There are many overlooked but important items you need in your Emergency Kit. These are generally not included in pre-made kids that are commercially available. Even if you buy a ready-made kit, consider adding some of these items.
If you only have room for one type of clothing in your emergency kit, I’d make that extra socks.
One of the easiest ways to keep you warm at night is to put on a clean dry pair of socks before you go to bed. Even if you can’t change any other clothes, socks will make the difference between a miserable night and a more comfortable one.
I have 6 pairs of socks in my bag. That way I can have clean, dry socks morning and night for 3 days. My socks are a variety of thicknesses and warmth levels. Socks with lower cotton content are easier to wash and dry. Wool is best.
That being said, there are other items of clothes that you should include in your kit if you have room.
Layers Are Your Friends
When planning the clothes that you pack, remember that multiple lightweight layers are preferred over a single bulky layer. That way you can take some layers off when you get warm and add them back on when it gets cooler.
Your layers should include a warm layer even in the summer months. Many nights get chilly even when daytime temperatures are in the 80s and 90s. This is especially true if you live high above sea-level or if you will need to use your emergency kit at elevation.
- Long-sleeve T-shirt
- Short-sleeve T-shirt
- Waterproof Top layer
This example shows a cooler weather example. Layers can be added or omitted as needed for the conditions.
Another thing to remember is that it is always cooler outside at night than what you are used to at home. Even if you have to evacuate to a shelter, they may have the A/C on (if available) to filter the air and compensate for heat generated by multiple bodies. In these situations, you’ll appreciate your layers.
Pack Like A Pro
The best way to pack clothes is to put like things together and put them in 1 or 2 gallon Ziploc bags. Compress the bag and squeeze out all of the air. It will allow you to fit more in a smaller space.
Some people like to use space bags where the excess air can be sucked out with a vacuum. The only drawback is how to compress it again once you’ve opened it up. There are roll-up varieties that don’t require a vacuum, but they are more expensive.
There are also compression bags and packing cubes that allow organization and reduced space within your bag. I especially like the lightweight bags by Eagle Creek.
The way you fold the clothes can also make a HUGE difference in the amount of space they take up. This video shows a great way to fold clothes to take minimal space.
You should review your clothes choices on a regular basis, especially for the kids. This is another thing you can review every 6 months, along with the food as mentioned here. I recommend every April and October.
Make sure you have packed the right sizes and appropriate clothes for the weather in your emergency kit. You may want to consider packing the next size up to ensure they will fit when you need them.
Here’s what I have in my pack:
- 1 long-sleeve shirt (quick-dry)
- 2 short sleeve shirts (lightweight, quick-dry)
- a fleece jacket (for warmth – can be worn under the rain jacket)
- a rain jacket (for water resistance – folds into a pouch and hangs on my backpack)
- Yoga pants (worn under jeans in cold weather or for sleeping)
- 1 pair Jeans
- 6 pair Socks
One topic that many people don’t want to talk about or consider is toileting and sanitation needs.
If you have to evacuate, you should have some basics in your bag. What you have in your bag will depend on your age and gender. Some items that are not gender specific are flushable wipes, hand sanitizer, portable disinfectant spray, and a Travel John Bag.
Women may benefit from adding a female urinal device and feminine protection products to their sanitation bag.
What is a female urinal device? It allows women to urinate while standing up. This can be very helpful if there are no convenient restrooms. There are many styles and designs to choose from. They take a bit of experience to develop proficiency; you should practice with it until you feel competent.
In addition to sanitation supplies, each emergency kit should include some personal hygiene items. These items come in small packages for travel and are rather inexpensive. They can be put in a small toiletry bag, or just a ziploc bag.
How many hygiene supplies to include is a personal decision and should be based on the specific needs of the bag owner.
Some common items to consider are listed here.
- Lip Balm
- Hand Soap sheets
- Baby powder
- Baby wipes
- Microfiber Towel
- Small Nail Kit
All of the items we’ve discussed so far, both here, and in previous posts are the basics you should include in your kit. We’ll now discuss some extras that can really make a difference in your emergency experience. Include these if you have room.
If you regularly take vitamins or medications, you should include some in your kit. Make sure you rotate out your supply every 6 months and replace with fresh. You can then use the medications that were in your kit.
If you take refrigerated medications, you should keep a small cooler beside your emergency kit to remind you to grab them from the fridge before you leave.
In an emergency, ATMs, Debit/Credit Card readers, and electronic payment methods (such as Venmo) may not work. You should have some cash in your kit.
Your cash should be included in your kit in a way that doesn’t make it obvious what it is. You want to pack it so that coins don’t rattle or make noise. Some places to conceal your money are:
- Prescription medicine bottle
- Spread throughout your kit in various pockets
- Rolled up in clothing
- Empty Chapstick container
- Altoids tin
- Under the insole of your shoe
- In an Emergency Whistle
How much cash should you carry?
The recommendation is generally small bills ($20 and less). You might not be able to get any change. You should also have coins; we just have quarters.
How much you carry depends on your family resources. Each adult should have their own money.
Even children should have some money stored in their kits. Adjust how much they carry based on their age. Even infants should have some cash in their bag, so that their caregiver has resources to use.
To Carry a Larger Amount
If you have $225 to include in each adult bag, break it down as follows:
- 1 – $50 bill
- 5 – $20 bills
- 4 – $10 bills
- 4 – $5 bills
- 5 – $1 bills
- 1 – Roll of Quarters ($10)
To Carry a Smaller Amount
If you only have $100 to include in each adult bag, break it down like this:
- 1- $20 bill
- 10 – $5 bills
- 20 – $1 bills
- 1 – Roll of Quarters ($10)
Paper & Pen/Pencil
A small spiral note pad and a mechanical pencil are also very helpful. Mechanical pencils don’t need sharpening and don’t have the gravity issues of pens. A Sharpie or two can also be very helpful. Choose both a fine tip and a wide tip. The fine tip primarily for writing notes and the wide tip for labelling or marking things.
We have special notebooks in our packs that allow us to write even if it’s raining. The paper won’t get soggy, tear, or disintegrate. When wet, it can be used with a #2 pencil, crayon, or all-weather pen. When dry, you can use a ball point pen or sharpie.
These notebooks are especially handy if you need to leave a message for someone or write down a list. Let your current weather conditions guide your choice of type of paper.
Bags & Fasteners
Some of the most useful but usually overlooked items for emergency kits are bags and fasteners. We are so used to having them at home, we take them for granted. You’ll wish you had them if you forget to pack them.
The quantities you pack, are a personal decision. Ponder on the uses you might have and decide how many each person should have in their packs. They are lightweight and take up little room.
You may need to carry, contain, or protect things. Bags of all shapes and sizes can fill this need and should be added to your kit. They don’t take up much room, but are incredibly useful. The types of bags we have in our kits are:
- 30-gallon trash bags (can also be used to protect seats from wet or muddy clothing)
- 13-gallon trash bags (especially useful for dirty clothes)
- Ziploc bags (2-gallon; 1-gallon; quart; sandwich; snack)
- Plastic Grocery bags (available for purchase if you don’t want to reuse ones from the store)
It’s always a good idea to have some basic items you can use to hold things together. They may include:
- Duct Tape
- Black Electrical Tape
- Bungee Straps
- Tie Wraps (various sizes)
- Safety Pins (may be included in a sewing kit)
- Sewing Kit
These fasteners do not take up much space. You can save space by buying an expensive small package, or wrapping duct tape around a tongue depressor. Both of these methods take less space than a full roll. They can be tucked in an easily accessible pocket on your pack.
Since you have minimal clothing that you are carrying, a sewing kit is a necessity for on the spot repairs. You can get very small inexpensive kits that include just a few basics, or for a couple of dollars more, you can have a little more variety. Either version takes up little space and adds minimal weight.
Books & Entertainment
The books you include in your kit should be geared towards the owner. These may include a favorite book, puzzle book, or how-to guide.
Some of the books we carry in our packs include:
- SAS Survival Guide – pocket sized
- Wilderness First Aid Manual – pocket sized
- First Aid Assistance Guide
- Pocket-sized Scriptures
A small pocket sized copy of religious texts can help bring peace, comfort, and perspective in difficult times.
A deck of cards, a travel sized board game, or small handheld video game can be easily tucked into most bags. They are especially useful for down time if you are in a shelter and kids don’t have the freedom to move around.
If you choose to include a video game, remember that it will only last as long as its charge. It should be added at the last minute, not stored in the emergency kit.
In an emergency, you may need to sleep in a confined space with many people; some may snore – loudly. You may also need to sleep during the day. We recommend including a few pairs of ear plugs and a good sleep mask. As someone who used to work nights and sleep during the day, the best sleep mask I’ve found is by 40 Blinks.
I’m not talking about things to wash an entire load of laundry, or even the laundry in a bucket. I’m talking about the bare necessities to wash an item or two by hand.
The main categories you should have in your Emergency Kit are:
Do you have any other items in your kit? What have you found that is especially handy to have? Let us know in the comments.