Store-bought emergency kits can have a place in disaster planning. I look at it like this – the best kits are the ones you assemble yourself, taking into account your individual circumstances, including your experience level, skill sets, and such. However, a good quality store-bought kit can give you a jump start and get you moving in the right direction.
The problem has been the number of inferior kits on the market. You’ve seen them online and on the shelves of various stores. For just $19.95 you can have a 275 piece kit that has all you need to survive any number of calamities! Of course, 260 of those items are adhesive bandages but they don’t make that obvious. Most of the other items are of such poor quality even the dollar store would decline to carry them.
When I agreed to help Cyalume Technologies design their emergency kits, I did so with an eye toward assembling a kit filled with good quality gear, not just dollar store nonsense. The primary purpose of these emergency kits is for use when sheltering in place at home or work. The idea is to have the kit stashed someplace convenient so it is ready to go when needed. However, we used large, great quality backpacks to contain the kits so that, should the need arise, they can be easily grabbed on the way out the door, such as during an evacuation.
We developed two models, a 2 person and a 4 person. Let’s take an in depth look at the kit contents.
4 person kit – 24 servings
2 person kit – 12 servings
Each kit contains Datrex brand water pouches. One pouch contains 125ml or 4.2oz of pure water. The pouches are durable and will withstand cycles of freeze and thaw. This emergency supply of water is just that, for emergency use when you have no other source available. It should be treated as your backup supply and used for drinking only.
Sawyer water filter
4 person kit – Sawyer Squeeze
2 person kit – Sawyer Mini
Sawyer has been the water filtration provider of choice for survivalists and preppers for a while now. Their products are reliable and don’t take up a ton of room in a kit. The Squeeze will work as a gravity filter as well as inline with a hydration pouch or just squeezing water through the filter into your bottle. It comes with two 32oz reservoirs. The Mini works great for one or two people and comes with a 16oz reservoir.
Mountain House freeze-dried food
4 person kit – 24 servings
2 person kit – 12 servings
As with the Datrex water pouches, these freeze-dried meals should be viewed as your backup supply of sustenance. In an emergency, you’ll want to first consume the food in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry before it goes bad. That said, don’t be afraid to break out one of these Mountain House meals and prepare it, just to check out the taste and such.
Morakniv Companion knife
One knife in each kit
One of the most important tools in a survival situation is a dependable knife. The Mora Companion has long been the blade of choice for survivalists due to its robust construction and dependable quality. We chose the orange color so it would stand out when you set it down, making it easy to find again.
4 person kit – 8 lights
2 person kit – 4 lights
SnapLights are excellent options for emergency lighting. They give off no heat and pose no danger whatsoever. The SnapLights included in these kits will glow for 12 full hours.
4 person kit – 2 flashlights
2 person kit – 1 flashlight
SnapLights are great but flashlights allow you to focus light where it is needed most. For example, when you’re working on a quick repair or you are investigating a noise outside. These LED flashlights use 3 AAA batteries (included) and are very bright. The beam can be widened or focused by sliding the head back and forth.
4 person kit – 2 lanterns
2 person kit – 1 lantern
Lanterns provide ambient light, great for reading or playing board games with the family. These LED lanterns are powered by 3 AA batteries, easily changed when needed by unscrewing the bottom of the lantern. The lantern is turned on by pulling the top up, raising the LED lights inside. The higher you go, the brighter the light. The handles allow you to hang the light if desired.
First aid kit
4 person kit – 1 first aid kit
2 person kit – 1 first aid kit
The first aid kit provided will handle routine scrapes, bumps, and bruises. It includes bandages of various sizes, gauze pads, nitrile gloves, and some basic medicines. Adjust the contents of the first aid kit to reflect your own situation, such as adding more pain relievers, stomach upset meds, and such.
4 person kit – 16 wipes
2 person kit – 8 wipes
Water is a precious resource, especially during an emergency. If the supply is limited, you won’t want to use any of it for bathing and instead you’ll conserve it for drinking and food prep. These bath wipes will help keep you feeling at least reasonably human until the crisis is over.
4 person kit – 4 blankets
2 person kit – 2 blankets
While most people probably have an abundance of blankets at home, this kit takes into account the possibility that you’ll need to evacuate at moment’s notice. As such, you may end up in less than desirable accommodations for a night or two. Emergency blankets aren’t soft and cuddly but they work well at keeping you alive when the temperature drops. They are designed to reflect your body heat back toward you.
Portable stove and cookware
4 person kit – 1 stove and cookware
2 person kit – 1 stove and cookware
In a grid down scenario, your microwave oven won’t be working. Neither will an electric stove top or oven. Patio grills are a good option but can be inefficient if you’re just heating up water or soup. The stove included in these kits uses twigs, branches, and other natural fuels found all around you to cook your food and boil water. The stove folds flat when not in use. The cookware consists of two small pots that nest together quite nicely. The handles are coated so as to provide a cool touch surface when in use. The silicone bowls are collapsible, which is pretty cool. Also included are fork/spoon utensils.
4 person kit – 1 rod
2 person kit – 1 rod
A ferro rod is a very reliable tool for lighting a fire. Hold the scraper in one hand, just above your tinder. Place the rod tight against the scraper, with the scraper on top. Pull the rod toward you firmly but quickly. A shower of sparks will rain down on your tinder. It takes a few tries to get the hang of it. Also, note that the rod is coated with a thin layer of paint so the first few pulls you may not see any sparks. Once the paint is removed, it should spark quite easily. You’ll need a way to light a fire when using your portable stove and having this in your kit is a great backup to a disposable lighter.
4 person kit – 4 pouches
2 person kit – 2 pouches
Instafire is one of my very favorite store-bought tinder products (see my full review here). It is extremely easy to use and a little goes a long way. It is waterproof, non-toxic, and environmentally safe. Just an all around great products.
4 person kit – 4 whistles
2 person kit – 2 whistles
A whistle is a great tool for signaling for help. It is louder than a vocal shout and won’t tax the vocal cords. If disaster hits and you break out your kit, give a whistle each family member, just in case. If they end up trapped or they get lost during an evacuation, the whistle can be used to help searchers find them.
Obviously, any store-bought kit still needs to be tweaked. First, upon receiving the kit get familiar with the contents. Know how to use each item properly and safely. Read through the included instructions and test each component.
Add items to personalize your kit so it is best suited for you and your family. A list of important phone numbers, copies of important documents saved on a flash drive, a small game or toy for the kids in the family, that sort of stuff. Maybe add an extra set of batteries for each light, too.
Make a plan. Know what you’ll do when an emergency strikes. Use the Sustain Supply kit to augment your disaster supplies and be ready to handle life’s curve balls.