In creating this compass, I began researching what should be included in an emergency kit by reviewing the Emergency Essentials list of Insight Articles. Now, you might look at this list and wonder how it can all fit in one bag. Remember that, nowadays, many things are made smaller and more portable (you can carry three days worth of food in your hand) and that, for each item, you should only pack the bare minimum. So let's review a few of the basics:
Backpack or Bag First, a kit needs to be portable. You need a good backpack or duffle bag. Consider who will be carrying the pack and make sure they can carry it when everything is packed inside. Also, make sure you store these kits close to an exit. No one wants to be digging through the basement when they need to get out the door quickly! Backpacks work great since they keep both hands free.
After you have your water, you are ready to store some food. You can begin simply by rummaging through your own pantry! Do you have granola bars, beef jerky, soup, cans of tuna, or fruit snacks? Any items that store for a long time are perfect. Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) are also a great choice, as they come in multiple flavors and can be eaten straight from the pouch. High calorie food bars are lightweight and provide the calories needed to sustain energy. Hot chocolate and drink mix packets will help make the water, which might be a little stale, much more palatable. Hard candy can also be used for the same purpose. And, in a pickle, who wouldn't want a little candy for comfort? Store as much food and water as space and ability to carry allow. Make sure you check your food and water at least once a year and rotate as needed. If you have cans that need to be opened, make sure you also carry a can opener.
First Aid and Sanitation Purchase or put together a basic first aid kit. This kit might include bandages, antibiotic ointment, cleansing wipes, pain medications, and a small first aid pamphlet. Consider adding tweezers, safety pins, and medication family members require on a daily basis.
Now, let's add some sanitation supplies! Assess the hygienic needs of each family member. What would each need? I don't know about you, but toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, hair brush, lip balm, and deodorant are must-haves on my list. I have three girls, so hair bands to keep their hair out of their faces are a must. Just take note of the bare minimum you need to get ready in the morning and pack those items. Dollar stores are great places to pick up these items.
Clothing and Warmth I would be miserable without a change or two of clothing, should an emergency strike, so having a few changes are necessary for my family--extra underwear, clothing that can be layered, and large zip top bags in which to keep them, should the weather be inclement. Depending on the amount of clothing and time of year, these items may need to be carried in a small side bag.
If you have small children, remember to adjust their packs seasonally to make sure the clothing will fit them. You also need to pack a few items should the weather be cold. Ponchos will keep off the rain, emergency bags and blankets will reflect body heat, and hand warmers will keep fingers toasty!
Fuel and Mess Kit If you store food that needs to be heated, you will want to store a mess kit, stove, and fuel. MREs can be easily heated if purchased with "heaters," little pouches that use a chemical reaction to heat the food up. If you don't want the hassle of heating food, choose items that don't need to be heated to be eaten, like food calorie bars.
Tools Think about what you might need should you be on your own. Consider a multifunction tool that has scissors, a can opener, pliers, and other tools that may come in handy. Pack flashlights (preferably LED, and include extra batteries); add candles, matches, duct tape, whistles, compass, garbage bags, zip top baggies, tarps, a tent (if possible), battery or hand crank radio, and rope. Don't forget some pencils and paper, cash, and coins. (*Not all members of the family need to pack all these items, but someone needs to!)
Sleeping arrangements Make sure you have sleeping arrangements for each person. If you've got a tent, great, but if not, get a tarp and some rope to fasten a makeshift shelter and put a sleeping bag or bedroll in for each member of the family. Again, emergency bags or blankets, though not comfortable in the traditional sense, will hold in lots of body heat, will take up little space, and are extremely lightweight!
Remember: Keep this kit as lightweight as possible. This is for "mobile" needs. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or occupy a lot of space. Try to keep them close to an exit in your home, and make sure each member of the family knows where it is stored!
If you need more detailed lists to help you put together your emergency kit, check out the Insight Articles on the Emergency Essentials website and begin taking the weight of worry off your back and into a pack!