Disaster Prep Summer Series: 72 Hour Bag

We will be covering Evacuations in the next post but this post is going to cover your most important evacuation tool.  Your personal 72 hour bags or bug out bags.  Everyone in your family should have one.  Including ALL your pets.
A bug out bag is a bag that contains everything you personally need to survive for a minimum of 72 hours.  You need to be able to carry and or roll these kits for an extended amount of time without the use of a vehicle.   Prepare these with the worst case scenario in mind which is You have to evacuate your home on foot.  It is EXTREMELY unlikely that this will happen but this way you are prepared for anything.  Remember, these packs need to contain the bare minimum to survive for 72 hours or more.  Most of the time, you will have some time to pack other items in your car before you leave.  We will be going over that in detail in the next post.

**Please remember that I am not in any way an expert on emergency preparedness or survival.  Everything listed in this post is a suggestion and good to consider.  Please customize your bags as need be to better suit your family.**

Adult Bug Out Bags
You want a good, sturdy bag that is easy to carry and can comfortable distribute the weight.  We use hiking back packs with waist straps.


  • 3 Gallons of Water Minimum
  • 3 days of Food Minimum.  Consider MREs and other light weight, stable foods.  Make sure you have the appropriate tools to get into your food.  ie, can opener, fork...
  • 3 Different Fire Starters.  We have weatherproof matches, a lighter and a fire steel.  Also have a small baggie of cotton balls and a little petroleum jelly.  Makes for great tinder.
  • Emergency Radio
  • 3 pairs Underwear and Socks
  • Spare Shirt, Pants and Shoes (and bra for women)
  • Cold Weather Gear.  Depending on the time of year and where you live, you may need jackets, hats, gloves, etc
  • Rain gear.  Make sure you include a way to keep your packs dry.  Also consider keeping anything paper in plastic bags to keep them dry.
  • First Aid Kit.  Also consider including a small first aid/CPR instruction book.  Also be sure to include basic medications like pain relievers and tummy meds.
  • Personal Hygiene Items.  Use travel and sample size items.
    • Shampoo
    • Conditioner
    • Deodorant
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug Spray 
    • Body Wash
    • Soap
    • Hand Sanitizer 
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Toilet Paper
    • Baby Wipes
  • Prescription Medications.  This should include extra contacts or glasses. 
  • Personal Protection Item.  Have some way to defend yourself.  Whatever you are most comfortable with.
  • Multitool.  The name brand ones are worth the money here.  These tools are invaluable and they need to be able to perform when you are relying on them.  Gerber and Leatherman are my two top brands.
  • Tent.  Make sure everyone in your family has room in the tent including pets.  Consider one in each adult kit if you need more room.  These do not need to be anything fancy.  The lightest, simplest one you can find with the room you need is best.
  • Sleeping Bag.  Again smallest and lightest is best.  Consider the winter temperatures in your area when deciding on type to buy.  Ask an employee at a store like REI for advice if you are not sure which one is right for you.
  • Pillow.  Small size, maybe consider a small inflatable like you would take on an airplane.
  • Cash.  If the power is down, you will not be able to use your cards so cash is king.
  • Emergency Binder.  See post about how to build your Family Emergency binder here.
  • Personal Info sheet.  Each person's bag should include a copy of their personal info sheet from the Family Emergency Binder. 
  • Flash lights and Extra Batteries
  • Glow Sticks.  Good because they do not require batteries.
  • Plastic Personal Waste Bags.  We get the cheap dog poo bag rolls from Marshalls.
  • Entertainment Items.  Books, small games, deck of cards
  • Paper Map of your Local Area
  • Cell Phone with Charger
  • Wallet
  • Consider:
    • Small solar charger for cell phone
Kids Bug Out Bags
For babies and small children, consider using their stroller.  They can fit comfortably inside and there is plenty of room in the storage basket for bags and other items.  For older children, make sure their bags are not heaver than they can comfortably manage for a long distance.
  • 3 Gallons of Water
  • 3 Days of Food
  • 3 Pairs Underwear and Socks
  • Spare Shirt, Pants and Shoes
  • Glow Necklaces or Bracelet (Makes it easier to keep track of them in the dark and acts as a toy)
  • Cold Weather Gear
  • Rain Gear
  • First Aid Kid.  Consider including a small child specific first aid and CPR instruction book.
  • Personal Hygiene Bag:
    • Shampoo
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug Spray
    • Soap
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Hand Sanitizer
  • Prescription Medications
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Pillow
  • A Few Small Toys
  • Small Comfort Item
  • Personal Info Sheet
  • Plastic Personal Waste Bags
Baby Bug Out Bags
  • 3 Days of Diapers
  • 3 Days of Wipes
  • 3 Days of Water
  • 3 Days of Formula
  • 3 Days of Baby food
  • Disposal Bags for Diapers
  • Pacifier
  • Several Changes of Clothes
  • Blankets
  • Hats
  • Toys
  • First Aid Kit and Medications
  • Bulb Syringe for Noses
  • Rash Cream
  • Comfort Items

Pet Bug Out Bags
While there will be a future pet specific post, I want to talk about 72 hour bags for pets in this post.
Pets DO need their own.  Think of them as toddlers.  They can walk but they rely on you for pretty much everything.

I have 4 pets.  2 dogs and 2 cats.  My cats each have their own travel carrier and share one small duffel style bag.  We strap all three of these to a small dolly or rolling travel cart so that we don't have to carry them.  My dogs are both Rottweilers so they carry their own bags (or will, my 2nd is still only a few months old so for now my larger dog is carrying for both of them).  They have doggie back packs which holds everything they need except for water because of the weight.

The water for all 4 goes in the cat bag since it has wheels.  If you decide to go with the doggie back packs, practice with them regularly.  When we first put ours on our dog, she refused to walk so it took some practice to get her used to it.
The bags also contain the following:
  • Minimum of 5 days worth of food.  It often takes longer for pet food to be supplied than it does for people food so extra is always good.  If you want to bring wet food rather than or in addition to dry food, consider individual pouches instead of cans to save on space and weight.
  • Spare collars with full sets of ID tags and extra leash.
  • If you have a cat, consider getting a small harness and leash for them.  Mine tend to bolt out of their carriers when they are scared and having the harness and leash on them while they are inside makes it much easier to catch them if they run.
  • Vaccination records and Info Cards.  The info card should include pets name, birth date, breed, any health issues, any behavior issues, and contact info for you and your out of area emergency contact.  We keep these inside plastic zip top bags with each pet.  The dog's go in their back packs and the cats go inside their carriers.  This way if they get separated from you, anyone who finds them will have all of the information they need.  Especially good if they end up at a shelter.
  • 1 month Worth of Medications.  Flea, heart worm and any other regular medications.
  • Water and Food Bowls.  We have small camping bowls that collapse to save space.
  • Toys.  Chew bones, ball, toy mouse, lovies, etc
  • Blanket or Towel.  The cat's go inside their travel carriers.
  • Lightweight Rope.  So that you can tie your dog off to a tree or post if need be.
  • First Aid kit.  We have one larger kit that all 4 share.  Consider a pet first aid and CPR instruction book.
  • Litter and Litter box option if your cats use one.  We have a small container of the new Tidy Cats Lightweight Litter and garbage bags.  You might also want to include a scooper.
  • Waste Disposal Bags.  We use the small rolls of poo bags that clip onto a dog leash for clean up for all pets and humans. 
  • Glow Sticks or Glow Necklaces.  To help keep eyes on them in the dark.

Storing your Bags
Find a place in your home or garage where you can stash all of your bags together.  It should be easily accessible to everyone.

Keeping Bags Current
You should update your bags at least twice a year.  Once in the spring when it begins to get warm and once in the fall when it begins to get cold.  Change out your clothes to ones for the new season, check expiration dates on the food and medication and swap out your water with fresh water in fresh bottles.

This post is intended as a place to get started on your 72 hour bag.  For more detailed information, check out my Pinterest board named Emergency here for links to many different websites with lots of other information.  Also, another important thing to remember is that preparing for an emergency does NOT have to cost an arm and a leg.  You can get a nice backpack from Craigslist or off a clearance rack.  You can use coupons or get free samples for personal care items. So don't think that just because you don't have hundreds of dollars to drop, that you can not make a good kit.

Be sure to check out my Emergency Pinterest Board, Facebook Page and Twitter Page!

Watch for next weeks post on Evacuation Plans and Lists!