Let me start by saying that the 72 hour kit is highly overrated. The idea is a kit with all the items you need to survive for the first 72 hours after a disaster in a portable container of some type in case of evacuations, etc. Here's the main problem with this idea: Who is coming in 72 hours to save you? How do you know they will get to you before your supplies run out? If you watched coverage of the Christmastime Indonesian tsunami or Hurricane Katrina, you saw first hand that it can take over a week for the government or other relief agencies to get to the hardest hit areas. Could you live that long on what's in your 72 hour kit? So I like to call my kit an Emergency Kit and have not limited it to 72 hours worth of stuff. I have kits for me, my husband, and each of our kids (the youngest's stuff is packed in my kit for now, but it's about time to get her her own pack).
Commercial kits are usually a good starting point. DO NOT buy a kit off the shelf and put it away and expect it to be any use to you in an emergency. You need to specialize your kit to your circumstances. Here's what's in mine:
In Mine/3 yr old's:
Water purification tabs
Firestarting goods--matches, lighter, dryer lint firestarters, sappy sticks, magnesium firestarter thingy
Shake flashlight, solar/crank radio
Razor blades, small wire, rope, fishing line/hooks, sewing kit, empty gallon ziplocks
Change of clothes and thermals for each of us
A pair of old but still good hiking boots tied to the outside
Vacuum packed fleece baby blanket (if you were a kid would you honestly feel comforted wrapped in a crackly emergency blanket?)
Poncho, emergency blanket, compass, whistle
Pencil, paper, deck of cards
First Aid, sanitary wipes, purell
Sunblock, insect repellent
Toiletries--soap, contact solution and case (I wear them), backup glasses, toothbrush/paste, etc.
--A note here, my dad used to fly overseas and the airline would give him travel size stuff--works great for these packs.
Also feminine hygeine since I know what time of the month it will be if disaster strikes ;) You men won't need to pack those--although it's not a bad idea to add some to your first aid, they're real good at stopping heavy bleeding!
Power bars, MRE's, Mountain House meals, survival food bars (probably too many, but I know I have a real low tolerance for missing meals and still being worth anything especially when doing any physical exertion. And I'm also packing extra for the young'uns that can only pack so heavy a pack of their own.
M&M's--there's no survival without chocolate
Important documents on a thumb drive
Cash (small bills/change)
That about covers my pack, dad has the stove in his, so hopefully we'll be together :)
It is all packed in an internal frame standard hiking backpack. Nothing fancy, but enough support that it wouldn't make for needing back surgery if I had to pack it somewhere.
When my kids were babies I had formula, bottles, baby cereal, bowls, baby spoon, and diapers in there.
My 7 yr old's pack (9 yr old's is similar):
Change of clothes plus thermals
Small stuffed animal
Poncho, emerg. blanket, small rope, matches, candle, fire starter sticks
Flashlight, lightsticks, whistle
Pencil, paper, scissors, flagging tape
1 MRE, tuna and crackers, 5 power bar/clif bars, candy
I put all theirs in those backpacks with wheels to make it easier for them to pack them.
Now, I don't know if my pack is overkill, but I am the mom and were it just me I may be able to cut it down a bit, but it's not. Plus the more I research the more I find there's things I don't have in there that I could see being very useful.
I hope to never have to pack it all out somewhere--if I had to haul all that stuff plus the three little ones we wouldn't get too far. I need a handcart! I hope to be able to stay in my home, then I'll have the rest of my resources to pull from also.
The kids all have red clothes and the flagging tape--I want to be able to find them--not sure if this is the best if others are looking for us, but I'm thinking standard natural disaster and trying to find my kids in our town/area if they are separated from mom and dad.
I use my foodsaver vacuum packer to pack all the clothes, blankets, diapers, etc so there's more room in the pack and they'll stay dry until they are needed. That's why my kids' packs have scissors in them--so they can get to their clothes.
And the packs all have a name tag on them with name, parents names, address, allergy information, etc. It's also a good idea to have a family picture in each pack so in case one of you is missing the others can show people who to look for--I need to update our picture and print one for each pack.