While the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all provide emergency-supply checklists, those lists can be intimidating in their breadth and their specificity. We’ve spent 120 hours researching and testing nearly 100 different products to bring you this large update to our emergency gear guide, with recommendations for a long-term, heavy-duty water storage container, water purification tablets, energy bars, a quality first-aid kit, a reliable emergency radio, face masks, an excellent lantern and headlamp, a backup emergency candle, a whistle, a power inverter for the car, and a sturdy container to store everything in. We're still working on a full refresh of our emergency guide, and plan to publish it this fall. Half of all proceeds from this guide will once again be donated to emergency relief through the end of 2014. If you’re starting from scratch, picking up these 12 essentials will get you a best-on-the-block kit at a price affordable for almost any household (about $300 as of this writing): a long-term, heavy-duty water storage container, water purification tablets, energy bars, a quality first-aid kit, a reliable emergency radio, face masks, an excellent lantern and headlamp, a backup emergency candle, a whistle, a power inverter for the car, and a sturdy container to store everything. The easiest way to feel prepared for an emergency is to go to your local big-box store and pick up a ready-made emergency kit. The ones we looked at, priced from $69 to $200, were each designed to sustain two people for three days following a disaster, and they contained several dozen individual items ranging from basics such as water and “food bars” to protective gear like ponchos, survival blankets, or a tarp. You could just stock up on bottled water, but that’s expensive (three 24-count cases of bottled water—a 10-day supply for one person—might cost about $25) and potentially wasteful (most bottled water generally has a two-year shelf life).
This sturdy, 7-gallon plastic jug is ideal for storing emergency water for one person or using as a vessel to move and pour water stored in a larger drum. Rigid water containers made of blue polyethylene consistently perform better than opaque collapsible ones for both storage (they offer more durability and leak resistance, and prevent bacterial growth) and pouring. Reliance officially advises that users replace emergency water stored in its containers every 90 days, a recommendation the company says was inspired by FEMA’s guidelines. This large drum made of food-grade plastic allows you to store an entire family’s supply of water for five years before refreshing. While the Reliance Aqua-Tainer’s size is a good fit for a one- or two-person household, a family of four would need eight of those jugs to store a two-week supply of water.
You can find two models online that come with all the accessories you need to store and later use water: the Shelf Reliance Deluxe BPA Free 55-Gallon Barrel Water Storage System, which is sold at Costco as well as on Amazon, and the Augason Farms Emergency Water Storage Kit. Even if you have a big barrel, keeping a smaller container for transporting water is a good idea.
If you want a stash of light, easily portable water containers, we like the long-lasting, durable Datrex pouches, which have an international seal of approval.
A number of competitors sell similarly styled emergency water pouches, but we like that Datrex specializes in emergency preparedness and that this product is widely available online and in stores. You should use water purification tablets to treat stored water or tap water that you suspect has become contaminated, or natural sources of water when you’ve run out of tap or stored supplies.
A packet of 10 tablets, available on Amazon for about $6, will treat 10 liters (about 2? gallons) of water. Treating the water from your heater or toilet tank may not be strictly necessary, but if you feel more comfortable doing so, popping in a tablet is easier than messing around with bleach. For clear, relatively clean water, use 10 drops of plain, unscented bleach per gallon of water. If you choose to keep your emergency water in a large storage container, you’ll need a vessel to drink it from. The best emergency-food strategy is to stock your cupboards full of the shelf-stable canned and dry goods you routinely eat and love—think soups, fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, cereals, pastas, nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, and boxed milk (it doesn’t need refrigeration).
Dedicated emergency ration bars like Datrex or ER Emergency Ration bars do have the impressive advantage of a five-year shelf life, but after testing them, we can’t recommend them.

After going through nine hours of testing, 54 opened cans, and 16 rejected can openers, we can tell you that the $17 OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch is the best piece of gear for the task.
Portable stoves are a popular emergency-kit item, but if you have a grill out on your deck or balcony, they’re redundant.
They’re cheap, plentiful, and effective for freshening up when you have limited water access. In an emergency that cuts off the water flowing into your home, you’ll have to ration your water carefully—but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay clean and relatively stink-free. Heavy-duty garbage bags belong in your kit for several reasons: You can use them for rain protection, as a duffel for transporting stuff in a pinch, or even as a makeshift toilet (when the water is out, line your dry toilet or a sturdy bucket with a garbage bag, go, and seal).
After sifting through professional and customer reviews and researching more than a dozen brands and variations of each bag, we found that Husky’s 42-Gallon Contractor Clean-Up Bags offer the best combination of toughness, value, and availability.
One of the lessons we’ve learned as we revisit the topic of emergency gear is that a disaster kit doesn’t have to be something you tuck away in a corner and then drag out only when the worst happens.
Whether you're camping, traveling, hiking the outback, or caught in a disaster, Lifesaver 4000 can provide you with water just about anywhere. The Lifesaver 4000 water purifier eliminates bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and all other microbiological waterborne pathogens from water without chemicals, quickly and efficiently.
To use just dip base of bottle into the water source, and use the pump to force the water through the filter. David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream. In reality, for the most part you can assemble an emergency kit out of stuff you’d use anyway and may already own.
As usual, we will be donating half of all proceeds from this guide to emergency relief through the end of 2014. But the key safety gear you need—a radio, a flashlight, and a first-aid kit—were universally of poor quality, far inferior to our picks of the Midland ER300 emergency radio and the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp, for instance. We surveyed the field of large, rigid plastic water jugs and called in five models for testing before concluding that the oversize, rugged, 7-gallon Reliance Aqua-Tainer ($18) is the best overall choice for disaster-preparedness purposes, and car camping trips as well.
But if you wash your hands vigorously before filling the jug to avoid contaminating the water with bacteria, and if you keep it sealed, there’s no reason why you can’t store water in the jug for a year before refreshing it, according to water-quality scientist Max Gyllenskog (PDF). We liked the components that come with this brand best, but we advise choosing a drum in this category primarily on price. The pouches are tough, flexible, and slim enough that you can easily pack them around your other emergency items in a bag, and they don’t expire for five years.
It also has the approval of the respective coast guards in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and New Zealand for use in their own emergency kits. We spent several hours on online research and surveyed hardcore backpackers and prepper sites before concluding that Aquamira water purification tablets are the standout choice. For our guide to the best water bottles, we conducted over 50 hours of research to find the best stainless-steel, insulated, and plastic bottles. At a good cost, it provides most of the items that trained and untrained individuals might need to help an injured person during an emergency. The experts recommended buying extra triangular bandages (for limb immobilization and stabilization, breaks, sprains, or large embedded objects), 5-by-9-inch trauma pads for stemming serious bleeding from large wounds (one paramedic, Ken, told us that he’s used up to 10 at a time on a single wound during a call), extra nitrile gloves (which you need to discard after every use), and an extra-large bottle of betadine solution for disinfecting wounds. Even the best face masks can’t completely block germs, but they’re at least useful for keeping particulate matter out of your nose and lungs.

You can drink the filtered water straight from the bottle or store the filtered water in another container. Find out if a comprehensive emergency-training class is happening in your area (you can attend at no cost). Many kits contained products we know are no good, like cheap collapsible water containers, junky multitools, and off-brand duct tape. Scientists fear that a massive rupture along the San Andreas Fault could damage the aqueducts and pipelines that deliver water to Southern California, and that “repairs may take weeks to 6 months or more.” The dreaded Cascadia megaquake in the Pacific Northwest could also leave millions of people without services for months or longer.
Unlike the Reliance Water-Pak and the WaterBrick, the Aqua-Tainer has a built-in break-proof handle that is relatively comfortable to use. The 5-gallon Reliance Aqua-Pak  (about $22 on Amazon) or 4-gallon Aqua-Tainer  (about $17 on Amazon) may be a better choice for people who lack muscle, or who envision lugging water long distances. If you do abide by sanitary conditions, you don’t need to treat tap water before storing, but if you’re concerned about contamination you can use regular household bleach or a water purification tablet to treat your water when you’re ready to use it.
Whether you choose to treat your water when you put it in the drum or when you take it out, tap water sealed tight in a dedicated water drum like this can last for at least five years, according to water-quality scientist Max Gyllenskog (PDF). Because all three of our picks resist impact, have leak-proof tops, and fit into a backpack, any one of them would be a great addition to your emergency bag (or, in less crisis-filled times, your gym bag).
Based on the advice of two paramedic firefighters (one of whom is a CERT trainer), guidelines from the American Red Cross and FEMA, and over 15 hours of research, we can say that the $40 Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman Whitetail first-aid kit is the best choice for most people to stash with their emergency-preparedness supplies. The FDA says N95-certified respirators can help to reduce the risk of illness in a public health emergency. Currently these wipes are Amazon’s best-selling baby-bathing product, but they’re great for cleaning big people, too. You can stow the headlamp in a bedside drawer for emergencies, as well as for late-night reading when your partner is asleep. If you’re caught unprepared, know that the typical home water heater contains 32 gallons of potable water.
We’ve seen that floods and hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy can cause massive utility disruptions and contamination of municipal water supplies.
The easiest and best way to ensure an adequate and easily transportable water supply is to get some dedicated containers. The Whitetail also forgoes a number of items that the 2.0 kit has, such as a compass, a small emergency whistle, and insect-repellent wipes, in favor of more useful medical hardware such as a triangular bandage for immobilizing injured limbs or embedded objects, a wound irrigation syringe, and EMT shears. Even in a bad quake or a once-in-a-decade storm, you’d be better off with a big jug of water and a handful of granola bars or energy bars. The water in your toilet tank, which is replaced after each flush, is also generally safe to drink. Given those risks, and the relative ease of storing water, we think that stockpiling a 10- to 14-day supply is a reasonable goal if you live in an earthquake zone. With 200 to 400 calories for a bar smaller in size than a CLIF, they are a viable meal alternative in an emergency, yes.

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