Updated September 2022
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Buying guide for best natural disaster kits

Gathering the items you might need in the midst of a natural disaster can certainly cause anxiety, but consider how stressful it would be if you and your family lacked the much-needed essentials if the unthinkable did occur. The thought of this unfortunate scenario won’t bog you down if you keep a well-thought-out natural disaster kit on hand.

No one wants to think about the unimaginable happening. But considering that almost anyone can become a victim of a natural disaster (which the World Health Organization describes as an act of nature that leads to disruptions of daily life), there’s a good chance that you’ll need one or more of the items in a natural disaster kit at some point in your life.

Choosing the right kit can be daunting. They contain a wide range of items needed in disaster settings, plus different kits are designed to sustain varying numbers of people for different lengths of time. 

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Power outages caused by storms can last for days and even weeks. The items found in natural disaster kits can help you get through these trying days until power is restored.

Key considerations

Types of natural disasters

All natural disasters have three things in common: they’re triggered by nature, they’re not always predictable, and, for the most part, they can’t be controlled by humans. Some begin with a weather forecast, but many take place without warning. From loss of power to flooding, the results often render those in the wake of the disaster unable to access many basic needs. And while not all natural disasters are likely to occur in every region of the country, many areas are at risk of suffering more than one type. Here are some of the most common types of natural disasters:

  • Flooding brought on by severe storms

  • Tornadoes and hurricanes that cause destruction of property, flooding, loss of power, and injuries

  • Droughts that ravage cropland

  • Heat waves that stress power grids

  • Wildfires that destroy everything in their path

  • Extreme cold and winter storms that knock out power and freeze water pipes

  • Earthquakes that cause destruction of property, power outages, gas leaks, water shortages, and injuries

Number of people

Natural disaster kits come with varying amounts of supplies. For example, you can find kits with just enough food, water, and other items for two people to survive several days, all the way up to supplies for groups of ten or more. Think about how many individuals may need supplies from your kit, and keep in mind that friends, family, and neighbors may need a little extra support as well. This information will guide you in choosing a kit with enough supplies to see you through until life gets back to normal.

Natural disaster kit features


Without question, the items included in a natural disaster kit are what make the difference. Many of these products are considered survival necessities and are often in short supply when a disaster strikes. Think about the last time a severe storm was forecast in your area and how the shelves at the grocery stores emptied out. This situation is made even worse if the power goes out or the roads become blocked or undrivable. Here are some of the most important items you’ll find in many quality disaster kits:

  • Food: Long-lasting food in the form of nutrition bars, meals ready to eat (MRE), and dehydrated or freeze-dried meals are staples in many kits. Some can be consumed as is, while others must be mixed with water and heated.

  • Water: Water is an essential item in a disaster kit, and it frequently comes in pouches or small boxes. Some kits also include filtration straws or dissolvable purifying tablets to kill bacteria in water that may have been contaminated during a disaster.

  • First aid: Injuries are common during natural disasters, and most kits contain antiseptics, bandages, gauze, cotton, and other medications to treat them until medical help is available.

  • Tools: Scissors, knives, and multi-tools are included in most kits to help you deal with issues that occur during disasters. They are also useful when larger tools aren’t available or power tools can’t be used.

  • Light: Power outages commonly occur during disasters, so alternative light sources are vital equipment to have on hand. Light in the form of candles, flashlights, lanterns, and light sticks are popular items in most disaster kits.

  • Hygiene: Running water is often unavailable during a natural disaster. That’s why tissues, wet wipes, toilet paper, and other paper products are included in disaster kits.

  • Extras: In addition to important items like food, tools, and first aid necessities, some natural disaster kits come with items to help you get started cleaning up after Mother Nature hits, including protective goggles, gloves, and face masks. Some also include convenience items like a small stove, portable power pack, matches, alert whistle, emergency blankets, bowls, cups, and a hand-cranked radio.


The typical natural disaster kit is designed to include enough supplies per person for 72 hours. That’s because the hours and days immediately following a disaster are crucial — it’s when conditions are at their worst. In addition, during this time first responders may not be able to get to all individuals that need assistance. Disaster kits with supplies that last longer than 72 hours are also available.

Kit organizers

The idea of a natural disaster kit is to have all the items you may need neatly organized in one container that’s also portable. Backpacks, tubs with lids, and zippered cases are the most common organizers used to hold kit items.

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Did you know?
The World Health Organization tells us that approximately 160 million people around the world are affected by natural disasters each year.

Natural disaster kit prices

The cost of a natural disaster kit depends on several factors: the number of people the supplies will service, the number of days they supplies will last, and the variety of items the kit contains. Kits can be as inexpensive as $40 or as much as several hundred dollars, with large, multi-person kits on the high end of the spectrum.

Inexpensive: Smaller kits with staples like food, water, a few tools and first aid items for one to four people can be found in the range of $40 to $80. Some include extras like lights and even a portable stove, but there may be durability concerns. Compact kits intended to be carried in vehicles, RVs, and boats also fall in this price category.

Mid-range: Kits that cost between $80 to $120 are suitable for most consumers’ needs. They include a variety of items from food to first aid products for four to six people.

Expensive: Pricier kits that cost $120 to $300 are best suited for disaster-prone areas. They include the most comprehensive list of items, including food, water, first aid kit, tools, lights, and more. Some manufacturers even offer kits for very large families and groups and for extended survival times. These kits can cost well over $300, depending on the size and quantity of items.


  • Know your region. Certain natural disasters are more likely to occur in specific areas, such as flooding on coasts or droughts in western states. Natural disasters can be unpredictable, but understanding which ones are likely to happen where you live will help you prepare.

  • Plan in advance. When the weather is bright and sunny or after the storm season has passed are ideal times to purchase a natural disaster kit. If you wait until trouble is in the forecast, it’s probably too late to gather all the items you may need if the worst happens.

  • Think about the unexpected. Even unusual natural disasters can happen in areas where they typically don’t occur, such as earthquakes on the East Coast and rising waters in areas that aren’t located in flood plains. That’s why it’s important to make sure the natural disaster kit you purchase is comprehensive, just in case.

  • Choose a kit with adequate supplies. Not all natural disaster kits are well stocked. Don’t make the mistake of purchasing a skimpy kit that lacks items you’re likely to need in the case of drought, power outage, flood, and more.

  • Keep contact information handy. Be sure to have a list of important numbers nearby, such as emergency services, friends, and family in case you need to alert people about your post-disaster situation. It’s a good idea to keep the list with your natural disaster kit.

  • Have a family plan. Share information with each member of your family about how to handle specific circumstances during a disaster, where you’ll meet up, and how you’ll get back to normal once the event has passed.
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Although storms that lead to disaster scenarios often occur during the warm summer months, winter storms that bring heavy snowfall and ice accumulation can also lead to power outages and flooding.


Q. What is the shelf life of food in a natural disaster kit?

A. The answer depends on the brand and the type of food that comes with the kit, but it’s typical for the shelf life to be five years. However, some types of food, such as freeze-dried items, can last 20 years or longer. Check the packaging of the food in your natural disaster kit to be sure.

Q. What are some of the most important items in a natural disaster kit?

A. Companies that put together natural disaster kits consider a wide range of needs and pack the kits accordingly. That’s why you’ll find everything from sources of light to emergency blankets and everything in between. However, because you can only survive a few days without hydration, water and water purification items are vital to any disaster kit. Additionally, first aid items like bandages, gauze, and antibacterial medications are necessary for treating injuries as soon as they occur and preventing them from worsening until help arrives.

Q. Where should I store a natural disaster kit?

A. The simplest answer is where you can easily find it when you need it. However, the best place to keep your kit also depends on the specific circumstances. For example, if you live in a flood-prone region, you should store it where it won’t become waterlogged before you can get to it in a flood. On the other hand, if tornadoes are common where you live, storing it on the lower-level or in the basement of your home is a good idea.

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