By July 11, 2008

Building a personal emergency bag

Be prepared! When I mention “preparedness” to my friends, they initially ask, “are you planning on the end of the world?” You don’t have to wait for the end of the world to be prepared. There are plenty of reasons to have an emergency bag prepared just in case you need to exit your home quickly. Any time spent gathering important things should be spent getting the hell out of whatever danger you are escaping from. If a house fire breaks out you don’t have a lot of time to root around for your shit. Grab your emergency kit and leave. You should also consider a “bug out bag” if you live in an area that is prone to flooding, wild fires or earthquakes.

I’ve had a personal emergency kit built for about two years now. I have used it several times — but never for an actual “disaster.” Having the emergency cash is great for financial emergencies, too.

“Okay, DrFaulken, I’ll think about this bug out bag idea. What should I put in it?”

Well, here’s what I have in mine. Keep in mind that I am planning for a little bit more than just a short jaunt from the house and have some things you may deem unnecessary.

If you already have a bug out bag built, take time to review it. When I pulled mine apart to write this article, I noticed a lot of holes in my setup and/or outdated items. For example, I didn’t have any vet records for Pearl in my “personal documents” pouch. I also noticed that I have a toothbrush, but no toothpaste. I have soap but no towel or way to dry my hands off other than toilet paper. I also feel like I don’t have enough N95 masks, and probably not enough nitrile gloves. Oh yeah, some first aid stuff might be useful in a disaster situation (rolls eyes). Take your kit apart every now and then, you may be surprised at what you missed.

On to the laundry list of stuff in my bag:

  • 1 N95 respiration mask
  • 6 nitrile gloves
  • Cash
  • 100′ of 650# paracord
  • Metal camp cup
  • Metal camp bowl
  • Set of camping utensils
  • 2 hand warmers
  • 4oz bottle of contact lens solution
  • Contact lens case
  • Folding knife
  • Emergency bivvy (sleeping) bag
  • 2 cotton t-shirts
  • 1 pair of cargo work pants
  • 2 pair of wool/coolmax socks
  • 4 AA batteries
  • Bic lighter
  • Spark-Lite survival lighter
  • 10 burn-o-balls
  • 55 yards of duct tape
  • Toothbrush
  • 2 pens
  • Sharpie
  • Notepad
  • Compass
  • Fox 40 emergency whistle
  • USB charging kit
  • 6 33 gallon trash bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • 1/4 bar of soap
  • Lexan water bottle
  • Light stick
  • Water purification tablets
  • Deck of cards
  • Big ass tarp
  • Personal documents such as identification, insurance information, and pet vaccination records in case they need to be boarded

I keep all that stuff in an external frame hiking back pack. Some among the preparedness set use military surplus or tactical bags, but I would rather look unassuming than paramilitary in a disaster situation.

You don’t have to plan for the end of the world to have a basic emergency kit. Put some cash, copies of personal documents, and base necessities and you’re much better prepared than most other Americans. It only takes a little bit of time, and if you ever need to get out in a hurry, you’ll be glad you spent the effort to get organized and prepare.

Posted in: preparedness

13 Comments on "Building a personal emergency bag"

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  1. BushPutin says:

    What about a hand-crank short wave radio?


  2. drfaulken says:

    Great suggestion — I have several hand crank radios, and should definitely be included in the event of an evacuation. For some circumstances, like fleeing a house fire, you probably wouldn’t need it. A radio is probably optional if someone is building a bag for the first time, or don’t have a concern about longer-term preparedness.

    Either way, if someone already has a bag built they would have the time to decide to take a radio (or other “optional” equipment like a firearm) instead of just scrambling to get the fuck out.

  3. duke says:

    For the lazy shopper, The Ready Store has some pre-built kits.

    I have a personalized kit at home and keep a 4-person kit from TRS in the trunk of my wife’s car.

    In addition to keeping a copy of important documents, I scan and save them on a secure flash drive. I keep one drive with me and one in a secure, but reasonably accessable location.

    Great post


  4. Ed says:

    I am stunned that you didn’t have a towel. That is all you really need. I mean, a towel man…

  5. hey there!
    great article!
    saw your vids on youtube..left email to you over there…

    another idea..keep copies of everything in your wallet… in case wallet is lost in confusion…

    stay focused, of course…

    good reading: Gonzales, Laurence: “Deep Survival – who lives, who dies and why”
    here’s the link to the book:

  6. Sarah says:

    What about food? And underwear? And a way to cook the food you want to eat with your camping utensils? How about dishwashing liquid (I prefer Dawn myself)? Not just for washing dishes but also clothes in a disaster situation it can be very difficult to get anything clean. I’m debating how to carry it, in some kind of sealable jar I suppose. What about a warm hat, and a poncho? Or if you want to go the other way, a floppy hat and sunscreen? Glasses in case you can’t get more contact lens solution or you run out of disposable contacts. Deoderant. A first aid kit like you mentioned but also extra bandaids. Immodium!! As someone who has worked in a few hurricane evacuation shelters stomach trouble is a huge concern, and most aid workers and organizations can’t dispense medications, not even Tylenol. All they can do is call an ambulance and ask the paramedics to help you. No good if the paramedics are busy on emergency calls.

    Did I mention extra socks? And if you have room then a pair of cheap flip flops for communal showers. And a bike chain and lock might come in handy. In a shelter situation it is really easy for someone to just pick up your pack and walk off with it. Locking it doesn’t help because they’ll just take the whole thing with them and figure out how to get into it later. If you chain it to a pole or something, it is less likely someone will steal from you, and more likely you or your friends (make friends with neighboring people!!!) will catch them. Yes they could always cut the pack straps, but that is such suspicious behavior that someone is bound to notice. It is easy to say you just won’t leave your pack anywhere, and harder to do when all you want to do is run somewhere for “just a second”. Not to mention that you have to sleep sometime.

    Wow that was long!! Sorry bout that! Guess I just really like thinking about this stuff. Thanks!

  7. Christa says:

    Thanks for the info! I’m loving getting prepared and ready to run when/if the need arises!

  8. DGHarrison says:

    I’ve been searching the net, looking for ideas for a Go Bag. You are the first I’ve found to mention bringing a firearm (and don’t forget plenty of ammunition of the proper caliber). It seems exceedingly odd to me that people would go through the trouble of building a Go Bag and not be armed for an emergency evacuation, when civilized rules could easily be abandoned. If anyone has links to more rugged survival Go Bags than those created by emergency response team members designed to deal with supposed civilized civilians, please let me know. I believe I’d rather be prepared to protect myself and my family for the long term.

  9. Jason says:

    I would add at least two climbing rated carabiners, a mini mag-lite w/ LCDs and/or camping head-lamp, iodine and fresh-wraps for wounds and then stuff everything into a seal-bag, then into your pack. In an emergency, a rip in one of the ziplocks is a killer.

    Do the gloves need to be periodically replaced, do they break down quickly?

    Great list though!

  10. jeff says:

    We use premade kits made by Fox (Google it) in our UH-60M helicopters. They are rugged and come with some useful stuff and plenty of room to add your own items.

  11. froggyhi says:

    Thanks for the great kit advice. I especially like the revisiting your pack advice. I’m researching emergency bags today to remind myself of what might be missing from my current bag. I like the hiking backpack recommendation, that’s way more portable than the waterproof plastic tub method. Hotel toiletries and sewing kits are an easy way to add inexpensive comforts to Go bags. I’ve packed Whisps in mine for 1-3 day emergencies for freshening breath plus toothpick without needing water. Always replace latex/nitrile gloves, food, batteries, and meds once a year. Pack a comfort item for every member of your party. If you have an infant, pack a pacifier. Even if your children outgrow the paci, you might be in a group shelter situation where pacifying a crying child will benefit the entire group.

  12. Lars says:

    Nice start on go bag. Main restriction is weight. Having enough to help but not slow you down. It’s a balancing act. Any tool that does 2 jobs is a good idea. My main suggestions would be a Headlight and GPS system. If there is more that one. I recommend Garmin’s Rhino set up. It says where you are any time you talk to your group. So you keep track of each other. Good Luck. Lars.

  13. Tom says:

    I don’t see detergent being a “need”. Having been in the Army since 90, and working on, building and using survival kits for aircraft, you must make your kit as light as possible, but make it to take care of the things you think you may need… and items should have multiple uses…

    Now that I am a civilian I see that a go bag is for walk away from it all survival, and I think that is what these kits should be intended for; food, water, protection (gun).. these are things that come to mind. Washing clothes can be a morale booster, however, you won’t die due to a pair of dirty socks, or wearing a pair of underwear for more than one or two days, or not having any deodorant…

    As far as items in your bag things breaking down, I tend to rebuild my kit every time the seasons change, Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter.. This gives me time to check things that are in the kit, to make sure they are serviceable, check batteries for corrosion, check rubber gloves for deterioration, etc.. I would even suggest vacuum sealing everything in bags, this will help to protect them and maybe even write on the bags, so you know when you put the item in the kit or when it was last checked… This again goes back to building survival kits, they were inspected every 90-180 days, just so you could make sure nothing had been broken, damaged or that someone had not taken an item out without writing it up or reporting it…

    I also tend to think that a “Go Bag” stays at home, and I carry a “Get Home” bag in my vehicle. The one in the vehicle will keep me going for 24-72 hours.. The Go bags are at the house and if needed are ready for the wife and kids to grab and walk out the door with in less than 5 minutes…if I am not there…

    Now, there are other things, if they have the time and have access to a working vehicle that can be loaded up as well… This is where the “nice to have items” come into play, these things could be any additional items that you have deemed a nice to have item, additional firearms, ammunition, camping gear, spare clothes, chain saw, dirt bike on a trailer, spare gas cans, etc… If it takes us more than 30 minutes to prepare the additional items we want to take, they don’t go with us…