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18 Things to Have in Your Purse For Emergencies

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All right, Survival Moms, what one thing do we ladies always have within easy reach?  Our purses, of course. If you’ve never thought of using your purse as your Everyday Carry (EDC) bag, I encourage you to consider just that. Here’s why.

woman outside with large pink handbag slung over shoulder

Why Your Purse Matters in Emergency Situations

Most of us store preparedness items at home, at our BOL (Bug Out Location), and in the car. Yet, the real challenge arises when we find ourselves away from these well-equipped locations

Though important, Get Home Bags and vehicle emergency kits carried in the car or perhaps at our place of work if we commute via mass transit aren’t any help if we’re out and about. And the supplies we’ve stocked at home can’t help us unless we can get home.

Emergencies don’t wait for us to be near our stockpiles; they can happen anywhere. Our purse becomes the frontline resource. If we’re in the mall or at the park when an emergency situation occurs, our purses should contain the resources to help us handle the current event and enable us to reach our next level of preparedness. That might be returning to our vehicle or work, or it might be another place altogether.

Emergencies don’t wait for us to be near our stockpiles; they can happen anywhere.

What to Consider When Choosing Purse Contents

It’s important to remember that the contents of your purse are unique to you and your circumstances, as illustrated in this article about everyday carry contents. However, generally speaking, there are three questions to ask when deciding what to carry in your purse. Ask yourself:

  1. Is it essential?
  2. Is it compact?
  3. Does it have multiple uses?

If you’ve never thought of things to always have in your purse, here’s my list to get you started:

What stuff should I put in my purse?

In addition to those things most of us carry all the time, such as wallet with ID, credit cards, cell phone, etc., and based on the above questions, I chose to carry these necessities in my purse:

Signaling/light devices

  1. Emergency whistle (with a compass)
  2. A mirror
  3. LED flashlight with strobe feature
  4. BIC lighter

Medical supplies

  1. Pill box containing 2 of each:  Tylenol, Advil, Tums, Benadryl
  2. A few Bandaids
  3. Two alcohol swabs


  1. Six-function Swiss army knife or multi-tool
  2. Portable phone charger


  1. Always some small bills ($1, $5), and quarters for machines and Aldi!

Comfort/entertainment items

  1. Tic Tacs
  2. Gum
  3. Two moist wipes
  4. Small crossword puzzle book, Sudoku, anything to help you pass the time
  5. Small writing pad
  6. Pen and pencil
  7. Package of Kleenex


  1. Package of 6 Ritz cracker sandwiches or an energy bar
  2. Eight ounces of water

Remember most of us already carry many of the items on the list (mirror, pillbox, Kleenex, writing pad, pen/pencil, cash). I even carried the comfort/entertainment items long before I knew about “prepping.” So, while the list looks like quite a load, it actually takes up minimal space.

Challenges with Food and Water in a Purse

Food and water are the most difficult to accommodate in a purse. Sometimes I might carry a package of Ritz crackers because they’re inexpensive, easily rotated, packaged adequately, and easily shared. Currently, though, my preference is a KIND high-energy bar with nuts.

I’ve carried water in a small plastic bottle, but it sometimes leaked and was awkwardly shaped. My solution? Use an object designed for carrying liquids in tricky places: an ordinary stainless steel flask, available in sizes from 4 oz to 18 oz. It’s easy and inexpensive to refill once a week. Another option is heavy-duty mylar pouches filled with water. They’re a one-time-use item but are small and easy to carry.

How to Organize Your Purse Contents

Organizing the things in your purse depends on a lot of factors, such as:

  • type of of purse you carry
  • purse size
  • how much you want to carry, and so on

This all impact how you choose to organize things.

The items specifically for an emergency in my purse live in a small makeup bag (whistle, flashlight, pillbox, Swiss knife, medical supplies, Bic lighter). You may wish to further separate items, such as medical supplies.

Selecting bags that are different in some way, like color, allows you to reach for the desired bag without delay. You could use containers like:

  • small makeup bags like the one I use
  • Altoid tins
  • zip-up or hard-sided eyeglass cases
  • empty prescription bottles

Look around your house and see what you already have that might work.

It’s funny how having just the right set of small, versatile, and handy supplies and gear can make all the difference in the world when one of those pesky little emergencies happens

What if I don’t like carrying a purse?

Are purses not your thing? No problem! Try backpacks, slings, or crossbody bags. So many styles, from sophisticated to trendy to sporty to casual, are available. There’s something that fulfills both form and function for everyone.

These versions also offer the additional advantage of leaving your hands free. The ability to navigate, communicate, or respond swiftly make hands-free alternatives a practical and strategic choice for those focused on both form and function in their everyday carry solutions.

How do I personalize what I carry in my purse?

My purse survival kit enables me to meet immediate needs if an emergency occurs while I’m away from my car or home. As long as I have my purse, I know I’m prepared not only for big disasters but also for the little bumps of life. Think about what items will allow you to better accomplish this purpose.

Here are some other things that you might consider important enough to carry:

Real Life Scenarios: How I’ve Used My Purse Survival Kit

Over the years I’ve needed most of these items at one time or another: a thunderstorm once knocked out the lights in the theater and I was the only person with a flashlight; new shoes rubbed a blister and I had a Bandaid; a two-hour wait in the doctor’s office was less miserable because I had the crossword puzzle book and the crackers. The Swiss army knife has been the single most useful item I carry. I’ve used it to cut threads, pull out splinters, tighten glasses, and file broken fingernails.

It’s funny how having just the right set of small, versatile, and handy supplies and gear can make all the difference in the world when one of those pesky little emergencies happens. And it only takes a few minutes to equip your own purse so you’ll be ready.

Other Considerations

And while we’re on the subject, do your kids have an EDC? Here’s some info to get you started gathering items for your children. And here is a free printable checklist to make the process even simpler.

Final Thought

Your purse can be more than just a fashion accessory. As you put together your own purse kit, remember that choosing a few important items can really help when unexpected challenges come up. Recognizing the benefit of having important things close by and using hands-free options means you’re better prepared to handle emergencies.

What things do you carry in your purse?

Originally published 10/18/19.

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