Most emergency kits are designed about being cheap to make, which is certainly fine and very useful. But being cheap they require maintenance, replacing food batteries and first aid supplies, usually about twice a year. Which certainly isn’t bad, less then a car really. But it is like taking on another hobby.
I’ve been talking to people and they see the need to be prepared but just don’t have the time or attention for another hobby.
So can we design a 72 hour kit to cover the basics that use things with very long shelf lives? I think we can. By replacing a few key items with things that are able to sit on the shelf long term we can make an emergency kit that will last a very long time in the hall closet.
Maybe it isn’t ideal and sometimes not cheap but it is something you can give your parents, siblings or children that they can use in case of an emergency. It will give all of you more peace of mind.
The shortest lifespan item will be food. Most food spoils quickly. You might think MREs are great for this but they only last about a year at room temperature, about the same as regular canned goods.
However the Coast Guard needed some emergency rations for their lifeboats and developed the emergency food bar, they are designed to last 5 years in a lifeboat exposed to heat, cold and salty air. They’ll last practically forever in the back of your closet.
If you really want something that lasts forever and you’re willing to do some cooking; rice and beans will keep you alive indefinitely and they last 30+ years. I’d recommend lentils and white rice as they have the shortest cooking times.
Have you noticed that bottled water has an expiration date? Do you know why? back in the 80′s New Jersey required all packaged foods to come with expiration dates, water is food therefore it needs an expiration date on it. Packagers put it on all their water so they wouldn’t have to worry about getting the right pallets to New Jersey. Well, New Jersey dropped that requirement, but now it is used as a marketing gimmick as people will throw out perfectly good water if it is past the date.
The water is fine though a few chemicals may have leached out and made it taste funny. It’s good enough to drink.
A good water filter is something that would be better then any chemical based water treatment method as chemicals will degrade over time even if they are sealing in their jars. While the activated charcoal stage may become inactive that is only for taste and so doesn’t really matter. If the filters are left sealed in their original packaging, they should last 5+ years.
In a first aid kit its the medicines and bandage that go bad over time. I can’t do anything about them though you should be rotating them through your main home kit anyway, but bandages we can do something about. The problem is that the adhesive on the bandages breaks down and doesn’t stick. We can get around that by stocking up gauze pads in various sizes and rolls of gauze and cotton bandages to hold them in place.
During WWI nurses were able to do amazing things with just gauze and cotton bandages, wrapping the most awkward places successfully.
Light, Communications and Energy
Batteries will go flat after a few years, because they self discharge internally because we can’t make anything perfectly. To counter this a hand crank light and radio will replace the normal battery powered flashlight and radio. Okay, in ten years the crank radio that can charge a cellphone might not be able to put out enough power for some future cellphone or have the right plug to connect even if it can. I’ll acept that limitation.
Matches will loose potency, butane lighters will leak, but a firesteel will always make sparks. Make sure to add some good firestarting instructions focused on using a firesteel.
The rest of a typical typical 72 hour kit: cash, tools, utensils, clothes, blanket, rope, towel, soap, books and the like already last for a long time so we’ll not worry about those.