Let's Get Prepped!
A survival kit is one of those crucial items that we pay little attention to until after an emergency has occurred. Considering the seeming increase in climatic events, severe weather and even earthquakes, it is ever-more important that you and your loved ones are well prepared in the event of an unforeseen disaster. But how to choose among the myriad survival kits on the market? At ReviewDecide we focused on kits that are designed to help a family of four get over the crucial 72-hour "hump" following a disaster. Our top picks . . .
- OUR TAKEPROSCONS
- OUR TOP PICK
- Although on the pricier side, this kit is well worth the extra cost due to the superior quality and wide range of supplies that are provided. It is the only kit in our comparison that includes a portable stove and one of two that provides a water filtration system (as compared with purification tablets).
- Includes portable stove and Sawyer Squeeze water filtration system.
- Freeze-dried meals have a 30-year shelf life (typical packs use meals with 5-year shelf lives).
- High quality MoraKniv knife and ferrocerium rod.
- Durable and high quality bag.
- On the pricier side (packs for 2 individuals are available for less).
- Kit does not include any batteries—you will need to purchase a couple of packs separately and include them in the bag.
- Must purchase standalone battery bank to charge your phone.
- OUR TAKE
- This FEMA compliant 72-hour, 4-person survival kit by is a budget friendly option that is surprisingly high-quality and includes a water filtration straw and helpful emergency guidebook containing information to guide you and your family through common types of disasters.
- Competitive price point (second lowest in our comparison) and includes a host of items.
- Includes water purification equipment (powder as well as filter straw).
- Includes useful guidebook, tools and extensive shelter options (2 tube tents + 4 ponchos + 4 mylar bags.
- Water filter straw, while passable is not a top quality branded unit.
- Lacks fire starting equipment—make sure to buy and include this.
- Hand crank radio includes port for charging phone, although unit is not top quality and phone adapter may be necessary.
- OUR TAKE
- This kit is more extensive than the model by First My Family, BUT does not represent a great value when compared with the more comprehensive and cheaper kit by Emergency Zone. Still it has solid customer reviews and is worth a look if you want a kit that neatly fits into a single bag.
- Hand crank radio includes adapter for charging iPhone and Android phones (the charger isn't first class, but definitely a useful feature in a pinch).
- Include 4x 3,600 calorie food bars, 48 water pouches, 4 hydration bags and 40 water purification tablets.
- All fits in one large roller bag.
- On the pricier side, especially when compared to the more extensive and cheaper kit offered by Emergency Zone.
- Doesn't include a water filtration straw or other long-term purification device.
- Roller bag isn't top quality and may be a detraction in situations where it must be carried.
- OUR TAKE
- This kit is not particularly high quality, nor does it include a wide range of options. That being said, it is the lowest priced unit in our comparison and has solid consumer reviews. Ultimately, your money will be better spent if you go with our runner up by Emergency Zone.
- The lowest priced kit in our comparison—an acceptable starter kit BUT you will need to add to it.
- Food and emergency water packs are U.S. Coast Guard certified and guaranteed to stay fresh for up to 5 years.
- Includes two backpacks should you group need to split up.
- The quality of the items in the pack is not first rate.
- Does not include a fire starter, water purification tablets (let alone a filtration device) or emergency tent.
- Must purchase standalone battery bank to charge your phone.
- Does not include an emergency radio—this is a must.
Features to Focus On
Keep These Factors In Mind . . .
Kit Components and Functionality - The components within any survival kit as well as their functionality are of paramount importance because they determine whether or not the kit will be helpful and actually get you through a disaster. A practical kit should always include the following:
- A well-stocked first aid kit
- Food and water
- Lighting source (a flashlight and ideally a survival candle)
- Heating supplies (hand and body warmer, fire starter)
- Shelter (mylar sleeping bags and ideally a tube tent)
Be sure to take a close look at the product descriptions to ensure that they include these five features. Also, keep in mind that these are the bare minimum that any kit should have. An exceptional survival kits also includes other useful items, such as batteries, emergency guide handbooks, and writing utensils. Some even include phone chargers.
Compactness and Durability - In the event of an emergency situation or disaster, you can never be certain of the type of weather and/or other conditions that you will be exposed to. Therefore it is always ideal that your survival bag is easily transportable, durable, and as compact as possible. It may not necessarily be lightweight if it is a well-stocked bag that includes all of the necessary items and equipment, but you must be able to carry the bag with minimal effort in case you have to run or quickly evacuate. Moreover, your bag should be sturdy and somewhat waterproof so that it is not easily destroyed.
Know Your Skill Level - Some of us have a great deal of survival proficiency and some simply do not. Pay attention to your skill level when selecting your kit and deciding what extras to purchase. For example, a person who is proficient at starting a fire with a "spark stick" (i.e. ferrocerium rod) should always include one in his or her survival pack. By contrast, a person who is not, should buy a lighter and a set of waterproof matches. One reason we like the the kit by Emergency Zone is the fact that it includes a guidebook—a valuable resource for those whose survival skills may be a bit rusty.
How We Chose
Moist and Dry Mode, Handheld Sealers and Extras
Now that we have explored the key features of a good vacuum sealer, let us explain the reasons why we listed each one in our review in the order that we did. Keep in mind that ultimately, your selection will boil down to personal preference and the factors that are most important to you, including cost.
Our number one pick, the FoodSaver V4400 2-In-1, earned this spot because of its exceptional product features. Not only does it include the most important components of a good quality vacuum sealer, it also exceeds expectations with its smart technology and ease of use. Although it is a bit pricier than the other models on our list, we believe it is well worth the investment when you factor in long term benefits.
Our "performance" runner up, the FoodSaver FM5200 2-in-1, rates considerably well in all four of the relevant factors discussed above. It is most notable for its express bag making, which saves time in the overall sealing process. Adding to that, the models unique design, which includes dual heating strips, contributes to its ability to reach an optimal vacuum sealing level. We chose it as our "performance" runner up because it falls short in the ease of use factor and because it can be difficult for one person to operate.
Our "budget" runner up, the FoodSaver FM3920 2-in-1, offers adaptable sealing on a variety of item and also comes with a handheld sealer as well as moist and dry capability. The quick marinator (plastic container must be purcahsed separately, although quick marinate will work in a bag) is also an attractive bonus. It is the least expensive among the three units in our comparison with handheld sealers as well as moist and dry capability.
Our final pick, the FoodSaver FM2000, came in behind our other models because it lacks a handheld sealer and does not have moist or dry capability. Aside from these downsides, we still consider the FM2000 a solid entry point into the world of vacuum sealers because it is budget friendly and offers safety, versatility and is easy-to-use.
Other Useful Information
Good to Know . . .
What Not to Vacuum Seal - Although vacuum sealers can be used for a variety of things, keep in mind that there are certain constraints. For example, you should avoid sealing items like compasses, lighters, and anything that is made up of sharp edges. As a general rule of thumb, anything that is normally considered hazardous should not be vacuum sealed. Also, be sure to carefully read the instructions/manual for each vacuum sealer that you consider purchasing in order to account for any other constraints.
Food Safety Still Matters - Be mindful that although vacuum sealing effectively preserves your produce and other items, you should still follow proper protocol in regards to storage techniques. For example, you would normally store meats in the freezer if you don't plan to consume shortly after bringing home from the grocery store. Therefore you should also store vacuum sealed meats in the freezer as well because this well help to preserve the meats for a much longer period of time. And remember to wash your hands before AND after handling meats!
Warranties - Be sure that any vacuum sealer you purchase comes with some sort of warranty and be sure to review the warranty carefully. You should know the period of time that the warranty covers as well as any stipulations (for instance, the FoodSaver warranty DOES NOT include shipping). Note that most vacuum sealers on the market come with warranties and all of the models listed in our review include a 5 year limited warranty.
Seriously . . .
We started ReviewDecide on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
- Photo of survival kit from iStock.
- Illustration of survival kit from iStock.
- Photo of group jumping in office from iStock.
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.