Emergency Starter Pack: The Last Go-Bag You’ll Ever Need

Tracy's Emergency Starter Pack
Photos | Tracy Ingham

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I’m Tracy, a single woman living in an apartment blocks from Cal Tech – the place of all things earthquakes. So, I had to figure out early and quickly how I was going to be self-reliant in any emergency without the space or storage of a large house. Here are my recommendations for all types of emergency gadgets from go-bags to earthquake kits!

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This Affordable Crank Radio Does More Than Play Tunes


This is one of the most affordable emergency radios out there! It has got a built-in radio, flashlight, solar charger, crank generator, you name it. Having this radio in my home and in my car makes me feel safe and prepared should I be without power.

Clever Alternative: If your budget can bear it, this camping radio includes solar charging and bluetooth!

This Portable Camping Set Is For More Than Camping

Esbit CS585HA 3-Piece Lightweight Camping Cook Set for Use with Solid Fuel Tablets, Grey, 585ml

What most people don’t realize is that during an emergency, most if not all utilities get turned off – especially gas. Not only can this camping set safely provide warmth, boil water, and cook food, it also folds up easily into compact size.

Clever Alternative: This thermal cooking container lets you cook without fire!

Start a Fire Without The Smoke With These Smoke-free Fire Starters

Esbit 1300-Degree Smokeless Solid 14g Fuel Tablets for Backpacking, Camping, and Emergency Prep, 36 Pieces

The camping set will definitely need a source of fire. I highly recommend these smokeless fire starters should you ever have to use your stove indoors.

Clever Alternative: Can’t beat a waterproof flint striker for this price. You will always be able to create a fire wherever you are (or however wet you are) with this.

This Bucket of Food Keeps for 10 Years!


I did a tremendous amount of research on this one. I wanted food that would last up to 10 years (if not longer), that tasted good, was diverse in types of food, and would meet my dietary needs. This bucket of freeze-dried meals is the best out there for the taste and price. Of course, you will need to get one for each person in your household. I only need one. I also love that it’s compact, so I can tuck it away in my kitchen.

Clever Alternative: And if you’re just in the mood for healthy freeze dried snack, this freeze dried mango is a great to have on hand.

These Water Purification Tablets Are a Go-Bag Must-Have


If you don’t have clean water at home or don’t have the ability to boil water, having these water purification tablets on hand can make drinking water safe. They’re small and can fit into any pocket. I know numerous people who always have these on hand.

Clever Alternative: This reusable water bottle has a built-in filter!

Pack These Gloves When You Expect The Unexpected


A lot of people don’t think about this, but if an emergency occurs there may be broken glass or heavy objects that need to be moved. In such cases, these grip gloves could make it easier to handle anything. I also use them when I move furniture and work on my car; they are useful in gripping anything (even jars that won’t open).

Clever Alternative: But if jar opening is your main concern, then this portable jar opener may do the trick!

Safety Glasses : Because You’ll Want to Be Able to See in an Emergency!


If an emergency happens there may be a ton of dust and debris in the air, so it’s important to protect your eyes too. I recommend these safety goggles as they fit OVER eyeglasses (if you wear them) and still provide ventilation so they don’t fog up.

Clever Alternative: And if you do wear glasses, keep them from getting lost in an emergency with this all-purpose glasses strap .

These SOS Food Bars Are Cinnamon Flavored and Perfectly Packable

SOS food

Even though I got the bucket of food, I also realized I may not be in a situation where I can carry a bucket with me. If that’s the case, then I need food that I can carry in my Go-Bag/Bug-Out Bag or keep in the car if I’m stranded. The cinnamon flavor of these highly recommended SOS food bars helps them taste good, and they’re always good to have on hand should anything unforeseen happen.

Clever Alternative: Here is the food bucket I mentioned!

I Use This Foldable Utensil Set For Surviving Real Life

foldable utensils

I love this foldable flatware so much that I gave it to a germaphobic friend who hates eating with restaurant utensils. Carry this in your purse or use it for survival – this tool allows you to cut, uncork (most important in an emergency), and – with its tool-separating feature – eat with two hands too!

Clever Alternative: This purse-ready portable utensil set is a lovely gold and comes with chopsticks!

Supposedly This Water Filter Let’s You Drink Toilet Water

Sawyer Products SP128 Mini Water Filtration System, Single, Blue

Where the tablets are great for cooking water, this water filter is great for drinking water. You can place it into even the dirtiest water (there is a toilet water as an example) and drink from it. This is handy whether you’re hiking or surviving.

Clever Alternative: These packets of emergency water last forever and ensure you have water on hand no matter the circumstance. They are good to have in your Go-Bag or in the car.

I Love This Tent In a Tube

tent in a tube

This tent in a tube is not only compact, it also holds two full-size adults, retains heat, and protects against the elements. Again, a great option to have as a back-up when hiking or in your emergency kit.

Clever Alternative: This inflatable pillow is another compact sleep solution!

This First Aid Kit Actually Has Everything!

emergency first aid kit

I did a TON of research on first aid kits, and this Swiss Safe kit is the best I could find, both for its size, and how jam-packed with gear it is. I wanted something to fit in my go-bag or in my car without taking up a ton of space. I also wanted one that had everything you could possibly need, and this one does!

Clever Alternative: Swiss Safe’s pocket size emergency blanket is another one to pack.

An Earthquake Convinced Me to Buy These Furniture Straps

Quakehold! 4160 Furniture Strap Kit, Black

This is the first time I’ve ever strapped my furniture down, but huddled under my dining table, watching my TV hutch jolt forward during an earthquake, I decided it was best to attach it to the wall. This Quakehold! furniture strap kit is very strong and easy to install, which was key for me in having to handle big furniture on my own. I recommend it to anyone who has tall furniture they may be concerned about falling over.

Clever Alternative: Did I mention that in the last earthquake my TV hutch was swaying forward? Guess what – so was my TV. Watching my precious big screen TV inch forward, made me think twice about whether I should stay under the dining table or save my TV. Now, with these cables , I don’t have to think or worry about it. It helps too when I have to work on the back of my TV to connect cables and know that it’s safe too.

I Keep My Documents Flood Safe With These Waterproof Bags

YUMQUA Clear Waterproof Bags, Water Tight Cases Pouch Dry Bags for Camera Mobile Phone Maps Pouch Kayak Military Boating Document Holder - 3 Piece Set

I keep my documents, keys, etc. in these waterproof bags so they can stay safe and dry. I use them when I go to the beach/surfing or in my go-bag. When I had a flood from the next door neighbor in my apartment, I was relieved when I realized my most important documents were in one of these!

Clever Alternative: This handy waterproof phone pouch is perfect poolside and at the beach.

This One Power Source Handles Both Power Outages and Surges

APC UPS Battery Backup & Surge Protector with USB Charger, 600VA APC Back-UPS (BE600M1)

This is a great back-up surge protector! I currently have my router, TV, and laptop connected to this power source. This way, if there is a power surge, my most valuable electronics are safe, and if there is a power outage, I still have access to electricity. It has plenty of plugs, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it doesn’t suck up energy like some back-ups do.

Clever Alternative: This tiny power inverter is amazing! It not only makes it possible to have multiple USB’s, but if you have a three-pronged plug (those infamous laptop plugs) you can still use it! This has been useful in car emergencies for sure!

This Quake Putty Is The Quickest Quake Solution

Quakehold! 88111 Museum Putty Neutral

This is one underestimated tool! I use Quake Hold on everything, including keeping my pictures level. I got it because I have a hallway of photos in glass frames and I realized that if they broke coming off the wall (some of them did in the last earthquake), that my only way to exit my apartment from my bedroom would be through a hallway of glass. Now, I attach a couple of balls of this putty to behind my frames or under my displays and I know it will be safe.

Clever Alternative: In an earthquake, I don’t want to worry about things falling out of my cabinets. These cabinet locks keep things in, and also keep kids out.

I Can Breathe Easy With This Respirator

emergency respirator

I bought this respirator this long before COVID-19, but in time for wildfire season. In California, we not only have to deal with earthquakes but enormous wildfires, smog, and poor air quality. Especially during wildfire season, these masks make it possible to go outside. Not to mention, if you’re doing carpentry or any other dusty job, this bad boy can help save your lungs!

Clever Alternative: And when keeping airborne disease out is your main concern, these affordable black KN95 masks come in a pack of 25.

The Perfect First Hatchet !

There are a lot fancier tools out there than this hatchet, but since I don’t frequently use this tool, I wanted something light and straightforward to have on hand. It is a pry bar, hatchet and hammer, so if you were in an emergency you would be able to leverage or hack your way out (yes, I do realize this sounds like I’m prepared for a zombie apocalypse).

Clever Alternative: And for non-zombie-apocalypse car emergencies, this seatbelt cutter multitool is a fan favorite!

I Ditched My Flashlights for These Tiny Lanterns

small lantern

I love these camping lanterns so much I bought them for my parents and friends! Who wants to deal with a one directional flashlight, when you can have a whole lantern?! These lanterns are small and compact, so you can tuck them in a closet, add them to your go-bag, leave them in your car (perfect for changing tires at night), and pull them out when you don’t have electricity.

Clever Alternative: And this glow-in-the-dark tape is perfect for labeling things you want to be able to see in the dark!

This Is Why I Have A Buck Knife

buck knife

Think about it. It’s important to have a good tactical knife that you can clasp to your hip and ready to go when surviving; this doesn’t mean you are going to use it as a weapon (though protection is important), but it can be used to cut rope, meat, tape, etc. Having a good one with both a straight and serrated blade is also useful because the edges can make the difference in what you can cut and how well you cut it.

Clever Alternative: And if you’re simply looking for the last utility knife you’ll ever need, this one by Leatherman is the gold standard.

A Good Rope : Because You Never Know…

emergency rope

You never know when you will need rope – whether it’s to tie the zombies to a chair (just kidding) or to tow something. It’s always good to have UV and rot-resistant rope so that it stays usable through any disaster.

Clever Alternative: These zip ties are also great for binding things together without having to cut or tie anything.

This Toy Headlamp Is The Real Deal


I know it’s a toy, but this headlamp has lasted longer than my more expensive headlamps. And you cannot beat the price! I could buy 10 of these for the price of the usual headlamp! It’s also great because it adjusts to any head size – kids or adults.

Clever Alternative: Of course you might be to skip the headlamp all together if you bought these mini lanterns .

Don’t Forget The Pepper Spray

pepper spray

A little can go a long way, and this dose of pepper spray is easy to use. It’s small enough to be quick on the draw, and can fit in any bag. It’s a must-have for protection.

Clever Alternative: This combination stun gun and flashlight seems handy as long as you don’t get the two confused. :-/

This Military Go-Bag Is Emergency Ready

Outdoor 3 Day Expandable 40-64L Backpack Military Tactical Hiking Bug Out Bag

Military bags can get VERY expensive, especially the bigger they get and the more support they provide. I knew that I wanted to find a go-bag that could carry all my stuff, but still give me the support to carry it. With its padded arm straps, its chest straps, and its waist pads, I found an inexpensive military-durable bag that is comfortable to wear. Highly recommend, especially for the price point!

Clever Alternative: And if a custom-quality go-bag isn’t your thing, this pre-packed go-bag might be the answer.


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