We all have things that we carry around every day, believing that they are essential to our daily survival. But are they really necessary? Like life-or-death necessary? I have made a living distinguishing the difference between wants and legitimate needs as an emergency preparedness writer and instructor, and while phones, keys, and forms of payment are essential to modern living, they are not the only things you should be carrying in your purse, pockets or backpack.


The punchline for emergency preparedness is that we never know if or when some scary incident will befall us. Although we hope that the time is never, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have any room to spare in your bag, then consider adding these things to help you out in an emergency – and to help those around you.

Lip Balm
This may not seem like an important emergency supply, but a plain lip balm is made from a greasy combination of waxes and oils. Both of these substances burn great, if you needed to make a fire. They also act as a lubricant, rust preventer, and you can apply lip balm to dry cracked skin to facilitate healing. It’s also effective at sealing off abrasions, scratches and small cuts to hasten skin repair.

Even if you don’t smoke (or spend time around anyone who does), a simple butane lighter can last for years and create both light and fire. Select a brightly colored lighter, to help you find it when you need it most. With just a flick of your thumb, the lighter can be a back-up light source and provide a flame.

A Tool
A pocketknife or multi-tool may seem unnecessary in modern daily life and it may even seem like paranoid overkill to carry around. But think of all the times you wished you had a cutting tool available to open containers and packages, to cut cords and string, and to perform other day to day chores. Now, imagine how much better you’d feel if you had a tool for self-defense as well. A knife can do all of these things and more. And if you aren’t sure about walking around with a knife, then start out with an easier-to-justify multi-tool. These handy gizmos often have scissors, screwdrivers, knives, and pliers all rolled up into one compact item.

If you’re over 21, a little airplane bottle of vodka or similar liquor could serve many emergency purposes. High-proof alcohol can be consumed as a mild pain reliever, it can also be used as a disinfectant, deodorizer, fungicide, and a mouthwash for sores and dental injuries.

First Aid Supplies
As an emergency skills instructor, by choice, I really do enjoy performing a lot of outdoor skills. But in all truth, outdoor skills are nowhere near as useful as first aid skills. Medical skills (and a little bit of gear to support them) are the most likely “self-reliance” skills you’ll ever use. I’m not talking about a few Band-Aids, although a few won’t be amiss. I’d recommend carrying the supplies to help you deal with one significant injury or dangerous event. A few gauze pads, some tape, wound ointment, a few antihistamine pills and pain relievers, and a pair of tweezers can handle many medical issues by themselves or help someone while the professionals are on their way. The gauze pads and tape (with some pressure from you) can help to stop dangerous bleeding. The antihistamine pills can help to treat allergic reactions. The pain relievers and ointment can help you manage your patient if help is delayed for a long time, such as in a major disaster.

Of course, my deepest hope is that these items lie unused and unneeded in the bottom of your purse — that you’ve been lucky and careful. Yet, you can still be glad you had these items with you … just in case.


For more ideas on preparedness for emergency situations, as well as DIY survival skills, check out Tim’s new book, Prepare For Anything, which is available now. You can also follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch.

Image via Chelsie Autumn Photography


1 comment

  1. Great tips, I feel like these would actually help me in a crisis as opposed to what other articles (from other magazines) recommend. Thanks for your practical and honest advise!

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