- A sanitation kit is a collection of supplies meant to keep one clean, sanitized, and free from different infections.
- History has shown that in times of disaster there is a much higher risk of contracting communicable diseases.
When people think of prepping, building a sanitation kit is probably one of the last things that comes to mind. The fun part of prepping is guns, ammo, and gear – am I right?
While that may be the case, and it’s often where most preppers get started, there are other aspects of prepping that should not be ignored as well. We’ve covered building a bug out USB as one example, but probably more important would be a proper sanitation kit. Disaster environments are inherently dirty, and if you’re preparing your family for a disaster to begin with, why not do something to protect your family from post-disaster illness as well? It only makes sense!
So if this is something you’d like to invest in more, read on. It’s here we’ll show you why you need to build a sanitation kit and how to do just that.
Why a Sanitation Kit?
History has shown us that post-disaster, displaced persons are at an increased risk of contracting communicable diseases. And not just you’re standard seasonal cold either. We’re talking about the nasty stuff. The stuff that can easily mean the difference between life and death, particularly when access to modern medical help is also challenge.
Post-disaster is the absolute last time when you want to be trying to assemble a sanitation kit, because that’s when everyone will be rushing to do the same thing. If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic taught us it’s that toilet paper can suddenly be hard to find. The same product shortage happened in Maine with the widespread browntail moth rash problem.
Diarrheal diseases are perhaps the most common cause of infectious disease death post-disaster. Within refugee camp settings, more than 40% of deaths in the acute phase of an emergency have been associated with such, and over 80% of these deaths occurred in children under the age of two.1
After the 800,000 Rwandan refugees entered the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1994, 50,000 people died in the first month. 85% of these were due to diarrheal diseases, with cholera and shigellosis being the primary culprits.
Hurricane Allison in 1995 saw an outbreak of diarrheal diseases amongst Americans, as did Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The greater majority of these outbreaks are caused by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. And when I say ‘contaminated’ what you should read is “poop covered.” Make sure you know how to prevent this.
Aside from just the fecal-oral route, there are disease risks that come from post-disaster overcrowding as well. Easter Sudan and Somalia in 1995 saw measles – a disease associated with overcrowding – account for 53% and 42% of deaths, respectively.1
The point is that post-disaster environments are both dangerous and prime environments for disease.
Thankfully, you’re not left completely helpless. There are a number of things that you can do to diminish the risk of catching something particularly nasty post-disaster, and one of those things is to have a properly stocked sanitation kit beforehand.
What Does a Sanitation Kit Include?
Alright, so we understand the importance for maintaining adequate levels of hygiene post-disaster. Now what do we do to better ensure that we have what we need to do so? If you’re looking at boosting your preps within this arena, here is what I recommend:
- Bleach – Any serious prepper knows the value of bleach in one’s preps. This underrated prep can be used widely in cleaning and sanitation after an emergency.
- Toilet Paper – At home, you’re most certainly going to want to keep plenty of this on hand. Nobody likes exiting the bathroom missing a sock. On the road, or on the trail, this gets a bit trickier to work around. That’s not to say it’s impossible – we just have to get creative.
- Travel Tissue Packs – These things rock. I utilize these exclusively on backpacking trips as toilet paper, and they work perfectly for such. I always keep several packs on hand at all times.
- Wet Wipes – Whether you’re cleaning off your baby’s butt, taking a “sponge” bath, or just cleaning off crud that’s gotten onto you, Wet Wipes are a great way to get the job done. They’re heavy, so I don’t keep but one pack in a BOB, but they are easily stored out of sight in a home.
- Lysol – While I have the spray cans underneath my sinks, I virtually always have a teeny travel spray can in my EDC kit as well. If you’re going to be using something you believe is dangerously germy, better safe than sorry with this stuff.
- Purell – Yes, it’s not as good as actually washing your hands, but sometimes you just have to make do. I always have a travel bottle of this in my EDC kit, in my vehicles, and in my BOB as well.
- Soap – I really think bar soap is the way to go here, but there are also advantages to soaps like Dr. Bronner’s. However, bar soap can easily be carried in a bug out bag without having to worry about a veritable goopy mess taking place. It can be used as shampoo and body soap, and if you’re covered in blood from a chicken you just butchered, you can now wash yourself off.
I like the little pump bottles you can find at Walmart for less than a dollar as well. I typically have a little supply of those underneath each bathroom sink.
- Tampons and Pads – For obvious reasons.
- Trash Bags – Trash breeds disease, and it’s important that you keep such as far away from your house as possible. You don’t need to be attracting flies, cockroaches, mice, rats, and other vectors of disease to where you’re living, and prompt trash disposal is a great preventative for such.
The old farmer method is to just burn the trash that you produce, but at the very least, you’re going to need plenty of bags so that you can haul off what you’ve made (or at least conveniently collect the trash you’ve produced for disposal).
- Shovel – As mentioned, poop is one of the primary causes of disease post-disaster. A large part of this comes about by water sources and clothing being contaminated with fecal matter. Think what happens if you unknowingly end up walking through crap and then walking all through the house your toddler lives in? The chances that somebody could get sick are very high. Buying a good tactical shovel will cover all of your survival shovel needs.
A shovel lets you build a latrine, outhouse, or some other form of waste pit where sewage, garbage, and other nasties can be collected for decomposition or disposal. Provided you have a shovel in your garage or shed, you’re covered.
- Toothpaste – A toothache can wreck your world, and post-disaster is no time to be incapable of thought due to the pain you’re in. So pack some toothpaste!
- Toothbrush – What? You think you’re going to brush with a stick? You need these! They’re cheap, so there’s no reason not to have these at hand.
- Floss – I absolutely hate the feeling of having greens stuck in my teeth. Floss is what you need to avoid such and will also help to keep your gums healthy as well.
- Privacy tarp – This may be something to consider if you live in an area where the latrine is going to be readily visible. Otherwise, people are going to end up with stage fright! All jokes aside, there is something to be said for the health consequences of holding using the bathroom for longer than what is “normal”. Lack of privacy could be a large part of why people hold off on using the bathroom till later.
This can easily be avoided with a $10 tarp.
- 5 -gallon bucket toilet – Perchance you’re designing a fallout shelter, or making a bunker from septic tanks, having a 5-gallon bucket toilet is likely to be one of your only ways to collect waste. You’re going to want something carbon-based to sprinkle over the doo-doo as well to keep the smell down.
What About Razors?
I personally wouldn’t worry about razors. Small nicks are more likely to be sources of infection in a dirty post-disaster world, and though it may seem infinitesimal, I don’t think the risk is worth the reward. Men, grow your beard out. Ladies, it’s probably best not to worry about your legs.
Keep in mind, I’m talking about bugging out here. If you’re in your home, you don’t really have as much to worry about. If you’re living out of a tent in the middle of the woods though, that’s a different matter.
What Does a Sanitation Kit Look Like?
I don’t believe that there’s one hard and fast rule for this. If you like organizing all of your gear in separate 5-gallon buckets, go for it. Do what’s best for you. However, let me show you some of the means by which I organize my own sanitation kit.
For starters, I’ll point out that a great many of the items for a sanitation kit are already scattered throughout my house. Stocks of soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, and other items are neatly clustered underneath sinks and in medicine cabinets in my bathrooms. This makes the items convenient to access and lets them stay where they’re most likely going to be needed.
However, I do keep a larger stock of some items than can neatly fit underneath a sink, and for these (and other prepping items) I’m a fan of see-through plastic totes. I can easily fit a small stash of equipment in one of these totes in a very organized fashion, and then fit the whole ensemble underneath a bed until it’s needed. Nobody knows it’s there (except my family, of course), it’s tucked out of the way, and everything is centralized.
I don’t want my house to appear a mess, and this is an easy way for me to help prevent such from taking place.
However, I also keep a separate sanitation kit for BOBs. I’ve got a couple of different versions of these – both commercially purchased and DIY kits – but they all accomplish the same object: keeping up hygiene while out in the woods.
Keep in mind that when you saw the above statistics on displaced persons, that very well applies to those who are bugging out. If you are going to retreat into the wilderness to survive for any amount of time you need to take your personal hygiene seriously. While nobody’s going to be under the illusion that your hygiene is going to be at the same level it would be if you were still living in your house, you do need to do things to take care of yourself out there.
For my bug-out kits, I carry the same gear that I carry while I’m backpacking. It typically is a small Ziploc bag with a small toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, floss, dish-safe soap, travel tissue packs, Purell, and wet wipes. If you’re a woman – or have women in your family – you’re going to want to consider adding tampons and pads as well. Should you have babies, diapers, Desitin, and even more wet wipes are going to have to be added.
Both blood and poop are major transmitters of illness post-disaster, and if you have a young woman bleeding all over herself or a baby that is absolutely covered in poop (we all have those stories), then you’re only going to be playing with fire. In such a situation, it’s only a matter of time. Thus, we have to do what we can to minimize the risk beforehand. An ounce of prevention truly does equal a pound of cure here.
Wrapping It Up
Proper hygiene supplies are absolutely vital for the well-prepared, and there are a number of ways that one can better ensure that you have what you need when you need it. While perhaps not as exciting as some other aspects of prepping, it is one of the most practical, and something that everybody should at least spend some thought on.
And just as with other aspect of prepping, it’s best to have layers of security here. I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret (pun intended). Survivor Jane has an excellent book that will help give you the knowledge necessary to make your own hygiene supplies such as hand sanitizer, soap, toothpaste, and the like, should other options not be available.
- Jane, Survivor (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
If nobody else can get their hands on toothpaste due to shortages but you’re able to make your own out of a few very simple ingredients, you very well may have the means to trade away for other daily necessities. Food for thought.
Also, if you liked the statistics I had earlier on post-disaster disease, I recommend picking up a copy of the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual:
- David L. Heymann (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
I used that book all through grad school, and it’s a fantastic reference for the prepper that is concerned about bioterrorism, pandemic, post-disaster health, and the like.
What are your thoughts on what we have to say above? Are there other items you believe should be added to the list? Let us know in the comments below!
- Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 20th ed. Pages A47-A48.