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The Easy to Build Kit for the Worst of Times… Your Proven 72 Hour Survival Kit!

The Easy to Build Kit for the Worst of Times... Your Proven 72 Hour Kit! Includes a list of an emergency car kit, baby emergency kit, first aid kit, and a survival kit for multiple people for 72 hours.

Recently, with the frigid temperatures, 51 car pile ups, people stranded in gorges over night in sub zero temperatures, etc., it is more important than ever to be prepared! If you are traveling anywhere this winter you will want survival items with you. These 72 Hour Survival Kits may be useful not only for you, but for others as well.

I assembled our 72 hour kit and car emergency kit a few years ago, and so far we have used them over 20 times for important situations. I wrote about some of our experiences using these kits as well as how you can make one…As you will see the kits I created have been tested, tried, and proven! (Photos and Kit lists below.)

Many people have their kits in their homes. Yet, I thought long and hard about where I wanted our kits. We live on a fault line and the most threatening event that could happen would be a large earthquake. Unlike many other natural disasters, there are no warning signs for earthquakes, so having the 72 hour kit near at hand would be virtually impossible. So I keep ours in the car.

When I set out to make our kit I had no idea it was going to benefit so many other people, not just my family, and that I would be using the kit multiple times to help others in cases where there was no natural disaster.

We have also had a few instances (not really emergencies) but times when we needed some cash (all we had on us were credit, debit cards, and/or checks) and we were able to pull the cash out of the 72 hour kit. Once we forgot the diaper wipes (heaven forbid) and were able to use the 72 hr kit wipes.

What I have come to realize is that our kits are also a convenience kit, a save money kit, a save yourself time kit, a help others kit and most importantly a survival kit.

Here are 8 guidelines when making a kit.

#1- Get a durable bag that will hold the weight of the kit (preferably something you can strap to your back and carry a long distance if you need to).

#2- Set a time once a year (a date you will remember) to look through the kit, replace expiring items, check batteries, and update any documents you have.

#3- Change out the clothing if you lose or gain weight.

#4- Add more food and items as you need to keep up with the growth of your family. Replace anything you use.

#5- Customize the kit to your needs. If you are always hiking you may want to have a snake bite kit in your 72 hour kits. A snake bite kit is not necessary for most city dwellers but if you have specific personal issues or are often in abnormal situations take those into account. For example, if there are medications you will need, inhaler, insulin, etc. you should make sure you have current unexpired extras with you in case of emergency.

#6- My experience after all the research I have done is that people want to make a 72 hour kit but keep it as small as possible. They cut out things that may be necessary because they don’t want the kit to be bulky. If you need to, get a bigger bag or just use two bags. I like to go by this saying, “It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have.” And that is especially true when an emergency arises.

#7- Use Ziploc bags and put anything that could break, leak, melt, etc. in them.

#8-Provide a backpack or portable container that each member of the family can carry in case you get separated.

List of Contents of 72 Survival Kit ( I used SEVERAL lists, my own thoughts, and YouTube videos as my resources). 

  • Water for 72 hours (experts recommend 1 gallon per person per day).
  • Food for 72 hours per person. The food should be nonperishable items that do not need to be cooked.  You may also want to pack utensils, can openers, plates etc. Here is a video on how to open a can without a can opener or knife and will prove very helpful to know how to do this in an emergency.


  • Clothes and shoes for each person. Warm clothes can be modified by ripping them. So I packed sweats, 1 T-Shirt, heavy sweat shirts, 1 pair of underclothes, socks, and shoes.


  • Change (at least $3.00 in quarters and small change in case you are stranded without a powered cell phone).
  • A Water-Tight container that contains the following items that need to stay dry: (the following items cash through flashlight should be in the water-tight container and anything else that could be damaged by water)




  • Cash (We keep about $20-$30 but you may want to have slightly more than that).
  • A list of multiple cell phone and landline numbers. Even if you have a few numbers memorized write them down and keep them in a water tight container, just in case you can’t reach the people whose numbers you remember or if you suffer any trauma you may forget.
  • Small scriptures or inspirational small book. Kids entertainment is also important. Pack a deck of cards or perhaps a sticker book or something that will help them stay occupied.
  • Cell phone charger
  • Photo copies of important documents. Passport, Birth certificates, Medical history list, Health, Home and Car Insurance information, etc.
  • First Aid manual
  • NOAA weather alert radio
  • Pen or pencil
  • Water proof matches
  • Flashlight- We have a crank flash light so that we don’t need to worry about batteries. If you have a battery powered one make sure to pack extra batteries and replace each year.
  • Work gloves
  • Pepper spray/bear spray
  • Plastic sheeting and Duct tape to make a shelter
  • Ear Plugs
  • Lip Balm
  • Heat blanket
  • Hand warmers
  • Whistle
  • small mirror to signal an aircraft and perhaps starting a fire


  • Flares
  • Real Blanket- we put this on top of our 72 hour kit in the car.
  • Baby wipes/moist towelettes
  • Dust masks
  • Sunglasses
  • Water sanitation drops or bleach
  • Knife
  • Twine/rope
  • Compass
  • Feminine supplies
  • Sunscreen
  • Medications
  • Bayer aspirin
  • Tylenol
  • Rain poncho
  • Candles (long lasting ones)
  • Bug repellent
  • Toilet paper
  • Razors
  • Hygiene needs: small shampoo, soap, hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste



First Aid Kit containing the following:

  • Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminate
  • Thermometer
  • Cotton balls and/or Q-tips
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Hot/cold packs

Extra Needs

For Baby:


  • Diapers
  • Bottles
  • Powdered milk/Formula
  • Medications
  • Moist towelettes
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Change of clothes
  • Blanket


 For Elderly:

  • Denture cream
  • Extra eyeglasses

Car Emergency Kit:



  • Socket for lug nuts (especially if you have special lug nuts that need a specific socket).
  • Warning Triangle
  • Car Jack (usually this is in the car already) But check to make sure.
  • Reflective tape, vest or bright colored shirt.


All three kits stay in my personal car:

all kits

 And even in a small sedan the kits + the water leave quite a bit of room in the trunk.


still plenty of room in my trunk

At home you will want to have the following ready for 72 hours:

Free Download: List of Contents of 72 Survival Kit

These don’t have to be expensive: I gathered coupons, watched for sales. I used two of our heaviest duty bags that would work as back packs in case we had to leave our vehicle and began assembling them. I was able to get many of the things in the kit around our house or for .99 cents each or less at Walmart, Dollar Tree, Target, etc. Some things you will need to spend some money on. I.E. Knife, Tow Rope, flares, etc. But, if you shop smart  you will not need to dish out a fortune for these kits. Being frugal and using items you have around the house, each kit will require an investment of about $40.00-$70.00 + any cash you put into to for emergencies.

If I have forgotten anything, I’d love to hear it and add it to the list. Please comment below if I missed something.

I like to keep these two quotes in mind as I am thinking about preparedness:

“It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have.”

“If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail.”

I hope these kits prove themselves useful for you, your family, and even people you meet who need assistance like they have for us.

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40 Responses to The Easy to Build Kit for the Worst of Times… Your Proven 72 Hour Survival Kit!

  1. Julia says:

    That was really helpful. I’ve been thinking we need to make a survival kit. I liked your idea of this being more of an overall preparedness kit rather than just natural disasters.

    • Anita Fowler says:


      Yeah it’s been great. Mylo (my husband) is on the road today and he just text me that he has pulled out 6 people in a mud and snow storm (he is near a national park with lots of sand). So we just continue using it. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Thank you for this useful information. I need to make a kit, and the list with pictures was great.

  3. Trish F says:

    Wow, what a great comprehensive list. I have often though that I should be carrying extra water and at least blankets and a first aid kit in my car. This past winter I did put hand warmers in the glove compartment but I don’t have a bag such as yours. You’ve inspired me to get going with an emergency kit and if I’m ever stranded on the road I hope you and your husband drive by.

  4. md kennedy says:

    One of the most practical posts I have ever read – thank you so much! I feel like making kits for everyone I love!

  5. PrepperC says:

    What a complete and thorough list! Thank you so much for the inspiration this has provided! I have most of these items that I keep in my vehicle also. Great ideas on the car kit that I need to get together. Another item I think would be useful is a container to boil water (long term after water ran out) or to use to fill up with water to carry. I also like to keep a lighter and flint grinder just in case. Great post!

  6. May McKinnon says:

    Great lists. I will be rechecking my kit. Thank you.

  7. Mina says:

    I love your list, but I do have a question about food and water…. I heard that it’s not safe to have food/water in your car when it’s hot, how do you go about not letting heat affect your goods? Do you take out your food/water during the day? Or do you have a special way of packing? Please let me know! 🙂

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Well I had never bothered too much about this. We switch out our water every month or so and the food every 6 months. Also as long as I park in the garage my vehicle remains pretty average in temperature the majority of the time. My husband is always away so we probably should switch his food out more often. Just keep rotating in the hot months and you should be fin.

  8. Scott says:

    Great list Anita. You and I think alike about keeping the kits in the cars…we are never very far from our vehicles. My wife’s purse is sort of a kit, then I have made the Altoids tin kits for both our glove compartments, and I have an EDC bag, to compliment my kit.

  9. Laina says:

    I really appreciate that you gave examples of how your family has used these kits. I found that extremely practical and helpful in thinking of what I need in my own. I have been working on go-bags for our family for a few months now, researching, compiling, etc. We live in a hot climate with mild winters – so my needs would be slightly different (think fans instead of hand warmers). But still this post has been very useful for me.

    Also it strengthens my incentive to get these bags in the car pronto – as we do a lot of traveling. After reading your post I can think of a myriad ways we could have used them already if we just had them on hand.

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Laina- Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! Yes, they have come in very handy. we have actually used them multiple times since writing this post as well! And yes you are right to customize them to your climate and family’s needs. Great ideas!

  10. Tracey says:

    I just wanted to mention, regarding the photocopies of essential documents & lists of phone numbers, in additions to copies, I scanned & e-mailed them to hubby & me. As long as we don’t delete the e-mails, we can access them from any computer & print them if we need to. Obviously not as immediately helpful as the photocopies, but a little extra piece of mind.

  11. Susan says:

    What do you do to keep your canned goods from freezing in the winter? -17 degrees can’t be good on them. Even changing them out every 6 months won’t necessarily help with this.

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Susan- I park in our garage so it never gets that cold during winter. My husband parks outside so you are right we probably should rotate them more often. We also have food in our 72 hour kit that would be safe. Things like beef jerky, granola bars, trail mix, candy etc that would not be negatively effected by sub zero weather.

  12. Jule9B says:

    Ha, if I packed all that into my little Toyota, it would be full. 😉 But seriously, you are right about that emergency kit. Several times I decided to put at least a blanket, a few little bottles of water and snacks into the car. Now I’m really gong to do it. We live in Germany where there are no blizzards, only minor earthquakes and very rarely, no tornadoes or anything like that but it has happened to me that I got stuck because of sudden snow and I was on the road for hours when I had only planned to go to work which usually took me 20 minutes or so. A blanket and snacks would have been great that day. 😉 By the way in Germany it’s the law that there has to be a first aid kit in every car. We also have to have these yellow reflective vests so if you have to get out of the car and move close to the street, other drivers will see you. You might want to add that to your list, because it really makes a lot of sense.

  13. Emily says:

    This is the best list I have found. I’ve kept some items in my car for years but have just started trying to get more organized with it and round out my kit. Thank you so much!!

    • Anita Fowler says:

      You’re welcome. I’m so glad you appreciate it! I studied for hours and compiled multiple lists, you tube videos, prepping guides, etc. Great job on getting organized, you won’t regret it!

  14. Leanne Weich says:

    I would include black pepper as it is a wonderful thing to use to stop bleeding even in situations where you would need sutures – doesn’t burn and forms a scab very quickly. I learned this from a doctor.

  15. Amanda says:

    How do you deal with liquid water freezing? I worry about this issue particularly when putting together my own kit.

  16. K says:

    Great information, thank you! I would add a small mirror. If you are lost in a secluded area, you can get the attention of a plane or helicopter from the reflection. You could also use the mirror too reflect the sun to possibly start a fire for warmth.

  17. Frank says:

    First all, I think this is a very well done article and with that being said first, I think you should have had a complete list people could easily copy because you’ve obviously used planning and you experiences to make this list that others can follow with confidence.

    In regards to costs. I have many knives and flashlights and about 7 radios and I never spent over $50. Some I even bought in thrift stores or on clearance, but even brand new I have purchased these items for less than $20.

    Flashlights are easy, just compare lumens and battery life and get some in AA and AAA (cheap, light) and whatever else you choose-I have some that use C, D and even those old 6-Volt cells. I don’t shop at over priced “surplus” stores or buy the expensive brands. Harbor Freight sells or gives away those little flashlights (coupon) and they’re the best of those little cheap lights. Since the advent of L.E.D.’s and chips by Cree, we can get mega power for $20 or less. Walmart sells Ozark Trail and I have the 150 lumen model… $12 and it’s solid. 250, 500 and 1000 lumens will blind you-they really light up the street.

    Schrade is killing the market with their high value, low priced knives. The SchF16, SchF10/SchF26, SCHF9, SCHF3 are good and all under $40. The Gerber Scout runs about $22.00 (I use it everyday) Mora knives from Sweden like the Companion $20 max or their bargain High Q Robust runs about $12.00. Walmart sells a Camillus with a nice rubber handle for $10.
    You can buy machetes (Kershaw Camp 10, Cold Steel, Ontario) for $40-$60 or as little as $20.

    Backpacks, coolers, tool boxes can all be found cheap new and at thrift stores. Money should never deter people from preparing. Look how many people you have helped already.

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. You are totally right! I added a list that can easily be copied. You can click on the last link in the article to download it as well. I appreciate all your thrifty ideas to help others prepare no matter what their circumstance. Great ideas!

  18. […] bulk of my list came from Anita’s article on Live Like You’re Rich The Easy to Build Kit for the Worst of Times… Your Proven 72 Hour Survival Kit!  with some added ideas from the following articles: Family Van Emergency Kit by Ursula at Home […]

  19. Sandy Stevens says:

    We travel with our dog a lot. Please plan for your dog as well! Extra leash, Dog food & treats, blanket, towel, water, chew toy, poo bags, meds, if your dog is on any. Muzzle (if they get hurt or just stressed-even the best dog can bite). Thundershirt if your dog does not do well with thunder. Dog life jacket if you live in flood prone areas. Copy of: dog ownership, picture of dog, vet info, current vaccination info, chip number. I also carry famotidine – an antacid you can give to your dog with a little food to calm tummy. Please consult your vet on the dosage for your dog’s weight.

  20. Shanna says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I was asked to teach a short class on 72-hour kits at my church and needed a little help. I plan on sharing your list and experiences with the class and I think it is really smart to keep them in the car for everyday emergencies and not just store them for big natural disasters or end of days scenarios. Thank you so much for your insight and inspiration! 🙂

  21. Tedd says:

    A blanket is one the list, water of course, but be sure to rtore your water in a clean container so that it can last longer. Thanks for sharing this lists to us.

  22. Rose says:

    My husband is a diabetic and we always have a 1 liter bottle of coca cola in our car. Has loads of quick sugar, can withstand cold and heat (a can wil explode) and will not spoil.

  23. Roberto says:

    Hi there, well done.

  24. […] Magazine subscription to favorite outdoor magazine. Sky diving simulation pass. 72 hour kit. Click here for the article I wrote on how to assemble one. Car emergency kit. Click here for the article I wrote on how to assemble […]

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