Family Survival Kit


We all want to provide for and protect our families. Feeling powerless to prevent harm from happening to a family member or close friend shouldn’t be accepted by anyone. Yes, there’s an endless amount of global uncertainty, a million bad things could happen¸ yet there’s no practical way to prepare for all of them. Fortunately, there is a practical, logical way to mitigate most of the basic types of risks that could harm your family. While it’s true that global events are outside of an individual’s ability to control, the ability to think ahead, plan for the worst, and hope for the best, is a crucial component of self-reliance that will aid you in keeping your family safe.

Much like other types of survival kits, it’s all too easy to dismiss the idea of even having a family survival kit because of modern conveniences we all take for granted. Few of us have experienced foot shortages at the local grocery store or lacked access to clean drinking water due to an emergency, but if something did happen, you’re primary focus is being able to be to provide water, food, and shelter for your family. Everything else is purely up to how engaged an individual is in the strategy of self-reliance. When it’s boiled down to its fundamental core, a good family survival kit should:

  • Provide the ability to clean and treat water (DHS recommends at least enough water to sustain 1 gallon per individual for 3 days, that’s better than nothing, but ideally you should have at least 1 week at the bare bones minimum). Water won’t be of any use if it’s dirty and potentially unsafe to drink. In a variety of common emergency situations, water may need to be treated and/or boiled to ensure your family doesn’t get sick from drinking it. It’s best to use bottled containers of water (rotated yearly, or sooner depending on the conditions it’s stored in) for the functions of a family survival kit.
  • Provide enough nutrition to satisfy caloric needs of each family member for a predetermined period of time (this will vary depending on family needs and family planning should an emergency happen). Like with water, the DHS advises at least 3 days worth of non-perishable food to have on hand. While this is a good start, 3 days doesn’t ensure a very large margin of safety should order not be restored within 72 hours (ideally you should have at least a week). Recent domestic natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina should be considered when you’re deciding how much food to store. Will you decide to leave if things get bad or will your family having better odds hunkering down and riding it out? These are some basic questions to start discussing with your family to better gauge just how much food/water will be stored in the family survival kit.
  • Provide the support needed to be able to continue family life in the event of an emergency. This part isn’t a specific item or anything nearly as tangible, but rather should be created in the planning phase for a family survival kit. It’s as simple as having a discussion with your family about plans for what to do, where to go, etc., should an emergency happen. Keep in a mind a good survival/emergency preparedness plan should be fluid. It should be checked at regular intervals to ensure its various components are still relevant, etc.

If your kit can provide these things, you’re well on your way to crafting an effective and functional family survival kit that can keep your family safe in an emergency. Remember to add the unique necessities that make a family survival kit effective. If your children or spouse take medication, stock your kit with it. If you have a family pet, you’ll want to make considerations for it as well. For older children, make sure that have the appropriate contact info (phone numbers, addresses, etc.) they’ll need if an emergency happens and the family plan is activated. In addition, there are some additional considerations unique to a family that may include some of the following components. Keep in mind this is just a list to help get you started in creating and customizing your own family kit. If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own, there’s nothing wrong with buying one.

Food / Water

  • Household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper. When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners. Also, the bleach smell should dissipate as it cleans the water. If there’s still a scent of bleach, either add more water or try again. If you’ve never done this before, it’s a good idea for one person to drink a small amount of water and then wait approximately 30-60 minutes to monitor for any adverse effects. Alternatively, there are commercial products available to treat and disinfect water. These come in many forms ranging from tablets, iodine crystals, water purification systems that use filters, etc. The most effective way to disinfect suspect water is to bring it to a boil. While there’s a lively debate as to how long the water needs to boil, as long as it does the waters fine. If you feel it necessary to boil it for longer, by all means, do what you need to do.
  • Enough food stored up to provide for each adult and child’s caloric need for however long you decide your family survival kit should be used to provide support for. Ideally, the foods you choose to store should be nutritionally rich and inexpensive with a long shelf life. Foods such as beans, grains, dehydrated, freeze-dried, and canned foods would be suitable for a family survival kit.
  • Also be sure and stock up on various quick energy snacks and food items such as power bars, granola, etc. This will come in handy if your family needs to bug out or for activities requiring extended periods of physical exertion.
  • If you have a family pet (and you the emergency situation allows for you to keep it), be sure to account for its food / water intake needs for the same length of time you planned for you and your family.

Hygiene / Health

  • Soaps / common toiletries. Just because there may be an emergency or some other type of disaster is no excuse not to stay clean. On the contrary, poor hygiene opens the doors to disease and infection and can ultimately end in death.
  • Any unique medical considerations such as extra equipment for diabetics (including food considerations), any prescriptions a family member may have, extra contact lens/glasses, etc.
  • Baby wipes or wet tissues are very helpful to have on hand even with no young children. With younger children who still wear diapers or pull-ups; these are a must to stock up on. Don’t forget about stocking up on some garbage bags and bag ties.
  • Multivitamins for all adults and children. A 30 day supply should be more than adequate but feel free to stock more if you wish. Vitamins have a good shelf and if rotated on a yearly basis, should do fine unless exposed to extreme weather conditions.
  • Formula for infants. Even if the mother is breast feeding it’s critical to have a backup food source for infants in the event something happens to the mother.
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Hand sanitation (this can double as a fire starter if you’re using traditional an alcohol based hand sanitizer).
  • Common OTC medications such as aspirin, antidiarrheal’s, etc.
  • Toothpaste/tooth brush, etc.
  • Petroleum Jelly (can also double as fire starter when combined with cotton balls or other tinder
  • A first aid kit. Remember, this item is only as useful as the individual using it… There’s no point in keeping around equipment for operating if you have no idea how to perform an emergency operation. It’s a good idea to include a basic medical reference guide for common injuries that may be sustained in an emergency situation.
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels. Even if you normally oppose the use of paper dining products consider the logistical difficulties washing your dishes in a situation with no electricity or clean water is available. You would need to treat and boil all dish washing water prior to use. Paper products can be cleaned up and will also help keep day to day life as easy possible in a time of likely great stress. Mess kits can also be used if you simply don’t use paper products due to environmental impact.

Signaling / Navigation

  • Spare cell phone chargers / phone card. This may or not be relevant (won’t do you any good if cell networks are unavailable) depending on the survival setting.
  • Flashlight / Lantern (be sure to stock batteries in a waterproof container if you have any battery powered devices you’re counting on. Consider looking into hand cranked/solar powered devices.
  • Flares
  • Something to make a fire with such as lighters, matches, fire steel, etc. Remember to always have at least 2-3 methods available to start a fire. You may also want to consider storing some kind of fire starter such as firesticks or petroleum jelly fire starters.
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Map and compass – Obviously these items are only useful if you know how to use them. If you do choose to stock a map and/or compass, make sure it’s an up to date map and consider updating every few years for whatever area you’re likely to frequent.
  • An emergency radio, make sure it receives a NOAA channel to receive government alerts and weather forecasts. Many modern emergency radios have the ability to power themselves (usually through a combination of batteries, solar charge, or hand cranked). Most radio models also combine other functions into one item such as flashlights, strobe signals, sirens, alarm clocks, etc.

Clothing / Bedding

  • Clothing specific to your regions climate zone. It’s always ideal to stay dry so if possible, make sure your clothing/boots are waterproof and/or weather resistant. Remember the 3 layer clothing system so if you have the space available, pack 1-2 layered outfits.
  • Diapers or pull-ups for small children. In an emergency situation, cloth diapers are superior for a variety of reasons. In an extended emergency or survival situation, purchasing additional supplies of diapers may not be an option whereas cloth diapers can simply be cleaned and reused (yes it’s a pain if you normally use diapers but it’s also practical).
  • Sleeping bag or warm blankets for each person. You’ll require additional bedding if you live in a cold weather climate zone. Sleeping bags are ideal because they can be rolled up and easily transported should the need arise. Mylar or thermal (space blankets) can be used not only to provide warmth but also double as a potential make shift shelter.


  • A deck of cards or some books could come in handy if stuck waiting for assistance. You could also bring a small notepad and pen to record your thoughts or doodle to pass the time.
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
  • Pens/Pencils and paper. This can be used to keep thoughts in a journal, doodle, draw up plans, or whatever.
  • Puzzles or other non-electric games and toys. These may already be in and around your home or you may want to keep a small stash specifically with the rest of your kit.
  • If you have a family pet, you may also want to include a toy or object for it. In a situation involving hunkering down in your home, tensions may run high and the last thing you’ll want is for the dog to bark incessantly after being cooped inside all day.

Other Items

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Extra fuel. If you have the ability to store extra fuel for your vehicle/s, you should do so.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • If you have any canned food, be sure to also include a can opener in your kit.
  • Vehicle repair items. This is useful to have around in the event you decide to head for greener pastures should the going get to rough. If your family decides to evacuate or try and leave, the last thing you’d want to happen is your vehicle to get a flat, have battery issues, etc., without having the proper tools available.
  • Cash in various denominations including coins for pay phone if applicable, some also use phone cards instead of coins.
  • Reference books pertaining basic first aid, survival reference guides, etc.
  • Important family documents such as insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Dust masks, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place. After events such as 9/11, those living in urban or even suburban environments have been encouraged to make sure they have appropriately sized dust masks available for each member of your family.
  • Cash, including coins, travelers checks, or any other type of financial instrument you may wish to have to purchase more supplies should electronic financial networks be disabled for a period of time (loss of power, intentional service disruptions, etc.)
  • Personal protection. Ideally this would be in the form of a firearm of some sort. However, if you’re not comfortable with a firearm or have factors that prevent you from owning one, consider some form of defense for your family. Bear spray, stun guns, a baseball bat, etc. Something that will give you an edge if someone tries to forcefully enter your home or living space.


Keep in mind these items and use them as a starting point to get your critical thinking skills fired up when planning your ideal family survival kit. Remember the ideal family survival kit varies from family to family because everybody has different priorities and circumstances to prepare for. If making your own family survival kit just doesn’t seem worth the time or energy needed, you should at the very least, purchase one to have just in case an emergency happens. It’s better to have spent time and/or money on a functional family survival kit and not have a need for it, rather than to need it and not have it. If you’d like to add additional suggestions or items that you use in your kit, or if you have a complete list you’d like to share, please contact us and we’ll post it so that others may benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *