Top 10 Mistakes When Building Survival Kits


Information by David Morris & Dr. Marcie Goodman

  1. Water. Water is life. Do you have 1 gallon per person per day and 1/2 gallon per animal per day? Two people and two dogs would require 12 gallons for 96 hours (8.35 pounds per gallon, 100 pounds of water taking up over 23,000 cubic inches). If not, do you have a way to collect and purify more? Do you have an empty liter bottle, collapsible bucket, or water bladder? Do you have a container for both dirty and clean water? Figure out water issues now when the cost of mistakes is low rather than when your life depends on it, and seriously consider adding a quality water filter to your supplies ASAP!
  2. Medications. If you have medications that you have to take on a regular basis, you need to keep at least a 4 day supply in your 96 hour kit. Many drugs break down in extreme temperatures, so ask your pharmacist how long they stay effective, and rotate them.
  3. Pain. If you aren’t good at handling pain, learn proven techniques and consider carrying ibuprofen, anbesol, or even prescription pain medications. If you are concerned about a hurt pet, consider getting livestock lidocaine (requires veterinarian’s prescription, but costs a fraction of human lidocaine).
  4. Clothes. Carry clothes for summer and winter, convertible clothes, or change clothing in your kit every Spring/Autumn. Shorts won’t help much in the winter and insulated cover-alls will not be comfortable in the summer. Pack extra underwear and tee shirts.
  5. Footwear/socks. If you wear flip flops, heels, or dress shoes, then consider carrying a pair of quality heavy-duty shoes/boots in your kit. Stick in at least one pair of quality socks as well.
  6. Bad equipment. Worst offenders are multi-tools that don’t work, matches that are brittle and break, knives that are dull, Band-Aids/tape that doesn’t stick anymore, survival blankets that are worn through, and pumps (both water and liquid fuel camp stoves) that have dried out seals. The only way to know bad equipment is to TEST all of your equipment yearly.
  7. Useless equipment. In short, your survival kit must keep you alive in a worst case scenario. Why carry around a bag full of stuff that doesn’t work and that you don’t know how to use? Don’t trust anything. Take the time to TEST the equipment that you expect to save your life. If it doesn’t work, find a replacement that does. Testing your equipment will mean that you’ll have to replace some and repack it, but until you know everything works and that you can use it, you preparations are not finished.
  8. Young children. If you have young children, they add a HUGE level of complexity to any emergency situation. Can/will they eat your survival food? Do you have spare clothes/diapers/wipes for them? Do you have a way to manage their pain from teething, injuries? Do you have a way to transport them? Families must practice emergency procedures to help children learn to cope with disasters.
  9. Pets. Do you have 96 hours of food for your pets? Are you going to feed them your emergency food? Will they eat it and can they digest it? Can you eat their food if you need to? Most dog food is horrible and more expensive than human food, so you might just want to pack extra instant rice and canned pre-cooked chicken that both you and your pet can eat.
  10. Bags that are all jumbled together. Most 96 hour kits have everything thrown in the main compartment. Every time you need something, you have to sort through all of the contents. Consider taking some plastic bags or packing cubes/modules like Mountain Smith or Eagle Creek to separate the different categories of supplies. Make sure to mark everything VERY plainly by writing on duct tape or athletic tape. One method is to separate everything into the following bags/components:


Here’s the trick to getting this all done–Print this page (right now!) and cross off finished items and underline or highlight everything that you need to do. Then, pick the easiest item, do it RIGHT NOW and then cross it off when you’re done! Crossing off to-do items is great for the mind. If you can fix more than one issue in a day, that’s great . . . keep going. If not, make a decision to fix one or more problems each day until they’re all taken care of. Before too long, you will find you have created effective survival kits and avoided costly mistakes.

*The information on this page was written by David Morris & Dr. Marcie Goodman.


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