- What do I need?
- How much?
- How do I develop a priority list so I have a plan and work toward getting the most important stuff first?
It’s enough to drive you (and everyone around you) crazy. So let’s keep calm, take a deep breath, and take a couple of baby steps toward preparedness. Some people try to prep themselves for global thermonuclear war before they’re even ready to “survive” something as simple as a short-term power outage. We’re going to start small.
Baby Steps that Make Giant Leaps in Your Preps
The most common emergency situations that most people will ever face are relatively minor ones. One of the most common is a power outage. Your electricity could go off for a couple of days because of a storm, a transformer malfunction or any of a number of reasons.
A short-term power outage isn’t really a big deal, but it can cause a significant disruption in your life. I can deal with sitting in the dark with no TV, but because the lights are out, my furnace is no longer working. Until I save enough to buy that wood-burning stove I’ve got my eye on, I’m going to need to resort to more basic means of staying warm. Electric stoves and microwave ovens are no good in a power outage, so I’ll need a way of cooking food. And I’m much more likely to hurt myself in the dark, so I’ll need some first aid supplies. You get the idea.
The place to start is with a 72-hour emergency kit. You should have one of these for every person in your household. They should be stored in a safe and accessible location, and you should know how to use every item that is in the kit. Having all of these products together in one place in kit form prevents you from scrambling all over the house assembling bits and pieces after the emergency has already occurred. (This became all too real to Sandy a few months ago when we lost power late in the evening on the first day of my three-day trip to visit my sister. She was thankful that, while our kit wasn’t assembled yet, she knew where the most critical pieces were and was able to use them.)
Click here to see an assortment of kits sold by Emergency Essentials, one of my favorite prepper resources (the photo above is a stock photo — it’s not one of of the Emergency Essentials kits).
At the time of this writing, Emergency Essentials sells four different grades of 72-hour emergency kits. The most basic is just called an emergency kit, but the better-equipped models have brand names like Trekker™, ReadyWise™, and Comp™. The one that I think gives the most bang for the buck is the ReadyWise™.
What’s in a good kit?
Let’s take a look at the kinds of things they stock the ReadyWise with. First, you’ll find food in the form of a few MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and a high-calorie food bar. You can eat MREs as-is, but keeping up your marale is important in an emergency, so they also provide MRE heaters and some hard candy. Next comes water. Besides providing packaged water, they give you a water bottle and some water purification tablets. Getting cold? The kit includes a wool blanket, hand and body warmers, a poncho, and emergency sleeping bag, and a tube tent. For light, they give you a hand-crank powered flashlight that can also recharge your cell phone, a light stick, and a 100-hour candle. To let you know what’s going on in the world, they include a battery-operated radio (and yes, batteries ARE included, but you need to make sure to keep fresh ones in stock just in case). There’s also an assortment of first aid and personal hygiene supplies. All of this comes bundled in a lightweight backpack for easy portability in case you have to bug out and drag it all with you.
I think that’s a pretty darned good 72-hour emergency kit. Could you do better? Probably. In my opinion, no emergency kit is complete without a couple of good knives. This kit doesn’t have any. And I’m sure that you could find a better radio (maybe one that’s powered by a hand crank or solar panel rather than batteries).
A real sleeping bag would be better than the emergency one that they put in this kit — but it’s going to be as big and heavy as this entire kit is, so there are trade-offs. And I’m dead certain that the multifunction tool included in the kit isn’t the best one on the market, but buying the best one will cost you as much as this whole kit does. Do you really need a really good multifunction tool? Yes, I think you do. But do you really need a really good multifunction tool for a 72-hour emergency kit? Nope. That’s overkill. Sometimes “good enough” is good enough.
Looking at ways to improve upon Emergency Essentials’ ReadyWise emergency kit is a good lesson in prepper priorities. We could buy a reasonable priced, quick-and-dirty kit that is very appropriate for the purpose it was created for. We could assemble our own collection of top-of-the-line components. Or we could buy the kit and supplement it with a couple of better-quality pieces here and there. The choice is yours, of course.
Yes, it’s possible to put together a “better” emergency kit than this one, but if you’re the kind of person who likes one-stop shopping, this is a good solution for you, and a good starting point for your preps.
Prepper Tip: One great way to make a significant dent in your prepping needs is to purchase one full kit (remember, it comes complete with a carry bag) and build your second kit. That’s what we often do. It allows you to see everything provided in the kit and base your second kit on the strengths and weaknesses of the purchased one.