EDC fanatics pride themselves on carrying with them a tool for every possible situation they might encounter. While a quality multitool and a length of paracord may prepare you for what you face on the average day, you’re going to come up short in the case of an emergency. Keeping a separate emergency bag is not just the purview of doomsday cults and people who wear a lot of camouflage — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, power outages — rare is the region that doesn’t face the threat of some form of natural disaster. Preparing for the eventuality of some form of emergency with some basic essentials is time well spent. Do it now, while you’re thinking about it.
Realistically you aren’t going to be able to store, much less carry around, sufficient water to keep you going for any prolonged length of time. For this reason, you should own and carry a portable filtration system. These devices have come a long way and are small enough that they can be tucked away in a bag and thrown in the trunk of your car.
For emergency purposes we suggest the Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System. It is low-cost, and attaches to an included drinking pouch or your water bottle or can be used with an included straw to drink directly from the source. The filter works for 100,000 gallons, which is (one hopes) going to be more than enough to get you and several dozen of your friends through any emergency situation.
Opt for a filter, like the Sawyer Mini, that doesn’t require frequent filter changes or a lot of extra accoutrements be packed along with it. The last thing you want to do is reach your water source and find you are out of filters, or the filters you do have have been exposed.
A Good Multitool
Surely as an avid reader of edc gear, you already have a quality multitool in your bag. Right? Right? Okay, well never fear. The best multitool for most any application is the Leatherman Wave. It contains 17 tools, which is probably more than you have actual tools in your house. It can be operated with one hand, so you can continue to fight off the bear/struggle to stay afloat/run from the tornado while you stab the bear/cut the fishing net/cut through the fence. Plus, it comes in pretty darn handy even when there isn’t an emergency.
The runner-up, almost-as-good, amazingly-low-cost option is the Leatherman Wingman. With 14 tools and a somewhat less ergonomic handle, it will still get you out of any jam you find yourself in — albeit without looking as cool.
“You can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.” All of that is true. However, just surviving, technically continuing to exist as a living creature, may not be sufficient for you. You might actually like to live through the emergency situation in relative comfort. For this reason, packing some food away for an emergency is likely a good bet.
Preppers have done everyone a favor by mainstreaming the emergency preparedness food market. Gone are the days where you would have to stock up on thousands of cans of Spam and boiled potatoes. The Department of Homeland Security suggests having 3 days worth of nonperishable food at the ready in case of emergency. You can purchase 3 days worth of emergency rations in the form of 3600 calorie food bars for, at the time of this writing, under $10.
They ain’t just for cuddling. Emergency blankets can reflect up to 90% of radiated body heat back to the wearer. They make excellent … well … blankets, but also ground clothes, covers for your gear, or first aid wraps.
Remember that 3 days, 3 hours, 3 minutes thing? Well you can survive 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment. Less, obviously, when temperatures drop. Pick up a few emergency blankets and throw them in the trunk of your car, in your glove compartment, in your emergency bag, and in your basement. Freezing to death because you didn’t want to shell out a few dollars for a blanket isn’t a good look. They don’t take up much space, add almost no weight, and are one of the items in your bag most likely to save your ass.
You went camping when you were 15 and started a campfire with a zippo, your favorite flashlight is your cell phone, and you’ve seen every episode of Survivorman — so you aren’t worried about lighting, you’ll just start a fire with two sticks and make a torch to carry out of elephant dung.
Realistically, you aren’t going to be doing any of that. For much of the world, many emergencies carry with them one unifying element — water. You are going to be wet. Everything around you is going to be wet. You aren’t going to be able to find dry tinder, or dryer lint, or dry bark from a birch tree. You’re going to need a light. Flashlights are great, but they leave one hand encumbered, which is less than ideal in a survival situation. You need a headlamp.
One benefit of the rise of the LED has been the shrinking of lighting gear. Headlamps are no exception. Ten years ago a headlamp that would have a decent run time would have weighed enough to put you in a neck brace. Thanks to LEDs, 3 AAA batteries and a quality headlamp can keep you moving after dark for more than a dozen hours.
Just about every disaster that doesn’t leave you gulping water will leave you gasping lungs full of dirty air. Earthquakes, sandstorms, drywall factory explosions — all three have one thing in common — dust. Get a couple of cheap dust masks to throw in your emergency bag and keep on hand. You don’t want to be the last victim of an emergency when you die of respiratory issues ten years after the fact.
We live in a connected world. Much of what we do, and who we talk to, relies on a portable device remaining charged. Phone lines go down, power goes out — often times in a disaster situation the cell networks are the last means of communication left open.
Solar chargers have come a long way since the days of those cheap photovoltaic arrays in school calculators. A good modern charger can charge two devices simultaneously and provide as much as 3 amps in direct sunlight. A good flexible charger can be draped over your backpack and plugged in to your phone tucked away in your bag to keep topped off all day.
“But all of my music is on my phone! No one listens to radio anymore!” Yes, all of this is true. However, you aren’t packing a radio in your emergency bag to listen to Hoobastank — you’re packing it to get emergency information or weather updates. Bonus, many modern emergency radios, such as the Midland ER310, come with a built in flashlight and USB ports to charge your devices.
Whatever radio you choose, make sure it is crank-chargeable, unless you plan on lugging a few hundred AAA batteries along with you to the FEMA camp.
All of this gear isn’t going to do you much good if it gets wet. On this, choose function over form. You want a bag that will keep your gear dry, not add much weight, and have secondary uses. A dry bag for kayaking or canoeing checks all of these boxes and is inexpensive to boot.
Opt for the largest you can find, and make sure the bag is waterproof and protects against sand and dust. Additionally, ensure the pack has a shoulder strap or other easy way to carry it long distances, as the Unigear does. Choose wisely and it will not only hold your gear before the emergency, but be the backpack you carry to safety.