How to Build the Ultimate DIY Emergency Kit

Written by | Updated June 8, 2016

Emergency Kit

Whether you’re hiking and twist and ankle, break down on a deserted road, or suffer a power outage, you’ll want to be prepared. In honor of National Safety Month, we’ve created a tutorial to help you make your own emergency “go-bag” and stay safe. In it, you’ll have emergency essentials to get yourself by in a pinch. First, you’ll need to:

1. Get a bag.

You shouldn’t stuff this gear into a trash bag or something flimsy. Instead, go out and get yourself a sturdy bag or box to keep everything in. Think durable. Waxed canvas bags or thick cotton can withstand getting wet and won’t tear easily. You can also search for survival gear if you know you’ll need something that can handle the toughest elements.

Some brands we like are:

2. Determine headcount.

How many people will this emergency bag serve? If it’s a whole family, you might have to make a couple bags. If it’s just two of you, plan rations and supplies with that number in mind. No matter how many people you’re factoring into your “go-bag,” make sure to include an extra person so your supplies stretch further.

3. Gather non-perishable food.

You don’t want to put a bunch of apples or fresh veggies in this bag. Non-perishable foods are best since they won’t spoil. While most non-perishable foods come in cans, you’ll want to look for provisions that are vacuum packed. They’ll take up a lot less space and will last a long time.

While an emergency kit isn’t meant to provide you with a year’s-worth of provisions, you should be able to pack enough to get you by for three to five days. Here are some high calorie, space-saving foods that backpackers recommend in every emergency pack:

  • Jerky
  • Peanuts
  • Raisins
  • Freeze Dried Meals
  • Peanut butter
  • Snicker’s bars
  • Pop Tarts
  • Granola

4. Stay hydrated.

Drinking water is the most important thing to have in an emergency. It’s a heavy supply to lug around, but you should pack a couple liters of bottled water in your go bag so you’re not empty handed. In addition, you can pack a couple of empty canisters to collect water. Aluminum containers are best, since they can be used over an open flame to sanitize water and remove harmful bacteria.

5. Think function.

You may have packed enough food and water, but do you have the tools to be able to eat and drink? Pack one Swiss Army Knife that has a can opener, knife, and scissors. You might also consider adding a small pot to cook things if you really get into a pickle. If you think through the function of every item in your emergency kit, you’ll be better prepared.

Here are some items we recommend packing:

  • Can opener
  • Waterproof matches/lighters
  • Pliers
  • Empty aluminum container (for water)
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Small pot (to use to cook or sanitize water)

6. Plan for communication/direction.

If you get lost or lose a cellular network, you’ll need a different means of communication. Flares, a compass, and a radio are supplies you can pack to stay in touch. Include these in your “go-bag” to keep yourself oriented and in communication with others if you need help.

7. Think about warmth.

No matter if the power goes out or if you’re exposed to the elements, you’ll most likely need a means to keep warm. An emergency blanket redirects 90% of your body heat back to yourself. They’re lightweight and take up little room in an emergency kit.

8. Factor in light.

Day turns to night. We all know that. What you might not think about is adding a means of light to your safety kit. Whether you’re lighting up the night or illuminating a dark portion of your house, you’ll need a flashlight and batteries in your “go-bag.” In a sticky situation, you can even use a flashlight to make morse code to send a distress signal.

9. Plan for the unexpected.

You’ll most likely need this safety kit if the power goes out, you’re in a car accident or breakdown, or lost. In any of these situations, the following supplies will make a bad situation easier:

  • Cash
  • Work gloves
  • Poncho
  • Duct tape

10. Include first aid kit supplies.

Having food and water is a great start, but if you get hurt, you’ll need medical supplies. You won’t be able to open a trauma center with the contents of your “go-bag,” but you will be able to stave off infection and treat less serious injuries. A good emergency kit includes first aid supplies:

  • Bandages
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Bacitracin
  • Gauze
  • Toothbrush
  • Antiseptic mouthwash

11. Pack smart.

Don’t throw everything into your emergency kit willy-nilly. Instead, pack intuitively. If you get into trouble, you’ll most likely need water, food, and first aid supplies first, so group those together and place them at the top of the bag. So you don’t squish supplies, layer your bag from heaviest to lightest. Then, make sure to tie small, loose items together so they don’t get lost amongst your supplies.

12. Take it with you!

Your go-bag won’t do you any good if you don’t have it when you need it. When you’re home, keep it there. When you travel, put it in the car. If you’re going camping, include it in your pack. Emergencies pop up out of the blue, so be prepared wherever you are.

To Recap, here are the things everyone should have in their survival kit:

1. Jerky 2. Peanuts
3. Raisins 4. Freeze Dried Meals
5. Peanut butter 6. Snicker’s bars
7. Pop Tarts 8. Granola
9. Can opener 10. Waterproof lighter/matches
11. Pliers 12. Empty container (for water)
13. Small pot (to use to cook or sanitize water) 14. Swiss Army Knife
15. Bandages 16. Rubbing alcohol
17. Bacitracin 18. Gauze
19. Toothbrush 20. Antiseptic mouthwash
21. Floss 22. Cash
23. Work gloves 24. Poncho
25. Duct tape 26. Flashlight
27. Batteries 28. Radio
29. Compass 30. Flare

Disaster preparedness can make a bad situation less dire. If you have an emergency protocol you’d like to share, we’d love to hear some tips. Please share your stories or advice in the comments section below to enhance safety amongst the SafeWise community.

Written by Caroline Maurer

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