If you’re preparing an emergency plan, whether for a major earthquake, devastating storm or a relatively minor inconvenience like being snowed in for a day or two, you’re going to have to accept a level of uncertainty: Will the power go out? Will the roads be drivable? Will your phone work? The unknown is enough to drive some people into a panic and others into complacency.
But with just a bit of planning, you can put together an emergency kit that will have you ready for most situations, allowing you to stay calm and know you’re well-prepared. And if you’re an outdoor adventurer with a garage full of gear, it’s likely you already have a handful of the essential items in your home.
Here are 10 things you might already own, or want to invest in, that can get your emergency kit started or make good additions to one you already have.
1. 3-Day Supply of Nonperishable Food
Check your cupboards because the types of food you take camping can be good options to have on hand in case of an emergency. Ideally, you want to have ready-to-eat options that don’t require refrigeration or cooking, like nonperishable snacks or canned foods, but if you have a backpacking stove and fuel in your emergency kit, then freeze-dried backpacking meals can be a good option. (If you’re stashing canned food, make sure you also pack a manual can opener.) Ready.gov recommends having at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
2. Water Jugs
It’s essential to have access to clean drinking water in case of an emergency. Ready.gov recommends keeping on hand one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. If you already have a water jug at home that you take on car-camping trips, fill it up and keep it accessible. Also consider having some type of water treatment on hand, such as a filter, purifier or chemical treatment, in case your supply of clean drinking water runs out. (Learn how to choose a water filter or purifier.)
Whether the power is out for a few hours or a few days, you need a way to light up the night so you’re not stumbling around in the dark. Stash an extra headlamp or lantern with fully charged batteries, as well as an extra set of backup batteries. Some lanterns have a hand crank for charging the battery so you don’t have to worry about running out of juice.
4. First-Aid Kit
If you’re waiting out bad weather at home or a serious disaster strikes, you need to have access to medical supplies to treat minor or serious injuries. You can assemble your own kit or buy a premade one. Either way, make sure you include any special medications and have enough supplies for you and your family. Learn more about choosing a first-aid kit or building your own.
Also, it’s a wise move to get some first-aid training so you’ll know how to actually use your kit if the need arises.
Downed trees or flooded streets may force you to find a different way across town. Your GPS can help, but the more you can limit your dependency on battery-powered gadgets when the grid goes down, the better. If you have a paper map or atlas that covers the area you live in, add it to your emergency kit so you can find the best route through the mayhem.
6. Sleeping Bag/Blanket
For many people, no electricity means no heat. If you’re stuck at home in the cold, a warm sleeping bag or blanket will definitely be useful. If you’re tight on space, you could instead keep an emergency blanket on hand if you want a more compact solution.
Channeling your inner MacGyver gets a whole lot easier with the right tool. A good multi-tool includes a knife blade, screwdrivers, scissors, a can opener and more, providing countless uses during an emergency.
If the power grid goes down, you might not be able to get the latest news on your smartphone, but old-school radio can often endure a disaster. With a simple battery-powered weather radio that picks up AM, FM and NOAA radio bands you can stay updated on the current weather and emergency conditions and enjoy some music or talk radio to pass the time. If you have one with a solar panel and/or hand crank you won’t have to worry about draining the batteries.
9. Backup Battery
For most of us, even the most outdoorsy in the bunch, a smartphone has practically become an extra appendage. If you want to keep using your phone, and other electronics, when the electricity gets knocked out, you’ll need a different way to get power. There are a range of portable power devices, from compact battery packs that will provide one or two full charges on up to portable generators. Bigger power sources like these can run small appliances, lights and even some medical devices for a short time.
It’s recommended that you stow all your emergency gear together in a designated spot so you know right where everything is if you need to shelter in place or get out quickly. Keeping some of your supplies packed in a simple daypack can be a good way to stay organized and be ready to grab and go if you need to get moving. If you have a pack that no longer accompanies you on the trail, give it a second life as part of your emergency kit.
For more suggestions on how to prepare for emergencies, visit Ready.gov