Your Guide to Building a Disaster Kit

Your Guide to Building a Disaster Kit

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Kelli Foster
Aug 13, 2015
(Image credit: Pixsooz/Shutterstock)

It's that time of the year: hurricane season. Those of you who live in coastal areas know what we mean. But it's also earthquake season year-round for some of you — everyone here read that recent piece on the "really big one" looming under the Pacific Northwest and it thoroughly freaked us out.

So, a question for you: Are you prepared for an emergency situation? Do you have a disaster kit stocked and ready to go? When it comes to supplies and food, here's what you'll need — everything from the basic essentials to those little luxuries that will make hunkering down more comfortable. So go ahead and pack that Champagne, just don't forget the batteries.

Important Factors to Consider

Remember this kit is for a disaster, not a dinner party. It's about satisfying basic nutritional needs, and if it's important to you, staying comfortable with your favorite little luxuries in life. Either way, plan to include non-perishable items that have a lengthy shelf life.

I've broken this list down into two sections: the basic items that are absolutely essential, and creature comforts. You know, the things that are nice to have handy and make life more comfortable (although you may also consider some of these essentials, and that's okay too).

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

The Absolute Essentials for a Disaster Kit

When it comes to food, pack non-perishable staples that don't require refrigeration, cooking, water, or special preparation. Pack foods you'll actually eat, and avoid anything with a lot of salt that will make you thirsty.

Food and Drink

  • Bottled water: Plan for one gallon per person per day. Pack enough for at least three days, but ideally up to two weeks.
  • Canned food: Everything from soups, chili, vegetables, beans, fruit, canned fish, and meat.
  • Jerky: This flavor-filled dried meat is a good source of protein with a lengthy shelf life.
  • Nut butter: This is a high-energy, high-protein food. Be sure to include a jar that doesn't require refrigeration.
  • Powdered milk: When regular milk isn't an option, that makes a useful alternative.
  • Whole oats and granola: You might not be able to make hot oats, but overnight oats are still viable.
  • Granola bars and energy bars: These are good high-energy snacks to keep you going.
  • Dried fruit, nuts, and trail mix: These snacks will give you a good dose of protein and fiber.
  • Whole-wheat crackers: A good nutritious and wholesome snack.
  • Vitamins: You're probably not eating as you normally would, so now's the time to take vitamins.

Other Important Essentials

  • Portable phone battery charger (check to make sure it's charged)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Camp stove and extra butane
  • Manual can opener and utensils
  • First aid kit
  • Portable radio
  • Whistle
  • Matches (in a waterproof container)
  • Basic hygiene items (hand sanitizer, toilet paper)
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Extra cash
  • Photocopies of important personal documents
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Little Luxuries to Make You More Comfortable

Now that you've got the essentials squared away, what's going to make you more comfortable as you hunker down? Can't live without your daily dose of wine and chocolate, or your Facebook fix?

Food and Drink

  • Good chocolate: Disaster or no disaster, good chocolate is always a necessity.
  • Bottle of wine: If you're opening this kit, it's probably a stressful time — go ahead and have a glass of wine.
  • Your favorite coffee: Make life easier by including a blend that's already ground.
  • Spices: The amount of "cooking" you do will certainly be limited, but whatever you're whipping up, you'll want to make sure it's well-seasoned.
  • Twinkies: Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. If you love cake, this is a good option to make sure you get your fill.

Other Items You'll Enjoy Having

  • Dry shampoo: Because sometimes you just need to wash your hair.
  • Face wipes: You might not have water, but this is an easy to way to keep up with your skincare routine.
  • A good book: Now's the time to tackle those books you've been meaning to read.
  • Playing cards: You've got to stay entertained.
  • Extra phone chargers: Because staying connected is still a priority.

Is there anything I forgot? What are some essentials you'd include?

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