Investing in a pre-packed 72-hour emergency preparedness kit, also known as a go-bag or bug-out bag, is a smart way to help ensure that, should you need to leave home during an emergency—such as an earthquake, flood, fire, or hurricane—you’ll have most of what’s needed to stay safe and healthy for up to three days. Seventy-two hours is the amount of time that many emergency management planners and government agencies say it could take for local and federal authorities to begin lending aid to people in the aftermath of a significant disaster. While it’s better in almost all circumstances to create your own survival kit, buying a pre-packed go-bag is a great way to set you on the path to staying safe and healthy when things go very, very wrong.
Relying on years of experience and, after days of research and testing, we feel that the Urban Survival Bug Out Bag from Emergency Zone(available at Walmart for $139.99) is the best 3-day survival kit for most people to invest in. Despite the fact that this kit is said to be suitable for two people, we feel that, based on our research, it is better suited for use by a single individual. You should know that this kit is far from perfect: All of the kits that we explored for this guide were lacking in one way or another. However, it offers the best balance of price, quality, and necessity of any pre-packaged 72-hour survival kit that we could find.
Here are the best 72-hour survival kits, in order:
Emergency Zone Urban Survival Bug Out Bag
Sustain Supply Company Essential 2
Red Cross Basic 3-Day Emergency Kit
Sustain Supply Company Comfort 2
Survive Outdoors Longer Urban Survivor
Uncharted Supply Company Seventy2 Survival System
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This may be our favorite emergency kit, but since we’re talking about personal safety, let me be blunt about some of its deficiencies up front: It doesn’t include enough water to provide the one gallon, per person, per day ration that the United States government recommends. None of the portable emergency kits that we looked into for this guide do. The Urban Survival Bug Out Bag comes with just over 50 fluid ounces of pre-packed shelf-stable drinking water—half of what one person needs in order to stay hydrated, for a single day. To make up for this hydration deficit, this kit includes a small water bladder, water purification tablets and a water filtration straw that can be used with an included sports bottle. The idea here is that you’ll be able to source additional water, from puddles, lakes, water heaters or a tub, as you go along. Relying on found water for your daily hydration needs, especially at a time when you may have been injured or are forced to sleep outdoors, may still be unsafe, so we strongly recommend including additional drinking water in your kit to meet FEMA’s guidelines.
Inside this kit, you’ll also find two two-packs of shelf-stable emergency food rations. They require no preparation before eating: just rip open the package and start chewing. The bars look awful, but they taste ok. Eating both packages of rations will net you a total of 7,200 calories. In 2015, the federal government stated that a healthy semi-active individual between the ages of 36 and 40 years old requires 2,600/2,000 (men and women, respectively,) in order to stay healthy and maintain their weight. This means that women who invest in this kit, will have their short-term nutritional needs taken care of, with a few calories to spare. If you’re a guy, like me, you’ll probably want to add a few protein bars or additional shelf-stable ration packs to shore up your nutritional needs. Further, teens will likely need additional calories. The elderly and children will require less. It might be best to think of the rations in this kit as ones that will allow you to get through a three-day emergency, a little bit dehydrated and a few pounds lighter. For many, this might seem reasonable—right now. Your thoughts on the matter may change after being out in the elements. My advice is to follow the government’s guidelines: Make sure to invest some cash in additional sustenance. Food and water aren’t just necessities: Being well-fed is a comfort during bleak, stressful times. You deserve that.
Now, let’s talk about the good stuff. Emergency Zone has done a pretty good job of providing many of the essentials, as well as a few extras that one might need when they’re unable to stay at home during a disaster: a combination LED flashlight/AM/FM radio that can be powered by a built-in hand crank or charged via USB will provide you with illumination and allow you to keep apprised of what’s going on in the world should the power grid or other lines of communication fail. It even comes with an adapter that’ll allow you to charge (albeit slowly) a cellphone using the radio’s hand crank. You’ll find other tools in the kit as well: an off-brand Swiss-Army knife with sharp, strong blades; work gloves to protect your hands while clearing rubble or other chores; a roll of duct tape and parachute cord to assist you in creating a makeshift shelter, a “G.I.-style” can opener; chemical light sticks; a deck of playing cards to kill time until help arrives and a brief guide that provides insight into what to consider when preparing for a potential disaster. The kit also includes a combination safety whistle, compass, and magnesium fire starter, which while not of the best quality, just might provide you with a bit of additional security and warmth.
Emergency Zone also did a fine job of providing owners of this kit with the lightweight, rudimentary tools they’ll need to stay warm and out of the elements. A tube tent with an integrated groundsheet provides shelter from sun, rain or snow. You’ll discover two mylar emergency sleeping bags, designed to keep your body heat inside while you use it and the elements out. There’s a pair of emergency ponchos and a couple of chemical hand warmers, too. These spares weigh little and can be kept on hand, just in case yours fails or be traded for other essentials that might be in short supply during a crisis (like drinking water).
And then there’s what you’ll need to maintain your personal hygiene. Of all of the kits we looked at, the Urban Survival Bug Out Bag was the only one that included toilet paper or feminine hygiene products. You’ll also find toothpaste, a pair of toothbrushes, bar soap, a washcloth, packets of shampoo, a disposable razor, and shaving cream. Toothbrushes are a great addition, however, given how little water this kit comes with, we’d be a lot happier with a big package of wet wipes than all of the other toiletries listed here.
None of the kits we tested contained first-aid kits with everything one might need to treat or, at the very least, stabilize injuries that could occur during a significant weather event or in the wake of a civil disturbance: a penetrating wound or significant bleeding, for example. The Urban Survival Bug Out Bag is no exception. While it does come with basics like a triangular bandage and a pair of disposable gloves, a good variety of small, non-stick sterile non-stick wound pads, bandages and antiseptic wipes, there’s a comically small amount of gauze and medical tape for securing those pads to someone’s body with. Additionally, while there are butterfly wound closures, the kit ships with only two 10 x 10 cm gauze pads. That may not be enough to stem the sort of serious bleeding that, under normal conditions, you’d call an ambulance for. In a major emergency, where first-responders response times are likely to be significantly longer than usual, this could be a problem. We recommend investing in additional first aid supplies.
The backpack that contains all of the supplies that this Emergency Zone kit ships with is comfortable to wear, fully loaded, has room for extras and is reasonably well constructed. Just as important is the fact that it comes available in a subdued color scheme, without indication that it’s full of emergency supplies: an important safety consideration during a time when resources could be scarce. While the bag isn’t waterproof, it’s highly water resistant, making it a good choice for hauling around your emergency essentials in, no matter the weather. For added protection, Emergency Zone ships all of the contents inside of the kit in large, tough, resealable plastic bags. Outside of additional food and water and medical supplies that we feel you’ll need in order to buff this kit up, there’s a number of other products that we feel are a good choice to include in a pre-packaged kit.
Comes with basic shelter materials
Essentials such as a folding knife, radio and work gloves are of good quality
Includes personal hygiene products
Does not include enough food or water to keep most individuals hydrated and fed for 72 hours
My name’s Seamus Bellamy. Before I moved into my career as a journalist, I spent years working as an industrial first-aid practitioner, writing and enforcing workplace safety policy and helping corporations plan for emergencies that, thankfully, never came to pass. I’ve used this knowledge to write about travel and roadside safety for Reviewed. Now, I’m here to help you keep yourself and your family safe at home.
Before we could research or test anything, we made a decision to focus on emergency kits designed for when you need to leave home. This is because, in many emergency situations, where staying at home is an option, you can still rely upon the goods in your freezer, fridge, and pantry. The supplies in a portable emergency kit can be used at home, as well as at times when you’re forced to evacuate. There are kits out there that are designed for groups of four people or more, often packed into duffel bags or wheeled containers. They look like they could be a smart buy for someone trying to protect all of the people in their home, but we don’t like them. These kits can be heavy and awkward to haul around. If leaving home means having to traverse uneven terrain, flood waters, heavy snow or mud, you could be forced to leave an awkward, family-sized kit behind. With each person carrying their own supplies, the going will be easier. With this in mind, we decided that a backpack-sized kit was the way to go.
Next, we turned our attention to what should be inside of each bag. For hydration and nutrition, we looked to the guidelines suggested by FEMA and other government agencies for what a healthy individual, between the ages of 36 and 40 years old, who are engaging in vigorous activity, requires to stay relatively healthy over a three-day period. This age group requires a lot of calories (2,600 for men and 2000 women, per day) compared to individuals at other stages of their life. Keep folks from this group from losing weight over 72 hours and you can do the same for most everyone else as well. For this purpose, shelf-stable, calorie-rich food and pre-packaged drinking water with expiry dates that span years into the future, are best. When someone is cold, sick or injured, they tend to burn through calories faster and need more liquids in order to stay hydrated. As such, we made sure to hunt down kits that contained mylar blankets or sleeping bags and the materials that one might need to hang a shelter and keep warm in bad weather or if they’re under the weather if they’re forced to spend a night out in the elements. Because some emergencies, such as an earthquake where ruptured gas lines could pose a hazard, make lighting a fire a bad idea, we noted when the materials to start a fire were included in a kit, but gave extra appreciation to go-bags that came packing extras like chemical hand warmers and warm gloves.
During an emergency, you can expect that the first responders may not be able to help us when we’re injured—the number of calls for assistance they receive could be overwhelming. Infrastructure, such as highways and public transit may make driving to a hospital temporarily impossible. Calling 911? That might be out of the question as well if cellphone and landline services fail. So ensuring these kits included a first-aid kit was a must. We also put a priority on finding kits that ship with an AM/FM radio that, ideally, can tune in broadcasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to stay on top of breaking news. We looked for kits that provide important extras related to hygiene, like hand sanitizer, sunscreen, wet wipes, toilet paper or tissues, a toothbrush, toothpaste and feminine hygiene products. Finally, we wanted to ensure that the kits we called in came with important extras, such as N95 filtration masks, work gloves for cleaning debris, knives, and tools for the thousand things you might require them for and other thoughtful add-ons that could make a harrowing experience a little bit easier to deal with.
All of this, of course, needs to fit into a backpack. It’s our belief that, since you’ll very likely be using this kit in adverse conditions, the backpack that comes with a portable emergency preparedness kit should be rugged and, if not waterproof, highly water-resistant. We looked for bags that appeared to fit this description that we thought would still have additional space left over to pack extras, such as prescription medication or a change of clothing or even a reliable hatchet for gathering fire-making materials and clearing debris. into. Additionally, we gave bonus points to packs that don’t advertise that they’re full of supplies which, during an emergency, could be in short supply.
Once we had the kits on hand, we tested each to see how comfortable the backpacks were to wear, whether they were durable and easy to organize. We tried samples of each of the emergency food rations inside to see if they were at all palatable—all were. None will knock you off of your feet—and whether there was enough food and water to suffice for three days. All other supplies, and lack thereof, were scrutinized for quality and usability.
What You Should Know About 72-Hour Survival Kits
Because some emergencies may require you leave your home in order to remain safe, owning a pre-packed cache of supplies, sometimes called a go bag, that can easily be transported on foot could mean the difference between being comfortable or miserable in an emergency.
Where should I keep my go-bag?
Before investing, consider where you might need one and where you’ll have the space to store it. You might want to keep one in the trunk of your car if you drive to work, every day. If you commute on public transit, keeping one under your desk and having another at home could be a good solution. For remote workers, like me, having a single bag that you can grab at home and hit the road with when things get hairy is the way to go.
Who should own an emergency preparedness kit?
Everyone. Unfortunately, during a major emergency, such as an earthquake, the aftermath of a tornado or civil unrest, first responders, utility personnel and other essential services workers can’t be everywhere at once. By ensuring that everyone in your household has their own emergency bag, in addition to the preparations that you’ve made at home, you and yours will be better prepared to take care of one another when no one else can.
These kits are designed for one person, what about the rest of my family?
We recommend purchasing a kit for each member of your family capable of carrying their own supplies. For those with young children or other individuals in their care that might have difficulty carrying their own kits, adding the food and water and extras required to see them through three days is a great way to maintain mobility. When you run out of room in your kit bag, consider investing in a larger, backpack. Allowing kids to carry some of their own supplies in a pack that's sized for them is also a fine way to share the burden.
Where there are multiple bags in play for your family group, develop a plan to ensure that everyone is carrying what they need before leaving your home in an emergency.
I bought the survival kit you recommend, is there anything else I need?
None of the kits we found online are perfect. In fact, we uncovered many deficiencies among the very best survival kits. To help shore up what’s missing from your 72-hour survival kit, augment it with some useful extras or build your own survival kit instead. If you feel that a larger backpack to carry all of your supplies is in order, don’t worry, we have your back there as well.
On top of all of this, you should consider including these personal items:
Non-prescription medications you use on a regular basis
A complete change of clothing, appropriate to your environment
Printed or electronic copies of important documents, such as copies of your government ID, bank account records and insurance policies
A list of contact information for friends and loved ones
Feminine hygiene supplies, if required
Prescription glasses, contact lenses, and lens solution, if required
A minimum of $20 to $100 in small bills (if there’s no power, there are no ATMs or credit card readers) to make emergency purchases
If you’ve taken responsibility for someone that’s unable to pack and carry their own supplies, you’ll also need food, water, and other basic supplies that they’ll need. Babies need baby food. The infirm require medication and, in some cases, additional batteries to run medical devices.
We also strongly recommend taking the most comprehensive first aid course that you have the time and money to afford. Additionally, if the city or county you live in offers emergency management training courses, take the time to enroll in one and learn what you can. The more knowledge you have, the better you’ll be prepared when things go wrong.
Other Survival Kits We Tested
Almost all the kits we tested for this guide suffer from similar deficiencies: For example, they don’t include enough water, and often add unhelpful tools. The following reviews only draw attention to the most glaring issues discovered in each.
Sustain Supply Co. Essential2
Like our main pick, the Essential 2 is a kit designed to support two people for 72 hours. However, the number of available calories and available water is a problem. The Essential 2 comes with a high-quality personal water filter and bladder, so it could be possible to sustain yourself on found water. However, relying on being able to find water to drink, especially in arid locales, is a gamble that could leave you parched.
The Essential 2’s first-aid kit comes with a pamphlet with clear instructions on what to do for a number of injuries. Unfortunately, most of the instructions involve flushing the injury with water, which you likely won’t have, or calling 911—which may not bring help in a timely manner. Aside from a couple of some small bandaids, two Tylenol, two Aspirin and a single bobby pin (seriously), you’re on your own.
I was pleased to see that this kit included parachute cord that can be used to help craft a shelter and a sharp, safe knife for cutting up that cord or any other chore you might turn it to. However, aside from a pair of space blankets, there was nothing else in this kit to provide warmth. If you want to hang a shelter or, if the conditions are safe to build a fire, you’ll need to pack your own tarp and fire starter.
Surprisingly, the Essential 2 doesn’t come with a weather radio. It did ship with a lantern, but no batteries. Anyone thinking that this kit would provide all they need in an emergency could be in for a jarring disappointment.
High quality backpack
Good-quality knife and lantern
Includes water filtration device
Food stores inadequate
A water filter is no replacement for having water on hand
American Red Cross Basic 3-Day Emergency Preparedness Kit
The bright, red backpack that this kit comes with is highly conspicuous and of poor quality. Its zipper pulls showed signs of an impending failure, right out of the box and, even with just the basic supplies it comes with, it’s not comfortable to carry. The combination Flashlight/AM/FM radio (no NOAA band, mind you), and flashlight included in the kit felt just as cheap. I don’t feel that the quality of this device is such that I’d want to trust it as my only source of information and, aside from a pair of chemical glow sticks, illumination, during an emergency.
Given that this was created by the Red Cross, I was expecting that the first-aid kit would be adequate. It mostly is, but it could still use some add-ons. While there is one large bandage and a small roll of gauze for larger scrapes or lacerations, it lacks the supplies to deal with injuries like immobilizing a limb or stopping significant bleeding. Also, it’s problematic that the folder containing these supplies isn’t waterproof.
The most irresponsible thing in this kit? It only comes with 16.91 fl oz. of drinking water. That this kit comes with a number of hygiene supplies that require water to use makes this shortcoming feel even worse.
As its name suggests, the Comfort 2 is a two-person emergency kit. However, like our main pick, we feel it’s better suited for sustaining a single person. It comes packed into a large, well-made hiking-style backpack that shouldn’t attract too much attention to you. The backpack offers tons of pockets to help you keep things organized and there’s enough space to add many of the extras that the kit lacks or that you feel you’d like to augment it with.
This kit comes with a pretty nice little LED flashlight and an inexpensive, but bright, LED lantern. Neither, however, come with the batteries that are required to power them. Given that the Comfort 2 will set you back over $200, this feels pretty chintzy. So far as tools go you’ll also get a decent outdoors knife, a pair of collapsible bowls and utensils (more on why that could be important, in a moment) and a pair of chemical glow sticks. No radio is provided in this kit which, again, feels like something that should have been included given the Comfort 2’s steep price. Finally, the Sustain Supply Company made sure to pack a pair of emergency blankets into the bag. But there are no materials, save a length of paracord that comes attached to the kit’s magnesium fire steel, for piecing together a shelter.
One of the major selling points of the Comfort 2 is that it comes with high-quality freeze-dried meals, instead of the shelf-stable emergency ration bars that are found in the rest of the kits that we reviewed. Provided by Mountain House, these meals contain more than enough calories to see one person through three days of survival away from other nutritional sources. You may not receive the same meals that I did—a menu of chicken and rice, macaroni and cheese and chicken and dumplings—but I tested them all and they’re pretty tasty. Having a hot meal during an otherwise horrible experience could be a wonderful morale booster. Unfortunately, what sounds great, in theory, might not work out for you, in practice. This kit ships with 50.72 fl oz. of shelf-stable drinking water. That’s less than what’s recommended for a single person to imbibe in a 24-hour period, let alone 72 hours. With this in mind, the fact that the Comfort 2 provides users with dehydrated meals that require water to cook is problematic. I opened up each of the meals in the kit to see if they could be eaten, without water. And they can. But they’re dry, messy and not at all enjoyable. The shelf-stable ration bars that come with our favorite kit or even in the Sustain Supply Company’s Essential 2 bag are more palatable than these uncooked meals. Granted, the kit does come with a water bladder and filter for drawing water from available sources. Unfortunately, hoping that you’ll find water is not planning for times when water may be in short supply.
The fact that the meals should, ideally, be cooked could be an issue as well. While the Comfort 2 comes with a camp stove, a pot to boil water in and everything you could want to set a pile of kindle to flame, doing so could be dangerous for those looking to eat or stay warm in the aftermath of an earthquake, tornado or other event where natural gas lines may have been ruptured.
Finally, as with the other kits featured in this guide, the medical supplies provided in the Comfort 2 are not adequate to handle anything but the most basic cuts or scrapes. If you end up with a broken bone, a sprain or a penetrating injury while the emergency services we usually rely on to help us are tied up, you’ll be ill-equipped to treat it.
Pack comes with space for additional supplies/clothing
Good quality tools
Shelter building supplies
No radio provided
No batteries in lantern or flashlight
Included freeze-dried meals require water to cook
Meal cooking could be highly dangerous in some emergency environments
SOL is a brand owned by Tender Corporation: a company known for its exceptional Mountain Medical first aid kits and medical supplies like AfterBite, AfterBurn gel and QuikClot hemostatic sponges. The quality of their medical supplies has, in my experience, always been great. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the SOL Urban Survivor.
Let’s start with the good stuff. This kit comes packing Adventure Medical Kit’s outstanding Wilderness and Travel Medicine handbook. It’s a great resource for anyone that’s been through a first aid course and an even better one for those trying to muddle through an emergency medical situation. Some of the tips in it are a little gory, like the instructions for tying a scalp wound closed with the injured party’s own hair, but you’ll be thankful for the knowledge in the off-chance that such an incident occurs. SOL also included a handy booklet of information for navigating a number of natural and man-made disasters a whole lot safer. There’s a pair of cloth gloves, fire-starting materials, and a rain poncho to help keep you warm and dry. And while the supplies inside of it might not be adequate for treating more serious injuries, the little that does come in Urban Survivor’s first aid kit is of good quality and sealed in a resealable, waterproof pouch.
Now, let’s talk about the bad.
For starters, the backpack the Urban Survivor kit ships is bright orange, with the SOL logo cast against a black background, broadcasting the fact that you very likely have emergency supplies inside of it that an ethically-challenged individual might be interested in. SOL ships the kit with a headlamp to provide you with hands-free illumination, the light it casts isn’t very bright and the hardware is of a quality that I wouldn’t recommend getting it wet or treating it too roughly.
Like all of the kits on this list, SOL fails to provide enough water to get you through more than a single day without hydration becoming an issue. Of all of the kits on this list, the Urban Survivor comes up shortest in the emergency rations department. To get you through three days, SOL packed four, 400 calorie energy bars into this backpack.
Throw in the fact that there’s no consideration here given to providing other basics like a sharp knife, shelter materials or a radio to stay on top of instruction from your local authorities and we can’t help but advise you to stay away from this kit.
The Seventy2, at $350, is the most expensive kit that we chose to test. Its supplies come in a dark gray, high quality, waterproof, roll-top backpack, so you won’t attract attention to yourself or have to worry about the bag’s contents getting wet. While empty and filled with air, the bag can also act as a floatation device.
Inside of the pack—provided you don’t cast off your supplies in favor of floating through flood waters—you’ll find a pullout insert that can be opened up and laid out, allowing you to take stock of all of the supplies you have on hand. It’s a great idea, but it presents a problem: The insert takes up a great deal of space inside of the backpack—space that could, and should, be filled up with additional supplies that the Seventy2 lacks.
You’ll find 2400 calories worth of shelf-stable rations in this kit—well below what’s recommended for three days. I was both surprised and disappointed to find that the kit ships with no emergency water rations. Instead, you get a personal water filter, hydration bladder, and sports bottle to store liquids in. Again, hoping for the best is not planning for the worst.
That said, some of the tools that come with the Seventy2 are quite good. The mini flashlight provided, for example, feels sturdy and comes with a battery, pre-installed. While I question the build quality of the emergency radio that the Seventy2 comes packing, I appreciate that it includes a NOAA band, flashlight, and can be powered by a hand crank, USB or, its built-in solar panel. I also liked the high-quality winter hat, water-resistant cold weather gloves, and a high-quality magnesium fire starter that Uncharted Supply provides. The knife that this kit ships with, however, sucks: While its blade geometry makes it a sturdy tool, the edge that it comes with from the factory isn’t all that sharp. The point on it, however, is sharp enough to poke right through its woven sheath. That’s a safety hazard. And while there’s a serrated section of the blade for cutting through cord or other similar materials, it's dull enough that I was able to saw at my finger with it, for a good chunk of time, without causing any harm. If you know how to sharpen a knife, that’d be ok—or it would be if the Seventy2 came with anything to sharpen a serrated blade with. The folding combination shovel and ax included in the kit have the same issue: the blade of the shovel/ax/pickaxe isn’t sharp and therefore, more or less useless.
There are less expensive 72-hour emergency kits out there that provide just as much, if not more to rely upon, in an emergency.
Excellent quality waterproof backpack
Thoughtful protective gear included
Ships with no emergency water rations
food stores inadequate for 72 hours
organization insert takes up space that could be used for additional supplies
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.