We hear about natural disasters such as hurricanes and cyclones in different parts of the world that made me wonder about my personal emergency preparedness in the face of a snowstorm leaving me home bound for a few days or stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Disaster readiness need not be a preparation for every low probability event that might (or might not) happen but it is still judicious to have a basic survival kit at home and in the vehicle. It is also important to watch for expiry dates of relevant items and replace them when the kit has not found use for a while (which is what one may wish for). Lets take a look at some of the basic items that go into an emergency survival kit.

The Home Survival Kit

Typically, a 3-day survival kit should help in most emergencies. Following is a list of items that would be needed for a basic kit.

Water. Four liters per person per day (for drinking and washing; proportion used for each may vary by individual). It is important to replace the water in the kit with a fresh supply at least every year.

Food. Non-perishable items for each person in the family. Best foods are those that require no preparation, cooking (needs energy and water – both of which would be at a premium in the hour of need) or refrigeration and are small for easy storage. In addition, it is essential to choose foods after considering any applicable dietary restrictions and ones that family members will actually eat.

Typical foods for the kit are ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, trail mixes, cereals, protein bars, peanut butter, vitamin tablets, canned juices, honey, dried milk and crackers. As with water, expiry dates are to be kept an eye on and foods replaced when needed. For pet owners, their pet’s food would need to be included.

First aid. Building a first aid kit can become a complex matter if one considers the possibility of major injuries such as burns and fractures. However, for minor injuries such as lacerations, blisters, bites, etc., survivopedia has ideas.

Miscellaneous items. Evidently, there are many small items that need to be part of a kit. They include the following:

  • Sleeping bag or blanket for each family member;
  • Hand sanitizer;
  • Crank or battery-operated flashlight and radio with extra batteries;
  • Extra keys, for house and car;
  • Medications, if applicable;
  • Candles and matchsticks;
  • Can opener;
  • Cash in small bills;
  • Whistle;
  • Personal hygiene items;
  • Garbage bags and twist ties;
  • Toilet paper;
  • Multi-tool;
  • Duct tape;
  • Change of clothing for each person; and,
  • Copies of important documents.

Although it is not difficult to build an emergency survival kit, some people may prefer to buy a ready-made kit available in stores. If you prefer to go that route, Costco offers a 4-person 3-day kit for around $150, while Walmart has a 1-person 3-day offering.

The Vehicle Survival Kit

Being stranded in a vehicle during a storm requires a separate kit to handle the inclement weather conditions. Such a kit would include:

  • Non-perishable foods;
  • Water;
  • Sleeping bag or blanket or at least ski pants;
  • Extra clothing, gloves, socks and shoes;
  • Crank or battery-operated flashlight with extra batteries;
  • Ice scraper;
  • Shovel;
  • Salt, sand or kitty litter;
  • Booster cable;
  • Maps (the paper kind); and,
  • Flares.

Do you have an emergency kit at home and in your vehicle? If so, do you have any item not part of the two lists above? Any tips for people putting together a kit?

About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.


  1. This Life On Purpose on October 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I don’t have an emergency kit at home or in my vehicle. I think having one in my vehicle is probably a good idea with the cold Canadian winters we have. Getting stranded without one could lead to serious problems. I better put something together before the snow falls!

  2. SST on October 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I don’t think Clark gets the recognition he deserves on here.

    He almost always puts forth very utilitarian and practical articles (must be his Prairie sensibilities) which, unfortunately, almost always get lost in the daily credit card and online broker et al scrums.

    Thanks, Clark.

  3. Clark on October 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    @SST: Thank you. I recall telling FT, when I started writing for MDJ, that I win in 3 ways by being a writer – I learn, I share the information with others in the hope that at least a few people will start to think more about (and act on) a certain topic and I get paid to do both! :-)

    Appreciate the appreciation!

  4. Carla Bosteder on October 28, 2013 at 3:10 am

    I’ve suggest replacing the water every 6 months as it is probably safer due to the possibility of bacteria. I would just use it to water my plants after it has been stored. I also use filtered water rather than tap water when filling my containers so that I start with the freshest water possible.

    Your list is great.

  5. MB on October 31, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for the article, Clark. I’ve been procrastinating for quite a while, but this article finally motivated me to compile our family’s survival kit.

    Now I’m wondering where do most of you guys store the kit?
    The access to the house might be a concern after an earthquake. hmm..

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