The How and Why of 72 Hour Kits

I was raised Mormon, and one of the main tenets of the church is preparedness–self-reliance, being as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency, food storage, etc. One of the things that church leaders encourage members to have is a 72 hour kit for their families.

Have you heard of a 72 hour kit? Perhaps you know them by another name–Go Bags, Bug Out Bags, etc–but, in simple terms, what they are is a portable kit of supplies that will sustain your family and fulfill your basic needs for three days in the event of a crisis.

I feel like the television show Doomsday Preppers has given this concept a bad name. No one is suggesting that you must prepare for nuclear war, or massive economic collapse, or an apocalypse scenario–not at all. And let’s face it, if something like that happens, very few families, even those who are die-hard preppers, are truly going to make it. It is the unfortunate truth. You simply cannot be prepared for every possibility.

However, a 72 hour kit IS something that every family can use. It is not for extremists, or something that only fear-mongers own. This is something that FEMA and the American Red Cross are recommending for families just like yours.

I too was cynical for a long time. I was one of those who believed that nothing would happen to me that would hinder my ability to get help or food. But, we moved out into the country, and into an area where we are often snowbound for days at a time, and we also are prone to losing power, and that can take a long time to be restored. It only took one lengthy power outage, no candles or flashlights, no non-perishable foods, and no heat source before I started wondering whether we might want to consider making emergency preparedness a priority. And, for us, a 72 hour kit seemed the most logical way to start.

However, if you’re anything like I am, the idea of gathering enough food and supplies for each member of your household for three days can seem so overwhelming–it still does to me sometimes! So, I am going to share with you the process we used to get started, and I will show you some of our weaker areas and ways we can improve, so you can learn from our experience.

First, look online, or in reliable preparedness books and magazines, like Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios, until you find a list that you feel you can work with and that suits your family’s needs. A bit of a warning–you will NEVER find one single list that will cover everything that you will need. Start with one, and grow from it. I modified this one, personally. Feel free to use whatever list you want, though I recommend looking through several before you choose one to start with.

I was very overwhelmed in the beginning, between the number of items needed and the money I felt I would have to spend. I decided to “shop” in my own home to find items like toiletries, paper goods, old pots and pans, items like flashlights and a compass, etc. Honestly, I think I found about 1/4, or maybe even 1/3 of our items simply by going through our house! We threw in items like hotel sized shampoos and soaps we picked up during our travels, samples we received from the dentist, a roll of paper towels, a couple rolls of toilet paper, some granola bars. We had so many items already, and we didn’t even know it!

You will need something to store these items in, and it preferably needs to be portable in the event that you might need to seek shelter elsewhere. We have ours in a Rubbermaid tote, but we did discover that, during our annual item rotation and inventory, that the tote has become very awkward to carry, so we need to find a new means of containing our items. (See what I mean by the fact that you will never have your kit creation down to an exact, perfect science?)

You will add items to your kit a bit at a time, and over time, you’ll discover you might need more of this and less of that, and some new essential might need to be considered. Plus, you will need to consider the needs of your pets, stockpiling medications (we are just dreadful at this), portable water and filtration needs (another one of our weak areas), and copies of important documents (we still need this, too).

We recently did an inventory of our kit, and I wanted to share it with you, and how we obtained some of our items, where we still need to improve, and tricks to getting items for free or for only a few dollars.



This is our 72 hour kit. In addition to this tote bin, we have portable 2 liters of water (nowhere near enough), a case of MREs, and two buckets of emergency food that will feed all four of us for a total of 8 days.


Vitamins are a great source of extra nutrients, and they are very portable. I’d like to add 24 more to this bag, give or take, just in case.


I don’t think you can ever have too many flashlights. We have four, one for each family member, and the batteries to power them (can’t forget those!). We especially love the power of Maglite brand flashlights.  I know some people who keep them by their front door as a makeshift weapon, as they are so durable and a bit heavy. You can find them here: MagLite ST3D016 3-D Cell LED Flashlight, Black

We have dust masks in our kit, just in case we need to shield our airway from allergens, germs, etc.

I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of toothpaste in our kit. I don’t know how it happened, but we ended up with about 8 sample sized toothpastes in our kit. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are a great way to feel clean and at home even in the midst of chaos. Save those samples the dentist gives you during checkups–they are great for a kit!


Yes, I need my toilet paper. And a roll of paper towels can never hurt in the event you need to do a quick clean up.


See what I mean about our soaps coming from samples we received in various travels? We even have samples from a stay in the hospital–they just throw out what you don’t use, and they were happy to let us take them home. The dollar store is another resource for trial sized products. We also keep deodorant and razors in our kit–perhaps more for comfort, but it makes me feel better to have them.

We have Motrin and Tylenol, for both adults and children.


Hard candies are a great way to keep your blood sugar regulated, and it’s nice for the little ones to have as a treat.


This is one of my favorite items in our kit. My husband and I both have extensive dental work in our mouths, so this is an absolute must. And the best part is that we found it for $2 on a clearance rack at CVS! Clearance sales and overstock bins are a great way to find unique items for your kits.


Ponchos are a great way to protect yourself from the elements, yet it still fits inside of a kit. We also have 4 space blankets for the very same reason. These only cost a few dollars a piece, and they can provide protection from inclement weather.

We have protein bars galore in our kit. Make sure to rotate these once a year, as a lot of items can expire in your kits, especially food and medications. We try to focus on higher quality bars instead of kiddie granola ones. We prefer Tiger Bars and Kind bars. You can find Kind bars in bulk on Amazon: KIND Nuts & Spices, Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, 12-Count Bars

Disposable gloves are useful items to keep in case you must deal with dirty materials or cleaning.

If you have a baby in the home, remember to include diapers, wipes, bottles, pacifiers, formula (if using), and anything the baby might need. Our youngest is two, but we still have diapers and wipes in our kit, plus a Binky for comfort.

Cocoa packets will make for a nice, warm comfort food that fits easily within a bag or bin.  Soup mix is also a possibility for the same reasons. We have both in ours, plus the pans and mugs for cooking and consuming. (Consider a small portable party grill for cooking food.) We also keep oatmeal in our kit because it is hearty and something soothing.

Trash bags are great to have for any litter (you don’t have to be a litterbug, even in an emergency).



We have both an emergency radio and a small portable HAM radio in our kit for emergency communications. You can find out evacuation routes, severe weather warnings, and so much more if you have a source for information like these. (A word of caution: HAM radio operation does require licensing.) A normal emergency radio does not, however: Ambient Weather WR-333 Emergency Solar Hand Crank Weather Alert Radio, Flashlight, Smart Phone Charger

We have a first aid kit, some animal first aid materials like bandages, and also bug spray. All of these will come in handy when safeguarding the health of your family.

Ladies, make sure you keep feminine hygiene items in your kits–just in case.

We keep hand warmers in the event of cold weather. These are very inexpensive.

If you kept a compass from scouting days, throw it in your kid for navigational purposes.

This is not a comprehensive 72 hour kit list, but it gives you an idea of what we have, and hopefully, you find some useful information and are motivated to create a bag for your family!

(Disclosure: Contains affiliate links.)

4 thoughts on “The How and Why of 72 Hour Kits

  1. Pingback: Something to add to your medical kit… | Jesse Talks Back

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