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Checklist of Essentials for Emergency & Outdoor Adventure Planning – Including Vehicle Preparedness – Updated & Expanded

By Denis Korn

The Ultimitate Preparedness List

This checklist should be a crucial assist in your emergency and outdoor discovery planning – study it carefully!

For most people planning for emergencies is similar to planning for a camping trip or any other outdoor adventure where the normal conveniences of home are not available. The biggest difference is determining whether to plan for being away from home or in your own residence – or perhaps both. The equipment to include in your emergency kit or camping supplies list will be very comparable. Differences and variations will generally depend upon the severity and length of time you anticipate for your emergency scenario. Long term emergencies and outdoor explorations will require, in addition to this list, more extensive planning and provisioning.

Important questions to answer as you do your planning:  Are the equipment and supplies necessary to fulfill your needs going to be based on how cheap they are, or on the quality, value, and reliability of the product?  What are the repercussions or benefits from the choices that are made?  Who is affected?  What chances are you willing to take with inferior and inadequate provisions?  What will the climate be during the potential emergency or adventure?  What is the probable availability of essential goods and services where you are going for your adventure or during your anticipated emergency?

Although this list is an authoritative and comprehensive compilation of crucial supplies for emergency preparedness and outdoor adventure, these suggestions focus on basic necessities, and are not intended to be an exhaustive and detailed list of all choices, as each person or group has their own special requirements and needs. While there are numerous options to choose from in each category, use this guideline of essentials to ensure you have evaluated all the possibilities given the scenarios and circumstances for which you are preparing and provisioning, whether for preparedness planning or outdoor adventuring.  Your life may depend upon it!

Be clear about the time factors, persons involved, and situations that you anticipate will occur in an emergency or an outdoor experience. Knowing this information is crucial to stocking the appropriate items in the appropriate quantities. Many of these items will be essential for bartering if supplies are exhausted and the emergency you are preparing for is long term.

Proper provisioning is about safety, health, protection, comfort, and peace of mind – for not only yourself but also your family and friends.

Items with a red asterisk * are recommended for a “ready-to-go bag” or “bug out bag.”  This is an easily accessible bag you keep near by to grab when you only have a moments notice to evacuate.  Items with a double asterisk ** indicates items for your bag whose quantity will depend on the length of your anticipated emergency scenario.  You may require more than one quick-grab-bag depending on your specific needs.

As a complement to this checklist, I highly recommend answering the questions in: The 12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning


1. Carrier for Provisions

If you anticipate having to relocate, have your transportable supplies in one or two easily accessible carriers, especially if you must leave in a hurry.

  • Backpack
  • *Large duffel/canvass bag with duel shoulder straps in case it has to be carried for some distance
  • Lightweight suitcase
  • Wheeled device

2. Water

An obvious necessity for everyone. Know what water sources are available to you during an emergency, or in the outdoors. Plan accordingly and don’t hold back preparing for this essential category.  Don’t go cheap!

  • *Gravity/hand pump water purifier/filter/extra cartridges
  • *Bottle purifier/filter
  • **Purification tablets/chlorine dioxide/iodine
  • *Separate containers for dirty and treated water
  • Multiple containers depending upon situation
  • Specially packaged water (5+ years storage life)
  • **Bottled water – store bought (2 years storage life) – can be filtered or treated if older
  • Solar or stove top distillers
  • Desalinators for salt water
  • Reverse osmosis purifiers
  • UV purifiers
  • Additives – colloidal silver/bio-active silver hydrosol/stabilized oxygen
  • Chlorine (5.25% sodium hypochlorite, non-scented only with no additives – 6 drops per gallon)
  • Manual pump if near a well
  • Water gathering supplies – plastic tarps/containers/instructions

3. Food

Numerous options are available. This category must be accessed carefully depending upon the length of time of the emergency or outing, and severity of circumstances you anticipate might occur.  Remember, certain foods will require more water and fuel to prepare – is this appropriate to your anticipated situation?

  • **Bars/trail mix
  • **Other eat-as-is simple and nutritional compact/dense foods
  • **Freeze-dried/dehydrated
  • Canned
  • **Retort wet-pack pouches/trays/self-heating meals
  • **MRE’s (meals-ready-to-eat)
  • Boxed
  • Non-perishable basics
  • Powered milk
  • Wild foods foraging – get a good illustrated guide
  • Bulk commodities – Rice (brown rice has a short – 6 months – shelf life), grains, beans (smaller grains and beans cook quicker with less water), honey
  • **Ready-to-eat comfort and nutritional foods
  • Garden seeds if appropriate – longer term scenarios
  • Supplements – vitamins/minerals/powdered green drinks
  • **Concentrated energy powders/bars/tablets
  • Condiments/seasoning blends
  • Gravy – dry mix or canned (can be added to bland foods for flavor)
  • Cooking oil (olive oil in a steel container has a decent shelf life – avoid hydrogenated oils containing trans-fats)
  • **Special needs foods – those with food intolerance’s/nursing mothers/children/medical conditions
  • Baby foods
  • **Cooking/heating required?

4. Food preparation

If you must relocate and plan on cooking or heating water, consider lighter weight and efficient equipment.

  • **Stove – camping/alternative/very portable
  • **Pots and pans – stainless steel/cast iron/non-stick – avoid aluminum
  • **Utensils
  • Pressure cooker
  • **Cookware kit
  • Grills
  • **Fuel – propane canisters/butane canisters/white gas/alcohol/wood/solid fuel cubes/charcoal/kerosene/lighter fluid
  • *Water/food bottle
  • *Hand operated can opener/opener on knife or multi-tool/P38 (for all of us military folks)
  • 5 or 6 gallon plastic buckets
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Chlorine bleach – non-scented
  • *Plastic bags/containers
  • Thermos for “prepare in container” whole and cracked cereals
  • Knife sharpener
  • “Package-your-own” equipment and supplies
  • Solar oven and cookware
  • Manual grain mills/grinders/juicers/mixers/beaters
  • Sprouting equipment – portable and/or stationary/sprouting jars
  • Canning equipment if appropriate
  • Twist-ties
  • Corkscrew
  • Paper plates/bowls/cups/towels

5. Fire Starter – Matches

Be prepared for any situation and the possible need to start a fire, especially if weather conditions are severe.

6. Medical

When your health and survival during a medical emergency is at stake, you don’t want to rely on cheap or inadequate medical supplies. This is an important category to thoughtfully evaluate. Don’t forget medications or products needed for those with special medical conditions.

  • *Quality kit with adequate components for a multitude of emergencies
  • *Accessories – dental emergencies/suture kit/snake bite kit – instructions
  • Syrup of Ipecac (to induce vomiting if poisoned)
  • *Essential prescription medications/allergy medications
  • *First Aid manual
  • *Insect repellant
  • *Sunscreen
  • *Eyeglasses/contacts
  • *Copies of prescriptions
  • *Moleskin/blister pads
  • Aspirin/Tylenol/ibuprofen/other over the counter drugs for minor issues
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Herbal kits
  • Dust masks/gas masks
  • Potassium Iodate (Iodate is recommended over Iodide)
  • Anti-itch salve

7. Personal Hygiene – Sanitary Supplies

Depending on individual circumstances and your location, it is vital to prevent any problems that might arise from unsanitary conditions. Take precautions to ensure a disease free environment. The length of an emergency and living/camping conditions require different approaches to personal hygiene.

  • **Personal hygiene items – soap/toothbrush/toothpaste/shampoo
  • **Feminine hygiene
  • **Treated towelettes/waterless wipes
  • **Sanitary toilet provisions – portable toilet/powered chlorinates or lime/disposable urinals – solid waste bags
  • *Plastic bags
  • Latex gloves
  • **Toilet paper
  • Towels
  • All purpose soap
  • Solar shower
  • *Anti-bacterial sanitizer
  • Kleenex
  • Nail clippers
  • Lime/disinfectant

8. Clothing

For warmth, comfort, and protection from insects and the elements.

  • *Proper clothing for the appropriate season and location
  • *Appropriate shoes/boots/snow shoes
  • *Rain gear
  • *Cold weather gear – layered clothing/thermal underwear
  • *Hat/gloves/bandana
  • Extra stuff sacks
  • Insect head net
  • Belts – regular/military type/small pouches

9. Shelter – Warmth

For protection from insects and the elements, warmth, sleeping, comfort, privacy.

10. Communication

It is essential to be kept informed during an emergency with friends, family, and appropriate governmental agencies and emergency organizations. When in an outdoor environment, unsettled weather considerations necessitate weather alert radios. Avoid a sense of isolation during serious emergencies.

  • *Radios – hand cranked/solar/batteries
  • Two-way radios
  • Short wave/CB (citizens band)/GMRS (general mobile radio service)/FRS (family radio service) radios
  • Radios with NOAA (government agency) weather channels (7) and weather alerts
  • Ham radio for radio amateurs – need license
  • *Cell phones/smart phones/charger
  • Satellite phones
  • *Whistle
  • Signaling devices/flares/mirror
  • *Notebook/pen/markers
  • PLB (personal locator beacon)
  • *Weather alert radios
  • Small TV – battery/solar operated
  • Telephone not requiring outside power
  • Morse code chart

11. Lighting

This is an essential category to address when anticipating any situation where you may be in darkness. Not only for a sense of security and comfort, but to be able to see clearly and act accordingly if emergencies happen in the dark.

12. Tools – Instruments – Accessories

Numerous unforeseen situations or just routine conditions occur during an emergency or during an outdoor adventure. Be prepared and secure with the proper quality tool.

  • *Knife/knives
  • *Multi-tool
  • Repair tools – hammer/screwdrivers/pliers/wire cutters/nails/screws/nuts & bolts/crowbar/spikes/pulley/files
  • *Axe (*small or large)/saw (*hand controlled chain or special outdoor)/hacksaw/wood splitting/wedges
  • *Rope/wire/bungee cords/straps
  • *JB Weld/super adhesive/superglue/epoxy
  • Lubricating oil/WD-40
  • Chain
  • Padlocks
  • *Work gloves
  • Shovel
  • Garden tools if appropriate
  • Fishing/hunting/trapping gear/Ronco Pocket Fisherman/snare wire
  • *Duct tape/Hurricane tape/nylon repair tape/patches
  • *Plastic bags/trash bags/plastic sheeting
  • *Aluminum foil
  • *Sewing and repair supplies
  • Velcro
  • Safety goggles
  • Weather condition instruments
  • Watch – regular/multi-featured
  • Binoculars
  • Stuff bags for organizing
  • Scissors
  • Small broom/rake
  • Buckets
  • Files
  • Clothes pins
  • Dust/gas masks
  • *Siphoning tube/hose
  • Hand pump
  • *Auto/bicycle/boat emergency items (keep in vehicle)
  • Can of red spray paint to indicate emergency information
  • Shut-off tool for gas/water supply
  • Tool for braking auto glass and cutting seat belts/webbing

13. Emergency Instructions – Guidance – Support – Back up – Personal Documents

Important and accurate information can not only be helpful it can be life saving. Researching reliable and trustworthy information sources is a vital component to preparedness and outdoor survival planning. Establishing family communication and reunion plans is also essential for security and peace of mind.  Certain documents should always be available.

  • Books /*Bible/novels
  • Morale builders – personal items that help children and adults cope in stressful situations
  • *Medical information
  • *Emergency/survival information
  • *Maps
  • *Pen/magic marker/paper
  • *Compass
  • Edible wild foods publications /field guides
  • *Essential personal documents – photo ID/will/insurance/stocks/bonds/birth certificates/DD214/bank account & credit card numbers/family records/personal property inventory for insurance/deeds/pink slips/passports/check books/computers/backup disks – flash drives/credit & debit cards/copy of Social Security Cards/irreplaceable photographs & certificates – IN WATERPROOF CONTAINER
  • *Phone numbers and addresses of friends, relatives, and emergency organizations/agencies
  • *Spare keys
  • *Instructions on meeting and/or communicating with family and/or friends during or after an emergency
  • Duel language dictionary if appropriate
  • Laptop/iPad/tablets/PDA’s/MP3/4 players
  • Entertainment – music/instruments/cards/games

14. Power – Energy

A reliable power supply can be crucial in an emergency or for various outdoor recreational activities. Many valuable communication, radio, and lighting devices require power. Currently there are a number of dependable portable solar (large and small), storage, and hand operated units available to power your electronic devices.

  • *For power – a small portable solar charger for electronics and rechargeable batteries
  • For lighting
  • For radios
  • For electronic devices
  • For communication
  • *Hand cranked radios and lanterns with USB charger & power cords
  • Solar/storage/hand cranked power devices – fuel free portable power
  • Solar panels
  • Generator – gas/propane
  • Appropriate linking cables
  • *Batteries of all sizes – alkaline/rechargeable
  • *Battery charger – wall/car/solar
  • Deep cycle battery
  • Inverter

15. Cash

It is impossible to know for certain what circumstances might exist during a serious emergency and for what duration normal financial activities will be disrupted. Access to electronic funds or use of credit cards may not be possible. Cash or barter may be the only means of paying for goods or services.

  • *Cash in smaller denomination bills
  • Gold/silver coins
  • Smaller items for barter

16. Personal Security

Each individual must decide the extent to which they will provide protection for themselves and their families from physical harm by others or wild animals.  Don’t forget fire safety.

  • Weapons/ammunition/gun cleaning supplies/bow hunting supplies – If you have firearms make sure all those who might use them are properly trained
  • Tazer
  • Mace
  • Pepper spray
  • Bear repellant
  • Sling shot
  • Clubs/bats
  • Large Dog
  • Fire extinguisher

17. Special Needs

This category must not be overlooked if you, other family members, or friends have specials needs and require individual attention.

  • **Personal items specifically required by special needs individuals
  • **Medical items and prescriptions – consider having an adequate supply on hand in the event of an unforeseen and prolonged emergency
  • **Special foods or other items for children/elderly/disabled/nursing mothers
  • *Children’s items for a sense of security – blankets/dolls/toys/diapers/pacifiers
  • **Pet needs

18. Transportation Support

An often overlooked category, specific transportation support must be assessed especially for longer duration emergencies or for outdoor activities where the transportation devices are critical. Evaluate these options, determine which ones you will utilize, determine what you will need to ensure safety, comfort, repair potential, and adequacy to handle the transportation of your provisions.

  • Motor Vehicle – car/truck/van/RV/motorcycle/extra gas/repair and emergency equipment/trailer
  • Boat – motorized/sail/canoe/kayak/paddle/inflatable/folding
  • Scooter
  • Bicycle – regular/folding – repair parts/tire pump – special towing cart
  • Horse
  • By foot
  • Wagon/garden cart – for manual needs

Emergency Preparedness Items for Automobiles – Trucks – Vans – RV’s

These items are especially important for long trips, family outings, new younger drivers, inclement weather, remote areas and at night.

  • Spare tire
  • Jack with tire iron and supporting tools
  • Tire inflation device – portable power and/or aerosol can inflator
  • JB Weld/super adhesive
  • Jumper cables
  • Portable power unit for jump starting and backup power
  • Tow cable/rope
  • Chains/cables/bungee cords for tightening
  • Crowbar
  • Reflectors/flares
  • Hidden spare key
  • Device to break window and cut seat-belts from the inside in an emergency
  • Extra oil
  • Extra gas/funnel if appropriate
  • Siphon hose
  • Extra fan belts/bulbs/hoses/additives/sealers/hard to get parts
  • Window scraper
  • Important phone numbers/documents/insurance information
  • GPS device if appropriate

Additional critical items from the above Essential Checklist to carry in your vehicle:

  • Tarps
  • Blankets/emergency sleeping bag
  • First Aid kit
  • Baby supplies
  • Food and water/water purification/containers if appropriate
  • Maps
  • Pen/magic marker/paper
  • Personal documents and photo ID
  • Gloves
  • Duct tape
  • Rope/wire
  • Repair tools
  • Plastic bags large and small
  • Cell phone/smart phone/charger
  • Emergency radio/hand-crank radio
  • Emergency lighting
  • Rope/wire/bungees
  • Small solar/12 volt power packs for small electronics
  • Cash/credit card
  • Extra clothing in harsh and/or wet weather/hat
  • Hand/body warmers
  • Rain gear/rubber boots
  • Knife/multi-tool
  • Whistle
  • Toilet paper
  • Towels
  • Shovel
  • Extra batteries
  • Small fire extinguisher
  • Matches/fire starter
  • Personal protection devices or items as appropriate/pepper spray

Check Essential Checklist above for other items relevant to your needs.

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