Go-bags and stay-bins

In which the New York Times and a Facebook prepper group converge. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

At the height of my pandemic anxiety last year, I apparently joined a prepper-style Facebook group in which members share tips on how to deal with the apocalypse.

Thus, between cute pics of my friends’ families, and the latest uproar over what the school board or town government did, I’m quite likely to see things like a debate over how long ammunition can be stored before it goes bad, or how to can your own vegetables, or tips on stockpiling necessary medications for “when the SHTF.”

Personally, I’m a stockpiler only by accident—like when I realized in March 2020 that I had stockpiled hand sanitizer over the years as a result of my habit of buying small bottles, using them once, throwing them in a drawer, and buying more bottles.

But I find these Facebook posts interesting, sometimes useful, and a window into how another part of humanity thinks. That’s why I was intrigued over the weekend when the New York Times—not exactly the home turf of the libertarian prepper community—ran an article explaining how everyone should prepare for calamity by putting together a “go-bag” and a “stay-bin.”

At the risk of falling into the sort of 1970s, “it’s not news until it’s in the Times” mindset, I think it presents a good opportunity to take a look at what NYT columnist Tara Parker-Pope came up with.

Here are her basic packing lists. I’ll be interested to hear how many of you have compiled these kinds of emergency kits, and whether there are other key items you think should be on the list:


First, let’s go for the “go-bag” with the definition Parker-Pope uses: “The go bag is what you grab when you have to leave the house in a hurry, whether it’s to get to the emergency room or to evacuate because of a fire or hurricane.”

Suggested items:

  • Passport, birth certificates, and other important documents (contained in a waterproof Ziploc bag)

  • Extra pair of reading glasses

  • Phone charger (“an emergency room doctor told me it’s the single most requested item in the ER”)

  • Masks (not just because of COVID-19, but in case “you’re fleeing a fire or a chemical spill”)

  • Emergency cash

  • Flashlight and batteries

  • First-aid kit, including dental items

  • Emergency cash (“small bills are best”)

  • Phone numbers—especially in case your cell phone battery dies or doesn’t work

  • A few days’ worth of any essential medications

  • Bottled water and granola bars

  • Optional: change of clothes

  • If you have a baby, baby items: diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, food

  • If you have a pet, pet items: leashes, portable bowls, food, and “veterinary records, in case you have to take your pets to a kennel while you stay in a shelter or hotel”

  • Finally: a whistle, in case you’re trapped somewhere and need to call for help. Much better than just yelling.

Good additional advice: If you’re a parent, keep the key documents for the whole family in your go-bag, but also create bags for your kids, too.


Definition: “a two-week stash of essentials in the event you have to hunker down at home without power, water, or heat.”

What to include? Well, a lot of things from your go-bag, plus:

  • Two-week supply of bottled water and nonperishable food (and pet food as required)

  • Toilet paper and personal hygiene supplies

  • Flashlights, lanterns, candles, lighters, and firewood

  • Battery-powered or crank weather radio

  • Solar phone charger (I hadn’t thought of this one on my own)

  • Duct tape

  • Multipurpose tool

  • Trash bags, hand wipes, and sanitizer

Also: extra supply of needed medications. (Tip: “ask your doctor for some free samples to have in case of an emergency.”)

Bonus links:

So… call for comments. Have you put together stashes like this? What else should be included in them? What don’t you need? Let us know your thoughts.

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