Earthquake Survival Kit 101


What should you have in an Earthquake Survival Kit?

Not dissimilar from a 72-hour kit, an earthquake survival kit in the context of this post is geared towards keeping in one’s vehicle. While it is also wise to keep supplies at home, this particular kit (in your car) will be available to you both at home or at work (assuming you drive there) and wherever else you might be when ‘the big one’ hits…


An important place to keep an earthquake survival kit is in your vehicle, because while most people do have some basic provisions at home – they have nothing in their cars. Most people work and spend 8-10 hours away from home most every day. Approximately 1/3 of your life is spent at work. Therefore there is approximately a 33% chance that the earthquake will strike while you’re at work.

Very similar to a 72-hour kit, the earthquake kit will contain enough food and water (or means to acquire water) for 3 days, along with other basic supplies to help you through that hypothetical time period.

The following is a list of supplies to consider while building your own earthquake survival kit.
In no particular order,

Keep foods that are compact, calorie dense, don’t require cooking, and will store conveniently enough. Count the calories. Try to achieve 6,000 total calories (2,000 per day). Choose a variety of foods. Calorie-dense food bars are a good choice. All canned food is Okay to eat without cooking (you’ll need a manual can opener). Consider including some sweets like hard candy or even chocolate bars for quick energy. Avoid very salty foods or snacks. Include a spoon for eating – who says you can’t still be civilized during a disaster ;)

Since an earthquake might result in road infrastructure damage, you might have to walk home (or to another place of safety) – so bottled water will be simplest (as opposed to a gallon jug) for traveling while on foot and keeping in your pack (backpack).

Portable water filter
You might also consider a small portable water filter which will be invaluable if you need to resource other water sources. If the earthquake damages water lines, the water will potentially become contaminated.

Even in the summer, it gets cool at night. You do not want to be stranded somewhere without adequate warmth. Select a blanket that will roll up and tie to your backpack if necessary (Fleece, perhaps wool). You might also consider a compact sleeping bag.

Mylar emergency blanket
Also known as a ‘space blanket’, these compact Mylar blankets (the size of a wallet) will reflect lots of body heat back to you if you wrap yourself in it. It’s so small, and so inexpensive, that everyone should have one in each kit. You don’t want to get hypothermia, and this could save you.

A set of comfortable clothes for walking
Bear in mind the season. Consider keeping a change of clothes (depending on how you dress for work) in case you have to walk.

Walking shoes
Again, depending on what you normally wear, they might not be the best for walking. So, keep a pair of walking shoes (and socks) in the vehicle, just in case.

Seasonal outerwear/jacket/hat
Lightweight raincoat or outwear that will protect from wind and rain. Consider an extra hat, gloves, whatever the season calls for.

LED flashlight
Keep a LED flashlight in your kit. It’s generally a good idea to keep the batteries separate and insert them when needed (assuming this kit will most just be sitting idle and unused for a long period of time – at least you hope it remains unused ;) ). Reason being, sometimes a battery will ‘leak’ while inserted for long periods of time, and can corrode the contacts rendering it inoperable.

An all purpose knife will have all purpose uses. Something as simple as a pocket knife.

A ‘must have’ in the event that your vehicle cannot leave the area due to earthquake infrastructure road or bridge damage. Chances are you will be walking somewhere and you will need a backpack of sorts with your earthquake emergency kit supplies inside.

First Aid Kit
At least keep a minimal quantity of first aid supplies like Band-aids, gauze, tape, antibiotic cream, etc..

If you need to walk, especially if you’re outside of your normal travels, a compass (and map) will certainly be helpful – assuming you know how to use it. While in your own local area you will generally know the lay of the land and the direction to travel, if you are caught outside your area of knowledge though, it will be helpful to have the navigational tools to get you where you’re going.

Local and Regional Map
Keep a hard copy map of your area (state, region, etc..). Don’t simply rely on GPS.

Portable AM/FM radio
A small, light weight portable radio will keep you advised of the unfolding disaster. Even a cheap portable pocket radio will suffice.

Paracord (parachute cord) is a very functional ’emergency rope’. Paracord has many benefits and uses including the fact that it’s light-weight, strong (550 pounds), and has unlimited uses. Perfect for helping to make a shelter (e.g drape some plastic sheeting or tarp over a length for shelter, etc..).

Plastic sheeting or Tarp
Plastic sheet material or a tarp will be useful for many things including a makeshift shelter to keep you dry. It will fold up nicely into your pack.

Magnesium/flint, Fire-starter, Tinder
You might need to make a fire – depending on your circumstances. By keeping a Ziploc bag with some tinder (e.g cotton balls soaked in Vaseline) and perhaps a Magnesium Fire-starter, etc.. will help you to make a fire.

Matches/ Lighter
The simplest way to start a fire is to have a lighter! The good old BIC lighter…

Roll of TP
Keep a roll of toilet paper in a Ziploc bag. Just squish it a little bit and it will fit inside to keep it dry.

Emergency documentation list
A list of phone numbers of emergency contacts including relatives, friends, family, your insurance company, your doctor, things like that.

There is plenty more that you might consider, and this short list should get you thinking about it. When thinking in terms of an ‘earthquake’ kit for the car – think about the possibility of having to walk. This means you will be out in the elements, so depending on your environment and season, tailor your supplies accordingly.


  1. A friend was advising me to include a whistle for alerting for help, and also work gloves if stuff is really destroyed and you’re crawling or picking through stuff.

    1. @gina, That is great advice from your friend. A whistle in a survival kit is very much a good idea. The work gloves is also a great addition.

      1. wilderness survival folks will say that whistling 3 times in a row is equivalent to the SOS. I have a hiking backpack with a built-in whistle, although it is not as loud as the “survival whistle”.

  2. Ken
    Great site, and very good advise. Living in the northwest had not thought about a car kit but will build one up today.

  3. copies or originals of important legal documents could be also added ?

    1. Just be careful which documents you choose to place in there. Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for cars to be broken into or stolen, and there are some things I’d rather not give the thieves.

  4. First of all thanks for this wonderfull and informative post.
    Some additional supplies we should keep at home or in survival kit , such as:
    *Food- non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items.
    *Empty Vessel or Container in case you need to store something.
    *Extra clothes.
    *Medications and medical items.
    *Copies of personal documents.
    *Multi-purpose tool.
    *Extra cash.
    *Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
    *Entertainment items.
    *Cell phone with extra chargers.

  5. Thank you. Most people that have never been in any type of natural disaster, like myself, seem to dismiss the chances as fantasy. You never think its going to happen to you until it does. I have come to believe strongly in the fact that it is much better to be prepared for something that never happen rather than being unprepared for something that does happen. I know most everyone has had an experience where they wished they would have done this or bought that or grabbed something before they left the house. Don’t experience this in a life or death situation. Prepare yourself. Hope for the best but expect the worst. Thank you for this quick kit guide. Learning some survival skills wouldn’t hurt for most people. Some may think it is common sense but you will be very surprised on how many people have little to no survival skills. Thanks again

  6. On the manual can opener. Consider the venerable GI P38, Any older vet can show you how to use it. Shelby is the American made one and they are dirt cheap on E Bay. You can attach it the zipper pull on your pack with a fishing snap to keep it from getting lost. They are light enough to carry extras. Probably a good idea to wrap it with tape to keep the blade from snagging on stuff.

    About the LED flashlights. I know this is an earthquake kit but would the diodes fry with an EMP or a CME? I keep both kinds in the car and truck.

  7. I would “suggest” politely, that we reconsider carrying our “earthquake” bag IN the vehicle exclusively. REASON: If one parks their vehicle in any parking structure, we need to “assume” that the structure will collapse/pancake on TOP of our vehicles, thus rendering access to our vehicles and EQ bags, GHB,etc, moot. Better to take it IN with us to our work space so we have it.
    Also, if our areas are surrounded by unreinforced masonry brick type buildings, the facades of the buildings, glass, bricks, etc,. may fall on our vehicles thus preventing access.
    This is a conundrum for many people in earthquake country. I prefer to keep one in my vehicle, and a smaller one when I’m inside a workspace. Hope this helps for those who may not have “thought”about the good old underground parking and tiered parking structures.

  8. I think the only change I would make is to have a good pair of hiking shoes versus walking shoes. For years I walked for exercise. Over time I got bored with it and decided to try hiking. My first two hour hike on state trails produced a few blisters, which surprised me as I was a regular walker. After a week to allow the blisters to heal, I headed out for my second hike and ended up with similar results. I talked to a few people about this and they suggested hiking boots. Walking on level ground is quite different from hiking on uneven ground. The hiking boots made all the difference. If the earthquake is significant enough you could end up walking on very uneven ground. Hiking boots would also offer better protection against debris that could cause severe injury.

  9. I like to keep my 72 hour kit in a backpack that is never more than 25 feet from me. Stuff like personal info, meds, nice blade and flashlights and firearms I keep with. The thieves can have the beefaroni and water if they are so desperate to intrude into my truck.

    I even caught a guy out in the alley behind my house who told me he was cold and hungry so I went inside and got some canned chile and a blanket for him and he thanked me by stealing my mountain bike for my trouble.

    And then the sorry moth@@r Fricker leaves me a note saying he will return it. (He didn’t)

    Be careful about what you leave in your ride.

    1. Beefaroni? I don’t know where you’re from, but in this state it is a crime to set lethal traps for thieves. Might even constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Grins.

      1. With some tabasco and a plastic spoon I will be happy for a day or two. Canned fruit with the peel off lids. It’s better than nothing. Thanks for the comments.


        In Washington, soon to be a Texan.

  10. Working on the other side of a major river with only two nearby bridges to connect me with home is a great concern. I fear bridge collapse is likely. So, I am planning for more than three days in reaching home. I am also planning on alternate ways on getting across the river and communicating with my family.

    Consider natural impediments to reaching your home after an earthquake.

  11. Hi Ya-all

    I have been waiting a few days on this one, and reading the comments, I will agree with everyone EXCEPT Doc’s I won’t even feed that semi-beef-parts-faroni-crap to my dog, it’s just inhumane. HAHAHAHA BUT appropriate for a crook.

    I guess my POV is why should we delineate between a (watch out for the acronym) GHB, BOB, 72 hour, Vehicle Bag, Earthquake Bag, Flood Bag, Forest Fire Bag, Camping Bag, Oh-Shit, or any other bag we would build?

    We always talk about trying to prepare for “anything” that comes down the road at us, so what is the difference in the “bag” we build???? I mean the “bag” I have with me should be ready for almost anything that hits the fan—-Right? Well, all except that dang Chinese’s NUKE that hit 3 feet from me. But other than that, should we be able to endure all of the above with the “bag” we have?

    Just a thought


      1. @ Doc
        HAHAHA, no, probably not, and neither has my dog… LOLOL
        Although I have eaten in a few Asian Countries and was told to never ask what was for dinner… Good food, Good company, The carob covered grasshoppers, read (cock-roaches), were actually quite good.
        Never say Never

  12. Great article. One suggestion is to pack a couple of Bic lighters. I always wrap my Bics with some duck tape or aluminum tape. Adds little weight or bulk and there are probably two or three uses for the tape.

  13. Having grown up in San Francisco, I have always had the concern “the big one” would come. I never thought to take action and make an emergency kit for my car though. Feel like that’s just good to have for many situations. Thanks for the tips.

  14. What kind of food is good to have ,considering the high temperatures in the summer inside of a vehicle?

    1. As long as the food itself doesn’t literally melt, the negative affect of high temperatures inside the vehicle is reduced shelf life of the food. For every increase of 18 degrees-F, shelf life will halve over time.

      So, for example, if the shelf life of canned chicken breast is 2 years (at ‘room temperature’, about 72 degrees) and if the ‘average’ temperature inside your vehicle over the summer is about 110 degrees, you might then expect a shelf life of about 6 months.

      Without over-thinking it, I simply swap out my vehicle’s kit food towards the end of the summer and consume it.

      Temperature versus Food Shelf Life

      Personally, in my vehicle I diversify with some MREs, calorie-dense food bars, some canned foods (with a manual can opener and spoon), and of course – water.

  15. Without the Earthquake Survival Kit, I tend to believe many more people will lose their lives during such a disaster. Earthquake survival gear can be the defining line between life and death. Thanks for the post.

  16. I like your information its really interseting and helpful thank you

  17. I do have every good survival item there is. Blue can water 50 year shelve life is the best for the car…The heat will not bother it.

  18. And for light”Throw away your flash lights..Solar Luci lights is what you want, Never ever need another battery. They last 8 hrs after a charge from the free sun. Believe me I have done the home work on all survival gear.

  19. To show how rare this series of earthquakes was, a 2,000+ year old castle in Gaziantep, Turkey, partly collapsed. It had stood intact and withstood everything up until now. Friend of mine wrote today, “When the earth shakes, we must all tremble.”

    1. Anonmee
      Im wondering when the chain effect quakes will start on opposite side of the planet, wheres iceagefarmer when ya need him

  20. Kula, Last I heard Christian is hunkering down and focusing on prepping and family. Miss him and his tremendous efforts to keep us all informed. For a few decades it seemed to me that the Ring of Fire had about an 18 month cycle. Big activity along Eastern Pacific Rim then big activity along Western Pacific Rim. The curve Turkey/Syria to Iran to Afghanistan always seems to be rattling around. Smashing fault lines through that area.

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