The purpose and theory behind the 72 hour kit is a sound idea. Have at least the bare minimum essential gear, food and water necessary to survive for no less than 72 hours per person in a bag that’s easy to carry. They are loosely based around the survival rules of three. One can survive three hours without shelter in harsh weather, three days without water, and three weeks without food. In the event of a serious emergency when you are compelled to leave your home quickly, with only minutes to prepare, just grab it, throw it in your vehicle and leave with only a moments notice.
Let me continue by saying; I don’t believe in 72 hour kits. It is likely that if you purchased a 72 hour kit years ago it’s nearly completely unusable now. Most of the “off the shelf ” kits are junk. If you tried to use some of the components in real world conditions they probably wouldn’t last a day. To put your life in the hands of a cheap kit and stuff you’ve never used is just plain foolish and could possibly cost you more than just the price of the kit.
A kit should be comprised of tools and supplies that you use regularly that are made to hold up to everyday use. Only with regular use and practice do you actually learn how to use your gear to survive when it becomes critical. Try this once with a cheap off the shelf 72 hour kit and you won’t be able to use it again. My advice; avoid them.
Secondly, 72 hours isn’t nearly enough in most circumstances. Thirdly (is that at word?), if you pigeonhole your survival into a 72 longer window there are only three things that you really need. Shelter, clean water and safety. Remember, you can go for up to 3 weeks without food. Some longer and some shorter depending upon our body fat composition. I carry my 72 hour kit around my waist. Some people could last through an entire winter. Most 72 hour kits do very poorly at taking care of the need for shelter as well as water, and most do nothing to address your personal or family safety. They contain items that are meant to provide the average person with at least a little bit of peace of mind. They do the opposite for me.
So, if you’re only prepared for an event that last only 72 hour, what happens if no one has come to your rescue after then? What is the status of your supplies and more importantly where is your mindset at that point? Is it really your strategy to put your life in the hands of strangers? Or even worse; the government?!
Here’s what I do. Learn from it, apply what you will and adapt according to your own needs and plans. There is no one-scenario-fits-all plan.
I have one bag. This bag is a “72 hour” kit, EDC kit, bug-home bag and even an INCH bag all at the same time. Call it my tool kit, survival kit, or go bag. What it is is a supplement to the EDC items I always carry on me, in my work bag and everything else I carry in my vehicle. My work and everyday situation does not take me far from my rig. Now, if i’m in the back country many of the supplies I’ll carry are oriented to helping me first to get back to my rig. Then the stuff I have in my rig are to help me get back to my home base where my family is, as well as the majority of my supplies.
The rig that I drive, that is pictured below, is a key part of our plan. It is very capable in both urban and off road environments and can overcome many obstacles of a disaster or SHTF scenario. It gives us an edge and the best chance of surviving the widest array of potential situations in our area. We also have a trailer that can be loaded up quickly if we need a fast exit for an extended period of time. If you’re gonna bug out this way you might as well go adequately prepared. Go heavy. I always keep the tank full at the end of the day and have additional fuel stored safely.
Realistically, how much weight can you carry on your back and how far and long can you carry it? How quickly can you move with it and how agile are you? Can you shoot accurately while moving and taking cover with it on? In virtually any SHTF of disaster scenario your personal safety and security will need to be a significant consideration.
My first layer is my EDC gear. Stuff I carry on my body at all times. This includes a quality pocket knife, 200+ lumen flashlight, handgun and additional magazine, swiss tool, wallet with cash, watch, cell phone, hat/ball cap, pocket survival kit, the specific kinds of clothes I wear and comfortable but tough shoes. The season dictates what additional layers I wear. Don’t forget the first of the survival rules of three. Shelter does not have to be a tent. It can be the vehicle you’re driving or a quality jacket and wearing the appropriate clothing.
My third layer is my vehicle. There is no reason you should have an empty trunk! The items I always carry include; a large first aid kit, a vehicle tool kit including jumper cables and other supplies, tire repair kit, folding solar panel (for charging small electronics or the vehicle battery) inverter, road flares, air compressor/CO2 tank, wool blankets, extra water, extra gas can, winch, recovery straps and shackles, large water filter, HAM and CB radios, and many other items. I carry a water bottle with me in my vehicle that is my primary water source each day. Remember, after shelter, water is the next most important consideration.
Here is a basic list of what I carry in this bag:
“Sawyer mini” water filter and water pouches.
Tarp – For shelter and water collection
Myler sleeping bag
Large fixed blade (5″+) survival knife – “Survival” knife refers to the style and purpose for which it was designed and made. (ESEE 5)
Small fixed blade (3″) survival knife – for small more delicate chores (Morakniv)
Signal mirror (has a lot more uses than just signaling)
Fire starting kit – ferro rod, lighters, matches, tinder, etc.
Extra handgun ammo (9mm)
Food ration bars
Flashlight and extra batteries (Fenix)
Pen and paper (write in the rain)
Work Gloves (Mechanics gloves)
First aid kit/supplies (Survival-Medical.com)
Contractor grade garbage bag
550 Paracord (100′)
Diamond knife sharpener
Small tool set
Ziplock freezer bags
UV Paqlite glow sticks
Add other items as you see fit or have the personal need.
I go through this kit every week. I add and I take away. I replace what has been used. If I have found a better option or better way of doing something then I make a change.
The most important part about this bag is the bag itself. Supplies will get used up and worn out and you’ll replace some of these components. But a quality bag is the foundation upon which the kit is built. That is why I chose the Maxpedition Riftcore for this particular use.
Don’t forget, the purpose of this kit is to augment all of my other layers but it also stands well on it’s own.
My fifth layer is our home base. This includes all of our food and water storage and other supplies including the food and supplies in our cupboards we eat and use everyday. It also includes our small garden out back. This layer also includes the community around us, our neighbors and other resources in the town we live.
Another kit I consider part of this same layer is our cook kit. It is a rugged container that is on a shelf in our garage. It contains a camping stove, fuel, utensils, cooking supplies and enough freeze dried meals for the entire family for a week. When we go camping this tote usually goes with us. If we need to jump in the vehicles and leave quickly it is at our fingertips. The food in this kit is freeze dried meals, like Mountain house meals sealed in foil pouches. They can be expensive but they taste great and have a shelf life from 3 to 7 years or possibly more. I make sure to include feel good foods like hot chocolate and freeze dried fruits.
The use and need for an actual 72 hour kit for most people is minimal. Sorry, it’s just not that easy. Having these different layers in place all the time will give you far more autonomy than 72 hours. Consider your circumstances and evaluate the possibilities. IF you truly have a situation that requires a bag that you can grab on your way out the door, that can hold everything you will need for only 72 hours just to survive, then build one yourself. If you only have yourself to be accountable for then that makes survival much easier. However, when your entire family counts on you then you had better do it right. Carefully consider your needs, do your research and then practice. Have all of your other layers ready and ensure sure they are ready all the time. This really isn’t a huge task. It’s called everyday preparedness and it has become a part of my lifestyle.
Do you have any other thoughts or comments? Please feel free to share.