Make a 72 Hour Kit in 12 Steps: Step 11 – Container Ideas

Why 72 Hour Kits?
72-hour kits or Grab and Go bags are meant to assist you after a disaster. Seventy-two hours is approximately how long it takes to get help after a disaster and for evacuation shelters to get up and running. I worked answering phones at a Red Cross center after Hurricane Katrina. And then later at an evacuation center. Even though it was in Southern California, many people who were without places to live came to California for help. I saw the time it took to get volunteers trained, and then assist displaced disaster victims. There is so much involved that it’s mind boggling.

Understand that immediately after a major disaster you will be on your own. You may not see an ambulance or police car for some time as the craziness begins. It takes time for community leaders to get organized. So plan to take care of yourself and your neighbors.

All Emergency Supplies will NOT fit in a backpack.
You will need several containers:
  1. A personal container for food, personal supplies, small flashlight, some water, etc. If you had very little time, this would be the one item you would grab, so very important items would be in it. I prefer a backpack for these items.
  2. An additional container for the rest of your water, bedding, etc. I use totes for these as I would only take them if I could evacuate by car.
  3. A bucket or tote to carry items the whole family needs to make their next few hours more pleasant. I use a bucket for these items as I would only take them if I could evacuate by car.
  4. A family tent in its own bag. I would take it if I could evacuate by car or if you have a small family you could attach a small tent to a backpack.
When choosing a container for your own personal 72-Hour kit, keep these factors in mind:
1. It should be easy to grab and go by foot in an evacuation.
2. It is somewhat weatherproof.
3. It is a size that the family member can carry based on health, strength, age, and size. Obviously infants need someone to carry one for them.
Do not wait until you have funds to purchase the perfect container before you start gathering kit items. If all you have is a cardboard box, use it for now. You can get a better container later. These container options are ideas I adapted from the book “Preparedness Principles” by Barbara Salsbury. Recommended are the best, Good are okay, and So-So are the least recommended.

Backpacks: Recommended to Good

  • Easier to use if you have to evacuate on foot. This is what our family uses.
  • They do not stack well, but can be hung, or leaned against each other on a shelf.
  • Water-repellent, but not waterproof.
  • More expensive at sporting goods stores, however, watch for back-to-school sales.
A sturdy sewn, not glued, roomy school-type backpack (meant to carry books) is easier for kids to manage. Remember to keep your supplies lightweight. A backpack shouldn’t weigh more than about 25% of the weight of the person carrying it. So if a person weighs 125 pounds, the total weight of the backpack should be no more than 31.25 pounds. Of course it should be lighter if a person does not have strength to carry it. You can see why you may have to put some of your water in another container. Backpacks on a frame can withstand bad weather and rough handling and could carry a sleeping bag. However, those on a frame are not suitable for small children or seniors.

Luggage: Good to Recommended

  • Choose one that is made of sturdy luggage material, not cloth material. Be careful not to overload or it will be too heavy. Keep it lightweight and portable. Wheels are helpful. Since most are not waterproof, keep your items inside in trash bags. Carry-on size is good for a 72-hour kit. This may be a good choice for seniors who might not be able to carry a backpack.

Duffel Bags: So-So to Good

  • Must be heavy-duty. Some are water-repellent and quite sturdy. Do not use college laundry bags as they are difficult to carry.

Containers that are not recommended:

  • Tote bags as they are usually too small.
  • A pproduce box is okay to start with, but replace with a better choice as soon as possible.
  • Trunks, footlockers, and ammunition boxes are too heavy.
  • Garbage cans are too heavy, and it’s difficult to get to supplies at the bottom.

Keep your kits accessible and together:

  1. Keep your kits in a strong structural area of your home that can withstand earthquakes better like a closet, or under beds or stairways.
  2. Keep items close to a door that exits your home. A garage is difficult to get into after an earthquake. However, if this is your area, keep items close to a door. Food items must be able to withstand varying temperatures in a garage.
  3. Label your kits with your name or first initial and last name and phone number. We used duct tape and a permanent marker. Can you imagine the number of bags at an evacuation center?
  4. If you have small children and have to walk, put items in a stroller or wagon.

6 thoughts

  1. I agree with you preparednesspro that I would use a backpack for my personal 72-hour kit that I would carry myself. But if I could evacuate by car I would take additional items in buckets to load in my car. I also think a backpack could be difficult for some seniors to carry so a small suitcase on wheels would work better for them. Thanks!

  2. I love your site, lots of great stuff.I know you posted a picture of your 6 gallon buckets, but could you list the contents?thanks

  3. excellent! loved the garage phot and video too. Thanks for all you do to inspire the rest of us to get prepared. Lorie

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