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The Ultimate Step-By-Step guide to creating your Urban Survival Plan

Top 10 Mistakes
Found in Most 72-Hour Kits

Here’s the second installment of the top 10 problems with 72 hour kits and how you can fix them:

If you missed the top 5 yesterday, here’s the link:

6.  Bad Equipment. Almost every 72 hour kit that I’ve bought or reviewed has had bad equipment in it.  Some of the worst offenders have been multi-tools that don’t work, matches that are brittle and break, knives that are dull, bandaids/tape that doesn’t stick anymore, survival blankets that are worn through, and pumps (both water and liquid fuel camp stoves) that have dried out seals.  The only way to know that bad equipment won’t bite you in the butt is to test out all of your equipment every 6-12 months.

7.  Can you use your equipment? If your firestarter is a glass or fresnel lens, can you make it work?  Will it work in the late afternoon/evening?  On a cloudy/smokey day?  What would you do at night?  What happens when you eat your survival rations?  Can you stomach them?  Do they keep you full? (If not, throw in some fiber capsules)  Do you know how to start a fire with your flint and steel?  Does everyone fit in the emergency shelter that you have?  Can you carry your 72 hour kit/go bag if you have to leave your car on foot?

In short, you bought a 72 hour kit/go bag to keep you alive in a worst case scenario.  Does it does it do any good to carry around a bag full of stuff that doesn’t work and that you don’t know how to use?  Don’t trust anything.  Take the time to test out the equipment that you expect to save your life.  If it doesn’t work, find a replacement that does work.  Testing your equipment will mean that you’ll have to replace some and it means that you’ll have to repack it, but until you know everything works and that you can use it, it doesn’t do much good to carry it around in your car.

8.  Water. Do you have 1 gallon per person per day and 1/2 gallon per animal per day?  (2 people and 2 dogs would require 9 gallons for 72 hours.  At 8.35 pounds per gallon, that’s almost 80 pounds of water taking up 2000 cubic inches!!)  If not, do you have a way to collect and purify more?  Do you have an empty 1 liter bottle, collapsable bucket, or water bladder?  Do you have one for both dirty and clean water?  Do you know if your body can handle water that’s been purified with iodine?

9.  Pets. Do you have 72 hours of food for your pets?  Are you going to feed them your emergency food?  Will they eat it and can they digest it?  Can you eat their food if you need to?

10.  Bags that are all jumbled together. Most 72 hour kits have everything thrown in the main compartment.  Everytime you need something, you have to sort through all of the contents. Consider taking some ziplock freezerbags or packing cubes like Eagle Creek to separate the different catagories of supplies.  Make sure to mark everything VERY plainly.  I like doing this by writing on a strip of duct tape or athletic tape.  One method you can use to separate everything is the following system:

Medical (prescriptions, pain, stomach, etc.)
Trauma (bandages, splints, tweezers, scisors, wound irrigation, etc.)

Here’s the trick to getting this all done.  Print yesterday’s page and this page and underline or highlight everything that you need to do.  Then, pick the easiest item, do it RIGHT NOW and then cross it off when you’re done!  (Crossing off to-do items is great for the mind.)  If you can fix more than one issue in a day, that’s great…keep going.  If not, make a decision to fix one or more problems each day until they’re all taken care of.

After going through this process, two things are going to happen:

1.  Your 72 hour kit(s) will be much better stocked.

2.  You will have more confidence and peace of mind since you KNOW that your 72 hour kit will support you and your family in an emergency rather than just guessing and hoping that everything will work out.

If you’re interested in the difference between 72 hour kits and GO bags, what you need for your kits, and a systematic approach to stocking them without breaking the bank, check out my Urban Survival course, “Survive In Place” at It’s a 12 week course delivered directly to your inbox every week so that you can complete it in your own home at your own pace.  In addition to 72 hour kits, we discuss the psychology of survival, how to fortify your house against gangs of looters, how to form a mutual aid team to watch each others’ backs in an emergency, and how to hide your preparations to protect you and your family from thieves now and looters later.

It’s unlike ANY other book or course on survival that you’ve ever seen.  It’s a full blown course that will take you step-by-step through the process of getting prepared for urban survival.  Every chapter is designed to be completed in a week and it will give you a “Here’s what to do next” set of action steps to complete.  Please read more about it by going to

Until tomorrow,

David Morris
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42 Responses to “Top 10 72-hour kit mistakes [part 2 of 2]”

  • Bruce says:

    I look forward to getting the rest of the material, we have been doing what we have learned, great stuff so practical,

    I got this link sent to me today from someone I respect, I watched it and it seems to tie into what is coming. I would like to hear what you think?

  • Rodney says:

    Dave, I greatly appreciate the professionalism of the course. I’m a Viet-Vetran, all that I have learned from your program has brought back memories of the importants of survival and preparedness. Great course.

  • Windell Glenn says:

    GREAT STUFF!! I’m a Korean vet (USMC) and I have read quiet a few “suvial books” but your course is the best yet….andis more up to date than most of what I have seen. Your course covers a LOT more about having to “stay put” for various reasons. MANY Thanks,

  • Thomas Heggen,MD says:

    Thanks David!
    David Morris clearly epitomizes the old adage that if you do something you love and are passionate about it, you can make a living doing it. I am a survivalist at heart, and I read things from many different sources, but I have never found any author/mentor like David Morris. In addition to the SurviveInPlace lessons I have enjoyed immeasurably, everyday my email is filled with matters of interest and importance from this man.

    I don’t know if it will be one day or one decade until the of the many things I’ve learned from Mr Morris will go from a “passion for preparedness”, to literally life-saving, but I know the day will come where I most likely will say David saved my life.
    Keep up the great work my friend!


  • bailey says:

    Dave, Thanks for providing this absolutely critical information. I think everyone needs to be prepared for natural or man-made disasters. I watched the link from Bruce (Ignatius Piazza). It was horrifyingly realistic,and reminded me of just how brave soldiers are to face this kind of thing daily. However burns and traumatic injuries can happen anywhere. We have a farm and have seen a few gory injuries over the years. I was really impressed with the field dressings they used and am wondering where they can be obtained.

    I will be signing up for your course as soon as I can convince my husband that I’m not going overboard and becoming a “survival nut”(personally, I would rather be a survival nut than an unprepared nut…)Thanks again!

  • Moncho says:

    OUtstanding! I’ve read both articles and I am sold. Will start the program first thing in the morning for sure.

  • Matt says:

    I live near Cleveland. Any ideas how to store water in your vehicle during the winter months? My basic idea up til now is to keep a large metal coffe can and use the (indoor safe) propane heater that I keep in there during the winter to melt ice or snow. Any ideas for something more useful?
    Also, during the winter months, is it ok for canned food to freeze and unfreeze, or do they become unsafe?
    Any knowledge or suggestions where to find this info would be greatly appreciated.

    [David’s Response: I live in a mountain town and have the same problem…very hot summers and cold winters. We keep boxes of water in our cars and they haven’t broken yet, but I always expect that they will. I would get some of them, put them in a ziplock freezer bag, and keep them in your car.

    Remember that indoor propane heaters still produce CO and CO2, but they turn off when the oxygen levels get too low. So you want to make sure that you stop using them if you start getting tired, decide to sleep, or get a headache.

    Your strategy of using the coffee can in front of your heater will work, although it won’t be too efficient. It doesn’t take very much heat to keep a car warm, and you could melt (clean) snow more efficiently by heating a small cup of water with a candle, trioxane bar, or small camp stove. Heat the small cup of water to almost boiling and pour it into the bigger container of snow/ice. You can also heat a small amount of water to boiling and add snow/ice until it is just cool enough to drink. This way, you’ll be heating your core from the inside rather than heating the entire vehicle.

    On the canned foods, you bring up a BIG problem with winter vehicle survival. There are three answers to it:

    1. Carry multiple kinds of food, cans, bars, freezedried, etc. so that you have options.
    2. Frozen cans (or previously frozen cans) are normally considered safe if you can verify that the integrity of the can was not compromised. If the can has leaked or if the can doesn’t make any sound when you open it, you need to realize that the seal MAY have broken at some point in the past and that spoilage/bacteria growth may have happened. Sniff the contents to make sure that they don’t smell rancid and don’t be afraid to cook the food longer than normal to attempt to kill of bacteria.
    3. Rotate your vehicle food often. This won’t keep it from freezing/getting too hot, but it will keep the can from weakening due to excessive repeated freeze/thaw cycles. It will also be the best way for you to KNOW the difference between cans that are still sealed and cans that leak. It will also help you figure out which foods/brands/can designs will work best in your region.


  • tim says:

    try using emergency heater packs for cold weather use. you can find them at walmart. also I use a clark jungle hammock as shelter and have found it easy to use,lightweight and compact.

  • Les says:

    Thanks Dave, great information, keep up the good work.

  • Darksky says:

    I have been doing all this already so I’m in good shape. I can’t wait to hear the how to fortify my home part.

  • Pat says:

    Dave, I am really enjoying all the information, and know you are trying to warn everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone will listen. One thing, though, in your advice to Matt. You should never,I repeat, Never sniff a can of food that you think may be spoiled. Botulism can be inhaled as well as ingested. Just a little heads up. Thanks again and keep up the great work.

  • Mary says:

    Superb,waiting for pt 2 of 12.
    Anything containing flour or grains,freeze for 72 rid them of mealworms & other critters eggs. Let come to room temp. Rebag in single or double serving sizes. Use ziplock bags,eleminate all air.Foil wrap afterwards to keep fresher & air tight. Use crackers or rice for moisture control.Womens hosery makes nice bags for this.
    Paper Towels in the bottom of containers contol oders & moisture.
    Zip Ties get all sizes,great for temporary fixes,plus hand & ankle cuffs.
    I hope this helps some out. Good Luck to all & God Bless.

  • Iris says:

    For rice, cornmeal, flour – anykind, or any grain, even pasta, keep away all critters – especially little white worms – by using a couple of Bay Leaves in the container. They don’t like it and I have even tried it on orgainc whole wheat flour, rye flour, rice, and barley flour for 5 to 7 years – just to make sure and it does work. I never had any problems.
    I sure am enjoying these articles and I am getting some great new information – thank you and God Bless you.

  • Kisses McKrispy says:

    Great stuff. Zip ties are a must. Have ditched my tent for tent for a hammock and a canvas tarp. Works here in Australia North Australia….probably not a good idea in North America!

  • tom burr says:

    Thank you Dave for your spirit, will, and understanding a future of doubt. Plus the ability and knowledge to see what the future can bring. Going to school in the 30,s was a job also. limited clothes etc. We had a 10 gal crock that was our larder. We browned the pork and placed it in the crock and poured the hot liquid fat over the meat. We ate the meat until late spring. The crock was always in the pantry which was quite cold with a hand made cover to protect it from mice or what ever. I aim to try this again this fall.I had bought your Urban S.G befor I realized you were on internet. I have bought another for my G son to take heed from. His wife and 5yr son live with me. My lovely lady lost to cancer in 95 so having a small family to know the aspects of living on a 80 acre farm with a large garden about 1 acre, and fruit trees of apple pears Black walnut, bee hives 20. We are learning to dry fruit. Having wild Turkeys,Pheasants, deer is a plus to buying meat. One thing how long will flour,sugar,peanut butter and such last in tight glass gal jugs?? had better stop. good luck and bless you. Burr.

  • Graham stephens,m.d. says:

    Used to do foil wrapped Boy Scout Dinners on Manifold of car.

    If you’re “rolling your own water containers” in winter just be sure you leave enough expansion room & you’ll have no problem with internal breakage. A few drops of clorox probably wouldn’t hurt.


  • southern Patriot says:

    Thanks for all your doing for America and Americans. Trying to use common sense in my purchases. Freeze dried food from Wal-Mart and canned food,think about what you need if you were going camping and buy as much as you can. The family thinks I’m going overboard. I do not think so and feel it is my responcability to provide for any bad times that are coming. I’ll be standing by the ramparts defending The United States Of America when the **** hit’s the fan. Hopefully their are more defenders of the constitution and the republic. Tired of hearing that this country is so bad and our way of life is causing problems for the rest of the world. This is the greatest country in the world,we come to the aid of just about everyone who needs help.I’ll continue to saluate the flag and sing the star spangle banner. I love my country,can’t say much about the politicians. I’m tired of politicians running this country into the ground and making their own profit while the rest of us live paycheck to paycheck. Stop this crazy maddness and restore the republic. Take care folks me think it’s only going to get worse. Southern patriot

  • Siskiyoumom says:

    I have never had any problems with storing grains when I use tightly sealed containers. I keep a smaller amount in the kitchen and use five gallon buckets in my pantry. I do not live in a high humidity area and my pantry is very cool even in the hottest part of summer. I have only had problems with cupboard moths when I have left packages open ie. crackers, chips, or other baked goods.

    I have not been at impressed with pre made commerical 72 bags/kits. I have boughten a few to take apart and incorporate in my get home bag. By frugally shopping the net, yard sales, craigs list or free cycle you can get a lot of the components you need at the fraction of the cost.

    Playing with ie practicing with your gear means that you are more able to ditch the unneeded extra weight and you can have mistakes when it is not a life or death matter.

    Living in an area that distinct summer versus winter weather means I need to switch out gear as the seasons change.

  • Julie says:

    Thank you so much for helping us. I am hoping I can present some of this to doubtful family members and at least they will have a reference manual if they choose to use it. Their all time best gift. Gives me peace of mind.

  • Brent says:

    I used to get a survival magazine back in the early ’90s, and just started accumulating stuff whenever I could. Back then, I had a wife and twin toddlers to worry about if and when. Several years ago we all moved out of town. The twins are both adults with their own lives now, both VFD/EMT’s, and I’ve got most any equipment I might need for the coming troubled times, but it’s not all together! I’ve been sort of a survival “picker” for many years, so I’ll probably be fine if I can remember where I put “it”. And since my hours have been cut back, I can’t say when I’ll get to take the full course, but it’ll happen, sooner than later. You just keep the info available and we’ll all keep soaking it up, like biscuits in gravy!

  • Jean says:

    Great info! Thanks so much!

  • Evan says:

    Thanks for the great info. Considering that I am a teenager, I think my 72 hour pack is pretty good. I started out with regular outdoor survival kits, then a level 2 first aid kit, and now it has grown much more complex. I try to stay away from the cheap stuff, for example, my multi tool is a Leatherman wave and my fixed blade is an Esee RC-6. I look forward to your future posts.

  • jim says:

    Just joined recently,I really enjoy reading the comments( thanks).My input that I’ve never read reguarding fire starting is “I use wax paper”.Regular household waxpaper that you buy in rolls.I’ve started many camp fires in nasty weather with it.It doesn’t weigh anything,take up any room in your kit,cheap,easy fix & lasts for years.I use about an 18 in. piece per fire,fold it up(several pieces) & put it in a quart size freezer bag.This stores flat,fits anywhere & takes up No room.No more searching for kindling in damp/wet weather!I’ve even sawed a new roll in half & vacccum packed it with 2 storage bags inside for the really bad times.

  • Pat says:

    What about potty needs? I only know of a large bucket lined with plastic bag & 2 boards put on it’s edge , parallel, for sitting. Any ideas?

  • brendah says:

    With our so called leaders making so many mistakes, it is only a matter of time before they get everything mucked up. There are probably a few people in north Africa and Japan, who would love this web site. Thanks Dave.

  • Dave B says:

    Great information Dave, you are tops for sharing.

    Might I suggest a caveat for testing equipment?

    Try to simulate the environment in which you might likely use the equipment. I mean, lighting and boiling water with a camp stove at the kitchen table is a different experience than balancing it on a rock or having to hold something with your feet while trying to stay dry and light the damn thing at the same time. Also cooking food is usually trickier than boiling water. Make sure you know how to control the heat. Burnt or scorched food is not very comforting.

    This tip comes from years of camping and trying new gear in the field. What was easy in the garage may not be so easy in a tent or improvised shelter after the sun goes down.

    Can you operate the gadget in the dark or with minimal light?

    Don’t put yourself at risk here, but try to simulate something more difficult than the comfort of your kitchen or shop.

    Just a tip from “been there, done that”.


  • L. B. says:

    I’ve gotten a LOT of great ideas from these Sample Lessons. I plan on buying your course as soon as we can afford it, but these will at least be able to get us started.

  • Evelyn White says:

    The best place to store medicines is in an insulated lunch kit. It is softside so it will squish to waterever is inside. It will help keep the heat away from your meds and it’s easy to spot and grab and carry if you have to drop your kit and run.

  • evan says:

    this is helping me a lot with making my go bags

  • Jerry says:

    Good Information, it helps much. Thanks……

  • Bush Traveller says:

    Thanks for the info Dave…

  • Robert Farnsley says:

    I have greatly enjoyed reading your mini lessons. It is teaching me that I am on the right track. Often I am the butt of many jokes for my ‘preparedness’. I will most likely sign up for your course in short order. There is no time like right now to hone up on the 7 P’s.
    Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

  • Carolyn says:

    I am enjoying the information from you and from other contributors leaving useful comments. Thank you. I believe in the USA, but I am not so sure about her leaders. We need to be prepared. I retired after 35 years of teaching elementary school and Texas history. I’ve learned a lot from reading but this is current and up front. Thanks again

  • Big Red says:

    Thanks Dave and all the useful info from everybody. I’ve been trying to prepare now for a year or so, you have to be a complete idiot not to see what’s coming. I live in the Rocky Mountains, 8300 ft. elevation. Got a few acres, wouldn’t trade this for anything and I ain’t leavin.

  • Tracy says:

    Dave, what I want to learn about is why people think they will end up alone in the woods, needing to balance their camp stove on a rock…Do people think it is better to pack up some gear and take their families out of their home into the wilderness? Will people be FORCED to leave their homes? I get that things are happening, I don’t get why I would want to prepare to live in the woods/wilderness, when I have a house for shelter…What am I missing?

    I am considering investing in solar panels so that we will have power at home, regardless. But I am left wondering if thinking we can stay in our home (small MA town, biggest city is Springfield, 50 min away) is delusional?



  • james a says:

    hey Dave
    you have some very good points on the 72 bag burning would like to add some things to divide up meals find some torn up kids backpacks that have 2 pockets on the outer lid cut them off they make great gear pods and cheap second add spices to any kit by cleaning old pill bottles and filling them be sure to label them well that’s my most recent cheap tricks the course has some great qualities even for this old dog prepper

  • PDS says:

    Hi Dave,

    I’m a woman who’s thinking about other single women who have no clue on what to do. I thank you so much for your simple instructions. I’m in the process of buying a used RV that can house my mom and a few friends if need be. Is this a good idea? I’m trying to prepare and educate myself as much as possible because I don’t want to be ignorant. What should we woman do about security? I don’t have fire arms training but I’ve looked into getting a pellet or bb gun and also a stun gun…just asking???

  • Nancy Johnson says:

    My husband works offshore so my kids & I need to be prepared to be alone when the s#$%t hits the fan. Your steps are MOST helpful, especially the reminder to be mentaly prepared! Thanks!

  • Iris says:

    Also wondering about RV’s and Travel Trailers. Hubby (disabled) and I live in one to keep our “interests mobile” if/when things happen. We’ve been trying to put together a few things, but hard on small budgets. Also hard to know what to get – there’s SO much out there!!! EMP, Chemical, Government corruption and lock-down, terrorist attacks… we could fill this little thing if we tried to prepare for everything! Also, not feeling (personally) like 72 hours is enough. Me personally, I want to be prepared for at least a couple months, until the worst blows over. I worry about my kids, but the most I can do is give them the info, and most likely have some extra supplies for when they wind their way to me, cause I know they will… lol

  • Merle says:

    My wife and I live in Montana, have since 1996 when we moved up here from southern Nevada(we almost froze that first winter – not use to cold weather).
    We are both in our early 70’s, fortunately very healthy. We walk about a mile nearly everyday.
    We do own a 27 foot travel trailer which we use for lodging when we do antique shows,flea markets and out of town yard sales. I had not thought about this before, but we know and are well known by many people who share our same beliefs. I believe this is a big plus when future problems occur.
    During the winter, we winterize the trailer and store in an RV park which is closed during the winter. The rent is only a dollar a day and the park is about a mile away in a secluded area.
    I am preparing the trailer for “get of town situations” by removing the battery and propane tanks along with certain travel trailer essentials (I love and respect the people in Montana, they are honest and considerate people – but I may need the travel trailer as much as they do i a pinch)
    I have purchased and stored in the trailer various food items and water.
    Unopened boxes of cereals, dry milk, and cups of soup. Since my water tanks are empty, I have placed in the sinks, plastic gallon bottles of flushing water and drinking water, these bottles are full of water up to about 2 inches from the top.
    Also items for preparing the food.
    I have the battery ready to place in back of our pickup and the propane will ride nicely back there as well – I have purchased extra propane and plan to purchase a propane generator – gas may get expensive and rare.
    Of course, I will add to this.
    Hope this is of some help.

  • Jamie says:

    Thanks so much for the tips–especially the “checklist” of needed supplies. I’ve been needing to work on survival go bags but didn’t know where to start. Thanks for providing the resources to get started with this!

    Another Question: Suppose I were to do a “trial run” on survivng from a survival go bag for a day or two, in which I and my kids were to live off of the stuff from the bag to test out preparedness skills. For starters like me, what would be the best way to simulate that?

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