|2 x firearms
1 case MREs
3 x 5-gal water jug
GI duffle bag
|1 x 19.5 Rubbermaid RoughTote footlocker
First off, the 72 hours FEMA suggests certainly seems optimistic, if someone is expecting the government to take care of them. However, it has become a sort of de facto standard in preparedness planning, so I shall perpetuate the figure.
I feel a 72-hr kit must be portable. Having a quantity of supplies on hand, stored throughout your house is nice, but if conditions force an evacuation, you may not have time to gather everything up. It is better to have it all stored in one place, ready to go at a moment's notice.
I've tried to break the kit down to cover certain "vital needs" of survival: Water, Food, Fire, Shelter, Protection, Communication, and Tools. I'll go through the categories, showing how the kit contents fulfill these needs. Additionally, when planning for children, you have to consider adding in a whole new category, Entertainment.
You need at least one gallon of water per person per day. That means my family needs at least 12 gallons. Since 5-gallon water cans are easily obtainable, I've opted for three (at least! - kids will drink a lot of water) of them to serve as our water supply. Through hard-bought experience, I'm learning what carriers do and do not stand up to hard use. I've decided on the smaller containers based on the fact that a 55-gallon drum of water can be ... difficult to move when full, and this kit is supposed to serve as an evacuation kit. I also include some means of water purification equipment. For me, this means "potable aqua"-type tablets or boiling on a fire.
My primary planning here is the case of MREs. Through experience, we have determined our family of four generally needs 2 MREs per meal. Of course, these may need to be supplimented a little by additional snack items. I've planned the MREs for use at lunch and supper. For breakfast, I put in granola bars or a bag of cereal. Packets of instant oatmeal would do well also. Individual-serving sized cans of things like pudding or fruit will go a long ways to calming frayed nerves. Eating utensils like plates and flatware can make an MRE supper more visually appealing. We carry 4 enamelled metal salad bowls that were a wedding gift from family. I opted for these bowls because they have a flat bottom and a raised edge. This keeps the food from sliding off onto the ground, while the flat bottom lets "picky eaters" keep their foods separate. MRE plastic spoons serve us for eating, primarily because we had so many of them to start with.
Here, I also include cooking requirements, heat, and light. First off, you need a way to start a fire, be it matches, flint and steel, or a blow-torch. Learning how to build a fire is a must, even if you plan to use a propane stove, in my opinion. Once you can start a fire, you need something to cook on. We've done well with a "backpacker's grill" over an open fire. There are other options if you think you may not be able to gather wood for an open fire. Charcoal grills are great for use, but can prove awkward if you plan to be travelling. Camp stoves come in a staggering variety of designs. "Cooking candles" can also be bought, though I can't comment on their effectiveness just yet since I've never used one. If you decide to use a stove that uses liquid fuel, I strongly recommend that you do *not* store the fuel in the same container as your other supplies. You also need something to cook in. For us, a large coffee can works just fine. We can partly fill it with water and use the water to heat the MRE entrees. (If you do this, please remember to dump the remaining water out. There is the potential for the water to become contaminated by the inks used on the MRE packages.) The can will also heat water for hot cereal mixes and for washing. Other foods may require a bit more in the way of cook-pots. What you decide to carry as food will determine what you need in way of a cook-set.
Heat sources range from propane-powered "camp heaters" to small chemical "pocket packs." Light sources range from lanterns that use the same fuel as your camp stove to hand-cranked flashlights. Kids like to be able to see their surroundings to dispel those "nameless fears" that sometimes settle in. Having a handy light source also makes it easier to find things in the dark - dropped items, the path to the latrine, low branches, or annoying intruders of all shapes and sizes.
Ideally, if we were to be forced to evacuate, we would go to a relative's house - I have this deep distrust of "governmnet-approved" shelters. Since we have several within easy driving distance, I don't anticipate being forced to "camp out." Still, the possibility exists. We have decided to use two small tents rather than a single large one, should we be forced to "make camp." If you've ever tried camping with kids, you'll understand the choice. Anyone want to buy a 10'x12' cabin tent in almost-new condition? (just kidding!) The tarp is useful for covering your gear to conceal it or protect it from foul weather. It can also be used to make a "dining fly" over your cooking area. I also consider bedding and clothes to be part of "shelter." Be sure you have plenty of blankets for everyone if the nights are prone to be chilly in your area. I suggest at least two extra changes of clothing be kept as part of the kit, even if only a couple of sweatsuits. Clean, dry clothes have a tremendous effect on wet, dirty attitudes.
This covers several items that don't qualify as shelter. A well-stocked first aid kit is a must. It will protect you from aggravating an injury or incurring an infection. A basic hygiene kit will keep you from being hit by diseases. Firearms and ammunition protect you from those "annoying intruders" I mentioned earlier.
For a 72-hour kit, I generally limit this category to a small radio. This will let you stay informed on community bulletins concerning your area. You may want to add whistles or walkie-talkies to let family members stay in touch with each other.
A good knife is a must. (MREs *don't* always just "pull open!") A small hatchet will come in handy for minor chores involving splitting wood. Be sure you include something to keep your edges sharp. Different kinds of string and rope will find a myriad of uses. A pair of scissors makes many cutting jobs easier. Any specialty tools for working on your equipment (like the camp stove) should be packed in, also. Don't forget extra batteries for everything.
When planning for kids, this category is very important. I've discovered the hard way that kids need "fun" things to do to keep them busy. Coloring books, card games, "travel" editions of games or toys, books, and handheld electronic games give kids something that will keep their hands and minds occupied. My kids love to help, but eventually they will get bored. If I don't have something specifically for them to play with, they will *make* something to play with, generally out of important pieces of gear! I've noticed if they are bored, they do one of three things - whine about being bored, whine about being hungry, or "get into" things. I've learned my lesson and the kit now includes "playtime" items. Don't forget favored stuffed animals or security blankets, either!
I know a lot of the items in this kit seem geared to having to provide things for myself that would be available if I were able to relocate to a relative's house. By bringing my own stuff (like pillows & blankets, etc), I can minimize my impact on their own supplies that they may well be needing for their *own* families. Plus, in the event I *can't* get to a "friendly place," I can make my own wherever I need to. This kit is also a great "camping" kit, able to load up quickly and head to the woods.