How to buy an emergency kit, according to FEMA and the CDC
If you’re thinking about emergency preparedness right now, you’re not alone. Online searches for emergency kits and general guidance around them are ticking upward.
SKIP AHEAD Build your own emergency kit: first aid kit, fire extinguisher, battery-powered radio, flashlights, batteries, sleeping bag, whistle, dust mask, towelettes, wrench, can opener, chargers and batteries
Emergency preparedness is the ability to survive off of your own food, water and other supplies for a few days, according to Ready, an emergency readiness resource from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Thus, an emergency kit should be a collection of household items you may need in an emergency. On top of that, you’ll want to keep nearby what the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention says are things you absolutely require in an emergency situation, including prescription medications, baby care, pet supplies and so on.
Sustenance and personal items aside, Ready broadly recommends some specific items for your emergency kit. That list is below, along with links to relevant guidance in this article when relevant.
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Battery-powered radio
- Sleeping bag or blankets
- Dust mask
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Moist towelettes
- Manual can opener
- Local maps
- Cellphone with chargers and a backup battery
Guided by FEMA’s recommendations, we found five highly rated emergency kits that include many of its suggested items. We cross-referenced the components of each kit against those suggestions and found that none of the kits include a fire extinguisher, plastic sheeting, wrench, local maps or cellphones with chargers. We detail what’s missing in each kit and follow up with suggestions on where to find those missing items.
Designed by U.S. military veterans, Everlit’s Complete 72 Hours Earthquake Bug Out Bag should be useful when any emergency strikes, the brand says, not just the earthquake after which it’s named. The Everlit bag comes with a 200-piece first aid kit, a hand-crank radio/charger/flashlight, 36 water packs and three food bars, as well as a blanket. It also comes with a whistle and a multifunctional knife that the brand says can act as a tooth saw, can opener and glass breaker. All of this comes inside what Everlit calls a “multi-functional tactical military grade backpack,” made from 600-denier polyester — making it tear- and water-resistant — as well as padded shoulder straps. The Everlit Complete 72 Hours Earthquake Bug Out Bag has a 4.8-star rating from over 1,700 reviews on Amazon.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, the Ready America 72 Hour Emergency Kit provides a bunch of useful emergency items that the company says should last you three days — among them a 33-piece first aid kit, six water pouches, a food bar, blanket, lightstick, whistle and dust mask. All of this comes inside a backpack. The Ready America Emergency Backpack has a 4.7-star rating from over 4,800 reviews on Amazon.
Judy provides everything except what every kit is missing.
Judy’s The Protector kit is meant for a family of six and costs nearly $400. As such, it comes with a 101-piece first aid kit, a hand-crank radio/charger/flashlight, 24 water pouches, 15 food bars, a rescue blanket and hand warmers to last a few days in an emergency, the brand says. It also comes with a whistle, six dust masks, a mini roll of duct tape and wet wipes. (Judy also sells a Mover Max kit that comes with similar emergency items — but fewer water pouches and food bars for a smaller family of four.) The Protector has all of this packed inside a rolling to-go suitcase. Although it doesn’t provide many customer reviews, the Judy brand has gotten praise from professional reviewers: The Strategist lauded it for its simplicity and accessibility. Judy’s website also offers a resources section where you can find in-depth guides to power outages and wildfires.
Preppi provides everything except what every kit is missing.
The Preppi The Prepster Backpack, which was listed as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2019, delivers on its name. In addition to a host of emergency kit supplies — from an 85-piece first aid kit, a solar and hand-crank radio/charger/flashlight, three days’ worth of water and coconut shortbread bars to a Mylar space blanket — the Preppi looks like something out of a teen romantic comedy. It also comes with a whistle, face mask, duct tape, antiseptic towelettes and a multitool with a can opener. Although the Preppi The Prepster Backpack doesn’t have any customer feedback, it’s been highlighted by professional outlets. Forbes said that Preppi contains “all of the essential supplies to sustain nutrition, hydration, power, shelter, and communication for two people with luxury comforts.”
The Sustain Supply Co Comfort2 Premium Emergency Survival Bag is a good kit to buy if you’re especially worried about losing light — the backpack comes with your usual lighting sources (lightsticks and an LED lantern) in addition to a fire-starting device and tinder. It has a first aid kit, 2 liters of water, 12 servings of food, two emergency blankets and two whistles. It also comes with a portable stove and two bowls and utensils. The Sustain Supply Co Comfort2 Premium Emergency Survival Bag has a 4.6-star rating from over 1,300 reviews on Amazon.
How to build your own emergency kit
If you find emergency kits lacking and you’d rather prepare your own kit to meet your specific needs, we found highly rated products that fall into each of the CDC’s different categories and outlined them below. Piece together your own emergency kit using the items that feel most important to you.
First aid kits
The First Aid Only All-Purpose Essential Soft-Sided First Aid Kit is a soft pouch that holds around 300 pieces of various first aid supplies, according to First Aid Only. Those include, among other things, adhesive bandages, cold packs and aspirin. The First Aid Only All-Purpose Essentials Soft-Sided First Aid Kit has a 4.8-star rating from over 53,000 reviews on Amazon.
The Be Smart Get Prepared 100 Piece First Aid Kit is a plastic case that holds 100 pieces of first aid supplies — from antiseptic towelettes to wooden finger splints — Be Smart Get Prepared says. Although it has a third of the amount of medical supplies as the first aid kit from, it’s half the price. The Be Smart Get Prepared 100 Piece First Aid Kit has a 4.7-star rating from over 31,000 reviews on Amazon.
The First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Standard Home Fire Extinguisher is made from durable all-metal construction with a commercial-grade metal valve, First Alert says. The First Alert HOME1 is rechargeable, meaning that you can take it to a certified professional to be refilled. It also comes with a 10-year limited warranty. The First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Standard Home Fire Extinguisher has a 4.8-star rating from over 27,000 reviews on Amazon.
The Kidde FA110 Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher is entirely made from metal (with a metal valve), like the First Alert fire extinguisher, according to Kidde. It has a six-year limited warranty, compared to the First Alert’s 10-year limited warranty. The Kidde FA110 Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher has a 4.7-star rating from over 14,000 reviews on Amazon.
Not only does the FosPower 2000mAh NOAA Emergency Weather Radio Portable Power Bank work as a traditional battery-powered handheld radio, it’s also a 2000mAh portable power bank, perfect for keeping your smartphones and other devices charged while the power is out. You can power your AM/FM radio in a couple different ways, according to FosPower: with three AAA batteries, with the hand-crank lever or via the solar panel. The radio also has a reading light and a flashlight. The FosPower 2000mAh NOAA Emergency Weather Radio Portable Power Bank has a 4.6-star rating from over 23,000 reviews on Amazon.
Similar to the FosPower, the PowerBear Portable Radio is small enough to fit into your hand. It uses two AA batteries. The PowerBear also offers a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack for privacy as you’re listening to AM/FM radio — the FosPower does not. The PowerBear Portable Radio has a 4.3 star rating from over 15,000 reviews on Amazon.
The GearLight LED Tactical Flashlight is powered by three AAA batteries and features a wide-to-narrow beam that the company says will illuminate the way up to 1,000 feet in front of you. It’s the bestselling flashlight on Amazon and comes in a pack of two. It’s also water-resistant.The GearLight LED Tactical Flashlight has a 4.7-star rating from over 61,000 reviews on Amazon.
Sometimes in an emergency, you need your hands free. Powered by three AAA batteries, this LED headlamp from Husky was designed to be worn on your head — allowing your arms and hands to accomplish other tasks while you have a light in front of you. It has five beam settings as well as a dual-switch dim function for various situations. Plus, it has an IPX4 water resistance rating, which will protect it from small splashes. It has a 4.7-star rating from nearly 300 reviews on Home Depot.
The AmazonBasics 8-Pack AA High-Performance Alkaline Batteries offer reliable performance across a wide range of devices, Amazon says — they’re ideal for flashlights, clocks and more. Amazon says they have a 10-year leak-free shelf life. They’re not rechargeable. The AmazonBasics 4-Pack AA High-Performance Alkaline Batteries have a 4.7-star rating from over 423,000 reviews on Amazon.
Similar to the AmazonBasics AA batteries, the AmazonBasics 10-Pack AAA High-Performance Alkaline Batteries should work across a similarly wide range of devices and have the same 10-year shelf life, according to Amazon. The AmazonBasics 10-Pack AAA High-Performance Alkaline Batteries have a 4.7-star rating from over 404,000 reviews on Amazon.
According to Oaskys, its Camping Sleeping Bag is rated for 50-degree Fahrenheit weather — in case it’s a little chilly outside. The sleeping bag closes via zipper and it provides a half-circle hood with adjustable drawstrings to secure your head and keep it warm. It’s about 87 inches long (or 7.25 feet), so it should fit most people. It also comes with a compression sack with straps, making it simple to store and carry. The Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag has a 4.5-star rating from over 15,000 reviews on Amazon.
We previously wrote about kids’ sleeping bags at Select and recommended the REI Co-op Kindercone 25. The Co-op Kindercone 25 is rated for even chillier weather than the Oaskys, at about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It closes with a zipper, like the Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag, and it provides a roomy hood and an adjustable cord for adjustments. It’s only about 60 inches long, though — perfect for a kid but less suitable for adults.
These Hipat sports whistles — in both plastic and stainless steel, depending on your preference — come in a two-pack with lanyards to let the whistles hang around your neck when they’re not in use. Both options come with thousands of positive reviews on Amazon, too: The plastic whistles have a 4.6-star rating from 5,500 reviews while the stainless steel two-pack has a 4.5-star rating from nearly 4,200 reviews.
FEMA recommends keeping dust masks in your emergency kit to help filter contaminated air. Michigan State University distinguishes dust masks from NIOSH-approved face masks by explaining that dust masks are worn for comfort against nontoxic dusts and do not offer protection against hazardous dusts or gasses, while face masks do.
An example of a dust mask would be this highly rated Honeywell Nuisance Disposable Dust Mask, which comes in a box of 50 masks. It has a 4.4-star rating from nearly 3,000 reviews on Amazon. If you’re looking for face masks and respirators to help protect against Covid, here are the best KN95 masks and the best N95 masks, according to medical experts.
Plastic sheeting and duct tape
In the case of a radiation emergency, FEMA recommends putting aside plastic sheeting and duct tape to help you seal all windows, doors and air vents. You’ll want to “cut the plastic sheeting several inches wider than the openings and label each sheet” before duct taping the plastic down at the corners first and then taping down the rest of the sheet’s edges.
In order to stay clean, you’ll need to stock up on moist towelettes, too. There are a bunch of different types available — many of which you’ll find at your local drugstore. If you’re looking for the most highly rated options available online, here are some options.
The Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes are sold in a 10-pack with 20 wipes per pack. They come in a soft pack that’s pretty small — around 8 inches long by 7 inches wide — making them easier to carry around in a kit than a hard, tubular container. The Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes have a 4.8-star rating from nearly 25,000 reviews.
The Babyganics Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer Wipes are sold in a four-pack with 20 wipes per pack. Like the Wet Ones highlighted above, Babyganics wipes should kill around 99 percent of germs, according to the brand. Babyganics also says that their wipes are made without parabens, sulfates, phthalates or synthetic fragrances and dyes — plus they’re nonallergenic. Like the Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes, they come in soft packs (6 inches long by 5 inches wide) that should be simple to stuff next to your other supplies. The Babyganics have a 4.8-star rating from nearly 16,000 reviews.
If you need to turn off your utilities in an emergency, FEMA’s readiness guidance site Ready instructs everyone to keep a tool like a wrench in their back pocket (though not literally).
The Lexivon ½-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench should be more than capable of handling that simple task. It’s made from steel with a reinforced ratchet gear head, it’s rust- and corrosion-protected and it has easy-to-identify instructions on its body. It also comes in a hard case for storage. The Lexivon has a 4.6-star rating from nearly 15,000 reviews on Amazon.
Like the Lexivon, the EPAuto ½-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench is made from steel with a durable ratchet head, according to EPAuto — though it’s not reinforced — and the wrench is corrosion-retardant. It also comes in a sturdy storage case. The EPAuto ½-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench has a 4.6-star rating from more than 28,000 reviews on Amazon.
Manual can opener
Some of the food you’ve stored is likely canned, and the KitchenAid Classic Multifunction Can Opener is a great way to easily pop those tins open. The KitchenAid Multifunction Can Opener is 100-percent stainless steel and designed to open all types of cans. It also has ergonomic handles, which should make it comfortable and easy to hold, according to the brand. The KitchenAid Multifunction Can Opener comes in 14 different colors, so you can choose your favorite — and it has a 4.6-star rating from more than 54,000 reviews on Amazon.
Like the KitchenAid, the Gorilla Grip Manual Handheld Strong Can Opener has a completely stainless steel cutting wheel to use on a variety of cans or bottles. The Gorilla Grip can opener also comes with a silicone grip for comfort, as well as an ergonomic turn knob. It comes in eight different colors. The Gorilla Grip Manual Handheld Strong Can Opener has a 3.9-star rating across more than 13,000 reviews on Amazon.
Although you can buy a map of your state off of Amazon without spending too much, you can also head to the U.S. Department of the Interior website and use their map viewer to print out your general location. Store it in a folder to keep at your desk, just in case you end up needing to navigate your town or city’s streets without the help of a GPS.
Portable chargers and battery packs
Although we recommend a variety of portable chargers and battery packs in our coverage, the Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux is a notably large charger with 10,000mAh — this allows it to charge most phones twice over or almost an entire iPad’s battery once, according to Anker. It could be especially useful in an emergency situation for its capacity alone. Its USB-C port allows for 18W of fast charging, Anker says, provided your device supports it, too. Just make sure you have a USB-C to USB-C cable on hand to take advantage of this feature (or buy one to ensure you do). The Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux has a 4.6-star rating from more than 4,400 reviews on Amazon.
If you’re OK with investing in your portable charger up front (nearly three times as much as the Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux), the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 PD QI may seem worthwhile to you. It’s made from aluminum, supports 60W for charging laptops and will charge your phone wirelessly, according to Goal Zero, so you don’t have to worry about buying any cables for it. It also has a 25,600mAh capacity, more than twice as much capacity as the Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux. It has a 4.5-star rating from about 250 reviews on Amazon.