By Dan Kidder
My mother recently was getting concerned about the state of the world and met a con man who convinced her she needed his top of the line 72-hour kit. After shelling out too much money, what she got in return was a duffle bag full of junk you wouldn’t survive a rainstorm with, let alone a real emergency that required you to flee your home and head into the wilderness
As a result of her purchasing fiasco, I endeavored to find the very best gear to create the ultimate Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) kit for any type of emergency you could encounter. We ended up creating 3 kits, the Ultimate, The Great, and the Good, for a variety of costs. Not everyone is concerned enough to spend the kind of money needed to build the Ultimate kit and some people are willing to spend any amount to have the best gear to handle anything society or mother nature can throw at them. The key thing to remember is that our Ultimate kit is not a set in stone solution, but that the kits can be mixed or matched in any combination that suits the needs of you and your family
Another thing to keep in mind is that while a handful of items in a water bottle or a tin can mean the difference between life or death in the wilderness, having the right gear can mean a miserable time of surviving, or a bearable time of enduring some minor discomfort while you wait for rescuers to get to you. Also, the items we have selected cover a variety of situations and prepare you to deal with emergencies from fire, flood, and earthquake, to civil disruptions and economic collapse to terrorist attacks or pandemics. The key thing to remember is that you cannot predict what kind of emergency would prompt you to get out of Dodge, but when it is time to go, you have to have the gear ready to grab and run.
Some key concepts to keep in mind as you build your kit;
- Every person in the household who is old enough to walk, should have their own bag. It should have basic survival gear and food and water.
- For family kits, some items can be shared by the household, but if they are divided up then the group needs to stay together. For example, one stove is sufficient for the whole group.
- A backpack is the best way to store the gear, as it allows you to wear it and have your hands free to climb, dig, or even defend yourself and your family should it be necessary. Duffle bags are a bad idea for an emergency kit.
- Comfort is a key ingredient to mental well being, and a good mental condition is vital to surviving an emergency. Keep you nose over your toes and keep moving.
- A kit you make yourself is going to meet your needs far better than one you buy pre assembled.
- You cannot control the season or the weather when you are going to have to get out of Dodge, so be prepared for the heat of Summer AND the cold of winter.
- All the gear in the world will do you no good whatsoever if you don’t have basic survival skills, so know how to use the gear, and have the right mental attitude to survive.
Alright, let’s get to the gear. A full list of the gear included is available on www.sportsmansnews.com under the product review section. Here we will highlight some of our picks for specific gear categories. This month we will focus on the Ultimate 72-Hour kit and save the other kits for months to follow.
To test this gear I headed to one of the most desolate places in America, the Arizona Strip, the least sparsely populated region in the country where temperature extremes are the norm and water and vegetation are always scarce. We used the gear provided by manufacturers over 4 days and got a real good feel for what works well in practice and what falls short. If the gear failed to perform up to expectations, you won’t hear about it in this article, but what you will find is the gear that met or exceeded our high expectations. Just so you know we have selected the best gear, the kit I am describing is now my personal G.O.O.D. bag and is the one I will use in an emergency.
For a good 72-Hour kit, you need a great bag to contain all of the items. As I mentioned before, the kit should be contained in a backpack so that it is easier to carry for long distances, keeps your hands free, and allows you to set up camp and use the bag for foraging. For the ultimate kit, I selected the Alps Mountaineering Cascade 5200. This bag holds all the gear with room to spare, is adjustable so that the total weight of 50 lbs, rides on your back like a much lighter kit, and offers a variety of compartments to easily sort and access the gear you need without unpacking everything. Additionally, the top compartment detaches and becomes a large fanny pack so you can stash your gear and head off and explore or forage without having to bring the whole kit with you. It is rugged and durable and includes a built-in rain cover to protect your gear from a sudden downpour.
The Thermo-Lite 2.0 Bivvy Sack from Adventure Medical Kits offers a great addition for staying warm with minimal weight and size.
Of the four primary concerns with outdoor survival, exposure is the one that kill you the quickest. Too cold or too hot and you don’t stand much of a chance of dehydrating or starving to death, so having the right gear can mean life or death. Several products are included in the ultimate kit to provide warmth.
My mother’s 72-hour kit included a single mylar emergency blanket, and you can spend the night shivering under a millimeter thin sheet of plastic foil if you want to, but I am packing the Alps Mountaineering Fusion Lite sleeping bag and air mattress combo. The reality is that sleeping on the ground saps vital heat from your body and replaces it with the cold of the earth. Hypothermia is not far behind. It is important to create a barrier between you and the ground. Here is where the self-inflating pad of the Fusion Light is so important. When inflated, the pad provides an inch and half of separation between you and the cold earth. Additionally, the 20-degree rated mummy bag is lightweight and compact while keeping you toasty warm. At a total weight of 3lbs 7 ounces for pad and bag, this is a vital piece of gear.
For a bit of extra padding the tiny Thermarest Trail Self Inflating Mattress weighs only 15 ounces and rolls up into a tight 3-inch compact tube. When inflated by turning a valve, the pad adds an additional inch of 3.4 R-rated distance between you and the cold ground.
Staying dry is a big part of staying warm, and for its size the MSR Packtowel Original is a great peice of gear to dry off after a downpour, a swim, or a quick bath in a cold stream. It weigh a single ounce, folds to 3″X5″X1″ and holds 10 times its weight in water.
The Adventure Medical Kits Thermo-Lite 2.0 Bivvy Sac gives you a lightweight solution that when used in concert with the Thermarest Trail increases heat retention, or can be used as a stand alone solution when the weather is warmer or venturing from base camp as an overnight backup. The sac reflects up to 80 percent of your body heat back to you. It weighs a mere 6.9 ounces and should be kept where it is easily accessible as it makes a great emergency cover in a downpour.
Rubbing two sticks together to start a fire may look easy on television and in the movies, but without a great deal of preparation, the right materials, and time and patience, you are better off using a good quality lighter to start a fire. When you are chilled to the point of hypothermia, you need radiant heat and you need it quickly. Because of this, I have included the Brunton Storm butane lighter in my kit. Brunton’s innovative gas jet allows the lighter to burn red hot in any wind or rain and hold heat on a piece of wood like a small blowtorch. This baby will start a fire when nothing else will. Because lighters can run out of fuel, I also carry waterproof matches as a backup.
Hot Hands Heat Packs
Another source of radiant heat is air activated heat packs from Hot Hands. These small and light packets contain chemicals that when exposed to air generate heat. Toss a few in your bivvy sac, in your gloves or boots, under your hat, and inside your jacket to stay toasty warm when it is freezing out.
Carrying water is a heavy proposition. A gallon of water (recommended amount for each person per day) weighs 8.35 pounds. While some water should be carried, it is better to have the means of making more safe water on demand when needed.
The best answer for a single individual is Katadyn’s MicroPur water purification tablets. They weigh next to nothing and can completely make any water safe to drink. The shortfall of the tablets is that they take 4 hours to work and one tablet only purifies one quart of water.
Since I may not be able to stay in one place with an abundant water supply for a long period of time, I have also included the MSR Hyperflow Microfilter water purifier. The filter moves a ton of water quickly and is extremely small and lightweight. It attaches easily to MSR’s Dromlite Hydration bag or directly to a large mouth water bottle.
For the times when camp can be made near a stream or lake and large amounts of water need to be purified, the Katadyn Base Camp allows 2.6 gallons of water to be contained and filtered. The Basecamp is a large water bag with an included Hiker PRO Microfilter, hose and shut off valve. This is a great solution for families that need to evacuate.
To store your clean water, Adventure Medical Kits offers their Survival Bottle, a stainless steel water bottle printed with tons of information on water purification, finding water, and diagnosing signs of dehydration. The bottle holds 650 Milliliters (1.3 pints) of water and can be used in a pinch to boil water for purification.
Platypus has a number of water storage solutions and I have included 2 of them in the Ultimate kit. The soft bottle folds completely flat but holds 1 liter of water. The larger 4 liter Water Tank also folds flat and takes up no room when empty. It also weighs a mere 2. 5 ounces, but when filled holds more than enough water for a full day of activity.
The usual answer you get when you ask people about food for their emergency kit is the military Meal Ready to Eat (MRE). Having been in the Marine Corps, I had more than my share of MREs and still keep some on hand for the odd camping trip or power outage. But the fact about MREs is they are heavy, bulky, and don’t taste very good. Additionally, they leave you feeling bloated and can cause digestive issues after eating them for several days.
A better solution is to use a dehydrated food product like Peak Camp’n Trail. Peak offers innovative zipper bags that allow the meal to be heated, served and eaten right in the pouch. All the Peak meals are vegetarian and use a wheat protein called Wheatex in place of chicken, pork, or beef. They are shelf stable for 4 years and are not effected by environmental factors like excessive heat or cold. At around 4 ounces for a meal, the Peak pouches are a tiny 6 inches by 7 inches by 2 inches thick and pack easily into your kit with minimal weight or fuss. The Vegetarian Beef Stroganoff provides 600 calories and 33 grams of protein, which is good source of energy when you are being active in the field. The meals taste better than MREs and the artificial meat has a taste and texture close enough to the real thing to be palatable to carnivores like me.
When you can, you want to heat your food and the best tool for that is a hiking stove. Of all the stoves I tested, each worked amazingly well at quickly heating water to a boil. The stove that stood out for me for versatility was the Brunton Vapor â€“AF. Because it is small and lightweight, the stove fits easily in the pack. The AF stands for All Fuels and what makes the Vapor stand out is its ability to burn Butane, Camping gas, kerosene, gasoline, diesel, alcohol, jet fuel, and pretty much any liquid fuel you can pour in a bottle and vaporize. It is a very optimistic idea that an emergency will only last 72 hours, and the ability to have options in finding more fuel for your stove makes the Vapor-AF the stove to have.
As important as your food and stove are things to cook in and eat with. Granted, your food pouches serve as eating vessels, but what about foraged food? What about boiling water? For good survival gear, you need a pot and a spoon, and Brunton has you covered there as well. The I.B. Cook Set (I.B. stands for Itty Bitty) provides you with 2 small vessels that are part pot and part cup. The taller of the 2 pots has a cover with slots to act as a strainer and the pots even nest to allow you to use them as a double boiler. Both have folding handles and are made of a durable anodized aluminum to provide strength without sacrificing weight.
For a utensil, Brunton offers 2 great choices with the MY-Ti line. The titanium flatware set offers a knife, fork, and spoon connected with a small carabineer. The Folding Spork combines a spoon and fork into one implement with a folding and locking stainless steel handle. The handle is long enough to reach the bottom of your food pouch easily.
It also helps to supplement your meals with high protein nuts and fruit leather, which are available in prepackaged pouches at your local grocery or health food store. Jerky is also a great snack on the trail and no one makes Jerky like Jack Link’s. For quick energy I also keep a bag of hard fruit candy to suck on as I hike.
How silly would we feel if we spent six days in the woods when authorities cancelled an evacuation after only two? What if we become separated from our group and need to meet up with them again? For these reasons, and countless more, our Ultimate G.O.O.D. kit contains a pair of Midland GXT1050VP4 radios. These compact Mossy Oak camo radios offer a 36-mile range, 15 channels with 387 privacy codes offering 5,560 channel options. An additional NOAA weather channel override will interrupt conversation with emergency weather information.
As a supplement to the handheld radios, Midland’s Base Camp radio offers all of the same features with the addition of a hand crank for charging and AM/FM Radio options to monitor local news. The radio also features an alarm clock in case you need to rendezvous with others in your group, and an LED flashlight. The unit also includes a USB port in case you need to use the crank to charge your cell phone.
Lights and radios need batteries and rather than trying to carry all the batteries you may need for an emergency, Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries offer you the ability to recharge as needed. A great tool for keeping these batteries fresh is the Brunton Solaris 26 foldable solar charging array. The array comes with multiple CIGS solar panels that will use sunlight to charge electronic items and rechargeable batteries with 26 watts of output. Folding to less than a half inch thick and weighing 28 ounces, the Solaris gives you the ability to stay connected. It will allow cell phones to be charged through the power port connection or can clip directly to a car battery for a full charge in 12 hours.
Couple your solar panel with the Brunton Solo 3.4 to store all that electricity and use the Solo to charge your electronics. At only 5.2 ounces, the Solo will run your devices for hours.
TOOLS AND LIGHTS
A quality multitool is an essential for a G.O.O.D. kit. The best we have tested is the SOG Power Assist. A series of gears mesh together to provide greater clamping force. Additionally, the handles contain two SOG Assisted Technology knife blades for easy one-handed opening. It also contains all the screwdrivers, can openers, and other tools you expect to find on a multitool.
The best light is one that leaves your hands free to do other things. For our Ultimate G.O.O.D. kit we chose the Petzl Tactikka XP headlamp. Using 40 lumen LEDS, the Takitikka XP offers superior brightness, and up to 120 hours of run time on 2 AAA batteries. A selection of filters provide night vision saving, game tracking, and map reading lenses for a variety of uses.
For use in camp, the Brunton Lamplight 360 offers the benefits of a handheld flashlight with the area coverage of a lantern. By sliding the bezel, the flashlight opens to provide side area lighting and includes a ring for hanging from a branch or suspended line. The real innovation on this light is the Omnivore technology, which allows it to run from AA, C, or D batteries for up to 43 hours.
In an emergency, 911 isn’t just a phone call away. A first aid kit carried in an emergency bag needs to be adequate for dealing with any medical issue you may encounter. For this purpose Adventure Medical Kits makes first aid products second to none. For our ultimate kit, we included the Adventure Medical Kits Weekender. The kit is adequate for 6 people for 7 days, and provides the first aid basics such as adhesive bandages with the tools and supplies to handle more serious life threatening injuries. Every first aid kit from Adventure Medical contains a first aid manual. The Weekender includes Dr. Eric Weiss’ Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine that contains a treasure trove of survival medicine techniques to deal with any kind of injury you may encounter. The book alone is a priceless resource in the field.
These are the main items included in our ultimate G.O.O.D. kit. Obviously they aren’t the only things we are taking with us. Toilet paper, toothbrushes, hiking shoes, socks, and various other items are needed to fill out your kit and provide a comfortable survival trek. The completed kit weighs at just 50 pounds and will support 2 people in the field for multiple days.
They key idea to take from this article is that the kit you build is the best kit for the needs of you and your family. Additionally, don’t wait until you have saved up enough money to purchase all the items you want in your kit. Set aside a small budget each month to purchase one or two items at a time. Slowly get the kit together over time. Make sure you take the items out and play with them from time to time. Rotate food supplies. Look at preparing your kit as an adventure. Next month we will look at more items for a medium price range kit. Until then stay safe and healthy.
Ultimate 72 Hour Kit Contents
Adventure Medical Kits
Weekender First Aid Kit
Thermo-Lite 2.0 Bivvy Sac
Pocket Survival Pak
S.O.L. Survival Water Bottle
Glacier Gel blister pads
Cascade 5200 Backpack
Fusion Lite Sleeping Bag and Self-Inflating Mattress
Solo 3.4 Power Supply
Polaris 26 Foldable Solar Charger
Storm All-Weather Lighter
MYTi Folding Spork
Pronghorn GTX Insulated Boot
Rino530HCx GPS/GMRS Radio
Basecamp Water Filter
Micropur Water Purification Tablets
Mountain Down Jacket
Base Camp AM/FM/WX/GMRS Hand Crank Radio
Hyperflow Microfilter Water Purifier
2 Liter Dromlite Hydration Bag
Camp’nTrail White Rice (2)
Camp’nTrail Beef Stroganoff (2)
Camp’nTrail Chicken Teriyaki (1)
Camp’nTrail Chicken Noodle Soup (1)
Camp’nTrailPasta Primavera (2)
Camp’nTrail Blazin Backcountry Beans (2)
Camp’nTrail Savory Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner (2)
Camp’nTrail Campfire Chili (2)
Camp’nTrail Chicken & Rice Casserole (2)
Tactikka XP Headlamp
4 Liter Water Tank
1 Liter Soft Bottle
Hiker’s Toilet paper
Folding camping shovel
Smith and Wesson
Model M&P 340 Revolver — Centennial .357 Mag.
Power Assist Multitool
SEAL Pup Elite Knife
Aegis SAT Knife
G2 LED Flashlight
Trail Self-inflating Mattress
Classic Hiker Wool socks (2pk)
CommuteMate Insta Cloths
Archer Farms Raspberry Fruit Strips
Archer Farms Strawberry Fruit Strips
Diamond Salted Almonds individual packs
Jack Link’s All American Beef Stick and Cheese (6 packs)
Dr. Bonner’s Castille Soap small bottle
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Feminine Hygiene Products
Pet leashes and food
Medications (rotated often to keep them fresh)
Deck of playing cards with edible plants pictured on them
Army Field Survival Guide
Hot Hands Hand Warmers
USB Thumb Drive with scans of important documents
$300 in small bills
20 rounds Federal Hydra-Shok JHP .357 Mag.
100′ Parachute Cord
USGS 7.5 minute Topo map of the area you plan to evacuate to