Packing an Emergency Bag & Why!
Living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain I realized pretty quickly that it’s remote. Traveling to the nearest Whole Foods takes me almost an hour, and if I want to indulge in a Home Goods run (my guilty pleasure), yup an hour drive away. During these long drives it made me appreciate what I always have lying around in the trunk of my Jeep, an emergency bag/go back/prepper bag- whatever you want to call it.
Now to be honest this is something I’ve had assembled well before moving to the homestead, but I’ve never been happier to have one. I’m someone who wants to be prepared and feel safe, all the time. I know that controlling every situation is impossible, but having this easy tool with me wherever I go is a nice little insurance policy. You’ll hear a lot of different philosophies like don’t ever use what you have in your go bag unless you absolutely without a doubt have to. In this instance if you got stuck in traffic and were hungry, and had a granola in your bag, you’d forgo eating it to save it for when you have a true emergency. I look at my emergency bag a little bit differently. These items I carry around with me are meant to make my life more convenient, more comfortable, safer, and if it had to keep me going for a day or two while I made it someplace safe (worst case scenario) it could!
When I eat a protein bar out of my bag after a hike and I’m two hours from home, I have to be diligent about replacing it. To me that convenience is worth it, and in the moment I’m like, “thank god!!! I was starving”.
I chose an all-black tactical backpack for my emergency bag. It has webbing throughout the entire face of the bag for easy attachment of smaller bags, bottles, clips, keychains, etc. It has pockets on either side perfect for bottles, two top pockets (one small, one medium), and then one large pocket for your bulkier items. The bag is 24 liters, which is considered a medium sized bag, but truthfully, I didn’t want to go so big that if I filled it would be way too heavy to hike with or carry if I needed to.
Now the good stuff! I am going to list off everything I keep inside my bag, and then underneath it a more detailed description of why those items made the cut, each item has a purpose!
The Abridged Version:
An entire change of clothes socks to hat
Extra Phone Charger
Emergency Credit Card
First Aid Kit
Water Purification Tablets/LifeStraw
Mini Pry Bar
Car Jump Pack (compact)
Most of these items are essential and will cover your basics in an emergency situation that takes place out of the house. Below see what each time can be used for, pictures and cost!
Lighters can be used in any situation from lighting a candle at the Airbnb you’re staying at, starting a campfire on your camping trip, or lighting a fire to keep you warm in an emergency situation (you never know!). I personally have some cheap lighters thrown in my bag as well as a Plasma lighter that would work even when wet/raining. When my entire group of friends went camping, we all gathered around the campfire with wood stacked just right and everyone ready to toast marshmallows–only no one brought a lighter. I wasn’t worried in the slightest because I knew I was only ten feet away from my bag with one packed in the front pocket! It’s not always an emergency situation, but it’s still nice to be prepared
Average Lighter Cost: $2
Plasma Lighter Cost: $17-$25
Waterproof Matches & Fire Starter:
This is basically the good ol’ saying, “One is none and two is one”. So, if all else fails, I have this little tube of waterproof matches andddd a fire starter. It’s an empowering moment when you light your own fire for the first time using a fire starting, highly recommend.
Waterproof Matches Cost: $4-$6
Fire Starter Cost: $10-20
Two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, pants, shirt. One day I was sitting at work having a beautiful day at the office, sipping on a large iced coffee with a splash of white mocha when all of a sudden, I knocked the coffee off the desk directly into my lap. Just like that, 20 ounces of coffee and cream soaking through my pants literally down to my socks. I called my Mom who was 20 minutes away and just like I was 5 years old in kindergarten, “Mom can you bring me some underwear and pants?”. That night I added my clothing bundle to my go bag. I haven’t had to use it yet, but I’m ready for ya iced coffee. Of course, this is great to have for impromptu trips, or if you decide to stay on your camping trip an extra night!
Protein Cookies & Snacks:
I am always on the run, doing chores, taking care of the animals, shopping, working, you name it.. I’m doing it. So many times, I’ve been smack dab in the middle of something and then it hits, I’m starving. The absolute worst is when you’re stuck in traffic at 5pm and you haven’t eaten since 10am that day. These snacks that are more on the filling side have made my day a whole lot more enjoyable and saved everyone around me from feeling the wrath of a hangry little lady! Put in whatever you love that has a longer shelf life—think more granola bar and less banana.
These are overall just a handy thing to keep in your emergency bag. They have a million and one different uses and you never know when you’ll need one! You can buy these in bulk at Harbor Freight SUPER cheap!
Cost: $4-$10 (depending on package size)
A tarp may seem odd, but it’s another versatile tool. You could seal up a broken car window, make a temporary shelter while camping, or an outdoor event and it just rained? Throw it underneath your picnic blanket. I figured it’s a useful tool to have. The last time I used this was when we moved to NC and we had the chickens in their crate in the back seat. We figured having them all in crates would be enough to keep things tidy but boy were we wrong. The chickens were kicking their bedding around rooting and settling in, so with some quick thinking we grabbed the tarp and laid it down underneath to protect the back of the car, worth the investment.
Paracord can be used to secure a broken flip flop, replace a snapped shoelace, create a makeshift leash when running into a lost dog (we’ve done that one before), tie down things to a roof rack, and in survival situations this is an essential. Any prepper or survivalist can probably show you their paracord bracelet or tactical wrap, and although they may look cool it’s not for fashion's sake. It can be used to tie up gear, help create a shelter, be used as fishing line or even deconstructed for thread.
This is something I didn’t always have on me, but seeing just how dark country roads are I’d never want to be stuck on one without a light source. I don’t need to tell you why a flashlight is useful or what it can be used for, but I am going to tell you that not all flashlights are created equal. If you are going to make the purchase, I’d suggest really making the purchase and getting a quality flashlight. The quickest way to say it- the higher the lumens the brighter the flashlight, the brighter the light the further you will see in the dark. My flashlight is rechargeable, and also accepts batteries which makes it the perfect choice for emergencies. I tried to get one on the brighter side coming in at 2,100 lumens.
For those of you who are not familiar with a head lamp, you need to get out from under the rock you’ve been living under. But seriously, it’s a small light that is attached to a band that you wear on your head like a headband. I use them whenever I’m walking/hiking after sunset or sometimes just when I’m letting the dog out at 3am. Since my flash light is higher quality I didn’t go quite as high on the lumen scale and went with 350 lumens.
You can buy hand warmers in bulk, super inexpensive and a total lifesaver if you ever need them. When I went to Colorado it was a gorgeous Spring day, so naturally we decided to go for a hike. Well, it was our first time to Colorado and I never knew that it could be sunny and 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Denver, and then 35 degrees in Breckenridge. But we threw on an extra layer and muscled through the cold. By the time we got back to the car I was the equivalent of an ice pop that had been left in the back of a freezer. This wasn’t even an emergency; it was just unexpected cold weather. Things like hand warmers can make ALL the difference. They don’t take much space but could literally save your fingers if you get stuck somewhere cold.
Cost: 10 for $7
I’ve spilled things in my Jeep one too many times and have learned that having an easy way to get a stain out, or get something sticky off a steering wheel is a must have. Not to mention if you have any bathroom emergencies, baby wipes for the win!
If you have ever gone on a road trip then you know what rest stop bathrooms are like, and for that reason alone, hand sanitizer is always in my go-bag. My personal favorite is the lavender hand spray from Trader Joes.
Personally, peppermint oil is a favorite of mine and I use it for a bunch of different things. I place my peppermint oil in a roller with some jojoba oil as a carrier oil. It keeps bugs away, smells delicious, can help car sickness and nausea, and being no stranger to headaches is just something that distracts from the pain! You can find this online, or at your local whole foods–get organic!
Cost- $13 for a bottle that will last you months!
A wire saw is something for me I hope I never need to use, but because it was so small and so cheap it was worth it to throw it in the bag. It can be used for cutting branches to create fire kindling. Typically, when I go camping, I just gather dried out twigs/leaves for kindling, but hey it was pretty cool and you could totally use it to help build yourself a mean fire.
Extra Phone Charger & Battery Pack:
Most things I keep in my go-bag are because I’ve experienced a moment in time where I had an actual need for the item, and didn’t have it at the time. Rewind 4 years to me and my BFF in Arizona, we hit the town early and by mid-afternoon we were kicks starting a hike! Now, it was late September so for Arizona that means a cool 80 degrees. By the end of the hike, the sun was setting and it was time to find our way home. We pull out our phone to call an Uber…and that heart dropping moment where I had five percent on my phone. I don’t think I’ve ever moved quicker to get to the nearest road, while ordering an Uber and praying my phone didn’t die before it gave them our location. We were pretty deep in our desert hike, and would’ve required at least a two hour walk back in the dark to get to the nearest bus stop. The phone died. We waited. By the grace of God, the Uber pulled up 10 minutes later. Phew. But NEVER again would I allow myself to be in one of those situations. I reluctantly told people about this story and rightfully got made fun of, but I learned. Charge your phone, and have an extra means of power.
*Pro-tip- A fully charged battery pack will naturally lose charge over the course of weeks/months without use. This is normal. Don’t be freaked out when you turn it on and there is 50% after charging it fully 4 months ago. Set an alarm to recharge it every so often!
Battery Pack: $25-45
Phone Charger: $10-$50
Pocket Knife & Sharpener:
A universal tool I believe every adult should have in their go-bag. It’s again an item that has a million and one uses from carving your name in a tree or opening an amazon package, to cutting a tangled puppy free from caught wire or cutting a jammed seatbelt in a car accident. One I recently purchased has a small point on the back that acts as a window breaker in the event of an emergency.
Of course, having pocket knives won’t do you much good if they’re dull, so pack a sharpener!
Pocket Knife Cost: $10-$500 (there are some seriously intense handcrafted knives out there)
Sharpener Cost: $10-$20
This defensive tool can be used to defend yourself against shady characters encroaching on your space or coyotes/bears/wolves that are heading in your direction. As extreme as it sounds, if you need something to defend yourself with, you’ll be happy you have it. Truthfully speaking, I never go to any online meeting without it.
Emergency Credit Card:
I have a credit card I never ever use, and it’s thrown in my bag for those just in case moments.
Just in case; I lose my wallet, my card gets declined, I have to make an unexpected purchase, I forgot my money at home, any moment I might find myself in need of a few hundred dollars.
Vow to yourself that you’ll never waste your time in a waiting room again. Always travel with a book on you and you’ll never be frustrated by long wait times. It transforms the mundane into a needed mental getaway.
Cost- Free- $45
First Aid Kit:
I will go into detail in another post on exactly what to pack in your first aid kit, for travel and for home. But for now, let’s talk about travel. To utilize my bag to the fullest I opted for a small first aid kit that can be clasped on the outside of my go-bag. This was an efficient way to fit more must haves! If I had to pick four items that you should start with I'd say, Benadryl for any anaphylactic reactions to bug bites/food allergies, gauze pads to slow bleeding from unexpected cuts, anti-diarrheal medication (personally have never had to use it but the idea alone of being out and about with an uncontrollable stomach situation is all the motivation I need), and a good fever reducer.
Water Purification Drops/LifeStraw:
Being extra prepared can only be a good thing, right? Water is an essential, and no matter what, it’s a guarantee you’ll always have clean water. In a nutshell it purifies contaminated water, and neutralizes taste from the purification process. The difference between the one pictured below and the one step process is the taste.
Another simple solution? Life straw! Just drink using the LifeStraw technology and boom that’s it! I purchased the water bottle with the straw insert so I can fill a bottle and go if I need to. This bottle is a plus because it can clip on the bag instead of filling a pocket.
Water Tablets Cost: $9
Life Straw Bottle: $40
Mini Hammer & Mini Pry Bar:
These little tools are mini versions of their full-sized parents, first off. They’re so friken adorable and I couldn't resist. Second– I like the idea of having tools that could get me into a jammed door, or potentially open up an old school crate with some treasures inside of it (a girl can dream right?). But seriously, even on the homestead tools like this come in handy and like I said before I like to be prepared!
Cost: $5 each
If you’re a hiker this is a golden tool. Search and rescue teams will be able to find you in no time when you have a clear way of signaling them down. I usually hike with a buddy, but on the occasion I’m on my own you’ll catch me with my whistle in my pocket, it can also be used as a shady character deterrent and to scare off animals.
Tactical Pen & Notepad:
Pen & paper is something I’m never without, but this isn’t your everyday ballpoint. The tactical pen includes;
Flat head screwdriver
Spare batteries for the flashlight
The coolest part is, it’s the size of an everyday pen. A lot of bang for your buck with a small space commitment.
Cost: $15-$35 depending on brand
If you don’t take electrolytes, you are missing out. When we sweat, we lose much needed vitamins and minerals, and when we drink plain naked water—we’re diluting our electrolytes even more. My doctor once told me, “Never drink plain water, always add something to it”. Lemon, lime, strawberries, cucumber honey, electrolytes, something!! These are my fav and you can actually feel the difference. I’m no doctor, but I am a HUGE fan.
Cost- $20 for 12
Have you ever been driving at 10 o’clock at night and suddenly there’s someone walking on the side of the road in a black sweatshirt? Don’t be that person. We all think “they’ll see me!”. No, they won’t. Dusk, dawn, and nighttime, visibility drops significantly and whatever you’re doing you want motorists to be able to clearly see you.
Cost- 10 for $10
Broken bra strap, split seams, and a weird hole you didn’t realize you had until you arrived at your mother in law’s house for brunch. Reason enough?
They still sell those cute little clear ponchos that your Mom would give you to take on an outdoor field trip when you were in 5th grade, and I have one. It’s folded up teeny tiny, takes up minimal space but I imagine that if on a Fall day I was changing a flat tire on the side of the road and a surprise storm hit, I’d be pulling out my poncho!
I have long, thick hair and I go through hair ties like they’re going out of style. If you have long hair, you know the moment when you pull your hair through the third loop of your ponytail and SNAP. It broke in half. You’ll thank yourself for thinking ahead.
Hand Cream & Lip Balm:
For me this is more about convenience and comfort. Usually, I'm not someone who needs lotion & lip balm every single day, but come winter time my skin is constantly crying for help. Cera V to the rescue. I give this brand props because it goes on suppperrr smooth and doesn’t leave an oily residue.
Lip balms I’m always changing up because they don’t have the longest shelf life once they're open, but I always look for an organic brand that is fragrance free.
I’ve yet to use this, but it’s such a staple I know it belongs here. I keep it in a small plastic bag to avoid any glue explosion mishaps. It can be used from a broken nail to even sealing small cuts.
If you carry something that needs batteries (in my case, it’s a flashlight), then it seems obvious to carry batteries, right?
Car Jump Pack:
This is a GAME CHANGER!! You can now jump your car (or a friends), in less than three minutes, with no donor car required. A quality one costs around $100 and it’s worth every penny. Now if you’re considering getting this product, it is also capable of charging phones and many come with a flashlight. Three in one? I’m all about it! I use the NOCO BOOST brand.
Being prepared for the unknown feels oddly satisfying. I enjoy being the friend who has their sh*t together, and is ready for anything. I consider homesteading to be not just how you live on the homestead, but how you live your life. Something as simple as a go-bag gives you a sense of empowerment and preparedness that Triple A just can’t compete with.
Personalize it to what you’ll actually need and feel-good having!! Take what you love and leave what you don’t!