It may not be immediately obvious why you need some of the items on this list or how to use them. Here are brief explanations of why we think they deserve to be on your bug in checklist.
Short-term Water Storage
Bottled water: Store-bought bottled water is cheap and convenient, but it takes up a lot of space. Keep a few cases per person on hand for short-term emergencies. It's also wise to keep a refillable water bottle on hand.
Bathtub water storage liner: For about $20, you can get large, plastic liners for your bathtub that can hold about 50 gallons of water — provided you have enough warning to fill them up before your main water supply shuts off.
Water purification tablets: These tablets come in tiny bottles and they're inexpensive. Drop them into rainwater or reasonably clean river water to make it safe to drink.
Long-term Water Storage
Rain barrels or cistern: Collecting rainwater in large containers is pretty easy and affordable, although it will take significant effort to make it drinkable. Consider using rainwater primarily for bathing and laundry.
Large potable water tank: 500 to 1,000-gallon potable water tanks cost roughly $1 per gallon of capacity and are among the most space-efficient ways to store months' worth of water.
Standalone water purification system: Water filtration and purification systems that can support an entire family for six months or longer are expensive, but they're worth the investment if you can spare the cash.
Cooking Tools and Appliances
Wood stove or simple gas stove: MREs are all well and good, but home-cooked meals are one of the best ways to maintain a balanced diet and to keep your morale high throughout a prolonged emergency.
Fuel: Make sure you have enough wood or propane to keep your stove going for about six months. If you intend to use the same stove for light and heat, budget extra fuel for those purposes, too.
Basic assortment of pots and pans: At minimum, you'll need a skillet or saucepan and a few pots to cook with, as well as essential utensils like spatulas and spoons.
Dehydrator: You can get a basic dehydrator for under $100, and it's a great way to make your own jerky, trail mix and other tasty treats with long shelf lives.
Disposable plates and cutlery: In any emergency lasting longer than a week or so, you probably won't have the water (or the desire) to wash dishes every day.
Short-term Food Options
Frozen meat and vegetables: Of course, you should eat your most perishable food first during a crisis.
Long-term Food Options
MREs or freeze-dried meals: These can get expensive — about $15 per meal — but they're decently nutritious, reasonably tasty and they last up to ten years.
Canned meats, fruits and vegetables: You can buy canned goods or do the canning yourself. Either way, canned food should last 2-3 years if stored properly.
Non-perishable foods: Dry goods such as beans and rice are cheap, calorie-dense and space-efficient — just make sure you have enough water and fuel on hand to cook them.
Crop seeds, fertilizer and basic gardening tools: Growing your own food is a difficult and time-consuming skill, so be sure to study and practice long before a hypothetical emergency becomes a real one.
Livestock and appropriate feed: If you've got the land and the knowledge to raise cows, pigs, chickens or other useful animals, take some time to put together a detailed plan for how you'll keep them fed and healthy during a crisis.
Short-term Waste Disposal
Manual flush bucket: As long as the plumbing in your house and your local sewer system still work, you may as well use them. If you have water to spare, you can flush your toilet manually by pouring in roughly a gallon.
5-gallon bucket toilets: With a 5-gallon bucket and an inexpensive toilet seat, you can have a functional, short-term toilet (albeit one that's not fun to clean).
Shovel for waste burial and latrine digging: Always bury waste at least a foot below the surface in a designated disposal area — deeper, if you live in an area with lots of wildlife. Never use an open latrine if you can avoid it; they can pose health risks and attract dangerous animals.
Cat litter: In sufficiently large quantities, cat litter in your outhouse or bucket toilet can help control odors and make cleanup easier.
Long-term Waste Disposal
Chemical toilet or outhouse: Of these two options, an outhouse is less sanitary, but it's a lot less expensive to build and maintain.
Sanitation and maintenance chemicals: If you decide to go the chemical toilet route, do lots of research and make sure you know what chemicals you'll need, how much and what they cost.
Gas generator: As we discussed in our guide to creating a bug in plan, keeping your home powered up during an extended emergency has major pros and cons. If you decide to keep the lights on, invest in a high-quality, reliable generator.
Fuel for generator: Most generators run on either gasoline or diesel. Both can be stored for a year at most, under ideal conditions, so make sure you regularly use and replace this fuel.
Generator patch panel: Running your home on a generator is much easier if you wire it directly into your main breaker box, which requires a special patch panel (and an expert electrician, so hire one if you can't do this safely).
Solar panels, wind turbines or water wheels: Alternative power sources work great in some situations but are useless in others. Research the pros and cons carefully before deciding whether to invest in non-fossil-fuel power.
Batteries to store excess power: Batteries large enough to store sufficient power to run your entire home for several days are really expensive, but they'll be a godsend if you ever desperately need power during an emergency.
Lighting and Heating
Flashlights and extra batteries: Standard, battery-powered flashlights are one of the most efficient and cost-effective temporary light sources.
Candles: On their own, candles don't provide much light, but they are cheap.
Aluminum reflectors: Position your candles near some basic reflectors made of disposable pie tins and they'll provide much more light over a larger area.
Hand-crank lantern or power bank: Lights and power packs that can be charged with kinetic energy (usually in the form of a hand crank) aren't very efficient, but they also don't require any form of pre-generated electricity, so they're an excellent "plan C" for lighting.
Glowsticks: Sometimes, flashlights and lanterns are too bright. If you don't want your lights to draw unwanted attention from far away, regular glowsticks can do the trick.
Gas or wood-burning fireplace: Built-in and freestanding fireplaces provide much-needed light, and if you live in a cold area, having everyone sleep in the same room around the fireplace can save a lot of fuel or electricity because you don't need to heat the rest of the house.
Propane for gas fireplace: If you have a gas fireplace, stock plenty of propane to keep it going. Large, outdoor tanks connected to a permanent supply line are more cost-efficient in the long run, but portable tanks are cheaper up front and easier to store.
Blankets and warm clothing: Sometimes, the best ways to stay warm are the simplest and cheapest.
HAM radio: You can find a basic HAM radio for about $300, and it could be a valuable tool for establishing contact with first responders or other survivalists during an emergency.
Walkie talkies: You should never split up your party during an emergency if you can avoid it. For those times when you can't avoid it, have personal radios on hand so you can stay in touch over short distances.
Ammunition: Stockpile at least a few hundred rounds of ammunition for each of your firearms and be sure to store it in cool, dry containers.
Bows: Recurve and compound bows take a lot of practice to master, but they have several advantages over firearms. Consider diversifying your arsenal.
Cleaning supplies: If your guns aren't clean, they'll be more prone to malfunctions and permanent damage. Also, be sure to check out our guide on gun cleaning and maintenance basics.
Melee weapons: Survival knives, machetes, baseball bats and the like can all be affordable and effective self-defense weapons for close-range encounters.
Motion sensors: If you want to get fancy, install motion sensors outside your home that you can connect to lights or alarm systems.
External floodlights: A well-stocked home — especially one that has power — is a tempting target for looters during an emergency. Fortunately, though, most are only interested in undefended targets; bright lights can be an effective deterrent in some cases.
Basic alarm system: Alarm systems can be primitive, high-tech or anywhere in between. Something as simple as tripwires attached to wind chimes can alert you if people or animals cross your property.
Hammers, shovels, saws, axes, small hand tools, crowbars, nails and screws: A tool chest or cabinet stocked with basic tools is extremely useful for making any number of repairs or improvements to your home and equipment. A good multi-tool can even do the job of many of these tools in one.
Reinforcement materials: If you live in an urban or suburban area, you may want to be ready to board up your windows or barricade your doors in the event of a serious crisis.
IFAKs (individual first aid kits, one per person)
Acetaminophen: Most commonly marketed as Tylenol, acetaminophen is a general-purpose painkiller and fever reducer. It's best for headaches and non-muscular pain.
Ibuprofen: Also known as Advil, ibuprofen is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) that's good for muscle pain and general soreness.
Antihistamines: Drugs like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and loratadine (Claritin) can help prevent or treat some kinds of allergic reactions.
Antiseptics: An antiseptic is an antimicrobial cleansing agent applied to living tissue; chlorhexidine and hydrogen peroxide are common examples. Use them to disinfect and clean wounds.
Antibiotics: Medications capable of actively combating bacterial infections are generally only available by prescription, but there are a few exceptions, such as over-the-counter Neosporin.
GI meds: Coming down with diarrhea, heartburn or other forms of gastrointestinal distress during a bug in situation is deeply unpleasant. Multipurpose GI medications like bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) can treat most such symptoms.
Burn salves: Aloe vera gel and petroleum jelly dressings can protect burned tissue, keep it clean and reduce pain.
NPA/OPA: Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal airway adjuncts (NPAs and OPAs) are simple devices that you can easily learn to use. They're for helping an unconscious person maintain an open airway.
Bandages: An assortment of triangle bandages, pressure dressings and gauze pads should be sufficient to treat most minor cuts and scrapes.
QuickClot: QuikClot is a hemostatic (anti-bleeding) powder sold over the counter. Applied directly to wounds, it can stop even severe arterial bleeding.
Tourniquets: If other methods fail to stop severe bleeding, you may have to resort to a tourniquet. Combat application tourniquets (CATs) are highly effective, easy to use and inexpensive.
Sutures or staples: Learning how to properly suture or staple severe cuts takes practice; ripped pillows and couch cushions are a good place to start.
Trauma shears: These specialized scissors are designed to cut clothing but not skin, for easier access to a patient's wounds.
Irrigation syringes: These are usually 10cc syringes prefilled with sterile saline for cleaning open wounds.
Tweezers: Useful for suturing, tweezers are also good for more mundane treatments such as removing splinters and cactus needles.
Splints: Sprains and fractures need to be immobilized to heal properly.
Needle decompression kit: Knife or bullet wounds to the chest can cause a tension pneumothorax, a life-threatening injury. Read up on how to treat this condition with needle decompression in our guide to individual first aid kits.
Stockpile of prescription medications: Most doctors will happily prescribe extra refills of non-narcotic medications if you tell them it's for your personal emergency supply. Be sure to replace these meds as they expire.
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