The funny thing about Survival and Emergency kits is that although we want the very best in terms of features, construction materials, and tools, there is a chance that if everything goes well, we may never even need to use it!
But these kits, also known as go-bags, bug out bags (BOBs), quick run bags (QRBs), and our personal favorite, the I’m never coming home bag (INCH Bag), are just as useful in everyday emergencies as they are in the larger types of disasters that are becoming increasingly common in the modern world.
That’s because these kits are designed to contain and transport everything you might need in a hurry, like gloves, medical supplies, or duct tape. More expensive kits offer even more specialized gear, like sleeping bags and high-calorie rations.
Choosing the best kit for you is all about planning for the worst. Here’s our deep-dive into the world of Survival and Emergency kits:
Best Survival Kit to Keep in Your Car
Sustain Supply Co. ESSENTIAL 2 – Two Person Emergency Survival Kit
- 1 small premium backpack
- 12 Datrex waters
- 1 Sawyer Mini water filter
- 1 pack of 8 bath wipes
- 50 ft. Paracord bundle
- 4 Cyalume SnapLights
- 2 Mainstay 2400 calorie bar food rations
- 1 LED Lantern
- 1 MoraKniv Companion knife
- 1 fully stocked First Aid Kit
- 2 whistles and
- 2 reusable blankets
The fact that Sustain Supply Co. offers three different classes of emergency survival kit is a testament to the fact that as a company they have dedicated themselves to providing the perfect, premium go bag for any occasion. The ESSENTIAL 2 represents the smallest and most compact survival kit that their line has to offer.
The first thing that struck us about the ESSENTIAL 2 was the remarkable sleekness of the bag itself. At first glance this thing looks no different from your basic laptop bag, albeit a tad thicker.
They really packed this thing tight; there is hardly any additional space for storage, however, that would kind of defeat the purpose of such a lightweight and compact kit, a kit that is far more suited to be stored in the back of a vehicle than grabbed for a spur-of-the-moment adventure.
There is however enough space for a few key items, namely, batteries, which this kit lacks, and are required to operate the LED lantern. You might also consider more first aid supplies, as the included first-aid kit here is somewhat lacking. Our only disappointment with the ESSENTIAL 2 was how quickly the zippers began to fail. The included backpack is clearly not designed for repeated opening and closing, but instead to sit waiting for when it is really needed.
Best Survival Kit for the End of the World
Zippmo BUG OUT Bag for Four People
- 1x Large Tactical Backpack
- 32x Datrex Emergency Water Packs (4.2oz)
- 2x – 3600 Calorie Datrex Survival Food Bars
- 1x – 32oz Nalgene Ultralight Water Bottle
- 1x Bottle 50ct Potable Aqua Tabs
- 4x Emergency Sleeping Bags
- 4x Emergency Ponchos
- 4x – 24 Hour Body Warmers
- 1x – Tube Tent
- 3x Snaplight 12 Hour Light Sticks
- 25 Feet of 550lb Grade Paracord
- 1x Button Compass
- 1x Signal Mirror
- 1x Magnesium Fire Starter
- 1x Ring Wire Saw
- 1x Emergency Whistle
- 1x Morakniv Knife
- 1x LED Mini Flashlight
- 1x Deck Playing Cards
- 4x N95 Dust Masks
- 2x Pairs Work Gloves
- 1x Lifeline Large First Aid Kit
- 1x Sanitary Kit
This was perhaps one of the most exciting survival kits on our list. Our whole team was eager to tear into this beast to see what Zippmo managed to squeeze into its newest emergency bag. Zippmo has a reputation for providing some of the most comprehensive survival equipment collections that are available.
The BUG OUT did not disappoint. Dollars to doughnuts this pack is simply the best value you are going to find on a kit that has this many tools and features. Unlike smaller packs like the ESSENTIAL 2 that we looked at, the BUG OUT is designed for serious survival, and as such is loaded with everything that a group of 4 would need to survive in the direst of circumstances.
All the classics are here. Good lighting, water purification tabs, stuff to keep you warm. The med kit is particularly well stocked; it is perhaps the best first aid kit to come included with any survival bag, ever.
There were a few features that we found particularly impressive. The deck of cards, for instance, is proof that Zippmo really did think of everything, including the off chance that the end of the world could get a bit boring. The included work gloves and dust masks, on the other hand, suggest an outcome that is a little less forgiving.
As far as survival packs are concerned, this one is perhaps the most comprehensive in its price range.
Best Emergency Kit for an Earthquake
COMPLETE Earthquake Bag – For 1 to 7 People
Note: Item quantities will vary depending on which size Earthquake Bag you purchase!
- 2x – 3600 Cal Food Bars
- 24x -Water Pouches
- 2x – Hydration Bags w/straw
- 20x – Water Purification Tablets
- 1x – 107 Piece First-Aid Kit
- 2x – Hygiene Kit
- 1x – Pocket Tissue Packs
- 2x -Waste Bags
- 1x – Pencil
- 1x – Note Pad
- 1x – 5-in-1 Whistle
- 2x – N95 Dust Mask
- 1x – 50 ft. Nylon Rope
- 1x – Multi-Function Knife
- 1x – Safety Goggles, Sewing Kit
- 1x – Leather Palm Gloves
- 1x – 30+ hour Candle
- 1x -12 Hour Bright Stick
- 1x -Hand Crank Flashlight / Radio / Phone Charger
- 1x – Pack of Waterproof Matches
- 2x – Emergency Poncho
- 2x – Mylar Sleeping Bag
- 2x – Tube Tent
- 2x – Hand/Body Warmer
The Complete Earthquake Bag got our vote for the best family survival kit chiefly because of the ability to order it in different sizes and configurations, anywhere from 1 to 6 people. So instead of wasting valuable pack space and weight on gear that you don’t need, you have the perfect amount, no more, no less, for surviving the most intense of circumstances. The Complete Earthquake Bag is also a pretty good deal, especially compared to some of the other products on our list. This is another reason that it has become an increasingly popular option for schools, office buildings, and work trucks where other kits would have been too expensive to install. Though the bag comes in different sizes, they are all relatively small considering the amount of gear inside them. They certainly aren’t the most compact or easiest traveling kits, but rather the perfect example of a good mid-size mid-range bag with plenty of features. We were able to fit a few extra items in this pack, so take advantage of the space after you purchase and stock your go-bag up with the things that you think you will need. For this kit, we recommend adding a portable water filter in addition to a brighter light source.
Best Urban Survival & Emergency Kit
Emergency Zone 840-2 Urban Survival Bag & 72 Hour Disaster Kit
- 2 x 3600 kcal Food Bars
- 12 x 4.2 oz Water Pouch
- 1 x Folding 1L Water Container
- 5 x Water Purification Powder
- 1 x Dynamo Radio / Flashlight
- 2 x Glow Sticks
- 2 x Toothbrush
- 1 x Toothpaste
- 1 x Comb
- 1 x Razor
- 4 x Shampoo
- 1 x Soap Bar
- 2 x Feminine Pad
- 1 x Washcloth
- 1 x Toilet Paper Roll
- 1 x Sewing Kit
- 1 x 118 pc First Aid Kit
- 2 x N95 Mask
- 2 x Reflective Sleeping Bag
- 2 x Emergency Poncho
- 1 x Tube Tent
- 2 x Hand Warmers
- 1 x Emergency Preparedness Guidebook
- 1 x Pencil
- 1 x Weatherproof Zip bag
- 1 x 5-in-1 Survival Whistle
- 1 x 5mm x 50′ Rope
- 1 x Duct Tape
- 1 x Work Gloves
- 1 x Multitool Knife
- 1 x Playing Cards
- 1 x GI Can Opener
- OPTIONAL: Pet Emergency Kit Add on
Weight: 14.5 lbs (Two Person) 26.9 lbs (Two Person)
There are many different kinds of emergencies, and not all of them happen out in the wilderness. Survival scenarios are becoming more and more common in a world that has grown less predictable. Whether it’s hurricanes, earthquakes, or unexpected evacuations, having an emergency kit on hand that can keep you functioning in the modern world can make all the difference.
Here’s what we’re talking about: the 840-2 Urban Survival Bag has a few items that are not commonly found in these kinds of kits because of how unnecessary they may seem to certain survival scenarios. A toothbrush and toothpaste, for example, can be an incredible thing if you’ve left home in a hurry and haven’t been able to brush in a while.
The rest of the basic features are here, including an emergency preparedness guidebook which would actually be quite handy to have in the heat of the moment.
Our team was particularly interested in the optional Pet Emergency Kit add on, which is only about thirty bucks more but includes some supplies designed especially with your dog or cat in mind. After all, these emergency kits are designed to protect the whole family, right?
Primary drawback: many of the items inside this kit are of lower quality that some of the more expensive emergency bags on the market. You might want to go through and make a few tactical substitutions before you declare it ‘ready for anything’.
Best Survival Kit Backpack
Emergency Winter Vehicle Survival Kit
- 1 x 60L Red Rucksack
- 1 x Folding Shovel
- 1 x Rigger Gloves
- 1 x Off The Beaten Track 3000cal Ration
- 1 x Sleeping Bag
- 1 x Fleece Lined Ovre Blanket
- 1 x Windproof Matches
- 2 x Mess Tins
- 1 x Folding Stove & Fuel
- 4 x Chemical Lights
- 1 x Head Torch
- 1 x BOB Hat
- 2 x 500ml (10x50ml)
- 1 x Ovre Blanket
- 1 x Reusable Poncho
- 1 x Wind Up Duronic Radio
- 1 x Hi Viz Tabbard
- 1 x Reflective Triangle
- 1 x Clinell Body Wipes
Here’s an emergency kit that was specifically designed with winter car travel in mind. Like some of the other vehicle-based emergency kits that we looked at, this one includes everything you need if you happen to break down in the middle of a snowstorm. While not as compact or lightweight as the ESSENTIAL 2 emergency bag, it includes a few key features that make it even more suited to solving problems on the side of the road.
For one, it has more rations than other small kits, in fact enough to last one person 72 hours. That’s not huge, but might be the difference between life and death when it comes to getting stranded in the snow.
Other useful features are a reflective vest, which is something that we all should have in our vehicles anyway, but these guys were kind enough to provide one here.
The reason this isn’t at the absolute top of our list for vehicle-based emergency kits is that it does need some work to be considered a ‘complete’ bag. Some additions could be made to the medical kit, and there is actually plenty of extra room in the bag to include more rations and water packets, not to mention the one thing this kit is really missing, which is a good sharp knife. Absolute favorite feature? Probably the backpack itself. Unlike other Emergency Kits, this one included a backpack that has multiple stash pockets and heavy duty external straps, meaning that there is even more room to customize the contents of your kit after purchase.
Best Survival Kit for a Budget
Emergency Zone THE ESSENTIALS Complete Deluxe 72-Hour Kit
- 2x Red or black backpack
- 4x 3600 calorie food ration bars
- 24x 4oz water pouches
- 1x Frontier straw filter
- 1x Rubber flashlight (batteries are included)
- 1x AM/FM radio (batteries are included)
- 4x Light stick
- 1x Signal whistle
- 1x Duct tape
- 1x Sewing kit
- 1x Playing cards
- 4x Emergency blanket
- 4x Adult poncho
- 1x 53 pc first aid kit
- 4x N95 masks
- 4x Safety goggles
- 1x Emergency preparedness guidebook
- 1x Pencil
- 4x Toothbrushes
- 2x Toothpaste
- 1x Comb
- 1x Razor
- 8x Shampoo
- 1x Soap
- 4x Feminine pad
- 1x Washcloth
- 1x Toilet paper roll
Well this is certainly the only Emergency Kit on our list that gives you the choice between two different colors, red or black. It’s not a rainbow by any means, but isn’t it always nice to have the choice?
Here is emergency preparedness experts Emergency Zone’s lightest and more bare-bones survival kit, including the absolute basics for emergency situations while skipping on some of the bells and whistles that make other kits more expensive. (But don’t worry; this kit does have a whistle!)
At only around 90 bucks this is hands down the most affordable kit that we reviewed. For the price you are actually getting many of the same tools and supplies that come in other bags. What’s missing is the larger items such as sleeping bags, insulated blankets, work gloves, and thick cord. But overall this one has just about everything you could need, and at this price it’s really the best kit to buy three or four of and distribute around your life, i.e., your home, your office, your storage unit. The downside: the backpack included with the Emergency Zone ESSENTIALS kit is of lower quality construction and started to show significant damage after minimal use.
Choosing the very best Emergency and Survival Kit from our list was needless to say a bit of a challenge. That’s because each bag fits in its own little niche in terms of what situation it’s perfect for.
One thing is for sure: we are going to be putting an ESSENTIAL 2 kit by Sustain Supply Co. In terms of portability, there is no other bag that can disappear beneath a car seat as easy as this one, making it the absolute best ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ go bag. However, the ESSENTIAL 2 can’t hold a candle to the Zippmo BUG OUT BAG, which is clearly the most comprehensive kit that we reviewed, and would be the first thing we grabbed if we were ever in a deadly serious survival situation.
Survival Kits of 2020: What’s All Included?
You know, not a whole lot has changed when it comes to the basic contents of your everyday Survival Bag. That’s because as human beings, we pretty much all need the same basic things. This means water to drink, food to eat, something to keep us warm, and something to treat injury.
Here are the 4 Survival Gear Categories that you should pay attention to when selecting a Go-Bag:
One of the main purposes that a survival kit serves is to provide quick, easy, & reliable access to your gear right when you need it, so you don’t waste precious time rummaging around in a messy backpack. For this reason, the best survival kits are made with specialized and customizable pockets and external straps.
Pro Tip: Familiarize yourself with the contents and organization of your emergency kit before installing it in your car, closet, or office. That way, you can be totally ready when the time comes.
Food & Water
As human beings, we really can’t go long without food. Water is an even more important resource to have on hand, as the effects of dehydration can start having a negative effect on your decision-making capabilities in as little as a few hours.
That’s why water packets are often the first thing that go into an emergency bag. These are small portions of water designed to increase your survival time until you can find a fresh source, and should be used at last resort only.
High calorie food rations are another commonplace item. These are usually in bar or powder form, and provide dense calories and nutrients that allow them to sustain you for even longer.
If you are interested in learning more about the ins and outs of emergency food, you should check out FEMA’s comprehensive Guide to Preparing and Emergency Food Supply.
Safety & First Aid
A well-prepared first aid kit can make the difference between life and death in some situations, so it is imperative that you know exactly what is in yours.
The best first aid kit for emergency preparedness should contain, at minimum:
- Antiseptic Wipes
- Antibacterial Ointment
- Gauze Pads
- Medical Adhesive Tape
- Ibuprofen or other pain reliever
- Nonstick sterile pads
- Burn & itch cream
- Antihistamine for allergic reactions
- Hemostatic (blood-stopping) gauze
- Medical Gloves
- Hand Sanitizer
Light & Communication
An adequate flashlight is perhaps one of the most important things in the survival kit, as you are not likely to get very far without one under cover of darkness.
Emergency kits often include LED Lanterns that are usually battery operated, or brief glowsticks that work both as a signaling mechanism and a way to keep track of group members when in low-visibility circumstances.
Radios are often seen in the higher-end bags, as they provide a way of communicating with the outside world and can sometimes be operated by a crank-lever as opposed to batteries.
This refers to the absolute basics of keeping yourself warm, dry, and safe. Make sure your go-bag includes:
- Emergency blanket
- A good, sharp knife
- A roll of duct tape
- At least one signaling whistle
This refers to the stuff that you will start to miss real quick once you are in an emergency situation. Things like toothbrush & toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, feminine pads, & shampoo are all items that you are going to want by your side.
A Guide to Upgrading Your Survival Kit
The thing about survival and disaster kits is that many of them are designed to include only the bare minimum of supplies, providing a compact and lightweight bag that doesn’t have anything that it does not strictly need. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t go ahead and make a few upgrades.
Here is our official guide to upgrading your go-bag:
1.) Make Sure You Have a Good Survival Knife
In this case, ‘survival’ means sharp and strong. Surprisingly, many survival bags do not come with knives!
2.) Add a Backpacking Headlamp
Emergency supply manufacturers aren’t too terribly concerned with lumens, which means that the light that is included with your bag is probably not as bright as it could be. The quick fix to this? Get a backpacking headlamp. They are designed to be small and bright, far brighter than most LED lanterns that come included.
3.) Pack Extra Batteries
All those lights and radio’s you are using will take up power, and fast. Throw some extra batteries in with the electronics to make sure you don’t run out.
4.) Personalize Your Emergency Kit
REMEMBER: These kits are made for the public, which means they include only the things that every person is likely to need. What they will be missing is the items that YOU might want in there. Maybe you wear glasses, and having another pair on hand could be a life saver.
Or perhaps you have specific medical equipment needs, like an inhaler or a syringe.
By taking the time to really make sure that your emergency kit has everything you would need in a disaster scenario, you are increasing your chances of coming through it without a scratch!
Frequently Asked Questions
Depending on the model you purchase, the water rations and food supplies should last between 3 and 5 years, but be sure to check the date printed on the package to make sure your supplies are still safe.
While there may be a few exceptions, in general the included LED lamps do not include the AA batteries necessary to run. Most of these lamps run off of 2 AA batteries.
Pro Tip: Once you determine the type of battery required, be sure to keep a fresh (not expired) pack of batteries inside the kit. They are lightweight and could save you!
In reference to the included emergency water pouches, these rations are generally rated to be safe to drink for up to 3 years. While water itself does not spoil in the absence of contaminants, it can actually become contaminated by the plastic container that it is in, making it less safe.
No, these backpacks are not waterproof, however it might be possible to add an additional waterproofing layer via the application of an oil or waterproofing spray.
For this reason it is important to make sure that things like your medical supplies and food rations are sealed against water damage.
Most of the survival kits that we reviewed had a little extra space for items such as additional clothing and supplies, however, fitting a gun and ammo inside might be a bit of a stretch as some of these bags are quite small on the inside.
However it is usually possible to strap a gun case to the outside of a pack, thus increasing your overall storage.
The ingredients of the DATREX EMERGENCY FOOD RATION food bars is: Wheat flour, vegetable shortening, cane sugar, water, and coconut flavor, and have an expected shelf life of 5 years from manufacturing date.