Emergency Go-Kit Planning

preparing your gear for emergency response scenarios

© 2003-2011 by Harold Melton, KV5R. All Rights Reserved.

Now with handy amazon shopping links! Saves all that time searching!

What’s a “Go-Kit?”

A go-kit (or jump-kit) is what you prepare, keep ready, and grab on the way out the door when responding to the call for emergency response duties. It may consist of a fisherman’s vest, a bag or satchel, or any kind of soft (but well made) “carry-on” luggage. It must contain all the stuff you will or may need for at least a 24 hour stay at your post.

Getting it All Together

This is a list of items that might go into a go-kit or jump-kit. Your needs will vary. See notes.

If you read it before, read it again – many refinements! Your comments are welcome.

The Kit should consist of a flexible system divided between a vest, a bag, and your vehicle. The vest must be light enough to wear for hours, while keeping certain items at hand. The bag should contain larger, bulkier items, as well as re-supply for the vest. Your automobile should contain more resupply items, as well as items you will need if your role is changed or extended. This requires considerable forethought and experience!

The greatest and most frequently seen failures in emergency communications are insufficient batteries and insufficient antennas. If you can’t hit net control with full quieting and strong modulation – for 36 hours! – then everything else is a total waste…

Most Important!

If you do nothing else, GET and FIELD TEST external POWER and external ANTENNA for your HT! …or YOU will the one that delayed the net and caused confusion by not quite being able to hit the repeater! Absolutely everything else on this list is secondary to your radio’s performance — and in field experience, that’s always the weak link!

The Items

You’ll need personal gear, first-aid stuff, food and water, spare parts and supplies, cordless light or lantern, radio, extra power, extra antenna, etc, etc, — plus a way to easily carry it all. I recommend both a duffel and a vest.

Items Description Source Cost
Vest Fly fishing vest – 2 sizes larger than you normally wear - it gets smaller when you load it up with stuff! Amazon shop
Car Bag Any medium carry-on luggage or duffel, with shoulder strap and lots of pockets. Keep it locked in your vehicle for security. Amazon shop
Radio Any 5+ watt dual-band HT – should be able to accept 13.8 VDC directly Amazon shop
External Power 12 volt, 7-12 amp-hour Gel-Cell (commonly used in deer feeders, fence chargers, emergency lights). Lithium-Ion packs are much lighter, and much more expensive. Amazon shop
External Mic One-ear headset boom mic with PTT on the lapel MFJ $25
Ext Antenna Half-wave coaxial dipole or pocket j-pole Amazon or DIY shop
Better (¼-wave) HT Antenna Quarter-wave (19″) telescopic or flexible, for HT. Amazon, MFJ, etc. shop
Cords Power cords and coax jumpers as may be needed    
Adapters SMA>BNC, BNC>SO239, BNC>PL259 etc. as may be needed    
Papers and Info Ham License, Repeater List, Phone List, Maps    
LED Flashlight Head-mount LED (5 LEDs or more) Amazon shop
Tools Leatherman-type multi-tool Amazon shop
Compass Compass with luminous points and sighting mirror Amazon shop
Notepad, Pencils 2 mechanical pencils, pen, permanent marker, pocket tablet    
Waterproof Maps Local Area. Note: paper maps can be sprayed with hobby acrylic spray    
First Aid Get a real first aid kit and put contents in a ziploc bag Amazon shop
Reading Glasses As needed Amazon shop
Sun Glasses As needed Amazon shop
Sun Screen Small Bottle SPF 30 + Amazon shop
Personal Medicines Vivarin (caffeine), Antacid, Naproxin, Aspirin, Glucose Tablets, salt, prescriptions. Warning: Do not take Benadryl or other sleep-inducing medicines!    
Insect Repellant With DEET, small bottle Amazon shop
Toilet paper Half a roll, in a Ziploc bag (compress the air out)    
Moist Towellettes Eat your sticky food, then grab your radio, right?    
Food 10 Chewy Granola Bars in vest, more foods in bag    
Snacks 20 Peppermint Candy – settles stomach, gives energy, curbs appetite for a while    
Clean Rag Handkerchief in vest, hand towel in bag    
Rain Suit Small Backpackers’ type – place in a ziploc and mash out the air Amazon shop
Work Gloves TSC Leather gloves – Note: Most gloves are X-large – shop and find ones that fit!    
Latex Gloves Wal-Mart, 4 pair    
Water Bottles Two Pint Bottles for vest Amazon shop
Water Jug 5-gallon jug in automobile Amazon shop
Waterproof Watch With dual time zones. Set one to UTC and one to local. Amazon shop
Trash Bags Heavy-duty Lawn & Leaf type    
ZipLoc Bags Three sizes: Quart, Gallon, 2 Gallon; all Freezer-type    
Nylon Sting #18 Mason’s Line, Roll    
Duct Tape Partial roll    
Electrical Tape Scotch 33+ (don’t get cheapo gooey 99-cent tape!) Amazon or electrical supply shop
Pocket Torch Small Propane/Butane soldering Torch (or similar) and 60/40 rosin-core solder Amazon shop
Personal Protection Tear Gas small can (get one for automobile, too.) Amazon shop
Cash 20$ + 2$ in change    
Wallet With safety chain. Amazon shop
Phone Card      
Emergency Whistle Attached to strobe – is a small, flat, emergency whistle, uses low volume of air and can send CW easily. Amazon shop
Emergency Strobe With lithium batteries and extras (don’t get a blinking flashlight; get a rel xenon strobe) Amazon shop
Underwear, Socks 1 extra pair each    
Extra shoes or boots Important! Your shoes may get full of water and mud!    
Spotlight rechargeable on 12 volts; with three or more 1-watt LED’s Amazon shop



  1. These things are not toys… Keep out of reach of children at all times!
  2. The fly vest is not a perfect solution, as many of the smaller pockets are too shallow, being designed to hold little reels of tippet and leader. There are vests for emergency responders, but they tend to be way too expensive.
  3. After putting most of these items into a fly vest, I find it so bulky that it is difficult to wear and carry. It weighs over 15 pounds, with much of that being the 7AH lead-acid battery. I have decided to split the Go Kit into two units: The vest, and a “carry-on” bag (with shoulder strap), which will contain the bulkier and infrequently used items. Splitting up the Go Kit allows me to stock the vest with items particular to the specific event, also to restock the vest from the duffel.
  4. Putting the battery in the back of the vest makes it ride up in the front, and is uncomfortable. A better solution is a wide belt and fanny pack or tool pouch. That will move the weight of the battery from the shoulders to the hips.
  5. I have removed a few items as impractical to carry in either one. These should be stored in the vehicle.
  6. Practice using ziploc bags to contain and sort almost everything. Bulky items like towels and clothing are greatly reduced by mashing out the air. Fifty feet of RG-8X and an 80-meter dipole will fit into a 2-gallon ziploc. The pint and quart sizes are perfect for medicines, little cables and adapters, etc.
9 thoughts on “Emergency Go-Kit Planning
  1. I realize this is a very old published article, but still very useful.
    I was wondering if you have given any though to updating the list you have here. Maybe new radios or more radios, suggestions on portable antennas that can fold up. New ideas based on new technology. I am in the emergency portable power packs using LiFePO4 batteries. Not available when this was written. I would like to print copies of this (with your permission of course) and include them with the power packs.

    • Yes, all my articles are very out of date. I am almost blind now and can no longer research and write articles and updates.
      I suggest you create a new list of go-kit items to include with your products that reflects current equipment. Feel free to use parts of my list that are still applicable suggestions.
      73, kv5r

  2. I think this is an outstanding list. I only have one recommendation and that is Garmin or something like it GPS. Most people are not very proficient with a compass and maps, a GPS takes a lot of the guess work out of navigating in the “wild”. Some HTs even have them built in like the Yaesu FT1D. As a back up keep the compass and maps.

    • Good point, but there’s lotsa good off-road gps apps for smart phones. Most have compass, gps, download local topo maps, etc. So any android phone with a back-country app, all you need is extra battery or one of those usb charger bricks and you can nav in the brush for days.

  3. Being in my 80’s I find a two wheel cart better. Lee Valley sells a very useful one for about $65.00 Canadian, the last time I looked. They ship to Canada and the USA. Go to learnhamradio.info and to get their address

    • Good point, I can see how a cart would be better in most situations.
      I came up with the fly vest idea after the Columbia shuttle disaster, where many local hams here in east Texas assisted in the search, mostly in dense woods and underbrush. A high-wheeled garden cart wouldn’t do well in that scenario, but might be OK in open woods.
      I did find that a fly vest is very tiring if it’s overloaded!

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