10 Items to Have in a 72-Hour Survival Kit

survival kit


When the unthinkable strikes and you need to leave a location that is no longer safe for you or your family, a 72-hour survival kit is a necessity everyone should have on hand, young children included. Just like the name suggests, a 72-hour survival kit should enable you to survive and stay in optimal health for up to three consecutive days. 

Here are the ten absolute must-haves for your survival kit:

water bottles


1. Water

When packing a survival kit always follow the survivalist’s rule of threes: “One can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours in a harsh environment, 3 days without drinking water, and 3 weeks without food.” So, water should be on top of the list, especially in the heat of the summer. You want your survival kit to be as light as possible, so store the water in lightweight PET plastic bottles, instead of Nalgene bottles as Nalgene can add extra bulk and weight and eventually slow you down. 


2. Ready to Eat Meals

When an emergency situation arises in which you need to get as far away as possible, you won’t have time to pack food from the pantry.  Since you don’t know what life might throw at you, build your 72-hour survival kit as lightweight, compact, and easily accessible as possible. The same goes for bulky items like food. Pack only ready to eat meals that offer the highest number of calories per ounce of weight. The best meals are backpacking meals that are freeze-dried and only require hot, boiling water for a nutritious meal.

Be sure that you’ve tested these packed meals before disaster strikes, checking for allergies, ingredients (vegetarians/vegans), and expiration dates. You want to be sure that these meals are palatable and nutritious enough to keep you and your family going.



3. Metal Canteen or Bottle

A light metal canteen will allow you to harvest water from potentially contaminated water sources and boil it or make it safe to drink with help from a water filter or water treatment tablets. Dysentery is the last thing you want to worry about when in a highly stressful situation. You could also use the canteen to melt snow for water or to fill it with warm water to keep yourself warm on a chilly night.

4. Cotton Scarf/Shemagh or Bandana

A cotton scarf/shemagh or bandana is an absolute must-have survival tool. You can filter out dirt and debris from water with it, you can hold hot pots with it, turn it into a makeshift tourniquet, use it as a backup dish cloth, or as protection against sun exposure. Having just a simple piece of cotton cloth with many uses is vital when you’re in any emergency situation. 

5. Water Filter and Water Purification Tablets

You should have both a portable water filter and water treatment tablets in your 72-hour survival kit. Water filters are essential survival gear but they do have their downsides. Water filters require maintenance and can easily clog up if you don’t care for them properly. Sometimes these filtration kits come with many small parts that are often overlooked or left at home, which renders them useless. This is why you need both a water filter AND purification tablets.  Water is essential for survival! Water purification tablets are easy to use, work fast, and kill many pathogens that are found in water. The downside to these water purification tablets is that they don’t kill every pathogen (boiling is best for that), they don’t filter sediment from the water, and that if used often enough, can build up in your system and lead to ugly side-effects such as nausea, headaches, vomiting, and stomach pain. Use them sparingly and always check their expiration dates.

survival kit

6. Waterproof Matches and Fire Starters

Maintaining a constant body temperature is a golden rule of survival. You can survive up to 3 hours exposed to harsh elements such as subfreezing temps, bone chilling water, or extreme heat. In an emergency scenario, you may need to start a fire to keep yourself warm. Make sure that you have a box of waterproof matches and fire starters in your kit. Be sure to bring a backup lighter. Fire provides heat, water purification, and cooks your food so it’s imperative you have a good set of fire starters. 

7. Map and Compass

When the grid is down, you won’t have your phone to rely on for navigation. You will need a map and compass to navigate uncharted territory. Get a physical map and compass and learn how to use them before the unthinkable happens.


first aid kit

8. First Aid Kit & Medications 

To be prepared, add a basic first aid kit to your 72-hour survival kit. Also, it’s beneficial to learn how to use every item in the medical kit. Read up on basic first aid (or include a book of first aid in your kit) and know how to treat common injuries. If you are on prescription medication, add at least a month’s worth of pills to the survival kit. 

9. Lightweight Sleeping Bag and/or Emergency Blanket 

Wherever you rest your head at night, you will need a warm, comfortable, and protected place. Get an ultralight sleeping bag with a waterproof liner or a heat-retaining emergency blanket if sleeping out in open weather. Down sleeping bags are quite expensive but they are the most lightweight and insulating options out there. If you’re in a moist climate, it’s best to stick to a synthetic sleeping bag due to their water resistant properties. 

10. Survival Knife

Last but not least, a survival knife is a critical item to have in your 72-hour emergency survival kit. Just like a comfortable sleeping bag, getting the best survival knife for your money can literally save your life. A survival knife can be used to make tools and firewood, process food, defend yourself, adjust gear, and much, much more. 



The items listed above for a 72-hour emergency survival kit aren’t the only ones to bring; they are just the absolute must-haves. Feel free change and add to the list as you deem necessary. A good survival kit needs a lot of forethought to keep it lightweight and practical, and it may take years to get it right.

Be sure to test drive all the gear in your kit, just in case, so that if you actually have to use them, you know how. Also, refresh the inventory of perishables such as food, water purifying tablets, and medications before they reach their expiration dates.

Being prepared is the best thing you can do to protect yourself if the unthinkable happens. People who live in the area of tornadoes and hurricanes have survival kits. It’s never a bad idea to have one accessible. It could save you and your family’s lives!


Be Well and Happy Travels!



packing a survival kit

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