By Brian D.
The world we live in today is unstable. We face the possibility of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, viral outbreaks, power outages, water shortages, the list goes on and on. Hurricane Katrina showed proved that the government cannot protect everyone in the aftermath of a large-scale disaster.
This was a wake-up call for many that in order to survive you must take your fate into your own hands. Regardless of personal feelings about what may be coming or ending, it is growing more and more important to maintain a basic level of readiness for whatever may disrupt life and interrupt the ability to acquire a supply of water, food, and shelter.
Whether you are a hard-core, end of the world “prepper” or just take the Boy Scout motto seriously, there is no shortage of good information on prepping for disaster.
If you plan to “bug out” or “bug in” or just learn what items are best to carry every day, you can find numerous resources and opinions on what gear to buy and what skills are necessary, but one area that often fails to get enough attention in preparedness discussions is preparing and maintaining your vehicle for emergencies.
When disaster strikes, whatever the disaster may be, you might be lucky enough to already be in your safe zone, your “bug-in” site. But what if you’re not?
What if you’re caught out and need to get home? Many people focus on what makes up a good EDC or a bug out bag, but your vehicle is capable of handling so much more!
By all means, maintain a solid bug out bag and keep your EDC updated so you have the best tools for whatever you encounter every day, but take a good look at the vehicle that may be your best hope of getting where you need to be to survive.
Some of what is suggested here may be redundant with what you already have in your bag or on your person, but redundancy is a good thing in a survival situation. You can recreate most of what you’d normally have in a bug out bag or a “get home bag” in your vehicle.
Every vehicle should have some basic safety/maintenance items on board.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Spare Tire/lug wrench/bottle jack
- Can of Fix-a-Flat
- Tire pressure gauge
- Jumper cables
- Flashlight w/ extra batteries
Now we take this list a step further and add items that will aid in various situations. For example, inclement/winter weather, treating an injury, or just stuck for an extended period of time. A few basic items can increase survivability and comfort in most situations.
Here are some suggested items to store in your vehicle:
- First Aid kit
- Length of paracord/rope
- Hat (ball cap and wool watch cap/beanie)
- Glow sticks
- Duct tape
- Cell phone charger
- Hand warmers
- Ice scraper
- Gloves (winter, work &surgical)
- Leatherman type multi-tool
- Bottled water
- Lighter/fire starter
- Granola bars/snacks
- MRE/dehydrated meals
- Blanket/Mylar emergency blankets
- Rain poncho
- Heavy duty trash bags
- Hand sanitizer
- Fishing rod & small fishing kit
- Firearm and ammo
- Extra jacket
- Daypack/small backpack
- Maps of the area
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather some basics to work from. You will want to tailor your list not just to your environment/climate, but to any specific needs you may have. Most of these items you probably already have laying around in duplicate or can pick up fairly cheap.
Several of these items are seasonal in their usefulness and can be rotated in/out according to the weather, but it’s easier to keep them all in the vehicle so you don’t forget to add them back as needed. A few of these items are worth paying a bit more attention to.
I won’t go into great detail on many of these because there are plenty of reviews and resources out there already. Instead, I’ll touch briefly on items worth a little more thought than just something to toss into your glove box.
Your first aid kit should be stocked according to your level of first aid training and knowledge. For example, don’t invest in a field surgery kit if you have no idea how to perform any of the functions the kit was designed for. Rather stick to what you know how to use.
You can start with a store-bought first aid kit, but you’re likely to end up with tons of band-aids and little of the other items you may need. Stock useful items like ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea meds, allergy meds, anti-bacterial ointment, and cold/flu meds.
Be sure to have a selection of band-aids, gauze, tape, with scissors and tweezers. Add a small mirror and a magnifying glass for those hard to get splinters. The magnifying glass can even double as an emergency fire starter. Some instant cold paks are a good idea, as well as Quick Clot for larger wounds.
Include a snake bite kit as well. Sawyer makes a good venom extractor kit for around $15. Obviously, it’s always a good idea to expand your knowledge, so sign up for a first responder class or a rescue first aid class with your local Red Cross and add items to your kit accordingly.
When it comes to firearms obviously you’re going to spend some cash and quality items will set you back some, but this is not the kind of thing you can afford to have fail if you really need it, so select carefully. This weapon should be in addition to your normal conceal carry weapon, so you aren’t as limited by size.
This is totally a personal choice and you can find endless discussions and arguments over what’s the best weapon to have in any given situation. The important thing is to choose a weapon you are familiar with, practice with, and can rely on. Of course, when it comes to carrying any weapon, be sure to check your state’s laws and act accordingly.
In addition to the basics, some other items worth investing in are a portable jump starter and a portable air compressor. You can buy units that have both in one, like the Stanley J5C09 that is a best seller on Amazon. It has 500 Amp/1000 Peak Amp capability, a 120 psi compressor, and the ability to charge USB devices.
The unit is heavy, weighing in at around 18 pounds, but should be enough to jump-start even a V8.
Another good option is the Clore Automotive Jump-N-Carry JNC660, also an Amazon bestseller. This unit is a professional grade jump starter and while missing the bells and whistles of the Stanley model, it boasts 1700 peak amps. It also weighs in around 18 pounds.
This is a no-frills model, but might be your best bet if you’re in an area with long-term freezing temps that typically wreak havoc on vehicle batteries. Both of these items come in between $80 and $130. You can find a cheaper, lower amp model but if you have anything bigger than a 4 cylinder in warm weather, you may find that your unit doesn’t have enough “umph” to get you started.
As for emergency tire inflators, there are several good ones on the market. Stick with something in the mid-priced range, somewhere between $40 and $60. Viair, Kensun, and Q Industries are some names to look for. Just be aware that much like the jump starters, you often get what you pay for.
If you have a big truck with big tires, you may not get much use out of a bargain mini compressor other than pumping up pool toys for the kids.
Now we’ve talked about the items to have in your vehicle, what about maintaining the vehicle itself? After all, the real goal of the vehicle is to get from point A to point B in as efficient a manner as possible. If the vehicle won’t go, it’s just an expensive shelter.
You know to get an oil change when the little sticker from the lube place says so, or the “Maintenance Required” light comes on. You replace tires when someone points out the steel showing, but beyond that put little thought into vehicle maintenance until something goes wrong. This could prove deadly in a survival situation.
You may not be a mechanic and may know little about the magic happening under the hood that makes your cargo, but here are a few tips for keeping the vehicle on the road and available for use during an emergency.
At least once a month take the time to do a detailed inspection. Start out by just cleaning up. Get rid of the fast food wrappers, old drink cups, and bits of paper. Go through your console and toss out anything you don’t need and reorganize the things you use the most frequently so they’re closer to hand.
In the warmer months items like ice scrapers, wool hats, hand warmers, etc., could be placed in a bag in the trunk and vice versa when the weather gets cold. Rotate your unused snacks, MRE’s, and bottled water for fresher items. Check to be sure you have copies of your current insurance card and vehicle registration.
Check your license plate to be sure it hasn’t expired. These aren’t survival items, but a couple of minutes could save you a traffic stop.
Now check the head, tail, break, and reverse lights. Check the turn signals. Take a look at your tires and use a tire gauge to check air pressure. Air pressure can vary with the temperature, so even if you don’t have a leak you could be a little low.
Remember that you can find the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure in your owner’s manual or on the tire placard on the vehicle door’s edge. Check the tread wear of your tires. A good way to test this is with a penny.
Insert the penny into your tread with Lincoln’s head facing you and upside down. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head then you are below the recommended tread depth and should prepare to replace the tire as soon as possible.
Look under your car where you normally park. Are there any signs of leaked fluid? Pop the hood. Check your oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and antifreeze with the vehicle off and on a flat surface. Look over your hoses and belts for any thin places, bulges, or other signs of wear that may need to be addressed.
If you’re unsure how to do this, take a few minutes to read through your owner’s manual, check out some YouTube videos, or maybe look into a basic auto repair class at your local community college. You’ll never regret having those basic skills.
If you have your car maintained periodically at a lube place or dealership, odds are they will check these items and more, but verify that with your particular servicer and don’t count on a periodic oil change service as your only problem detection.
Check things out with your own eyes. In addition, be aware of changes in the way your vehicle handles. Listen for different sounds. For example, squealing when you stop is a good indicator that it’s time for new brake pads.
If you aren’t a mechanic yourself, find someone you trust to handle any repairs and remember that typically the earlier you discover and address a problem, the easier (and cheaper) it may be to repair.
Your vehicle may be your lifeline in an emergency situation. Whether it gets you out of town when the world falls apart, or just gets you home from work, you never know what you might encounter along the way.
It pays to be confident in your ability to safely get to your destination, wherever that may be, so prep your vehicle just like you would your other gear and multiply your odds of survival!