How to Put Together an Emergency Preparedness Kit

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Emergency Kit

A recent snowstorm made me revisit my emergency kit for preparedness. I try to keep it natural and am happy to share the contents with you.

The storm that hit Western North Carolina recently made me revisit my emergency preparedness pack. I put it together myself, try to do it as naturally as possible, and am happy to share it with you now!

Contents of My Emergency Kit

  • Start with a few milk crates or a plastic storage tote such as an 18-gallon size.
  • Place a layer of newspaper in the bottom. It can act as insulation and fire starter if needed.
  • Add a jar of baking mix. See my article on the homemade baking mix here. This can be used to make pancakes, bread, muffins, and more. If you have no electricity, it can be adapted to use over a fire.
  • Add some dry soup and stew mixes. These camping mix recipes can be used or adapted for this purpose.
  • Don’t forget a few gallons of drinking water. Be sure to change them every three months or less.
  • Rosemary essential oil is great to have on hand. It will treat cuts and scrapes and can be used (very diluted) in cooking.
  • A small jar of olive oil is nice to have too. It can be used for cooking, moisturizing, and diluting rosemary oil.
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil can be used for cooking and storing coals. I don’t normally use foil, but as a quick portable thing, it’s handy.
  • Charcoal. I always store a few handfuls of charcoal in foil (that can be used to place the charcoal in to burn) in case the electricity goes out. Be sure to ONLY burn charcoal outside. Some charcoal gives off carbon monoxide fumes. (Find natural charcoal here.)
  • A few cans of soup and vegetables. (Best if canned by you!) They keep for a long time.
  • Some zip-top bags, both quart and gallon size, and trash bags are handy. I keep a few plastic bags from the grocery store for trash bags. I wrap any jars in them so they don’t clank against each other and then use them for trash later.
  • Rope and zip ties, because you never know when you’ll need either.
  • A saucepan without a non-stick surface. If non-stick surfaces are overheated, they can give off toxic fumes.
  • A roll of paper towels (or several clean towels/rags) and some toilet paper.
  • A pair or two of gloves.
  • A can opener or multi-tool like this.
  • Emergency crank radio with weather alerts, like this one.
  • A lighter and some waterproof matches. You can make your own by dipping wooden matches in melted wax for a second. When cool, store in an old pill bottle to keep dry. (You can also purchase them here.)
  • Dehydrated vegetables and spices. These will keep for a long time if kept dry.
  • Peanut butter. Great for a quick protein. If you’re allergic to peanuts, try almond butter or sun butter, made from sunflower seeds. (Learn how to make your own nut butter here.) Don’t like nut butter? Apple butter and/or applesauce are good too.
  • A reflective blanket. Find in the camping section of most stores or online here.
  • A blanket. I have a fuzzy one that I keep in the car, just in case.
  • A first aid kit. See how to make a natural first aid kit here.
  • Granola type bars and natural sugar. Powdered creamer is good to have too if you are a coffee addict like me.
  • Coffee and cocoa mixes.
  • Powdered electrolyte supplements in packets. They can be added to water easily.
  • Silverware, plates, and any other utensils you might need. I always pack a large spoon and a sharp knife.
  • Any medications you may need. I don’t have any prescriptions, but I have a small pack that has pain killer, cinnamon capsules, and lactose enzymes.  I switch these out every few months too.
  • Tuna and chicken in a can. They keep forever. (Maybe not the most natural, but could save your life if stranded without electricity.) Neither of these needs to be heated as they are precooked.
  • A bar of natural soap along with a washcloth and towel for each family member.
  • A small bottle of vodka. It can act as a hand sanitizer and is not as drying on your hands as rubbing alcohol. It can be used on cuts and scrapes to kill germs, too.
  • A change of clothes for each person. All of your clothes and shoes. I slid down a hill once and was soaked to the skin. I had a clean pair of pants in the car but no underwear, socks, or shoes. It was very uncomfortable, and cold for the rest of the day. Pack your shoes in a plastic grocery bag to keep them dry. It keeps any dirt on them from soiling other things.
  • A flashlight. Replace the batteries a few times a year.
  • Baby wipes. You can learn to make your own natural baby wipes here.
  • Cash money. In emergency situations, some stores may not be able to take credit cards.

Keeping Items In Your Emergency Kit Fresh

I mentioned switching some things out every few months, but really, everything should be replaced at least twice a year. I do that at Daylight Savings time, like checking smoke detector batteries. Check the dates on any cans and jars. Wash and dry all clothing and blankets. Check the charcoal and matches to be sure they are still dry. Check for bugs. (I swear, those stink bugs get into everything!)

You can add fresh items during the year if you know they will last. In the fall, I put a hard-skinned squash in my pack. If I can’t cook it, it can still be eaten raw if necessary. Apples are another good choice. Choose to keep apples like Arkansas Black or Haralsons. These can’t be kept for long, but for a week or so, they will be fine. (Check this list for more apples that will keep well.)

Do you have an emergency pack ready?

If so, what’s in yours? Please share it with the community in the comments!


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Eric says

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned duct tape (or Gorilla tape). Instead of bringing the whole roll, you can wrap some around your lighter since it just about the perfect width. Three X’s ( like three fires) are similar to signaling an S.O.S. if you’re stranded, unable to speak, move, etc. and can be placed on your car, tarp, etc., not to mention a multitude of other uses for it. You can also purchase it in different colors, like a bright orange, making it more visible.

    Another item I’d like to add on to would be the batteries. Instead of purchasing disposable ones and having to switch them out every few months, I’d recommend getting NiMH rechargeable batteries since they have a much longer shelf life and will work in lower temperatures than the disposables would. They do cost a bit of money but the initial investment will more than pay for itself over time, not to mention less garbage going to the landfill. Eneloop NiMH batteries are one of the best out there (for AA and AAA) and according to the manufacturer, can be recharged up to 2100 times before you’d have to replace them.

    One more small item to add would be a whistle. The sound will carry much further than yelling if in need of help.

  2. Louise Wayer says

    A couple more things that I consider important are laxatives, anti diarrheal pills, Rolaids, and pain killers. If you are in an emergency situation, you might be eating unusual foods that upset your digestive system. Diarrhea will dehydrate you in a hurry, not to mention how nasty it is to deal with.

  3. Louise Wayer says

    i want one of the solar chargers.

    The Sawyer filters will filter out 99.9 % of pathogens, but if the water is really foul, you can also use the purifying pills to be absolutely safe. They are also available at Walmart and any sporting goods store for about $4. The small Sawyer is $19.99 at Walmart or cheaper at You can go a long time without food, but only 3-4 days without water before dehydration kills you, so it seems to me that more than anything else, a water filter is absolutely vital.

  4. Debra Maslowski says

    And one more thing I found is a solar powered cell phone charger. It can be used to power a phone or a small tablet, all on solar power. The one I found was from Fingerhut and it was $9.99.

  5. Louise Wayer says

    Thank you for sharing your list. There is one absolutely vital item that you didn’t mention. A water filter to allow for safely drinking water from unusual sources is number one on my list. I prefer Sawyer personal filter, available at Walmart and virtually any sporting goods store. There is also Life Straw and others. They are all very small. The Sawyer will filter 100,000 gallons of water. Straining pond water etc. through cheesecloth or a tee shirt first will remove large particulates.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Thanks Louise! You’re right, there should be a filter for water. I’m looking for one that not only filters our particulates and chemicals, but pathogens as well. I can use bleach, as mentioned above, or boil it, but if there’s no way to heat it, that’s out. Do these that you mentioned filter everything? I’ll have to check them out.

  6. Kem Hayes says

    I would also recommend saltine crackers. Put the cracker, in their sleeves, in a sealable bag. A propane camp stove and a couple bottles of bernzomatic gas(outside uze only). And, a jar of dehydrated superfood, such as Dr.Schulz or Green Vibrance. Both would supply your daily nutritional needs, just mix 2 tablespoons in a glass of water. And remember the pets, canned cat or dog food. I stock canned salmon, which I fry up on the camp stove. Add a small can of Crisco to your storage tub.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Saltines are a great idea, Kem, as well as a small stove. I found one at a camping store that was the size of a coffee can and can be stored in a tote very easily. I do put a bag of dog food in my pack, changing it out once a month or so. And the oil in my pack is now coconut oil. I can use it for so many things.I’m not a fan of nutritional drinks, but in this case, I’d say it was essential.

  7. CTY says

    I always have a some hair ties in my emergency kits because I have very long, thick hair that would become a rat’s nest very quickly if not constrained. I pack extras because they are so versatile.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Yep, CTY, here’s another thing I missed. I have long hair too, so I always keep them with me, but they can be used for so much more. I added a few clothes pins to mine thinking about that too.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      I actually just added a deck of cards to my kit, Teresa, and a few books in case the electric is out for a while. And I just found out about the tea light-terra cotta heater trick. The loaf pans are a great idea too. Thanks!

  8. kathy osteen says

    I’ve considered this and have a packet of emergency preparedness I glance at and mull over. One thing I don’t believe I’ve read anywhere and would be a must for me would be protein powders. You’ve got bottled water already in you supplies for an emergency, so in a pinch to survive, mix protein powder and water-better than nothing. It requires no cooking and if electricity goes you have a food source to rely on. Also if you dehydrate fruits, protein sources and vegetables-you have food that requires no cooking or refrigerating. I’m hoping Santa gives a dehydrator for Xmas-use to have one and loved it.