Not many people would ever get philosophical about go-kits, but I have. I don't really have a go-kit, so maybe that's why I've taken the time to think about one.
Eventually, I will have one, and I will probably need some time to put it together. As I build the kit, I will follow the philosophy presented here.
But first a word about go-kit lists. Most hams know that ARES has a list. I was an Emergency Management volunteer at one time, and they had a list. I'm sure CERT has a list, SAR has a list, Red Cross has a list, Salvation Army has a list, every group that responds to emergencies and disasters has a list.
If you belong to more that one group, you could drive yourself crazy and broke trying to put together a go-kit for every group. Crazy is bad enough, but crazy and broke is worse!
What to do, what to do???
Well, how about one kit? You will probably notice that most lists are similar, with many common items. And the lists are mostly suggestions anyway, with only a few items required by the group that issued the list.
Create your own list, one customized to your own needs as well as the needs dictated by the situation and environment you will be operating in.
As you draw up this list, classify everything by 3 categories: radio needs, operator needs, and human needs.
Radio needs are, of course, what you need to make the radio work, The radio and mode you plan on using will determine those needs.
For a handheld, your needs should be simple: aftermarket antenna, speaker mic or headset, extended battery pack, with backups for the antenna and battery.
For a mobile or base used as a portable station, the needs will be more complex. Think of these needs as systems: power system, antenna system, operating accessories.
The power system is the power source (battery, generator, solar panel, etc.), and the cords and connectors needed to get the power from the source into the radio.
The antenna system is the antenna, antenna support, and feedline.
Operating accessories are things that attach to the radio to make it work in the chosen mode: mic or headset for voice mode; code key, paddles, or bug for CW; computer, TNC, patch cords, and possibly adapters for data modes not using a sound card modem or SDR.
Now, don't confuse operating accessories with operator needs. Operator needs are things you need to function as an operator; notepad, writing instruments, ICS forms, flashlight, ARES vest and badge, etc.
Human needs are things you need as a HUMAN: food, water, prescription and over-the-counter meds, spare eyeglasses, hearing aids, change of clothes, toiletries, grooming aids, etc.
One important factor I haven't mentioned yet is time, that is, the duration of the event, or the length of one shift for longer activations. The longer the event, the more consumable items you will need – food, water, medicines, batteries, etc. You might also need to add items that could need replacement without being consumed, such as clothing. At the very least, I recommend at least one change of underwear and socks for every day beyond a one-day event..
Also, for longer activations, you might consider adding items for give-aways. The bigger the event, the more likely that someone will show up without a flashlight, or they find that theirs is broken. If you stock your kit with a few extra flashlights, even cheap ones like the ones you can find two on a card for a couple of dollars, then you could give them one. It might not last too long, but it means they can spend their time helping, instead of looking for a working flashlight, or leaving. It also means that you don't have to lend them your good flashlight, that you might not get back, or you wind up doing the work they couldn't do because they didn't have a flashlight.
The usual recommendation is to have a one-day bag, and a three-day bag.
I've also thought of a “ready kit.” It would be enough to get you through an eight to twelve hour shift, in case of immediate activation at a moment's notice. You would keep it in your car at all times, so that you can respond immediately if you receive an activation call while out driving to work, to school, to church, to the store, or home, and you don't have time to go home to get your full kit. You should be able to stay on the job until relieved.
Now, I'll mention an item you should have in your kit, but you won't find it on any of the other lists: a copy of the list. Why include a copy of the list in your kit? Because, during a long activation you will probably remove items from your kit as you use them, and have to put them back. The longer the activation, the items you are likely to remove and use. The more items you remove, the more likely you are to forget something. If you wait until you get home to check your kit and you find you forgot to pack something, you will probably have to buy a replacement.
One final word about consumables: keep them fresh. Use them up and replace them on a regular basis. You should check your kit anyway once a month or so, and that would be a good time to use and refresh consumable items.
Happy go-kit building!