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- Although ready-made emergency preparedness kits aren't a one-stop solution, they're a good place to start.
- Judy offers three different emergency kits along with other disaster preparedness resources.
- I tested the brand's Mover Max, a kit that has supplies for four people for up to 72 hours.
No matter where you live, disasters can strike suddenly. The last thing you want is to be caught unprepared, whether they involve physical safety, access to food and water, or communication.
Disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic or major seasonal storms remind us that creating an emergency plan for you and your family is essential. And one step you should take to put that plan together is to make an emergency kit.
Jeff Schlegelmilch, the deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Earth Institute, said, "The idea of having emergency kits is to help save time and to ensure you have what you would need in a scenario where you have to go quickly or stay put for a while."
Should you buy a ready-made kit or make your own?
According to Ready.gov, the disaster preparedness public service campaign created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2003, there are 15 basic items you should stash in your emergency kit, including local maps, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a first aid kit.
Many ready-made emergency bundles available at Amazon, Costco, and outdoor retailers contain the essentials on Ready.gov's list. However, experts say that you shouldn't rely entirely on those 15 staples; disaster preparedness is not a one-and-done deal.
"Generally these can be a good starter kit for getting your emergency supplies together," Schlegelmilch told Insider. "But consumers still have a responsibility to make it their own and to fill in the things that are not contained in the kit. This is especially true for people with medical conditions, dietary restrictions, etc."
Some personal items that shouldn't be overlooked are prescription medications, glasses and contact lens solutions, and pet supplies.
Thomas Coyne, a former Helitack firefighter and the founder of Coyne Survival Schools, added that "getting a starter kit is better than nothing, but I still recommend building your own." It's worth mentioning that he suggested having at least 30 days' worth of supplies.
Coyne also said to prepare three different types of emergency kits: A "get home bag" for your vehicle, a disaster kit for your home, and a bugout bag (one per person) for emergency evacuation. Outdoor backpacks, which are lightweight and compact yet rugged, make the best bugout bags. You'll want to prepare supplies like micro-stoves and compressible folding sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and water bottles.
Which often-overlooked emergency supplies you should consider?
When I gave Coyne a few different popular ready-made emergency kits to evaluate, he noted that they all include flashlights but headlamps are ultimately superior.
"It's far easier to work with a headlamp, which is why everyone from hikers to soldiers to first responders uses them for working at night," he said. "It's hands-free, and wherever you look is illuminated."
He advised that you should also have some method of purifying water and make sure to invest in a high-quality multi-tool. And if that multi-tool is the only tool you have, make sure it's made from durable, quality materials.
Schlegelmilch highlighted something you may not have thought about, too: "Comfort items, especially for kids, are really important."
"In any disaster event, you need to start with what is immediately important for life safety, of course. But after the disaster sets in, you have people of all ages in a state of uncertainty and period of waiting. Having games, toys, books, or even a deck of cards to help pass the time and create some semblance of normalcy can be really important."
What about this new direct-to-consumer kit, Judy? How does it compare to other ready-made kits?
Judy has been called the "Kardashian-approved survival kit for the anti-prepper" — its Kardashian-adjacent CEO Simon Huck is the owner of Command Entertainment Group — and the company offers different types of emergency kits, in addition to disaster preparedness resources.
If Judy looks familiar, it's probably because you've seen one of their ubiquitous Instagram ads. The buzzy brand's online-first approach certainly stands out in the disaster preparedness space, and the bags' streamlined designs also set Judy apart from its competitors.
Like we've said, no ready-made kit is perfect, but as our experts above have emphasized, buying a bundle of supplies is a great place to start. We reviewed Judy to determine whether its kits are worth purchasing, or if you're better off making your own.
Here's what to expect when you go on Judy's website and order its emergency kits.
Judy currently offers 3 different kits.
They differ in size, the number and types of tools inside, and the number of people they serve.
Judy kits range from The Mover Max ($195), which is appropriate for a family of four with basics like water, food, a first-aid kit, and four emergency blankets, to The Protector ($395), which is a large box with enough supplies to last a family of six 72 hours.
On the site, you can directly compare the contents of all four kits to see which one best fits you and your family's needs. You can also take an online quiz, which asks you about your living situation and needs, then recommends the most suitable kit option.
Judy also offers downloadable disaster plans and text alerts.
You can enter your zip code on Judy's site to get customized preparedness plans based on the most common types of disasters in your area. There's also a Judy hotline of sorts, where customers can pose questions to survival experts and receive reminders or tips related to emergency prep.
I grew up in southern California, where I'm familiar with earthquake and fire safety, but in New York City, where I now live, snow and hurricanes are the norm. Judy understands that different regions face unique challenges, so it provides these free resources to arm you with some knowledge. They're not particularly in-depth, but they're a good prompt to start your own research.
Judy sent me The Mover Max ($195) so I could take a closer look at its contents.
The Mover Max is designed for four people, measures 18-by-17-by-8 inches, and weighs 15 pounds. All the supplies are placed in boxes inside a large, bright orange backpack that's made from phthalate-free TPE fabric.
The supplies are organized into three boxes based on their function.
Since they're split up by function, it's a little easier to find exactly what you need when you're under stress or pressure.
Here's a closer look at the tools and supplies.
Judy told Insider Reviews that it works with multiple manufacturers, but would not disclose specific names at this time. To determine which items to include, the company partnered with certified emergency preparedness specialists who have experience working alongside organizations like the Red Cross and FEMA.
I cross-referenced all the items in The Mover Max against the list of supplies recommended by Ready.gov. The bag had everything except matches (which are present in The Safe kit), and some kind of method of disinfecting or purifying water. The water and food inside will only last each person one full day, so you would need to purchase more canned food, dried food, and water.
If you buy this kit, other supplies you should consider adding are prescription medicine, non-prescription medicine like pain relievers and anti-diarrhea medication, glasses and contact solution, baby formula and diapers, pet food and extra water, cash, important family documents, feminine hygiene products, and a pencil and paper.
Judy also includes sticker labels and an emergency contact sheet in the kit.
The neat and organized system is good to go through and fill out with your family when you first receive your kit. It gives you an opportunity to have a formal conversation about disaster preparedness if you've never had one before.
In case of a real emergency, your kit should be easy to grab and go.
The Mover Max wasn't too heavy and it was easy to carry on my back. It had plenty of adjustable features to make it more comfortable. The backpack design also frees up your hands so you can hold other things.
The material is waterproof and seemed durable — I threw the backpack on the ground and tried to tear it with my hands, to test it out. The bright orange color is distinctive, letting you spot the bag instantly in your home or in a crowd.
The bottom line
Judy, along with other ready-made emergency kits on the market, caters to people who may not want to invest the time and energy to create their own from scratch, but still need a reliable solution.
That being said, you should still do your due diligence in making sure to supplement any kit with additional personalized supplies.
Overall, I found Judy to be a solid starter kit, plus it provides additional resources to help you create a comprehensive emergency plan. Perhaps its greatest strength is making disaster preparedness approachable, organized, and easy to understand.
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