Updated: Jun 18
A Bug-out bag, survival backpack, emergency kit, 72-hour kit; whatever you call it the goal is the same: Be prepared. Everyone has the same basic needs and we all want to make sure that our emergency kit has them covered. In an emergency or survival scenario, your kit needs to provide clean water, food, weather protection, communication, first aid, and hygiene. The challenge is the limitations of space, portability, and cost. Finding items that are inexpensive, lightweight, small and have multi-uses is the key to putting together an effective survival backpack.
There are many ideas and opinions about what items to include in an emergency kit, this shortlist will hopefully give you some you haven’t thought of before. Each item is simple, affordable and lightweight. Many of these survival tools have multiple uses and functions. Chances are many of these items are in your home already and can be easily gathered together to supplement your existing emergency kit or start one!
1. Plastic Trash Bags
Keeping a roll of plastic garbage bags in your survival kit is great for more than trash clean up. They can serve many purposes. They are lightweight, inexpensive and you don't have to worry about shelf-life. A plastic trash bag could be used to patch your tent or coat, serve as a poncho, or cover your backpack during rain. In a pinch, a trash bag can be used to cover feet and hands when shoes have holes or when you don't have gloves. When used with duct tape you can effectively prevent water from coming through a door or window that won’t shut tight.
Although it is not a long term option, it is a cheap and versatile tool. Black and opaque colored bags will provide the most protection from the sun and hide anything you want to be covered.
2. Aluminum Foil
Aluminum foil makes cooking much easier, but there are endless possible benefits that foil can provide you in a pinch. In addition to being a very malleable metal, aluminum foil is a conductor, it reflects light, and it can reflect heat. So not only can foil can be used to make a crude cup, container or eating utensils, you can potentially fix poor electrical connections, create a signal mirror, or start a fire with a battery.
If you needed to keep warm and did not have a mylar emergency blanket, the foil will reflect heat and help keep you warm. Maybe the best attribute of aluminum foil is that you can reuse it for many different things. A roll of foil is light and inexpensive so be sure to include one with your survival kit.
3. Coffee Filters
If you are noticing a theme, you are correct. Common household items are lightweight, inexpensive, readily available, and with some outside of the box thinking, they have many uses. Coffee filters can be used to strain out dirt and debris from the water. Most common coffee filters are not a small enough micron to filter out bacteria and other extremely small organisms, so this is mostly for debris and not for water purification. Outside of filtration they can be used to clean eye-glasses, serve as kindling for a fire, toilet paper or tissue, use it as a cold compress, or use it as a bowl. In a pinch, you can write notes or directions on a coffee filter if you have nothing else.
Imodium is one item you may not have in your home already, but it can be a huge help in a survival emergency. Imodium is a synthetic antidiarrheal you can take orally. If you are forced from your home after a disaster and have limited food options, taking the proper dose can relieve diarrhea and ensure that your body is getting nutrients from your food. This is especially important when your food/water is limited and possibly low quality. You should always read and follow label instructions provided on medicine or medications.
5. Digital Photos
Physical photos of loved ones can be invaluable to your resolve and morale, but they are hard to keep dry, undamaged, and become degraded over time. Digital photos keep forever, assuming you have a device/battery to view them. During a disaster, you may not have cell network reception but your phone should still work offline, and with hand crank chargers and solar backpack chargers, you don't have to worry about not having battery power. You can also keep pictures of important documents like IDs and insurance cards as backups.
6. Ear Plugs
Many natural disasters force people into crowded emergency shelters or unfamiliar sleeping arrangements. Sleep is vital and in a shelter or outside you may need help blocking out the noise. A pack of earplugs or two will take up little room in your emergency kit and provide you a good rest in a noisy environment. If you find yourself stranded or in the wild trying to survive, earplugs may not be a good choice, as you would want to be alert to dangers or be able to hear potential rescuers.
7. Baking Soda
Sodium bicarbonate is commonly called baking soda. It is a white, non-flammable powder found in almost every home. The uses of baking soda are almost limitless. It can serve to control fungal growth, it can be used as a mild disinfectant, and even put out small grease or electrical fires. When combined with water you can use it to make toothpaste, deodorant, or a cleaning agent. There are also many claims that it can help treat bug bites, however, you should limit the use of baking soda on your skin. You can see a huge list of other baking soda uses here.
If you haven’t included these items, you should consider it. You may already have other items that fill these specific roles, we would love to know what other ideas are out there! Disasters are unpredictable. You can never know when an emergency will happen or what necessities you may need but these items will give you versatility without costing much money.