The Big WHY for 72 Hour Survival Kit Items

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Introduction: The Big WHY for 72 Hour Survival Kit Items

About: I'm "Survivor Jack™", since my NatGeo's "Doomsday Preppers" (S1E9) episode. Help me Please by viewing "Survivor Jack auditions for Ellen's DJ" ----- http://youtu.be/GxRAzS...

When a disaster strikes, Your Survival Tools are What-You-Know, What-You-Have-on-You, or what you can reach.

Why Carry a 72 Hours Survival Kit? (also known as "Get Home Bags" - GOOD BOBs <Get Out Of Dodge or Bug-Out-Bags> are usually larger and more inclusive.)

Most Disaster Scenarios are over in seconds, minutes or hours but Help may not reach you for 2-3 days.

MY GREATEST FEAR: Forget wind storms, fires, terrorism, etc for the moment. NASA (our space agency) says Solar Storms are strongly possible. On September 1–2, 1859, the largest recorded solar storm occurred. The flares set fire to telegraph lines and office in the US and Europe. Do you know anything with wiring?

Imagine - IF a Super Solar Flare (Mass Coronal Ejection) occurs, the first wave slams into our communications satellites. All cellphones and the entire Banking ATM system shuts down. When the solar flare strikes Earth, the electrical wave would overwhelm and burn out major sections of our electrical grids. Unprotected motors would burn out. IF cars were drivable, roads would be restricted to Military and Emergency Vehicles Only. How Far Might You Have to Walk to Get Home? or, to reach children, family or friends?

Step 1: The Basics of a Great 72 Hour Survival Kit or Bug Out Bag

FIRST LESSON: Ounces Add Up to Pounds and Pounds Add Up to Pain.

The size of your backpack should be based on what you can realistically carry - At A Minimum - to survive 72 hours or more.

The pictures below show my current two favorites. You can buy backpacks with Water Reservoirs. Daily I carry the 72 hour kit on the left with the two external pockets for water. One is full and the other is a "filtered water bottle" for a dip-and-drink scenario. <<It's ALWAYS best to boil water.>>

The larger, green 72 Survival Kit is called an Alice Bag and they come in various sizes. It has a light metal frame which supports your lower back. It's famous in the US military for its large, deep pockets.

Step 2: How to Select Your Basic Survival Kit Items

Use the Rule of 3 to understand your needs. You could be dead in
  • Three minutes without air (or from some wounds and extreme freezing conditions)
  • Three hours without shelter in severe weather
  • Three days without water
  • Three weeks without food
These command all of my 72 Hour bag choices. Remembering the "Pounds & Pain" rule, I'll look for survival kits items which have multiple purposes. In some emergency disaster gear, I demand 'back ups'. Let's start with the basics.

Step 3: Boil All Water - Fire Starters

Water Will Be A Major Issue! Humans are Walking Bags of Water.
In a major disaster, you may be faced with drinking from questionable sources. Your Best Rule is Always Boil Water. You must make fire. I suggest you carry at least three different methods: lighter, matches and a magnesium striker. WHY? Lighters can be defective or run out of fuel. Matches can be difficult in wind and bad weather. You do not want to rub sticks together. Even Survival Experts hate that one.

Magnesium can be carried safely in a small block, but when you scrap the edge into small grit, it will ignite with a spark. The striker is a metal bar that when struck by the edge of a knife, for example, causes that high temperature spark. The wooden handles version is slightly different. The wood is oil soaked and the scraper is used to strap the wood to form tender which lights easily, even after a half hour under water.

Another tip to accelerate fire starting is to carry Cotton rubbed with petroleum jelly. I carry them in old film canisters or prescription bottles, both of which are water-resistant.

The other benefits of fire are heat, cooking, medical, protection from animals and a signal for rescue.

Step 4: Always Boil Water - Except .....

Why Boiling? Preppers must face reality. Untreated water on this planet contains urine and feces from animals. The moment water reaches boiling, all of the biological organisms are dead.

What if Boiling is impossible? (Fleeing and you must keep moving / horrible weather) There are some alternatives. First, strain the 'dirty' water through: a coffee filter, mask or a piece of cloth.

There are water purification tablets - effective but often bad tasting. (Bad taste or death? I'll pick Life.)

There are a variety of Survival Grade Water filters which are portable. I carry a water bottle I could dip in a creek and drink from. There are even "Straw Filters" offered by International Human Aid organizations in areas without water treatment.

Step 5: Pack an Emergency First Kit & the Knowledge to Use It

In a Disaster, YOU are Your Doctor - until help arrives.

This is a harsh reality but the truth. In major disasters, you, your family and friends depend on one another for medical assistance. Take 1st Aid Training as soon as you can. You do not want to watch someone suffer without the ability to help.

Customize your medical kit for your 72 hour bag beyond basic band aids and alcohol swaps for simple wounds. Build from there. Only buy items you know how to use. Carry enough of your own prescriptions for two weeks, IF possible.

There are commercial kits available yet none that I've seen leave room for your medicine. If you buy a prepacked kit, ask yourself, "What is specific to me or my circumstances?" To illustrate, my wife has asthma. I carry extra inhalers in my kit, in case hers are lost or damaged.
For Example Only, IF I required medical injections, I would pack my needles in a Water-Proof, Floating Cigar Box Holder. I also carry spare glasses and a knee brace. What might you need?

Step 6: Survival Shelter in Your Kit

The Minimum is an Emergency Survival Blanket.  In ideal conditions, it can retain about 90% of your body heat. There are various sizes and qualities. They can also be used for shade and rain protection.

A Sturdy Poncho is Second. In addition to deflecting rain, it can also provide shade.

The Pink area in the photo is a large piece of hardy plastic which I put down to the ground. I cover that with a blanket for softness and to cut the chill from the Earth.

550 Paracord has a wide variety of uses. When tied between two tree or posts, you drape it with a poncho for a "quick tent". Or, cut branches with leaves and lean against it for a wind break (called a lean-to).

Step 7: The Importance of Survival Hats, Gloves and Clothes

Your Clothing Choices Can Save Your Life. The most commonly found item abandoned at 911 Ground Zero were High Heeled Shoes. Another good reason not to ruin your ankles - sorry Ladies. Clothes should Support your Chances of Survival, not hinder you.

Head covering is Vital. Select ones you like but understand Why each is important. The Climate at your locate.is your first consideration. My choices are different between the Arctic and the Sahara. The first location means keep heat in. The dessert requires let-heat-out, except at night. People forget that desserts are cold after dark.

I typically carry three types of gloves:
  • non-latex gloves for treating bloody wounds
  • work gloves to lower my risk of cutting my hands
  • weather appropriate gloves - highly insulated in cold, a full glove for + sun protection
Choosing your Clothes and Foot gear are based on the same weather considerations. I suggest you wear practical shoes daily but keep a pair of good boots in your car, office or home and hope you can reach them.

Carry extra socks. IF your primary Survival Clothes get wet or sweaty, you want to
  • Let Your Feet Dry Out (Could use spare shirt as towel)
  • Put on dry socks
  • Dry your wet socks by fire, if possible. Store in plastic bag if available
I think in terms of dressing in layers. Begin with a very light - T-shirt base then think full sleeve second layer. If that's a little too hot, roll up your sleeves. Regulate your body temperature to keep from sweating. Water is vital; don't waste it. Carry a jacket; Bungie cord it to your 72 Hour Survival Kit if necessary. I suggest carry spare shirt (different thickness), underwear and pants.

Step 8: Survival - Disasters Requires You to Supply Your Own Food at First


What YOU have on you - or can reach - is ALL anyone has to start with in an Emergency.

It's the reason - at 65 - I wear my full 72 hour bag when I walk-for-exercise around my neighborhood. I carry food and vitamins.

There are so many choices:
MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) - Military and Survivalist staple but not my favor
3600 Calorie Bars - designed to give you the maximum energy at a time when calories are important. Tastes? not my favorite. Read more before you buy either of these.

Stick with things you like and provide you good energy. IF the foods you carry contains 'live food', change it out frequently as they can spoil, especially in a hot car. There are many options. Learn and pick wisely.

Step 9: What Keeps Us Human? Toilet Paper and a Tooth Brush (part One)

In a survival situation, your 72 Hour Bag (or Bug Out Bag) should have everything you need to handle all normal biological functions.

I suggest you start with a "Mess Kit" (from Military, Camping, Hiking, Survival to Boy & Girl Scouts). Contained in a small, pouch is a mini-Kitchen. In addition to it's cooking and boiling duties, the kit provides protected, water resistant, storage space.

Look at the pictures to see what I packed into these cracks and containers.

Step 10: What Keeps Us Human? Light and Laughter (part Two)

All disasters cause us grave emotional distress.
WHY do you want to live through this Horror? In the darkest moments, you better have a reason. My family photo keeps me going when times are tough.

In your 72 Hour Bag, in addition to Your Photo, carry "Human Conveniences".
I picked a few items as illustrations:
Toilet Paper - many uses beyond the obvious (sanitation, clean wounds, fire starter, etc.) The core is removed to reduce weight.
Toothbrush - Take Care of Your Health - especially in an Emergency. I'll put this in a "Toothbrush" holder to carry.
Fire Starting Tool - Lighters fail and matches get lost or damaged. BE SMART - Have a Back Up System to Heat, Cook & Boil
Travel Candle (be careful in extreme heat of candle melting) - light & an easy way to start a cooking fire - reassuring also
LED - Light Emitting Diode bulbs don't burn out and use less power. Light is always a blessing in the dark of an emergency.
Glow Stick - this is a rechargeable version and won't glow as bright as the Chemical reaction ones. BUT All I have to do is run my LED up and down the body and the 'beads' inside recharge and glow for several hours.

What else would make you feel better? A Comb, a symbol of your religion, wet-wipes, .... that's customization.

Step 11: Weapons & the Wisdom of Warriors

Violence will only get you hurt; Avoid it at all costs.
Several martial arts instructors have told me, "If a man wants your wallet, give it to him. If a man wants to hurt you, run from him. IF he has you cornered, kill him." To win without fighting is the Greatest Victory. Tsun Tzu   Fighting is stupid; you can get injured and every cut can be life threatening. IF You Must Defend Yourself, End the Battle Quickly.

Weapons can Kill You - no, not the other guy - YOU.
IF you do not know how to - or you won't - use a gun, don't carry one. Guns and bullets are heavy. In my 72 hour bag, I want water, food, medicine and shelter. I have no gun.

I do recommend carrying several knives. My Primary Knife is "Full Tang" (from the tip of the blade to bottom of handle is one piece of metal) and 'large' for my size and strength. My secondary knives are found in my multifunction tool: one smooth and one serrated for sawing. I carry smaller back up knives in each back pack in each car. I favor the Clip Knife. I can "clip it" to my belt, shirt, pants or socks. The design of the Clip Knife makes it easy to open with one hand; useful if your other arm is injured.

In the back of my photo, you will see one of my sling shots. Sling Shots Are Deadly Dangerous and Illegal in Most Cities. These are high velocity, projectile weapons. Sling shots are human powered Guns. I only carry these when I'm traveling into areas with wild animals AND I am in a situation where a gun is inappropriate. (hiking or biking in a group) A sling shot takes practice in a highly secured location. Once I learned this weapon, I can shoot a wide range of "calibers" for defense, dinner or distraction. (PS: if the 'rubber' bands break, I can use paracord to make a hand-slung version, or the David and Goliath sling shot.)

MAJOR SURVIVAL RULE: You Are Only as Sharp as Your Knife. << Aron Ralston's Worst Lesson >>

Step 12: Customize the Rest of Your Survival Kit ... & Some Ideas

WATER is Always Your 1st Priority when packing. How much can you carry? Can you find more on the way to home? to safety?

My first customize is CASH. IF the disaster takes out ATMs, cash is your only way to buy water or a ride, if available.

IF you carry a mess kit, remember to include the utensils, which are helpful in several ways.

I'm the Snow White of Survival Preparedness Teachers. I've got to carry sunscreen. It's saved me a few times when I've run out.

My wife is a city girl and nervous in the wilds. A glow stick can make the difference in her stress level. Our 6" stick fits perfectly in a traditional, round toothbrush carrier. The question - think of Haiti or Japan's Earthquakes - is Always: "What would I want with me if my world falls apart?"

  Here are some other optional survival items:
  • Can Opener (often in multifunction tools)
  • Shovel - handy for holes but 'heavy' for some
  • Radio - Hand Cranked is smart & with batteries is ok (keep them fresh)
  • Pen, Paper and Sharpie - you may need to make notes, or leave them (Sharpie great for arrows 0r to name a 2nd location)
  • Axe - handy but 'too heavy' for many
  • Female hygiene needs - good not only for its primary sanitation function, but pads can double as Large Wound bandages . (Navy Seal's Tip)

Step 13: Travel Light But Walk About Prepared

Be Creative!
I carry a Sleeping bag in my car. IF I were forced to abandon my car, I'd use (bungee or para...) cords to attach it to my 72 hour bag, even if it wasn't designed for it. I can.carry the weight. This will help me at night when temperatures drop. Weight vs Warmth. Comfort and heat win.

Communications can be vital if you are separated. Jacquie and I have an old pair of walkie-talkies. We trade out the batteries every Halloween, along with our smoke detector batteries. .

Another form of communications is your phone list and alternate locations. Here's your Worst Case Scenario (in good weather). The Disaster happens when you are both at work. Who picks up the children? The Parents? IF your home base is impossible to reach (wildfires, terrorist attack, blizzard, chemical spill, Nuclear disaster), where would you meet? Pick 3 alternate locations and have people with phones out side of state or your effected area.

IF you lack a Disaster Plan for yourself or family, read my Reviews.

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    97 Comments


    Recently I bought this Emergency Survival Kit, In my opinion, it's convenient and reliable, I love survival whistle, Includes led Flashlight and Multi Function tools card. I got this code "PD10" and got a 10% discount. http://patriotdeal.com/products/sos-emergency-kit

    Nice instructable.

    Two things I'd add are:

    1. You need to practice things that you don't do every day. If you don't build fires often, you don't want to learn how to do it in a survival situation.

    2. You need to be functionally in shape. You can have all the supplies in the world, but if you don't have the physical strength or stamina to get out of harm's way, you won't be able to make use of them.

    Neither of these require much money, but do require time and effort on your part.

    You're basically right, but please...this is meant constructively...check your spelling! You sound 10X more authoritative if you don't have misspellings littering your pages. Most web browsers (I use Chrome) will underline a misspelled word in red. Just right-click and it'll give you the correct spelling.

    An added bit of info -- there are problems with cheap knockoff Chinese "magnesium" bars! They simply do not ignite, and may not be magnesium, but something like aluminum, which the sparks from a ferro rod will NOT light. It's best to spend a few extra bucks on a Doan brand magnesium block, or just get a GOOD quality, large and thick ferrocerium striker rod and use another tinder such as petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls or waxed cotton makeup applicator pads.

    I just spent an afternoon learning how my firemaking tools actually function in use. The magnesium from my bar did not ignite. I need to replace it with one that WILL ignite when I need it to -- but I had vaselined cotton balls, and THOSE worked. Replace paracord pulls on zippers with *FIRE CORD*, and you'll have lots of little bits of tinder that will ignite even when wet. And a tin of Live Fire will save your butt in an emergency.

    1 reply

    still nothing more simple then waxed self striking matches (simple) or just real fine steel wool and a simple battery in your bob.oh and lighters are so darn cheap and small toss a few in the bob . or 2 in your pockets .... you can keep your fire started and bow string I will have a fire in a min even in bad weather ... lol

    just a question why haven't you taken all your food susplies out of their packets, doing this a save weight b saves space and c less rubbish to take care of

    I like the flavor of Datrex bars. They remind me of the Christmas cookies my Mom brought home from the bakery she worked at when I was a kid.

    Well planned and well thought out. Excellent thought put into the logic of each piece that goes into the "get-home" bag.

    1 reply

    Thank You for your kind thoughts. I'm working on another piece for after the Holidays.

    PS: Help me get a Prepper on Ellen. Watch Survivor Jack's Ellen DeGeneres DJ Audition 2:47. You’re paid with Smiles, one Groan and some Laughs by watching: http://youtu.be/GxRAzSbcBiY

    IF YOU LAUGH, "Like" below my video.

    Thank You!
    Survivor Jack

    Hey Jack

    Great stuff. I'm studying and learning as much as I can about the 72 hour bag and am slowly putting one together. I agree with you on the gun issue. I struggle with it, but I really don't want to put one in the bag. I'd prefer evasion and camouflage. It was very refreshing to read that you don't agree with it to, as so many of the blogs and sites almost seem to start with the "get yourself a gun" idea. Lots of people want one and I respect their right to have one, but I don't think it would be right for me. Just sayin'. Again, great stuff. Thanks.

    1 reply

    Thank You for being IN the Conversation about weapons. It is a personal decision. My first major gift as a child was .410 shotgun. I love guns as a tool, design and equalizer. I worry about untrained people who think a Gun = Preparedness. The more you know; the less you need.

    i would just like to add that keeping a generic condom in your bag is a good idea as it can hold a lot of water.

    1 reply

    An excellent suggestion. People really are surprised when they realize the amount of water and it is very light to carry. BEWARE: many condoms have lubricant and anti-spermacide. I would wash throughly first IF I were forced to this option.

    Good info in general, but I must disagree partially with your stance on weapons.

    I do agree that avoiding conflict should be a primary strategy, but there are times when this isn't possible. As far as your weapons being used against you, this happens when the person carrying the weapon is either not properly trained in its use, or has the wrong mindset and hesitates.

    A few things to consider- while I believe a total 'without rule of law' scenario is EXTREMELY unlikely, if either it does happen, or even a Katrina type disaster, being able to defend yourself, and your family is VERY important.

    Especially for someone like yourself, being 65 or so, a weapon like a gun is really the only viable tool. Even Chuck Norris can't effectively fight off 3-5 or more guys unarmed. Also, the truth of the matter is, just pulling it is enough to make the vast majority of assailants cease & desist. Stats show that most self defense incidents where a law abiding citizen that pulls a firearm to defend against a mugger never actually even fire a shot.

    Something to consider, is that if someone, or a small group want to take your supplies & gear, they may in fact be KILLING YOU just by taking them. What if they take the last of your food & water? What if they take your vital medicines? You think they're going to be nice and let you take them out before they rob you? You think they won't just shoot or stab you because they don't like your race, religion, etc? You think they might not like to take turns on your wife because they think she's cute? I don't know about you, but I don't go looking for trouble, I don't take peoples things, and I expect they not do it to me. If I have to use lethal force to defend myself and my loved ones, it's only because THEY FORCED MY HAND AND GAVE ME NO OTHER CHOICE.

    Do yourself a favor, get a good firearm, get good training from a reputable instructor, and only use it when your life depends on it. Only use it when no other alternatives exist- you can't get away, and you can't talk your way out. You don't need to be a George Zimmerman looking for trouble. You can be someone who goes out of your way to avoid trouble, but be prepared when trouble comes looking for you.

    Some of us who are police, current & ex-military, and sportsmen who've had extensive training believe that a firearm really is the best tool for the job. Yes, sometimes pepper spray or other implements can work, but a gun is the king of self protection. They also can be used for hunting for food & skins/fur, they can be used for signaling, & fire starting.

    1 reply

    >>> I must disagree partially with your stance on weapons.

    Hi Southpaw69:

    Weapons are personal and I agree with every reason you gave to carry a gun.

    >>> police, current & ex-military, and sportsmen who've had extensive training believe that a firearm really is the best tool for the job.

    All of these people are trained to carry, use and clean guns. The rest of us? Not so much. I was a Marine for a few weeks until my knee injury which has turned into arthritis.

    Ounces add up to Pounds;
    Pounds add up to Pain.


    I carry several weapons on me and in my survival kits - not a gun. "Survivor Jack", this Survival Character I've created, looks at 'disasters' from rest-of-us point of view.  War or societal break downs are possible.

    SInce 99.99% of us will deal with far more common emergencies, Survivor Jack recommends skills like 1st Aid and basic survival training. My DIY kits are aimed at ages and situations for mature children, the disabled and handicapped to the elderly.

    IF society breaks down, then guns WILL be a major issue.  This is why I am more prepared for a Survive in Place scenario in that event.  

    I appreciate your feedback.  Everyone should look at all sides of this issue of self protection and at Least learn martial arts.

    Thanks for being willing to teach others.  I appreciate you.

    Also, 3 whistle blows, 3 flashes of a signal mirror or 3 logs in a triangle means distress. I would also include red rope, red is the international distress color.

    1 reply

    When I think of "Sound" signalling, I would alternate 3 Shorts - 3 Longs. You are using Morse Code by repeating SOSOSOSO.

    The current International Distress color is bright orange but many experts are moving toward Florescent Green. It can be seen further away.

    You are forgetting 3 seconds of stupidity. (Wandering off of a cliff, falling from a tree, peeing on an electric fence, or robbing a gun shop.)

    1 reply

    You've been watching "A 1000 Ways to Die" reality show, haven't you?

    You are right, Gcamper. Human stupidity trumps Nature.

    Thanks for the laughs!

    Hard Candy can have several uses. It's part of the "keep me human" philosophy. Candy is calories and in an emergency, every 'good' calorie counts. I've lost about 90 lbs. Those were 'bad' calories.

    IF I'm low on water, sucking a hard candy provides me saliva and the illusion I've 'gained water'. It buys me time psychologically, cleans my palate (think of dust after 9-11) and gives me a little sugar rush.

    IF I needed to create a distraction to escape a crowd, I might throw / 'slingshot' behind them for noise, or drop candies and coins (cash) in their path to slow them - hopefully. (It is Best to Win the War without Fighting. Sun Tsu)

    When I look at my "Survival EDC" (Every Day Carry) items, I always want to see "multifunction tools". Hard Candy gives me options AND I haven't mentioned that hard candy has helped diabetics regulate their blood sugar.

    The question is ALWAYS.  "Does this item provide me with a physical or psychological advantage worth the weight I'll be forced to carry?"  Ounces Add Up To Pounds and Pounds Add Up To Pain.  Are hard candies worth their weight to YOU?

    Live Life for Its Best; but Prepare for Its Worst!