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What to include in your 72 hour survival kit

13 things you need in your 72 hour survival kit

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has put fear into many peoples’ minds and might even be making you second guess going out in public.  It’s the world’s most recent outbreak and it is spreading at an alarming rate. At the time of writing this, there are over 104,102 worldwide confirmed cases, 3,526 which resulted in death.

As a result, people are panic buying supplies like toilet paper, water, and masks. Store shelves are quickly becoming barren wastelands.  Big retailers like Costco are now putting quantity limits on the number of items you can buy for popular products such as toilet paper and bottled water.

store shelves emptied due to coronavirus
Source: Yanky_Pollak via Twitter

It’s going to get harder and harder to stock your shelves if this keeps up. In times like these, one can only hope they have enough food and water for their family if things ‘got real’.  It’s important to always have a plan and be prepared, even if you never have to act on it.

One of the easiest things you can have to be prepared for any type of disaster is a 3-day survival kit.  It’s essentially a bug-out-bag with enough things to keep you alive for 3 days.

Below, you will learn exactly what to have in your 72-hour emergency survival kit so you are prepared for anything.  But first, let's learn about the Rule of Threes.

The survival rule of threes

If you’ve ever read an article on survival, you’ve certainly heard about the rule of threes.  When planning for any type of disaster, it’s recommended to have enough supplies to stay alive for at least three days.

The rule of threes states you can survive no more than:

  • Three minutes without air
  • Three hours in harsh conditions
  • Three days without water
  • Three weeks without food

Now that you have an understanding of the rule of threes, here are the most important things to include in your 72 hour survival kit.

1. Water filter

Did you know that you need to drink one gallon of water per day to survive? That’s why having a water filter is very important.  Without a filter, you could easily become sick by ingesting water you think is safe to drink but isn’t.

I have a LifeStraw in my bag. One LifeStraw can filter water for 250-330 days (if you were to drink the recommended daily amount).  That’s incredible, and since it costs less than $20, it’s a no-brainer.

I’d also look into some type of water bottle with a filter inside.

2. Emergency food

You need a 3-day supply (per person) of calorie-dense, nonperishable food.  Ready-to-eat meals (MRE) are a great thing to include in your kit. All you need is hot water and you’re in business.  ReadyWise makes top of the line freeze-dried survival food kits and adventure meals.

readywise emergency food

3. Shelter

To survive, humans need shelter and a way to stay warm and dry. Include a tarp and a space blanket to your kit.

4. First aid kit

Arguably one of the most important must-haves is a first aid kit. Having the following things could mean the difference between life and death.

Items to include:

  • Compresses
  • Adhesive bandages
  • First aid tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Gauze
  • Latex-free gloves
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Biohazard waste bags

MyMedic first aid kit

MyMedic offers all-in-one, ready to go medic kits for all types of situations.  Their “SOLO” mini first aid kit is great for that single adventurous person.

For someone with more serious needs like a first responder or outfitter, the Recon: Basic Trauma Kit checks all the boxes.

5. Fire kit

If push comes to shove and you need to make a fire to stay warm, you need a few different ways of doing so. I have a small, waterproof container with things like a lighter, matches, small candles, fire rods, and tinder. When the lighters run out, and you run out of matches, you can always turn to the trusty fire starter rod. I picked up a Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter to solve that need.

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter

6. Flashlights

Let there be light!  Not being able to see in the dark is very dangerous.  Choosing the right tactical flashlight isn't too hard.  Make sure it's impact resistant and waterproof if possible.  If it uses LEDs, that's even better and great for efficiency.  

7. NOAA weather radio

Having a weather radio in your kit is very important to help you monitor potentially dangerous changing weather conditions.

Weather radios come in all different shapes and sizes. It’s important to get one with a hand crank in case you're out of batteries. Some even have small solar panels on them so you can charge your phone or other small devices.

8. Cell phone charger (and power bank)

When you're in a pinch and need to make a call, nothing is worse than a dead cell phone. 

Always have in your kit a solar charger.  I also recommend having a power bank you can charge with your solar charger.  That way, you'll have two different methods to power your phone in case of an emergency.

9. Sanitation Kit

All you need for this really is a plastic sandwich bag.  Fill it with a roll of toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, soap, deodorant, baby wipes, chapstick and bug spray.

10. Medicine

If you're in a disaster situation where food and water sources aren't plentiful, or you get injured, having access to pain relievers is vital.

Things like Advil and Tylenol are don't take up much space and you can pack a lot of them.

advil packets

Also, it's always a great idea to pack any extra required medication (asthma inhaler), contact lenses, glasses, hearing aids with the pain relievers.  If you need corrective lenses to see, having a backup pair packed can really save your day.

11. Survival Tools

A good multi-purpose survival knife is probably one of the most diverse tools you could have in your kit due to its countless utilitarian uses. 

You could use a knife for cutting branches for firewood.  You could use it to fillet a fish you caught for dinner.  It is obviously handy in any type of self-defense situation.

We are in love with Helle handmade knives.

Helle handmade utility knife
Bleja by Helle

Other optional things to include would be a whistle, a dust mask and some duct tape. Duct tape has unlimited tactical uses it’s a must-have.

12. Extra Clothes

A solid pair of sturdy shoes is a requirement as you never know what type of situation a disaster could bring. Even when there is no disaster, fresh underwear, socks and shirts feel good and keep you clean. I also recommend packing a pair of gloves and a stocking cap.

13. Extra Cash

They say "cash is king" for a reason.  When times are tough and the banks are closed, what do you do if you need to buy something from a vending machine?

Stockpiling gold and silver is great and all, but in a small-scale disaster situation, you will need cold, hard cash to buy supplies and necessities.  That vending machine isn't going to break your $100 bill.

I recommend having at least:

  • $200 in $1 bills
  • $200 in $5 bills
  • $200 in $10 bills
  • $300 - $400 in $20 bills

You can pack as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.  This is just what I'd want to have on me if I had to pick up and go!


I hope you found this information useful. Building your 72-hour survival kit doesn't have to be hard, nor expensive. I completed my entire kit (not including the bag) for roughly $100. Next, I'm going to make one for my wife and son as well.

Then, I can sleep better knowing if something happens, my family and I will be safe and ready.

Do you think you're now ready to assemble your survival kit?

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