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Whether or not you live in a place prone to natural disasters or other emergencies, it's always good to prepare your home and family by having a plan in place and the right supplies on hand.
When deciding which goods to invest in, you'll want to consider the types of emergencies that your area is prone to. Next, you'll want to create a personalized emergency plan with a list of emergency contacts, a planned escape route, and—you guessed it—an emergency kit filled with essentials that will last your family at least three days.
Read on for the top products to have on hand to keep you safe and organized in any emergency.
Best Water Filter: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
Drinking water needs to be at the top of your emergency preparedness kit, yet not everyone has the room, resources, or inclination to start hoarding hundreds of bottles of water. This slim, lightweight personal water filter does one better: As you sip through it, it removes 99.9 percent of waterborne bacteria and protozoan parasites.
Each unit filters up to 1,000 gallons of contaminated water—that’s more water than the average person drinks in a year—and it does so without iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals. It works without batteries and doesn’t have an expiration date. With every LifeStraw purchase, a child in need receives safe drinking water for an entire school year.
Best Water Barrel: Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer 4 Gallon Rigid Water Container
Ready, a national public service campaign that promotes disaster awareness, recommends having a minimum of “one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.” You’ll need a place to store all that water and this 4 gallon water container is just the place. It’s made of rigid BPA-free, food-grade plastic and if you need more than one it’s easy to stack and store.
The barrel weighs a mere 1.1 pounds, which is a feature you’ll truly appreciate when it’s filled to the brim with water. Fill it on the wide mouth side, then use the spigot when dispensing water for use. Remember to wash it thoroughly before use and replace stored water every six months.
Best Bottled Water: PATHWATER Still Bottled Drinking Water in BPA-Free Bottle (Pack of 9)
When it comes to bottled water, you’ll want to opt for a reusable option like these 100 percent recyclable aluminum bottles from PATHWATER. Available in packs of nine and 18, each bottle comes filled with ultra-purified, pH-balanced water that’s high in electrolytes and perfect to have on hand for emergencies. With a wide mouth, the bottles are easy to drink out of and easy to refill, and can be sanitized with bleach, vinegar, or baking soda—something which could corrode your standard plastic water bottle).
Besides being useful for emergencies, these water bottles also make a great addition to camping or road trips: they feel just as solid as your go-to reusable water bottle but can easily be recycled if need be. Note that these can't be frozen; your best bet is to keep them in a cool space like your garage or basement.
Best Flashlight: Anker Bolder LC130 LED Flashlight
Even if your radio has a flashlight, you should still have a separate handheld one as it’s more portable and offers different modes of light. This flashlight works with a rechargeable battery that gets juiced up with a USB cable (included). After eight hours of charging, you’ll be able to shine a light for up to six hours. You can set it on a powerful high-beam (1,300 lumens), a medium beam, energy-saving low beam, high-visibility strobe, and emergency SOS that will aid you in signaling for help, should the situation arise. The bulb lasts a whopping 50,000 hours—more than 5.5 years. The flashlight is water-resistant.
"We tested the LC130’s battery, and at its highest setting, and it ran for six hours (exactly what the manufacturer listed). We attempted to test it at the medium light setting and found it was still working even after 11 hours, at which point we decided to throw in the towel."—Brie Dyas, Product Tester
Best Emergency Radio: Kaito KA500 5-Way Powered Emergency AM/FM/SW NOAA Weather Alert Radio
Another must-have item on Ready’s list is a battery-powered or hand-crank radio—this one works both ways and also can be powered via solar, 5V USB input, or 5V AC/DC input with a wall power adapter (sold separately). As for batteries, it has a built-in NiMH replaceable and rechargeable battery pack and can also run on three AA batteries (not included). With a telescopic antenna with advanced semiconductor circuitry design and LED signal strength indicator, it will broadcast AM, FM, 2-band shortwave, and seven pre-programmed NOAA weather channels loud and clear. It has a built in port for charging your smartphone, a 5-LED reading lamp, a LED flashlight, and a red LED S.O.S. beacon light.
Best Batteries: AmazonBasics AA 1.5 Volt Performance Alkaline Batteries
Think of all the items that you could possibly need in an emergency that run on batteries—a travel clock, radio, flashlight, lantern, etc. You’ll want to make sure you have spare sets of batteries for each, remembering to take into account their various sizes. (There’s nothing worse than stocking up on AA batteries to find out at the exact wrong time you need AAAs.) These AmazonBasics alkaline-based batteries promise up to 10-years of shelf life and come in frustration-free packaging, which you’ll definitely appreciate should you need these in a true emergency situation.
Best Portable Stove: Coleman Portable Butane Stove with Carrying Case
A portable stove isn’t a necessity, but it sure is nice to have in an emergency, especially if you think you'll be without power for more than a day or two. This portable stove lights with the twist of a knob, (no matches required) and can be powered up to 7,650 BTUs. It can support pans that are up to 10 inches in size. It’s easy-to-clean and has a porcelain-coated grate and rust-proof aluminum burner. The enameled steel exterior is durable and it comes with its own carrying case. It runs on butane (sold separately) and will last for 1.25 hours on one canister, so you may want to stock up on a few if you'll be cooking for a family (and be sure to store them safely).
Best Medical Kit: M2 BASICS 300 Piece First Aid Kit
When it comes to emergencies, you need more supplies than what’s in that basic first aid kit stashed at the back of your medicine cabinet. This one contains 40 unique items that should have you covered in any minor emergency, including: adhesive bandages of varying sizes, sterile gauze, disposable face mask, disposable latex-free gloves, medical tape, povidone-iodine wipes, wound cleansing wipes, antiseptic towelettes, scissors/tweezers, safety pins, tourniquet, and wooden splints/tongue depressors. In addition, it comes with a carabiner, compass, emergency blanket, whistle, and first aid guide all stocked in the handy carrying case.
Best Emergency Toilet: Camco (41541) Portable Toilet
If you’re in an emergency situation that requires you to stay indoors for a long period of time, you’ll appreciate having a portable toilet on hand. This one has a flush tank (you’ll need to refill it with 2.5 gallons of water after each use) that works with a bellows-type pump to flush waste into the attached waste tank. The waste tank has an odor and water-tight seal and sliding gate valve. When it’s time to empty it, just remove the cap and dump in an appropriate receptacle. The toilet stands 15.5 inches high and is easier than squatting for a person with bad knees. It comes with a sample of TST Orange Drop-In samples for odor control, reviewers recommend you order more, especially if you plan on using this regularly.
Best Lantern: Vont 2 Pack LED Camping Lantern
Made with military-grade materials, you can rest assured this battery-powered lantern is built to withstand even the stormiest and darkness of nights—it’s even water-resistant. It has a collapsible design that not only makes it easier to store—when it’s completely collapsed it’s only a few inches tall—but also it lets you control the brightness of the light. Open it a little for some brightness or a lot for the full power of its 30 LEDs. The lantern offers 360-degree illumination and runs for over 12 hours on three AAA batteries. It weighs just over 1 pound, which makes it perfect for packing along for fishing and camping trips, too.
Best Headlamp: Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight
If you’re wondering why you would need a flashlight, lantern, and a headlamp, consider that there are times you'll need hands-free lighting on the go—and it's always better to have a few options on hand. The headlamp has bright LED lights that project a 165 feet beam with a 45-degree tiltable body. It’s waterproof and weighs only 3.2 ounces, so you can comfortably wear it for hours. It takes three AAA batteries and runs for 45 hours.
Best Glow Sticks: Cyalume SnapLight Green Glow Sticks
With a five-year shelf life, these industrial-grade glow sticks come in handy when you need to be more visible to those around you. Pull one out of its individually foil-wrapped package (for protection from light and moisture) and snap it to ignite the glowing light for up to 12 hours, though they will dim over time, so don't snap them too early. These SnapLights are non-flammable and waterproof, and made in America. Stash some in your car for roadside emergencies or on your backpack or clothing for nighttime treks.
Best Emergency Blanket: Swiss Safe Emergency Blanket
You’ve seen these foil-style blankets at the finish line at a marathon—they’re equally great in emergencies. These are made of military-grade 12-micron aluminized polyethylene mylar that retains up to 90 percent of your body heat. They are made of premium materials that are tear-resistant and have higher tensile strength. These blankets won’t just keep you warm, you can also use the reflective side to send an emergency signal, as with a solar oven, a trail marker, or a tourniquet. These blankets come in a range of colors including army green and hot pink and each pack comes with a bonus gold space blanket.
Best GPS/Compass: AOFAR AF-4580 Military Compass
You’ll know this military compass means business as you feel its zinc die-cast heft in your hand. It has a sighting lens with an adjustable diopter that makes it easier for you to take bearings. With a thermoelastic liquid-filled capsule, you can count on this AOFAR compass for accurate readings. It has a floating compass dial and a glow-in-the-dark circle so you can use it at night, too. It’s waterproof and shake-proof and can screw on a tripod base. Remember to keep it away from metal, magnetic fields, and the sun and store it horizontally when it’s not in use.
Best Generator: Champion Power Equipment 4750/3800-Watt Gas and Propane Dual Fuel Powered Portable Generator
This portable generator can run on gas or propane with a safe flick of a switch; you’ll get nine hours of run time on a full tank of gas or 10.5 hours on propane. It’s powerful enough to run a major RV appliance or fire up your power tools. It has an easy push-button start and is no louder than a vacuum cleaner when it’s turned on.
You’ll appreciate the easy-to-read digital meter that lets you know when you’re running low on juice and the foldaway handle and wheel kit that makes it easy to move to the exact place you need it.
Best Fireproof Document Box: SentrySafer 1170 Fireproof Box with Key Lock
You’ll need a safe place to store your important documents like passports, social security cards, and birth certificates in the event of an evacuation. This fireproof box can endure 1/2 hour at 1550 degrees Fahrenheit; the captured fire insulation is ETL Verified to protect CDs, DVDs, and USBs from fire damage. It accommodates hanging files to keep paperwork organized and comes with a key to keep everything safe from burglars.
Note that this pick weighs a hefty 28 pounds, so you can't easily move it around if you are evacuating on foot. Even if disaster strikes without an evacuation warning, this pick can protect important papers in the case of a home fire or water damage.
Best Gas Can: Scepter 5 Gal. Smart Control Gas Can
You’ll also want to have extra gas on hand to fuel your generator or vehicle in an emergency. This gas can hold 5 gallons, has a controllable flow rate—squeeze it hard to dispense 3 gallons in 60 seconds or lighter for a slower flow.
When you fill the can up, remember to leave some room at the top so you can squeeze. The spout prevents spills and it has a flame mitigation device to prevent fires. The can itself is made of a durable hard plastic that won’t break.
Gas should be stored at room temperature, ideally in a detached garage or shed and at least 50 feet away from pilot lights and other ignition sources to prevent fires.
Best Carabiner: Gimars 3-Inch Carabiners
At 3-inches, these lightweight aluminum carabiners can do more than a traditional 2-inch one. Each one holds up to 150 pounds, so you can easily hang your rope, lantern, radio, backpack, or other gear safely off the ground. It’s easy to use one-handed and the spring-loaded gate is guaranteed to work for up to 5,000 openings and closures.
The rainbow colors make it easy to color-code the items you’re hanging. Even in non-emergency times, you can use these to hang things off backpacks, belt loops, or metal poles. Note that these aren’t intended to be used for climbing.
Best Rope: Titan Paracord 620lb Multi-Purpose SurvivorCord
A strong rope is one of the most versatile items to have in your emergency kit. You can use it to hang your clothes to dry, hang a rucksack from a tree to keep your food away from animals, tie items down to the top of your vehicle or bed of a truck, secure a splint, or create a tripwire with cans or chimes to send an alarm if a wild animal is approaching. This rope from Titan has a tensile strength of up to 620 pounds and is made to military specifications—you’ll even find a colored government contractor maker inside.
Best Pocket Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool
While you can find less expensive pocket knives, it’s worth paying more for a durable and easy-to-hold pick, because when it comes to survival, quality counts. This pick comes with a 2.5-inch blade, wood saw, scissors, and and more. As for the grip, the Swiss-made stainless steel knife is encased in ABS scales with rubber inlays, so it won’t slip even if your hand is wet or your palm is sweaty. The whole item is 3.3 inches long and weighs 3.3 ounces. We suggest the yellow cover over the red because the bright color will stand out and be easier to find in your backpack or emergency kit.
Best Fire Starter: Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Fire Starter with Compass, Paracord and Whistle
Matches don’t work when they’re wet and lighters can run out of butane, so to be certain you can reliably start a fire, either for warmth or to cook things, you’ll want to invest in a fire starter. We like this one because it’s glow in the dark so you can easily get a fire going at night; has a magnesium ferrocerium rod that’s more reliable than flint, and lasts for up to 16,000 strikes. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and at 2 ounces, it won’t weigh you down. This one also comes with a built-in compass, whistle, and paracord.
What To Look for in Emergency Kit Essentials
Emergencies are not neat and tidy things. They can get rough and messy quickly, so it's crucial that your emergency supplies are durable ones. Stay away from materials that will tear or easily bend, like thin plastic or paper. Look for items that describe themselves as rugged or waterproof, as you don't want your emergency supplies to break before you can even use them.
Many emergencies will cause you to leave your home quickly, like in the case of a wildfire or hurricane. Because that's so often the case, it's important that your emergency supplies are either portable or can be stored in something that's portable. Look for supplies that fold up neatly, are compact, or offer storage for other emergency supplies.
Another important consideration for your emergency kit essentials? Shelf life. There's a good chance you may buy some of these supplies and leave them untouched for months and years. But should you have to eventually need them, it's vital that they still be in working order. To find emergency kit essentials with a long shelf life, seek out items with a 5 or 10-year guarantee or a proven track record of longevity. If you're buying perishables, make sure their best-by date is far enough away for them to be useful in an emergency.
How much water should you include in an emergency kit?
The CDC recommends that you keep one gallon of water per person, per day, in your emergency kit. Therefore, if you're creating a 5-day emergency kit for 3 people, you'll need 15 gallons of water. The CDC also recommends your emergency kit contain enough water and supplies for at least 3 days.
What is an emergency kit?
An emergency kit is a kit filled with the supplies you'll need to support you and your family after an emergency. It often contains non-perishable food, water, a light source, medication, and first aid supplies. Many modern-day emergency kits now include backup cell phone power, sanitation supplies, and masks.
What is the purpose of an emergency kit?
The purpose of an emergency kit is to sustain you and your family after an emergency, whether it be a hurricane, earthquake, or just a power outage. Emergency kits keep you fed, hydrated and safe until further help arrives. Sometimes external help can take a few days to come, which is why most emergency kits are multi-day ones.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This round-up was edited and researched by Lily Sperry, a lifestyle writer and commerce editor here at The Spruce. When considering which picks to keep or add, she consulted dozens of third-party reviews and resources provided by Ready, a national campaign promoting emergency preparedness and awareness. Additional reporting was done by Rabekah Henderson, a freelance design and decor writer whose work has appeared on MyDomaine, Atomic Ranch, Cary Magazine, and American Farmhouse Style.