Backpack Upcycle to Emergency GO Bag

This post was originally scheduled for September, but I’m releasing it early because, you know, Hurricane Harvey happened. Even if you haven’t personally been affected, you can’t help but think, what would I do if I had to leave my home with only a few minute’s notice? Do you have an emergency GO bag? Have you thought about putting an emergency kit together for your family?

backpacks for emergency GO kits

If you have kids, you might have their backpacks from last year laying around, much-abused but still with a little life left. Kittycat and Lambchop both used their backpacks hard last year, but they didn’t completely wear them out, and that got us thinking about what we should do with their old backpacks. When I decided to refresh our family emergency kit to refresh it for National Preparedness Month, it occurred to me that the kids are much older than when I first put our family emergency kit together. The kids have been lugging a heavy backpack to school for years, now, so it’s time to bring them up to speed with our family emergency plans. Bingo. Those old backpacks will be perfect for a personal emergency kit, one for each kid.

The first step was to say, “Hey, why don’t you kids go check and see what’s in our emergency kit?” They had fun checking out all the cool “camping gear.” Now they know we have an emergency kit and what’s in it.

make a family emergency kit

It’s a good idea to review and refresh your emergency GO bag items every year or so, and replace the water and food at least every year. I’m not what they call a “prepper” (someone who prepares for the end of the world), but creating an emergency GO kit that sits in the closet seems like a reasonable precaution to me. Yes, there’s a bit of expense, but you don’t have to buy everything at once, and you probably have quite a few of these items at home already. Some of the others can easily be bought at the dollar store.

Is our go kit missing one very important item? Who knows if there will be chocolate in the zombie apocalypse?

I was kind of horrified to see that I didn’t actually have much for the kids in the old bags. I only had whistles for them. When they were babies, I would have carried everything else they needed.

Look, not every family wants to take the time to put together an emergency GO kit. One option is to buy a pre-made emergency kit like this, but they are kind of pricey, may not have all the supplies you need for your region, and you are trying to re-use your kid’s backpack, right? But rather than storing those old backpacks for “just in case, who knows, we might need it someday,” why not put them to work?

Here’s what I’ve done to make it easy for you to assemble your kit. Simply click here, and order each emergency item for each adult member in your family. (Or each family member you want to protect. You choose. I won’t judge.)  Click here to order items for a child’s emergency GO kit.  Just click and order the items you need, and supplement the supplies with items you already own.

Take into account that I live in the US northeastern region, so our supplies are about keeping warm and staying dry, like when the power was out for 5 days on my street. You might need to adjust your kit supplies for other parts of the country. If you are more concerned with wildfires, you’ll have different stuff in your kit.

Wash your old backpacks in the washing machine. If they can’t make it through the washing machine, do you want to trust them through Harvey-like floodwaters? Or the zombie apocalypse? Pack the emergency items in your old backpacks, and be sure your family knows where they are. Label them as emergency GO bags so they leave them alone, and don’t go rummaging around for cool gear that you’ve set aside for the end times. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure that Amazon Prime will be the first to fail if we seriously need to head for our emergency GO bags, and you won’t be able to re-order stuff that went missing in non-emergency times.

Look, here’s a free printable tag for your emergency bags. Just click and print out on a regular sheet of paper, and trim to a convenient 3×5 size.

printable tag for your emergency GO kit

Here’s the new thing that I added to our bags this year. I’ve always been stumped by how best to deal with the water problem. It’s too heavy to store in bulk and expect to be able to travel with it, so I’ve added lightweight  water purification tabs this time around, hoping to never have to use them. If you go that route, you might want this stackable, portable water container. It can just sit empty in the closet unless and until you need it. Or you could store some inexpensive distilled water in your storage area, and rotate it out every year or so. Add that to your Evernote shopping list, because you can easily and cheaply buy that locally.

If you take this on, be forewarned that you kind of need to be ready to have the discussion about why we would need an emergency kit. Fire? Flood? The aforementioned zombie apocalypse? It’s a fine line between being prepared and causing anxiety with the kiddos. But you can start by explaining that having these things together and ready to use will even make a simple power outage more fun. And, by the way, they’ve probably heard about Hurricane Harvey, so you’ve got a perfect starting point now for this very important family discussion that none of us wants to have.

Remember, whether you buy a pre-made kit or go DIY, you’ll want to add critical documents for your personal situation like ID for the kiddos, extra prescription medications, and perhaps an old pair of glasses. Don’t all the really bad scenes happen in the scary movies when the character breaks his glasses? Even if you don’t have everything you could have in your family emergency kit, you’ll be more prepared than if you didn’t have any emergency kits at all.

There are a lot of really good resources on how to put together an emergency GO kit. I just found this very thorough page at the National MS Society, and it’s worth a read for anyone dealing with a disability through an emergency.

Click here for the list of GO bag supplies that we have in our bags, and update yearly

Have you had a chance to look at the Amazon lists in the links above? What would you add to your family’s emergency kits?

Pin for later. But not too much later.

How to make a family emergency GO bag















This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. BARB

    Thanks. Very interested.

  2. neale

    Clever I like the idea and appreciate how it could be useful after having living in Florida for 13 years. I have a similar thing now for short trips that I take often, no need to figure out everything to pack each time.

    1. Darla

      Neale, I’m sure you have a much better feel for this since you live in Florida! I have that other GO bag packed at all times, too! I firmly believe that nothing, including packing problems, should stand between you and a quick trip to Paris!

      1. Neale

        LOL how did you know I lived in France for 9 years. I lived right next to les halles back in the early 90s

Comments are closed.