Packing an emergency kit? Think about using your camping gear

You may want to throw a solar-powered light into your emergency kit — something like the Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern, which doesn't require any batteries.

Are you organizing an emergency preparedness kit after the recent series of shakers? You should be.

But before you run out to buy pre-made go-bags, which are flying off the shelves at local outdoors stores right now, think about creating your own by re-purposing some of your outdoor gear.

“Camping gear is perfect for earthquake and other disasters,” Will McWhinney, a local Sierra Club leader who has taught a wilderness skills course for two decades, wrote in an email. Water purification devices or tablets, portable stoves, stable food, headlamps, tents and sleeping bags, emergency blanket, sturdy footwear, warm clothes and other items you usually take camping are perfect for your DIY survival kit.

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Here are a few more items you might have on hand for enjoying the outdoors — and are perfect for doing double duty if disaster strikes.


Boots are good and sturdy footwear to have in a disaster, even if they’re old and the soles no longer offer traction on trails. Keep them under your bed with a pair of socks for quick access.

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Whistles “are one of the best bang-for-the-buck items you can have with you in an emergency or survival situation,” according to They provide a shrill, loud sound — louder than your voice could hold up over time — to get the attention of rescue workers or anyone else. Most backpacks have one built in on the sternum strap.

Flashlights are essential to keep near your bed and pack in your kit. Headlamps with LED lights provide a steady beam of light and free up your hands for other tasks. Just remember to pack extra batteries. Also, throw in an item that runs on solar power and can be recharged by the light of day. We like the Luci inflatable lantern.

Camping stoves, such as a Coleman two-burner that runs on propane canisters or even a little single-burner backpacking stove, such as MSR’s PocketRocket, can come in handy if you’re without power for a few days.

Water in gallon or larger containers should be stocked at home and in your car. For emergencies that outlast your stash, consider using iodine tablets, a pump or squeeze-bag water filter or other purification devices to treat water that may not be potable during an emergency. Backpackers use these all the time to produce clean drinking water in the wild.

Food options should include freeze-dried camping meals that rehydrate with hot water. “They last longer than energy bars and canned goods,” said Rachelle Howard, an employee at REI’s Burbank store who teaches urban emergency preparedness classes.

A first aid kit is vital to your emergency supplies. The American Red Cross’ website ( provides a list of bandages, antibiotic ointments, gauze, adhesive tape and other items every kit should have.

Charging your cellphone may be particularly challenging in a disaster when the power goes out. You can pack an external battery or a solar-powered charger. We like the GoalZero 7W foldable solar panel, which is sized to easily fit in your kit.

McWhinney additionally recommends supplementing your camping gear with a week’s worth of necessary medications, a few tools (such as a crowbar), cash, a local map and maybe a thumb drive holding scans of important documents. A hand-crank radio is a good idea too.

Check out suggested additional items for your earthquake kit from the Red Cross ( from REI (