DIY Earthquake Survival Kit



The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur each year worldwide. Granted, many of these earthquakes are benign but a sizable portion are magnitudes of 6.0 or above. Earthquakes packing this amount of power leave a significant amount of destruction in their wake. If you live in an area vulnerable to earthquakes it’s crucial to own an earthquake survival kit. Having the proper gear will give you an advantage to move yourself and your family out of the red zone and into a safety.

Earthquake survival kit considerations

An earthquake survival kit is only useful AFTER the earthquake is over. There’s nothing you could possibly include in your kit that could benefit you in the middle of an 8.0 magnitude super-quake. During an earthquake it’s important to get to the safest location you can. If you are in your house move away from the exterior walls where there are windows and broken glass. Move towards an interior wall or get under a table. If you are outside get to a spot that is clear from powerlines and anything that could fall on you. Not surprisingly, most earthquake related deaths result from falling objects and structures. Do the best you can to get to a safe spot. Once the quake is over, get to your kit.

Essential Survival Gear


Expect that after a large quake your going to have to leave your house. It’s practical to keep your gear in a backpack for increased mobility. Many survivalists advocate a backpack that blends in and doesn’t look like you are armed to the teeth with survival goodies. In a catastrophic situation, unprepared citizens and criminals will be scrambling for resources. Perhaps more important though is that your bag is strong, comfortable, and roomy enough to stow 72 hours worth of food, water and gear. The 5.11 72 hour Rush or the Kelty Redwing 32 are high-quality/versatile options to stow your gear.

The Kelty Red Wing 32 Liter backpack is a roomy and sturdy pack that won’t draw attention from desperate citizens.



Food and Water

A rule of thumb is to include at least 72 hours worth of food and water in your earthquake survival kit. This will give you a 3 day buffer to find a safe location where these resources are easily available. Include at least 3 liters of water (per person). The food you pack should be non-perishable and packed with nutrients. High calorie ration bars are good choices. You can also make your own trail mix. Nuts, seeds and fruits are loaded with fats and proteins that make a great source of energy. Remember, you may be walking a long ways to safety or forced to camp while order is restored.


A pair of gloves will protect your hands from broken glass and debris. There’s a good chance your going to be required to move away obstructions. This debris will include sharp nails, glass and other hazards. Besides physical protection from scrapes, gloves will keep your hands warm during cold nights and you can easily handle hot cookware or other items that have been in a fire.


A poncho will protect you and your gear from the rain and form a light barrier against the elements. It’s versatile enough to be used as a ground layer and could also be used to rig a small shelter. You wan’t to to do whatever you can to keep dry while in a survival situation.


Nails, staples and other sharp objects will go right through a regular shoe. When you’re tromping through the rubble left behind by an earthquake you’re going to appreciate the protection and sturdiness of a good set of boots. Give me the clothes on my back, a poncho, and my waterproof gore-tex boots and I’m good to go.


We all forget how black it gets when the power goes out and darkness descends on the earth. Navigating to safety at night is next to impossible unless you can see where you are going. Flashlights are cheap for the most part but I spend a little extra for the tactical varieties. Tactical flashlights like the Fenix PD35 are powerful, lightweight, and won’t break just because a little 9.0 magnitude earthquake decided to roll through town. Alternatively you could opt or include a headlamp which would leave your hands free to work with gear or setup a night camp.

This tactical flashlight from Fenix is nearly indestructible and throws a serious beam of light
This tactical flashlight from Fenix is nearly indestructible and throws a serious beam of light


This ones a no brainer. Fire becomes an essential resource when you don’t have access to power and order hasn’t been restored yet. Fire will cook your food, boil your water, keep your body temperature normalized and provide a morale boost for you and your party. BIC lighters are a solid way to get a fire going. My second choice is using a knife and ferrocerium rod to throw sparks on a willing bundle of tinder. I like this method because these tools will produce sparks no matter how wet they get. This method takes skill so either practice during a non-survival situation or make damn sure your BIC’s don’t get wet. It’s a good idea to keep all this gear in a plastic Ziploc.

Me making a nice meal with my steel cooking cup from Stanley
Me making a nice meal with my stainless steel cooking cup from Stanley


A basic stainless steel cup is a good piece of gear to have in any survival pack. You can easily boil water, cook food and collect whatever water is available around you. I use this one from Stanley and use it to cook all my soups while I’m off camping in the backwoods.

Portable Smart Phone Charger

The cell towers (which have backup power generators) may or may not be down in the event of an earthquake. This means you can call out to friends or family for help and communicate with loved ones around you. This isn’t going to work if your phone is dead. This device when fully charged can charge your Android or Iphone to full capacity from its built in battery bank. Keep one in your pack just in case.

First-Aid Kit

Including a quality first aid kit will help you treat cuts, scrapes, sprains and a few extreme injuries. Your first-aid kit might just save your life or someones else’s in a survival situation. Any medication you or your family needs should be included as well.

Military Can Opener

Cheap, light and takes up virtually zero space in your pack. It’s very possible you will run across food canisters as you make your way to safety. Take advantage of the extra calories whenever you can!


Ask most survivalists what piece of gear they would take if they were forced to choose one item only and they all answer the same: The knife. The knife is the most versatile tool in your pack if you know how to use one. Even in the city the knife still comes in mighty handy for many day to day survival tasks. Batoning wood, making shelter, cutting cordage, and defending yourself are a handful of uses that make having a blade so crucial to survival. The Bk2 fixed blade knife is a well rounded blade suitable for a variety of applications. See my post on choosing the best survival knife.

The Bk2 knife from Kabar


Spare Cash

Keep some cash in your kit in multiple different denominations. Cash can be used to barter items and purchase supplies at stores that can’t process credit cards without power.

Portable Radio

Crank powered radios are a good way to tune in to local emergency broadcast frequencies. This information is valuable in any survival situation and will provide you with valuable intelligence to figure out your next move.


Toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, feminine products and anything else that will make it easier to take care of yourself without the comforts of a bathroom.

Learning to use your gear

I always wrap up my posts by stressing the importance of knowing how to use everything in your kit. For instance, when I say a knife is a versatile tool I should really say it CAN be a versatile tool. If you don’t know how to use a knife then you will be limited. Developing an intimate level of knowledge and comfort with your gear will give you a big edge in surviving an earthquake or any other kind of disaster. Remember – Knowledge weighs nothing!

Did I miss anything?

Let me know in the comment section below what you would include in your earthquake survival kit.


Urban Survival Kit

urban survival kit
Could you survive here if you needed to?

Living in a city when disaster strikes presents a unique survival situation. It’s a common misconception that “bugging out” means heading straight for the woods. Many of us live in major cities where it’s not possible to simply head for the hills. Events like extreme traffic congestion, rioting, martial law and other scenarios can limit your ability to leave the city. Including gear that takes this into consideration is crucial to building a practical and reliable urban survival kit.



Urban survival kit considerations

The contents of an urban survival kit are unique. The gear you include will be specific to surviving in an urban environment. An urban survival kit will have less of a need for shelter gear because of readily available buildings and structures. Because you will be surrounded by people you need gear for self protection. You will need tools to manipulate locks, break into buildings and access the city water supply. There is a good chance you will be on foot so keeping your kit as light as possible is recommended.

Essential Gear

Backpack – You will need to store your gear in a backpack for mobility. Backpacks are easy to throw on and go. Your urban survival backpack should blend in. You don’t want to look like you’re loaded to the teeth with useful items. People get violently robbed for less in normal conditions. Packing your gear into a tactical military bag screams that you have tools and equipment made to survive. Blend in the best you can by packing your gear into a civilian backpack. The 5.11 72 hour rush bag is my backpack of choice:


The 72 hour “RUSH” bag from 5.11 is a nice middle-ground between a civilian and military bag.


Smart Phone – If the cell towers are still up you can call for help. There is no reason to stay in the city unless you have to. Your Smart Phone also has access to maps, emergency updates and many of them have a built in flashlight. There’s a good chance you will already have yours on you.

Multi-tool – A good Leatherman multi-tool is a very versatile piece of equipment that should be included in any urban survival kit. The built in tools can be used in many scenarios: Cutting up cardboard for shelter, opening food canisters, removing secured items, cutting cordage, etc. Don’t leave home without one boys.

Sillcock key – Ever seen a water faucet with no handle to turn it on? These water sources are on every commercial building and are accessed with a tool called a sillcock key. Even if the power was offline there’s a good chance there is enough pressure left to fill your water bottle. On large buildings these sources could amount to hundreds of gallons of water. This tool is easily acquired at any hardware store.

These water faucets are built in to the walls of many commercial buildings and accessed with a special "sillcock key"
These water faucets are built in to the walls of many commercial buildings and accessed with a special “sillcock key”

Water Bottle – A good water bottle will store any water you come across in the city. Using the sillcock key above you can easily keep your bottle filled for a good while. Opt for the stainless steel varieties to boil water in a fire. Stainless steel containers will add extra weight to your pack but are more versatile than a plastic bottle.

Knife / glass breaker – In the event of a complete system breakdown everything will be up for grabs. You can easily escape the streets by breaking into buildings or abandoned cars for shelter. When you start running low on supplies you will need to access the resources around you to resupply and continue surviving. There are many tactical solutions that fit the bill for this application. A highly regarded solution is the Smith and Wesson SWMP4LS tactical knife. See my guide to choosing the best survival knife.

Smith and Wesson police/military issued tactical knife with serrated blade and integrated glass breaker

Gloves – You want to protect your hands from all the sharp edges and glass you will be handling. A good set of gloves will give you a better grip if you need to climb structures and prevent cuts and scrapes. Your hands are too important not to protect. Pick up a pair at your local Home Depot or hardware store to get ones with a good fit.

Tactical Flashlight – The city is going to be ungodly dark at night. A solid flashlight will be crucial to navigate streets, dig through dumpsters (with your gloves), traverse catwalks and search buildings with the cover of night. Tactical flashlights are waterproof, extremely durable and designed for military and police use. You don’t have to worry about these flashlights breaking if you drop them. They are also high-powered enough to temporarily blind an assailant. Some of them come with a serrated bezel for breaking glass and self-defense purposes. The Fenix PD35 tactical flashlight is currently the industry standard.

The Fenix PD35 – The only tactical light you’ll ever need for an urban survival situation.

Spare batteries – You’re going to need spare batteries for all of your electronic gear. This includes your tactical flashlight and your communications gear. Granted that most of these devices will hold you over for 72 hours but they will become dead weight if you are caught in an extended survival situation and they run out of juice. Pack spare batteries to recharge these crucial pieces of gear.

Pepper spray – If you aren’t trained to take down an assailant with your bare hands then pepper spray is a great tool to include in your urban survival kit. In desperate situations you can’t rely on people being civil. A face-full of pepper spray will stop an attacker right in their tracks.

Food and Water – Keep 72 hours worth of food and water in your kit. This will hold you over until normalcy is restored or until you get to an area where food and water is readily available. Go for high calorie foods like nuts and seeds. Foods with high fat and protein will keep you satiated. High calorie ration bars can be purchased and easily stowed or you can make your own trail mix. Ideally you won’t bring anything that you need to cook and nothing that will perish.

Water purification tablets – Use water purification tablets to purify any water source that might be contaminated with bacteria. You might come across pooled up water in the street from a recent rain or catch some run-off from a building that might be dubious. The water purification tablets will purify these sources of water so you can stay hydrated and keep moving.

Plastic Spork – Use the spork to eat any food you find along the way.

BIC Lighter – Having a lighter in your kit gives you the ability to make fire. This becomes very important in cold weather. Fire can also cook any food you that you find. Natural food sources for hunting will be scarce but other sources will be available. BIC lighters are high quality and continue to spark even when they run out of fluid.

Basic Toiletries – Toilet paper, sanitary wipes, and a small toothbrush and tube of toothpaste will cover your basic hygienic needs during a survival situation in the city.

Dust Mask – Put on the dust mask if you’re going to be exploring abandoned buildings for shelter. The dust mask will help protect your lungs from inhaling harmful particles. This becomes more important if you’re surrounded by collapsed structures or buildings that have recently been destroyed. They are also useful in the event of an influenza outbreak. The dust mask is a very light piece of gear and extremely affordable.

Cash and Cigarettes – These items are great for bartering. The cash can be used to purchase items at stores that can’t electronically process your credit card because of power failure. Cigarettes can be traded for useful items. Sometimes individuals addicted to cigarettes will part with very valuable gear to satisfy their cravings.

Garbage Bags – Industrial strength garbage bags are versatile pieces of gear. They are waterproof so you can use them as a make-shift rain coat. Garbage bags can be laid flat to create a dry sleeping system and they are durable enough to collect and hold water.

Garbage bags - The unsung heroes of the city.
Garbage bags – The unsung heroes of the city.

Communications Equipment – Having a way to receive transmissions that alert you to the current state of the situation is important. Hand-cranked radios will you keep you in the know and allow you to make an informed decision about your next move. Radio scanners can loop through emergency broadcast frequencies and HAM radios allow you to access and transmit over radio frequencies. Communications gear is essential for communicating with family who might be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Note that you would need a HAM radio license to do this normally.

Learning to use the kit

These are the basic items you need in your urban survival kit. Unfortunately most of these items will be useless to you unless you learn how to properly use the gear. You can’t expect to whip out your radio and easily communicate with your family if you have no experience operating it. Spending quality time with your gear gives you the advantage of knowledge – and knowledge weighs and costs nothing. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the entire kit to maximize your chances of survival.

What would you include in an urban survival kit?

Leave a comment below and tell me if I missed anything or suggest a piece of gear that you think would be helpful. Thanks for reading!

Wilderness Survival Kit

The wilderness is beautiful but unforgiving. Can you survive with only the items in your wilderness survival kit?

In my last post I covered what gear you need for an urban survival kit. That pack is great if you live in the city. But what if you live in a more rural area? A wilderness survival kit will have gear that is more effective in this environment. This kit will include many items that wouldn’t make sense to have in other kits. In the wild there are resources available to you if you know how to properly acquire them. The tools in the wilderness survival kit will maximize your chances for survival in the wild and give you an edge to make it out alive.

Wilderness Survival Kit Considerations

The weight of your pack is a crucial consideration. You must be able to easily carry your pack for miles if you have to. Your physical condition and limits will determine how much gear you include. Keep this in mind as you put your kit together. The list below includes must have gear for any wilderness environment. It is also a good idea to include gear specific to your location. A field guide to local wildlife and edible plants and a map of your geographic location are items that won’t be on this list but are important to include.

Keep your backpack light to avoid the fate of this donkey
Keep your load light or risk the fate of this donkey.

Essential Gear

Backpack – It makes sense to stow your gear in a backpack so you can easily grab your supplies and bug out in case of emergency. Your backpack must be sturdy in construction, comfortable to wear and large enough to hold all of your gear. There are two types of backpacks you will consider when building your kit. One is the standard civilian style backpack. The other is a military issued pack like the ALICE. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Civilian backpacks are ultra-light but more expensive. Military packs are heavier but you can pick them up for a fraction of the cost. Military packs have the advantage of being battle tested and have held up to the scrutiny of the military. These packs will not break easily.

The 72 hour "RUSH" bag from 5.11 is a nice middle-ground between a civilian and military bag.
The 72 hour “RUSH” bag from 5.11 is a nice middle-ground between a civilian and military bag.

Fixed-Blade Knife – You’re not going to easily Rambo your way to safety without a good knife. The knife needs to be fixed blade. Fixed blade knives are more durable and will hold up well against the work you will put it through. Choosing a knife that isn’t too big and not too small is crucial. Smaller blades won’t baton wood effectively while bigger blades make smaller tasks like carving up game difficult. You also want the blade to run the full length of the knife. This is known as a “full tang” knife. Even if the handle falls off a full tang blade you still have an effective tool. Make sure your knife is single bladed with a flat spine. This allows you to use your knife with a ferro rod to make fire. The Ka-Bar BK2 fixed blade knife is widely regarded as one of the best knives on the market. See my guide to choosing the best survival knife.

The Bk2 is issued to all branches of the military and widely considered one of the best all around knives on the market.

Cordage – Perhaps the most important piece of gear second only to the knife. The versatility of a good length of rope or paracord cannot be understated. Use cordage to rig up a tarp for shelter, lash wood together, string up large game for cleaning, bear-bagging food, making fishing line, rigging traps, making bow-drills, extra boot laces etc. This stuff is light and cheap.

Rope: "Ya never know what you're gonna need it for, you just always need it!"
Rope: “Ya never know what you’re gonna need it for, you just always need it!”

Space blanket – A space or “mylar” blanket will reflect 90% of your body heat back to you. This is important to keep your body temperature at optimum survival levels. The blanket can also be reversed to reflect sun away to keep you cool. As an added bonus, the reflective material functions as a signaling device for alerting passing aircraft or distant hikers. These blankets are extremely light. More durable versions are available at the cost of added weight to your pack.

Fire – Your kit must include a primary and secondary method for making fire. I like using BIC lighters as my primary method and a ferrocerium rod/knife for my second. If my BIC lighters get wet I know I can always throw sparks with my ferro rod. Waterproof matches are also a good alternative and it wouldn’t hurt to include these as well. Make sure you are well versed in fire-making before you find yourself in a survival situation. I’ve seen friends fail to make fire with a propane torch before let alone a basic BIC!

The LifeStraw is a proven and effective filtration device now being distributed worldwide as part of a humanitarian relief effort.

Water Purification Device – In the wilderness you’re going to have an easier time finding natural sources of water. Rivers and streams are good sources of water but may contain bacteria and contaminants from fecal matter and dead animals. You don’t want to run the risk of getting sick in a survival situation. Include gear that will purify these water sources. One method is boiling water with your cook kit. Another method is using water purification tablets or a filtration device. The Life Straw is a very cheap and effective product and consumes little space in your pack.

Tarp – A good quality tarp is an essential survival item in your wilderness survival kit. I opt for tarps over a tent for many reasons. One is weight. A tarp is extremely lightweight compared to a tent. A tarp is also versatile and can be used for many applications. Use your paracord to rig a shelter and shield yourself from outside elements. If your environment calls for increased protection you can use the resources around you to make one. Knowing how to utilize the wilderness to your advantage will limit the things you need to pack.

Cooking kit – At the bare minimum you should include a stainless steel cup in your kit. This gives you the advantage of boiling water and cooking any food you come across. Stainless steel is stronger than aluminum and holds up well against the fire. Pine needles can be boiled into a tea. This tea will be packed with nutrients like vitamin C. You can also use the cup to store any water you purify and collect rain from your tarp. Other basic items in your cooking kit include a spork, a larger cooking pot and various spices.

This stainless steel cup from Stanley is an effective piece of gear to purify water and cook food with a fire.

First Aid Kit – Your wilderness survival kit will need a few items you can use to treat injuries inflicted during a survival situation. At the bare minimum include gauze bandages, tape, antiseptic and antibiotic ointment and a compression wrap. This will cover cuts, scrapes and sprained joints. Any medication you take regularly should be included as well. The Red Cross has an article detailing the contents of a comprehensive first aid kit.

Toilet Paper – When nature calls and you’re in the wild it’s better to use a roll of good ol’ fashion Charmin rather than trust the local shrubbery. Poison oak looks pretty but it’s the last plant you want to use to wipe your bottom.

Headlamp – The woods are ungodly dark at night. You will need lighting to operate around your camp or navigate rough terrain when it gets dark. A quality headlamp leaves your hands free to use your gear properly. You can also use the light to signal other hikers or passing aircraft.

Fishing and trapping kit – I almost didn’t include this on the list. Reason being is that fishing and trapping take quite a bit of skill. We romanticize the idea of living off the land and easily catching fish from the stream but reality tends to smack you in the face with the brutal truth; Fishing and trapping is very difficult and requires years of knowledge and practice. In the hands of a novice, even the best fishing gear isn’t going to help them catch fish. Do most people even know how to tie a proper fishing knot? However, the items in the kit take up virtually no space at all so it’s worth including. Canned kits can be purchased or you could scavenge what you need around the house. At the minimum you’ll need at least 50 feet of 20 lb mono-filament line, various hooks, sinkers, bobbers, and a lure or fake worm. Cram all of this into a small can and you have yourself some basic fishing gear to add to your kit.

Communication Radio – This is another item you’re going to need to familiarize yourself with before you can expect to use it properly. Your radio gives you access to emergency broadcast frequencies and gives you the ability to contact other radio operators. In a rescue situation this could literally be a life saver. Note that using this gear requires the proper license under normal conditions.

Practice using the kit

Practice using the kit so when the time comes to implement the gear nothing surprises you. Good gear alone does not guarantee your survival. Having the knowledge required to effectively use everything in your kit is the most important aspect of survival. Go out camping with your gear and see if you can get a fire started with your knife and ferro rod for example. Experiment with rigging shelter with your paracord/tarp and learn how to forage edible plants and berries. This is not only a great way to bond with friends and family but practicing outdoor skills will give you an edge if you ever find yourself in a survival situation.

Did I miss anything?

Leave a comment below and tell me what you pack in your wilderness survival kit.