Making a list
Hopefully by now you have a list of emergencies and scenarios that may require you to head out quickly. Take a minute and make a list of personal items that you absolutely MUST have to stay healthy and sane in any 24 to 72 hour period. You should consider your go-bag a comfort kit. What items will help you physically, mentally, and emotionally if you have to act fast and get out, whatever the emergency.
Assembling your kit
Pick a basic change of clothes. Start with one outfit -- something comfortable and warm, maybe something you could sleep in. Toss a pair of socks and underwear with it. Put it in the bag. See how easy that was? You now have a go-bag. Now, let's make it better. You can pack more clothes if they'll fit, but more than three simple outfits will get bulky. Pack layers for flexibility and warmth. Pack familiar and comfortable clothes. Consider a hoodie. Hat and gloves - A summer ballcap and work gloves or a stocking cap and fleece gloves? You pick. Flip flops for showering, maybe?
Add a 1 liter bottle of water. (I prefer this to be a new unopened bottle, not a refill. It's going to sit there for a year.)
Think of the food you might want to eat if nothing else were immediately available. Keep in mind special dietary requirements, but don't try to get healthier than you eat everyday. Watch the fat and sodium content. Check the "best by" and expiration dates on food. I try to stay within the listed date for most things, so look for food that lists a year or more before it expires. Unless you further research food packaging, leave food closed in original wrappers. (If you are going to store this in the garage or in the car, your choices are limited due to extreme heat and cold variations.)
Here are a few starter suggestions:
Tuna, chicken, or salmon in a pouch - easy open, no draining, low in fat and high in protein, long dated
Slim Jim-type snacks or beef jerky - saltier than pouches, but less messy and more sharable
Nuts and nut butter - I have an 8 oz. jar of peanut butter and packs of almonds in my pack
Crackers, cereal and chips - Often short dated for best taste, these foods take a little research if you want to drop them in the bag and replace them a year later. Prepackaged flour tortillas often work.
Granola Bars and Oatmeal bars - These often contain whole grains.
Dried fruit or fruit leather - Make sure it's made of fruit, not added corn syrup.
Pudding and fruit cups - These are delicious, but they can rupture and leak. Pack carefully.
Chocolate - I include cocoa almonds and a chocolate Clif bar to get my chocolate fix.
Drink mixes - My pack has Gatorade mix (the kind WITH sugar) and artificially sweetened mixes.
Snacks - Mints, gum, and your favorite candy can be a big perk in an emergency.
You can also easily find ready-to-eat entrees (Pahd Thai by candlelight, anyone?) And there are many just add hot water items (ramen noodles and instant potatoes), but these require the obvious - hot water! MRE's are a great option for nutrition and dating, but they can be bulky, expensive, and caloric. I've eaten quite a few, and I've not had anything I wouldn't eat again. I'll add lots of ideas and suggestions later. To protect against spills and odors, seal your food in a ziplock-type plastic bag.
Personal Care and Hygiene Items
Medication - I recommend you keep at least two weeks of medication in this bag. Most pharmacy meds have a year or more dating. I exchange mine in September each year.
Also consider any special health care needs. My son uses a special soap - I'd hate to deal with an outbreak of his sensitive skin issues in a disaster situation. Put hygiene items in ziplock-type bags, as well.
Antibacterial gel or wipes
Razor and shaving cream
Tooth brush, paste, floss
First aid kit
Bug repellant, sunscreen
Kleenex, toilet paper
Contact solution and case
Here's where things get a little weird for some people. Up until now, we have included the items you might need for a trip to grandma's or the Holiday Inn. But we're about to add a few items that may seem a bit dramatic. Remember that you are trying to stay healthy and comfortable in an unpredictable situation. Add what you like and leave the rest out.
Extra glasses - Put last year's prescription in your bag.
Hair ties - These are useful for more than just putting your hair up.
Pen, pencil, marker and a notebook - You may need to make notes, signs, or just doodle.
Hand towel and washcloth
Light sticks - I buy 15 bracelets for $1 and keep a pack of them in every bag.
Air mattress - The cheap plastic swimming pool kind on clearance in August for $2.
Emergency blanket - The silvery plastic one they wrap around the hero at the end of the movie.
Extra ziplock-type bags - I always pack a few extra gallon sized bags.
Rain poncho - I buy them for under $1 at Wal-mart. (Disney sells them for $7 every time it rains.)
Pocket knife or scissors
Chapstick with sunscreen
Small flashlight or penlight and extra batteries (stored out of the flashlight)
Extra cell phone charger
Extra set of keys
Radio with extra batteries (stored out of the radio)
Preparedness and Personal Items
A copy of your plan - with phone numbers and addresses
Cash, credit cards
Copies of insurance cards, bank cards, and birth certificates
Vaccination records and other important documents
Map and/or directions to safe places
Remember that this is a work in progress. It took me literally three years to assemble an basic go-bag for all six members of my family. Hopefully these tips and suggestions will encourage you to get started and help you know which direction to proceed.
This Series' Links
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Need
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Purpose
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Bag
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - The Basic Stuff
Functional Friday: Go Bag Part I - What's Next?