One of the most important emergency preparedness things you can do for you and your family is to create the 72 hour kit for each member of the household. This kit contains the essentials to get through 3 days worth of relocation, and contains the necessary items for family well-being and recovery. Full inventories of example 72 hour kits are available across the internet, and this column will be exploring a few. In this article, we’ll look at clothing considerations.
The key thing to remember in the 72 hour kit is that it is meant to be functional, portable, lightweight, and versatile. These are all attributes of its contents as well. In the case of clothing, borrowing from hiking and backpacking technologies is highly beneficial. Clothing using modern synthetic materials fills all these needs wisely.
The advantages of synthetic fibers are many-fold. For starters, the material itself is hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb water. Therefore, getting it “wet” really means that the space between the fabric fibers contains some water, rather than the fiber itself absorbing water. This means that to dry the fabric, the air between the strands simply must evaporate rather than the strands themselves dry out.
I was hiking Nordhouse Dunes in Michigan one late Autumn with a friend. There was a sparse trail through tall dune grass (no, we were not trampling fragile dune grass). It was 36 degrees out, moderate wind (about 25 mph off Lake Michigan), and it had freshly rained that morning. An hour into the hike, I was warm and dry in my synthetic pants, which the wind was drying out as fast as they were getting wet from the sodden dune grass. My friend, who was wearing jeans and a cotton flannel jacket, was soaked. We needed to get out of the wind to give him a chance to warm up. That night at camp, he had the added task of trying to dry out his clothes when mine were already dry and ready for the next day.
For the 72 hour kit, it makes much more sense to get clothing made from modern synthetics. For the weight and space of a pair of jeans, you can store a pair of synthetic pants as well as synthetic long underwear in case it’s cooler out.
For pants, the style of synthetic pants is going to depend on your preferences. A cargo-pants style, tactical pants, outdoors pants, or just casual pants will all have advantages and disadvantages based on what you typically wear and are used to. Buying cargo pants if you’re used to dress pants might just flood you with disorganization at having all the extra pocket options. Buying the opposite might stifle you if you’re used to having your every day carry (EDC) gear stowed a certain way.
One thing to consider are convertible pants, such as the Ex-Officio Amphi Convertible Pants. These will allow you to have pants or shorts as the climate requires. Some are even designed with a swimsuit like webbing inside for added functionality. By including a pair of convertible pants such as these in your 72 hour kit, you are maximizing versatility and reducing the need to carry a pair of shorts, or adjust the kit seasonally.
Quantity will be up to you, but I recommend only 1 pair of pants. I have hiked for 7 days using one pair of Ex-Officio pants. While not perfectly cleaned and pressed leaving the woods, I did not feel I was overly uncouth in hygiene. Of course, I was able to wash them once on the trail as well and they dried quickly, as expected, and this was late summer.
Sticking with synthetics, a hiking intent t-shirt or better yet a reasonably durable synthetic polo can be used. These will do the basic job of torso coverage. Also, a long sleeve synthetic, possibly a thermal underwear style polypropylene equivalent will provide some extra warmth if needed.
Quantity 1 of each will provide reasonable versatility. You can wear the other as the first one is drying.
Sticking with synthetic materials, undergarments are only mildly a concern for guys. Two pair of short undergarments will allow alternating days of use and cleaning.
For women, bras should still be synthetic if possible. Consider forgoing thoughts of comfort and getting a durable sports bra or two. The nature of the incident requiring you to access your 72 hour kit might see you walking for a time, or other exertions. It is best to be prepared for moderate exertion. The Handful Bra is getting good reviews for lightweight, comfort, support and stowage.
A synthetic sock is the best choice, but if you’re not allergic to wool, consider a wool sock. Like synthetic fibers, wool does not absorb water. Therefore, it is quick drying. There are many light hiking-weight wool socks on the market designed for backpackers that are more durable and cooler than cotton socks. Smartwool socks are a very good choice. Also, there are heavier weight wool socks with more insulation. These both can be added to a 72 hour kit in any season, as they are versatile as hiking socks and the heavier ones can even be makeshift slippers for use at shelter.
A baseball cap can serve in a pinch, but a full brimmed hat will keep you a bit more sheltered from sun and rain. Tilley is an excellent manufacturer with a proud history and unparalleled satisfaction guarantee. Also, a wool cap, or synthetic hat should be included in year-round kit, as a wool cap will help you keep more warm at night.
I don’t really consider shoes to be a part of the 72 hour kit, as this is meant to be a grab-and-go emergency pack. Presumably, you’ll either be wearing shoes, or appropriate footwear will be chosen at the time of the incident requiring the kit. the shoes or boots are almost entirely dependent on season, from lightweight athletic shoes to sturdy hiking boots to winter boots. Still, if you’re wanting to add some type of foot protection to your kit, you might consider adding a lightweight pair of athletic shoes or even the Vibram Five Finger shoes (get acclimated to them first!).
Ideally, you’ll be able to grab a suitable jacket in addition to your 72 hour kit, but if you don’t think you will, or you prefer a mostly stand-alone kit to access from, getting a decent synthetic fleece will provide extra warmth until shelter can be found. These can take up a decent amount of space, so be wary and evaluate carefully. A breathable rain jacket (such as Gore-Tex) might be desirable, but these can be reasonably expensive. A disposable parka might be sufficient, but if you prefer something a little more substantial, many outfitters are making lightweight breathable shells, such as this REI Ultra Light Jacket.
Clothing is a big consideration, as it is your primary barrier from the elements. Don’t make the mistake of packing too much. It takes space and adds weight to the pack. The design of the pack is to get by for 3 days, not live in absolute comfort for three days. Take what you’ll need, adjust seasonally, and maximize versatility.