Emergency Prep Kit: Contents

I’m just 1 person who likes to be prepared for emergencies. My parents started me out years ago when I moved into my new home by gifting me a big, blue, plastic bin with some great supplies to have on hand in case of an emergency. When the pandemic hit, I realized how much more I actually needed in my emergency prep kit and ended up filling two additional bins with various supplies until I finally felt I was prepared. 


When choosing a container, keep in mind how easy it will be for you to grab the container in an emergency. Keep it somewhere accessible. You might prefer a few smaller boxes with the most critical one on top. Or you might prefer duffle bags, boxes with wheels, or even an indestructible extra suitcase. 

I went with plastic bins because I am used to carrying them in and out of my storage areas, to and from my car at book festivals, etc. They are durable, water resistant, and stack well so they don’t take up a ton of floor space. 

Clothing and Bedding

  • 1-2 changes of clothes
  • Shoes/sneakers that are good for walking/running in
  • Warm outer layer (hoodie, jacket, etc.) 
  • Sleeping bag or thick/warm blanket
  • Full-sized towel

I have all the clothes in a duffel bag inside the box, for better organization. I have my warmest fleece in the box, which is big enough to fit over many layers and something I always feel comfortable in. I also included several extra pairs of underwear and extra pairs of socks, knowing my personal preferences.  

Cash and Documents

  • Cash in small bills (enough to cover gas, a motel/hotel room stay, groceries/meals)
  • Photocopies of important documents (driver’s license, passport, health insurance, home insurance, car insurance, car title/registration, bank statement, mortgage payment record/house title, car title, pet immunization records) 
  • Contact list (phone and address) of family, friends, and medical providers (so few of us memorize phone numbers and addresses these days)

I keep the above double-bagged in Ziplocks, so they can stay dry. I have also heard that keeping your actual passport and birth certificate in your go-bag or box is a good idea if you expect you might need to flee quickly. Mine are located in my fire safe almost within reach of the emergency boxes, so I feel that having them nearby and protected in that way is more important to me right now than having them in my prep kit. 

Nonperishable Food

  • Water (one gallon per day) and any water flavorings
  • Grains (crackers, granola or energy bars, cereal)
  • Proteins (canned beans, protein bars, canned soups)
  • Fruits and veggies (dried fruits, canned vegetables) 
  • Powdered milk
  • Pet food 
  • Sets of durable but potentially disposable plastic plates, cups, cutlery
  • Metal mess kit containing pan(s), cup, cutlery
  • Thermos and/or water bottle

I will share my tricks for managing the above in my next post. 

Medical, Personal, and Cleaning Supplies

  • Emergency first aid kit (bandages, tweezers, gauze, tape, thermometer, alcohol wipes, etc.)
  • Over-the-counter medication (pain relievers, antacids, cough drops, antibiotic ointment, daily vitamins, etc.)
  • Prescription medications
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, floss, mouth rinse, deodorant, shaving razors)
  • Feminine supplies
  • Brush, comb, hair ties
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Trash/garbage bags 
  • Ziplock bags
  • Hand and bar soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dishwashing detergent (liquid)
  • Laundry detergent (liquid or powder)
  • Nonlatex gloves
  • Face masks/dust masks
  • Wipes/moist towelettes

I admit went a little overboard in my boxes, in this category and have a month’s worth of all of the above instead of enough for just a few days. Knowing I have enough medicine and cleaning supplies on hand gives me the peace of mind I need. 

Tools and Other Items

  • Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  • Lantern (with batteries)
  • Radio (mine’s a hand-crank radio, but a battery-operated one with batteries would also be fine)
  • Cellphone chargers and a backup battery pack (charged to full if possible)
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Manual can opener
  • Simple tool kit (hammer, wrench, pliers, mallet) or multifunction tool
  • Tarp and/or plastic drop cloths 
  • Duct tape 
  • Notebook and pens or sharpies/markers (in a Ziplock)
  • Matches or lighters (in a Ziplock) 
  • Candles

The tarp and large pieces of plastic plus tape were some of the first items I remember my family stocking our emergency kit with when I was growing up. At the time, there was talk about gas being used to attack the Washington, DC, area, and taping plastic over windows and door cracks was the solution. But both items could be useful in many other ways during an emergency. I also highly recommend a notebook and pens. You never know when you might need to leave a note or document an event or even keep track of meal or medication times that you might forget when in a panic. 

In my next post, I’ll give you some tips and tricks about how to organize and keep these items.

What item is in your emergency prep kit that didn’t make it into my list above? 

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