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Create Your Own Survival Kit

When you create your own survival kit, there are a lot of variables to consider. What size should your emergency kit be? What do you need inside and how much of each item? Where do you get the components? Don’t get overwhelmed by the minutia though – we’re here to help.

What is an emergency/survival kit? Premium 2 Person Emergency Kit 1000px

A survival kit is a collection of items designed to help you get through an emergency in one piece. They will all look a little different based on what emergency they were made for, but they’ll all have similarities. We always need the same basic things to survive, after all! Food, water, and shelter are the key three, but we recommend covering all eight areas of preparedness in your kit if you can: food, water, heat, shelter, light, communication, first aid, and sanitation.

Why should you create your own survival kit?

Preparing for an emergency can make the experience less difficult to deal with. Heavy snowstorms may keep you homebound for several days. High winds can knock out electric power and this can take several days to repair. A basic survival kit is easy to put together and it can be designed around your personal needs. Consider the types of events you are most likely to face and keep them in mind when building your kit. If you have to face them, you’ll be grateful to have a survival kit handy!

Where to start?

The best place to start when creating your own survival kit is to make a plan. Consider what hazards are in your area. Consult the government of Canada’s Get Prepared website if you are unsure what concerns are in your area:

map of canada

Also note how many people you’re preparing for. Are you supplying only immediate household? Will your tenants or neighbours need help or supplies? Do you have family nearby who might come to stay? While preparing for an emergency is an individual responsibility, it’s important to consider those around us when creating a survival kit.

Survival kits can be put together in different sizes. You may want to have a small kit for use in your car and a larger kit for your home. An 18 to 30 gallon (68 to 114 liter) plastic tote container can be used to store items for easy access. If lifting is an issue for you or members of your family, use wheeled containers. Backpacks and duffels also work well, though they can be too small.

How long are you preparing for? While 72 hours (3 days) is often quoted as the go-to amount of time to prepare for, this is most appropriate for go-bags. Go bags and other kits designed for evacuation are usually smaller for portability. Ideally, your shelter in place kit should give you at least a week of self-sustainability. If you’re rural, you may want to prepare for longer, as help might take more time to reach you.

Basic survival kit needs: freeze dried food is perfect when you create your own survival kit

First Aid

First aid kit with a variety of bandages, gauze and medical tape, antiseptic towelettes, burn cream, tweezers and aspirin. Modify your kit to meet your needs and skill level. Consider purchasing a prepackaged kit for economy and convenience.


Bottled water can take up space. The average recommendation is to have one gallon of water per person, per day. In addition to storing water, you should have water purification tablets or filters available. You can get large water jugs at most grocery stores, or re-use clean milk jugs. Note that plastic storage containers should be rinsed out or replaced every 6 months unless they are BPA free. In this case, change the water inside every couple of years. Store clear water containers in a dark place. Want something you can set and forget? Blue Can Water has a 50 year shelf life and makes a great addition to any kit.


Non-perishable food items including crackers, peanut butter, dried fruits, nuts and canned meats are some of the items that you can add to your survival kit. Remember to include a manual can opener even if your cans have pop off tops. Most grocery store items need to be rotated through every 2 years or so, so be sure to do an annual checkup on your kit! If you want to use 25 year shelf life freeze dried food in your kit instead, we have some great options!


Candles with matches and a flashlight, with extra batteries, will provide a light source if the power is out. You might add one or two small solar powered yard lights to your kit. These can be charged outside and then used inside. Light sticks can also be a good tool for marking key destinations, like the bathroom! Be sure to pack a flashlight or head lamp for each person – everyone will need to see!

Radios Emergency radio

A radio with either extra batteries, or a crank or solar charger are a must have in any emergency survival kit. It will help you to stay connected to what’s happening in your area and receive important updates. In today’s world, it can be tempting to skip this item (we all have smart phones, right?) but please don’t! Batteries run out, and cell towers can go down or get overloaded. Trust me on this one, pack a radio!


Total Prepare is located in the most temperate part of Canada, and as I write there is snow outside. We’re not known as the great white north for nothing! Pack blankets, sleeping bags, rain ponchos/coats, tarps, and anything else you think you will need to stay warm. Personally, I live and die by disposable handwarmers. For tips on keeping warm in extreme cold, check out our other posts!


Have a plan in case your toilet stops working. Frozen pipes, flooding, earthquakes, or your big-eating cousin can all effect your facilities! For those times when a plunger just won’t cut it, have garbage bags, a shovel, and/or a portable toilet. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer too!

Comfort Items

Emergencies are scary! Pack some things to help you feel more relaxed and calm. A deck of cards, spare set of clothes, stuffed animal, etc.

Important documents

If you have an emergency plan or binder, there’s a good chance that it will contain copies of important documents. If not, you’ll want to make sure those are included in your emergency kit. These help you to claim insurance and prove your identity.

Looking for a full, detailed list? Check out our printable brochure on Shelter in Place Kits!

Unique personal needs:

  • If you or any family members take a prescription, try to keep enough on hand for emergencies. Rotate the supply to keep it from expiring.
  • Pets will also need food and water. Dry or canned can be stored but remember to include a can opener.
  • A baby in the household will require diapers, food and formula if used.


  • Add a container of baby wipes to your kit. These can be used for cleaning hands or freshening up.
  • Rotate food items in your kit to keep food fresh.
  • Organize kits with other family members or neighbors to increase the variety.

Thanks for reading! Let us know what you want to see included in our next survival kit article in the comments!

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