Basic Emergency Kit

Basic Emergency Kit: Security for Your Family Starts HERE

The federal government is pushing for everyone to have on hand a basic emergency kit. It’s all over the radio, it’s included with bad weather warnings and it’s even on tv. You can find their exact suggestions with this link. While this all seems like a great idea and is technically the right thing to do, in typical government fashion they got an incredible amount of things wrong! They missed some points that are absolutely crucial to survival. So, we are going to fix that today!

The link above leads to a very simple, one page, checklist style format with no explanation or directions whatsoever and that’s all the federal government can come up with when it comes to you and your family’s survival of emergencies. Let’s put things further into context and mention this is all in fear of a flood, fire, tornado, blizzard, and so on.

It’s not until you dig deeper and deeper into their links, you realize they are referring to 72 hours of survival. For me, 72 hours is pretty much already covered in my pack that already goes everywhere I do. Call it what you want: go bag, bug out bag or get home bag. It’s a great thing to have in general. Further to that, the car is rigged up during the winter months. That means a break down or getting stuck ANYWHERE is not a problem, no matter how cold it is!

So today, we’ll take their list and work through it step-by-step so you know what, why and how! And we’ll address long term emergencies in the process, well past 72 hours!

Discloure: Posts may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through our links result in a small commission to us at no charge to you. We only recommend products that meet our brand standards based on testing and first hand use by our authors.

72 Hours Are Short Term Emergencies

Basic Emergency Kit - Blizzard Halts Traffic
Blizzard Halts Traffic

Here’s a big problem. 72 hours is a short term situation. 25 years ago, an ice storm knocked out power in Montreal for 29 days! We are not talking the forties here nor some third world country. This was in Canada in the modern times of 1998! Now ask yourself, are you ready for such a thing? If not, you really need to keep reading.

The other things to remember are that electricity, running water, fully stocked grocery stores and so on are luxuries that many nations don’t enjoy and we already take for granted. There is ZERO guarantees that these luxuries or services so to speak will be there for you during emergencies or disasters. So DO NOT count on them as you work through the emergency kit! In fact, you shouldn’t even count on 9/11 as the whole point of this kit is to prepare you for times when help CANNOT physically get to you, or help is overwhelmed with the sheer volume of requests.

Basic Emergency Kit Checklist:

Let’s do this in a very simple manner. The exact wording from the government will be in red. Everything non-government where we’ll elaborate and correct is black.


Two litres of water per person per day (include small bottles)

Yes of course, water is vitally important for survival. In fact, you will only survive for 3 days without it! The moment the tap stops flowing, however, you will find some serious challenges in the water department:

  1. Water needs to be sourced and transported which we will cover.
  2. It then needs to filtered AND sterilized in order to be safe for human consumption
  3. We use a ton of it. The average Canadian uses 335 liters of a water a day! That isn’t hard to believe when a single toilet flush is 4 liters.
  4. It’s an emergency, right? Blizzard, flood, fire, civil unrest, whatever. So do you want to venture out to fetch water? or Is it even possible considering the circumstances? So store some!!!

Short Term Needs: Store Some Water

I live rural and the tap is not potable so normal here is that drinking water is stored in 20 litre jugs and we have 10 bottles. That’s 200 litres when they are all full. For city folks, you should keep at least a few of these jugs to cover your immediate water needs. You also don’t need to run out and buy a water cooler to dispense it – there are simple hand pumps that fit around the neck and seal the bottle nicely.

In their additional items list, the government says:

Two additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning

That means we are at 4 liters now but that’s modest considering the average person actually needs 5 liters a day. For a family of 4, you need 20 liters a day! That also means a few jugs as I suggested provides 60 litres total which will last about 3 days or 72 hours to cover your immediate needs! And by that, we are talking basic or survival water needs with no luxuries.

Tip: If you have a conventional water heater, it has a drain with a tap that is toward the bottom. It’s also usually connected to a simple plastic pipe. Change that NOW (since the hardware store is open) to a short piece of flexible hose! Assuming you have an 80 gallon tank, you just unlocked a little over 300 liters of potable drinking water for those SHTF moments! That’s 15 days’ worth of water and it won’t cost much to make the alternation.

Long Term Needs: Source Some Water

I grew up in Burlington, Ontario and lived there most of my life. It’s your typical Canadian city but it’s now pushing almost 200,000 in population. If a longer term disaster struck, a LOT of people will line the VERY FEW publicly accessible parts of Lake Ontario, in Burlington, to fetch water! But water can be scooped from streams, rivers and so on.

Do your homework now and find some water sources so you know where to go if and when you need it. In other words, stop thinking like the masses as they will be your competition for resources!!! Also make sure you have some buckets with a handle and some rope. You may need to pull from a bridge or toss a distance when the shore edge is difficult to access. See our post about making safe drinking water, better yet, print it and keep it in your emergency kit. Now you have unlocked limitless amounts of water!

We will circle back to water again later in the post. It’s written in the same order as the government’s list and we’ll cover some mobile and quick methods of filtration farther below.


That won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (replace once a year)

Even though most Canadians will easily have 72 hours of food on hand, that’s a great list above if you need to be on the move. Now add MREs to that and you have a powerful kit.

Here’s the part you won’t like: While extremely uncomfortable and unhealthy, you can technically survive without food for months! I’m not suggesting you do that by any means so pack food. Just understand that technically and let’s stress technically, food for a 72 hour period is NOT a survival priority – at least for a typical and healthy person.

We raise this point simply to remind you that if you are injured or bleeding out, are in a situation of being physically unsafe, pose the risk of freezing or you lack water: those needs come first! And pretty much in that exact order.

Long Term Food Needs

How much food you stock really depends on your threat levels. What I mean by that is what are you really afraid of? Is it just a blizzard, ice storm and so on or do you fear a massive earthquake or even war? Let’s face it, if you are reading this then you are worried about something. So make a determination of what worries you, be honest, and then reverse engineer a plan to stock enough food accordingly.

A 3-6 month supply is generally not hard to achieve and for some, they will even target a one year’s supply.

And absolutely not, you DO NOT “replace” it once a year! That’s just ridiculously dumb. What you do is constantly rotate your food so you don’t waste it. What you will do in essence is build up your pantry and you can do this over time with more of the staple items like rice, canned goods, cereals, flour and so on. Items that generally have a longer shelf life. Then you rotate the oldest items and consume them as you normally would.

Manual Can Opener

That’s a no brainer even though you can open cans with something as simple as a knife. What really should be on the priority list is a means to cook food! So many staples like rice and pasta need to be boiled not to mention boiling is the best way to sterilize water!

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Stove Kit
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Stove Kit

If you have a natural gas stove that isn’t too electronic, you’re well covered. Failing that, your next best thing is a barbeque hooked up to a natural gas supply which doesn’t run out. If the natural gas supply were to stop, we would be in some serious trouble! A backup to that is something like a Jetboil or MSR mini stove with ample cans of gas and backup to the backup is cooking on an open fire.

Wind-Up or Battery-Powered Flashlight

(and extra batteries)

Have several flashlights and several batteries at home. In your kit, have a couple and make sure one of them is a headlamp. A headlamp allows you to work, cook and so on while keeping your hands free. Also add several candles in the mix – they are cheap and burn for a very long time. Candles are also EMP or solar flare proof and will always work no matter what!

If you want to level up this category, get a battery bank, solar panel and rechargeable flashlights to cover extended periods with no electricity.

Wind-Up or Battery-Powered Radio

(and extra batteries)

Again, a no brainer. What I prefer and the same goes for any prepper minded person is ham radio. A cheap Baofeng radio has FM radio built in AND all the ham bands. It’s also two way – meaning you can reach out for help and not just listen.

Baofeng UV5R Ham Radio
Baofeng UV5R Ham Radio

FYI: In times of crises, the authorities will turn to private ham operators for help in getting comms setup. It’s a longtime communication hero in disaster zones and still used today as the daily goto for first responders. Just be warned, it’s specialized equipment and knowledge that’s harder to find and it comes with a learning curve. It’s something you need to deal with now and not when you’re in trouble! Our ham radio post is the best place to get started and you won’t find an easier step-by-step guide.

First Aid Kit, Extra Keys for Your Car and House

First Aid Patrol
First aid patrol

A first aid kit is a must. I keep one in my pack, the car, the boat and so on. There’s also an emergency medical kit for the serious issues that may arise – car accident, chainsaw accident and so on. These are not band aids rather stop the bleed items for major trauma.

The emergency medical kit is for the times when 911 is too far away or even too slow. Imagine a blizzard where assistance physically can’t get to you and there are several calls. Now imagine a massive earthquake where thousands of people are seriously wounded, transportation may be impossible, comms are down and first responders are completely and utterly overloaded.

While the first aid kit will help you with minor medical issues, putting together an emergency antibiotic kit will help you be that much more prepared. The Jase Medical Kit is perfect for preppers, at home and even for outdoor enthusiasts. The kit comes with a handy booklet on how and when to use the five most common antibiotics, along with the actual medications, all in a neat case. And it’s shipped right to your door!

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Cash, Travellers’ Cheques and Change

Absolutely. ALWAYS have cash tucked away somewhere and not just $20. Have enough to fill up your car several times, eat and so on. Imagine covering ALL your expenses for 72 hours and in a state of being in motion away from home.

Just bear in mind that for serious or long term problems, cash may become useless! The store owners will only take it for so long and they’ll realize they can’t do much with it themselves. Having food, gasoline and even the addiction items (cigarettes, alcohol) and so on will come in handy as bartering items. If the grid is down long enough, we will revert back to bartering. It’s absolutely guaranteed!!!

Important Family Documents Such as Identification, Insurance and Bank Records

This is kind of silly and it’s not. We all have ID on us at all times since we drive and pay for things. At a minimum everyone should carry a driver’s license, health card and multiple payment methods.

As to bank records, insurance or other important documents, they are not “survival” or “emergency” documents. When the house collapses from a storm and you seek immediate shelter, you can call insurance later! There’s a good chance their busy anyways with the 10,000 other people calling them. Obviously, keep your most important documents like proof of insurance in a fire box so they are stored safe and things that are super important should be copied and stored offsite.

If anything, you should have the secondary ID documents always at the ready and in one location ready to grab. Birth certificate, passports and so on for all family members. These are those offsite copy types of documents. And remember, it’s not just damage to worry about, it’s those times you physically can’t or may never be able to get to them.

Emergency Plan – Include a Copy in Your Kit as Well as Contact Information

You have to really pay attention to the “emergency plan” words on their checklist. You would never notice that it’s a link which goes to this page and covers these exact points:

  • Safe exits from home and neighbourhood
  • Meeting places to reunite with family or roommates
  • Designated person to pick up children should you be unavailable
  • Contact persons close-by and out-of-town
  • Health and insurance information
  • Places for your pet to stay
  • Risks in your region
  • Location of your fire extinguisher, water valve, electrical panel, gas valve and floor drain

These are all self-explanatory and should be dealt with as part of daily life, let alone an emergency kit.

The bigger picture requires us to ask what exactly are we planning for: hurricane, earthquake, blizzard, war? Or are we trying to get through a couple days if we are snowed in? Each scenario will have a different set of needs and priorities so it’s impossible to plan for everything.

What I do recommend or let’s say stress more than anything is establishing a meeting point for your family if you encounter a SHTF scenario. Usually this is your home. If the grid goes down, so will your comms and you need to be able to find your loved ones, gather your supplies and adjust your plans accordingly based on the actual circumstances. I highly suggest having a second meeting location in case home is compromised or unreachable. Remember: Nothing is more important that re-uniting with family!

Rapid Deployment

Basic Emergency Kit - Flood Disaster
Flood Disaster

As to your emergency kit, have everything organized. You should be able to deploy things quickly! Imagine a flood coming and you have an hour to get your stuff and get to high ground. As to your pantry, perhaps have a section with staple items you can quickly box up if you need to bug out.

Other than that, you may want an actual bug out bag with your most basic items in it at all times. This is for those times of zero warning or opportunity to get your bigger kit.

Alternate Source of Heat – Do Not Skip!

Look up and notice no red colour. It completely boggles my mind that in one of the coldest countries in the world, the federal government creates an emergency preparedness list and at NO POINT is heat mentioned. NONE of the above and nothing in this post will matter if you freeze to death!!! In fact, other than a life threat such as a bleed, it may well be your top survival priority on a cold day! So let’s evaluate what you have and what some alternate options are.

Main Heating System

Most people have forced air, natural gas systems. But this requires electricity which is not a preppers friend. Electricity is almost like an invisible, evil monster you constantly have to battle when thinking through an emergency or survival kit. That’s because everything you are so used to is out the window!

Then, if you are rural, you are dealing with propane gas which needs to be delivered by a truck. Same goes for oil except oil is always delivered regardless of where you live.

Other main heating systems are electric and NO amount of batteries or electric backup up units will feed that for any significant amount of time. You would also need huge generators to power these heating system which are unfeasible.

Luckily There are Many Options

  1. Anything wood! If you have a woodstove or fireplace, you have a piece of gold. It’s the most reliable and low-tech heat source. Even your fence and furniture is potential firewood. Suggested though is you buy and keep some dry wood on the property and save the fence for later when your wood runs out…
  2. Natural gas fireplace: This saved many people in that Montreal ice storm we mentioned. It’s a great source of heat but it’s all provided the fireplace uses a pilot light system. Modern furnaces have no pilots, they have igniters (requiring electricity). Pilots on the other hand generate a small amount of electricity and with a millivolt thermostat, you can run these devices without power! You won’t have a blower to circulate it but you can cordon off a room and survive.
  3. Generator: Most people aren’t prepared to shell out $10,000 for an automatic generator. Learning the hard way, they also suck out the 1,380 liters of propane we have in a matter of days! You can have an electrician wire you up a little transfer panel that covers your furnace and fridge. Then get the smallest generator you can get away with. Why? The big ones that run your whole house probably take 20L to run 4-8 hours. Do the math and you’ll see the problem. Then stock up and keep at least a 100 L of gas in your shed. This trick however, is only for forced air, natural gas type units as they don’t consume a lot of electricity. We can’t do much of anything for electric heat as they draw too much.
  4. Sleeping Blankets: There are several out there that are good to -30 degrees. Get one for each family member. It’s also your NO FUEL WHATSOEVER backup solution to the backup solution!

Gasoline – Do Not Skip!

Another non red item and an absolutely 100% must is get some gasoline! Not only will it run a generator, it’s your only option to keep your car running if you haven’t switched to electric. That means the ability to source food, water or even get out of Dodge if you have to!

Just because you buy gasoline all the time and it’s simply there, don’t expect to buy a single drop of it at your local gas station when the power goes out. They’ll be panicking with what to do with their fridges and then how to call insurance so they STILL GET PAID. Getting you gas will be the least of their concerns… And no, they don’t have generators to keep the pumps running!

Basic Emergency Kit - Forest Fire
Forest Fire

Consider These Additional Emergency Kit Supplies

Here is part 2 of the emergency kit. The items are what the government obviously sees as not as important but suggested. Even though we beg to differ.

Two Additional Litres of Water Per Person Per Day for Cooking and Cleaning

We covered this already.

Candles and Matches or Lighter

(place in sturdy containers and do not burn unattended)

We covered candles but let’s now add that there is probably no better container than the UCO Candle Lantern. As to fire, no, you always need to have 3 sources of ignition! Better yet, make yourself a fire kit.

Change of Clothing and Footwear for Each Household Member

Think of this as seasonally appropriate clothing. Perhaps keep a bin or large bag ready to go with a spare jacket, gloves, socks, etc. You will find gloves and socks get soaked when you are fighting the elements in the winter months and they are the first items needing to be swapped out.

Sleeping Bag or Warm Blanket for Each Household Member

KUMA Jasper Blanket

We covered the sleeping blanket already and I can’t stress this one enough. An excellent commercially sold blanket is the Kuma Jasper. A good sleeping blanket should be on the main priority list and likewise in terms of budget.

Toiletries and Personal Hygiene Items


Hand Sanitizer, Toilet Paper and Garbage Bags

Same here

Prepaid Phone Card, Mobile Phone Charger

The prepaid phone card doesn’t make sense, unless you are not on a monthly plan.

Tip: The next time you buy a new phone, always keep the old one as a backup. Or keep at least one previous phone as a spare. If you’ve dropped an iPhone or anything else modern with a ton of glass on it, you’ll know it can shatter rendering it useless. Couple that with the physical challenges of the emergency you are in and the odds of your phone getting lost or damaged just went up substantially!

Charger is fine. Now make sure you have a means to power that charger if the grid is down! Battery banks are great for that, such as the Anker 20,000 mAh which should recharge a typical phone about 4 times.

Pet Food and Supplies


Infant Formula, Baby Food and Supplies

This should be on the main list with 3 giant red flags on it!!! You don’t get food and leave your baby as optional, it’s the other way around! They won’t survive for months like you will, they NEED food!

Activities for Children Like Books, Puzzles or Toys

Absolutely, this will help keep your children calm and entertained while you enact you’re emergency plan.

Prescription Medications, Medical Equipment

Absolutely yes. But again, it should be on the main list. Many people are on medications that keep them alive.

Now the question is how much do you stock? Remember this is a 72 hour kit. And I’m sorry but when you are down to 72 hours worth of meds, your on the phone to the pharmacy for a refill let alone worrying about a backup kit!

And remember the recent drug shortages. With regular medications, talk to your doctor and see if you can keep at least a month’s worth in stock at home. When you refill scripts, do it for a month in advance. It’s a little buffer or safety net.

When it comes to medical equipment, again, it may require power. That means spare batteries and/or a 110 volt power source such as a generator.

Utensils, Plates and Cups

Dear god, please help us:) Someone with very little knowledge wrote out an emergency kit! You have this at home anyways and your not going to have room for this in a kit, at least not one you can carry on your back. Even then, you’ll have more important items to worry about.

Morakniv Garberg Knife
Morakniv Garberg Knife

How about a proper knife that can process food, prepare tinder and kindling for a fire, or to even start a fire amongst other things! Then let’s make sure we have a METAL cup, to boil and sanitize water and cook food in. And perhaps a long handle spoon to reach into an MRE bag without getting our hands dirty and to consume liquid meals.

Anything farther is a luxury and is at your option:)

Household Chlorine Bleach or Water Purifying Tablets

We covered water in great detail. While these items are ok, they should be your LAST resort! Don’t forget that they are chemicals and too much bleach = well, death! The number of people that are going to mess that up will absolutely astonish you. Worst of all, they will precisely do it during the times when medical assistance isn’t available.

Also tell me what moron suggests bleach for human consumption without a giant warning label and VERY specific instructions on how much to use in your water. That info is right here on a page from the EPA and it takes seconds to add. Just so you know how potent this stuff is, 2 drops is enough to kill anything inside 1 litre of water!

Read our post on making safe drinking water and better yet, print it and keep it with your emergency kit. There are much better ways to make water safe!

Basic Tools

Hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, pocket knife

BushLife - Leatherman Charge Plus TTi MultiTool
Leatherman Charge + TTi MultiTool with 19 tools

Absolutely. But if you need to be on the move, you will want to sub for a multi tool like a Leatherman.

Small Fuel-Operated Stove and Fuel

Agreed and move it to the main priority list.


(to attract attention)

Absolutely. You need to be found in order to be rescued!! Add a ham radio, piece of orange cloth, signal mirror and any other means to signal for assistance.

Duct Tape

Don’t laugh but it’s a good item and not to be overlooked. Duck tape solves a million problems and is even great at starting fires. I prefer and carry a roll of 1″ gorilla brand duct tape in my pack. There’s also some of it wrapped around a ferro rod, which is in my multi-tool sheath, which in turn is on my belt – every single day!

Now Let’s Add Some More Stuff

Vapor Barrier

Use it with the duct tape above to seal off a room. Perhaps you have a heat source that can’t heat your home, but can heat a room! This will make that a reality.

Big winds put an object through a window, you can board it up with vapor barrier in minutes. It won’t be strong, but it will keep the cold air out.

Don’t have vapour barrier, use your shower curtains!

Get A Compass!

And learn some land navigation skills. Most of this post is about sheltering in. However, we always need to consider having to leave! Don’t count on technology, don’t count on vehicles. The only thing you can count on are your feet and a compass!

Basic Emergency Kit - Earthquake

Building Your Emergency Kit

On the government website, there is mention of pre-fab kits out there available for purchase. I’ve seen one and it had pouches of water in it. It’s not dumb, it’s actually quite genius. For the company that is because someone is making a killing selling inexpensive water for a premium. There’s not even enough in it to make a Kraft dinner so what happens when that water runs out? What should be in there is a portable water filter like the Grayl Geopress that can make hundreds of liters of water. Water that you don’t need to store and more importantly carry with you! This pack also had dollar store grade polypropylene rope amongst a number of other useless items.

Grayl Geopress

If you’ve read this far, you probably absorbed a good 4,000 words already. That also means your very serious about this. So take that seriousness and actually do something about it by taking actionable steps to prepare and secure your family’s future. What that means is do your research and build a real emergency kit, your own! A good starting point is our survival pack post and in it you’ll find several links to the very products we use here.

One Last Thing Before We Go

There is one final thing we need to add before we wrap up. The last time a war was fought on Canadian soil was in 1812! If you mention the potential of war to anyone, they will look at you as though you are absolutely crazy. And you have to understand them because over 200 years of peace has programmed us into thinking it is a granted right and that war is unfathomable here.

Here’s the problem. Like millions of Canadians, I myself am a product of war. Ask my grandparents if they ever thought a war would come to their homeland and the answer would be NO. But it did and not once, but twice! That’s why they emigrated here along with millions of other Canadians. So half the people reading this may think it’s absurd and the others, will understand every single word because they too learned from those who lived through the unthinkable.

The prepper community and/or the truly prepared will always take war into consideration and that’s not coming from me. Even if the odds are low or next to none, it’s not something that can ever be ruled out fully. So no it’s not crazy at all, it’s quite the opposite as only an intelligent person can fathom the things they may not understand.

So let’s conclude with this: If you prepare your kit for war, even though it never comes, you’ve covered ALL your bases. It also means surviving that next blizzard becomes as easy as a walk in the park!

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Stelios Lazos
Stelios Lazos

Stelios comes from the corporate world where he was a highly successful executive. Inspired by his love for the outdoors he has re-located with his family to live to the BushLife where he blogs about his adventures. Finding inspiration in the never-ending questions from aspiring outdoors people, Stelios aims to share his knowledge, one post at a time.

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