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Building Your 72-hour Survival Bag


The world can be a very dangerous place. Even in the most secure environments, an emergency situation can occur without warning. In that event, the need to survive for a period of time without critical infrastructure may be necessary. Case-in-point: The U.S. military trains it's high risk personnel to survive and evade for at least 72 hours in enemy territory. Those hours may be the time needed to safely rescue the person isolated during combat.

In a majority of emergency situations, sheltering in place is preferable to traveling. While many are familiar with this term from our experiences with COVID-19, you may not be aware that it is utilized for many types of emergent situations. Sheltering-in-place means that you seek shelter and safety in the building you already occupy. This is because you can be in a familiar environment and have access to all needed resources.

In some situations, being somewhere besides your dwelling gives you the best chance of surviving. A storm threat can result in planned evacuations. This happens consistently with major hurricane/typhoon systems. An unexpected, extremely speedy evacuation may be necessary due to chemical spills or rapidly developing fires. There might only be a few minutes to move to higher ground or farther inland before being put in a survival situation.

The term "evacuation" has a wide range of applications. It can include taking a flight off a tiny secluded island, making a detour to a designated shelter, or driving a short distance up the road to higher ground. If a coup in a foreign city is taking place, a consular officer may knock at your hotel door and inform you that you have 10 minutes to pack and leave for the airport. Evacuations could look like a leisurely weekend in a distant city or a hasty dash out the door with whatever you can fit in your bag.

If a person finds themselves in an emergency situation, a 72-hour bag could make all the difference to their survival. Proper packing and storing of the 72-hour bag is essential to ensure quick access to supplies imperative to continuity. Your 72-Hour Bag should be a portable container that holds an assortment of your most important emergency--survival items.


When discussing a survival bag, the first thing we must determine is what type of bag to use. Bags can range from handheld duffel bags that can be tossed into the back of a vehicle to a large backpack that is easy to carry on long hikes. We recommend both.

The duffel bag should be large enough to carry all the items needed in the 72-hour bag as well as extra room for the backpack and additional items that may need to be procured during an emergency situation. Not every situation will be the same and planning for adjustments is key to surviving specific emergencies. Depending on where you are when disaster occurs should influence the items within your 72-hour bag.

When deciding on the proper backpack, make sure it is large, lightweight, and easily stowable. Also, making sure the pack is waterproof and has multiple compartments is key. We recommend a backpack made of high quality tear resistant nylon fabric, heavy duty metal zippers, and enhanced at major stress points provide long-lasting durability against the elements. It is also a good idea to find a backpack that has a water bladder for keeping hydrated during long periods.

Once those two bags are obtained it is time to collect items for the 72-hour survival bag. Here are some of the items we recommend:


1. Water

Water is a basic necessity for life. One might say it is the most important resource we, as human beings, need for survival. The human body needs water to function correctly, and a person may only survive a few days without it. Dehydration happens quickly, and can cause extreme thirst, fatigue, and ultimately, organ failure and death. The amount of water needed depends on the size of the party trying to survive as well as how much physical exertion will be needed to get to safety. Also, if long distance traveling is required, it may be more prudent to purchase water purification tablets or filter kits in order to replenish the water supply with safe potable water.


2. Food

Food is, obviously, also of paramount importance. If rationed properly, people can survive for long periods. When identifying the proper food to store in a survival bag, look to healthy high-caloric foods. Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) kits are a perfect choice for storing high caloric foods that have a high shelf life. They are available at camping and outdoor stores, as well as Army surplus. If sheltering in place, an assortment of canned goods and dry goods should be available.


3. Basic First-aid Kit

The key to a first-aid kit is that it remain simple and contain medical supplies that everyone involved understands how to use. The kit should be portable and practical. There is no need to waste critical space on life-saving devices like a tourniquet or a chest seal unless someone in the surviving party is a licensed medic and/or medical professional.


4. Emergency Blanket

Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate blankets -- also called space blankets -- weigh just a few ounces, fold down to fit in your pocket, and can be used dozens of ways in an emergency. These blankets can be used in extreme cold to direct heat toward the body or during extreme heat to reflect the sun's heat. An unopened emergency blanket should last and can be stored 1-2 years. However, they are cheap and should be restocked appropriately.


5. Clothes

When identifying clothes to put into a 72-hour bag, they should be lightweight, waterproof, and multi-use. Comfortability is key. It is important that the clothing has ability to be worn during any extreme conditions that may arise. Long pants and long sleeved shirts are ideal. It is as simple as protecting one’s skin from the elements. Multiple pairs of water resistant socks should be packed to protect the feet.


6. Shoes

Hiking shoes and boots are preferable. They are usually water resistant, lightweight, and offer orthopedic support for long treks on foot. Having good grips on the sole of the shoes are necessary to maintain traction and to traverse any form of terrain. The grips on the soles could also be helpful if one needs to get to higher ground quickly.


7. Multi-tool

Small and easy to carry, a multi-tool can make a huge difference when trying to survive in an emergency. Finding a tool that has pliers, a knife, a screwdriver, and even a shovel will be vital when surviving the next several days after a disaster.


8. Headlamp

A headlamp should be portable, waterproof, and drop-resistant. It should also have several light options and include different colors. If you are sheltering for multiple days, that will mean survival during night time. At night you might need light while remaining in a low-visibility state. This is where the different colors on the head lamp will come into play. Having a blue or green colored light will keep the eye’s natural night vision active.


9. “Dumb” or Satellite Phone

Depending on the situation, a smartphone might either be useless or dangerous. While a satellite phone is nice to have in the case of an emergency, they are not accessible or affordable for everyone. A “dumb” or feature phone has better battery life because they do less. Their main, and sometimes only function, is communication. They are also much cheaper. Having an external antenna signal booster can be a life saver in remote areas with minimal cell coverage. Also, finding a phone with a push-to-talk feature and/or an emergency SOS function could make all the difference.


10. 2-way Radio

A 2-way radio is incredibly handy in an emergency situation as cell towers and satellites might be affected. With a 2-way radio you can communicate with others. In many cases, you can also listen to public notifications, announcements, and instructions. Always identify the emergency frequencies in your area and have those frequencies written down and taped to or pre-loaded into the radio.


11. Batteries

In an emergency situation infrastructure can be affected and electricity can be difficult to find. Batteries are very important for flashlights, radios, and other equipment. Having a stored supply of batteries in different sizes is useful. However, if electricity is still available, having multiple forms of rechargeable batteries can take up less space than disposable batteries. They can keep life-saving electronic devices active for the entirety of the time needed to survive the initial days after a disaster. First, one must determine what batteries will be needed. Purchase at least two sets of each battery type in rechargeable form. This will give one battery the opportunity to recharge while the other battery is in use.


12. Solar Charging Device

Solar charging capabilities have advanced dramatically in recent years. High-quality portable solar devices are cheap and easy to find. Make sure the device allows for charging of multiple devices. The best type of solar charging panels are lightweight, foldable, and can attach to a backpack for continuous charging while walking in the sun.


13. Heavy Duty Trash Bags

Trash bags are a key multi-use item to have in a 72-hour kit. These heavy duty bags can store day-to day items like clothes, food, water-sensitive gear, etc. in order to keep them protected from the elements. Trash bags can also be used to collect rain water, but that water must be put through a water purification system for safety reasons.


14. Paracord

Paracord (Military calls it 550 cord.) is a true multiuse device. It can be used to build shelter, hunting traps, attach gear, make a perimeter, or even utilize as a belt. Paracord is lightweight and easily stowed without taking up too much room in a survival bag.


15. Reading or Entertainment Material

The U.S. military has identified mental state of isolated personnel as a leading factor in survival. Lack of focus, changes in memory, increased irritability, and compulsive actions can make surviving difficult for prolonged periods of time. Small amounts of reading or entertainment can refresh the brain and improve survivability. Make sure any reading or entertainment materials are small, lightweight, and water proof. Having preinstalled ‘ebooks’ on a smartphone or tablet are an excellent source for improving mental health when isolated from everyone.



It is important to mention that this list is not exhaustive. We do feel like it outlines a good starting point for building your survival bag. Everyone should identify what works best for their situations and their parties. Things to take in to consideration when building your 72-hour bag:

- medication supply

- critical medical supplies for those with chronic conditions

- pet gear (food, medicine, harnesses, and leashes)

- children/baby necessities (diapers, formula, comfort items, appropriate clothing)

- local terrain (mountains, desert, forests require different items)

- distance to water (fresh water is paramount)

- possible impediments to travel (weather, gas availability, road conditions)

Use your discretion when assembling your family's 72-hour bag. Below are links to multiple checklists that can help identify what should be packed and what is optional.


If you have further questions or comments, please feel free to contact us through our website .


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