What Every Stay Bag Should Include

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Most of the time, a shelter-in-place scenario will give you access to everything in your house. In some cases (e.g. nuclear attack or tornado), you will have access to only the items in your shelter room. Ideally, your entire at-home emergency kit will be stored in your designated shelter room. If there’s not enough space, store as much as you can in the shelter room and store the rest as close as you can. Make sure to grab your Go Bags on your way into the room.

“Stay Bag” is a fun little lie, since it’s extremely inconvenient to hold 14 gallons of water in a single bag. Keeping your emergency supplies in watertight containers is a great idea, so you’re much more likely to keep your kit on a shelf or in a stack. “Stay Shelf” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know? In any case, you don’t have to move it, so store it in whatever you like!

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Stay Bag Items

Rule of Thumb

If you have kids, you might want to ask them to sign a contract stating they won’t raid the emergency kit during non-emergencies. There are going to be some very tempting shelf stable treats and perfectly good spare batteries in that kit. Your offspring aren’t made of stone, so plan accordingly.

  • Electric kettle
  • Cash
  • Flashlights
  • Hand crank radio with USB charger
  • Hand crank lantern
  • Your prescription medications and backup glasses
  • First aid kit with extra OTC medications
    • Stool softener or fiber capsules might come in handy if you have to eat emergency food for more than a few days
    • Sleep aids are useful, since stress and tight quarters are likely to disrupt your family’s sleep
  • First aid or survival instructional book
  • Dust masks or respirators
  • Moist towelettes, hand sanitizer, 5 gallon bucket, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
    • A camping toilet and portable toilet powder can make disposing of waste easier if you don’t have access to a bathroom. Remember, only a few disasters will require you to stay completely confined to your safe room, but flushing your toilet will be difficult if your water is off.
    • Don’t forget the room spray.
  • Cleaning and personal hygiene supplies
    • If you can’t leave the room, having a toothbrush and toothpaste on hand will make a huge difference.
    • It’s ideal to keep a full set of toiletries including q-tips, hair brushes, dry shampoo, moisturizer, fingernail clippers, nail file, mouthwash, wash cloths, tampons/pads, and any other items your family uses on a regular basis.

As you collect your items, keep in mind the goal of having enough supplies to last your family two weeks at home.

If you can’t store that much, store as much as you can, and make sure your food options include high calorie items like peanut butter, protein bars, canned meat and cheese, dried fruit, and instant potatoes. Purchase items that will still be useful if your water and power are out.

  • Tool kit including pliers
  • Local maps
  • Emergency blankets
  • Tarps
  • Rope or paracord
  • Sleeping bags, sleeping mats or inflatable beds, and pillows
  • Eye masks and ear plugs
  • Two changes of clothing per person, with extra socks
    • Long sleeves and long pants are best. Hooded tops are always a good idea.
  • Beanies, gloves, and scarves
  • Copies of your important documents in a fire-and water-proof container
  • Board games, books, and other non-digital entertainment options
  • Infant formula and other supplies, as needed
  • Pet food and water, as needed
  • Extra litter box, cat litter, pee pads, indoor grass patch potty, and other pet sanitation items, as needed
  • Pet-calming medications, as needed

You’re only limited by the size of your space and your budget, so get creative and make sure all your bases are covered. Remember to use only items that you won’t be tempted to remove from the Stay Bag. If it’s a useful household item and you can afford to do so, get a duplicate instead of planning to rifle through your emergency supplies whenever you need it.

Open jar of peanut butter
All praise and glory be to the peanut butter that will nourish our bodies when society disintegrates.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Writer, editor, and professional joker with an environmental science background. Like most trivia nerds, she's an ardent admirer of Only Connect competitors, but more at home on the QI field.