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

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.

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.

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.

Years ago, I worked answering phones at a Red Cross center after Hurricane Katrina. And then later at an evacuation center. I saw the time it took to get volunteers trained, and then assist displaced disaster victims. There is so much involved it’s mind boggling. It’s so smart for us to be prepared. Never assume an evacuation center will be ready for you.

All emergency supplies will NOT fit in a backpack

You will need several containers:

  • A personal container or backpack 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.
  • An additional container with the rest of your water and supplies if you can evacuate by car.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?

Personal Container

  • It should be easy to grab and go by foot in an evacuation.
  • It is somewhat weatherproof.
  • 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.

gave some great container advice.


  • “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.” (Barbara Salsbury from the book “Preparedness Principles”)
  • 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.
  • Backpacks are easier to use if you have to evacuate on foot.
  • They do not stack well, but can be hung, or leaned against each other on a shelf.
  • They are water-repellent, but not waterproof.
  • They are more expensive at sporting goods stores, however, watch for back-to-school sales.


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


72-hour Kit Items I Recommend From Amazon

Utah 72-hour Kit Checklist

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My 72-Hour Kit in 12 Steps

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8 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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