The mountain passes have been snowed in for most of the month and restricted to local residents only, as the threats of avalanches have been on the minds of everyone in town. Your tight-knit neighborhood has mostly cleared out ahead of another impending storm that is slated to dump a considerable amount of snow on an already fragile mountainside. Snow chains are required on the local roads and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. Considering that the supplies at the general store are dwindling, you’ve decided there isn’t enough for you and your family to last in your house for longer than a couple of days. It’s time to leave.
As the black clouds crest the ridge and the temperatures plummet, there isn’t a whole lot of time to pack up the truck for your journey down the mountain. One essential bag to grab is Nitro-Pak’s 72-hour, four-person emergency kit. You know that a bug-out bag is indispensable to any plan, especially one that involves the safety of your entire family. The idea of being snow-bound on a deserted road in the middle of winter without any supplies is disheartening, but with your whole family, it is unforgivable. In December 1992, Jim and Jennifer Stolpa and their five-month-old son took a wrong turn down an unplowed road in a remote region of Nevada on their way to a family function. A snowstorm stranded them there for eight days (five of them in an improvised snow cave) until Jim decided to walk 70 miles through the storm to rescue. Both Jim and Jennifer suffered from extensive frostbite and had to have part of their feet amputated. Ultimately, the story had a happy ending but could have been better had they equipped themselves with an emergency getaway pack like this one from Nitro-Pak.
Pre-Packaged vs. DIY
There are plenty of ways to build your own emergency bag, and we have covered some of them in previous issues (and will do so in future issues). For some with specific needs or an already extensive collection of materials that typically go into an emergency bag, building one yourself is a viable option, provided you have the right equipment, the right size bag, and the right idea of what you think you might need in the future. Few can satisfy those conditions, as most of the essentials that make up a well-stocked bag are part of our everyday lives: food, tents, ponchos, etc., and we have troubles spiriting them away in a kit that will only see use in an emergency. Additionally, the idea of a quality bug-out bag goes beyond the things you have around the house. The bag usually requires a host of specialty items that usually have a singular purpose. Once they go into your bag, they cannot be used unless it is an emergency situation. Scavenging from the bag is counter-intuitive to your own safety and goes against the concept of having an emergency bag in the first place.
The beauty of having a pre-packaged kit is several-fold: Starting with the bag itself, it is strong enough and large enough to perfectly fit all that the kit includes and there’s room for some personal items also. With a pre-packed kit there’s no thinking involved. Nitro-Pak has thought of everything when they pieced together this kit, so you don’t have to spend a small fortune on individual items or wander around your house looking for a host of items you probably use and will be tempted to use. A pre-packed kit has a “set it and forget it” mentality, meaning that you can bring it home and hide it away and not give it another thought until the inevitable arrives and you need it.
Emergency Kit Use and Storage
This isn’t a kit you keep in your car or the locker at the gym, and it isn’t one you’ll ever take camping or even in the RV. It is large and well stocked, therefore it should be kept at home in a central place in your house. Since many emergencies you might be involved in are the kind that destroy structures (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes), find a place in your house that mostly likely will survive, for instance, a downstairs closet in the core of your house, a basement, or under the stairs. If the kit is destroyed in an emergency, it won’t do you any good, so keep it safe.
This goes without saying, but the kit is for emergencies only and should be reserved for this. Cannibalizing from you kit — food, water, tools — only hurts the future you in whatever peril the future you falls into. When you are knee-deep in snow digging for the hand warmers or stuck in a downpour looking for the ponchos only to remember that you took them to your kid’s soccer game last December, you’ll be out of luck. Your life could depend on it, so once you find a secure and out-of-the-way place to store your kit, the only reason you should go into it — besides at the end of the world — is if you need to replace the MREs and water pouches when they expire.
The Survival Kit
Nitro-Pak’s 72-hour four-person getaway kit is a formidable ally in any emergency situation. The bag itself is a sturdy container large enough to easily hold everything included inside, with enough room to accommodate additional items (personal needs, medical supplies, additional equipment you might need in your particular region). The kit itself is 40 pounds, so the robust handles are strong enough to carry the bag, but it comes with wheels and an extendable plastic handle on the other end so it can be rolled easily where it needs to go. It also has a padded shoulder strap and two extra pockets on the outside to keep readily accessible things. It’s a great place to put the equipment list to quickly remind yourself what is in it. The equipment included can be broken down into six different categories: warmth/shelter, heat/light, water/hygiene, first-aid, food, and gear with 275 items total.
Warmth and Shelter
First and foremost, in any survival situation, shelter is paramount and should be at the top of your list. Included here are two 8-foot tube tents, four space blankets and four emergency ponchos. There’s a yellow emergency blanket that can be used to carry a victim or as a tarp. The four survival bags have a host of uses, from makeshift ponchos to keep out the weather or to carry a variety of things. Underlying it all is a thick wool blanket that makes a great pad, pillow or for warmth.
Cooking, Heating, and Light
Flashlight and batteries and a three-wick 36-hour candle will provide light and comfort on the cold dark nights, as will the two 12-hour light sticks. There’s a small cooking stove with an AlcoBrite gel fuel source. Getting it all started is 48 waterproof matches, and helping to stay warm will be a little easier with eight 18-hour heat packs. Water can be heated over the stove with the four supplied Sierra cups.
Water and Hygiene
Without water, it doesn’t matter how much survival equipment you have with you because your time is limited. Thanks to 12 4.2-ounce pouches of drinking water, you can enjoy fresh clean water for a little while longer. The pouches have a five-year shelf life and writing the date on the bags might be helpful. Additionally, there are 10 water purification tablets to purify water when the pouches run out. To transport water from its source to your camp, a two-gallon water carrier is included.
Hygiene is a good part of physical health in a survival situation, but also it benefits morale when you have fresh breath and a clean body. Parasites and bugs, dirt and grime can lead to disease. Packs of tissue, toilet paper, sanitary bags, dirty clothes bags, soap and towelettes stave off dirty and disease. The combs, toothbrushes and toothpaste just make you feel more human in a dire situation.
Accidents happen, while disasters provide their own share of injuries that will require immediate attention. Leaving a wound untreated will only lead to infection and a bevy of additional problems. The first aid kit included has 60 essential first aid items including two pairs of exam gloves and a first aid reference book. Five sanitary napkins can be used for either feminine needs or first aid use.
Though the backcountry is literally full of food choices if you know where to look and what to do when you’ve found them, sometimes you won’t have access to them. The 18 high-calorie ration bars contain 400 calories each, are low sodium and high in vitamins. For additional vitamins there are 12 E-mergen-C “fizzy” drink mixes that provide 1,000mgs of Vitamin C as well as a host of other vitamins, including zinc and manganese.
One of the biggest aspect of this kit are the nine complete MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). For example, one pack includes chicken and noodles with vegetables in sauce, with potato cheddar soup, crackers, candies, and coffee.
Personal items aside, this kit contains a host of survival tools that will make your survival situation slightly easier, more comfortable, and completely survivable regardless of the situation. Dust masks and iodide tablets will protect you from outside contaminants. There’s also a needle and thread for mending, leather gloves for handling sharp or dangerous items, and a shovel for digging a latrine or a runoff drain around your tents.
To keep abreast of the goings on in the world (if you find yourself far-flung from it) is a Kaito Voyager Trek AM/FM radio/flashlight that can be powered by solar, AAA batteries, USB, AC, or crank, and can be used to power USB-equipped devices. Fifty feet of nylon cord has untold uses, as does the Voodoo tactical multi-tool.
Sometimes, sanity is only a game away. Being stuck in a survival situation can be boring, believe it or not, so having a deck of cards to keep you company, as well as a pad of paper, a pen, and a pencil for notes.
2 Deluxe 2-Person 8′ Tube Tents
1 Wool Emergency Blanket
4 Survival Bags
1 Emergency Rescue Blanket (yellow)
4 Emergency SPACE® Brand Blankets
4 Emergency Ponchos
1 36 Hour Emergency Candle
1 Deluxe AA LED Flashlight
2 Flashlight Batteries
2 12 Hour Instant Light Sticks
1 Adjustable Heat/Cooking Stove
1 AlcoBrite Heat-Gel Fuel
4 Sierra Cups for Drinking & Heating Water
48 Waterproof Matches
8 Emergency 18hr Body Heat-Packs
12 5yr Shelf-life Drinking Water Pouches (4.2 oz. each)
1 2 Gallon Water Carrier (pre-fill prior to evacuation)
10 U.S. Military MICROPUR Water Purification Tablets
2 Small Roll Tissue Packet
3 Sanitary Disposable Toilet Bags
1 Soft Toilet Tissue Roll
4 Clothes Wrap Bags
1 Bar of Soap
1 Tube of Toothpaste
2 Hair Combs
36 Wet Wipe Towlettes
4 Facial Tissue Packets
1 Deluxe First-Aid Kit with 60 Essential First Aid Items
1 First Aid Book
4 Nitrile Exam Gloves
5 Sanitary Napkins
9 MRE Complete Meal Units
2 3600 Calorie Emergency Food Rations
1 Bag of High Energy Candy
12 E-mergen-C Energy Drink Packets
1 Premium Heavy-Duty Nylon 3-Way Carrying Storage Bag
1 Solar Dynamo AM/FM Radio w/ Four Way Power
1 Quality Tri-Folding Emergency Shovel
1 50′ Nylon Utility Cord
28 Potassium Iodide Tablets (for Radiation Emergencies)
1 Emergency NATO Survival Whistle
1 Deluxe Sewing Kit with Needle, Thread, & Buttons
1 Swiss Type 15-Function Pocket Knife
1 Pair of Leather Gloves
4 Hospital Grade “3M” N95 Folding Dust Masks
1 Writing Pen
1 Deck of Playing Cards
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.