do so. For many of us, we will need to move slowly as we build this up. They really aren’t too expensive. You can buy one from the American Red Cross for $70.00.

There is nothing wrong with starting with basics and adding to it over time. Remember the expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Your 72 hour kit doesn’t need to be, either. Start with some basic necessities and make some goals to build it up as you can. Something is better than nothing.

Also, watch for sales and buy stuff as it goes on sale.

So what do you start with?

You need something to store your stuff in. The idea with a 72 hour kit is that you can grab it and go. You need to be able to carry it with you. If there are gas leaks or something else dangerous (like rising water) by your home, you will need to get away from it–and you can’t plan for sure on getting away by car.

I like a backpack. When we purchased our backpacks, we waited for a sale on them. We are coming up on the perfect time of year to find a 72 hour kit backpack for each member of your family. You can find some great deals, and you will have many options. I would make the backpack for each member of your family the first purchase. Remember, this will be something you keep packed at all times–you can’t use it for other stuff.

Make sure the backpack is large enough and also comfortable enough. It also needs to be sturdy enough to hold what you need in it. You also want it to be somewhat waterproof if possible.

Now, you will notice that a 72 hour kit can get quite full quite quickly. My husband and I have decided to divide some supplies between our backpacks. This isn’t ideal; we could get separated or a disaster could happen when he isn’t home. So we each have necessecities for life sustaining in our own backpacks, then divide other things we think we could survive without divided between the two of us.

Oh, and don’t forget your pets! Have a plan for them, too.

Water is a pretty basic necessity of life. The American Red Cross recommends at least one gallon per person per day. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly am not going to haul 3 gallons of water in my backpack, and neither is my 15 month old! An idea is to have as much water as you can carry in your backpack as well as supplies for purifying water. A problem with this idea is that you might not be able to find water at all.

You want non-perishable, high-protein items. These foods need to require no refrigeration. I also want foods that require no prep, little to no water, and are as light as possible. Food ideas include:

  • energy bars
  • ready to eat soup (not condensed)
  • peanut butter
  • crackers
  • applesauce
  • dry cereal
  • granola
  • dried fruit
  • MREs
  • Canned beans

Take note, if you put cans in your kit, be sure to put can openers.


By shelter I am lumping what you need to be able to get some sleep and clothing. Now, it would be pretty nice if the disaster happened during nice weather because it would be easier to find somewhere to sleep on a summer evening than on a winter one. You don’t want to be too hot and you don’t want to be too cold.

  • Clothing: Underwear, warm clothes, cool clothes (like t-shirts), socks, shoes. These can be clothes that  you are about to get rid of. Before you toss something, think about if it would be useful in the 72 hour kit. Most places only say to have one change of clothing per person. This isn’t a fashion show; it is survival. Oh, and for shoes, go for sneakers.
  • Bedding: Ideas include a tarp or other water proof item, thermal reflective blankets, some people to tents…
  • Hand Warmers: these are great for keeping hands warm…I have used them in non-emergency situations (but I didn’t steal them from our kits!)
  • WaterProof Matches: Have some water proof matches and possibly a lighter so you can start a fire.

First Aid Kit

Make sure that at least each adult has a first aid kit in the 72 hour kit. I think it is also a good idea to keep CPR and other first aid info with the kit if you are not very well-versed. And I mean very. So well versed that you would have no problem administering aid if your child were dying. I have friends in the medical field who have commented that they think they would freeze if it was an emergency for their children (these are not people who typically use CPR and such in the medical field, but they do need to be certified). You just don’t know where your head will be.


Lumped in with this, I would add sunblock and insect repellent.



If people have important medications, include those.



Be sure to also bring extra batteries.


Sanitary Supplies

We are talking essentials here. Some toilet paper. Some towelettes. Diapers for the baby. Feminine supplies (yeah, you don’t really want to suddenly start your menstrual cycle in a disaster situation with nothing to use for it). Bar of soap. 



The above are essentials. Here are some more recommended items.


Personal Items

You might need eyeglasses. You also might want some toys, books, games, etc. You might end up in some shelter-type of a place for a few days waiting for aid, and so you will want things to help keep the entire family sane. Now, I wouldn’t put those things in at the expense of a necessity, but one book might be the difference between the sane and insane when it comes to helping comfort your child :). I have seen suggestions like deodorant and razors…personally, if I am in this situation, I don’t care about my husband having a shaved face or either of us smelling fresh. Plus, shaving would require water. So if there is room, fine, but we are talking a disaster, not a trip to the Holiday Inn.



This is something I actually haven’t really thought about much for the kit: money. You need cash. Some suggest as much as 50 per backpack. Now, that is an expense, right! You do that for my family and we have $250  sitting in backpacks–possibly forever. I guess you could think of it as an interest free savings plan 🙂



Have copies of important papers like identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc. Also, include a recent family photo. This can help rescue workers find missing people. Also keep a list of contact information for family members. 


Always keep a long-distance emergency contact. Long distance phone lines will be the first to be repaired. Keep a written list. If cell phone towers go down, your cell phone will search and search for a signal. It only takes a few hours for that to run down the battery. Don’t rely on electronics.



 A battery-opperated radio and extra batteries are quite universally recommended. The radio is a basic way for authorities to communicate with people. They can guide you to shelter and help over the radio.



You might want a map of your area.


Pet Supplies

You might want a pack for your pets.



Go through this info as well as info from the sites I will link and decide what you want in your kits. Make a list. Keep a copy of the list in your kit so you can track what you have.



Remember to update your kits. I think I will even post reminders to do so. This is especially important to do often with young children. What fits your baby today will not fit 6 months from now, and in 6 months, your baby will have different food needs. Oh, and I would pack clothes that are a little big so you have some time to grow before switching them out.



There are websites dedicated to this sort of thing. Here are some good ones:



Here is our sample list of things we have decided on (or had over a year ago…time to update!). This is a list we started working on 6.5 years ago and are still adding to. Now, this is a lot of stuff. One place I found said she put certain items in backpacks, and others in 5 gallon buckets and totes. If she had time and could evacuate by car, she would grab the totes and buckets. Otherwise, it was just backpacks.


Nate/Val Kits:

1. Water

a. One gallon of water (packets)

b. Water purifier

c. Purifying tablets

2. Food

a. MREs (food rations)

b. Candy to suck on

3. Personal items

a. Glasses (Nate)

b. Pad of paper

c. Pen/pencil

d. Deck of Cards

4. Communication

a. Battery operated radio

b. Batteries

c. Whistle

5. First Aid Kit

a. Ibuprofen

b. Latex gloves

c. ACE bandage wrap

d. Vet wrap

e. Thick tape

f. Sun Screen

g. First aid manual

h. Popsicle Sticks

i. Gauze

j. Scissors

k. Insect Sting relief

l. Burn cream packets

m. Neosporin

n. Tweezers

o. Q-tips

p. Triangular bandage

q. One store-bought first aid kit

6. Personal Hygiene Items

a. Antibiotic hand sanitizer

b. Towelettes

c. Toilet paper

d. Grocery bags

e. Bar of soap

f. Tampons (Val)

g. Toothbrush

h. Toothpaste

i. Lotion (Val)

j. Lip Balm

k. Brush (Val)

l. Elastic for hair (Val)

7. Clothing

a. T-Shirt

b. Sweatshirt

c. Pants

d. Socks

e. Garments

f. Beanie

g. Gloves

8. Shelter

a. Garbage bag (33 gallon)

b. Mylar sleeping bag

c. Fleece Blanket

d. Tarp

e. Rope

f. Poncho

9. Tools

a. Ziplock bags

b. Sewing kit

c. Safety pins

d. Lighter

e. Fire Starter

f. Waterproof matches

g. Shovel (Nate)

h. Utility knife (Val)

i. Leatherman (Nate)

j. Candle

k. Glowsticks

l. Batteryless Flashlight

m. Leather gloves

n. Duct tape

o. Axe

p. Compass

q. Mess Kit

r. Sterno

10. Papers and Keys

a. Map of area

b. Current family picture

c. Copy of insurance card

d. Copies of keys

e. Cash

f. Quarters

g. List of important phone numbers

Brayden Kit:

1. Water

a.     One gallon of water (packets)

2.     Food

a.     Dried fruit

b.     Raisins

3.     Personal items

a.     Blankie or stuffed animal

b.     Entertainment items (crayons?)

4.     First Aid Kit

a.     Children’s Ibuprofen

b.     Children’s Acetaminophen

c.     ACE bandage wrap

d.     Vet wrap

e.     Thick tape

f.      Children’s Sun Screen

g.     Popsicle Sticks

h.     Gauze

i.      Insect Sting relief

j.      Burn cream packets

k.     Neosporin

l.      Q-tips

m.    Triangular bandage

n.     One store-bought first aid kit

5.     Personal Hygiene Items

a.     Antibiotic hand sanitizer

b.     Wet Wipes

c.     Grocery bags

d.     Soap

e.     Toothbrush

f.      Toothpaste

g.     Lotion

h.     Lip Balm

6.     Clothing

a.     T-Shirt

b.     Sweatshirt

c.     Underwear

d.     Pants

e.     Socks

f.      Beanie Hat

g.     Gloves

h.     Summer hat

7.     Shelter

a.     Garbage bag (33 gallon)

b.     Fleece Blanket

c.     Tarp

d.     Poncho

8.     Tools

a.     Flashlight

b.     Mess kit

c.     Sippy cups

9.     Papers

a.     Current family picture

b.     Copy of insurance card

c.     List of numbers

d.     Information

Kaitlyn Kit:

10.   Water

a.     One gallon of water (packets)

11.   Food

a.     formula

12.   Personal items

13.   First Aid Kit

a.     Infant’s Ibuprofen

b.     Infant’s Acetaminophen

c.     ACE bandage wrap

d.     Vet wrap

e.     Children’s Sun Screen

f.      Popsicle Sticks

g.     Gauze

h.     Insect Sting relief

i.      Burn cream packets

j.      Neosporin

k.     Q-tips

l.      Triangular bandage

m.    One store-bought first aid kit

n.     Cotton balls

14.   Personal Hygiene Items

a.     Antibiotic hand sanitizer

b.     Wet Wipes

c.     Grocery bags

d.     Soap

e.     Lotion

f.      Lip Balm

g.     Bib

15.   Clothing

a.     T-Shirt

b.     Sweatshirt

c.     Pants

d.     Socks

e.     Beanie

f.      Gloves

g.     Summer hat

16.   Shelter

a.     Garbage bag (33 gallon)

b.     Fleece Blanket

c.     Tarp

17.   Papers

a.     Current family picture

b.     Copy of insurance card

c.     List of numbers

d.     Information



8 thoughts on “72 Hour Kits”

  1. Make sure you have small bills for money. You don't want to spend a $50 or $20 bill for a small item you need just because you don't have change.For food, I have a list of everything in the kit (divided into 1 big ziploc bag per day) and the expiration date for each item. Then when it is time to rotate, I just dig out those specific items instead of looking through everything. Saves time and money. A tip I found somewhere that I use is to rotate your kit every year at LDS General Conference. The kids like eating the food during the sessions.

  2. This is extremely helpful, thank you. I am in the middle of rounding out our 72-hour kit(s). We are in hurricane season here!

  3. Wow! Val, thanks so much for posting this. I never heard of a 72hr kit before!!! (I'm a natural planner by nature, so I'll be jumping on this right away!) This post came in perfect timing, we just finished our Living Trust (for if DH & I die, how the babies will be cared for) and I was debating on getting a portable ladder for the 2nd floor (in case of fire) as well as a small fireproof safe….Thanks for reminding me to address these as priorities! (It's so easy to let them fall by the wayside)Nikki

  4. I have heard of the small bill thing too. you should always have a pile of 1 dollar bills.Great post. I need to update mine.Also, I always keep a simiple 72 hour kid of water/food in the car just in case too. We are pretty much either in our car or it is in our garage when we are home so I figure it is the perfect place since we're always near it.

  5. thanks D&H, I hadn't ever heard that for money. Good tips!Kristy, you are welcome! Nikki, glad to introduce you to the kit! And I need to get on the whole will thing. I am putting that off.Rachel, don't get ahead of me! lol

  6. Val, we are doing regular sized backpacks for the kids. McKenna obviously would not be packing her own backpack. I am guessing I would carry the backpack and DH would carry the McKenna. The kid stuff is pretty light, so it should be okay.


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