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An emergency bag packed with food, water, firstaid supplies, and other necessities will immediately
improve your circumstances in any urgent situation.
This guide explains exactly what you need to stash
in your bag to be safe, self-sufficient, and equipped
for any unexpected event.
A 5-DAY FOOD PLAN THAT WEIGHS UNDER 3 POUNDS
WATER FILTRATION AND PURIFYING METHODS
STAYING WARM AND DRY WITH LIGHTWEIGHT SHELTER OPTIONS
CUSTOMIZING THE BAG TO SUIT YOUR FAMILY’S NEEDS
50+ EMERGENCY TOOLS AND TIPS
JASON CHARLES is a firefighter,
9/11 first responder, and
community organizer for the
New York City chapter of the
American Preppers Network.
AMERICAN PREPPERS NETWORK (APN)
is a network of regional blogs
and forums dedicated to
providing information on
survival, preparedness, selfsufficiency, and sustainability.
COVER DESIGN: Ken Crossland
PHOTOGRAPHY credits appear
on the copyright page.
$14.95 (Canada: $17.95)
Printed in China
Copyright © 2014 by Jason Charles and the American Preppers Network. All rights
reserved. Published in the United States by Potter Style, an imprint of the Crown
Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company,
A BASIC PREP FOR EVERYONE
Having a prepacked bag—ready to grab and go
in the event of an urgent situation—will give you
enormous peace of mind. Since an emergency
could consist of anything from a natural disaster
or an accident to social unrest or an attack, it is
common to feel overwhelmed and unsettled—
and as a result, do nothing. This guide outlines
everything you need to remain self-sufficient
for up to five days. There isn’t a one-size-fitsall preparation, so consider the following when
packing your bag:
Likely scenarios: Think about the vulnerabilities of
your particular area (hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, overcrowding, industrial accidents) and
prioritize your items accordingly.
Your fitness level: A well-stocked emergency bag
should weigh no more than 25 percent of your body
weight; however, this may still be too heavy for many
people. Start with the starred must-have items in
this guide and scale up from there.
Your own experience and budget: If you are totally
unfamiliar with a recommended item, educate yourself before buying it and practice using it before an
Products come on and off the market all the time;
consider this selection as a starting point so that you
know what to look for as you assemble your own bag.
Finally, tuck this guide into your packed bag. It contains reminders about using your gear and other tips
(purifying water, signaling for help)
that could come in handy during an
EMERGENCY BAG RULES
Observe these rules to ensure you are always prepared and ready to go.
NEVER “borrow” supplies from your bag: and never
use your emergency bag for a backpacking trip or
other outing. Purchase separate gear for recreational activities.
Put a reminder in your calendar to update your bag
with season-specific gear every six months (or as
the seasons change): Check the expiration dates of
your food and other perishables. Use the switchover as an opportunity to air out your sleeping bag
and repack your bag with the updated gear.
If your weight varies, try on your evacuation clothes
once a year and make sure they still fit: Upgrade
your children’s emergency bags as they grow.
ALWAYS keep your bag in one accessible place
at home: Do not move it around, put it into deep
storage, or stack things on top of it. This will cause
confusion and delay your evacuation.
NEVER go through an airport with your bag or EDC
(Every Day Carry) items: (See Card 48.) Some of the
contents are prohibited by the TSA and you may be
detained by law enforcement.
Do not add things to your bag without weighing them and trying the bag with the new weight
first: Over time you will discover your bag is much
heavier than it was initially.
Do not hang your bag by the shoulder straps long
term: This will stretch out the straps and make the
bag uncomfortable to wear.
HOW TO PACK
Packing your bag is like putting together a
puzzle. Group “like” items together and place
them in your bag according to how frequently
you’ll need to use them. Each person’s bag will
be different, but the following cards outline one
1st (Bottom) Layer
First, pack flat reference materials (maps, e-reader)
that you may not need immediately along the back
wall of your main compartment. Keep all documents
and maps in plastic bags.
HOW TO PACK YOUR BAG
2nd (Middle) Layer
Next, add the items that you’ll probably only use at
the end of the day (in other words, things that don’t
need to be readily accessible throughout the day).
If the water supply is shut off or contaminated
during an emergency, finding clean drinking
water may become incredibly difficult. To ensure
that you have potable water for at least five days,
pack the recommended amount of bottled water
below (more if you can carry it).
WHAT TO PACK
1 2 L HYDRATION BLADDER
1 1 6-OZ CLEAR PLASTIC
11.2 oz (empty); APPROX. WEIGHT:
4.5 lbs (full)
1 T RANSPARENT PLASTIC
10 E MERGENCY WATER
YOUR WATER SUPPLY
HOW TO PACK IT
The hydration bladder fits into its own pocket—
usually on the side or in the back of your bag’s main
compartment. Strap one water bottle to the outside of
your bag or slide it into an exterior pocket. Stow extra
bottle(s) inside the main compartment. Emergency
water packets can be stored anywhere in the main
compartment except for the bottom of your bag.
YOUR HYDRATION NEEDS
Hydration bladder: A hydration bladder is a rubber or
plastic reservoir that fits into a specially designated
compartment on camping or outdoor-style backpacks.
Attached to the reservoir is a hose with a capped
mouth, which allows the person wearing the bladder to drink hands-free while on the move. Look for a
reservoir that is puncture resistant and easy to clean.
Bleach, water, and sunlight (if the reservoir is clear)
will help prevent bacterial growth.
Because it is not recommended to store water in
hydration bladders long term, you should rotate out the
water in your bladder and clean it every six months, or
leave it empty and fill it upon evacuation. An easy way
to remember to empty and clean your hydration bladder is to do it on Thanksgiving and Easter.
Plastic bottles: Pack at least one full water bottle
and one empty clear plastic container. Make sure
the plastic is BPA-free, and made with food-grade
polyethylene. These water bottles can be used for
sterilizing and collecting additional water.
Emergency water packets: These little water pouches
hold 4.2 ounces of water and are made of heavy-duty
Mylar. Two packets will cover your bare-minimum
hydration needs for one day, but save these as a last
resort. They last about five years if properly sealed.
Lighting a fire serves many basic needs, from
heating up food and keeping warm to providing
some level of psychological comfort. You will
need the following items to get your fire started.
WHAT TO PACK
HOW TO PACK IT
Store the matches, tinder, and flint striker in a waterproof container inside your main bag compartment
(a GearPod works well for this—see Card 2). Keep the
lighter in an accessible exterior pocket.
Lighters: Choose a butane lighter (also known as
a storm-proof lighter, because they work in harsh
weather conditions). Butane lighters burn through
fluid quickly, so it doesn’t hurt to pack a standard
naphtha-fueled lighter (such as a Zippo) as backup.
Keep in mind that you’ll be lighting tinder to get the
fire going, so you shouldn’t be using too much fuel.
Matches: Matches are a must-have item. Purchase a
container of NATO Survival Matches (standard matchbooks are flimsy and the match heads break apart
too easily). You can also make your own waterproof
matches by dipping the match heads in wax and storing them in a plastic container.
Tinder: Tinder can be made from dryer lint, shredded egg cartons, coconut oil–soaked cotton balls, and
dried wood shavings. You can also purchase compact
tinder sticks from camping supply sites. Slow-burning
tinder (like coconut oil–soaked cotton balls) can help
you get a fire going even in adverse conditions.
Flint strikers: This alternative fire-starting method
takes some practice, but it is the ultimate backup
solution if you run out of matches or lighter fuel. This
tool has two parts: a flint and a striker. Scraping the
striker against the flint creates sparks, which—when
used in conjunction with tinder—will start a fire.
Add an overnight shelter, such as a tent or
bivy sack, to your bag in case you are forced
to evacuate and can’t find shelter for the night.
Practice assembling your tent in advance of an
WHAT TO PACK
GORTEX BIVY COVER
HOW TO PACK IT
Heavier items, like a tent, should be packed in the
main compartment of your bag (ideally toward the top
and close to your spine). A smaller bivy sack may fit in
your sleeping bag compartment (if your bag has one).
CHOOSING YOUR EMERGENCY SHELTER
Ideally, every able-bodied person in a family should
have an overnight shelter in his or her bag in case
he or she gets separated from the group. Even if the
parents each carry a heavier 2- to 3-person tent, each
of the children should carry his or her own emergency
bivy sack. Avoid buying one unwieldy, multiperson
tent for the whole family.
Bivy sack: This extremely small, lightweight, waterproof shelter serves as an alternative to a tent. A bivy
sack is essentially a waterproof fabric case that slips
over your sleeping bag and traditionally covers the
head and face. Simply remove the bivy from its sack
and lay it out flat on the ground. Place your sleeping pad inside the bivy, then inflate it. Next, add your
sleeping bag, and finally, crawl in yourself. Securely
close the bivy, leaving a small gap for ventilation.
Tent: Although it is tempting to buy an inexpensive
tent, it pays to invest in one of the higher-quality and
lighter-weight models. A good emergency tent should
be waterproof, durable, easy to set up, lightweight,
and big enough to accommodate your size. It should
also be freestanding so that you can set it up without
ground stakes or tie offs. In advance of an emergency,
practice assembling, breaking down, and stowing
your tent in your bag.
Which one is right for you? Bivy sacks are inexpensive, lightweight, and very easy to set up. They are not
ideal for those who suffer from claustrophobia (better
to opt for a heavier, more expensive tent). Bivy sacks
also tend to breath poorly and need to be vented to
prevent condensation buildup.
If you (or anyone in your family) have any underlying health conditions, make sure that your
bag is packed with medication adequate for at
least five days. If your conditions or medications
are not included on this card, add them to the
end of the list (then use this card as a packing
Contacts and contact lens solution
❏❏ Allergy medication(s)
❏❏ Mental health medication(s)
❏❏ Blood pressure medication(s)
❏❏ Asthma rescue inhaler
❏❏ Migraine medication
❏❏ Extra batteries for hearing aids
❏❏ Epilepsy medication(s) and identification
❏❏ Heart condition medication(s) and identification
PERSONAL HEALTH NEEDS
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, if you have a rare
blood type, or if you are allergic to certain medications
or food, be sure that important information is noted
somewhere in your backpack. (You can fill in those
details on this card, below.) If you have an identification bracelet detailing your condition(s), be sure to
wear it when you leave home.