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In previous posts, we discussed the different types Emergency Kits you may need and what kind of food and water you will want for your Bug Out Bag (BOB) .  The next question to ask when putting together your kit is, “What do I need to keep me warm, safe, and out of the dark?” What tools and gear do you need in your emergency kit? Let’s explore these together.


Each member of the family should have age-appropriate items in this category based on what they can physically carry and for how long. If they can only carry their bag to the end of the driveway, either the contents will need to change, or the method of transportation will.

Real World Situation

A train on some nearby tracks derails and spills some toxic chemicals. You are required to evacuate your home for a few days. Your family arrives at a shelter, but there isn’t enough room for everyone to stay together. Two members of the family will have to go to another shelter. You don’t have time or space to separate out gear. How will you meet this challenge?

Train Derailment – Miamisburg Ohio July 1986. Photo by Mary Ernst

It is important that each family member can take care of themselves to the best of their ability. Disasters and emergency situations don’t wait until everyone is home together. You also can’t guarantee that you won’t be separated from other family members afterwards.


You can only last 3–4 hours in extreme conditions without adequate shelter.  You need to learn to keep your body temperature in the normal range regardless of the environment, hot or cold.  Clothing is a big part of regulating your temperature and we will discuss that in a future post.

Shelter from the elements or even just for privacy or warmth in an emergency shelter can go a long way towards keeping you healthy and comfortable.  This is especially true if you have small children.

There are many types of shelters that you can include in your emergency kits.

A tube tent (super lightweight option that even a child could carry), pop-up tent, or a tarp and rope can all serve the purpose of a shelter.

Rain ponchos not only keep you dry, they can serve as a tent.

A rain poncho can even serve in place of a tent if you have some paracord or rope in your kit and know how to use it.

So you packed a tarp (or a heavier weight poncho) and some rope. What can you do with that? If you have 2 tarps, you can put one on the ground and use the other as shown in the pictures here.


The type and amount of gear that you can carry will depend upon your age, physical condition, and what you have available.  Possible things to include in your kit are sleeping bag, liner, ground pad, camp chair, and pillow or cushion. There are a variety of options in each category; each with different size and weight considerations.

I have a lightweight 20 degree sleeping bag with a liner (that keeps bugs away and keeps me cool in hot weather), an inflatable ground mat (not pictured), a camping pillow that compresses and rolls up, and even a small camp chair.  These items are made for backpacking so they are small, ultra lightweight, and easier for me to carry.  Since the sleeping bag is only a 20 degree bag, I may need extra blankets or warm sleeping clothes if it’s super cold.

At the bare minimum, each person should have a Mylar emergency blanket in their kit. 

These will reflect your body heat back to you and keep you fairly warm, although they have no cuddle factor. 

They can also be used to line a sleeping bag.


A knife is an important tool to have in your emergency kit.  You may need to cut some rope, sharpen a stick for cooking, or even cut your food.  A simple folding knife is a good choice.  I, personally, carry a multi-tool that has a knife included.  This cuts down on the weight I’m carrying.  My husband carries a bigger folding knife, so if we’re together, we’ll have both tools, but I’ll still have something if I’m on my own.


Some key tools to have in your emergency kit.

Here are some of the items I carry in my personal kit. How many do you have? Do you know how to use everything you are carrying in your kit?

If you have anything in your kit that uses batteries, take the batteries out and pack them together in a small Ziploc bag. Leaving them in your devices can cause the batteries to corrode, leak, and oxidize. Essentially, they will make a mess.


You should have multiple sources of light in your kit.  These can include a flashlight, headlamp, small battery operated or solar lantern (like the ones shown here), and emergency glow sticks.  Check out our post on glow sticks and expiration dates.  During an emergency, the power may be out.

Recently there was an inland hurricane that went through northern Utah and thousands of households were without power for several days.  Would your family be able to find their way around in the dark? Do you have the right tools and gear in your emergency kit to help you find your way?

When there is no power, it can be absolutely dark at night.  There will be no streetlights; no house lights; no light from anywhere except the moon and stars. 

Having light sources and options are important.  You should also teach your children proper etiquette when using flashlights and other light sources.  They should remember not to shine the lights in people’s faces.

Red lens filters are available for flashlights so you can see but not lose your night vision.

Each light source has situations where it performs better than others. We will not address candles in this post as they are more for shelter-in-place scenarios, whereas we are focusing on your BOB.

Flashlights are best used to illuminate the ground where someone is walking. 

Headlamps are great to light a work area allowing you to keep your hands free. 

Lanterns can be put on tables or hung inside tents to provide light to an area. 

Emergency glow sticks can be used to mark hazards on paths or areas where people will walk.


You also need to be able to start a fire.  Building a good fire is an art form in itself and we will cover that in a future skill building post, but starting a basic fire for warmth and cooking is an important key to survival.  Especially in wet weather, it can be difficult to find dry wood and get it to light.  Your ability to start a fire can make the difference between having warm oatmeal or cold gruel for breakfast.  Which would you rather have?

There are some specific fire-starting tools that you should have in the emergency kits of every member of the family who is old enough to be taught how to safely use those tools and respect the fire. There are many options to choose from; you should pick what is right for you. Just make sure that whatever you have in your kit, you know how to use it.

My personal kit has a Scripto lighter; Stormproof matches in a waterproof, leakproof container; an Emergency Fire Kit from Zippo; and WetFire Tinder.

The lighter may be all that is needed to light charcoal or dry leaves and wood tinder. If it is a windy day, the Stormproof matches will be useful as they won’t blow out while I’m waiting for a fire to start. If the fire making materials are damp, the Zippo Emergency Fire Kit will last long enough to light the fire. But if all of the wood is wet, it may take a WetFire tinder to get the fire started and keep it going long enough to dry out the wood so it can burn. Again, the right tools and gear in your emergency kit will help you stay warm and dry.


There are many things that can contribute to your ability to stay warm.  Proper clothing for the season is the most important. Your feet sweat during the day and socks will be damp at the end of the day (even if they don’t feel like it).  These damp socks will become cold overnight and chill your entire body disrupting your sleep and making you miserable.  Putting a clean dry pair of socks on just before going to bed will keep you MUCH warmer.  You can even put hand or toe warmers in the socks for added warmth.

Hand, Foot, and Body Warmers

Single use chemical warmers are available in all types, shapes, and sizes.  They last for a variety of times and come with expiration dates.  Check out what we found when we investigated how well warmers work after their expiration date.

Dressing in layers is also important.  You will be more comfortable with a long-sleeve t-shirt covered by a fleece jacket, with a wind/rain resistant shell on the outside than if you are just wearing a bulky, heavy winter coat.  If you get warm from physical activities, you can take layers off and put them back on when you cool down.  That option isn’t available with a single winter coat.  Layers can also be worn to bed to help you stay warm as you sleep, but that winter coat may be too heavy and cause you to sweat and become chilled instead.

What do you need to keep you warm, safe, and out of the dark?

This week, consider what tools and gear you want to include in each family member’s emergency kit for shelter, fire, light, and warmth.  No two kits will be the same.  Customize your supplies for what you feel comfortable using.  You may want to include a lighter even if you can never figure out how to get that wheel to light the flame, because there might someone else with you who could use it.

Check your supplies compared to the suggestions for your bag in each of the following categories. Links are provided below for your convenience in reviewing the tools and gear recommended for your emergency kit.

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