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What Type of Clothes to Pack in Your 72-Hour Kit


It seems that all too often, preppers can be overly concerned about the supplies and tools they have in their 72-hour kit, and forget that everyday items like clothing are just as important in a survival situation. Making sure you’ve packed the proper clothes in your bug out bag is very crucial – and can often mean the difference between surviving and emergency just as much as any other item. A survival situation can strike when you least expect it – when you’re on vacation, when you’re on your way home from work, or even when you’re in bed for the night. You don’t want to be caught with just your Bermuda shorts, your business casual office wear, or your sleepwear for the next 72 hours. But if you’re not already packed with the clothing you need, that’s exactly what could happen.

Should you pack seasonally?

Some preppers prefer to pack clothing according to the season – warm clothes in the winter; lighter clothes in the summer. This isn’t the best idea, however. Depending on where you are when an emergency strikes, you may need to be prepared for any type of weather. This is especially true if you wind up in an emergency that turns into a long-term survival situation. That’s why it’s best to pack for any season. At the same time, consider the regional weather patterns in your area as well as those areas you may be headed to in an emergency. You don’t need Arctic gear if you live on the Gulf Coast, for example – but you still want a coat that will keep you warm at night if you have to head north in the winter.

The attributes survival clothing needs

You don’t want to simply pack regular clothing in a 72-hour bag. This is clothing that will have to help protect you in a situation that could rapidly unravel or last for a very long time. Make sure your survival clothing has the following attributes:

Durable. This is all the clothing you have – so it has to last. Avoid clothing that is made of thin or cheap material, and make sure it is designed in a way that makes it easy to repair.

Comfortable. You may have to walk out of your current location, which could take days, so you want to be wearing comfortable clothes.

Versatile. The clothing in your 72-hour bag should be adaptable to different kinds of weather, different terrain types, and any possible situation that could arise.

Inconspicuous. Select clothes that are not brightly colored and will not attract attention. You want to blend into crowds and your surroundings. You don’t want to attract attention from looters in urban areas; in rural areas, you don’t want to be easy to spot from a distance. Try to avoid camo, as it can attract negative attention.

Natural fibers. Cotton, denim, silk and wool only – avoid poly synthetic blends. Synthetic fibers are far more flammable than natural fibers; for that reason the USMC banned Under Armour for troops stationed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

What to Pack

The following list is a basic description of what you will want to have in any 72-hour bag, but you should feel free to adapt it to your regional weather patterns, the area you live in (rural or urban) and other considerations. Remember to select dark, subdued colors for all layers.

Head Gear: watch cap, baseball hat, etc.

Tops: 2 cotton t-shirts, 2 cotton long-sleeved shirts, rain jacket or poncho, wool sweater and topcoat (depending on region).

Bottoms: Silk weight base layer, 2 pairs of pants – BDU with extra pockets is best, but avoid camo patterns. Durable denim jeans or work pants (such as Carharts) are also good for colder climates.

Footwear: MULTIPLE pairs of socks. If you aren’t regularly changing your socks, you stand the risk of developing trench foot, a bacterial infection that is painful and dangerous. You want at least six pairs of socks. Wool socks are crucial in cold regions. Hiking boots are also crucial, as you may have to walk for days.

Accessories: Leather work gloves or flight gloves are best. A rigger’s belt is preferable because it is extra long and can serve several uses if need be.

Do you have any tips or advice that was not covered in this article? We would love your feedback and questions.

18 thoughts on “What Type of Clothes to Pack in Your 72-Hour Kit”

  • Lynda

    With a 72 hour bug out bag filled with emergency supplies PLUS this amount of clothes, especially the boots and topcoat, the bag would need to be huge! Mine is already heavy and cumbersome and this article brought to light that I don't even have ANY clothes in it. A consideration would be to have clothes that fit also, just in case you have gained or lost weight.

  • Bill

    Suspenders , because in any survival situation you will loose a lot of weight, so you will need something to keep those pants up, also pack a pair of pants 2 sizes smaller as back ups

    • Daniel

      I felt the same way, that this is to much clothes. But I put it in a vacuumed seal bag and it is a space saver. Try putting your clothes in that before putting in your bag

  • Roman

    Everything possible should serve double duty. Synthetics have one major con and many pros. Yeah it's flammable but what are the chances of you being on fire? Cotton gets wet, stays wet and stays cold. Leave it at home it's basically useless. A good Poncho-Tarp combo will keep you and your pack dry and does away with a tent. If you must bring a shelter try a Hammock. Wool at least will keep you warm even when wet. Warm and miserable and HEAVY. The medium grade synthetic long underwear stays dry doesn't stink and packs small. Gortex or some other breathable synthetics will also pack small and light. Ripstop nylon zip off leg pants gives you two for one and the pants legs can be used for other uses. Pack 4 pairs of socks 2 liners to keep feet dry and prevent blisters ( yes synthetic ) and 2 medium wool. You can wash your clothes put them back on and be dry in 10 minutes. Hell you don't even have to take them off wash them and you at the same time. Wear your boots and pack a light weight water proof wader type sneaker-shoe like S perry. Keep your ass and your feet out of the fire and you should be fine using top quality synthetics. Not to mention your back will thank you.

  • JB

    I have to agree with Roman. Thin ripstop nylon hiking pants with zip off legs are incredibly tough and versatile, and surprisingly warm, especially when paired with some good long underwear. They also dry extremely fast. You definitely need to be careful around the fire with them, but it's mostly to avoid burning holes in them - it's not like they're going to burst into flames.
    Synthetics definitely have their place.
    I once spent an unplanned night out in the woods north of Fairbanks, Alaska during a hunting trip (okay, yes I got lost and separated from my hunting partner). I only had fleece pants and a synthetic t-shirt on, as we were just scouting. Through light rain and temps of the low 40's, as well as having to sleep on a bed of wet grass, along with eventually hiking over 10 miles out, the synthetics kept me comparatively comfortable. I can't imagine going through that ordeal again wearing cotton.
    One place I prefer natural fibers is on my feet in cold weather. Synthetic liners with wool socks over them. They just seem to allow my feet to breathe better than synthetics.

  • Brenda

    Thanks Roman and J.B.
    I live in So. California so of course my concern is earthquakes. But if I have to "bug out" it will be in an urban setting and I won't be tramping through the woods. Even during the hot summer it tends to get cool at night and UnderArmour gear was the first thing I thought of. If I'm going to have to carry or roll this pack it can't be heavier than I can handle. Plus, the wash and dry quick aspect of synthetics is great. Now to figure out the shoes:)

  • Denise

    It seems to me that mpst of the items referred to herein are for men. Any suggestions for women or are we to just wear male clothing?

    • Westerngal

      Hi D , it's been a while since you posted so you've probably figured this all out by now but for all my friends here...Don't discount ( pun intended ) thrift stores which are a great place to find hiking/hunting/camping clothes folks have outgrown or gotten tired of for seriously cheap prices . I've put together mine and my husbands as well as my elderly in -laws bug out bags , car emergency bags as well as my work " get home " bag totally from thrift/ yard sale finds . All name brands , all fantastic material , it just takes time and patience. Keep going back and depending on your body type check out the men's and even childrens section . And don't forget to get them a tad big so you can layer. A belt or better yet suspenders are a must . Again, depending on body type a good supportive bra is essential, gotta keep the girls comfy when running from Zombies. I would say the exception to the thrift store rule is boots so check out Response Gear tactical footwear which I discovered via a military base near me . Not expensive , very comfortable and durable . You'll need durable comfy undies, several pairs and depending on age sanitary supplies .
      Lastly , don't forget something to remind yourself you're a woman be it a pair of earrings or a small tube of lotion. The S may hit the fan but we always need to remember who we are . Good luck , sister.

  • Jen

    After doing a 12 day backpacking trip, I whole heartedly agree the use of synthetics is a must. It's lightweight, good stuff breathes, dries quickly and can be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Unless you are going through a firestorm, use synthetics. I had clothes from LL Bean, Duluth Trading Co, Cabela, and a local outdoors store. They have some really nice women's clothes, though I don't like the ripstop nylon pants with the zip off legs from ll bean for women, not enough room for both sets of pockets. Check out the local scout store, they were recommended for their pants.

  • Cynthia

    While I'm not sure how much use this would be to others, I made myself a fleece caftan out of two large fleece rectangles sewed together with holes for the hands and head. It reaches to my ankles, and not only makes a warm coverup but can also double as a blanket. I also have one made from a sheet that also doubles as a light blanket.

    • Linda McKee

      Great idea, I never would of thought of making a caftan out of sheets or blankets, may come in handy as I'm big and old.

  • Matt

    If you are in areas where wildfire is a potential danger there are still some options if you want to stay with synthetics. There is a lot of comfortable clothes out there that are made by Wolverine, Bulwark, Wrangler, Carhart and others which is FR (fire resistant). I've found most of mine through farm stores and work wear places.

  • Dennis

    I would like to recommend traps as part of you survival gear. If you have to survive for weeks, your packed food will be gone in a few days. I recommend "Conibear traps" . Also a good slingshot, and learn to use it. Good for rabbits, squirrel, and other small game. Learn how to skin, and dress them to.

  • Bob

    Natural fibres are great but be selective where you wear them.
    We used to do rescues of people wearing jeans in snow situations and the majority suffered some degree of hyperthermia.
    We found synthetics to be very good in cooler weather and as other people have said they are very durable and the better quality ones are breathable too. Good article, I enjoy reading your tips.

  • NMZombie

    Very bad information. You do NOT want to carry this much stuff in a 72 hour kit. A jacket, socks and underwear will due at minimum. One full set of clothes at maximum, in case you get wet. Synthetics are probably the BEST to pack because of their superior performance to natural products and they are extremely light weight. This is another example of a Google Survivalist with no experience.

  • jon

    Be sure to get a bag with wheels! You can carry so much more!

  • Larry

    Regarding pants; but Denim pants are NOT recommended for several reasons. In hot weather they will retain heat and in cold/wet weather they will not dry out as fast as a wool blend. In cold weather just use you normal ski outfit, bib and jacket.

    • Larry

      I forgot to include the following. There have been some comments about weight. That was never a concern for me when I was younger because I knew the need to have adequate supplies. My pack often reached 75-80 pounds for 1 -2 weeks. Not now, I am older now and weight is a concern. I've cut back on things and will rely on knowledge to survive. By layering clothes you won't need as much for the short term 72 to 96 hours. If it takes longer than that to get home then a Bug-out Bag is not for you. You will need a large back pack and something with wheels. I now use a golf bag caddy, the one with three wheels, to carry my stuff.

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