Camping & Survival

A 3-Day Survival Plan

Green clay container with the words Survival Skills on the outside

Within the past few years, my family and I have been inconvenienced by power outages and other problems that would have been much worse if we had not been prepared.

My wife, Joyce, and I have traveled in a country where some residents called for violence against Americans. We have seen firsthand what happens when society takes a hit from an upheaval, both natural and manmade. My son spent more than a year in a country where having a survival kit means day-to-day survival—or not.

You must have a plan to ensure you can survive those upheavals. A plan that consists of at least a three-day supply of staples and a three-day plan for personal defense is a good idea. While a bug-out bag is good to have, the wares we have in our homes are even more important.

Bugging out is one thing, but hunkering down at home is a better thing.

Let’s look at some of what is needed to survive for three days. A three-day target is good, and the basics are flexible, depending on the profile. The elderly need more medicine, and the very young may need more support gear. If you have young children or an elderly parent, you must take more time and effort with the plan.


We cannot live without water.

  • At least a liter a day per family member, for each day of the three-day target is minimal, and more is better.
  • If you are at home when a natural disaster is predicted, fill your tubs and sinks with water as quickly as possible in case the water supply is compromised. This gives you a considerable, cheap and readily available surplus.
  • Be certain to have a good supply of towels and wet wipes because bathing will become a luxury overnight.


  • If you have a medication, such as an anti-inflammatory for occasional use or a daily blood pressure pill, be certain the prescription is filled.
  • Do not wait until the prescription runs out to have it filled; never fall below three days’ supply. Those are day-to-day considerations.
  • For emergency use, be certain to have medicines available for treatment of insect bites, minor cuts and abrasions and burns.
  • A kit capable of handling the worst emergency, such as a gunshot wound, is important.
  • A supply of Quik-Clot is vital in any emergency.


  • Keep canned food that can be eaten cold, a means to heat food that must be warmed, energy bars and fruits, along with crackers and staple foods, on hand.
  • Consider the weight of each item and plan accordingly. Three days’ supply for each family member may be weighty, so you should begin to see why it is best to hunker down with the food supply.
  • A moving vehicle may be a target in an emergency.


  • In inclement weather, you need a good pair of shoes, boots and extra socks.
  • Have appropriate clothing clean and ready for a three-day emergency.
  • Appropriate rain gear is important, and inclement weather gear is vital because that may be the reason for the emergency.

First Aid

Basic antiseptic and pain medicine are necessities, along with…

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Gauze
  • Burn cream and other gear (which is worth an article all of its own).
  • Something for insect bites and a snake-bite kit

Do not assume a kit you purchased has what you really need.

  • Fill the kit yourself, and be familiar with what is in it.
  • Designate a family member to be in charge of what’s in the kit and how to use the each item.
  • I normally pack at least two fire-starter kits with the first aid stores. The ability to make fire may be important.
  • Additionally, a space bag with a reflective blanket is important. Those blankets are light and effective and are appreciated if the power is off. In any emergency, manmade or natural, the power grid is often compromised.


Without a portable generator, a means of heating food, such as a cook stove, is important. I think you are beginning to see that a to-go bag is a poor second to what may be kept in a home for a three-day emergency.


Keep plenty of handheld illumination in your home. It does not have to be expensive; it just has to work. It is amazing how dark it becomes without  power. City canyons are unfriendly without illumination.


Keep tools on hand for simple home repair and enough material to fix a door or window that is damaged by a storm, which includes hammers and nails.


In case you have to travel during a flood, be certain that the vehicle has a full tank of gas. It is important to fill up at the first hint of an emergency. In most cases, a vehicle has a 300-mile range without filling again, and that goes a long way toward getting out of Dodge.


If you are forced to travel, have a stash of cash to purchase staples or fuel. Shelter will not be cheap once you reach a safe zone because many others also will be there. A good reserve equal to a month’s pay may be necessary. If the chore of preparation seems onerous, consider the alternative of standing on a corner, wailing and waiting for government assistance.

That is not me and I hope it is not you.


Simple service-grade firearms are all that you need.

  • For home defense, a shotgun is the best choice, along with buckshot and slugs.
  • Wear a sidearm at all times.
  • A GLOCK pistol in a service-grade holster is a reasonable choice and is both affordable and reliable.
  • Your home defense handgun also should be your emergency sidearm. You do not need a firearm with which you are unfamiliar to use in an emergency; you need a solid handgun that you have proofed and practiced.

Battery-Operated Hand-Crank Radio

  • With the power down, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio is your only means of information.
  • Have at least a couple of inexpensive radios.
  • A weather alert radio also is a very good idea.

The Plan

Hopefully you have at least a few hours of warning before a natural disaster.

  • Gather your family, grab the supplies and hunker down.
  • Please do not be the ones in line for bread and milk at the grocery store.
  • Get the family together so you do not have to worry about driving around to collect them.
  • If the kids are away at college or camp, perhaps a mini bug-out-bag with their personal medicines and special needs, such as allergy treatments, gives everyone some peace of mind.

If you live in Alaska or Florida, your bug-out bag is much different. If you live in a place like Pennsylvania, with a true four-season climate, your plan should include a little of everything for each season.

Plan ahead and prepare. The fact is that almost everyone is confronted by some type of natural emergency during their lifetime.

How you handle the problem is important and could be the difference between life and death.

Have a plan. Three days is a minimal time to invest in the future.

Important Points

  • Plan ahead.
  • Consider the different routes from work to home, to the kid’s school and other important avenues in case roads are blocked.
  • Have a plan for civil unrest, natural disasters and any unforeseen, yet possible, scenarios.
  • Consider when you should bug out and when you should hunker down at home.
  • Think ahead.
  • Make a realistic assessment of your abilities and physical conditioning.

What have you done to prepare yourself for the unexpected? Share your best tips with our readers in the comments section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. Been there, done that–all ready to go loaded into my suburban with the attached lift gate on the back. Safe laid horizontal and bolted to steel floor through crossmembers for gun security and storage. Of course, not counting 2 hidden high cap. autos up front ready for bear.

  2. Water weight seem to be a problem for most people, including myself. So, I carry a Package of 6 Mayday Industries Forward Osmosis Water Filtration Purifiers with me at all times. Each filtration pack is good for 3-Liters of Potable Water per Day for 3-Days. There filtration ranges from 3 to 5-angstroms, that will filter out 100 times smaller then the smallest pathogen and is 200 times cleaner then the best Charcoal Filtration Systems on the market. And only sells for around $30.00 USD.

  3. Also buy cheap or extra items when on sale.

    example is bottle water… You can pay $2.49 or $4.98 for the same quantity.

    I’ll buy cheap and either double my supply or have extra money for other items.

    Buy items when they are on sale. And use coupons as well as buying say a store brand than name brand. After all sugar is sugar…

    Recycle as well… Empty 2 liter Pepsi bottles or 7up or sprite bottles washed out and fill with water from your tap.

    Just think of ways to prepare, to cut costs and think outside the box.

  4. One liter a day per person is not enough for 3 days. Since you’re bugging in at home, keep the WHO recommended amount of 5 liters a day. At one liter a day for a full size adult can result in diminished physical and mental capacities.

  5. A whole bunch of stuff is needed not only for 3 days but longer… 3 days can easily turn into 2 weeks or longer.

    More is better than running out.

    One needs to analyze ALL aspects of normal living…

    From what is needed to ways of living long term w/o present conventional means… Electricity and gasoline which may not be available.

    Ammo is as important as weapons because w/o ammo weapons become useless.

    An “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”…

    1. @ Steve Cullen.

      Think of it like the Paratrooper during the D-Day/Normandy Invasion. The had to carry enough supplies and ammunition to sustain them in the field, under combat conditions for 3-days. That was more than 250-pounds of additional weight they had to carry with them. And when you consider that the average Paratrooper, only weighted 140 to 150-pounds, your talking 100-pounds less, of a quarter of a ton per person and their 18-Paratrooper’s on each C-47 Dakota/Gooney Bird.

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