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It’s a disaster! Are you prepared?

Disaster preparedness kit
One Halloween, after watching one too many zombie movies, we may or may not have assembled a survival kit. Silly, sure, but having an emergency preparedness on hand can save your life during a natural disaster, whether or not it involves the undead. Surprisingly, a disaster preparedness kit is not unlike preparing for the zombie apocalypse; it just has fewer cricket bats.

There are definitely ready-made kits you can buy, but if you want to customize what you have on hand, this list, compiled with recommendations from the Red Cross, FEMA, and the CDC, can help. Keep in mind that you’ll want a portable kit you can take with you, as well as extra supplies to keep in your home. Store the kits in a cool, dry place, and make sure everyone in the household knows where they’re kept. Hopefully you’ll be able to stay in your well-equipped home in the event of a disaster, but we’ve also differentiated what should go in a backpack, in case you need to evacuate for a few days. Finally, this list isn’t meant to be completely comprehensive; what goes in an earthquake preparedness kit will differ from items for a hurricane kit, after all.


There’s a reason this is number one on every disaster kit list. Humans can survive without food far longer than they can without water, which is why the standard recommendation for water in survival kids is a gallon of water per person per day. The water should be in commercially sealed bottles, but keep in mind these come with expiration dates.

In your to-go bag

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle and Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle ($29.16) or Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System ($40 to $120.56)

Every person should have enough water for three days, so that’s three gallons each. The LifeStraw is another option, because it filters just about any water you can find into potable H2O.

At home


Reliance Products 7 Gallon Rigid Water Containers ($18) and Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets ($10)

It’s a good idea to have an extra supply at home, enough to last two weeks.


Frozen meals have come a long way, but obviously your kit should be stocked with nonperishable food you don’t have to cook. Protein bars, canned food (including fruits, veggies, soups, and tuna), granola, nuts, peanut butter and whole-wheat crackers, trail mix, dried fruit, and cereal are all great options. Obviously, babies and young children will require formula or baby food. Keep an eye on the expiration dates and switch out the supplies regularly.

In your to-go bag


Mountain House 72 Hour Kit, for 2 people ($147) and BioLite Wood Burning CampStove ($130)

It’s a delicate balancing act to keep a three-day supply of food that won’t weigh down your bag. Protein bars are lighter than canned goods but probably provide fewer calories and nutrients. Take a mix of nonperishable food, keeping in mind how you may be burning a lot of calories if you’re traveling on foot.

At home


Wise Company Emergency Food Variety Pack ($119) and BioLite BaseCamp Stove ($300)

Just like with the water, you’ll want two weeks’ worth of food in case of emergencies.

First aid kit

In your to-go bag


Adventure Medical UltraLight & Watertight .7 Medical Kit ($21.34)

Space is at a premium, so you might want to consider, for example, the travel-size container of pain relievers over the full bottle. You also want to ensure you have everyone’s prescribed medications and any special equipment, such as an EpiPen.

At home


Adventure Medical Family First Aid Kit ($26)

Your home’s first aid kit can have a larger quantity of the supplies below.

Hopefully everyone in your party will stay injury-free, but a first aid kit is a must-have. Once again, this is something you can purchase pre-assembled. It should include the following:

  1. A first-aid manual
  2. A list of everyone’s medications, doctors, and insurance in a waterproof container
  3. Adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
  4. Aloe vera
  5. Antibiotic ointment
  6. Antidiarrheal medicine
  7. Antihistamine
  8. Antiseptic wipes
  9. Blister treatment
  10. Eye drops
  11. First aid tape
  12. Gauze pads in assorted sizes
  13. Gauze roll bandages
  14. Hand sanitizer
  15. Instant cold packs
  16. Pain reliever
  17. Petroleum jelly
  18. Plastic bags
  19. Safety pins
  20. Saline solution
  21. Scissors
  22. Sunscreen
  23. Synthetic gloves
  24. Thermometer
  25. Triangular bandage
  26. Tweezers


The night is dark and full of terrors, so flashlights are a welcome addition to any survival kit.

In your to-go bag


Goal Zero Black Flash Flashlight ($40) or Petzl Pixa 3 Headlamp ($75)

Lightweight and small should be the watchwords here. A solar flashlight offers a great benefit because it recharges itself; a headlamp is also a great option, because it’s one less thing to carry.

At home


Goal Zero Torch 250 Solar Flashlight ($80)

Hopefully you have lots of flashlights at home for the occasional power outage, but an LED lantern provides light that you don’t have to hold all night.


In an emergency, it’s essential to stay connected. You’ll want to be able to pick up the latest news, whether or not your cell phone is out of juice.

In your to-go bag


Eton FRX2 American Red Cross Multipurpose Radio ($35)

An NOAA radio will provide you with weather updates, but something like the Eton multipurpose radio packs a lot more into a nine-ounce package. It has an LED flashlight and cell phone charger, and you can charge it through a wall adapter, solar panel, USB, or hand crank.

At home


Eton FRX5 Radio ($96)

In case of a power outage, you’ll want a radio that’s powered by hand crank or batteries, preferably both.


Take stock of everything in your kit, and buy extra batteries for everything requiring them. The last thing you want is for your flashlight to fail you when you need it most.

In your to-go bag


BioLite KettleCharge 10 Watt Generator ($150)

Keep one extra set of rechargeable batteries for flashlights and radios. Check them regularly to make sure they’re functioning. Another option is to carry a portable and lightweight generator like BioLite’s KettleCharge, you fill it with water, place it on your camp stove and as you bring the water to a boil, electricity is produced and sent to the Power Handle, leaving you with potable water and 10W of usable power, enough juice to charge USB devices as fast as a wall outlet.

At home


Goal Zero AA Rechargeable Batteries, 4 pack ($10.78)

Of course you should keep some rechargeable batteries with your other supplies, but storing some regular batteries in the freezer helps them discharge more slowly and you’ll always know where they are.

Cell phone charger

Cell phone batteries are getting ever more efficient, but many still won’t last a day with regular use. Keeping an extra charger, as well as a portable charger (especially one that’s solar-powered), in your kits is a smart move, because as long as networks aren’t overloaded, your phone will be your lifeline to emergency services and loved ones — especially if you can’t remember their phone numbers.

In your to-go bag


Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit Solar Charger ($120) or Goal Zero Switch 8 Portable Solar Recharger ($32.77)

At home


Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator ($460)


When you can’t rummage through the junk drawer, there are some specific tools you’ll want to keep close at hand in your disaster kit.

In your to-go bag


Benchmade 915 Triage SBK-ORG Knife ($163.11) and U.S. Shelby Co. Military Survival Kit Can Opener ($5.14)

Except for when we go to the airport, we always keep a Swiss Army knife attached to our key chain; it’s useful in everyday life, not just disasters. Obviously, what you put in your pack should suit your needs, but most everyone will want something with a can opener.

At home


Imperial Home 25 Pieces Tri-Fold Portable Tool Set ($13)

A knife, a wrench, a safety razor, a screwdriver, and pliers can all be useful things to have when riding out a disaster at home. As with the to-go kit, you’ll want a can opener. A small fire extinguisher can also be a literal life-saver.


Whether or not you’re lost without your phone’s voice-guided directions, maps are essential. If familiar roads are blocked or snarled with traffic, you’ll need to be able to find alternate routes. A paper map will never run out of juice and should definitely be included, but a handheld, battery-powered GPS is also an option.

In your to-go bag


DeLorme inReach Explorer Satellite Messenger ($380)

When cellular networks are down and your phone is little more than a paperweight, this badboy from DeLorme will give you the ability to navigate and communicate with the outside world via satellite.

At home


SealLine Map Case ($9.49 to $49)

Paper maps are mroe reliable in an emergency because, unlike the maps on your phone or tablet, paper still works when the power runs out and cellular networks are down. Put your maps in this waterproof case to protect against unexpected water damage


Blankets are an obvious necessity in winter, but they have an important place in any disaster kit year-round.

In your to-go bag


Adventure Medical Kits SOL Emergency Blanket ($4.50) and Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag ($284.04 to $410)

Reflective blankets are a popular option for emergency kits because they fold up so small, but if you have the space, a compactable sleeping bag will probably keep you warmer.

At home


SOL Heavy Duty Emergency Blanket ($13)

All your beds have comforters and you’ve got a linen closet filled with quilts. Just make sure you have enough blankets for everyone near the rest of your supplies.

Dust mask

If the air gets contaminated or, well, dusty, a dust mask can act as a filter and help you breathe a bit better.

In your to-go bag and At home


Gerson Particle Respirator Mask, 20 pack ($9.25)


Depending on the type of disaster you’re in, a whistle can alert rescuers to your presence. Don’t forget; it saved Rose in Titanic.

In your to-go bag


Adventure Medical Sol Slim Rescue Howler Whistle, 2 pack ($6)

Don’t skip the whistle for space’s sake; there are lots of survival tools and mini-kits that include one along with other useful gadgets, like fire starters.

At home


Aluminum Key Chain Survival Whistle, 2 pack ($8)

Since whistles are easy to misplace, affixing one to your keychain will ensure it’s always close at hand.

Sewing kit

A sewing kit is only as good as the person who uses it. If your grandmother never taught you to attach a button, maybe watch some YouTube videos before you get yourself in a bad situation. Sewing kits are super portable, so even a well-stocked one is still decently small.

In your to-go bag and At home


Craftster’s Sewing Kits ($16)

Clothes and shoes

Regardless of weather, you’ll want to be prepared for the elements with an extra pair of clothes, down to socks and undergarments.

In your to-go bag


Danner Light Waterproof GORE-TEX Hiking Boot ($300)

Warm, protective clothing, preferably layers, will be necessary if you’re spending time outdoors. Equally important are comfortable, durable shoes that can survive scrambling over debris.

At home

Like blankets and batteries, it’s good to keep a set of clothes and sturdy shoes with all your other supplies. You don’t want to have to contemplate dashing upstairs for a sweatshirt during tornado.

Hygiene products

When you gotta go, you gotta go, and that includes during disasters.

In your to-go bag


Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes ($4) and Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel ($24)

Hotel shampoos and soaps are the perfect size for your backpack; a travel toothbrush and toothpaste should be included, too. Toilet paper, tissues, tampons (not just for the ladies, they work great for nosebleeds), and moist towelettes make the list here, too.

At home


Reliance Luggable Loo Portable Toilet ($110.60) and Coleman Hot Water on Demand ($225.55)

In case of plumbing problems, you’ll want everything in the kit above, plus a plastic bucket with a lid, plastic bags, bleach, and rubber gloves. Hopefully the plumbing doesn’t fail, but if it does…


If power is knocked out all over town, your credit cards will be useless. Luckily, money can be exchanged for goods and services.

In your to-go bag


Eagle Creek Undercover Deluxe Money Belt ($19)

Stick some twenties in your bag and carry a few on your person, however much you think you’ll need to get through a few days. Keeping some quarters and other loose change can be useful if you happen to find a working payphone.

At home


SentrySafe Waterproof Fire Chest ($54.06)

We’re not advocating stuffing your mattresses with wads of cash, but it’s a good idea to keep some cash on hand for cases like this.

Lighter and matches

Fire is dead useful in lots of situations, from cooking to sterilizing. It’s a good idea to keep both a lighter and matches in a waterproof container in both kinds of disaster kits.

In your to-go bag and At home


Soto Pocket Torch ($20) or Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter ($18.50)

Pet supplies

Pets are family members too, so you’ll want to keep a little kit for them, too. Include a carrier or leash, water, food, bowls, a litter box and litter for cats, disposable garbage bags and scooper for dogs, a blanket, and disinfectant. In a waterproof container, put their papers and recent photos of your pet, in case you become separated. Toys and treats can also keep them a little less stressed. Also, he ASPCA has a window decal that will alert rescuers that there’s a pet in your home, in case of emergency.

In your to-go bag and At home


Canine Friendly Pocket Pet First Aid Kit ($12)

Paper and pencil

Shove a small notebook and a sharpened pencil inside one of the resealable plastic bags in your kit. In a pinch, you can use them to communicate or just play a few rounds of Tic-Tac-Toe.

In your to-go bag and At home


Rite in the Rain All Weather Tactical Pocket Notebooks, 3 pack ($13.50)


While you probably have some form of identification on you at all times, there are a few other documents and papers you may want to bring along in a disaster.

In your to-go bag


Water and Sand Proof Dry Bags ($6.50 to $56.56)

Having medical information, your ID, and a detailed list of emergency contacts could make all the difference in a disaster. If you don’t want to trust these important documents to any old sandwich bag, there are heavy-duty, waterproof bags you can buy.

At home


SanDisk Cruzer 2.0 Flash Drive ($54.06)

Hopefully your insurance and legal documents, as well as birth certificates and passports, are already in a fireproof, waterproof safe or container. You might want to include some photos and a thumb drive with backups of the documents.


Waiting for the all-clear after a disaster can be tedious process. Even a portable disaster kit probably has room for a deck of cards or Trivial Pursuit, minus the board and pie pieces.

In your to-go bag and At home


Bicycle Playing Cards, 2 pack ($6.50)

Putting a kit like this together can save your life and give you piece of mind, but hopefully you’ll never have to put it to the test.

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Jenny McGrath
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jenny McGrath is a senior writer at Digital Trends covering the intersection of tech and the arts and the environment. Before…
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