Which Emergency Kit / Bag(s) do you REALLY need?

When I first started working on emergency preparedness, I was amazed by all the different kits and emergency bags that were suggested on various blogs and websites.  The only one I’d ever heard of back in 2007 was a 72 hour kit.

But man alive did I find recommendations for a whole lot more than that!  I was reading about survival bags, bobs, office kits, get home kits, INCH bags, EDCs, go bags, car kits and more!

To put it simply, I was overwhelmed.  I didn’t know where to start.  I didn’t know how much was hype and what I really needed.  I didn’t even know what all the acronyms stood for!  I had no idea where to start.  Not even knowing where to start is a terribly discouraging feeling!

Which emergency bag

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Two “ah-hah” moments:

As I studied and learned about emergency kits, I realized two things:

(1) Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to.  People use the various names for the kit interchangeably.  So there is often more than one name for the same kit and there aren’t really as many different kits as you might think!

(2) Crossover.   Even when you look at each kit separately, most have the same basic items in them: food, shelter, water, first aid etc.  This simplified things for me as well.  For example, if you keep your 72 hour kit in the car, it can double as an emergency car kit with the addition of just a few extra items.  No need to build to completely separate kits!

Acronymns and Terms

Before I get started into the details of each kit, I just wanted to give you a rundown on a few acronyms and terms that are unique to the emergency preparedness “world.”

EDC = Everyday Carry.  Something you carry with you every day.

BOB = Bug Out Bag

Bug Out = Leaving your home (if in danger there) for somewhere more secure.

BIB = Bug In Bag

Bug In = Staying in (or very near) your home following a disaster of some sort

INCH = I’m Never Coming Home

72 Hour = 3 days.  FEMA recommends everyone have at least 3 days worth of food, water and other supplies in case of a disaster in your area.  You should plan on it taking at least that long for help to get to you and it know that it could very likely take longer.

Decide Which Kits

The first step to putting together and emergency kit(s) for your family is to decide which kits you actually need or want.  Today I want to walk you through some of the various kits you may want to consider and the reasons you may or may not want to include said kits in your emergency preparedness plans.  Once you are done reading this, you should have a good idea of the kits you should work on building for your family.

I will not be listing out details of what I keep in each kit this week.  I will be doing that over the next week few weeks.  So don’t stress about that right now.  Just decide, in general which kit(s) you feel you should create for your family.  Make sure you pay attention to the top few things you listed in week #1.  Don’t prepare for everything right now.  Just figure out what you need for those first few things you listed.

#1.  First Aid Kit:

What It Is:  This one is pretty simple and self explanatory.  Most people have some form of a first aid kit in their home even if it only consists of a few band-aids.  A first aid kit can be something that is separate from all the other kits.  But this is also something that should be part of most other kits you may build.  You can find more on building a first aid kit here: My First Aid Kit Guide.

You May Need It If:  I believe everyone should have a first aid kit.  No matter what is #1 on your “What I’m Preparing For” list, facing a first aid emergency is highly likely.  First aid emergencies happen at home, work, school, during larger disasters or because of everyday accidents.

You May Not Need It If:  You need it.

What Mine Looks Like: I keep a large separate first aid kit in a tackle box inside our car and another one (same supplies) in various tubs in a closet in our home.

First Aid Kits

I also have a smaller first aid kits in our 72 hour kit go-bags.  I also keep a few first aid supplies in my EDC (see below).

#2.  EDC: Everyday Carry

What It Is:  This is something you always have on your body when in public.  It may include what is in your pockets, around your wrist or attached to a belt.  You may also hear about EDC Packs and these are something that is separate from your body, but still with you at almost all times.  It may include what is in your purse, or a separate backpack or tactical bag that you put together for this purpose.  It does not need to be complicated.

You May Need It If:  In reality, most of us already have some sort of EDC.  We carry credit cards, keys, band-aids etc.  But giving this area a bit more thought can be wise.  If you often find yourself saying “I wish I had a _________ (Water?  A snack? Chapstick? Cash? Pain killer? Kleenex? A flashlight?  Wet wipes? Floss?) right now,” you may want to consider creating a simple EDC.

You May Not Need It If:  You rarely leave home.

What Mine Looks Like:  Years ago, my mother bought me a “pickle,” and I liked the idea, but I modified it a bit to fit my needs.  This “pickle” stays in my purse unless I’m going somewhere I don’t take my purse (like the pool or church).  In that case, I move it to the swim or church bag etc.  (If you don’t want to buy a pickle, but like the idea, you can find a great tutorial for making your own HERE). 


#3.  72 Hour Home Kit (aka Bug In Bag)

What It Is: This is a set of supplies that you would use to care for your family in (or near) your home following a disaster of some sort.  Typically, this is a natural disaster such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, wildfire, winter storm, power outage etc.  FEMA recommends you have the supplies, food and water to care for your family for at least 3 days (72 hours) following a disaster of this type as help likely will not come immediately.   However, history has shown than for many, help doesn’t come for a week or more.  You can find more details on a 72 hour “home” kit here: A 72 Hour Kit For Staying At Home

You May Need It If: You live in an area that experiences (or is at risk for) any sort of natural disaster.

Or, if you use your 72 hour kit “go-bag” as your home kit.

You May Not Need It If:  The first 5 scenarios on your list from week #1 do not include any sort of natural disaster.  Work on those 5 things first, but don’t forget about this bag.  It is likely that natural disaster is somewhere on your list.  Once you’ve got your top scenarios taken care of, come back to this.

What Mine Looks Like:  This is a case where I have combined two kits instead of actually making separate ones.  I count our 72 hour “go-bag” (see below) as our 72 hour “home kit,” and we keep it in the back of our van (since the van is almost always home wherever I am).  In addition, I keep a few jar meals in the pantry that would be quick and easy to cook up.  I also have various “power out” cooking tools such as a butane stove, dutch ovens, a sun oven, propane grill, and (my favorite) a HERC oven.  We also have the extensive first aid kits mentioned above.

72 hour home kit

#4.  Bug Out Bag (aka BOB, 72 Hour Kit, Go-Bag)

What It It: This is a bag of supplies that you would need to in order to leave your home (if in danger there) and get somewhere more secure.  Often when people say “72 hour kit,” this is what they mean.  A 72 hour kit “go-bag” could be something very extensive that would allow you to hike on foot for miles to a remote location.  It could also be something as simple as a bag that will get you to a relative’s home a few miles away.  You can find a detailed step by step program for building a 72 hour kit “go-bag” here: Your Own 72 Hour Kit Plan.

You May Need It If: Evacuation is top on your possible scenarios list.  There are situations where evacuating will very likely be your best (or even only) option:

  • Your house is on fire
  • A large hurricane is on it’s way and you will be hit hard
  • A chemical spill happens nearby
  • A wildfire is approaching fast
  • A tsunami is expected to hit soon
  • You are in danger of being caught in a landslide
  • A bomb threat is received
  • An earthquake has caused a serious gas leak in your area

But evacuation will look different depending on what type of evacuation you are planning for.  If you are planning to evacuate to your brother’s house down the street in case of a house fire, you won’t be needing a tent!  But if you anticipate possibly having to evacuate on foot, then your needs will be very different.

In the case of an evacuation by car,  I suggest you prepare a prioritized list of what you would grab.  Then, keep as many of those supplies as near an exit as you can.  When asked to evacuate, simply start at the top of your prioritized list and work your way down until you have to leave. We went over this scenario in week #4.  

But if you need to get away from your home and can’t take a vehicle, you will need some serious supplies.   Even if you are planning to come back home after a few days, you will need supplies for those few days.  Or, if you are planning to walk to a friend or a neighbor’s house or a shelter, you will need supplies to get you there.  This is where an actual “go-bag” that you can grab and go will come in handy.

You May Not Need It It: Evacuation is not one of the first 5 scenarios on your list from week #1 .  Work on your 5 things first, but don’t forget about this bag.  It is likely that evacuation is somewhere on your list.  Once you’ve got your top scenarios taken care of, come back to this.

What Mine Looks Like:  You can see details of what is in every single part of my 72 hour kit go-bag in my e-book: Your Own 72 Hour Kit Plan.  I walk you through building a personalized kit there step by step and show you pictures of my bag at each step.

72 Hour Kit

#5.  Car Kit

What It Is: A kit / set of supplies that would allow you to (1) deal with emergencies that are unique to cars such as accidents or flat tires, and (2) survive being stuck in your car during hot or cold weather.  This often happens during large evacuations as streets may be closed and many others will be trying to evacuate at the same time.  You can find more details on emergency car kits here: Emergency Car Kit

You May Need It If:  I believe anyone who drives should have at least a basic car kit.  But if you list evacuation by car b/c of natural disaster at the top of your priority list, then I highly suggest you keep your 72 hour kit go-bag in your car.

You May Not Need It If:  You never drive a car.  You may also not need as extensive of a kit if you keep your 72 hour kit go-bag in your car.

What Mine Looks Like:  Another reason I keep our 72 hour kit go-bag in our van is that is doubles (triples) as part of our car kit.  In addition, I have a smaller “mini-emergency” kit that I keep between the two front seats of our car (on the right below)  and another more extensive kit with car specific supplies that I keep in the back of our van (you can see it with the lid on under the 72 hour kit and / or next to the first aid kit in the pictures above):

Emergency Car Kit

#6.  Office Kit

What It Is:  An office kit is a set of supplies that would allow you to survive at your place of employment if you were not able to get home for a period of time and had to stick it out a work for a while.  It would likely be more minimal than a “72 hour home kit,” since most people would want to get home after a disaster instead of staying at work.

You May Need It If:  You regularly work farther than walking distance from home and / or in a building you may get trapped in during a natural disaster and aren’t able to get to your car (and your car kit).  It is especially important if you work in a highly populated area and getting home would be difficult simply b/c of the number of other people trying to do the same.

You may also consider a separate (likely smaller) kit if you travel for work.  If you were in another state / country when disaster strikes, consider what supplies would you need / be allowed to bring on a plane with you?.

You May Not Need It: If you don’t work away from home or work in a very lowly populated area and would likely be able to get to your car kit.

What Mine Looks Like: I work from home, so I don’t have one.  My husband works in a relatively large suburb, but getting to his car from his desk would be pretty easy.  Even if he couldn’t get home, he would be able to get to his car.  He keeps his 72 hour kit go-bag (along with his t-ball coaching supplies and golf clubs…as you can see) in the trunk of his car.  This works as his office kit as well as his “get home bag” (see below) .  He also keeps a small first aid kit, water and snacks at his desk.


#7.  School Kit

What It Is:  A set of supplies that would allow your children to manage for a few hours to a day if they are at school (away from home) when disaster strikes.

You May Need It If:  You have children that attend school away from home

You May Not Need It: If you don’t have children or you home school your children.

What Mine Looks Like: My kid’s school kits are quite simple.  They have food, water, a couple of books, a beanie, hand warmers, a small flashlight, a whistle, an emergency blanket, a few small candies, a picture of our family, and some basic first aid supplies.  It all fits in a gallon sized bag.  I don’t have a picture of the kits because they are at their school right now and I didn’t think to take a picture before I sent them to school.  (-:

#8.  Get Home Bag

What It Is:  A bag of supplies you would need to get home if you aren’t home when disaster strikes.  This is similar to a 72 hour kit go-bag, but with the intention of getting you home instead of evacuating.  Depending on how far away from home you typically are (for work, school, grocery shopping, soccer games etc), the size of this kit may vary a bit.  If you are relatively nearby and could get home in a day or less you may not need as much food or care as much about things like a toothbrush, soap or entertainment items, but you would still need everything else you have in your 72 hour kit go-bag.

You May Need It If:  You spend a lot of time away from home.

You May Not Need It If: You spend most of your time at home and / or keep your 72 hour go-bag in your car (and your car is typically with you when you are away from home).

What Mine Looks Like: My “Get home bag” is my 72 hour kit go bag which I keep in our van.  My husband’s is also his 72 hour kit go-bag which he also keeps in his car.  (see pictures above)

#9.  INCH Bag: I’m Never Coming Home Bag

What It Is:  A set of supplies you would want to take with you if it was likely that you would never be coming back home.

You May Need It If: If you live somewhere that serious natural disasters that could wipe out the entire city / area where you live are possible.

You May Not Need It If: Evacuation isn’t in your top 5 possible scenarios that you are preparing for.

What Mine Looks Like: I don’t have an actual “bag” for this.  The reason is that so much of what I’d want to take if I was never coming back is sentimental and I don’t want it just sitting in a bag somewhere.  I see this situation just like any other evacuation.  I would simply make my way down my evacuation list.  I’d pack the most important stuff first and then get the less essential, but still important stuff as I had time.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

Alright, so there you have it!  Which kit(s) does your family need?

I know when you look at a big ol’ list like this, it can feel overwhelming.  But I recommend you refuse to let that happen.  Don’t think about actually building the kits yet.  Simply go through each kit and the description and decide YES or NO.  That is all you need to do for now!

As a quick review here is what we have in our family:

1).  Extensive first aid kit in our car and home and a small one in our 72 hour kit go-bags

2).  A small, simple everyday carry (that I don’t always remember to put in my bag!  (-:)

3).  72 hour kit go bag that doubles as:

  • A large part of our 72 hour home kit
  • Part of our Car Kit
  • Our “get home bags”
  • My husband’s “office kit”

4). School kits for our kids.

That’s it!  Just four kits with a few extra supplies for our home and car.

Next Week

Next week we will talk about how to actually start building those kits!


If you are overwhelmed by all the information available on various emergency kits, this post is for you! Before you can start creating a "survival" kit for your family, you need to know which kit(s) you actually need. This post goes through 9 different kits including a 72 hour kit, bug out bag, emergency car kit, office bag, EDC, BOB and more!


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Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.

13 thoughts on “Which Emergency Kit / Bag(s) do you REALLY need?”

  1. There are so many varieties for bags also. It is important to select a proper bag for our first aid emergency kit. Thank you for sharing the post.

  2. Thank you for your blog. It’s just what I was looking for. I’ve always been the safety person along with my mother. I’ve been very prepared for stay at home problems. I was surprised how many neighbors in my building were totally unprepared and didnt know what is what. When we had a major power outage that lasted from 3 days to 2 weeks depending which area of the area you lived. There are a good number of older widows who I guess relied on their husbands for being prepared. Some even threw out a lot of supplies not realizing what for and even being scared of them. (Candles being one let alone more complicated things). I offered a few helps they needed. They said it’d be great but laughed but do you know where it is at. Of course I do I said you are supposed to put them in a place easy to get to that you know even in the dark. They learned some stuff from me and I was able to assist. They asked if I would teach them the stuff their husbands always took care of during and after the emergency. We had a speaker in to our building for emergency preparedness week, and I learned more for my city which I’m not originally from. They gave a booklet, slide show and small bag to start people getting 72 hour leaving bags ready. I looked up much more since I had more useful information on my area risks. The INCH bag was what was concerning me. I didn’t know there was one or that it was called that until now. I just wanted to do something for in the case of INCH scenario. Like you I don’t want my special items or every day use stuff to be in a bag unseen by me. First I decided added luggage bags in the most important item areas, to dump and go would help. As I gathered my hiking kit and other stuff going through whats a duplicate items, I saw things in my apt. I’d not want to lose. Sentimental or practical but no there isn’t room in 72 hour bag. I thought what to do about that. While filling out the lists of the book that the emergency preparedness lady gave us, I figured something else out. Going over situations from the news that happened in our country, I know a common situation was evacuated people saying “we didnt know what to take” which a 72 hr bag covers. Then other stuff they didn’t know what to take or needed the time they could use for an Inch bag for creating a 72 hour bag, A large part was them “trying to think what to do or take”. I decided I could make another list of things to put in a empty case for INCH. Like self instructions list to grab this, grab that, make sure to remember such and such is important to you but out being used. Stress and having to move fast or limited time makes it difficult to recall what you want most, so maybe “a list”. Less thinking and more time to pack it. If unable to take it with me, at least the most important things would be in a case if and when we are allowed back in one time to get some items or make an INCH bag. Thanks so much for confirmation I”m not alone in my thoughts of resolving what I can ahead of time.

  3. You are so ready and I am envious! I wish I was that ready.
    I buy cat litter in large buckets (about 4 gallon buckets)
    I have been filling these with medical supplies every time I go to the store I pick up a few extra items.
    Bandaides, peroxide, first aid cream. Things like that..
    Also asprin, exedrin, vitamins (anemia might be an issue so want to be ready.
    Also large bandages, tape, sprain wrappings, things like that.
    I don’t have bags in a car, no car anymore.
    I do have bug out bags in case of flooding or the need to leave on foot since no car.
    I still have no place to bug out too though.
    But at least we can leave.. the problem is the cats… cannot carry them if we have to go far so we are planning on bugging in.
    Medical Kit is a must no matter what you do…
    Bug out bag for extreme emergencies is also a must.
    Bug in bag (well no need for that since IN already has some supplies.. about up to a months worth of food.. it’s slow going on budget constraints and it worries me.
    Water is our biggest concern. Apartment that has minimal storage and no source of fresh water if the grid goes down.
    This is a real issue.. you can only last three days without water and I don’t think I would make it that long!

    • Step by step is so important Diana! I haven’t always been as prepared as I am and I still have gaps / holes I need to fill. I truly believe God will bless us if we are doing our best and it sure sounds like you are!

  4. I have 2 vehicles and both of them have bags that have at least 3 days supply of things in them also each one has a first aid kit.
    I have a 72 hour bag that also doubles as a get out of dodge bag, also first aid kit in it.
    I also have a first aid kit at home that is much bigger.
    I carry an EDC with the same basics.
    I agree with you that all those bags can get overwhelming.
    Thank you for all the posts.

  5. Thank you for this post! I’ve been struggling with duplications between my various bags and your post helped clarify my actual needs. I realized that I could do without a “stay” bag since I am realigning the contents of my pantry and garage storage to accommodate a short or long term stay after an earthquake (my most likely disaster scenario). Good supplies at home, plus 72hr go bag doubling as car kit, and I am good to go. I am concerned about leaving a backpack in my SUV, in case of a break-in though…

    • Its genrally not the best idea to leave a bug out bag in a car unless ur planing on rotating your food out ever other month or so do to how hot it can get in a car and spoilage issues even if its dried food it can spoil very quickly depening on what you have stored in it.

  6. You inspired me. I need to get BOB’s for my college students. Home away from home, their supplies are inadequate. At least if they had a BOB packed, I would feel somewhat more comfortable having them away from us while at school.

    Thank you.


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