When Disaster Strikes: Putting Together A Basic Emergency Toolkit

Trouble could be waiting just around the corner. We don’t like to think about it, of course, but a wide number of potential disasters could occur at any moment: fire, storm, flood, drought, earthquake, car accident, lost in the woods, etc. Some of these are location-specific, but one thing is true: no matter where you live, an emergency toolkit is crucial.

Would you be able to survive a disaster? Maybe, maybe not. If you’re unprepared, you leave it up to chance, and is that something you really want to do? A little bit of effort now could drastically increase your chance to survive later on. “Now is not a good time,” you might say. “I’m busy.” Well, that’s the thing about emergencies: they strike when you’re least expecting, so now is actually the best time to put a kit together.

It’ll be easy and it won’t cost you much. Here’s what you’ll need. Note that all prices in this article are in USD.

The Essentials

Every kit should include the essentials in order to take care of your most basic human needs: food, water, and shelter.

  • Each person needs a minimum of 1 gallon (~3.8 L) of water per day.
  • Food should be non-perishable, meaning they’ll last about 3 days without refrigeration. Emergency food should not require cooking as fire is not a guarantee in such a situation. Canned food will last a long time, but make sure to include a can opener.
  • Shelter can be difficult to keep in a kit, but raingear and sturdy shoes are important in cases of inclement weather or rough terrain. If possible, keep a sealed plastic bag with a change of clean clothes.
  • Ideally, a first aid kit should be included in case of serious injury.

That may not seem like much, but it’ll keep you alive for at least a few days which should be enough time to find help in most situations. Now that we’ve taken care of the essentials, let’s cover some awesome tools and products that will be sure to come in handy in any life-threatening emergency.

Extreme Weather Sleeping Bag [$50]


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A sleeping bag rated for extreme outdoor weather is about as close to a ready-made shelter as you’ll ever get. Most sleeping bags are rated anywhere from 40F to 60F (4.5C to 15.5C) and some will even go down as far as 20F (-6.5C), but ideally you want one that’s rated for 0F (-17.5C) weather.

You never know in which season emergency will hit and sleeping through a winter night in a thin sleeping bag is not something you want to do – especially if you end up being caught out for many days in a row. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Just keep in mind that a sleeping bag is not a true shelter. If it rains or snows, you’re going to be in for a miserable time without a roof over your head.

Strike Fire Starter [$16]


A strike fire starter is one that produces extremely hot sparks when struck, usually with the blunt side of a knife. These are incredibly useful when you’re stuck out in nature after a disaster since they’re light, portable, and pretty much foolproof. They’ll produce sparks even when wet and the sparks will be hot enough to ignite damp material.

Never underestimate the importance of fire in an emergency situation where you are caught without proper shelter. Fire provides warmth in the cold, light when it’s dark out, and psychological comfort.

LED Headlamp [$20]


After the essentials, light is arguably the most important element of a survival toolkit. There’s no way to avoid the darkness of night and most emergency situations will render you without electricity. Surviving is tough without light and it’s made even tougher when you don’t have both hands available, which is why a headlamp is so much more useful than a regular flashlight.

The reason you want an LED headlamp, as opposed to any other headlamp, is that LED lights last a relatively long time. With 3 AAA batteries, the above headlamp will last over 140 hours of total burn time. If you only keep it on a few hours a night, that’s over a month without needing to replace batteries.

Nylon Paracord [$8]


Paracord is a cheap addition to any survival toolkit, yet its bang-for-the-buck factor is phenomenal. For just a few bucks, you can massively improve your survival versatility since paracord is useful for lashing things together, hanging items, keeping organized, and even supporting the weight of a human.

Could you just use regular rope or twine instead? Sure you could, but paracord is specifically made to be tough, rugged, and long lasting. Plus, for as strong as paracord is, it’s surprisingly thin and portable – you’d need a much thicker and heavier rope to accomplish the same.

Mylar Thermal Blankets [$7]


Mylar thermal blankets, which are sometimes referred to as “space blankets,” should be a staple in any emergency toolkit. They’re extremely effective at reflecting heat, so they’ll keep you warm if you can get your skin up against it, and they’re waterproof, which means you can use them for protection. The Mylar material is durable enough to do that.

But the main reason to keep these in your toolkit is that they take up almost no space at all. They can be folded and compacted so tightly that you’ll be able to store them anywhere. There’s no excuse not to have some of these at the ready.

Hand Crank Generator [$60]


This last emergency item is for those of you who just can’t live without your electronics. Not like anyone will be playing video games while surviving and seeking help, but smartphones, radios, flashlights, and other electronic devices will eventually lose their charge. Thankfully, it’s nice to know that it’s possible to charge electronics in an emergency.

The hand crack generator allows you to manually turn a crank to generate a charge. You’ll need to crank for a while to get a lot of energy out of it, but it’s better than nothing. At the very least it should be enough to restore a dead smartphone long enough to make contact and locate others.


When you’re facing the aftermath of a disastrous situation, will you be ready with an emergency toolkit? It’s much too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “it’ll never happen to me,” so please prepare while you still can. We rarely have the fortune of knowing about an impending disaster before it hits.

What other items would you include in a basic emergency toolkit? Do you have any stories of an emergency toolkit that came to the rescue? Please share with us in the comments!

Image Credits: DVIDSHUB Via Flickr

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