Disaster Essentials

 It's a scary thought, but you might have to evacuate. What you bring in your go bag matters—big time!

Ever heard of a go bag? Some refer to it as a bug-out bag or an evacuation kit, but the idea is simple. If you had to evacuate your home — perhaps even in a matter of minutes — what would you take with you in terms of emergency and survival supplies? You might leave by vehicle, or you might be on foot.


That bag needs to be pre-conceived and pre-packed long before any actual emergency. It's possible you and your family could be on foot, walking tens or even hundreds of miles, without any outside support. What is inside that pack (or packs — ideally one for each member of the family, including ambulatory kids), is super important.


We've broken our Go Bag & Evacuation section into two sections: The must-have essentials, and the potential additions, which are largely dependent on you and your family's needs.



Can't I just pack on the fly? No. You want a pre-packed go bag. Imagine if you had only 3 minutes to get you, your family, and supplies together.

How much stuff do I need? Try not to overpack (easy to do), but do think of food, water filters, fire, & shelter — enough to last days or even weeks.

Is 1go bag enough? 
Every member of the family should have their own go bag, with supplies split among bags. Even kids can carry a few things.



Let's call these the non-negotiable items in your go bag. The things you really should have in any bug-out bag. We start with the packs themselves and then move to water, food, and other must-haves.



Gregory Mountain Products Maven 55 Liter Women's Multi Day Backpack

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: A woman's multi-day backpack — ideal for use as a go-bag. It's big at 55 liters, but comfortable.

Recommended for: Go-bag.

Be aware: Ideally you should try on bags before buying. Also, measure your frame length to figure out what the best size bag for you. See notes in the review & notes section below.

Often bought with: For a men's bag, we suggest the Gregory Baltoro; and for children we like the Osprey Ace 38.

Gregory Mountain Products Men's Baltoro 85

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: This is a stellar bag in so many ways. Hiking or traveling, it allows a variety of gear to be carried easily, and has lots of access points to GET to that gear. For those same reasons, it makes a fabulous go bag. You need the type of bag you can carry and live out of for weeks on end, if necessary, and the Baltoro qualifies.

Recommended for: Go bag.

Be aware: Ideally you should try on bags before buying. Also, measure your frame length to figure out what the best size bag for you. See notes in the review & notes section below.

Often bought with: For a woman's bag, we suggest the Gregory Maven 55, and for children we like the Osprey Ace 38.


Backpack fit advice. You should always endeavor to try on backpacks before buying them. Pack them full of stuff, see how they fit, how the stuff inside shifts around; how the straps fit your shoulders and how the hip belt supports weight. Gregory, one of the best backpack builders in the business, has an excellent fit guide. Pay special attention to measurement guides to the back/torso.

General Go-bag backpack philosophy. Some people will also counsel against a larger backpacks, maintaining that speed and lightness are paramount. For a single person with lots of oudoorsmen skills, that is probably true. But if your skills are more, say, average, and you've got a family, a larger pack provides options. You do NOT want to overpack and tire yourself out carrying a mega pack. But the ability to carry extra food and gear wins out. If you've got to dump equipment in lieu of speed, you can always do that. 

Reviews & field notes of the Gregory Mountain Products Maven 55 Liter Women's Multi Day backpack. When it comes to go-bags, you want one specifically designed for your sex. The Gregory Maven 55-liter is a capacious bag with LOTS of pockets and compartments, which is ideal for the many different types of equipment you'll need in/on your go-bag. The Gregory Maven 55 is designed for women, and it shows. Our testers found they could carry a lot of heavy gear, and that it sat comfortably on their frames. The adjustable suspension is excellent. (It's also offered in several sizes.) But it really was the number of stuff and belt-harness pockets, separate small day backpack, and rain cover that won them over. It weighs 3.3 pounds.

Reviews & field notes on the Gregory Baltoro 85 backpack: The Gregory Baltoro is an ideal men's go bag. It comes in a variety of sizes (measured in liters), but for the use of a go bag, we prefer the 85, which is big. But exterior straps can be used to cinch everything down. It is VERY comfortable with a full load, and has lots of pockets and access points to get to your gear when you need it. We've taken this bag to Mongolia and the Gobi desert; where it survived a massive desert storm, hundreds of hours in various vehicles being jostled and thrown; multiple multi-day hikes, and various other indignities. What we've found is that it holds its shape due to the tough internal aluminum frame. It has a small removable day pack that is actually useful; a rain cover; and a bunch of access points. Our only complaint is the side water container pockets, which swivel out of the way when not needed — but don't keep the bottles quite as secure as we might like.

LifeStraw Flex Multi-Function Water Filter System

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: This water filter means you have access to clean water wherever you find water, even if that water is really dirty. Earns a no.1 place in your go-bag. Works as a straw, in a water bottle, or even a hydration pack.

Recommended for: Home, go-bag, vehicles, away shelter.

No. units recommended: 1 for each member of your family; ideally in each shelter and go-bag.  

Be aware: The Flex is designed to reduce lead and will also take out viruses in addition to bacteria and protozoa such as Giardia. It will NOT filter out chemicals, seawater, or radioactive materials.

Nalgene Tritan 16oz Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: You'll need to hold water on the go. These won't break and they fit water filters.

Recommended for: Go-bag, vehicles.

Importance: Crucial. Cause, you know... food.

Bottom line: You'll need food to last you a couple of days, minimum, if you need to evacuate.

Recommended for: Go-bag, vehicle. 

No. of units recommended: The food should be distributed between family members and go-bag kits. But think of enough to get you through for at least three days, if not more.

Suggestions: Don't go crazily far afield to what you might normally eat — but concentrate on lightweight and lots of calories. This is the time you'll be looking for extra energy. Forget long-term health concerns (veggies!) and think instead to getting you through the next few days.

  1. This is a case where a collection of energy bars will go a long way. Our absolute favorite are the relatively new RXBAR Whole Food Protein Bar, 12 pack. These are actually super tasty, if very dense. We love the blueberry, maple sea salt, and coffee chocolate flavors. And the old stand-by, the Clif Bar, we STILL stand by. For those with nut or gluten allergies, a vegan option is That’s It Fruit Bars, which are sweet but tasty. Be aware, though, you can’t live on energy bars alone.

  2. This may break some conventions, but you might consider throwing a big plastic bottle of peanut butter in a bag. If you’ve got kids, you’re likely to have one around anyway — but for satisfying, high calorie, on-the-go meal, it’s hard to beat. You don’t even need bread… or utensils. We like Skippy Super Chunk, but whatever works for you.

  3. We know Adirondack Trail through-hikers that swear by macadamia nuts because of their crazy calorie count and oil density. The Sunfood brand sells them raw, organic, and in a resealable bag. And you can’t beat oatmeal. These individually packed oatmeal pouches by a Bend, Oregon, company offers extra ingredients such as goji berries, green tea powder, or beet chocolate. You can add boiling water, or simply cold water and let them sit. Picky Oats Organic Performance Oatmeal.

  4. We realize that, if have nut allergies, pickings here seem slim. And you’ll want and need REAL food. In this case, dehydrated or specially packed food packs that are easy to carry. For a truly innovative solution, look to OMeals. A special heating element inside the package activates when you add any kind of liquid and warms the meal. (Note: The liquid doesn't even have to be potable as it doesn't touch the food.) You don't need a separate pot or to boil water. There's even utensils included. The downside is the size and heft of the bag in relation to the relatively scant amount of food. We can't imagine packing more than four or five of these. 

  5. In our food section, we also recommend the Mountain House 14 day emergency food kit, with enough dehydrated food to last one person enough food for two full weeks. In this case, you would place at least some of those packets into your bag. But, there’s a caveat — you need to heat water to make it palatable, and you’ll need a pot to heat it in. For that, depending on your needs and most probable situation, you’ll need to decide if the extra gear is worth having hot food, albeit hot food with vegetables and variety. See our section below for the Jetboil Flash Cooking System and Stanley Adventure Camp Cook set.

Best food for your go bag

Reviews & field notes of the Lifestraw Flex Water Filter. We’ve used LifeStraw products for our water needs in a number of situations, including a week-long backcountry canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, and in our country home in Pennsylvania’s Poconos, where we've lost power more times in the past year than we care to think about. We have 100 percent faith in them, and for good reason. The LifeStraw Flex removes viruses, bacteria and protozoa such as Giardia, which will leave you very sick indeed. It even removes some lead. It is literally a straw, so dead easy to use. LifeStraw products will NOT filter out chemicals, seawater, or radioactive materials. The company counsels against filtering near mine tailings or downriver from agricultural operations (ie, chicken farms and cattle). Dry out the products after using. The good news is that there are no moving parts or chemicals, and are claimed to last indefinitely in storage. Still, try to keep them from freezing, which can damage them. Lastly, you’ll know they have reached the end of their life cycle when they simply stop working… ie, no more water will come out.

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Daytripper First Aid Kit

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: A reasonably small but versatile first-aid kit appropriate for go-bag and vehicle.

Recommended for: Go-bag, vehicle.

You’ll also need: At a minimum, we suggest adding in trauma dressing and quick-clot sponges.

Be aware: All first-aid kits are somewhat limited. Go through it BEFORE you take it, and alter or add to your needs.

USC Trekker windproof lighter

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: A lighter that works every time.

Recommended for: All shelters (home/away), go bag.

You’ll also need: High-quality butane fuel. Good for all kinds of stuff, not so incidentally.

Be aware: It ships without the fuel, so arrives empty. 

5.11 EDC PL 2AAA penlight

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: You need lots of small, reliable flashlights — in the house, car, purse, and bags. This penlight has more than 100 lumens, needs only two AAA batteries, and is made of aluminum It will take a beating. For a full review of 5.11 flashlights and the 2AAA, see our review.

Recommended for: Several for each shelter; home, go-bag, vehicle, and away shelters. 

No. units recommended: Lots. You can't have too many good flashlights around.

You’ll also need: AAA batteries. We highly recommend using these lithium AAA for critical items.

Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool

Importance: Important.

Bottom line: One of the most useful multi-tools on the market. Tools when you need them — especially the knife, pliers and screwdriver with various drill bits.

Recommended for: Apartments, go-bag, vehicle. 

Be aware: The sheath is wanting. We replaced with a sturdy leather one.


Midland Emergency Weather Radio

Importance: Crucial. 

Bottom line: Severe weather alerts! This is how you'll get them early. A radio is also how you'll get news about the outside world when your cellphone (and everything else on the electrical grid) goes down. Midland products tune into the Hazard Alert broadcasts from NOAA and the National Weather Service to get you local alerts on weather early. Damn important. 

Recommended for: Every shelter; the smaller compact unit is ideal for go bags. .

Be aware: Figure out what frequency to dial in to BEFORE you need it. See here for NOOA stations. And here for AM emergency stations.

Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: When the electricity is out, lights are crucial. So is the use of your hands. So, voila! A good headlamp is worth its weight in gold.

Recommended for: Shelters (home/away); go-bag, vehicle.

No. units recommended: 1 for every adult and ambulatory child. Having them in your go-bag is most crucial.

You’ll also need: AAA Batteries. In this case, we suggest these AAA lithium,which have an especially long shelf life.

Review & field notes of Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Daytripper First Aid Kit. You're going to want a first-aid kit that you can take with you. This one has plenty of stuff in it, including hiker needs like Moleskin, bandages and dressings, a syringe and antibiotic cream. It weighs less than a pound, and it's 5.X7.5X3 inch package is easy to fit into packs. We also suggest this as a kit that goes well in your vehicle. We think it could use a few more items, especially the Israeli trauma dressing and blood-clotting sponge in case of a serious injury. (Any first-aid kit is only a beginning. You need to figure out what type of stuff you need, esp. if you have kids, elderly, or pets. Also, a kit is only as good as your knowledge. Go through it BEFORE you need it.) That being said, it's an easy size to pack and relatively lightweight, so a good overall choice.

Review & field notes of Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool. You know what's pretty great? A knife. And a screwdriver whenever you need it. Multi-tools are one of the handiest tools you can carry on a belt. We love the Gerber design because it allows you to open the pliers with one hand. Also, this one has an especially clever screwdriver design which works like a real tool and won't drive you mad. NOTE: Leatherman lovers will always argue for a Leatherman. We get that. We own both the Gerber Center-Drive AND the Leatherman Wave. We like and own both. We really do. But we prefer the Gerber for it's one-hand operation of the pliers, and it's ease of use to get out and operate the blade. (Which is as sharp as all get-out. We used it recently to burst a blister and carefully pick out a foot blister.) But it's the screwdriver function that wins out. The Center-Drive has an action that works like a regular screwdriver, allowing you to use torque pressure. And it comes with a variety of screwdriver tips that fit into the sheath. Which keeps us from running back and forth to the house when we're doing chores.


Lighters drive us crazy. The cheap ones are fine but they're cheap, and the ones we seem to always be buying for barbecue needs (you know the ones) NEVER seem to work... just like cheap flashlights. So there is something immensely satisfying to a lighter which lights in the wind and the rain and burns so hot that sticks go right up. Review & field notes of the USC Trekker Windproof lighter. A $35--$70 lighter still seems crazy... until you consider just how important fire is. This one's fire-starter element lights a claimed 30,000 times, and using refined butane, it burns a temperature of 2,000 Fahrenheit, in winds of up to 80 miles per hour... in a driving rain. Note that it comes without that butane. Which is why we also recommend a good backup supply of butane for your lighters and camp stove. The Neon 300ml 5x Refined Butane Fuel, 12 cans is probably as pure as you're going to find. 

Review & field notes of the Midland Emergency Crank Weather Radio:

Midland, a venerable and trusted CB radio company since the 1950s, also produces emergency weather radios. The handcrank versions come in two sizes: The compact model is best for go bags. The ER300 is slightly larger, with a fixed handle to hold on to. Critically, it is solid and continues to work even when dropped, which we did several times in our testing.It tunes into NOAA weather alerts, and also has FM and AM bands. You can power it in a variety of ways: There's a rechargeable battery included (plug it into a wall); it works with AA batteries; and can also be charged via an attached solar strip and by a handrcrank. You can even recharge a cell phone using the unit. Lastly, it's got an included flashlight. This is easily the best unit we've found. You should have one of these in your home(s). Get it out, play with it, learn to use it.

Reviews & field notes on the 5.11 PL 2AAA: Cheap flashlights suck. We've bought those multi-packs from Costco and are endlessly frustrated when they don't work. They flicker, you shake them, and the light warbles on and off, and you can never be sure if it's the batteries or the flashlight itself. The California company 5.11 makes the best flashlights we've ever used — and police, the military and security forces tend to agree. The brand new PL 2AAA penlight has more than 100 lumens, needs two AAA batteries, and will take a beating. Good for your purse, bag, nightstand, vehicle, etc.  See our full review here.

Reviews & field notes on the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp: When there are no lights, you'll want lots of lighting options. But a headlamp is the most crucial when you are on the move, either evacuating or transiting, or doing anything critical in your shelter at night. Black Diamond makes great headlamps, and they are cost efficient. The Storm has 8 separate settings, including one that's appropriate for close-up reading, like a book or instructions. (This is important: Too-bright headlamps wash out print.) We use ours all the time. Camping, hiking, and just banging around outside in the evening. No sense in saving these headlamps for emergencies.


Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line:  Cash is king, especially if the electricity goes out, if the banks go on the fritz because of a hacking situation, or any other number of things. 

Recommended for: Home and away shelter, go-bag.

No. units recommended:  We suggest taking out a minimum of $1,000 out of the bank. But $3,000 or even $5,000 would be better. Distribute it among locations.

Be aware: In true extremis, the American dollar might not count for a thing. In that case, imagine the type of things you could barter for and with — matches, booze, cigarettes, batteries, socks!

Rand McNally maps + compass

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: You need old-school, physical maps of your local area, surrounding areas in which you might have to evacuate to, and the route to your Away Shelter — by both vehicle AND foot. See our notes.

Recommended for: Home shelter, go-bag, and vehicle. 

No. units recommended: Maps for your home area that you keep in your home; folded maps for your go-bag, and atlases in your vehicle.

You’ll also need: A decent compass. We like Coghlan's Map Compass for its relative simplicity and light weight.

Be aware:  Maps are the kind of things that are best looked at, pondered over, and an plan devised BEFORE you need it. Look at multiple evacuation routes and then share with your family beforehand. You never know when you might get separated.

Surviveware Emergency Mylar Blankets

Importance: Handy.

Bottom line: An effective way to keep warm when you most need it. Super lightweight, these reflect your own body heat back to you.

Recommended for: A couple in each go-bag and vehicle.

Be aware: They are flimsy, and really only good for one use.


Smartwool socks

Importance: Handy.

Bottom line: Dry socks are one of the world's true comforts if you're evacuating on foot. A pair in each member's go-bag is more than a comfort — it's a necessity. And you can't beat the Smartwool brand.

Recommended for: Go-bag.

Go bag Essentials: the small stuff

Importance: Important to crucial. 

Bottom line: These are a bunch of truly essential items for your go bag which are easy to overlook.

Recommended for: Go bag, vehicle. 

Suggestions: When putting together your go bag, think about those essential items you use every day (ie, toilet paper), and then think: Is that in my go bag?

  1. So, toilet paper. Yeah, you don’t want to forget it. Roll up a bunch of stuff in home and put it in a Ziploc, or consider Coleman Camper's Toilet Paper which is pre-packed and in a water resistant bag.

  2. While we’re on the subject of sanitation, both hand sanitizer like 1-ounce bottles of Purell (for when there’s no water), and a concentrated, bio-degradable camp soap are important. The Sea To Summit Wilderness Wash is effective for hands to dishes and is the right size at 3.3 ounces. A travel-sized toothpaste is nice to have. Lastly, we really like the Epic Wipes, big enough to clean your entire body. They’re thick and take up some room, but having at least one or two along isn’t a bad idea.

  3. Batteries. You should check the batteries on your go bag flashlights every three to six months anyhow, but it’s a good idea to have a couple of extra AA Lithium batteries along.

  4. Best stuff in the world to have along? A small roll of duct tape, which you’ll find about a million uses for. We like Gorilla the best, and this Gorilla Duct Tape To-Go, 1" x 30 ft is ideal for your pack.

  5. While we’re talking sticky stuff, days of hiking on tender feet may soon cause blisters. Your first-aid kit may have some moleskin patches, but carrying FirstChoice Extra Durable Moleskin - 2" x 5 Yards is a wise move.

  6. Back-up fire: You’ll already have that super lighter, but if something went wrong and you lost it, it’s imperative to have a backup flame. A bunch of kitchen matches in a waterproof bag is a good start, and you might stick an extra Bic in there as well.

  7. Since we’re talking waterproof pouches, you’ll want to pack your bag using some, to keep important items dry. For true water proof, go with Aquapac pack-dividers: translucent bags you can stuff other things inside. They come in different sizes and make packing easier. 


Review & field notes of Cash: Okay, we're being cheeky. But having around some of the green stuff — preferably at least $1,000 in various sized bills, is a VERY good idea. Keep a good measure of it in your go bag, at your home shelter, and an away shelter. In a blackout, your bank cards won't do you a bit of good. They still say cash is king for a reason.

Review & field notes of Rand McNally maps & Coghlan's Map Compass: Don't count on Google Maps or Waze in an emergency. You need real-life maps in your go bag AND vehicle. They are crucial if the net and/or grid goes down. We have a collection of maps at home, laminated print-outs (using, yes, Google Maps) of best evacuation routes out of town, by car AND walking. Then we have folded maps of our city AND the regions we would have to travel to by foot to reach our Away Shelter. We'll admit that, in Preparation Concierge's founder's family, the best map reader is the wife. She's dead on. But we're also teaching our five year old son how to read them. It shouldn't be a dead art, lost to GPS. However, there is a very real concern that maps aren't updated or as accurate as they once were. Not enough people are buying physical maps, so it becomes a danger that one day we won't have them — perhaps when we need them most.


Review & field notes of Smartwool hiking socks: If you have to evacuate by foot, there's one piece of additional clothing you'll invariably wish you had — and which you're likely to forget unless it's already inside your go bag. That's a pair of dry socks. We adore Smartwool socks — the wool keeps you remarkably warm or cool and repel bad smells. Secrete a pair for each family member in their respective bags (and maybe switch out with an appropriate pair for winter/summer as the seasons progress).



When we're talking about additional items in your go bag, we're not saying that each of these items are not important. But each one may not earn its place in your pack. It simply depends on your needs, and geography. If you live in Florida, you might not need a warm sleeping bag for your go bag. Minnesota? Well, you get the idea. These items range from backpacks for kids to tents, face masks and electronic chargers.


Osprey Ace 38 Internal Frame Pack for kids

Importance: Handy.

Bottom line:  If you have a child, it's great for them to have their own bag which could be used as a go bag in emergency situations. These bags by Osprey have the features of adults, but are meant for kids.

Recommended for: Go bag, shelters.

Be aware: Osprey offers larger sizes, the Ace 50 and Ace 75, for older kids. For younger kids, see the Osprey Jet 18.

Flicker 20 UL Quilt Sleeping Bag

Importance: Important, esp. if you face colder climes.

Bottom line: At least one good sleeping bag is great to have in your go bag. Lighter is better. This one weighs less than 2 pounds and also unzips to a quilt.

Recommended for: Go bag.

You’ll also need: An underlayer, like a foam or blowup pad, makes it even warmer, and also gives you the option of unzipping it and using as a quilt. We like the Nemo Tensor Sleeping pad, which we love for its feather weight.

Be aware: The 20 is rated to 20 F, the 40 version to 40. This one doesn't have a top head section like a traditional mummy bag, so your head might get cold if you don't have a hat.

Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent, 2P

Importance: Handy to important.

Bottom line: If you decide to go with a tent in your go bag, you want something super light and minimalist. This two-man tent uses only one pole and weighs a mere 2 pounds. It packs down to 19 inches by 4.5 inches, and can be split among two packs. An option for your car, too.

Recommended for: Go bag, vehicles.

You’ll also need: If you think you'll need a tent, you'll def want sleeping bags.

Be aware: Comes with a rain fly. You might also consider pre-spraying it with tent waterproof spray. It IS tight in there with two full-sized adults. But if you're on the go in a real emergency situation, comfort is not the main concern. 

5.11 Station 3D Tactical Flashlight

Importance: Important.

Bottom line: A super-bright flashlight in a medium-sized package. The one to use in a real emergency.
Recommended for: Shelters, go bag, vehicle. 

You'll also need: 3 D batteries.

Be aware: It will run 2 hours at 1,200 blinding lumens and up to 70 hours on dim (100 lumens). Downside: We hate D batteries. 

Anker PowerCore Ultra-Portable Phone Charger

Importance: Handy.

Bottom line: A great way to recharge a cell phone, or power portable lights. Recommended for: Go bag, shelters.

Frontiersman Bear Spray

Importance: Important.

Bottom line: A non-lethal defense method — against people who might be threatening you (or yes, even bears, though that's actually FAR less likely).

Recommended for: Go bag, shelters.

No. of units recommended: At least two with every evacuation party or longterm shelter.

Be aware: Pepper sprays are illegal in some places, including New York City.

American Made Genuine Elkskin Leather Work Gloves

Importance: Crucial.

Bottom line: You'll need to protect your hands. These elk-skin gloves still allow a decent measure of dexterity.

Recommended for: All shelters, go bag, vehicles. Long term.

Be aware: The leather breaks in and conforms around your hands. Give them a bit of time. Use them BEFORE you really need them.



Reviews & field notes on the Osprey Ace 38 Internal Frame Pack for kids: A serious go-bag for children — meant for 10- to14-year-olds, but could be used by children quite a bit younger as it's highly adjustable and, importantly, comfortable. Uses the same type of suspension as adult models. Only weighs 2.3 pounds. Also available in larger sizes, the Ace 50 and Ace 75, for older kids. For younger kids, see the Osprey Jet 18. We have a five year old who can just fit this bag. He loves it, as we don't have to fill it completely, but it fits on his hips and moves with his body. Plus it gives him a sense of accomplishment to be carrying some of his own "weight." Critically, the suspension is great, and it's got straps to attach gear. It will grow as he grows.

Reviews & field notes on the Flicker 20 UL Quilt Sleeping Bag. Unless you live in truly warm temps, we tend to think at least one shared sleeping bag is a necessity in your go bag. (Mylar blankets are another lightweight option, but are also super flimsy.) When you're looking for a sleeping bag, you want something light and packable, but also as versatile as possible. This bag is light-weight 1.6 pounds — rated to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. (You can get even lighter versions like the Flicker 40, but they're rated to less warm temps.) You can also wear warm clothes or base layers inside, too, of course. One feature we like best is that it completely unzips to form a quilt — which you  could use to cover two adults or several children provided there is a warm base layer underneath. As an underlayer to keep you warm and insulated (and a bit more comfortable), look to the Nemo Tensor sleeping pad


Reviews & field notes on the Nemo Hornet Ultralight Backpacking Tent: Do you need a tent in your go bag? It's a good question. But if there's a chance you'll be out for days, or even weeks with your family, transiting on foot from one place to another, it's easy to see how helpful a tent would be. But a minimalist tent is the right idea — even if you're a family of three and have to totally cram in. NEMO's Hornet is meant for two people, and uses only one pole for support. it is an incredibly light two pounds, and when packed it takes up19 inches by 4.5 inches, and some of the components can be split among two packs. The tent is REALLY easy to put up and take down. It uses only one pole, and the first time we did it was in the dark, in the field. (Note that it's always best to use gear BEFORE you need it in an emergency situation. Learn and use this baby on hiking trips!) There's great attention to details and lightweight materials. 

Reviews & field notes on the 5.11 Tactical XBT D3 Flashlight. So, a $100 flashlight? The one has more than 1,200 lumens, which is a fancy way of saying it is hellaciously bright. Which you'll want when navigating down a dark trail or signaling for help. At 12 inches long and 32 ounces, and cast out of aluminum, it is rather wieldy, in a good way. You could whack someone with it if needed. But the not the lightest thing to carry in your pack. (Note: 5.11 Tactical is a brand out of California that provides gear and clothes to law enforcement and first responders.)

Reviews & field notes on the Frontiersmen Bear Spray: So, we don't actually recommend this for keeping away bears. The most dangerous thing you're likely to encounter are other humans trying to break into your shelter or threatening you when you evacuate.  This spray shoots 30 feet and lays a thick pepper-based fog. If it can send a grizzly scurrying away, imagine the reaction to an antagonistic person. And it's non-lethal. We've tested this in an open field, and were amazed just how far it shoots. But you don't want to be in an enclosed space, clearly, and the wind can shift and affect you, as well. Still, this will shut down an aggressor VERY quickly. Note that any kind of pepper spray is illegal in some places, including New York City.

Reviews & field notes of the Elkskin leather work gloves: Gloves seem nice and all... but crucial? We say yes. Whether handling a fire, clearing glass and debris, cutting wood, pulling weeds... Protecting your hands is just about as important as it gets. And while many may think a technical glove is the way to go, we counter you need the strongest glove possible that still allows a measure of dexterity and finger feel. Elk skin is the best, most durable material we've ever encountered, and these particular specimens have served us incredibly well. Synthetic gloves always wear out first around the finger tips. These elk-skin gloves last great no matter. We've used them for up to three years of hard work. That's highly unusual.

Brazos Hiking Walking Ironwood Stick

Importance: Handy.

Bottom line: A good walking stick — and good personal defense weapon. Lightweight and tough.

Be aware:  Comes in 41 inch, 48 inch, and 55 inch sticks. Choose the right size for you.

Goal Zero Crush Light Solar Powered Lantern

Importance: Handy.

Bottom line: Sometimes a lantern is the exact kind of light you need. This one is hugley packable and light.

Recommended for: Apartments, go bag.

Be aware: You can charge the lantern up via a USB/wall unit, which we recommend. That way it will be ready to go when you need it. A fully depleted battery takes as many as 20 hours to fully charge. Goal Zero also sells separate solar panels, from small to quite large, which come in truly handy. 


Stanley Camp 24oz. Cook Set

Importance: Handy.

Bottom line: When you need to boil water or warm up food on your camp stove or near a camp