Preparing an emergency go bag for each of your kids is an important part of emergency preparedness, whether a weather emergency, snowed in with kids and stuck at home, or you have to leave your house in a hurry as a response to natural disaster or event. Here’s how to get your family prepared for an emergency with 72-hour bags (or kids survival kit / children’s emergency backpack / baby emergency kit / toddler emergency kit / student kit).
Preparing An Emergency Go Bag For Family
What should I put in my childs emergency bag?
What do you put in an emergency bag?
- 3-day non-perishable food supply (like tuna/chicken packets, peanut butter, dried fruit, granola, etc.)
- Mess kits (compact kits that include plate, cup, utensils)
- 3-day water packs
- Waterproof flashlight and extra spare batteries
- Change of clothing
- Extra socks
- Extra underwear
- Small blanket
- Wet wipes / antibacterial wipes
- Extra face masks
- Backpack first aid kit
- Pre-paid cell phone
- Phone/tablet chargers
- Toothbrush / hygiene kit (with mini shampoo/body wash)
- Mini flashlight
- Protection from the elements (like a rain poncho or thermal blanket)
- Emergency go bag documents: Laminated identification, pictures of kids with full names and address, how to reach you if you get separated from kids, emergency contacts, driver’s license, passport, etc.
- Quiet games (books, coloring books, deck of cards, search and fine or puzzle books, etc.)
- Child’s favorite toys or comfort item (blankie, a stuffed animal, etc.)
Although answering what does an emergency bag contain will be different for each family (based on ages and needs), this is a good basic starting list for emergency backpacks.
Emergency Disaster Preparedness For Kids: Don’t miss our full tips on how to make an emergency go bag for kids and emergency kit checklist checklist below.
If you’re not familiar with family emergency kits, let’s start at the beginning. If you’re already familiar and are just looking for the emergency go bag checklist / emergency preparedness checklist, KEEP SCROLLING past this section to learn what to put in your kids’ bug out bags and the best emergency survival kit list for kids.
What is a go bag for emergencies?
You may be wondering what are Kids Bug Out Bags (or Children’s Survival Kit). Emergency evacuation bags are sometimes called “bug out bags,” thought to be named after the “‘bail-out bag’ emergency kit many military aviators carry.” Everyone in your entire family needs to have their own emergency bag — preferably in backpack form — in the event that you have to quickly leave your home and are unable to use your car and must walk to shelter (or safety).
Plus, even preschoolers can carry a backpack comfortably (provided that the bags are not too heavy) for their children’s survival kit.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you prepare your family for 72-hours of emergency.
Think about it as the ability to spend 72-hours of time with no power, no access to food/grocery stores/emergency help, etc.
(That’s also why they’re called 72-hour bags, by the way…)
You can buy emergency bags already pre-packed (like this one), or you can pack your own emergency bag.
We prefer to pack our own and we’ll talk about why and how you can pack your own family and children’s survival kit later in the post.
SPECIAL NOTE: This post specifically covers preparing an emergency go bag for short-term emergencies. There are many lists of best prepper websites that cover being prepared for long term emergencies. Please refer to those for further information.
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How much is an emergency kit?
The cost of pre-packed emergency kits will depend how large it is, the number of people it will cover, and how long it will last per person. Prices will run anywhere from $25 up into hundreds of dollars. You can also pack your own, which can sometimes be a more costly option than buying prepackaged emergency kits, but you get more control over the content in the bag.
Emergency Bag Pricing Examples:
- You can get a single person emergency kit (2-3 days of supplies) for around $25.
- A packed emergency bag for 1-2 people for 2-3 days will run around $50 and up.
- An emergency kit packed for four people (to last 72 hours) starts at around $300 and up.
Survival Kit Checklist: 72-Hour Bags Go Bag List
Some people prepare emergency bags for a situation where our lives as we know it change completely.
They think about if we no longer have access to food, power, emergency services, etc. ever again.
However, for this prepping post, we are going to talk about packing a bag for a 72-hour emergency (and assume you will have access to food, power, and help after that).
First, don’t be afraid to discuss emergencies with your kids and get them involved in packing their own bags.
Explaining everything as you pack it (“This is how you use a whistle in an emergency or if you are in danger. We’re hanging it on the front of your bag.”) will make your children more comfortable if they ever have to use their bag.
Keep scrolling to see the Emergency Kit Checklist for Kids below!
SURVIVAL BAG TIPS:
- Talk to your kids about their bags, what they are, and their functions.
- Get your gets to help in packing the bags so you can talk about the emergency supplies as you pack them.
- Choose a different colored backpack for each child so that they can easily spot and grab their own bag in an emergency.
- Be sure to place everything, even clothing, in plastic, closable (like Ziploc) bags to protect them against rain and other elements.
- Store your emergency backpacks in a place where you can easily grab them and go.
How To Make An Emergency Go Bag
MUST-HAVE Items When Packing 72-Hour Emergency ‘Grab-and-Go’ Bags for Kids
In this section, we’ll cover exactly what you need to put in your children’s emergency bags (and even give you reasons why!)
We’re focusing on children’s survival kits, but most of these recommendations are good for adult preparedness kits, too. This checklist is good if you are packing your own emergency backpack (and not purchasing a prepacked emergency bag).
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies Item #1: Backpack (waterproof)
The first thing you will need is a waterproof backpack.
It will be tempting to scrimp on a backpack, especially if you have a larger family and it can start to get costly to buy one for every member of your family.
But do not buy cheaper backpacks.
Remember, you may have to walk/hike to your safety point and you don’t want cheap backpacks to rip or break on the way!
Buy a good, hiking backpack for each of your children’s appropriate size for the best 72 hour survival bag.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #2: Sleeping Bag (all season)
If you’re wondering what to pack in an emergency overnight bag, a backpack and a sleeping bag are the top two things for your children’s survival kit.
Once you have those two things, you can start adding the other items, but let’s focus on the sleeping bag in this section.
A sleeping bag may be another area where you want to save money, but I’ll caution you against that, too.
In an emergency, you have no idea where you might end up — you may be sleeping on the floor in a huge stadium acting as a shelter, in your house without electricity, or maybe even in your car, outdoors, or on a relative’s floor.
You want a good, all-season sleeping bag to help protect your family and keep them warm during emergency situations.
You’ll also need a sleeping bag that rolls up tight and can be placed in a bag that can be attached to the bottom of the hiking backpack.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #3: Non-Perishable Food
Food is important for the obvious reason (nourishment), but remember that food can be comforting during stressful times (especially for kids).
Here are some of the things we pack in our 72-hour bag.
You don’t need to include all these items. Instead, pick from the list and place them in a resealable bag to protect them from water and elements.
Remember, you will need enough for each person (in each backpack) for around three days.
Emergency Kit Food List:
• Tuna packs (We like the Starkist Tuna Creations because they have a variety of flavors so everyone can pick their own favorites. Also, they have a pretty long shelf life.)
• Beef jerky
• Dried fruit packages
• Single serve almond butter (We like these single serve almond butter packs.)
• Suckers/hard candies/Ring Pops (IMPORTANT: Special treats will be important as comfort items during emergencies, but don’t pack anything that can easily melt like chocolate.)
• Granola/protein bars
• Gummy snacks/fruit roll ups
• Squeeze fruit
• Breakfast Drink Milk Packets(These are easy to carry for the little ones and can be added to water.)
• Hot chocolate packs and/or single serving tea (You may not have access to hot water or being able to heat water, so only pack a couple of these.)
EMERGENCY BAG HACK:
I know that cracker packs are a popular choice for emergency bags, but I try to avoid foods that can easy crush.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #4: Water
Water is a hard one for your emergency bag because:
- It’s necessary above everything else, and
- It’s super heavy and bulky to carry in a backpack.
We like these emergency water pouches because you can pack a couple of these in each bag and they’re easy to carry in backpacks (especially for kids because bottled waters can get heavy or hard to pack).
These pouches also have long shelf lives (5 years), so you can store them for a while without having to replace them.
It is recommended that you have at least one gallon of water per person, per day for all uses — cooking, drinking, and hygiene.
(And don’t forget about your furry family members – pets!)
However, we are helping you pack a 72-hour bag with the thoughts that you will have help or access to more food/water after the 72 hours.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #5: Copies of identification (your identification and the child’s identification)
Including copies of your identification and your child’s identification is important for your pack.
Remember, you might be away from your house or you might not be able to get back to get paperwork and information.
Your backpack paperwork should include:
- your name and address
- your child’s name and address
- emergency contact phone numbers (include your number on the list in case your child gets separated from you)
- child’s vaccination and allergy records
- photo identification
- copies of your driver’s license
- copies of your passport
- copies of your insurance cards
If you need an identification for your homeschooled child, check out Homeschool Buyers Co-op where you can print one for free.
Put a copy of all the paperwork for everyone in all the backpacks. That way if one backpack is lost or destroyed, you will still have the information in another pack.
EMERGENCY BAG TIP:
Be sure to place your paperwork in a plastic bag to protect them from moisture.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #6: Emergency Thermal Blankets
Emergency thermal blankets are a good addition to a survival bag because they are compact, add no additional weight, but provide extra warmth (even under your sleeping bag).
Plus, they can help protect you from rain, snow, and other moisture.
You can also spread the blankets on wet or cold floors or ground before you sit down!
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #7: One change of clothes
Each bag needs to have one full change of clothes that match the seasons, as well as a few changes of socks and underwear.
We buy sweatpants, sweat shirts, and t-shirts and keep them in the bag at all times (we don’t wear them at other times).
For kids, consider buying a size larger clothing for the bag. You can always roll up pants or sleeves that are too big, but too tight clothes won’t work.
(Especially if you’re like me and forget to update your bag regularly. Oops!)
Your clothes for a 72-hour bag should also include three changes of underwear and three changes of good socks (like wool hiking socks).
(Clearly these needs change if you have a baby or a little one who is potty training. Be sure to check out our recommendations for emergency bags for babies and pregnancy emergency bags below.)
EMERGENCY BAG TIP:
Learn how to fold the clothes into a ‘skivvy roll’ to save space.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #8: Cash
For each kid’s bag, place $10 in ones and one dollar in quarters.
You never know what money you may need in an emergency and people may not be able to break larger bills.
Plus, if vending machines are available in a shelter, your kids can buy something with dollars or quarters — which can also help kids cope in emergencies.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #9: Flashlight
When preparing for an emergency go bag, you definitely need to include kind of flashlight in each bag.
We like head lamp flashlights that you wear on your head and that adjust for all head sizes.
We brought these to the beach with us one year (for our daughter to play outside) and we got hit by a storm and the electricity went out and these were great. You can walk around and see in the dark, but your hands stay free.
(Don’t forget to pack extra batteries, too!)
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #10: Phones/Tablets/Chargers
Don’t forget to take your phones and tablets, as well as the chargers. (Be sure you have at least one movie or favorite kids show downloaded on a laptop or tablet!)
In some instances, you may be evacuating to a shelter with power, so you’ll want a way to communicate, play games, and charge your devices.
Also, don’t forget the earbuds/headphones! If you have devices, you’ll want your earbuds (headphones). Plus, they can help drown out others if a shelter is really noisy, which can help keep kids calm.
ONE OF OUR FAVORITE COMPANIES FOR PORTABLE EMERGENCY CHARGERS IS JACKERY. WE HAVE THE SMALL PORTABLE CHARGER WITH SOLAR PANELS. (IF YOU JUST WANT THE CHARGER, CHECK IT OUT HERE.) One of my favorite things is that they are portable, so we can throw them in the car in an emergency (and the small charger has a handle so we can even carry it if we have to walk somewhere). A good charger is definitely something you want to invest in for home emergencies, car emergencies, and even your 72 hour bags!
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #11: Toothbrush kit and hygiene kit (travel shampoo, soap, and wash cloth)
Be prepared by packing your own hygiene items for each child.
Don’t forget to add a regular washcloth or hand towel, which can be used as a napkin, to wash with, or even an emergency compress, if needed, or a pack of moist towlettes/handwipes for each bag (which can serve dual purpose).
We use these toothbrush kits and just keep them in our emergency backpacks at all times.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #12: Antibacterial wipes
Antibacterial wipes are helpful because not only can they work to keep you clean if there is a shortage of water or no place to shower/bathe, but they can also be used for toilet paper in a pinch.
You can even get the individual antibacterial wipes packs in bulk for the kids’ bags and put regular size packages in the adult bags.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #13: Emergency whistle
Emergency whistles are good in case your child gets lost or is in danger.
Give them the whistle, discuss how/when to use it, and let them practice. (Plus, They’ll have a blast learning how to use it.)
Be sure to tie it to the outside of the backpack so that it can be easily accessed.
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #14: Children’s Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen
Remember, during an emergency you may not have access to stores and medication (or supplies may dwindle quickly in the event of emergencies or social distancing requirements … remember?!).
Packing Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen is helpful because they can be taken together during extreme fevers, so they’re good to add to your emergency kits.
Also, be sure to pack any regular medication you / your kids take (or put them in a place near the bags that can be easily grabbed on the way out during an emergency).
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #15: Other Quiet Toys
Be sure to pack something that keep the kids occupied (and distracted!) at a shelter or in a strange place or if the lights go out for an extended period of time.
We like those on the go coloring/activity/sticker packs because it has crayons, coloring pages, and stickers in a self-contained pack for easy carrying in a backpack.
Other quiet toys that are easy to pack include:
- deck of cards
- pair of dice (for made up games)
- small packs of Lego blocks
- small puzzle packs
- coloring sheets/paper/crayons
You might have to occupy your kids for a few days without power (in a strange place).
So in each bag, include a small/thin notebook, paper, crayons/pencils, and a quiet toy.
ALSO CHECK OUT: Power Outage Fun With Kids
Children’s Survival Kit for Emergencies #16: Favorite Blanket or Stuffed Animal
Comfort items are a must to help keep kids calm during emergency situations.
Be sure that you have duplicates of a favorite blanket, stuffed animal (or whatever is your kid’s “thing”), that you can put in the emergency backpack and leave there. If you have to evacuate your house quickly in an emergency, you’re not going to have time to find Mr. Binky and Fluffy Fluffy the Rabbit.
Also, you might want to include one new (unseen) surprise item in the children’s survival kit. It might be another good distraction during trying times.
THOSE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT (MUST HAVE) ITEMS TO PACK FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S SURVIVAL KIT FOR 72 HOURS.
IN THE NEXT SECTION, WE’LL HAVE MORE RECOMMENDATIONS THAT WILL COVER YOUR FAMILY FOR A LONGER, EXTENDED EMERGENCY IF YOU HAVE ROOM WHEN PREPARING AN EMERGENCY GO BAG.
PREPARING AN EMERGENCY GO BAG PART 2: ADDITIONAL EMERGENCY SURVIVAL KIT LIST ITEMS
Light (throw away) rain ponchos are great because there’s a lot of room for kids to grow into them.
Also, they are lightweight and easy to carry, so they won’t add extra weight to a backpack.
• Hat and gloves
No matter where you live, you’ll still want to include hats/caps and gloves that will protect your kids against any kind of moisture, sun, and elements, and help keep them warm (even when they sleep).
It may seem weird to include sunglasses in a child’s emergency bag, but you may be walking in the sun or outside for extended periods of time.
Sunglasses will help protect your child’s eyes and make walking outside more bearable.
EMERGENCY BAG TIP
Review your bag every six months and replace food that has expired and update clothing sizes or styles for the season.
OK, this may seem like a weird child’s emergency bag, but it’s an important item.
Even if your child is not old enough to use matches, I think it is still important to pack some in their bag.
(What if the matches from your bag get destroyed?)
If you’re worried about them, add them to the go bag when the kids aren’t around and tuck them away somewhere that your kid probably won’t find them in the bag.
We like waterproof matches that will still work in wet environments.
EMERGENCY BAG TIP:
BE SURE TO PLACE YOUR MATCHES IN A WATERPROOF MATCH CASE OR IN A PLASTIC BAG.
• Emergency hand crank solar radio (optional)
I put optional on this for a kid’s bag, but it is a must-have for at least one of the bags in your family.
I recommend the ones that are a weather radio and a regular AM/FM radio so you can hear news, too.
(Remember, you need a back-up for your mobile phone. Cellular towers may not alway work or may be jammed during emergency situations and you need another way to get emergency information!)
Also, look for the emergency radios that you can crank to charge or can be solar charged.
Be sure that it has a charging port for your phones or devices (in some cases, you may have to get a convertor, so test it out with your devices before an emergency).
Our emergency crank weather radio also has a flashlight on the front, which is helpful in an emergency.
• Walkie talkies (optional)
Again, I put optional for a child’s survival kit, but it’s important for the adult bags to have walkie talkies and extra batteries.
Walkie talkies can be helpful and fun during an emergency.
If cell towers are down and your family has to split up (think: using different bathrooms in a shelter), it would be helpful to be able to keep in touch with them.
• Mess kit
Again, you have no idea what will be accessible to your family during an emergency, so it’s helpful to carry your own plate/utensils.
I like this one because you can even use the little cup to drink out of and it all stores away neatly.
• Hand warmers
No matter where you live (warm or cold climate), if there’s no electricity and you’re wet, you’re going to be cold.
• Sunscreen and bug spray
Bug spray isn’t just for outdoors.
If you are sheltered in a large building with many others for an extended period of time, ants and other bugs may start to come in because of the food and waste.
Protect yourself by packing some bug spray. Those individual bug spray wipes are a perfect solution!
• Glow Sticks
Glow sticks aren’t just for parties! I know this seems like a weird item, but if you lose power glow sticks light up an area fairly well and are much safer than candles.
Also, if you have to walk somewhere in the dark, hanging glow sticks on each of your backpacks and having kids wear the bracelet or necklace glow sticks will help you keep track of each other.
Another way you can use glow sticks is to put them along the floor and create a visible walk way during a power outage.
Be sure to include one small travel first aid kit in one of the backpacks.
I also like to add some fun, character bandaids to the children’s packs.
It might make the kids smile in stressful situations!
PREPARING AN EMERGENCY GO BAG PART 3: SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES
Pregnancy Emergency Bag Checklist
In addition to the regular 72-hour bag items, you may also want to include the following in a pregnancy emergency bag:
- Extra water
- Ginger tea or mint tea (for nausea)
- Prenatal vitamins
- Extra sturdy, comfortable bra
- Candy or other items you’re craving
Baby Emergency Survival Kit
- Bottle and individual formula packs (even if you’re nursing)
- Squeezable fruit packs or baby food packs
- Extra diapers
- Cloth diapers (in case you run out of disposable ones and can’t get more) and diaper pins
- A couple of changes of clothes
- Baby fever medicine
An emergency bag for newborn baby will need to include a little more. (Think about how often you feed and change a newborn!)
TIP: Ask your daycare if you need to provide emergency kit for child care centers!
Emergency Kit For School / Student Emergency Kit
Student emergency kits are a little different because the emergency is generally a shorter term than a 72-hour bag.
For an emergency kit for school, include:
- Copies of student identification
- List of emergency contact numbers
- Water packs
- Snacks (like granola bars and fruit snacks)
- Gloves and dust mask
- Wet wipes
- Mini flashlight
- Emergency thermal blanket
- Solar charger (for phones/tablets) and extra cords
- Cash (in dollar bills and quarters)
TIP: Ask your preschool if you need to pack a preschool emergency kit for your kid.
Emergency Survival Kits for Pets
You need to also make 72-hour kits for dogs and 72-hour kits for cats!
In a pet emergency kit include:
- Food pouches
- Water pouches
- Small bag of kitty litter (if you have a cat) in a gallon sealable plastic bag
- Copies of shot/vet records
- Extra leash and collar (and muzzle, if needed)
- Extra tag with name and contact information
Emergency Kit for Car
Car survival kit list:
- Water pouches
- Food that will not melt (granola, jerky sticks, hard candy)
- Solar chargers for phones/tablets
- Extra socks
- Gloves and hats
- Thermal emergency blankets
- Emergency radio (like this one)
- Wet wipes
- Emergency flares / emergency roadside kit
- First aid kit
- Books, puzzle books, paper, pens, cards (or other things to pass the time if stuck in the car)
- Portable charger
Emergency Checklist For Babysitter
This really isn’t a checklist as much as a reminder: If you have a babysitter, make sure that they are aware of where you store your kids’ 72-hour emergency bags. That way if they have to leave in an emergency while you’re out, the babysitter will have the bags the kids need.
SEE THE COMPLETE CDC EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS CHECKLIST HERE.
PREPARING AN EMERGENCY GO BAG: CONCLUSION
After you fill the backpacks, put them on the kids to make sure that they aren’t too heavy for each child.
Let your kids have some time to practice walking around with them on.
If the bags are too heavy, you’ll have to rearrange and decide what can be left out and what is a must-have.
Now, let’s recap:
- Get a waterproof backpack
- Be sure the sleeping bag can fit in a bag that can be tied to the bottom of the child’s backpack
- Don’t forget to include photo IDs and other important paperwork
- Don’t include crackers or other food that can be crushed easily
- Put some cash in each bag
- Learn how to roll your clothes so that they take up less room in the bag!
- Include headlamp flashlights to keep your hands free
- Emergency whistles help keep your kids safer
- Solar powered chargers can be lifesavers
- Be sure to include quiet games and comfort items
- Include plans for special circumstances and locations like emergency bag for pregnancy / emergency bag for baby, student emergency kit, emergency survival kits for pets and emergency kit for car.