72-Hour Emergency Kit

72 hour emergency kit

EVERYONE should keep a 72-hour emergency survival kit in their vehicle. No excuses.

Why? Because if you unexpectedly have to evacuate or get away for any reason, or if you are unable to return home, your 72-hour emergency kit will provide you with the essentials that you might need to survive for up to 3 days.



WHEN You Might Need A 72-hour Emergency Kit

– Hurricane warning and you must or should evacuate.
– Forest fire is threatening your neighborhood.
– Earthquake damage in your region prohibiting you from returning home.
– Winter snow or ice-storm has stranded you away from home.
– Tornado has destroyed your neighborhood and all you have is in your car.
– Vehicle breakdown while traveling in remote location.
– Accident sends you over embankment where no-one see’s you – you’re trapped.
– You’re out camping, hunting, fishing and simply need more food-water.
– Tsunami warning has been issued near you.
– Sudden evacuation order because an upstream dam is failing.
– Nuclear accident, detonation, or dirty-bomb in your region.
– Martial law is declared and you’re bugging out to your survival retreat.
– Grid down in your city and you’re bugging out.
– The economic collapse has come and you’re escaping the looting and rioting.
– SHTF scenario (pick any…)


WHAT Food Should I Store In My 72-hour Emergency Kit?

There are many opinions and recommendations for what to keep in a 72-hour emergency kit. In fact, many who do have such a kit will often readjust it from time to time for the season or changing circumstances.

The basic goal is to simply keep enough categorical supplies for food, water, fire, shelter, medical, first-aid, security, tools, clothes, pets — to cover a 3-day period.

How much water?
It’s a good idea to store (at least) about 1.5 gallons of water per person to cover a 3-day period, which is about 12 typical size water bottles.

Note: A good portable drinking water filter is highly advised in case you don’t have enough water or run out. A good choice: Sawyer Mini Water Filter

How much food?
Store approximately 6,000 calories (3-days) of food for each person who would most likely be traveling in the vehicle.

What kind of food?
Ideally you want foods that are calorie dense to save space, especially if you find yourself having to walk with a backpack.

Choose a variety of foods that do not require cooking, or those already cooked (canned).

Food list ideas…

Emergency Food Bars – ~200 calories, depending on choice
Datrex 3600 calorie pack, Emergency Food Bar
Chocolate bars, hard candy (quick energy) – 200 calories
Canned beef stew – 400 calories
Canned meat (Turkey, Chicken, Beef Brisket) – 400 calories
Premium Chunk Chicken Breast, 6 Count
Peanut Butter – 3,000 calories in a typical jar!
Beef Jerky snacks – 70 calories
MRE’s – ~400 calories, depends on MRE
MRE’s by the Case
Granola type trail mix
Nuts (they’re high in calories)
Snacks that are salt-free or low-salt (minimize thirst)

Note: You can eat most canned foods ‘cold’ (commercially processed)
Note: Have a small can opener or pull-tab cans

Where to store the food?
For the vehicle, consider keeping your foods in an appropriate size ‘cooler’, which will help keep the internal temperature more stable (keeps out the extreme heat or cold). My truck’s rear seats lift up exposing storage spaces where I keep my foods (it’s cooler under there during the summer).

Note: Rotate out your food after each summer due to probable exposure to excessive temperature extremes which reduces food shelf life. Simply work the rotated food into upcoming meal plans and eat it (so you don’t wast it).


OTHER Items For 72-hour Emergency Kit

A list of additional non-food items to be included with your 72-hour kit could become a long one. The challenge is to consider each item’s ‘need’ or usefulness along with it’s weight and space requirement. Bear in mind that you might be traveling on foot, and bear in mind that this kit is designed to get you from point-A to point-B over an approximate 72-hour period (as opposed to a longer term bug-out kit, etc..).

Think about the following non-food item categories and build your kit:

Combustion (fire making)
Cutting (knife)
Cordage (paracord/rope)
Cover (shelter)
Container (boiling water/cooking/etc..)
Shelter (tarp/tent/etc..)

Some specific non-food item ideas in no particular order…

First Aid Kit Coleman First Aid Tin
Toilet Paper
Blanket and/or sleeping bag
Cord, paracord, 550 Paracord, 7 Strand
Rain gear, Poncho
Seasonal jacket, hat, gloves
Sneakers / walking shoes / hiking boots
Extra socks, change of underwear, long-sleeve shirt
Knife (two is one, one is none)
Spoon for civilized eating ;)
Can Opener for canned food
Stainless Steel Canteen w/cup, Military Canteen with Cup
Water purification tablets
Water filter
Detailed Maps of the region you may travel, and a compass
Road Atlas for each state you may travel
Flashlight, headlamp, and batteries
Lightstick (bend-and-shake)
Portable radio, pocket radio
Handheld 2-way radios
Lighter, matches, firestarter, tinder
Mylar foil ’emergency blanket’
Notepad and pen in Ziploc bag
A Plan – phone numbers, pre-planned destination options
Prescription meds if applicable
Pain relievers
Work gloves
Small portable camp stove, Ultralight Portable Camping Stove
Leatherman tool
Pet food
Pet water bowl
Leash / collar

Tailor your 72-hour kit to your own needs, your own region of travel, your own requirements.

I cannot overemphasize enough – to have a plan AHEAD OF TIME. Decide on evacuation routes and several optional destinations. Write down their address and phone numbers on paper (keep in kit). Know how to get there without GPS! Make reservations immediately (if applicable). If you’re heading to Uncle Joe’s rural farm, let him know, and be sure that you would be welcomed there ;)


  1. Don’t forget food and water for your pets and a dish for their water. Also, don’t forget their vaccination records. Also, be sure to carry proof of your residence in case they don’t want to let anyone back into the area unless they live there once the emergency is over.

    1. Sorry, delete that. I looked for pet food on your list before I posted and missed it. Getting senile. I guess I need a written record of my residence in case I forget where I live.

      1. Exactly the bowl I have for the dog. Used extensively and the color hasn’t even faded. I highly recommend them.

    2. As far as proof or residence your Drivers Licence or vehicle registration should cover that.

  2. good reminders, thanks, Ken.

    something I have seen suggested, from persons who have had to evacuate, saying they would have found this useful..

    for each family member and each pet,

    an 8X10 inch color photo.

    why? so if any of you is separated, it is easier to hold up to folks, and ask for their help looking.

    I recall reading this happened to someone, and they had the usual tiny wallet photo, and it wasn’t so easy for folks to pick out details. (better than nothing…but)

  3. Good “list” Ken.

    I know for some of us this may seem like a repeat over and over of “list” but please remember there are a LOT of new people getting “into” preparing, I’m thinking of ohhhh about 150,000 living just down-hill of a Dam in Northern California maybe??? It’s also a good reminder to “check” our 72-hour-kits.

    A couple of ideas I would like to add;
    – A couple HUGE trash Bags
    – Salt/Mineral Tablets, if walking/hiking in the middle of summer you will need some sort of replacement as you will sweat everything out. Ask your Doc if you can take them.
    – Some sort of “wipes” for cleaning up a little and cleaning scrapes/burses
    – A few personal Hygiene items

    As Ken said it could be a very long list

    One other suggestion, if you own a Vacuum Sealer, a lot of things like Socks, TP (remove the cardboard tube), your “Seasonal jacket, hat, gloves” can be vacuumed down to take up a LOT less space.

    I agree with Ken 1000%, there is NO reason not to build and have a 72 hour kit IN THE CAR/TRUCK, it will do you no good if it’s sitting in the Garage if you get stuck away from home. If you have 2 vehicles, build two.

    Lastly learn to use what you have in the kit, take a weekend (Lights Out) and practice surviving the 2-3 days off your “kit”. This mayyyyy just save your life, at very least it will make it a LOT more comfortable when the Sheriff/whoever issues a MANDITORY evacuation order…. Just ask the residents of Oroville California.


  4. @ DaisyK & Anon

    Great reminders, if your evacuated because of some disaster, you will NOT be allowed back into your area without some proof positive you live there, I know this happened a LOT after Katrina and almost every evacuation.

    As far as pets, you need to take care of them as you would your Spouse, I know for a FACT old Blue has saved my bacon a few times when hiking, he hears and sees things that I sometimes don’t and will let me know. Trust your Dog when he’s telling you something.

    Also make sure you have a little cash and a way to pay for a Hotel/Motel room for a few nights if you can.

    The Photo idea is fantastic…. And important


    1. NRP…

      Another good use for a vacuum sealer: Put a $100, or whatever you think you might need, in small bills, vacuum seal it and put it in the bag.

      Also, it’s not quite a ‘legal’ document, but make a photo copy of your drivers license and put it in the same bag. If you loose the original the address/photo on the copy is better than nothing. They, the cops, can run the number on the license to verify you and where you live.

      Everything that is not water-proof in any of my “go bags” is vacuum sealed. Some of the items are purposefully sealed in bags that are far larger than needed. Why? The vacuum seal bags make very nice boil-in-bags for meals. One pot of water can make several servings.

      All of my food stuffs are contained in a fanny pack. Makes it easier to inventory, check, and/or change food items.

      Where do I store the two bags? In the back of my SUV, in plain sight, in a quite well beat-up cardboard box. The more beat up it is, the less attention it draws. And if it looks like something has leaked……even better.

  5. Portable power pack for recharging mobile phone (cell phone). Being able to communicate with family with reduce stress for all concerned.

  6. I keep a charged POD (power on demand) unit in each vehicle. I bring them in at night and make sure they are charged and ready to go. just part of my every day routine since some of my work is a three hour drive each direction! I don’t let my gas tank go below half EVER! means more frequent stops….but better for the back anyway to get out and stretch.

    1. so glad to hear someone else does not let their tank go on empty. I was filling up at quarter tank but now starting to fill up when half. My husband lets his run dry. It really worries me. I just have to keep mine up. So many good ideas on this site. I like the identification in the vacuum sealed bags. Extra cash and coins too. Guess I will be working on my bag tomorrow!

  7. Thanks for the list and article Ken. I do need to add a two-way radio, or burner phone to my pack. Couple of items I have;
    A small sewing kit.
    An eyeglass repair kit and a spare set of old eyeglasses.
    Toothpaste/toothbrush/tiny travel deodorant.
    Machete (hangs on the outside).
    Money (roll of quarters and $100: small bills).

    In the travel vehicle;
    Emergency hammer in each vehicle for safety belt cutting and window breaking.
    Air compressor runs on 12v or house current.
    Power pack for jump starting, also has USB charge ports.

    1. Forgot that I have a small roll of duct tape (good for fixing leaky hoses temporarily) and a four packs of zip ties (different lengths)in the 3 day bag. About every month or so I tear the bag apart to recall what is where and what needs replacing.

  8. I think it might be a bit heavy with all of the items listed. In my case it would be taking up to much room. Dodge Dakota has enough room to store several toothpicks under the seats. Glove box is very small and the center console filled with Garmin and a backup camera. Anything else is in plain site in the miniscule rear passenger compartment. Invitation for thieves. This is the tow vehicle for our camping trailer. More stuff lives in there but can’t tow it everywhere. Other vehicle is a Mazda 2 that the wife wanted. It has a lot more space in the trunk and under the front seats. Still though it fills up easily. I keep a Sawyer, space blankets, and Prego type ready to eat retort microwaveable pouches. (Other kinds are available but Prego comes to mind.) Count the calories when choosing. Also a small empty daypack. Also keep a few pouches of dog food and disposable water bottles. I’m not doing much stuff in the woods so I’m unlikely to be stranded far from a good route home. I really don’t think most of us need a get home bag with 2000 calories a day. You are going to be walking not chopping wood or other labor intensive activities. I’m figuring on 1000 calories a day but I’m also figuring on the fact that I probably carry around 20 pounds of stored food 24/7. Okay, maybe 30 pounds and I really should lose some of it. Good old Spam is another calorie dense food. Add to the above some disposable ponchos. Bic lighters and flashlight with extra batteries live in the glove box and would be added to the bag.

    For any trips more than 30 miles from home dedicated GHB goes along. This lives in the hall closet and can be put into either vehicle.

    This is off subject but there was a scam going around a few weeks ago where you answered your phone and were asked by the caller if you could hear them.
    If you answered yes your voice was being recorded. I mention this because my wife just got a call asking her to participate in a 1 question survey. They then asked did you vote in the last election. She hung up the phone. Please pass this on as it might be a new variation of the previous scan.

    1. Lots of very good comment above and I will be adding some things. Cash to the GHB. Pictures and copies of documents. More TP thanks NRP. all pretty light.

      About that dam in northern California. Weather channel was predicting yesterday for up to 10 inches of rain in the area from Sunday through Monday. They’ve been dumping water a tremendous rate and are confident that the lake level will be down low enough to handle the additional rain. This is from the same people who initially said there was no danger and then changed their minds and gave an evacuation order for failure within the hour.

    2. @ ME…. My BOB or GHB whatever you want to call it weighs in at 23 pounds. I wore it a whole weekend up and down the mountain side to see if I truly could manage it. Turned out I CAN…..soooo it continues to weigh in at 23 pounds. I could lighten it by some extra lead and shift those to other locations, but so far so good. Has exactly what I need for at least 4 days, plus a few nasty emergencies. I refresh it 2 times per year. good practice.

    3. me
      If a neighbor or friend that uses cat littler in the plastic pails(30lb+ size), ask if you can have a couple of them. Clean them out and put your items in those, who would want to steal ‘cat litter’. We have two of the made up with emergency medical supplies for each vehicle.
      Plan on using the current buckets for other storage in case we had to leave for an emergency.
      Could see a thief taking dog or cat food but to haul a 35 pound container of sand…not to likely.

      When the neighbors left on a 6 week trip to east coast, asked if they had med supplies with them of course the hubby said there were W/marts every other block in a city. OK, but what if you are stuck outside of a city & can not get to it hummmm. Gave him our extra cat litter bucket to take with them JIC, he returned it unused but his wife wanted to keep it. lol

      1. What an excellent idea on the cat litter bucket. I have family members who cannot keep a GHB in their vehicle because they drive SUV’s so everything is out in the open. For fear of a break-in they keep nothing in the back. I believe you are right that no one would bother to break in for a bucket of cat litter.

        1. Peanut Gallery
          Have them position the pail in the vehicle so it is not obvious that it has been opened.

        2. Great suggestion. There is a Feline Rescue thrift store near me that frequently has empty buckets. I’ll check with them.

      2. I suppose if you really wanted to be paranoid you could make a false “top” inside the catlitter bucket with litter glued to it.

    4. @me You stated the following: “I really don’t think most of us need a get home bag with 2000 calories a day. You are going to be walking not chopping wood or other labor intensive activities. I’m figuring on 1000 calories a day but I’m also figuring on the fact that I probably carry around 20 pounds of stored food 24/7.”

      Try an experiment go a full 24 hours just consuming 1000 calories and see how you physically feel. Humping 20 miles a day may take upwards of 3,000+ calories.

      My constructive criticism would be that you may be making assumptions based on future unknown conditions. This can be dangerous and usually always gets men killed out in the field. It is always best to be prepared as best you can within your means. If you can throw a 72hr pack in the back of your car with 6000 calories you should consider this. Actually I have a 30lbs pack with 10,000 calories of Mountain House FD, survival supplies, extra amo and water weight of 3 Liters which is calculated into the total weight of my pack out.

      Upon First Engagement with bad people… You can throw out your first plan, you will need to adapt overcome and implement new plans on the fly. 20 miles home can easily turn into 100 miles of walking.

  9. From the shaky left coast
    I lived about 35+ miles from my work, and estimate a two day trip on foot. So I built a small 7 speed bicycle that fit behind the seats of my small car, with black seats and a black blanket you can not see the bike there. I worked at a complex with about 1,000 employees and never tolled anyone about the bike or my BOB bag for security reasons. I estimate that I could get home in less than 8 hours with it. Leaving work at night several times coworkers would stop by my car and talk never seeing the bike in my back seat. It gave me grate confidence knowing that I had an alternative way to get home.

  10. We only utilize 72 hour kits when we travel, otherwise we plan to bug-in at home (2 years of supplies) or the farm (same thing+lots of crops, beef, chickens, etc.) We are truly blessed.

  11. The prepper community may acquire a few more members after the Oroville Dam incident. Recently read about 2 men on a walking hunting adventure in Alaska. Said that they learned which freeze dried foods offered the maximum # of calories and consumed those. Along with supplementing their meals with the game that they shot and the fish that they could catch, and they still lost 10-15 lbs. I believe that Ken had a good article not long ago about being realistic about the calories burned, and the amount of food that will actually be required to sustain us if the need so arises.

    1. Yes indeed, total calories, calories, calories (not ‘servings’ which could mean anything).

  12. Great article Ken and a good reminder:

    Carrying a backpack even over roads with no bushwhacking is hard work akin to shovel work. Just different muscles involved. You will burn a lot of calories when traveling. Like Left Coast, I have thought about the bicycle option in order to save shoe leather and to have the coasting option to cover level ground. For my truck, I would need a cover for the bed to place the bicycle in secure fashion.

    a 10 mile hike on roads is roughly equal to 50 miles covered on bicycle in terms of how your body handles recovery time and muscle fatigue.

    1. CaliRefugee,I agree on the bike option.last year I walked to my wife’s work a couple times to see how long it would take me.(25+miles). Using a bike had great appeal as it would cut down the time to about a third for walking. I also found a short cut the kids used which cut about 5 miles off the journey. One Saturday my wife and I road the mountain bikes we bought leaving from her workplace. At a leisurely pace we got home in under 2 hours. In an emergency we could pick up the pace and do a lot better.No problem carrying our Bob either.
      When I was a kid I had a front basket and saddle baskets on my bike for delivering newspapers. I carried all types of stuff in them. Not even sure if you can even get baskets anymore!
      The Viet Cong would walk beside a bike loaded with up to 200 pounds of supplies on the Ho Chi Ming trail. Then they would ride the empty bike back down to get more. It’s doable.
      Might be an idea for those who might need to haul water from a distance. Ride the bike to the source. Walk beside the bike with the water on the bike.
      Winter/ snow might be a problem though…

  13. I always get hung up on water, the advice to have a purifier in the kit is great advice. At approximately 8.5 pounds per gallon more than a couple of gallons would get heavy. You’ve put together an extensive list, and it’s a good one too.
    I have also thought about keeping kits in the car, I live in a flood plain behind a levee, so that’s a question I will always debate to my self. One solution is to have two kits, there I go on the debate circuit. Thanks for the Post!

    1. If there’s not a water source nearby, it’s definitely a big problem…



      1. Another good article and I enjoy all the positive and inciteful comments that follow.
        I carry a tote with extra winter clothes and rain gear plus machete, ammo and flash lights, batteries, tools and energy bars and water in my Jeep and Expedition. The challenge in the winter is water and spare batteries freezing. As with anyone living in a cold climate the importance of keeping your vehicle well maintained and stocked with survival gear is extremely important.

Comments are closed.