Bugging Out: Emergency Preparedness Kits

There are innumerable scenarios in which you might have to quickly grab a bag and get out of dodge.  Is a tsunami on its way to your beachfront bungalow?  Did a large earthquake just render your apartment building uninhabitable?  Is there a radiation leak in the next town, or even a forest fire, hurricane or flood on its way?  Let’s just hope it’s not zombies…;)

If you google “bug-out” bag or kit, you’ll find a lot of articles on what to pack, and a lot of pre-made kits you can buy.  Some people keep them in their cars, schools or offices, in their briefcases or purses.  You might want to keep some smaller kits in several locations.  We keep smaller bags in our cars, our “A” bags, and larger, more extensive packs at home – our “B” bags.  The idea is to actually have these items packed and ready to go; you don’t want to be running around your house looking for your glasses, or trying to remember where you put those band-aids, if a tsunami is on its way.

This is an ongoing list of suggestions.  It’s up to you to decide what you feel you and your family might need to have on hand.  Most official sites recommend having food and water for at least 72 hours.  Given some of the outrageous disasters we’ve witnessed like Katrina and the Haiti and Japan earthquakes, some people recommend having enough to last for 7-14 days.

A serious reminder:  do not fear.  Fear is the mind killer.  Just prepare to the best of your ability.  It’s all any of us can do, and freaking out will not help anything or anyone, anytime.  Be calm, which is easier if you’re well-prepared.  In emergency situations, plan on being a help, not a hindrance, to your family and neighbors.


It’s very important to establish evacuation plans and possible meeting places with family or friends.  Know your area and have paper maps with clearly designated safe zones and meeting places – your phone and GPS may not be working. Also try and keep the gas in your car topped off, we try not to let it go below half a tank, and know how to turn off the gas and electric to your home in case of emergency.


Companies like Adventure Medical Kits have ready-made survival packs of all kinds and sizes, and sometimes you can find deals on Ebay and places like that. Or, you can build your own, sometimes for cheaper. Keep it light enough so you can walk a long time with it if you have to.

Water, a gallon a day per person (replace every so often to keep fresh)
water purification tablets, straw, and/or bottle
food bars or MREs (also, keep an eye on expiration dates)
small first aid kit (look in camping supply stores, or build your own)
extra cash (credit card machines may not be working)
flashlight (suggested to use crankable so batteries are not an issue)
am/fm radio (you can find crankable flashlight/radio combos)
small multitool (like Swiss army knife)
whistle and/or signal mirror
lighter, waterproof matches, firestarter –  have several kinds
hand sanitizer or wet wipes
tissues and/or toilet paper
small towel
fold-up rain poncho
space blanket
a few vitamin packs or Emergen-Cs
Feminine supplies if applicable*
maybe a hat, and a pair of sneakers and socks, since if you’re in Hawaii you probably only have on your slippahs!
In Hawaii, we don’t always need extra jackets or warm clothes depending on altitude, but in other climates you might want to consider that too.


We keep larger kits at home packed with further emergency and survival equipment. Don’t forget to take your “A” bag with you too if you can if you have to bug out, but just in case you can’t, you’ll see that stuff on here again. In a multi-person household you might split some of the bigger or heavier items between you – just remember, people might get separated, or lose something. Redundancy is a not a bad thing. And you still need to be able to carry it without a problem, so pack carefully.

Food and Water
A gallon of water per day per person. It gets heavy. Carry what you can. After that, it’s filtration and purification. Have collapsible water jugs to collect water and store it after purification. The Katadyn Pocket Microfilter is a good choice, since it has ceramic filters which last much longer, but there are plenty of great products out there. There are also water purification tablets. Household bleach (the plain kind) can be used to purify water, 16 drops per gallon. Everyone should understand how to build a simple solar water still and have the tools on hand to do so. More on water in the Bugging In section coming soon.

Food will have to be lightweight or densely packed with nutrients. Freeze dried foods, power bars, peanut butter, and MREs are some ideas. There are plenty of sites online to buy stored emergency food kits (we found some at Costco), or try dried soups, dehydrated mashed potatoes, and anything else you can think of that is lightweight, nourishing, and doesn’t take hours to cook like dried beans.

You will want to have at least one clean change of clothes. Plan to have some kind of soap to hand wash them so you don’t have to pack much. You could use those spacebags or compression bags to squish it all up small. Have at least one change of comfortable pants. Consider a pair with roomy pockets like cargo pants, so you can keep lots of stuff on you if you need to. Some people use sports vests with lots of pockets. Have maybe a couple of clean t-shirts, underwear, and socks, and a hat against the sun or weather. Ladies, maybe a comfortable sports bra. Depending on your climate, warmer jacket or coat, and/or sweatshirt, and comfortable sneakers or hiking boots for long walking if you need to. Maybe an extra pair of flip-flops, slippers or sandals for when you’re not hiking, depending on climate and preference. Rain gear – you can find ponchos that fold up very small, or use a garbage bag or tarp.

Personal items
These are things personal to you, like toiletries and medicines. If you wear glasses, you could store your extra pair here, and same if you wear contacts, and have a bottle of contact solution. It’s often suggested to have a small book or two for information or entertainment in case you’re stuck somewhere for awhile with nothing to do. Consider a survival field and/or medical manual, a Bible, a copy of the Tao Te Ching, a paperback novel, etc. A deck of cards won’t take much room and could keep a while family occupied. If you can grab your wallet, great, but some sort of ID and some extra cash is recommended. Pack a small ziploc or waterproof bag with your hygiene items like a small travel toothbrush/toothpaste, comb, razors, hair bobbles, creams, and soap. Castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s has multiple uses, and there are other kinds of camping soaps you can find. Toilet paper, personal medicines, feminine needs* and birth control* are up to you.

Tools and weapons
If you end up camping somewhere, life will be easier with a few tools. Some people prepare for hunting and butchering, or even fighting zombies or bad guys. Just be safe and responsible at all times, especially around children. Also, be aware if martial law or a state of emergency is declared, they might not like you walking around with guns and knives, but a sturdy cane or walking stick can be a great weapon too, and also handy.

For basic tools and supplies, start with a multi-tool like Swiss army knife or Leatherman tool with pliers, scissors, can opener, screw driver, etc. A small hammer, a folding shovel, a roll-up saw and an axe are other suggestions. Firestarting is likely the second most essential necessity after water. Some sites suggest having as many as five different firestarters, and knowing how to use them. Matches and lighters can run out. Rope or paracord, duct tape, zip ties, and bungee cords are all handy. Have a thin, small painter’s tarp – useful for many things including tent base, rain cover and solar water stills. An emergency fishing kit, needle and thread, compass, towel, dishcloth, empty garbage bags and ziplocs are other good ideas.

Crankable flashlights, headlamps and radios are a must have.  Some people pack luxuries like solar chargers or two-way radios. It’s up to you.

First Aid
Your first aid kit can be as simple or as fancy as you like. You can buy a pre-packed one, or build your own. I have a pretty sophisticated pre-packed one which I then added to with a few more things I wanted to have on hand. You should at least have the basics like bandaids, antiseptic wipes and ointments, anti-diarrhea pills, aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, gauze bandages and medical tape. Surgical suture is a suggestion I’ve seen on a lot of sites, useful not just for cuts but for mending and repairs. Have sunscreen, bug spray and unless you live in Hawaii, a snake bit kit. An emergency blanket, instant cold packs and instant hand warmers. Some people have face masks or even gas masks. A few more packs of vitamins or Emergen-Cs can keep your electrolytes up.

A medical field guide or first aid booklet of some sort is wisdom. Some people go so far as to have field surgical kitsand antibiotics on hand. There is controversy about using antibiotics made for fish, but I’ve read testimonies of people using them quite successfully. It’s inexpensive and available over the counter online. Know what you’re doing with dosages however, and avoid tetracycline as it does become toxic after the expiration date. Oregano oil and colloidal silver are other antibiotic suggestions, and for external use, tea tree oil and honey. So, again, up to you – just do your research.

For temporary situations, you could have some disposable bags on hand along with a 5-gallon bucket. Or, dig a latrine with your folding shovel. Be sure to follow the rules on environmentally sound methods of human waste disposal and personal cleanliness. Not doing so can spread disease very quickly. Have soap and hand sanitizer available, and you can also find solar showers in camping sections of sports stores.

It just depends on the disaster, how long it lasts, and whether there are accessible emergency shelters nearby. We have a tent and sleeping bags ready to go just in case; tarps and plastic sheeting, along with some rope or paracord, can make a fine shelter for Hawaiian climate.

Again – depends on your personal level of comfort and ability. There are a variety of small, lightweight camping stoves available. Rocket stoves are ingenious. Sterno is great to have on hand. You might want to have a small grill to place over a campfire, and in that case, be sure you have a camping saw to cut firewood. Small camping pots and utensils are quite useful and pack very small.

Pets, children, seniors, people with disabilities
Larger dogs can carry doggie backpacks with dog food, some water, collapsible bowls, medicines or other pet needs. Smaller pets may need to travel in crates or totes, so be sure you have those clean and ready to go somewhere, along with food and water for them.

Older children can also wear a small backpack with some food bars, clothes, coloring books, etc. The rest of their supplies, as well as all supplies for infants, you need to pack somewhere where you can carry it. Have extra clothes, diapers, formula, bottles, medicines, baby wipes, powder, ointment and food and utensils for them.

As applicable, seniors and people with disabilities should have any canes, walkers, medicines, medical records, equipment, denture needs, lists of allergies, doctors, insurance, diet and medical information such as pacemaker serial numbers, etc.

* Feminine needs and birth control
In researching these topics I found some interesting suggestions for sustainable women’s products.  The Cup seems like a very good choice in any regard. Made of silicone, they are washable and reusable for many, many years. And I was surprised to read that many woman already use washable pads. You can find them online in many places, or find patterns to sew your own. This is a good, sustainable suggestion for anytime, not just emergencies. The gross-out factor nagged at me a bit at first but then I thought…what’s grosser than filling our landfills…and many women swear they’re even easier than cloth baby diapers to clean, so it’s up to you.  Check out ThePatriotNurse for some good info on this.

Birth control is a bit trickier. For bug-out bags, an extra months of pills, or a packet of condoms or whatever you use is a good idea. Longer term solutions maybe be a more difficult issue…

What else?
Did I forget something? Leave a comment!

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One Response to Bugging Out: Emergency Preparedness Kits

  1. Pingback: April is Tsunami Awareness Month | Hawaii Be Prepared

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