It's sometimes difficult to assemble your own emergency survival kit, which is why many people choose to purchase them instead of put them together themselves. However, not all emergency kits are created equal, so it's important that you know what to look for from a kit before you make a purchase. Certain items are essential, while others are just a waste of space, and if you're not careful you could be without a critical tool or supply when it really counts.
Look for the Basics
Whether you're preparing for a natural disaster, or some other major emergency situation, make sure any kit you purchase begins with a three day supply of food and water. Water is heavy though, roughly eight pounds per gallon, so this may be replaced by water filtration or treatment options. If this is the case, make sure that there are clear instructions included for the device or chemicals meant to make water drinkable.
The CDC recommends a three day minimum supply of water and food in the event of any emergency situation. This is normally sufficient time for emergency response crews to get basic utilities back in working order and restore general order to the area in most situations. That's the equivalent twelve gallons for a family of four, so make sure any method of treatment is capable of providing at least that much clean water.
Shelf-Life and Portability
A disaster may not strike tomorrow, or in the next twelve months, which can mean that many emergency kits will end up holding a lot of spoiled food. Make sure that any pre-packaged kit has sufficient shelf-life that you're not going to need to replace it frequently just to ensure that you have the basics of what you need. Look for pasteurized or dehydrated food supplies, and water treatment supplies and equipment rather than water storage containers.
If you know you have a minimum supply of easily portable food and water it's much easier to make the decision to abandon a disaster stricken area. Make sure that any small children are able to carry the load you give them, and that the strongest members of your family or group aren't going to over-exert themselves by carrying too much.
Preparing for a disaster scenario is all about planning for the unexpected. The more versatile a kit is the more diverse situations it will help you overcome. Other important tools to look for in pre-assembled bug out bags are servo-powered emergency radios, light sources and cooking supplies, but these should be secondary to the essential food and water you need just to survive.