How to Make a Grab & Go Bag

There are common items that should be added to all grab & go bags for all family members. There are also items that reflect specific needs that should be factored in depending on the family member's stage of development, health, or other criteria. Both core element items and individual need items are important to building a helpful grab & go bag for each family member.

Grab & Go Bag
Core Essentials for at least 72 Hours

Core Essentials

food | water | clothing | hygiene | sanitation | lighting | shelter | communications | money

Place items in each category below in their own plastic baggies and label each for easy identification. Plastic bags come in various sizes (1-5 gallons) and are perfect for this type of packing. Keep an inventoried list with product expiration dates inside of your grab & go bag, on top of all contents. Learn more about the grab list, for items that can't be packed away for any reason, but still need to be included.

Core Essentials

Place items in each category below in their own plastic baggies and label each for easy identification. Plastic bags come in various sizes (1-5 gallons) and are perfect for this type of packing. Keep an inventoried list with product expiration dates inside of your grab & go bag, on top of all contents.

Learn more about the grab list, for items that can't be packed away for any reason, but still need to be included.


Your choice of foods must include only shelf-stable options that will last until your next rotation, usually every 6 months but not to exceed every 12 months.

Food Ideas
  • peanut butter
  • crackers
  • protein & enegry bars
  • protein cookies
  • canned foods
  • packet meals
  • boxed meals
  • fruits

Remember to pack plastic utensils, napkins, and garbage bags as well.

Tip: Stores like the Dollar Tree are full of food items that will work well and can be rotated every 6-12 months. If you'd like to see some examples of foods in each category listed here, download ready to eat foods.


Each bag should have at least a few bottle of water. Because water is heavy, weighing 8 pounds per gallon, you'll need more than you can pack. Be sure to pack empty water containers you can fill later - that also include filtration ability.

Water Bottle Ideas
  • Mini Sawyer Water Filtration System
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
  • Katadyn Water Filter
  • water bladder (non-filtration)
Other Helpful Items
  • liquid hydration multipliers

Tip: Important! Have water on stand-by, ready to grab on your way out, if you can go by car. Assign each adult with the task of grabbing one gallon of water or one adult to grab a 5-gallon portable water jug from long-term storage. Add a note inside of your grab & go bag, on top of all contents, reminding you to take the extra containers of water. Add this to your grab list as well.


Choose from clothes you already have but rarely wear. If you have to go shopping for anything, thrift stores offer good prices. Rotation twice a year allows you to pack for the season. The shoes can stay the same – they should be a sturdy pair in which you can walk a long distance. Clothes for small children are listed below.

Colder Weather
  • one complete change of clothing
  • durable closed-toed shoes
  • thick socks
  • long underwear & warm coat
  • hand and body warming packs
  • wool blend blanket
Warmer Weather
  • one complete change of clothing
  • durable closed-toed shoes
  • good socks
  • light jacket
  • cool packs and/or wave fan
  • light-weight blanket

Tip: While this tip won't work for growing children, this technique works well for adults. Pack for both warmer and cooler weather and mark each plastic bag accordingly. Store both next to your grab & go bag. If you must evacuate, select the weather-appropriate clothing bag to take with your go bag. Leave a reminder note inside of your grab & go bag, on top of all contents. Be sure to leave enough room in your bag to absorb the clothing.


Here are some options of items to pack for hygiene. Some are essential while others my just be nice to have, depending on the individual.

Hygiene Options
  • toothbrush & paste
  • mouthwash
  • floss
  • comb/brush
  • deodorant
  • tissue pack
  • antibacterial gel
  • wet wipes
  • nail clipper & file
  • feminine supplies
  • face & body lotion
  • chap stick
  • mirror
  • washcloth
  • two hand towels
  • empty spray bottle
  • rinse-free body soap
  • rinse-free shampoo

Tip: You can take soap, shampoo, and conditioner with you if you prepare a family clean kit. With it, you'll be able to wash your hands with soap and take a hot shower.


Upon evacuation, you may find yourself either unable to find restroom services or in bumper to bumper traffic. It's a smart idea to include a few sanitation items in your grab & go bag. Creating a personal sanition kit that is kid friendly will give you added peace of mind. Privacy not included :)

Sanitation Items
  • unisex urinal with sealed lid
  • toilet paper or wet wipes
  • garbage bags with plastic ties
  • super sorb powder
  • hand sanitizing wipes

Tip: Creating a family sanitation kit takes it to a whole new level. You'll have everything you need, including privacy.

Tip: Creating a family sanitation kit takes it to a whole new level. You'll have everything you need, including privacy.


Here are some options for emergency lighting that you can place in your grab & go bag.

Lighting Options
  • LED headlamp w/ batteries
  • flashlight w/ batteries
  • light sticks for kids

Be sure to store the batteries outside of the flashlights and keep an eye of the expiration date and rotate accordingly.

Tip: If you want more robust lighting that the family can share, learn more about the family light kit.

Tip: If you want more robust lighting that the family can share, learn more about the family light kit.


Here are some individual items you can add for shelter from the elements.

Shelter Items
  • poncho with hood
  • bivy
  • mylar blanket

Tip: If you want to prepare with a warmer form of shelter that includes a tent that the family can share, learn more about the family shelter & warmth kit.


Minimum communication supplies include the following.

Adults and Teenagers
  • Cell phones – leave a note on top of your bag to get it on the way out
  • Extra charger for each or to share
  • Include a pen and note pad
Every family member
  • Safety whistle with neck cord in case of accidental separation

Tip: If you'd like to take your communications ability to a higher, more helpful level, learn more about the family communications kit.


Each family should have some cash on hand if evacuation is needed. How much is up to you but the recommendation is $100 to $250. It is ultimately up to you and your family to decide how to distribute the money. Some people may prefer to have one person carry all the money, while others may prefer to distribute it among all the grab & go bags. It’s important to consider factors such as the age and responsibility of the family members, as well as the potential risks and benefits of each approach.

Tip: Unless you feel otherwise, kids don't need to know there is money stored anywhere in your grab & go bags. The fewer people that know, the better. You can also leave a note inside of your grab & go bag, on top of all contents, reminding yourself to grab the money before you leave...but don't forget it.

Grab & Go Bag
Individual Needs

Every grab & go bag includes the core essentials listed above. Beyond this, some family members will have specific needs for additional items to be added to their bag as well.


Who does this include?

The term “elderly” is often used to describe an individual who is older in age, but it can also refer to physical limitations that may come with age. Not all older people experience these limitations and remain fit and active into their later years. Here, we are referring only to those who are experiencing the many common physical limitations and what they can pack to help meet these limitations.

Anything that you, or the elderly person in your life, uses on a daily basis should be considered essential and should make its way into the person's grab & go bag.

  • restricted diet food
  • incontinence pads & underwear
  • medication
  • vitamins & supplements
  • prescription glasses

Obtaining extras

It's easy to obtain extras of things you already pay out of pocket for. It's not always that easy when doctors and insurance are involved. If extras can't be obtained, write a list of all needed items and place this inside of your grab & go bag, on top of all contents for quick reference. You can then get them on your way out.

Tip:Some pharmacies allow you to order 3 months' worth of some types of medication. Check to see if this is the case for you and if so, place one bottle in your go-bag and continue to rotate through each, always leaving a full prescription in your bag at all times. This only works if the medication can be kept at room temperature. If it's kept in the fridge, make sure that you add it to the list of things to take with you.


Younger children need a different plan when it comes to clothing. Just a reminder: grab & go bags for kids should weigh no more than 10% to 25% of body weight, depending on age and fitness level. Children have flexible spines which can be damaged by heavy packs. Anything extra must be absorbed in adult bags.

Toddlers to age 12

  • pack according to season and rotate every 6 months
  • pack 1 to 2 sizes bigger than your child currently is and include a belt
  • include at least 2 full changes, more for toddlers
  • one pair of closed-toed shoes
  • few pair of seasonally appropriate socks
  • jacket to match the season
  • consider clothing that layers
  • consider buying clothing from thrift stores

Potty training

  • pack extra underwear and bedding
  • include an absorbent waterproof sheet to go under your child’s bivy or sleeping bag
  • portable potty and baby wipes

Other supplies

  • adjust the food list if necessary to what your child will eat - must be shelf stable
  • water with electrolytes
  • age-appropriate vitamins
  • comfort items such as stuffed animal, books, toys, favorite baby blanket
  • lollipops

Tip:Some parents opt to have matching clothing for siblings. This provides for easier identification should your children ever become separated.


Leaving home with an infant/baby should be the very last resort. Stay home if you can. Having said that, a grab and go bag must be made for your baby no later than the beginning of the third trimester. The following lists serve only as a guideline. Everything included should be appropriate for your child’s age and stage of development.

Baby Formula

Even if your child is breast fed, pack baby formula just in case it becomes medically or situationally necessary.

  • minimum of 56 single servings
  • small pre-mixed canned formula is the very best
  • if you are using powder instead, use only bottled water
  • sterilized bottles and/or drop-in liners
  • bottles and nipples
Bottle Sterilization Kit
  • pot for boiling bottles
  • emergency stove
  • emergency fuel
  • matches or lighter

Note: a sterilization kit is not needed if you choose to include a family food & cooking kit with your other preps.

Baby Food
  • baby food in jars or pouches
  • consider pouches as they can't break
  • other age-appropriate food
  • small disposable cups, bowls, spoons, and paper towels
  • bottled water if you are using powered formula
  • Pedialyte for babies 6 months or older – consult your pediatrician first
About water & baby formula
  • Never dilute infant formula with water to make it go further.
  • If your bottled water runs out and your alternative water source's quality is in doubt, boil the water for at least 60 seconds before you use this water with powdered formula or to sterilize bottles.

Pack two sizes too big, keeping changes of season in mind when rotating.

    Newborns & Infants

  • 3 onesies
  • 3 footie pajamas
  • sleep sack or swaddle

    Older Babies

  • 2 full changes of clothing
  • weather appropriate shoes
  • waterproof rain suit
  • 2-3 baby blankets
  • emergency blanket for extra warmth
  • in colder months, include hat, socks, and mittens
  • disposable diapers
  • or cloth diapers & covers
  • baby wipes
  • diaper rash cream
  • baby powder
  • antiseptic wipes
  • hand sanitizer
  • baggies for used diapers
Sleep & Transportation
  • baby carrier or sling (hands-free)
  • portable crib
  • baby wash
  • baby lotion
  • pacifiers
  • light stick
  • infant medications
  • measuring droppers & syringes
  • thermometer
  • bulb nose syringe and saline
  • teething supplies
  • copies of vaccination records
ID Card

As unlikely as it is, during confusion, accidental separations happen. Create a laminated ID card to identify your baby. Here are the important things to add:

  • Baby's name, birth date, parents’ names, last four digits of your social security number, address and phone number, recent photo, description of any distinguishing features and birthmarks noted, medications used, allergies and medical conditions, if any.
  • Attach this card to your baby's carrier with a zip tie. Be sure to cut the ends off the zip tie so it doesn't rub against your little one.
Rotation Tips
  • Remember to update the items as your child grows. For example, a newborn would require a different diaper size, nipple, and clothing than a 10-month-old baby.
  • Consider revising your baby’s go-bag every 4-6 weeks. If you can’t do that, be sure to rotate your child’s clothes at least every 3-6 months.
  • Make sure you are always keeping the next two sizes in your bag.
  • Be sure to switch out winter/summer clothes.
  • Put rotation schedule on your calendar as a reminder.

Tip:In an evacuation, you will have your hands full with your go bag, your child's go bag and of course your child. To make things a little easier, use a rolling suitcase that can contain both grab & go bags. This will leave the other hand free.


Adjust your personal bag

When you first find out you are pregnant, take some time to adjust your adult grab & go bag to reflect the change in clothing, food requirements, and other prenatal needs.

As you reach your third trimester, start putting together an emergency birthing kit that you can add to your bag. The truth is that an emergency can happen right before you give birth, and no one will ask you if it’s a convenient time. This will allow you to be even more prepared and in control. Talk with your doctor about what you can do in case of emergency.

Initial Items
  • extra shelf stable foods
  • adjust clothing above to maternity wear and make adjustments to the clothing size as time goes by or use tip below
  • prenatal vitamins
Emergency Birthing Supplies
  • clean towels
  • sharp scissors
  • infant bulb syringe
  • medical gloves
  • two white shoelaces
  • sheets
  • sanitary pads
  • two blankets

Other things you can do

  • Know the signs of pre-term labor - birth before 37 weeks
  • Know the location of other places to have your baby in case you cannot get to the hospital or birthing center of your choice.
  • If you are evacuated to an emergency shelter, make sure officials know you are pregnant.

Tip: Pack clothing for all three trimesters and mark each plastic bag accordingly. Store them next to your grab & go bag. If you must evacuate, select the size-appropriate clothing bag to take with your go bag. Leave a note inside of your grab & go bag, on top of all contents, reminding you to grab the clothing bag and be sure to leave enough room in your brab & go bag to absorb its size.

Health Needs

Who does this include?

This includes any person, regardless of age, that uses particular medication, supplies, or equipment on a daily, weekly, or as-needed basis. This could include health issues being treated by a doctor where a diagnosis has been made like asthma, diabetes, COPD, etc., or something like seasonal allergies where OTC medication is needed.

If you, your child, your parent, or anyone in your family has special health needs, you already know the medications or medical devices necessary for this person to function. These items must be part of this individual’s grab & go bag or taken alongside.

Health need examples:

medication for any diagnosed condition - inhaler for asthma - nitro lingual spray for a heart condition - an epinephrine pen against allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock - oxygen - blood glucose testing kit & insulin for diabetics - assistive devices needed such as canes, walkers, lightweight manual wheelchair, hearing aids, batteries to run some devices, just to name a few.

Some of these items are small and can fit into the person's grab & go bag. Some are much bigger and can only be taken separately. But all items essential to the individual must be taken if possible.

Prepare for at least 7 days

Where possible, include at least a 1-week supply of all needed medications and disposable one-use parts to any medical devices. Also, if needed, include any food that is different from other family members.

Packing your bag

The goal is for you to be able to take with you what you need. This can happen in one of three ways: purchase extra of what you already buy for yourself, ask your doctor for extras of medications or devices that are prescribed to you, or take the medical devices you are now using with you. You may find yourself using all three.

Purchase Extra

If you are not under a doctor’s care for whatever ails you, you are already purchasing over-the-counter medications or other products. Purchase extras of these items and be sure to rotate through them so the items in your bag do not expire. Examples here could be allergy medication, reading glasses, and any type of OTC meds you need.

Ask your doctor

Depending on what your diagnosis or health situation is, you may be able to secure extras for your grab & go bag if you explain to your doctor what you are trying to accomplish. Get extras of anything your doctor will allow, and your insurance will pay for. For example:

  • Would your doctor give you an additional epi-pen?
  • Would your doctor give you an additional inhaler or nebulizer?
  • Does your medication qualify for a 3-month refill? If so, rotate through each month, always having one bottle in your go bag (making sure storage requirements are met).
  • Write down the items you use daily, weekly, or as needed.
  • You will use this list to gather what you need when it's time to go.
  • Keep this list inside of your grab & go bag on top of all contents.
  • Leave enough room in your go bag to absorb the size of the items once gathered.
  • Include batteries or a solar charger for any devices or equipment that is powered by electricity.
  • Always update this list as any needs change.

Tip:Jase Daily provides you of up to 12 months of backup supplies of daily medications used to treat chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, thyroid disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions. Go to to watch a 1 minute video to learn how this works.

Create a health needs fact sheet

For added security, create a fact sheet for those on either lifesaving or health management medication and/or medical devices. If you or your loved one becomes incapacitated in any way, this will enable others to help. Create a fact sheet for each medication and medical device you are using. Once done, place them inside a zipped plastic bag and add it to the top of your grab & go bag.

  • generic name of the drug
  • name and contact info of prescribing doctor
  • copy of the prescription
  • medical diagnoses being treated by the medication
  • dosage / frequency / directions
Medical Equipment
  • medical equipment used
  • frequency / directions
  • insurance information
  • any food or drug allergies
  • known triggers or dislikes
  • contact info of 1-2 family members

One Adult

One adult in your family is tasked with including the following items with their own grab & go bag or to create a separate bag and make sure it's included with the rest.

Like the family kit system, the items listed here are for your entire family and will provide some basics. If you have the interest and the space, learn more about the family kit system and how its' contents provide even more helpful supplies.

Basic Items
  • basic first aid kit - see items below
  • lighter/matches
  • can opener - manual
  • flashlight, high-powered LED
  • AM/FM or hand-crank radio*
  • local map
  • multi-use utility tool
  • purification tablets
  • lots of extra batteries - see tip below
  • portable solar charger

*Radio suggestion: Ambient Weather WR-111B Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio includes AM/FM/NOAA digital radio, flashlight, cell phone charger with NOAA certified weather alert & cables

Basic First Aid Kit
  • adhesive bandages (various sizes)
  • sterile gauze (rolls & pads, various sizes)
  • medical tape and blunt tip scissors
  • KN95 disposable masks-box
  • N95 masks-box
  • fever/pain reducers

Tip:First aid items: The items listed here are suggestions. Take a look at the family kit system's first aid kit and decide what you would like to include. You can forgo the small kit if you build a larger kit. It remains the adult's responsibility to see that the larger kit is taken with all grab & go bags.

Tip:Batteries: Take a look at the family kit system's battery kit before you decide how to include batteries to the adult's grab & go bag. No matter which way you go, just make sure you include enough batteries, including extras, to cover all devices.

Best Storage Location

Keep the grab & go bags and family kits together in one place where they can easily be found and grabbed on your way out. Store in a cool, dry environment.

Tips for Rotation
  • Check your bags twice per year
  • Check expiration dates on any applicable items and rotate when necessary
  • Rotate food at 12 months