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Top 10 Mistakes
Found in Most 72-Hour Kits

I’ve tested and reviewed dozens of 72 hour kits and go bags for myself, friends, families, and clients and it amazes me how most of them have the same basic problems.

Fortunately, most of them are easy and inexpensive to fix and I’m going to tell you how you can identify and fix 10 of them. Here are the first 5…

1. Medications. If you have medications that you have to take on a regular basis, you need to keep at least 3 days worth in your 72 hour kit. Many drugs break down in the extreme heat of a car, so ask your pharmacist how long they’ll stay safe in your car and how long they’ll stay effective.

As an example, if your pharmacist tells you that a certain drug will last for 3 years at room temperature, but only 2 months if you keep it in your car, then you should use the drugs that are in your car every month or two and replace them with fresh drugs.

The life expectancy of your drugs will, of course, be different depending on where you live and the season of the year.

2. Footwear/clothes. If you ever wear flip flops, heels, or dress shoes, then consider carrying a pair of quality shoes/boots in your car.

Stick in at least one pair of quality socks and underwear as well.

Remember the pictures and videos after 9/11 of people running barefoot, holding their $500 shoes? Imagine how your body would feel after doing that for a few miles.

3. Clothes for the wrong season. You should either carry clothes for both summer and winter, carry convertable clothes, or change the clothing contents of your kit every spring/fall. Shorts won’t help much in the winter and insulated cover-alls won’t help much in the summer.

4. Young children. If you have young children, they add a HUGE level of complexity to any survival situation. Can/will they eat your survival food? Do you have spare clothes/diapers/wipes for them? Do you have a way to manage their pain from teething/injuries?

Do you have a way to transport them? It might be worth learning how to use a regular bedsheet to create a wearable baby sling. If you have a stroller with inflatable tires, do you carry spare tires and/or a tire repair kit?

5. Pain. If you aren’t good at handling pain, learn proven techniques from someone you know who has done natural child-birthing, a midwife, birthing coach, or doula.

In addition, consider carrying ibuprofen, anbesol, or even prescription pain medications. If you are concerned about a hurt pet, consider getting livestock lidocaine. (It requires a vetrenarian’s prescription, but costs a fraction of human lidocaine.)

I’ll be back with the next 5 items tomorrow, along with a simple trick for fixing all of these items quickly and easily.

Until tomorrow,

David Morris

P.S. If you haven’t signed up for the Survive In Place 12 week online Urban Survival course, now is a great time. Learn more by going to In addition to a full lesson on 72 hour kits, we cover how to fortify your house, build up supplies without your neighbors knowing, training your mind for survival, and forming a team of like-minded people without giving up operational security. Click on the link above to learn more.

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101 Responses to “Top 10 72-hour kit mistakes [part 1 of 2]”

  • Tom says:

    Someone was asking for information on the hydromission water drill. You can find out a lot more about here:

  • Farmer Brown says:

    Also remember that meds and other stuff can break up bust up or become contaminated really fast in any type of vehicle, more so if you live on rough roads and/or drive alot.

  • Marcie says:

    Young children will often times find a disaster situation very distressing, so adding a small toy or blanket that the child is familiar with or one they can cuddle will help to calm them.

  • Linda Roberts says:

    Some people never think about things like extra shoes,and meds.we might need.Thank you so much for your survival kit information.Its more help then some people know. Thank you,Linda

  • Paul says:

    I thank everyone for their ideas. He are my 2 cents worth. over the counter meds are easy to stock up on. Rx ones are not. I take Rx pain pills and have found that there are sometimes some left over at end of month. Save them!! I keep them in Rx bottle topped off with cotton to keep them from rattling around and breaking and then placed them in vacuum sealed bags to stay dry.
    I have yet to see any mention of Rx eye glasses. I have six pair. When I get a new pair then I donate the oldest to local Lions Club. Kinda tough doing those little things if you can’t see what you are doing.
    There are lots of ideas on which type of fire arm to carry and for what purpose. That is all up to you. I have added a quality pellet gun (Air Arms tx 200) along with 2k rounds of pellets. If you have to put food on the table then this is a quiet form of doing so. No need to alert others with the sound of .22s going off. A well placed round WILL take down small deer under 25 yards because the velocity of good pellet gun is close to .22 rifle at that range. small game is a no brainer.
    Good luck to all

  • will says:

    I keep most of those Items. I also keep A Spare Roll of Aluminized Bubble pack insulation (A Much better version of the emergency blanket)
    I seal water Purification tablets in a Double sealed tube along with several other Items. taped inside the Trunk Seal of my Car. They have remained dry and functional for two years, to date, on an 18 year old Buick.
    If you work at it you can find lots of small cubbyholes to put things and create your own “Swiss Army Car”

    I save crystal lite tubes. they can hold syringes, epipens, several pill bottles. The Outer container acts as a secondary dust shield and additional protection. For Medication you must put cotton in the bottles to keep the pills from moving. They will chip and fragment making the dose irregular.

    As For RX eye wear I recommend a pair of Strap style sports / safety glasses. You will need something that sturdy in a bad situation as well as for eye protection for doing repairs during a breakdown.

    I agree With Paul Above: A Pellet Gun Is better. I have seen 25 caliber available. I would not go smaller than 22 in the pellet. I would Use a Manual Piston style rather than a co2 style.

  • Andy says:

    A pellet gun is a valuable addition to your fire arms. We have used them for a number of years. They are available in 22 cal. as well as the more popular 177. We have found them to be accurate, reliable, and inexpensive to use.
    There is one item I haven’t seen addressed where fire arms are concerned. That is that you should practice disassembly and reassembly at home before it might become necessary in the field. Some such as the Ruger Mark 111 22 and 22/45 require a definite and detailed proceedure for reassembly that if not closely followed, will render the firearm inoperable. You should become familiar with the gun of your choice and be able to disassemble and reassemble it long before relying on it to operate flawlessly in any situation.

  • Don says:

    It’s a good idea to leave meds, especially Rx meds, in a bottle with the original or prescription label on the bottle/package. I’ve seen people stopped, and where a search is warranted, have problems with drugs in baggies, etc. My Son had problems, with an overly gung ho gate guard, at the military installation where he works, because he had two Excedrin loose in his console cup holder in his vehicle.

  • Big Jer says:

    For small game a .22LR works very well, and .22LR will be a medium of exchange for things you dont have. And remember to practice living out of your kit. You cannot learn this stuff from a book or by watching movies. If anything live out your kit in the backyard. You and your kit will evolve. Maybe carry a 120 hour kit to help supply friends and neighbors that don’t have anything.

  • Jean says:

    I have been carrying an auto-bag in my vehicle for many years. I have flares, matches (changed regularly), flashlight (batteries checked), blanket, electrical tape, duct tape, a few small common tools, and small fire extinguisher. The fire extinguisher was added after an engine fire once that a kind man with a fire extinguisher came along and put out before the car blew up.

  • Neil says:

    What about types of fire starters, sterno cans, etc. ?

  • MAJ (R) Allen BROWN says:

    A simple, lightweight, improvised incendiary device (or fire starter) can be easily made with cotton string, a plastic milk bottle top, and candle wax. Carefully, melt candle wax in a small, metal or Pyrex glass container over LOW heat on the stove (to avoid smoking up the house with wax fumes). Dip and saturate cotton string into the melted wax. Lay the cotton string aside to cool and harden. When dry, cut the string into lengths of 2″ or 3″ (your preference). Shape 2 pieces of string down inside of the plastic milk carton top so that the string forms an X shape inside with the ends of the string sticking over the lips of the top. By now, you’ll probably have to reheat and remelt the wax in the container. When melted, using pliers to hold the hot can or some protection for your hands from the hot container, pour the melted wax into the plastic top all the way to the brim so the 2 pieces of string are completely covered with wax, and so that the end result is a plastic cap, filled with candle wax, with 4 little “wicks” sticking out the sides. When cool, this little device can be used to get a campfire started by lighting each of the 4 wicks with one match. It will burn for many minutes insuring tinder gets ingnited quite reliably. I keep half dozen of these in a zip lock to insure that any melting, if the summer heat gets high enough, doesn’t ruin my other gear.

  • Rette says:

    This is for Paul and others. Do not store medications with cotton in the container. The cotton will absorb humidity and the pills will deteriorate sooner. Even when you open a new bottle, remove the cotton and do not put it back. Instead, use a baggie or a small piece of bubble wrap and crunch it up. I also have a small vacuum sealer and use it to seal various dry foods and other items (be sure to date perishables). Thanks to everyone for their additional ideas. It’s all very helpful.

    RN, MNEd

  • Lee Griggs says:

    Steel wool with Vaseline makes an exceptional fire starter. Simply work some Vaseline into the soapless steel wool and keep it in your kit. Using a sparker (strike it with a knife blade or the striker that comes with the unit) the sparks will ignite the treated steel wool very quickly and provide a HOT fire starter. Works in rain, snow or whatever.

  • Lee Griggs says:

    One other thought, you can take fine steel wool, stretch out a piece about 6″ inches long and then using a 9V battery, drag the battery across the steel wool. The sparks will ignite the steel wool and you have a fast fire starter. Simply put a fresh 9V battery in a small plastic bag and put that in a larger plastic zip bag with the steel wool and you are ready to go.

  • Hammer says:

    Reading all the above responses have encouraged me to put in my two cents worth. My situation here in Georgia is in somewhat of a rural area. David Morris’ minicourses came up in my email one day as a result of many other email lists I am on. I was intrigued but also sceptical as with anything coming through the internet these days. But even with the tidbits offered through David’s email minicouse is, without a doubt, thought provoking.
    I watch survial type shows on Discovery & like minded channels (Bear Gryllis, Les Stroud, Mantracker, etc.) I’ve read through a lot of the responses and appreciate other peoples advice, comments and questions.
    An idea for survival kits that might be incorporated is to have items for multiple purposes. For instance, two items that I have are Potassium Permananate(found in water filter websites or stores) that can be used for filtering water and Glycerin(found in Walmart) used for skin protection/other things. These two items can also be used to as a fire starter when you mix 50/50 and it will start a fire for about 5 to 10 seconds until the two chemicals reaction is complete. Works very well. Just make sure that the containment vessels(I use former Nyquil plastic bottles) used are secure enough to so that you don’t cause an unintended fire and you need to practice handling too.
    I have 15 watt solar panels, (between $50 to $60 at Harbor Freight depending on special sales,) here at home that are charging Marine Batteries(bought at Walmart $65 to $85 depending on CCA) along with an 1000 watt A/C inverter(also bought at Harbor Freight for $89.) Power goes out here in GA from time to time and one battery/converter ran my computer, flat screen tv/ lamp and DVR for 5 hours while another battery/converter ran my window unit air conditioner(I’m a baby in the summertime) for 5 hours also. While I can’t do this everyday, I keep the batteries topped off with the solar panels just for such a case. I have been buying these above mentioned items one at a time every month or so…so that the cost isn’t overbearing. But over time I have a small portable backup power device I use on occassion. Imagine if times got tough how handy this will be to have. My next purchase of solar panel/battery/inverter will be for my refrigerator in the garage. You would be surprised how long the battery lasted running the fridge with energy conservation methods because it doesn’t run all the time.
    My next project will be to make a unit that uses wood/gas to run a lawnmower engine that will power a GM alternator for quick charging batteries or running power for small appliances inside the house when power is down.
    There is so much a person can do if you have the time, research and enthusiasm.
    I’m convinced that I would like to go for David’s “Survival in Place” course thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. I assume there is a blog or some kind of “community” so that we can all continue to keep in touch or send ideas.
    Thanks again!

  • Timothy Mauch says:

    If you want a convenient, small storage container, ask any friend who has diabetes to give you their old empty test-strip containers. They’ll hold small items, cap securely,and the cap has desiccant in it, to absorb moisture.

  • Dave Brawner says:

    I don’t have infants lining at home anymore but back in the day, prepared baby food wasn’t always available. In the old days, moms and dads pre-chewed food for the infants. I know in today’s civilized modern society that may sound ickey but when given proper thought the idea is not so dumb. We passed many healthy pre and probiotics and well as antigens to our children as a result.

    It certainly is “food for thought” when considering availability and weight restrictions.

    P.S. Very sound advice from Rette about the cotton stuffing in pill bottles. The original bottles are sealed in controlled environments but reusing cotton will definitely absorb moisture from the air. I found packing peanuts to be easier to deal with for my pill bottles when I travel, which is all too frequently. One or two will usually do the trick and their easy to extract and reinsert.


  • KC says:

    One essentisl item often overlooked is 100 feet of small but strong rope. Learning basic knots will come in very handy too. There’s all kinds of sites on the Internet teaching those for free. The value of rope and how to use it effectively should not be underestimated. It has unlimited uses. Knowing how to tie a secure or speciality knot can make the difference between live and death in some situations.

    Understanding the fundamentals of how to make a rope is good core knowledge too. Lots of good sources online on that subject and it’s quite facinating once you start learning it’s history. Where would the world be without rope?

  • KC says:

    Probably the most important item is your physical condidtion. Start walking each day or working out to get your stamina built up. I, a devout couch potato, recently GOMA and started walking-ever-so-slowly at first-and over the last five or six months have lost 70 pounds.

    It can be done and all it takes is to get off your butt and do it. Really simple formula that works everytime; burn more calories than you take in. Simple and guaranteed to work. Eat what you want but just remember that you have to burn it off to reduce or maintain. Sort of an auto-diet.

    You physical condidtion is critical ESPECIALLY in a survival situation. You’ll have less limitations on what you can do, how long you can do it, will be less vulnerable to disease and injury, etc. It’s all good but it’s all up to you.

  • Andy says:

    When you make a 72 hour kit, remember you might need it for evacuation or shelter in place. Maybe both. So use the types of packs you would use for travel. Use wheeled suitcases and back packs. Stay away from plastic tubs.

  • CHERIE' says:



  • fixrwiz says:

    If we have to head for the hills, god bless you all!

  • Addie says:

    Thank you for all of the great ideas and tips. I did not see a post regarding food. My dad was a military man for 20 years while I was growing up. We kept emergency items stored on shelves in the furthest part of our basement, including canned heat (sterno fuel) utensils, knives, a shotgun and box of ammo, rope, blankets, a tent, and gallons of distilled water. We also had a three month supply of MRE’s in case we needed food. Can the public still buy MRE’s somewhere for this purpose?

  • David says:

    Instead of using cotton in your pill bottles or anywhere else you need to absorb moisture use rice. For instance, if your cell phone was wet place it in a sealed container with rice for several days. It will absorb the moisture and can be reused for food.

  • Amishman44 says:

    With regards to a canvas…make sure you get a camo-colored canvas instead of the typical bright blue…to aid in concealment!

  • Nancy Kosling says:

    Addie: Yes MREs are still for sale. Internet emergency food vendors sell them. However, FEMA just upped the government contract from $6 million a year to $1 billion and demanded they come first if the vendors signed the contract to provide food for the government agencies. Sense then other government agencies have added contracts for more shelf ready and MRE foods. The most obvious shortages: Egg mix, scrambled; Eggs, scrambled with bacon; Eggs, scrambled with ham; Eggs, whole freeze-dryed and dehydrated. The government has a sweet-tooth: Blueberry cheesecake; Raspberry crumble. Pilot crakers, premium instant rice; granola with blueberries. Most all Mountain House products for beef and poultry entrees that campers like. The vendors just write “item temporarily unavailable”. To get prepared for anything, double up on your local grocer for shelf stable goods like rice, beans, oats, cornmeal, flour and baking powder and yeast to make your own breads and biscuits. If you don’t eat beans, don’t buy them. Buy what you eat.

  • evan says:

    thank you for the helpful info! =)

  • Nick F says:

    my idea to thread(s):

    Wow, great ideas!! Camouflage, mountain refugee advantages, water catchers, proper medication storage, how to start a fire in soaking wet conditions, the importance of rope and how it can save someone.

    People need to be fundamental about survival, all the new technologies should be not relied on, you must be fundamental with your medicine, tools, surgical supplies, shelter, protection, history of people when they become desperate and what you need to detour there violence.

    Up hill advantage and camouflage are huge, as well as making a fire, hunting and health sustainability. Everybody needs to know that communication devices are key as well, like cell phones, but if you are worried about cell phones, use Morris code or fire signals or other message delivery systems that will protect your message to the receiver from ease droppers.

    Heat destroys medicine, absolutely, diabetics, must keep insulin under 20 degrees Celsius at all times, preferably keep it at a cool temp, in shade or a cave.

    Having a toy and blanket for a child could make a huge difference in distractions to you while you are trying to save your family.

    Have a secondary secret place to keep your vital survival gear if possible.

    Have a secondary or third messenger system if the first one is breached.

    The idea of a high caliber BB gun is good, because I hate real guns and I would rather use weapons that are natural or fundamental, through mechanics, not electrics, for hunting and protection,

    My word of the day is: ‘Fundamental survival’, not ‘moden survival tools’ because they revolve around electricity, get electricity out of your mind because when the poop hits the fan, there will be no sustainable electricity, at least some mechanics can last without electricity and do people know electricity is a homing beakon that can be used in wrong ways? That’s why Morris code is extremely important, as well as booby traps for game and unwanted threats.

    Bring a dog with you where you go, they are your first line of defence in detecting a threat and they aren’t electrical or mechanical, they are gods creatures sent to protect you and they do there job as long as you feed them,.

    North is better to go, also to store game meat from going bad n heat, the cool will keep it preserved better, same with insulin: which can be extracted from dogs, calfs and wild animals with the right surgical supplies and understanding of where the pancreas is and how to handle it to extract the insulin.

    Thank you all for reading my ideas about surviving a E.M.P.



  • ron says:

    some very, very good idea’s and advise from everyone and thanks much.
    i am a novice at this but trying to gain all the knowledge and idea’s
    that i keep the the advise coming.

  • Lana says:

    Addie- you can purchase MRE’s at and many other foods and survival gear. Have been buying from them for a couple of years. Good prices too. Good luck!

  • Terry says:

    As an ex-Tracker for Search + Rescue in central Penn. a highly reccomended item carried by most was the Space Blanket. Could tell many stories about this small item. Now retreating in the Rockies and would`nt be without it.I`m sure many of you will understand the wisdom in this.

  • Miss Leno says:

    I appreciate all this information. I think it’s really important to be near a fresh water supply that is clean and be near a reliable food delivery system. As far as medications in a disaster, if they’re not available, your body has to be able to adjust to functioning without them. As far as toxic airborne attack, I’ve read that baking soda, magnesium chloride, a product called Rejuvenate, and glutathione are very important to have available. Most doctors won’t tell you this as these are fairly inexpensive products. More very trustworthy health information (we’re all trying to survive) can be found at the website for “International Medical Veritas Association” or IMVA. They report that Exxon Valdez cleanup personnel’s average age span was 51. And, they’re saying the Gulf disaster may affect up to 50 million people…. I live in Arkansas now.

  • David, how about PETS? No children, but a 14-year-old dog that I love and would NEVER leave behind.

  • snowball1776 says:

    i liked this one it was simple and easy to understand.. .. people are looking for simple solutions to complex problems indeed!

  • David B. says:

    As was mentioned, electronics can survive an EMP if they are shielded in a metal container. Perfect containers are .50 cal ammo boxes. Picked up a few more this weekend at a local gun show for $7.00 each.

  • bob orourke says:

    all good suggestions above. most importantly, find like-minded friends who are prepared and who you would share a foxhole with. if the s*it does hit the fan, being alone, no matter how savvy and battle ready you are will mean death.

  • William Cocker says:

    We’ve had guns for about 500 years and bows and arrows for about 50,000 years. Consider getting a small bow, compound bow, or crossbow instead of a gun. Strings are easy to make, as are arrows and all you need to attain proficiency is practice. I would recommend a small compound or crossbow of 40 to 60 pounds draw weight. That will handle deer and small game. Don’t get just broadheads, get blunts and target points too. Look in the archery magazines for ideas. Check out your local club for people willing to help a newby. I’m not against guns, but they break down and unless you are a gunsmith (I am) you are left with a club.

  • Jessie Hamby says:

    Wind up radios & flashlights. If they have solar, so much the better.

  • r.k.dethman says:

    Thank you,Dave, Enjoying your E-mails–R.D

  • Horse baron says:

    I have secured 2 mules and 3 horses. the mules ride pull a wagon and plows. Along with the horse are transit, food (horses) garden and many many more items. This is along with food, water, medical commo, ist aid ect Yes I have a Dr buggy and a wagon and plows ect

  • Rick edgerton says:

    Thank all of you for more good ideas! I’ve put together a firstaid kit lots tripple antibiotic and medical tape patchs and bandages bandaids proxcide rubbing alcohal .GREAT IDEAS THO THANX

  • CPR Training says:

    It?s actually a great and helpful piece of information. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • granny mae says:

    Ammo cans are good for storage in an EMP attack or a maor flare from the sun but remember to sheild what ever is in the can from touching the sides of the can or the bottom. Also make sure the can is grounded. We have put a wood block inside of ours and then placed whatever we want to protect inside without it touching the sides. You can also use metal garbage cans the same way but be sure to ground them. These are improvised Faraday cages. Another Faraday cage that most people havin in their home is a microwave ! You can even use microwave ovens that no longer work to store things in as long as they do not have a hole in them ! It’s the container that counts not workability. Lots of good suggestions. One more thing, those little survival blankets that have the shinny alumin type of side on them, are great for reflecting heat back into a room. They are a good size and can be hung on the wall and windows of a small room to reflect the body heat of several people back into the room for warmth. Did this in my house one time , in the kids bedroom, when we had no heat in the winter time. Seal them well with tape around windows so as to keep the wind out. This worked so well I have never forgotten it and keep 10 or 12 on hand all the time. God Bless us all !

  • JERRY EICK says:



  • Ron G says:

    I enjoyed your article about 72 hour kit mistakes. I enjoyed the comments listed as well.

  • Rosa says:

    I am a beginner at this. I just finished reading “One Second After” and it opened my eyes on how unprepared we are. I took the mini-course and started stocking up. I read your comments with so much interest. You people are the most informed I have ever seen. Your ideas are like gold. Keep them coming. Thanks again!

  • bob says:

    If you like bacon and eggs for breakfast, save the fat/grease and pour it into a tuna (strain out solids) can, use card board as a wik. Will work as a candle may even be able to cook on it. I am still in the testing stage, and I don’t know how long I can store the grease yet. probably not 72 hr kit worthy. but If anybody has any experience with this pls share. Thanks

  • Jon says:

    I have been prepping since 1985. I have learned that preparation isn’t a destination it is a journey. There is no one solution or book or course
    you can take that will solve all your problems or assuage your fears. If you can think about your problems you can find solutions. You can’t store a lifetime supply of anything. You have to learn how to make or grow or kill food. Use the supplies that nature provides. We all depend on each other. No one man can know and do everything. I can catch animals for food, but I can’t seem to grow a garden. I know how to make ammunition, but I can’t fix an engine. I will trade my skills with people who have skills that I don’t have to acquire what I need and provide for the needs of my family. Everybody does something; cooks cook, hunters hunt, builders build, whores whore. Everybody has some skill that they can contribute to society. No matter what B.S. political party, or social label, or ideology you believe in it all boils down to this: “What can you do for me?” Whatdo you have to make my life better? and What do I have to trade for it?
    This course will get you started and save much time in the learning process, but you will never stop learning. The day you stop learning you die.

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