Does Your Emergency Go Bag Have Everything You Need?

emergency items laid out neatly, including water, documents, clothes, a sleeping bag, a first aid kit, trail mix, canned food, and utensils

The purpose of a go bag is to provide you and your family with food, water, and provisions for at least three days in the event of a natural disaster or an emergency. Whether you’re a doomsday prepper or someone who is just starting to think about emergency preparedness, a 72-hour kit is a great way to add to your arsenal.

Go bag items are commonly packed in light, durable, preferably waterproof backpacks so they're easy to transport and wear. Because you don't know what form of transportation will be available to you should you have to leave your home in an emergency, being able to carry your kit is important. Every member of your family should have a kit, and parents may need to lighten the load of little ones by putting more in their own packs.

Food and Water

The most important part of a go bag is food and water. To be a true 72-hour kit, your stash should include three days worth of water and food per person. You should also assume that you won’t have a way to cook food or keep it refrigerated when picking what you pack. Pack food with longevity like jerky, canned foods with a pop tab (no can opener necessary), crackers, trail mix, canned juices, or “space” food that comes with a ten-year shelf life. Candy can also go a long way in your kit. A sugary pick-me-up can be nice during a stressful time, and since candy is light, it won’t add much weight to your pack.

Overall, avoid foods or snacks with a strong scent that will taint the other foods (like mint gum) and make sure that there is at least one gallon of water per person. If you have a water bottle with a built-in filter from an outdoors store, that will work too—but you should still pack the water just in case.


You’ll need portable electricity if the power lines go out or you're displaced from your home. Pack flashlights and extra batteries (or better yet, pick up a mechanically powered model that will never run out of juice), plus a few candles and lighters just to be safe. Waterproof matches, flares, and a bag to keep these things dry are also all good ideas. Pack an extra phone charger and cord, but know that you may not be able to use it.

mechanically powered flashlight


Keep a change of clothes in your bag and be practical about it. Keep extra socks and underwear in the bag, plus a thin jacket and a new shirt. You will have the clothes you are wearing in an emergency, but you might not have time to grab a jacket or coat. Pack a blanket for warmth and for sleeping purposes, as well as a poncho and space blanket. A sheet may be helpful to have as well, but if your pack doesn’t have room, it’s not a necessity.

Personal Supplies

When packing personal supplies, think strategically. Make sure to pack a first aid kit and mini versions of your toiletries, including feminine products—a menstrual cup is a more space-sensitive choice than traditional feminine hygiene items. Remember to pack toilet paper as well. If they're not in your first aid kit, pack medications like Tylenol as well as personal prescriptions. If possible, tuck in a copy of up-to-date immunizations records as well.

Other Supplies

Make sure to think through the basics of what you’d need to survive in an emergency situation. Bring a pocket knife, a can opener, rope, duct tape, pens and paper, a radio, and even dishes and spoons and forks. You want to have everything you need in this kit to stay self-sufficient until help can be found. If you have room in your pack, and you live in an area where it may apply, you may also consider packing a hatchet and small shovel.

a hatchet outdoors

If you have younger children, packing a small game or a few little toys may be helpful. Keeping family spirits high is important during times of crisis.

Personal Documents

In a major emergency, personal documents can suddenly become very important, and while some of these items may not live in the kit 24-7, they should be kept close by so they can be easily added to the bag. Legal papers like birth certificates and marriage licenses should not be left behind. Passports and drivers licenses should also make their way into the kit. Insurance information, credit cards, and cash are also crucial.

Anything else you add to the packs can be at your discretion. Use your best judgment and remember that you may have to carry the pack a long way. As you assemble your go bag, use your best packing skills and get things in the neat and nice. Update the kit every year or so, and check it at least every six months.