We put a lot of thought in our preparations for emergency and disaster. A lot of us keep food on hand, have a flashlight handy, and know where our first aid kit is. Hopefully we feel ready to tackle any problems that life throws at us. Do we have that same feeling in our vehicle when we’re driving around or commuting to work? A basic car kit can go a long way toward gaining that same feeling of security.
I find myself in a position that’s different from what I’m used to. For years I’ve driven a big diesel pickup everywhere I go. If you know anything about diesel pickups, you know they can carry a lot of stuff. When I’m in my truck I feel comfortable to face situations ranging from having to overnight on the side of the road to heading into the woods and starting society over from scratch. You might think I’m joking, but I really do carry a LOT of stuff in my truck. I literally have the equipment and tools to do major motor work, hunt large game, build a log cabin, and communicate with the outside world by a host of different means. I even have solar battery charging capabilities. My truck truly is a rolling bugout location. The only downside… it’s not my daily driver any more. When I took a job 45 miles away, the price of fuel was draining my budget. I opted to buy a little used car that gets excellent mileage. I now spend 10 times less on fuel, but at the cost of that peace of mind I have in my truck. I’ve really started to put a lot of thought into what the perfect car kit for emergencies would be and I’m starting to put this kit together.
One of the most important aspects to consider is what you might need this kit to do and what situations you might face. Some of these will be unique to your circumstances, but some items will be universal to all vehicles. The first, and most likely scenario I prepare for is being stranded. There can be a few reasons why I might get stranded, but the result is the same. I might be there for a while, and want to make the best of the situation.
We know that we have basic needs in any survival situation. I could go as basic as possible and say that the most important is air, but unless you drive your car into a lake, that shouldn’t be a problem. Water, as basic as it sounds, is very important. The old standby advice is one gallon per person per day. Generally, we won’t need to store a lot of water since we aren’t planning on multiple days in the car. One gallon per person should be more than enough. I personally keep a few 20 ounce bottles of water in my little car. Having water in the car saved me from a major inconvenience just recently. I didn’t need the water to survive, but when my car decided to spring a leak in a hose I was able to repair the leak on the side of the road and top the radiator off with some of my storage water.
Another consideration is protection from the elements. It rarely gets really cold here in Texas, but we do see some cold winter weather. Cold isn’t really an issue when we can keep the car running and the heater on full blast, but if we can’t for some reason, that cold can become a serious problem. Every year when we get ice on the roads, there are people that skid off in the ditch and can’t get back on the road. And it seems to happen at night more often that not. Some will probably be waiting hours for help to come get them. In a situation like this, running out of gas can make for a very uncomfortable night. It might even be fatal. A simple solution would be a blanket of some sort. Wool blankets are pretty inexpensive and will help you stay warm in some pretty low temperatures. Emergency blankets work too, but they aren’t very comfortable and you have to cocoon into them for them to work well. If this breakdown is in the Summer here in Texas, there’s not much that can be done. It’s going to be hot. Be glad for that water!
After the initial stress of ending up in this predicament fades, you might start to get a little hungry. Some snack foods might come in handy to make the time go by a little easier. I know I certainly function better when I’m not focusing on an empty stomach. Any non perishable food will work for the vehicle, but you have to apply common sense. What works in the house for food storage might not work well in the vehicle. Temperature is one of the biggest concerns. Where I live and drive the most, temperatures can range from 5 degrees in my vehicle all the way up to close to 200 degrees in the truck or passenger cabin. Freezing or extreme heat can break glass containers, and the heat can certainly turn an aluminum or tin can into a food grenade (ask me how I know!) Plenty of options are available that will handle these temperatures. Cookies and crackers come to mind first. Beef jerky is another. I know these aren’t the healthiest choices, but we’re in a survival situation that hopefully won’t be lasting too long. Besides, you can go weeks without food before you die. These are here as a comfort item more than anything.
Now that we can make sure we aren’t going to be miserable or die from lacking basic needs, we can look at other items. Sanitation needs might want to be covered. If you are stranded on the side of the road away from everything when nature calls, a roll of toilet paper in a ziplock bag is about to become your best friend. Keeping it in a ziplock bag will keep it clean and dry while it rides shotgun with you waiting for that moment of need. Some basic hygiene items tossed in might round out the package and come in handy even if you aren’t forced to stay in your car. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve stayed the night somewhere unexpectedly and having a few items in my car saved a trip to the store so I could brush my teeth and apply deodorant.
Once these needs are all met, lets figure out how to get ourselves out of the situation. Communication is key. Most all of us have cell phones these days, and they make life more convenient than ever when they work. Its a good idea to make sure you have a way to keep it charged in the car. A dead battery makes the smartest of phone as useful as a rock in no time. For most situations, a working phone will get word out and get help on the way. But in true prepper fashion, I like to have redundancy. CB radios and other two way radios can get word out in emergencies, and they don’t rely on the wireless network that cell phones depend on. Handheld CB radios can be had for almost nothing and make an excellent source for secondary communication. Remember, channel 9 on the CB band is for emergency use only. Channel 19 is known as the “trucker channel” and generally has a lot of traffic, especially near major highways. I go a step further and add HAM radio to my arsenal, but this isn’t practical for everyone. For one, its a licensed band, meaning you have to take a test and get your license to transmit. This rule doesn’t apply in an emergency. In a true emergency, you can use any band or frequency available to call for help. Make sure it is a real emergency (defined as threat to life or property).
Now on to the stuff every car should have before it ever gets on the road. A lot of these will seem obvious, but I’m shocked at the people that don’t have any of them. Make sure your vehicle has a spare tire. Make sure it’s aired up! Even if you aren’t much of a mechanic, you should keep a basic tool kit in your car. It will come in handy for minor repairs. If you can’t perform the repairs, that good Samaritan that stops to help might be able to if only he hadn’t forgotten his toolbox. You can fix that at least! We all forget to turn off the lights or we leave something plugged into the cigarette lighter. Then we have a dead battery. Its much easier to get someone to give you a jump start if you have your own jumper cables. Most people are willing to help their fellow man, but no one seems prepared to these days. If you want to go all out in being prepared, there are power packs available that allow you to jump start your own vehicle. Here are some examples. 12 volt air compressors can be had on the cheap and will save your bacon in case of a flat. I bought one in new condition at a flea market for $7 and its paid for itself a dozen times over. All of us understand the need for a good first aid kit. Have a better one in your car at all times. You never know when you might be the first to respond to an accident or need to use it for yourself. Having a good flashlight really comes into play if you are stranded after dark. Not being able to see might have you believe you are stuck when you really aren’t. It will also help with those minor repairs and avoiding that rattlesnake if you need to use that toilet paper.
I could continue this article for pages about other survival items you might need; like matches and lighters, signal mirrors, emergency whistles, etc. Those are items you will have to decide if they are worth keeping in you car. Look at your bug out bag and see if there are items that would serve you well if duplicated in your vehicle. I didn’t really cover much about vehicle safety in this article because I’m planning in covering that in a separate article in the near future. In the meantime, use your head and practice common sense around traffic and vehicles. Also, stay tuned for articles about vehicle self defense, and bugging out in your vehicle.