Vehicle emergency kits are essentials for anyone using a vehicle on a regular basis, and perhaps even more important to those who use them only occasionally. An explanation as to why each of these items makes sense for a vehicle emergency kit is listed with the suggested item below.
- Spare tire and large ratchet/socket/tire iron for changing the tires
This is a fairly normal accoutrement with travelers. It allows you to get yourself out of a basic jam that is a frequent occurrence. If you have the money, opt for a torque wrench or a “heavy bar,” which will give you additional usage outside of changing tires and will give you excellent leverage to remove lug nuts, especially for women and teenagers.
- Tools for tightening bolts etc. in the engine compartment
I use a 330-piece toolset from Sears/Craftsman, which is like a medium-sized suitcase and is hefty. A large set of tools may seem like overkill, but the sockets and wrenches can turn a $400/13-hour trip to the small town mechanic into a $45/1-hour do-it-yourself job for swapping plugs and wires and a rotor. It will also help you to tighten hoses, belts, and bolts when needed. It’s something you will use more often than not if you drive something other than a new model year car.
- 2 heavy wool blankets
It doesn’t matter whether you are in a cold place or a hot one. Wool blankets are warm when even when wet, offer excellent protection from the heat or cold, and can be used to layer under other clothing if you need to leave your car. They are burn resistant in just about every situation other than open flame and molten metal, and they can be cut or altered to suit your needs easily. They offer insulating properties for when you must weather out a storm in your stranded car and allow you to turn the heater on less frequently, avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning and dead batteries/fuel loss. If you have to travel in snow, they can form crude shoes with some paracord and a bit of ingenuity to ensure your best chances of avoiding foot loss. Gloves/mittens, etc. can be made also with a bit of knife work and some basic engineering with a few other items.
- A small first aid kit
It’s a staple, but you don’t need to get too out of hand with the contents. Stay basic and pack according to the most likely occurrences. If you expect to be in 100-degree heat, bring instant ice packs; for severe cold, bring chemical hand warmers; if travelling with kids often, have lots of band aids and anti itch cream; and for hiking a lot, have blister pads. Think about your best usage of first aid gear and include it. You will also want to include ibuprofen, as it can as a pain reliever, anti-swelling agent, and fever reducer: all three of these can come in handy during any kind of emergency. Benadryl fast melt tablets are also a good idea, even if you don’t have any known allergies. Bees can fly into windows, or a child might come in contact with poison ivy.
- A gallon of unopened water (more if you have the space)
Bring the largest amount you can reasonably store and which won’t adversely affect your gas mileage by adding weight. One gallon is a minimum per person.
- Road flare
It seems pretty useless, considering how overpopulated many areas are nowadays, but a road flare might be the only thing that alerts drivers around that blind curve that your car is stalled in the middle of the road or that there is a log in the way.
- Jumper cables
You will use them—probably for someone else’s car (after all, you are the planning type), but sometimes you will need them for yourself.
- Flashlight with extra batteries
Smart phone LED lights are not enough to look into an engine compartment, and certainly not enough to function for illumination in the event of losing your headlights. They won’t alert oncoming drivers to a bad situation, and they can’t offer additional time to prepare when that shadowy figure starts moving towards you. Pack some real power in your light, and check often for functionality. A 5.10 “light for life” is a perfect example: it charges to full in ninety seconds and lasts for ninety minutes on each charge with a DC car charger. Though it is expensive, it is hands-down the most versatile light I have ever used for the price point, and as long as you don’t lose it or loan it out, you will never have to replace it.
- A lighter and 20 tea light candles
Fire. Enough said.
- Duct tape/ranger bands
I have already written an article on the varied uses of duct tape and ranger banks. For on the fly car repairs and emergency usage, these things are virtually indispensible.
- An extra GSM phone with a prepaid SIM card
Two different carriers’ SIM cards are best if you can afford it. Having a second carrier will potentially get you better reception, and the lower frequency bands theoretically give you better hilly/mountainous area coverage anyway. Having two SIM cards from two different carriers perhaps buys you 45 minutes in a major electrical outage, widespread fire, or other major event, as some towers will go out faster than others.
- A large folding knife
Large folding knives are legal in almost all states and can not only provide a handy tool in many situations, but also serve as a good primary defensive weapon if the need arises
- A small synthetic cloth jacket/sweater
Synthetic fibers are generally warmer and drier than natural fibers when wet (wool excluded). While it may not seem important, as you will almost always be dressed for the occasion, a lot of versatility comes from this piece, especially when you might be traveling in areas of high sun exposure, wind, or cold, as it can serve some purpose in all of these areas.
- A pair of rubber boots or waterproof shoes with a high ankle
If you need to go into the snow or cold in general, a vapor barrier liner (meaning the rubber is waterproof and not breathable) will keep you drier (from outside rain, not sweat) and warmer than most things. Most of the reason for this suggestion is that you need to be able to ensure you stay warm, dry, and clean from a comfort perspective, and if conditions turn for the worst, then it will serve an even greater purpose.
- Enough food for two small meals
Think protein bars, beef jerky, tuna pouches, and crackers. Having extra food lets you travel if needed, conserve energy if stranded, and generate more heat, not to mention keeping morale high.
- A magazine
Rolled up, it can function as a crude but effective defensive weapon; unrolled and opened, it can keep you company for a few hours while you wait out a road blockage or await rescuers, etc.; torn apart it can function as an excellent source of “tinder”.
- A compass and map of the region OR a GPS with DC and solar chargers
Everyone should know orienteering at least on a basic level if they plan on being in rural or backcountry areas. Having a way to find civilization after having to abandon a vehicle is important. A GPS is excellent until it runs out of batteries, so carry a charger, preferably solar if you can afford it. (Remember that car batteries eventually die too if you aren’t careful.)
- A can of sterno or other stable fuel source
Solid-state fuel can cook food, provide much needed warmth (with proper ventilation of course), and help start a larger fire quickly in an extended situation. Use away from a vehicle to avoid ignition of gasoline or other flammables.
- A multi tool or a real set of gas pliers
Pliers are infinitely more useful than just about any other tool when working with complex machines, and being able to help yourself out of a jam is a good card to have in your hand. I use a Leatherman CX, but Gerber and others also make an excellent tool.
- A metal cup or metal water bottle
A metal cup is durable and fireproof. That means you can boil dirty water in it and expect it to take a beating, two important traits when you need to count on something to help you stay alive.
- Pair of gloves
If you can’t feel your hands, it’s not easy to use the incredible dexterity most humans were born with. Do your best to maintain your capabilities, especially those that help you manipulate small objects (i.e. holding a defensive weapon, setting a snare trap while waiting for rescuers, or dialing a phone number when you finally get cellular reception again).
I prefer a wool scarf, but any one will do. It can be used to seal up drafts in a cold car while you wait out a storm, insulate your head while trekking back home, or a whole host of other things.
- 550 Paracord
Get some. No one should need an explanation for this, unless they are new to the game. It does everything, from tying down loads to fashioning a backpack for a journey to catching ocean fish. This stuff is about as versatile as duct tape and a good survival knife.
- $50 cash with $10 in quarters
It’s enough cash to get you out of a temporary bind, and the quarters pay for parking meters when your biggest concern is finding somewhere to park in a hurry. Fifty dollars won’t break the bank, and cash generally works everywhere, especially during a power outage or the first few hours of a major disaster.
©2012 Off the Grid News