72 Hour survival kitThere will always be times when the weather gets rough, power outages occur, you end up stranded somewhere, or worse a disaster occurs. When that happens the best chances of getting out of the situation are going to improve drastically when you have prepared beforehand. Finding food, water, and equipment after a situation occurs can be difficult at best, grocery stores often become barren and department stores will have little to no stocked goods left. Combine this with the knowledge that many experts say responders, and supplies might take up to 3 days (possibly more) to get to stranded people and you have an idea of how a bad situation can get a lot worse. Often these 3 day kits are known as 72 hour survival kits, or grab and go kits. They are light weight and easy to carry as well as having the supplies needed to get you through the critical 3 day window of survival.

So what should you have in a good survival kit? Well first let’s make it clear that the best kit is always going to be the one that you customize yourself. You can purchase pre-made survival kits that cover the majority of the bases, such as food and water, but improving that survival kit to take care of things common to your environment and special needs is key. With that said, lets look at what a good survival kit should address to get you through any situation.

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Shelter/Warmth
  4. Light
  5. Cooking
  6. First Aid
  7. Sanitation
  8. Communication
  9. Personal Items/Clothing
  10. Important Papers and Money

These are often referred to as the 10 areas of emergency needs, and while some are mandatory such as food and water, others are a bit more optional. We put them in the list above in the order we think that you should focus on them. A good kit can’t just be built over night for most people (unless you have lots of money on hand or are very savvy), and often gets pieced together over time.

Food and water

Focus on the most basic needs first, Food and Water! Without these two items you won’t last very long in any situation and will succumb to fatigue and dehydration. Most pre-made kits will include at least food and water, but be sure to read the details. Often food is listed for each item to have a set amount of calories, the trick here is knowing how many calories you need to consume per day. While health professionals go back and forth on the numbers, they generally agree you need at least 1200 calories per day, and this can vary based on your build and levels of activity. The more active you will be the more you will need to consume, so it’s best to be smart and plan to have a little bit extra on hand. But don’t go overboard! Keep in mind that you may have to carry your survival kit with you, and extra weight just means more energy you have to spend.

Remember, the second item, water; without it you are likely to only live for 3 days, and at best 5 days without any water at all. Worse, that is under the best conditions where you are doing little moving around, and it’s not too hot. Heat will make you dehydrate faster, and doing more movement will only compound the problem. In the worst conditions you could even die in just a few hours, so water is a very serious component of your kit. However if you expect to be able to stay in the same location, or not move around as much you may not need as much water. The key thing here is balance, and recognizing that at some point you will have to get more water and supplies either way. Many doctors will tell you that you need to drink 8 cups (64oz) of water per day, however again your build and levels of activity will change what you need more than anything. Most kits will have multiple containers of 8oz of water, you should plan to have to drink several of these per day. Not to mention water being the heaviest item that will be in your kit, so get enough water to last you at least 72 hours (3 days) and improve your kit with water purification tablets or filtration systems.

Boiling water will kill most bacteria in it, but keep in mind you should still filter it depending on the situation you find yourself in (especially the wilderness).


We combine these two items because usually one will provide the other. Protecting yourself from the elements will not just help you from getting sick, save (body and other) energy, but is key in stopping hypothermia. If you live in a cold climate then you are (or should be) well aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Most of the year this should not be an issue, but it can arise during the winter, or at nights in desert environments where the temperature can drop significantly. Being exposed to constant rain will cool your body off, in some situations this can be a good thing, it is mostly a problem when it makes you too cold and your body tries to heat itself back up. Keeping yourself out the elements also means you will retain more energy as you will not have to spend more to keep warm (Cold chills are your body’s way to try and warm itself back up through action). The same also goes for heat, having a hat on can reduce exposure to the sun and help keep you cool and thus require less water.

This item is very dependent on your environment, so there isn’t much we can recommend here, except that it is almost always a good idea to have a sleeping bag, or emergency blanket in your kit. Additionally having a rain poncho, and a tube tent are great additions as well as they will shield you from rain and can be used to provide shade when stationary.


It should go without saying, light is useful; being able to see what you are doing, where you are going, or just being able to signal you are present is a bright idea. The problem is that people overlook one major thing with flashlights or other light sources, and that is batteries. Batteries go bad, and batteries will discharge if left inside of devices. It’s just the way things are, and you can bet that when you need your light the batteries will be dead. So their are a few ways to deal with this, one is to test your lights once a month and replace the batteries at the same time you do your fire alarms. However humans tend to be lazy creatures and we get busy… so that never happens. The real best solution is to have a flash light that has a dynamo crank rechargeable battery in it, as well as being able to take normal batteries. Allowing you to hand crank the light back to life when you need it the most, but having the luxury of being able to put batteries into it for more long term use. Take this a step further and multipurpose your gear, and get a light that has a dynamo crank, as well as a built in radio. Remember, your light can also be used to signal people to your location or to warn others of dangers ahead. This is one of the most flexible items in your kit, so really think it over as to what all it can do for you.

Other options here include having emergency candles, or oil lamps. While the emergency candles are lightweight and easy to use, they require a source to light them, as well as often put out little light and cannot be used safely around flammable items. We are not a fan of oil lamps as they are often big, bulky, and have quite a bit of weight to them as well. In a worse case situation either of these two items could be improvised out of scavenged or discarded items.


While living off of freeze dried food, or MRE’s sounds like fun for awhile; at some point you are going to get tired of eating cold food, or need to boil water when your supplies run out. Having some cans of jelled fuel, or a small propane cooking burner will help you a long ways. However like all items in your kit, these will be depleted at some point and have some weight to them as well. Consider expanding your kit to include some matches, and a lighter as well. As wherever you can make fire you can cook as well. Don’t forget that a good campfire can also provide some heat as well, all items in your kit don’t have to serve a single purpose! Remember to think of what else individual items can do, make them multipurpose!

First Aid

Ironically this is usually the very first thing everyone thinks of in a survival kit, but as you have read before it should be a bit lower on your list after getting proper food and water. Not saying this isn’t important, far from it; as in an emergency having a proper first aid kit can mean life and death. But you should keep in mind that usually when you will use this is right at the start of a disaster, and it is going to be for some serious use. Just having a few band aids on hand and some antibiotic ointment is only going to take care of small cuts. Unfortunately this is the type of first aid kits found in most pre-made kits. A proper first aid kit that you want on hand will include rolls of gauze, medical tape, butterfly stitches, splints, and more advanced materials. With these more advanced materials comes with the requirement that you need to learn how to use them, and some training. Improper use of advanced first aid equipment can cause more harm than good, and at best is just inefficient or risky. When you get a first aid kit, look it over and understand everything that you have in the kit, and what it is used for. Additionally take the time to get a book on basic first aid and learn various techniques, as well as signs of illnesses. This information isn’t just useful when a disaster strikes, but can help during everyday life.


Now we are getting into the more overlooked items that go into a survival kit. Sanitation is a key component when you are talking about being around multiple people, or being in a disaster that can last a long period of time. Worse, the disaster may even involve a biological component, making sanitation higher up on the list. Common sense should prevail here, but having alcohol wipes, disinfecting soap, as well as other materials to help keep yourself clean is what you want here. A common item included in survival kits that confuses people are respirator, or dust masks. These will help not only keep you from breathing in dust, but can reduce the spread of some disease as well (depending on their rating). The key with these items is realizing that at some point you will need to replenish them, and understanding how diseases spread. In most general situations simply keeping dust, grime, and dirt off of you will suffice; but that means having access to disposable water.

Not to be overlooked either is the need to dispose of human waste, trash, etc. A short term solution to this problem is a 5 gallon bucket, but the long term solution requires proper disposal that will not effect your water supply either.


Everyone should know by now to keep a radio on hand to listen for news or weather announcements, it’s a pretty straight forward concept. Most kits will include a basic AM/FM radio, and may even have it in a multifunction tool along with a flash light. That’s good and dandy, but keep in mind… how do you communicate to others that you need help? In a disaster cell phone towers, and the internet are likely to be down or overloaded, local phone service is likely to be disrupted as well. Not to mention your cell phone has a limited charge on it as well and will eventually deplete. While you can use your light to communicate or signal for help, it is only useful if someone see’s it. So how do you improve on this? Well without going on a full topic by itself, the basic solution here is to get a crank/dynamo charger for your cell phone, as well as look into getting an FRS walkie talkie, or upgrading at some point and getting some portable HAM radio equipment and licensing.

Personal Items / Clothing

This is what will definitely not be in your pre-made survival kit. Further, there is not too much to say about this, except you should expect to have to change your clothing at some point during a disaster, most likely after the situation has stabilized you will find that you are dirty or need to change clothing. It is a generally accepted idea to keep at least 3 sets of clothing; which consists of the clothes that you are wearing at the start of the disaster and 2 clean sets. This would include changes in underwear, shirts, pants, and socks. Other personal items to think of are things such as prescription medications, a few items for amusement/entertainment, and additional gear such as a knife or multi-tool. If you require prescription medication, be sure to understand how it must be stored and cared for, and if possible keep it on you at all times; as well as have a record of what it is and what condition it treats. That information will prove to be greatly valuable to any medical responders that may come across you. It would even be a wise idea to have some dog tags or a card for your wallet made with your personal information on it, as well as a mention of any medical conditions you may have, along with the medication you take. In the even that medical staff find you in a state that you cannot respond them them, they can quickly find your information either in your wallet or on the dog tags to know who you are and what your special needs may be.

Which that leads us to…

Important Papers and Money

Last but not least, important papers are going to be things such as drivers licenses, birth certificates, wills, passports and other critical important documentation. Also as mentioned above records of any medications you may be taking or illnesses. These documents can prove greatly valuable when it comes to needing to be identified, helping to find lost family members, property damages, insurance reporting, or even the worse case scenario of helping to identify YOU. When disaster strikes most people just focus on leaving the immediate area as fast as possible and forget these documents, which often become damaged from the disaster itself. Having copies already made before hand and in your survival kit can save you alot of headache and hassle down the road.

Speaking of down the road, don’t forget to have some money on hand. Keep in mind that atm machines and electronic payment systems may be down. Having cold hard physical cash may be your only way to purchase goods when a disaster strikes. The generally accepted rule is to have at least $50 and a few dollars in quarters and dimes to make phone calls from a pay phone (yes they do still exist). This will let you buy some supplies that you may need, or even fuel in some cases (allowing the pumps are still working)

So that’s it… that is the important items you should look for to have in your general survival kit. Remember, the key is to keep your survival kit light weight and flexible for nearly any situation. It is a careful balance of weight and function, too many extra items and you will find that you don’t use them and are using over burdening yourself, too few and you might not have something you will need. Our suggestion is to start with a good pre-made survival kit and add to it, and improve upon it as you can. Keeping in mind your special requirements for your environment, medical conditions, and resources available.

Look forward to seeing more content like this from Ash Tactical as we will be adding more articles to the site at least once a week.

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