How to Prepare the Perfect Emergency Survival Kit for Your Family

Life is unpredictable. Disasters and emergencies can strike at any moment, leaving you stranded without basic necessities. Having the right survival gear on hand can be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.

This comprehensive guide will teach you how to prepare the ultimate survival emergency kit so you’re ready for anything. We’ll cover everything from the essential items you need to pack to tailoring your kit based on likely risks in your region.

With the right emergency survival supplies, you’ll have the ability to handle any crisis until help arrives. Let’s get started!

Why Every Household Needs a Survival Emergency Kit

A survival kit is your lifeline in an emergency. Without access to food, water, first aid, and other critical supplies, your chances of coming through a disaster unscathed are slim.

Here are the top reasons all households should have a survival kit prepared in advance:

  • Provides basic necessities when infrastructure fails – After disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods, electricity, water and transportation may be disrupted for days or longer. An emergency kit will provide for your fundamentals needs in these scenarios.
  • Sustains you when sheltering in place – For certain emergencies like pandemics, nuclear events or civil unrest, authorities recommend sheltering in your home. A survival kit contains enough supplies to live this way for multiple days if needed.
  • Helps you evacuate – If advised to evacuate quickly, a survival kit ensures you have essentials like cash, medications, food, water and tools at your fingertips to take with you.
  • Keeps you safe if stranded – Should your vehicle break down in a remote area, severe weather or a disaster strands you away from home, or you become lost in the wilderness, a survival kit provides tools and supplies to establish temporary shelter, hydrate, nourish, navigate and summon help.

The bottom line? An emergency survival kit greatly improves your resilience and adaptability in myriad crisis scenarios. Taking the time to prepare now gives you confidence to handle the unexpected.

8 Critical Factors for Building the Ideal Survival Emergency Kit

Now that you’re convinced every home needs an emergency survival kit, let’s explore the key factors for building an effective one:

1. Consider Likely Risks and Hazards

Your location and environment will influence the types of disasters you’re most vulnerable to. Create your kit while keeping likely regional risks in mind:

  • Natural disasters – Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, blizzards, etc.
  • Nuclear events – Those living near power plants may need to prep for radiation risks.
  • Home emergencies – Fires, gas leaks, burst pipes, electrical failure, etc.
  • Getting stranded – Vehicle breakdowns in remote areas. Lost in the wilderness while hiking or camping.
  • Civil unrest – Protests, riots, crime waves.
  • Economic collapse – Job loss, supply chain disruptions, hyperinflation, etc.
  • Pandemics – Disease outbreaks like COVID-19 that require long sheltering.

Pack gear that aligns with emergencies in your region. For example, snow tools for those in northern climates or gas masks near nuclear sites.

2. Consider All Family Members’ Unique Needs

Your survival kit should cover every family member’s specific considerations:

  • Ages of children – Babies need diapers, formula, etc. Older kids need games, books, etc.
  • Medications – Pack extra doses of prescriptions, medical devices, etc.
  • Pets – Include pet food, medications, carrier, leash, etc.
  • Dietary restrictions – Pack suitable foods for those with allergies, diabetes, etc.
  • Disabilities – Include canes, hearing aids, glasses, etc.

Take a full family inventory to customize your kit appropriately.

3. Pack Both Essentials and Comfort Items

Include both items vital for survival along with comfort items to lift morale:


  • Water and non-perishable food
  • First aid supplies
  • Prescription medications
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Radio
  • Cash
  • Multi-purpose tools
  • Emergency blankets

Comfort Items:

  • Games, books, playing cards
  • Photos of loved ones
  • Favorite snacks and candy
  • Stuffed animals for kids
  • Coffee, tea, hot chocolate

The essentials sustain you while the comforts preserve mental health when times get tough.

4. Choose Portable, Durable Items

Since you may evacuate or need to survive outdoors, choose gear that’s:

  • Lightweight
  • Packs into a small space
  • Does not need electricity
  • Long shelf life
  • Waterproof containers
  • Sturdy materials that won’t break

Portability and durability ensure your kit works in diverse situations.

5. Stock Up on Consumables

Items like food, water, medicine, fuel, batteries and toiletries will be used up over time. Build a reserve and set reminders to replenish consumables and replace expired items.

6. Have Tools for Obtaining Resources

Pack tools to procure water, food and shelter in extended emergencies:

  • Water purifying tablets
  • Fishing line and hooks
  • Snare wire for trapping
  • Fire starting tools like matches, lighter, flint
  • Knives
  • Hatchet or axe
  • Shovel
  • Rope and duct tape

With these tools, you can access lifesaving resources from the environment.

7. Store Critical Documents

Include copies of essential documents in waterproof bags or tubes:

  • Identification cards
  • Insurance policies
  • Bank and credit card info
  • Emergency contact list
  • Cash
  • Medication list
  • Passports
  • Deeds and wills

Securing these documents will help you access funds, insurance coverage and services when disaster strikes.

8. Have Contingency Items and Backup Tools

Pack contingencies in case your primary items fail:

  • Extra food and water
  • Backup battery packs and crank chargers
  • Alternative fire starting sources
  • Emergency whistle and signal flares
  • Redundant navigation tools like map/compass as well as GPS
  • Cash as a backup if ATMs and cards don’t work

Building redundancies into your kit boosts resilience.

Tailoring Your Emergency Survival Kit to the Situation

While all survival kits should contain basic essentials, you can tailor supplemental items based on the scenario:

Vehicle Survival Kit

To handle vehicle breakdowns in remote areas, include:

  • Jumper cables
  • Tire repair kit
  • Flares or triangle reflectors
  • Gas canister
  • Oil, coolant, transmission fluid
  • Shovel and traction mats in snow
  • Car charger for cell phones

Evacuation Kit

If evacuating quickly, make sure to grab:

  • Prescriptions and medical devices
  • Irreplaceable photos
  • Pet carrier, leash, food
  • Laptop, chargers and backup drives
  • Thumb drive with critical documents
  • Address book with all contacts
  • Prepaid phone card

Shelter-in-Place Kit

For pandemics or nuclear events, also stockpile:

  • N95 masks and nitrile gloves
  • Antibacterial soaps and sanitizer
  • Vitamins to boost immunity
  • Entertainment like books, games
  • Plenty of coffee, tea, comfort foods

Wilderness Survival Kit

For hiking or camping trips, additionally pack:

  • Water filter or purification system
  • Tent, tarp and rope
  • Sleeping bag appropriate for climate
  • Fire starting tools like waterproof matches
  • Camp stove and mess kit
  • Navigation tools like map, compass, GPS
  • Bear spray if needed
  • Satellite communication device like a GPS messenger

Customize your supplemental items for the likely emergency context.

Top 70 Essential Items to Include in Your Survival Emergency Kit

Building your emergency kit can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Use this checklist of the top 70 essential items to pack:

Water & Hydration

  • A 3 day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Water purification tablets or filter
  • Electrolyte powder or sports drinks

Food & Nutrition

  • Canned meat, fruits, vegetables, beans, soups
  • Protein or granola bars
  • Nuts, dried fruits, jerky
  • Comfort foods like candy, cookies, coffee

Cooking & Utensils

  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Pocket knife
  • Mess kit or paper bowls and plates
  • Plastic utensils
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Aluminum foil

Fire & Light

  • Matches, lighter, flint
  • Candles
  • Headlamps with extra batteries
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Glow sticks

Shelter & Bedding

  • Emergency blankets (mylar)
  • Regular blankets, sleeping bags
  • Tents, tarps
  • Rope and duct tape
  • Emergency bivy sacks

Clothing & Footwear

  • Heavyweight jacket appropriate for climate
  • Rain poncho or coat
  • 2 changes of clothes
  • Hat and gloves
  • Sturdy boots or shoes
  • Extra socks

First Aid Supplies

  • First aid manual
  • Gauze pads, roller bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antibacterial wipes and ointment
  • Nitrile gloves
  • CPR face shield
  • Trauma shears
  • Digital thermometer
  • First aid creams for burns, stings, bites
  • Eyewash
  • Prescription medications

Tools & Safety Gear

  • Multitool or pocket knife
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Wrench or pliers
  • Duct tape
  • Paracord
  • Sewing kit
  • N95 masks
  • Work gloves
  • Whistle
  • Pepper spray

Sanitation & Hygiene

  • Portable toilet or waste bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Towelettes
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Hand sanitizer

Off Grid Power & Light

  • Battery powered or hand crank AM/FM radio
    -NOAA weather radio with SAME
  • Backup battery packs and power bricks
  • Solar powered battery charger
  • LED headlamps and flashlights
  • Glow sticks


  • Cash in small bills
  • Identification cards
  • Emergency contact list
  • Copies of health insurance cards
  • Prescriptions list
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Deeds, titles and other vital records

Navigation & Communication

  • Paper maps for your area
  • Compass
  • Emergency GPS locator beacon
  • GPS navigation device
  • Two way radios
  • Emergency whistle & signal mirror
  • Satellite phone

Additional Supplies

  • Garbage bags and ziplock bags
  • Tarp, rope and paracord
  • Duct tape
  • Work gloves
  • Local maps
  • Camp ax or hatchet
  • Shovel
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Masking or painter’s tape

With these 70 essential items, you’ll have the core supplies, tools and gear needed to survive a wide range of emergencies until help arrives. Remember to customize your kit to your family’s unique needs and likely risks in your area.

Top 10 Specialty Emergency Survival Items to Consider

Beyond the basic essentials, here are some specialty emergency survival items to consider:

1. Gas Mask – If you live near a nuclear facility or major industrial center, having gas masks on hand provides protection if the air becomes toxic. Look for N95 or N100 filters.

2. Two-Way Radios – When cell towers are down, two-way radios allow you to communicate with family or first responders over short distances. Choose ones with NOAA channels.

3. Power Stations – These provide off-grid power to charge devices, run small appliances and have LED light built-in. Solar generators allow indefinite use.

4. Water Bladder – Collapsible and portable water bladders that hold 5-10 gallons are easy to store and provide ample reserves.

5. Water Purification System – A standalone water purifier like the Sawyer or LifeStraw allow you to filter water from lakes, streams or other untreated sources.

6. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) – MREs are portable, shelf-stable meals with 3,000+ calories designed for harsh conditions. Great sustenance when cooking isn’t possible.

7. Emergency Survival Blanket – Blizzard blankets made of durable polyethylene resist wind and water. They prevent hypothermia in extreme cold.

8. Portable Camp Stove – Compact propane stoves allow you to boil water and cook meals without grid power. Choose one with auto ignition.

9. Bear Spray – If your emergency involves camping or hiking in bear country, bear spray provides an essential non-lethal deterrent and protection.

10. Satellite Messenger – A satellite communicator like the Garmin InReach enables 2-way text messaging globally and transmits your GPS location to initiate rescue. Vital for backcountry emergencies.

Specialized items like these can truly be lifesavers depending on your situation. Add any that seem prudent for likely risks in your region.

How to Pack Your Survival Gear for Maximum Readiness

Proper packing of your emergency kit is crucial for quick access and transport. Follow these tips:

  • Use easy to carry bags or cases with multiple compartments to organize gear by category (food, water, tools, shelter, etc)
  • Keep most essential items readily accessible at the top
  • Pack to maximize space efficiency
  • Wrap fragile items in padding or clothing for protection
  • Use waterproof bags or containers to keep items dry
  • Attach external straps to hold bulkier items like shovels, tents or bed rolls
  • Make sure any bags or cases are easy to lift and can be carried long distances
  • Store critical documents in waterproof folders or tubes
  • Adhere a list of contents and expiration dates to the exterior
  • Refresh perishable items and update contents at least twice a year

Smart packing makes grabbing your kit and going at a moment’s notice much simpler in an emergency.

Where to Locate Your Survival Kits for Quick Access

To get the most utility from your emergency survival supplies, stage kits in multiple locations:

  • In your home, near the front door to grab if evacuating or the basement if sheltering-in-place
  • In each family vehicle, in the trunk or cargo area
  • At your workplace, either provided by your employer or your own small kit
  • In your evacuation go-bag for each family member along with a 72-hour kit for emergencies away from home
  • Buried in PVC caches on your property for backup reserves if you can’t access home

By pre-positioning kits where you spend time, you’ll have lifesaving gear no matter where you are when disaster strikes.

Top Tips for Maintaining Your Survival Emergency Kit

All the preparation in the world won’t help if your kit is outdated or unusable. Follow these tips to keep yours in prime condition:

  • Check contents and resupply every 6 months. Update seasonal clothing and gear.
  • Inspect all items for damage and expiration. Replace as needed.
  • Check batteries and fuel levels. Swap out old batteries.
  • Test emergency equipment monthly. Ensure radios, flashlights, firestarters and tools function properly.
  • Re-pack containers to compress contents and maximize space.
  • Maintain an inventory sheet of all items and review prior to repacking.
  • Store your kit in a controlled climate environment. Avoid excess heat or freezing temps.
  • Keep items clean, dry and well maintained. Re-waterproof and disinfect when needed.
  • Cycle and consume food before expiration. Replace food every 1-2 years.
  • Replenish medical supplies that have been used. Update prescriptions.

With regular maintenance, you can trust your survival kit will deliver when lives are on the line.

Final Tips for Creating the Ultimate Survival Emergency Kit

Get your family prepared by following these final tips:

  • Involve everyone in building kits tailored to individual needs. Make it a fun family project!
  • Pack comfort items to lift spirits along with survival necessities.
  • Store at least a 14 day supply for extended emergencies.
  • Favor multifunctional tools that save space and weight.
  • Have contingency plans for pets and livestock.
  • Stash some cash in case banking systems are down.
  • Review and practice evacuation plans using your kits.
  • Automate reminders to inspect and resupply kits seasonally.
  • Watch expiration dates carefully on food, water, medicine and batteries.
  • Take courses in wilderness survival, first aid and self defense to hone vital skills.

Preparing now allows you to respond calmly and automatically in the face of disasters. With a well stocked survival kit, your family can weather any storm!

Stay safe out there.

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