Survival Items to Put In Your Nightstand

When the time comes to tuck tail and turn in for the night, most of us instinctively understand that we, as humans, are more vulnerable. Beyond the veil of sleep, our senses are eliminated or greatly reduced.

Since time began, predators have roamed the dark, seeking sustenance when the prey is ripe for the taking. In response, to better face an unexpected threat in the wee hours, most make it a point to set a few tools handily by the bedside; weapons, light, a phone.

This is smart, but fewer will anticipate other crises that may rouse us from a sound sleep demanding instant action.

The master bedroom is the default and natural “safe room” in the home for most, owing to the fact that we will be either defending or striking out from that room when responding to a late night noise or emergency.

It makes sense to pre-position certain items for easy reach and employment as soon as we shake the sleep from our eyes, and do so in a consistent way so that we can rehearse to improve our chances during a live event.

This does not mean you’ll be fortifying your bedroom with barricades and gun racks, or sleeping in armor with night-vision goggles on, so don’t worry about your spouse throwing a penalty flag on your designs.

In this article I’ll break down a few scenarios you have probably planned for and a few you may not have, and offer my recommendations for each.

Witching Hour Worries

A few things to consider when anticipating your response to any late-night emergency, whether or not you were asleep: as night drags on and closes in on 2:00AM your body and mind will likely be at their most sluggish. You can thank your circadian rhythm for that.

Your circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s internal timer, and is the reason you feel alert and peppy at certain times, and crave a nap or sleep at others.

We won’t go into a big dissertation on your circadian cycles as it is not entirely germane to this article except to say that you should pay attention to it: bad guys like to strike when the light is low and people are sleeping.

Everyone is a little different, and night owls do exist, but you can count on being more alert in the light of midday and starting to feel drowsy in the dark of night.

If it is late night/early morning and you are roused from sleep or very sleep deprived, you will most likely experience varying degrees of cloudy thinking and mild disorientation until you shake out the cobwebs. This is of concern if you need to make a good decision and act quickly.

It is for this reason that you should place any tools, bags, phones and weapons the same way every time you turn in for the night. Routine and rehearsal are powerful allies in planning a quick, smooth response to a stimulus, and that certainly includes responding to an emergency in the middle of the night. Consistency is key.

Another factor you may consider is what attire you sleep in. Easy killer, I won’t rib you about your footies or Avengers PJ’s (not too bad, anyway. OK, pretty badly), but I will recommend that whatever you sleep in have a couple of pockets. That’s all.

You only have the two hands, and trying at the minimum to manage a phone and flashlight while opening doors or anything else is asking for fiddly fingers and fumbling.

Now imagine the same scenario with a gun, light and phone. Being able to pocket a phone or light easily to free up a hand is a perk. Trying to don clothing in response to a home invader is a bad play.

Storage of Weapons in the Bedroom

I am addressing this now because the topic is of considerable concern to parents or anyone with visitors, and is a major factor in the physical disposition of any weapons you’ll keep at the ready, especially guns in the family home.

I have been asked repeatedly over the years what the best way is to store a handgun in the bedroom at the ready within a household with small children.

The default answer here is to acclimatize and train your children to the presence of the gun in order to neutralize their instinct to explore and interact with the new and especially the forbidden.

Of course, some young children are just not ready for such teachings, and sadly some older children cannot be trusted, and some parents simply do not want anything less than positive control of the gun. It is up to the parents to assess their children’s aptitude against their needs and act accordingly.

In those cases where a quick-access pistol safe is viable, they are often a great choice. Assuming a quality unit is purchased, and the design of the keypad or opening system lends itself to simple, fast access of the safe’s contents (in the context of the 3AM wakeup call, don’t forget) this is an affordable and easy to install option.

It has the added bonus of being able to safely house the pistol during the day if desired. This is however a storage option that must be practiced with until entry of the code is second nature to ensure immediate access in time of need. Do not forget that keys and combinations can be compromised, and protect them accordingly.

Long guns are a little harder to store in a quick-access mode, as most large safes will be stashed in the closet or in another room entirely, and if one is unwilling or unable to leave the long gun stashed on a shelf or somewhere in the room you will have to be committed to housing it in the safe during the day and retrieving it in preparation for bedtime at night.

This is completely viable of course; one must simply not give in to laziness or complacency.

My preferred solution, and one that is mildly controversial, is to simply lock the bedroom door when the parents retire at night.

This ensures the gun will be ready for immediate, glitch-free access if needed, and that no child may scoot into the parents’ bedroom with silent, catlike tread to discover a handgun sitting on the nightstand.

At any rate, locking the bedroom door will not preclude a parent from either hearing the cries of a small child or other things happening in the house, in most cases. If the child should ever wake in the night and need mom or dad, they can simply knock on the bedroom door.

The Basics

Most who need them will not need to be told, but if you require prescription eyeglasses or contacts, keep them by the bed. The same goes for any vital medication needed for sustaining a condition or disease, especially a medicine that is designed to combat a possible life-threatening condition with the heart, or similar.

Anything for treatment asthma or other breathing problems must likewise be kept close at hand. If you have a family member that suffers from any condition, remember that you are their first responder. Keep their medicines in a drawer in the bedroom (if appropriate for storing them) so that you can assist them without delay in the event that they have a late night incident.

Home Invasion

The archetypal threat most folks are preparing for when we stash things near our bed. The bare minimum items you want to have placed close to your bed are your phone on its charger, a good handheld flashlight and a weapon of some kind, preferably a gun, though a baseball bat or other club is a perennial favorite, as are knives or other bladed implements for those living in a non gun-permissive environment.

If awakened in response to a possible threat, both the light and the weapon will be crucial for positive identification and reduction of a threat, the light also being valuable during mundane power outages or other happenings in hours of low light.

Give careful thought to your choice of firearm, if using one: long guns require the use of two hands for best effectiveness, and if you will be leaving your bedroom in response to a possible intruder with the intent of retrieving children and withdrawing back to the bedroom a handgun may be a better option to ensure you can run the gun effectively with only one hand.

Likewise the length of a club or bladed weapon should not make for difficult use in the tight confines of a hallway. Anything that must be swung in a large arc for best effectiveness should be considered with caution.

Your phone should be available and powered in order to call any needed emergency services, relatives, neighbors or whoever as required. A cell phone is obviously mobile, able to go where you do, but also invulnerable to having your home’s phone lines cut by crafty intruders.

It is far from failure proof, but generally more reliable than landlines in the emergencies we’re preparing for. If you live with a spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, they may be staying behind in the bedroom using your phone or theirs to start calling who needs to be called.

However you decide to arrange these items on the top of the nightstand, next to the bed, in a drawer or a dresser across the room, make sure they are placed the same way every time, so that you can access them even in darkness without fumbling.


According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2016 there were approximately 352,000 house fires in the U.S., resulting in over 2,700 civilian deaths. Fires are common, and small mishaps can turn into towering pyres in very short order.

Face it, homes and the things in them are very flammable, and if you want to stand any chance of limiting damage, perhaps saving your home and your family’s lives, you need to have a fire extinguisher.

A fire extinguisher may spell the difference in being able to take a safe route out of your home, reach a trapped family member or prevent the lion’s share of damage until firefighter arrive.

Your extinguisher should feature good capacity, and should be ABC rated: A fire extinguisher’s advertised weight is the weight of the chemicals inside it.

The metal canister adds several pounds. The letters designate what kind of fires it is rated to extinguish- ‘A’ for trash, wood and paper, ‘B’ for liquids and grease, and ‘C’ for electrical fires, because the chemicals are non-conductive. So an ABC rated extinguisher is good for nearly any kind of residential fire.

Be sure to get a bigger one, not one of the little wimpy cans you use to douse your charcoal grill when it flares up. Don’t, though, get one that is so massive you or your significant other cannot handle it during a fire. And yes, it should be in the bedroom.

Don’t get too bent out of shape, your bedside isn’t going to look like a Prepper Superstore; you can stash the extinguisher in the closet or even under the bed if you prefer, considering it does not need to be secured like a gun or other weapon accessing it quickly is more easily accomplished.

Learn how to use and maintain your fire extinguisher properly. Most models have a safety ring to prevent accidental discharge and a trigger-type handle. Pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, press the trigger and sweep back and forth until it is out.

Keep an eye on your pressure gauges throughout the year, and if they fall below the indicated acceptable levels have your unit serviced at an appropriate vendor. If you ever deploy your extinguisher, even for just a little fire, have it professionally serviced and recharged.

Another consideration for fire preparedness is having a stash of your most important documents and small valuables ready to roll in a small bag or satchel.

Think cash, jewelry, paper copies or files on a flash drive of deeds, birth certificates, titles, diplomas, degrees, ID’s, passports and the like. In the event that the house is a total loss This will keep you from making an emotional decision to attempt to retrieve anything while inside the home, or going back in after making it out.

If you already have a BOB packed, consider keeping it, yep, stashed just inside the room or easily accessible in the closet with your additional “burn bag” right beside.

You may even decide, if the items are small and light enough, to keep them in your BOB as a matter of course. This will be highly situation dependent as some may not want to expose cash or items of great worth to everyday carry wear and tear, risk of theft, destruction etc.

Ultimately, the single best way to ensure you and yours survive a fire is by having a solid escape plan and rehearsal of that plan.

Fire escape exercises must be conducted with the entire family at once, and incorporate primary, secondary and tertiary routes of escape from the home, along with a pre-arranged meeting spot a safe distance away. This plan should be drilled until it is second nature.

Imminent Natural or Man-Made Disaster

Another thing to consider is the real possibility that some emergencies will mandate vacating the area as quickly as possible or taking shelter.

This could take the form of a gas-leak, approaching wildfire, tornado, major mob, pestilence or rising flood waters. When the balloon goes up, having the most crucial items you need close at hand will save time, not to mention stress.

If you have 10 minutes, just 10 minutes, to grab what you need and climb in the car having your pack (with all that entails), clothes, important docs, weapons and more right there ready to strap on, toss in your vehicle or take down to your basement or other shelter means you will have your sustainment items and personal papers with you in the event that you don’t get to come back or your home is destroyed.

If you are able to stay post-disaster, you will have secured items that may prove critical in the recovery and cleanup phase, or at least can furnish some comfort for you and yours until such time as you can evacuate or find better lodgings.

It is true that you should never waste time with things when people’s lives hang in the balance, but with even a few minutes’ notice anyone who is prepared, organized and staged for a hasty evac or shelter in place will benefit from taking their survival and sustainment items with them.

The List

If you just skimmed the article, or want a handy checklist, here are the items you might consider staging on your nightstand, near your bed, or in your bedroom.

  • Glasses/contacts, if needed
  • Medicine, if needed for condition
  • Phone, and charger
  • Flashlight
  • Weapon
    • Firearm
    • Club
    • Knife or other blade
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • “Burn Bag”, small, for evacuation of vital documents and valuables from fire
  • BOB, packed, may incorporate burn bag above.

You may not want or need to emplace every item on this list depending on your living arrangements and family situation.

Let’s Do This

Not all startling midnight emergencies will require the use of force. Some require you to save your house from fire. Many will require you to evacuate your home, town or even your region.

A smart individual will have the most critical items for dealing with each staged close at hand in their bedroom to minimize time wasted moving to equip needed tools, or possibly having to give ground or expose themselves to a dangerous intruder. When your feet touch the floor at 3:00AM, make sure the things you need now are within arm’s reach.

Do you keep your most needed items in your bedroom or stashed elsewhere in the house? Have you made plans for dealing with various threats and emergencies that may arise in the night? Let us know what steps you are taking in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “Survival Items to Put In Your Nightstand”

  1. Illini Warrior

    Missing from that list of bedside emergency items is quiky clothing – especially shoes – not talking about being ready for a winter march – and probably the only time I recommend velcro for clothing … foot protection/traction and something more than a BVD fashion show or bare butt ….

  2. Some good ideas in this article. I’m a senior citizen now, and I have learned the value of putting important things in the same place every night. I also put a set of electronic ear muffs in my nightstand drawer.

  3. If you living arrangements have you and your kids on the 2nd floor or higher add a good sturdy window escape ladder. this is very important for smaller kids and make sure they know how to setup and use it. This can be a true life saver in a fire.

    1. Illini Warrior

      some of the modern 2nd story escape ladders are a self contained “box” that is permanently mounted to a window frame – a kid just needs to know to pull the deploy pin and the ladder drops down to ground level ….

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