Every family should have some sort of survival kit ready to go in case disaster strikes. Here are 20 must-have items to help you get started building yours.

1. Non Perishable Food Packs

The US Department of Homeland Security and FEMA recommend stocking a three-day supply of non-perishable food per person to prepare for emergencies.  While just one 2,400+ calorie bar can minimally sustain an average person up to three days, it’s advisable to evaluate the needs of your family and prepare accordingly.

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2. Water Purification Tablets

Used worldwide by campers, hikers, militaries, emergency organizations, and anyone else who needs to drink water of questionable quality, these Portable Aqua iodine tablets will disinfect contaminated drinking water in a pinch.

3. Pocket Knife

If you don’t already have one, a multi-tool knife is a must-have for a survival situation.  Ask for one for father’s day or a holiday gift.

4. Plastic Dishes Set

If you’re going to need to flee the house and live in the woods or any other mobile situation, you’re going to want plastic dishes for the long haul.  This set holds up nicely and has great reviews.

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5. TP

When you gotta go, you gotta go, even if it’s the end of days.  Your wife and kids will love the fact that you thought this far ahead.  Sure, a bulky item, but it’s lightweight.  Keep a a dozen rolls next to your survival bag and toss it in the car when it’s go time.

6. Duct Tape

The ultimate survival tool, with a million uses in an emergency situation, from creating makeshift splints, to binding up zombies and roving bands of marauders in the event of an apocalypse.  Simply put, you can never have too much duct tape.  Get a few rolls for your bag.

7. Nylon Rope

Like it’s partner, duct tape, there are simply a million and one uses for nylon rope in an emergency situation.  25ft should do the trick, but if you’re a MacGuyver kind of thinker, you might want to invest in several different lengths. 

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8. First Aid Supplies

The one thing that can take any survival situation and make it a hundred times worse is an injury. You’re going to want to treat minor cuts and scrapes immediately so as to avoid infection. Band Aids will be invaluable, as will a basic medical kit.

9. Waterproof Matches

You should have several methods of starting a fire in a disaster scenario, from a lighter, to magnesium, to two sticks of wood. But the simplest, most effective tool is a box of stormproof matches.  Besides allowing you to prepare food in an extended emergency situation, a warm fire can also create a feeling of safety and turn a frightening  situation into something familiar for the kids.

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10. Five-Year Water

In a disaster situation, water can either become unavailable or contaminated. Just buy an ample supply of these pouches and throw them in your duffel bag. They claim to have a shelf-life of 5 years, but many survivalists wouldn’t hesitate drinking these at 10+ years.


11. Solar Powered Flashlights

These are solar powered rechargeable flashlights with battery backup.  Solar is the key as you’ll most likely be unable to find a decent power source and batteries will eventually die out.

12. Mess Kit

If we’re talking long-term survival situation, end-of-the-world kinda scenario, you’re going to need to prepare your own food.  Whether it’s non-perishables you’ve saved that need heating up or something you’ve hunted and killed, you’ll need to cook it over the fire.  A mess kit like this one will be indispensable.

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13. Plasticware

One of the main reasons you’re going to want to eat with plasticware and plastic dishes is to avoid dirty fingers contaminating food and causing sickness.  Having an air of civility during times of chaos is always nice, too.  An easy purchase.

14. Fuel/Fuel Stabilizer/Funnel

During Hurricane Sandy, generators were all the rage.  But the real money was in the fuel.  Lines formed around the block for people waiting at gas stations to fuel up.  It was like liquid gold, and the same will always be true for as long as we are a fuel dependent society. Keep as much of it on hand as you’re comfortable with, using these no spill non-corrosive jugs. Fuel stabilizer will allow you to store your gasoline longer and a funnel will help prevent it from becoming contaminated.










15. Mylar Blankets

The main reason you want these blankets is because they can fit into a duffel without taking up much room.  If you have time and space to grab everyone’s favorite blanket as you flee the house, then great.  But if you want a simple “grab-and-go” bag when you need to evacuate immediately, you should spend the five bucks and stuff a set of 4 of these in your kit.

16.  Fire Starter

This is actually a multi-tool with its most prominent feature being the magnesium fire starter rod.  It also comes with luminous handle (green light reflection in the dark), emergency mini ruler with serrated edge (rope cutting) , bottle opener and a survival rescue whistle. As previously stated, if you’re going to be in a survival situation, having multiple methods of starting fire is important.  A great multi-purpose tool.


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17. Tent

A tent is a must-have in an emergency situation that requires you leaving home and living on the go for a few days.  This model is one of Coleman’s “instant” tents that sets up in just minutes, which is useful if you want something easy. But there are also an endless variety of tents available from $100 on up. Consider purchasing a rain fly to prevent leakage in addition. Even if you never have an emergency need for it, you can still get plenty of use out of a tent in the backyard or on camping trips.

18. Hatchet

A good hatchet will make gathering firewood and chopping it into useable pieces a million times easier than trying to break wood over your knee, or stomping on it with your foot.  This axe from Estwing comes with a curved handle for a comfortable grip, as well as a leather sheath for the blade.

19. Hand Crank Radio

This is such an awesome device, with a million uses in case of emergency.  It’s an AM/FM/NOAA reception radio, it’s a flashlight, and it can even provide emergency power for handheld devices for a few minutes.  The batteries can be recharged 3 ways:  Solar, DC Power, or best of all, turning the hand-crank, which converts 70% of your kinetic energy into stored electricity.  If the shit hits the fan, this device is invaluable.


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20. Generator

The big boy.  A unique item on this list, because of the price-tag. A good generator is going to cost you between $400 to over a grand. Whether you want to take the plunge is up to you, but remember this: during hurricane Sandy, you couldn’t find one anywhere. Every Home Depot and Lowes was sold-out and Amazon.com was out of stock.  Not only that, but when supply did become available, they were selling for 2x regular cost and lines were forming 24 hours ahead of time. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want something with 4500 watts to run a major appliance or two, plus a few other small items.  Or you can go bigger, around 8000-10000 watts, like the one featured below, to run most everything you will need during a disaster. Just don’t forget to purchase the heavy-duty extension cords, 12 gauge.

The problem with these generators, however, is that they are mind bogglingly heavy, which means you can’t throw them into the back of your car if you have to leave home. And they’re also loud, which might bother your neighbors, especially those prone to generator jealousy.  What’s the alternative? The one pictured below is a 2000w inverter generator that’s as quiet as a purring cat, and only 40lbs.  And it “sips” gasoline, so you can get more from your fuel. But you pay out the nose for this kind of portability – nearly $1,000 for only 2000 watts that can only run an appliance or two.  That said, if you want to take it with you, you can, and that’s why you pay the premium.

Final Thought

In terms of risk vs. reward, putting together a survival kit is a no-brainer. For a few hundred bucks, you might be able to help your  family survive during an emergency situation.  The only item not on this list, because it’s a personal choice, is a firearm.  As my brother-in-law is fond of saying, “What’s the point of putting together your bag if your neighbor can just steal it from you at gunpoint?”  But that’s an argument for another day.  In the meantime, you can get started on building your own survival kit using the suggestions above, or any other variation you deem fit.  Not only will you buy your family a little insurance, you’ll also enjoy tapping into your own primal “protector” feelings as you put the bag together.

About The Author

Michael Berman

Husband and father of two who works as a professional writer, having sold screenplays to Sony, Disney, MGM and Showtime among others. Always on the look out for solid, useful information to share with other parents on Chilldad.com.

3 Responses

  1. Jacques Lebec

    I lean toward solar lanterns and chargers, a gas powered lantern that can charge a cell phone, stuff like that. I’m also a proponent of safety in numbers, a good relationship with my rural neighbors is a must. Good Article

  2. david

    Great list,

    I would also look into adding the lifestraw , as a water alternative to iodine tablets. the latest version no longer has an expiration date and just as effective as iodine tablets without the terrible taste.

    Also civilians can buy MREs (meals ready to eat) they are desgined by the DoD and have a long shelf life. Inside each MRE are warming pouches that allow you to heat up the food in each pouch.


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