Welcome to Emergency Essentials!

Catalog Request

How to Build your Own All-in-Four Portable Shelter Kit

UPDATE: You asked, and we listened. The All-in-Four 4-Person Emergency Supply is now available!

A little while ago we learned about the Life Cube—an all-inclusive, inflatable shelter stocked with the necessary food, water, and gear to help a person survive the few days after a natural disaster occurs. The Life Cube, which weighs between 950-1100 lbs., is ideal to be airdropped into areas suffering from catastrophic events. However, although it is a great idea for mass emergencies and agency use, the Life Cube currently costs anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. For many looking to add an all-inclusive, portable shelter to their emergency gear, this may be a little out of their price range.

We were inspired by the Life Cube to create our own all-in-one portable shelter kit. Rather than focusing on agency use, however, our portable shelter kit focuses more on a personal/family level, only weighing about 71 lbs. and costing approximately $762. Here at Emergency Essentials, we have configured a list of items that would work as a basic all-in-one (or in our case, all-in-four) portable shelter. The all-in-four portable shelter consists of four bags with essential supplies divided among them. These items not only give you shelter, food, and water, but other basic supplies to help a family of four survive for three days after an emergency.

DIY All-in-Four Portable Shelter

First things first: Collect your gear. The following list describes what gear is needed to help four people survive for three days in an emergency.

Each pack gives you more than 2,800 cubic inches of space to hold all of your emergency supplies and gear while providing durability and expandable comfort to stick with you on all your travels.

Trail Hiker Backpack for a Portable Shelter

This pack is a great way to include versatility to fit the needs of the owner. Wear the pack on your back, carry it by the handle, or roll it along the ground behind you. This is a great pack for people unable to carry a lot of weight on their back.

Good hygiene will help keep you healthy and safe during an emergency. This kit provides basic bathing, dental, and toilet hygiene needs for a family of four.

Family Sanitation Kit Part of our DIY Portable shelter solution

These simple-to-setup and waterproof tents give you 49-square feet each to spread out and enjoy a good night’s rest.

Just-add-water breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (plus sides and drinks) give you enough food to feed a family of four for 3.5 days.

We typically recommend a two-tier approach for treating your water: have a microfilter and purifier. Adding the Katadyn Hiker Pro and Micropur tablets will help provide you and your family with filtered, purified water while remaining compact and lightweight.

Katadyn Hiker Pro for a  DIY Portable Shelter

Made from Tritan™ plastic, these bottles give you get extra durability in a BPA-free bottle. These are perfect to take on outdoor adventures or to use along with a microfilter in an emergency.

This kit includes 397 pieces of first aid gear to help you survive every scrape, cut, burn, or bruise that you or a family member may get.

These lightweight, pocket-sized sleeping bags unfold to wrap you in a covering that will reflect 80% of your body heat, keeping you warm on cool nights.

Emergency Sleeping Bags for a DIY Portable Shelter

These lightsticks are safe, reliable, and easy to use making them fantastic for families with children. Just bend, snap, and shake for a light source that will last up to 12 hours.

Keeps you up-to-date with communication services, provides 30 minutes of light (with one minute of hand-cranking), and charges your cell phone (including many smart phones).

Lightweight and reusable, an emergency poncho is a must-have to keep you dry from sudden storms.

Easily alert rescuers to your location with an emergency whistle.

This high-quality, BPA-free water container can store 2.5 gallons of water and collapses to easily fit in your pack. It even remains flexible in cold temperatures.

 Reliance Fold N Filter for a DIY Portable Shelter

Use Sierra cups as bowls, plates, drinking cups, or as cooking and warming pans. Their versatility lets you get more done with less stuff to carry in your pack.

BPA-free, washable, heavy-duty plastic spoons can be used for every meal you eat during an emergency.

This kit includes over 172 hours of total warmth. It includes 6 Hand and Body Warmers, 4 Adhesive Body Warmers, and 2 Hand Warmer 2-packs.

This super-compact stove is simple to use, fully flame adjustable, and stores easily. You don’t even need matches to light it. Requires a canister of Iso-Butane/Propane fuel, which can be purchased locally.

Volcano Lite Stove for a DIY Portable Shelter

Stormproof Matches will help you weather any storm. Blow them out, bury them, submerge them in water, do it all over again, and these Stormproof Matches will keep relighting themselves for up to 15 seconds.

How to Build It

Once you’ve gathered all of your supplies, you just need to pack them.

Pack #1: Trail Hiker Backpack

  • 1 Twin Peaks Mountain Trails Tent
  • Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter
  • 4 (6 inch) Green Lightsticks
  • 24 Packets of food from the Gourmet 14 Day Supply
  • 1 Tritan Emergency Essentials Water Bottle
  • 4 Emergency Whistles
  • 397 Piece First Aid Kit

To make your pack more compact, fit the lightsticks into the outside pockets along with the Wavelength Radio Charger Flashlight, the 4 Emergency Whistles, and the water bottle. The other items will fit in the main compartment of the pack.


Pack #2: Trail Hiker Backpack

  • 1 Twin Peaks Mountain Trails Tent
  • 20 Packets of food from the Gourmet 14 Day Supply
  • 4 Emergency Sleeping Bags
  • 2 Tritan Emergency Essentials Water Bottles
  • 4 Emergency Ponchos

Fit the water bottles into the outside pockets. The rest of the materials should fit within the main compartment of the pack.


Pack #3: Olympia 18” Rolling Backpack

  • 4 Packets of food from the Gourmet 14 Day Supply
  • Reliance 2.5 Gallon Collapsible Fold-A-Carrier
  • 3 Sheets (or 30 tablets) of Micropur
  • 1 Tritan Emergency Essentials Water Bottle
  • 2 large Sierra cups
  • 2 small Sierra cups
  • 4 GSI Spoons
  • Warmth Emergency Kit
  • Volcano Lite Stove
  • Stormproof Matches


Pack #4: Family Sanitation Kit

The last “pack” is the Family Sanitation Kit which comes full of sanitation items for you and your family. About 1/3 of the bucket will still be empty for you to add additional or personal items too. The kit includes:

  • 1 – 6-Gallon Bucket
  • 1 – Bar of Soap
  • 1 – Tote-able Toilet Seat and Lid
  • 4 – Toilet Paper Rolls
  • 1 – Box Double Doodie Waste Bags
  • 1 – Epi-Clenz Plus Hand Antiseptic
  • 4 – Fresh & Go Toothbrush
  • 3 – ReadyBath Packets

Each pack is manageable to carry and there’s extra room in most of them for personal items.


Although the basic items will help you survive during an emergency, some people prefer to have items that may make their time in a crisis a little more comfortable. If you’d like to upgrade some of the items in your kit consider adding the following:

  • Headlamps or flashlights instead of the lightsticks.
  • SOL Escape Bivvy in addition to the emergency sleeping bags.
  • One Month Supply of Water in addition to the filter. Instead of just adding a microfilter and purification tablets to your portable kit, try adding a one month supply of water. Water is priceless in an emergency and this item gives a family of four enough stored water to last for a week (drinking 64 ounces a day) in case a water source to filter from is unavailable.

*NOTE: Upgrading items in the kit will change the price and weight of the pack. It also may require you to rearrange and reassemble how the all-in-four portable shelter kit is packed.  You can, of course, change the way items are distributed among the packs for redundancy in case you get separated.

To make carrying your all-in-four kit a bit more comfortable, or to add even more space, replace the Family Sanitation Kit (pack #4) with another Trail Hiker backpack, put the kit items in the pack, and lash the bucket to the outside of the pack using [paracord] or another rope.

Now that you’ve prepped yourself with all the supplies you need to help you and your family survive the days immediately after a disaster, try developing your survival skills with some of our Insight Articles:





14 thoughts on “How to Build your Own All-in-Four Portable Shelter Kit ”

  • Julie

    Why can't we buy one already made> For a widow of 70 plus years, I couldn't built one on my own. For Around $750 I could afford to buy this....and I know the reality of the need. Please supply it for us that aren't able to build this on our own. It would be wonderful if it held enough supplies as noted in your article for five people....then single elderly people like myself would be protected and not have to worry like we do. While organizations are wonderful and provide much needed help, they can't be relied on and under certain circumstances, it might take. more than three days to get to me! Please make this ready made shelter available to us..

    • beprepared

      Thank you for letting us know about your situation. I will pass your idea on to my supervisors about looking into getting the all-in-four shelter as an actual product, that's a great idea. In the mean time, have you checked out our supply of emergency kits? If not, you can find them at this link here http://beprepared.com/essential-gear/emergency-kits-1.html?&sc=BLOG&oc=BP0001B1291. An emergency kit might be better for your individual needs than an all-in-four kit and they are already pre-made. For instance, an all-in-four kit is ideal for a family of four where everyone can carry their own pack of supplies. Whereas an emergency kit like the Readywise one person kit might be better for those living on their own, it would be easier to carry than an all-in-four. We suggest personalizing all of our pre-made kits so that you can have the specific supplies you need to live. For instance, a family with a baby may not need four kits (because the baby can't carry it), but they will need diapers and wipes, etc. In essence, your specific needs determines the supplies in the kit and the ultimate price of it.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the list. I've been prepping for about 24 years now, and I think I have all the bases covered. But I do like your list, and I am passing it on to all my family and friends who do not take preparing for emergencies seriously.
    Thanks again for the list.

    • beprepared

      No problem! Feel free to print as many as you'd like and to hand them out to your loved ones.

  • Big Jer

    I would put a folding entrenching tool in the kit. Especially to trench around the tent. This is for disaster recovery and in my area weather is the disaster.

  • firefly

    Julie - contact your local scout troop and make a request. Most likely they will help you collect what you need, and they might throw in a few lessons on fire starting.

  • Shelia

    Julie, there's a pop up tent on sale for $80. That would probably be the easiest shelter for the elderly or disabled. Getting in and out of it might be difficult, but in a survival situation, it might work. Otherwise, you could buy a large tarp and ropes and could possibly make a shelter.

  • Michael Bilicko
    Michael Bilicko June 13, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    I like your efforts on behalf of all preppers and beginners. I have been prepared for a while now, but new ideas are very much appreciated. I will pass this along to my network.

  • Suz

    The pop tent mentioned by Shelia can also be used on top of a folding cot, making it more suited for those with limited abilities. Cots are bulky, though---consider a lightweight garden wagon or push-cart as the base of an evacuation kit.

  • Hugh

    You should listen to your customer Julie. There's a big market out there for an integrated emergency kit that includes the components you have described in your article above. Make things easier for your potential customers, and you can't go wrong.



    • beprepared

      Thanks for your comment. As of last week, we now sell the All-in-Four Portable Shelter. In fact, Julie's tip, along with the comments from others, inspired this product to come about! Here is a link to the product so you can purchase it http://beprepared.com/all-in-four-4-person-emergency-kit.html?&sc=BLOG&oc=BP0001B1304.

  • Jim

    In an emergency the full use of both hands could be critical for survival. I recommend a pair of sturdy work gloves be added to the list for each person.

    • beprepared

      Excellent suggestion! Work gloves would be important for gathering and carrying wood, dealing with ropes for any significant length of time, gardening, and I'm sure there are many other applications I'm not thinking of off the top of my head.
      Thanks for your suggestion. Anything else you think we missed?

  • Mary

    One thing we would never be without in our emergency kit is a can of bag balm. The cancomes in 2 sizes......a very small green pop top purse size can and a largr 4x4x4 pop top green can.
    This is an amazing product for drawing out infection or even embedded gravel in abrasions. I have used this product even for deep dog bites.
    A boss of mine, 40 years ago, had me use some on a "raspberry" I acquired sliding into home plate. Despite scrubbing my knee area for 20 minutes with a surgical scrub brush with all the appropriate soap, my knee became horribly infected overnight and had a yellow gooey dome on it. He slathered a 4x4 with bag balm, taped it on, and within MINUTES I felt a drawing suction under the bandage. The next morning when I removed the bandage it was covered in gravel.
    Fabulous item......small can goes a long way and just might save your life.

Leave a Reply
Back to Top