72 hour bag

With all the horrible events going on in Japan, there has been the expected rush of articles on disaster recovery and preparedness and people also start talking about a 72-hour bag.

A 72-hour bag is supposed to contain everything you might need to live out a disaster for the minimum of 72 hours. I prefer to put it like this: “what preparations can I make that would, in the case of a disaster, mean that emergency services would not have to worry about me and mine and can concentrate on those in more need”.

Now a lot of the guides tell you a lot of things about what you should put in such a bag and I’m not in a position to argue with any authorities as I thankfully live in a country that mercifully suffers very very few natural disasters, but we have had variations of a 72 hour bag in the household for a long time. So here is what I pack in ours and the point of view I used to assemble it.

1) Build it for the disasters your area is prone to: so ours is designed for loss of services (electricity, gas, home) and functions (no heating, no shops), and not to cater to earthquake or volcanoes.

2) Don’t double up your whole life: if you have time to come back for this you most likely have time to pick up a couple of other bits, so I don’t store socks and jumpers or wash kit in ours, and often you carry quite a lot of survival stuff with you on a daily basis (even if you don’t realize it).

3) Try to make it low maintenance: things go off faster than you think.

4) Think of your happiness not just your survival.

OK, let’s get started. Now I start the wrong way round with my 72-hour kit, as I am in a tiny studio flat, I can’t have a mid size bag for each family member lying around (some guides even suggest 3 complete sets, 1 for home 1 for car and 1 for work), I had a think about how much space I can spare, and I came in at about 30 ltrs or one small decent rucksack for 2 people.

Here it is fully packed:

Now as I am limited in space I pack it first with the absolute necessities. First, food:

I have mentioned these survival packs before and you can get matching water packs, they are not expensive and have a 5 year shelf-life (they are also LEGAL unlike a lot of the genuine military rations).

Yes it will be a boring 72 hours food-wise, but give me a second we are just dealing with pure essentials at the moment. Next, shelter:

This is basically a small vacuum packed bivy bag/2 person sleeping bag, made by the very clever people at Blizzard Survival, who have taken the stuff normal survival blankets are made of and made a toughened 3-layer version with air pockets to give it an 8 tog value, clever stuff (yes I’m aware we will look like dorks inside it, but we’ll be warm dorks).

And some misc survival stuff:

A couple of survival blankets (dead cheap) a few heat pad packs (8 hour ones) and some stick lights (2 long 8-hour ones and a very bright 30 min one)

OK that’s the essential freaky boring stuff out the way, on to more normal stuff

These 3 tubs hold, respectively:

  • Coffee and Sporks
  • Toilet paper and wipes
  • Medical supples/first aid kitWhy a giant pack of coffee (or tea), what are you going to make it with and why. Well:
  • It warms you
  • It’s easy
  • It’s a comfort thing for many many people and helps them through troubled times (sleepless nights, cold mornings)
  • It’s a nice thing to share with other people in the same fix (costs you little but means a lot)But back to the HOW of coffee, we need hot water and a coffee maker.

    GSI comes to our rescue here, with their amazing range of compact camping cookware.

    Their 3rd generation coffee filter (I have the first generation and bought my parents the second generation, and they get better each time), packs down into a silly size, is insulated and easy to clean

    Next comes their PINNACLE SOLOIST which is even more compact (I don’t need to get the duellist version, I already have a cup with the coffee filter). This set even holds the gas cylinder and includes a pouch for the cooker head, but be aware that you will need to get a 10cm wide gas cylinder rather than the often sold 10.5cm or 11cm versions if you want to get it all in the main pot.

    Talking of the gas cylinder and cooker, make sure you get a gas mix that does not freeze (the tin will say so). There are a few different types of gas connector, but by far the best is the re-attachable “screw type” so I have plumped for that, and an adaptor for the ‘push’ type to give me the most compatibility. DO NOT get a peirce type as you wont be able to take it apart again!

    A slight diversion on the cooker head itself, I use a Gelert Blaze PZ Micro Folding Gas Stove, and could truly rave about it , from it’s excellent construction and tiny size to the fact that it has a built-in piezo ignition. It’s been a long time since I have seen something quite so well-made, much recommended

    Now I have just enough room left to sneak in some nice food, for my vegan better half this will be:

    The vegan self-heating can of vegetable chilli from http://www.hotcans.co.uk/ , now this may seem stupid given that I have a stove, but I think the extra weight will be worth it if we are stuck somewhere cold and an open flame is not an option (say inside an evacuation shelter or other closed space). They have 6 other flavours and they all look nice.

    My prefab nice food pack is the meal 2 (vegetarian) from http://www.bewellexpeditionfoods.com because they taste nice, I can share half of it with my vegan better half, but mainly because they supply Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who could have chuck Norris with his little finger (had he not already sawn it off with a jigsaw cutter after it went bad due to frost bite)

    There is also miscellaneous stuff that was too boring to photograph which included

    • £200 of mixed denomination money (coins and notes)
    • A PAPER list of useful contact numbers
    • Pen knife/leather man with knife/tin opener etc etc (remember if you’re in the UK the blade can’t be longer than 8 centimetres (3.1 in) if you want to carry it)
    • MatchesIn addition, I already carry a small “man tin” (or MacGyver kit as I understand our American colleagues call them) in my normal day pack, for myself and my better half. The tins are fab and are made by BCB International (although you cant seemingly buy them direct and have to get them via amazon. Also a small torch and solar battery charger (www.powertraveler.com).

      That’s it, I’m reading this back, and I’m thinking WHAT A FREAK, but well, there you go 🙂

Old Comments

Vitor Pereira(26/03/2011 22:18:13 GMT)

“masks are a good idea as well, but makes it harder for people to not think im a freak”.

Oh, don’t worry about the masks Emoticon

Ben Poole(29/03/2011 10:54:12 GDT)

I’d just like to concur with Vitor: if it makes you feel any better, I thought you were a freak long before this post or the mask thing.

You’re welcome.

Julian Woodward(27/03/2011 10:08:40 GDT)


Aliki A.(23/03/2011 17:08:56 GMT)

If the coffee is instant I am staying at home, saving myself is not that high up on my priority list >:[

Mark Myers(23/03/2011 14:26:25 GMT)

good additions, i had been thinking of the radio, i already have the water sterliser, mints and instant coffee (the starbuck ones) in my man tin, but nothing beats proper coffee, the warmth of the stove, the smell, i think it worth the hit. the phone number is already in a plastic bad with the money so that should be cool

masks are a good idea as well, but makes it harder for people to not think im a freak Emoticon

Mark Myers(29/03/2011 11:08:49 GDT)

@9 Dear mr Pot, your 72 hour bag needs to include protection from black kettles

Mark Myers(29/03/2011 10:49:52 GDT)

@6 @7 thanks guy, really, thanks!!

Mark Myers(23/03/2011 20:22:36 GMT)

@4 thanks, i read a bunch of the books about this kind of thing, and the one by Peggy Layton made the most sense from a food point of view (she had a good point of view), i hope that none of ever have to use our bags in anger Emoticon

Mark Barton(23/03/2011 13:53:37 GMT)

Great list Mark.

I kept thinking of things I would add but going back to your reasoning for having the bag they might be considered less required but anyway these would be: A small radio (windup), maybe a heavy duty plastic bag, a form of water sterliser (I appreciate you could boil but it would take a while), and some form of boiled sweet / mints. Wouldn’t small packets of instant coffee be better Emoticon

Thinking of your urban location I would also consider face masks N95 type and small sterile eyewashes – for the more extreme type of incident but they don’t take allot of room up.

The phone number list could be laminated to make it waterproof. Dont forget to include your details on the phone number list – blood group etc.

Bridgett(23/03/2011 17:28:54 GMT)

My husband reads your twitter feed and sent me your way. I’m building our bug out bags this month, actually, for the same reasons (but we live on a quiet fault in the central US so a little more involved perhaps). I like your take on this.

And coffee: how could I forget the coffee.

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