How to Build a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget

How to Build a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget

We regularly hear tragic stories of people who are affected by hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, tsuamis, and the list goes on.  A disaster can happen to anyone at any time, and it’s important to be prepared as much as possible. How would your family cope immediately following a disaster, especially when you won’t be able to rely on anyone to help out for days? That’s why it’s important to have an emergency kit ready to go.

The last couple of years, I’ve been compiling my family’s 72-hour kits. A 72-hour kit is to help out in the event of an emergency if you need to survive on your own for several days. It’s recommended that every family have a basic disaster kit with enough food, water, medicine, and other supplies to last at least three the days.

I’ve picked up backpacks for each family member, added the essentials of food, water, shelter, warmth, light, and other items, and I’ve placed them where we can quickly grab them and go.

Below is video showing what I’ve compiled in our 72-hour kits, as well as some tips on how to do it on a budget. There are some items that are hard to find on sale, so I suggest setting aside a few dollars a month to purchase these items at a later date.


If you can’t see the video, head over to my YouTube channel here.



ABC4 TV How to Build a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget

And years ago, I was on ABC4 TV and shared with viewers how to build a 72-hour kit on a budget. Be sure to check out my ABC4 TV appearance here.

You can also read the post below that has a list of items to put into a 72-hour kit. Remember that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get an emergency kit put together. Many of the items can probably already be found around your home, or you can get them inexpensively at thrift stores or on sale at other stores.


72-Hour Kits on a Budget

First, head to a thrift store to pick up backpacks for a couple of dollars, or if you have a school backpack that is no longer being used, then use it for a 72-hour kit. Begin adding the items below into the backpacks.



This emergency food should be a 3-day supply for each person. Include foods from your stockpile that you already have or that you can pick up inexpensively. The meals should be easy and simple such as just adding water, and they should be food items that you would eat. Be sure to include some protein items too.

Below is a breakdown of what food items I picked up for our emergency kits. For some of the products you might be able to divide them into multiple 72-hour kits.

Also, you’ll need to rotate through your food every 6 months to one year. Mark a date on your calendar so you remember to do this.

To heat up and cook your food, save up money to purchase a light weight stove with fuel and cooking equipment.

And add in dishes and utensils so you can eat your food. (I put in extra plastic utensils that I picked up from fast food places.)



It’s recommended to have one gallon of water per person per day. Since that would be too heavy to carry, add at least 3-4 bottles of bottled water to your 72-hour kit. Something is better than nothing. For our family, we also have 5-gallon water jugs ready and filled with water close to our 72-hour kits, so we can grab them and put them in the car if we need to leave quickly.

You could also get potassium iodide tablets to put into your kit.

If you want tips on how to store water, read this Emergency Preparedness on a Budget: Water Storage post.



Make sure to have a complete change of clothes for each family member. Look in dressers or closets to see if there are clothing items you can add to the 72-hour kits. If not, head to a thrift store to pick up second-hand clothes inexpensively that way you don’t have to add brand new clothes to the kits.

And if you purchase the clothes 1 or 2 sizes larger than what your kids wear now, then they can grow into them and you don’t have to pick up more clothes for a few years.

Include the following clothing items in your 72-hour kit. Place all the clothing items in Ziploc bags to keep them dry.

  • Short and long sleeved shirts
  • Pants
  • Jacket/Coat
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Gloves
  • Warm hat

You’ll also want to include these items for warmth. You can find them in the hunting and camping sections of stores:



You’ll want to include items that can provide light if the power is out. Many of these items can be found at a dollar store.



Personal Hygiene items will be important to have when you don’t have access to the every day conveniences. And you’ll be able to find many of the items at the dollar store.





And here are some other things you will want to include in your 72-hour kit. With some of these items, we didn’t have the money to purchase right away, and had to save up for them.

  • Small radio with extra batteries (Save up for this item to have it in your 72-hour kit)
  • Basic tool kit
  • Small shovel that folds up
  • Hatchet or Ax
  • 50 foot nylon rope
  • Plastic whistle with neck cord
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles, small toys or other activities for younger children (Use what you have around the house.)
  • Personal Documents (Make copies of birth/marriage certificates, wills, passports, vaccination papers, insurance forms, credit card, license, pre-paid phone cards, etc.)
  • Cash (At least $50 in small bills and change. This is one item I slowly started to add to each month. If you think about it, in the event of a power outage, bank ATMs will not work, and debit and credit cards will not work at grocery stores or gas stations.)
  • Medications, extra glasses, etc. (Don’t forget to add in prescription medications, as well as medications for headaches, and other personal items if you need them.)
  • Infant Needs (if applicable) – Formula, baby food, diapers and wipes


Remember that certain items will need to be rotated each year, so mark a date on your calendar to do this. These are just some of the basics that should go into a 72-hour kit. And with many of these items, if you watch for sales and use coupons, you’ll be able to pick them up for a better deal and not pay full price for them.

After you get these basics together, because something is better than nothing, then you can focus on adding other items to your 72-hour kits that you feel you and your family will need.

What are other items you’ve added to your 72-hour kits?


How to Build a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget

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  1. Great tips but have you thought of getting a solar charger for mobile phone and a windup radio so you don’t need batteries? Batteries do tend to breakdown after a while (plus they get used up quickly if you have the radio for example on all the time to hear alerts and information) and can damage the inside of torches etc if left in them so always remove batteries from items.

    • A solar charger for a mobile phone and a windup radio would be a great addition to a 72-hour kit. I chose to place batteries in the 72-hour kit because it’s less expensive than the other options and most people have them in the house and can put them in their kits right now. Once a person has a basic 72-hour kit in place, then they can save up for and continue to add items to it like the charger and radio. Thanks for your tips!

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  1. […] You can see the TV segment How to Compile a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget by going to the ABC4 website or by clicking on the picture below. And for those of you who want more details, because I felt like the segment was so fast, and I didn’t have a chance to tell you everything I wanted, head over to my Building a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget post. […]

  2. […] These Starkist Tuna pouches are perfect to place in your 72-hour kits. Head over here to watch my TV segment on ABC4 about how to compile a 72-hour kit on a budget, and head over here to see specifics and a breakdown of how to compile a 72-hour kit on a budget. […]

  3. […] each person in your family. Last year, I had the opportunity to be on ABC Channel 4 to talk about Building a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget. This is a great way to start 72-hour kits when you don’t have a lot of money to spend. You […]

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