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In this article: We'll walk you through the key products to buy and include while you're building your essential survival kit for your car.
Essential Gear for Any Emergency
There are a handful of items that are important to have, regardless of the emergency you may find yourself in. Plan ahead and have these basic items on hand all the time.
Equipment Bag – Almost any bag will do. A heavy-duty canvas backpack can help make your kit portable. Shop online or through retailers such as Harbor Freight for a good deal on a canvas bag that has sturdy handles and a good closure. Canvas is a good material because it can be washed easily and it will take a ton of abuse. A bright color can be useful for signaling for help.
Multitool – Since the multitool first came on the market, they have been indispensable tools for millions of people. It should come as no surprise that Leatherman leads the pack. The Leatherman Skeletool CX is one of the very best multitools you can buy, but at around $80, it isn’t cheap. The Skeletool CX features precision and standard pliers, an excellent straight-edge knife, wire cutters for hard wire and electrical repair, a bit driver, and a bottle opener.
What puts this tool out front is it’s incredible design. Each tool opens easily, the knife blade can be opened without opening the pliers, and at a mere 5 ounces, it won’t add a bunch of weight. Reviewers find it to be a very comfortable tool to use that is versatile enough to go from ranch work to electronics repair without skipping a beat.
A multitool is perhaps the most versatile tool you will carry. It makes sense to spend a little more and get the very best tool you can. Nothing is worse than trying to fix an emergency only to have your multitool break. Should your Leatherman fail, the company warranties it for 25 years.
Tape – Yup. Tape. Electrical tape is a highly versatile solution to emergency situations. Grab a couple rolls and throw one in your gear bag so you always have it in your car. Electrical tape will get you out of many problems. While you are at it, toss a roll of duct tape in there too. Duct tape works fantastic for minor repairs and can be used for stopping bleeding, holding splints, and preventing blisters.
Zip Ties – These little guys will get you out of a bind sooner or later. The ability to hold things in place is great. They can be used to repair broken hose clamps, hold damaged parts in place, and hundreds of other little things. They are lightweight and do not take up a lot of space.
Jumper Cables – Get a set of at least 6 gauge and familiarize yourself with the right way to jump start your car. Some modern cars have specific procedures for jump starting that if not followed, can cause a lot of damage to sensitive electronics.
Flashlight – This one is probably obvious, but seriously, get a good flashlight. LED flashlights use way less power than conventional flashlights, so pick one up. How about a pro tip? Store batteries separate from the flashlight, or stick a small piece of cardboard in between the battery positive terminal to prevent battery drain.
Even better, pick up a reliable crank-type flashlight that doesn’t rely on batteries. This one from Energizer is small, handy, and bright enough to give you the light you need.
String, Rope, or Twine – A ball of twine can really come in handy in an emergency. Whether you need to secure something, build a shelter, or make a trap, a ball of twine is a great add. String and rope are also handy.
Fire – For all the ways that fire benefits humankind, it is a little scary how few people these days can make a safe fire. This is an essential survival skill, watch some videos about how to start a fire correctly if you don’t know how or have never built a fire.
Waterproof matches are wonderful to toss into your gear bag. They don’t take up much space, work even in damp conditions, and will save your bacon. Throw a cigarette lighter in there, too, just in case.
If you forgot to pack matches, or a lighter, and your car doesn’t have a lighter, there are ways to make it happen. Jumper cables are your friend here. Even with a mostly discharged battery, you can start a fire. The best way is by using a pencil. Use the knife on your multitool, a sharp rock, or whatever you can find. Split the pencil in half and connect the jumper cables to your car. Have your kindling ready and connect the positive cable to one end of your pencil so the energized portion is in contact with the graphite. Connect the negative to the other end. In seconds, the graphite will heat up and the pencil will ignite. You can also use jumper cables to create sparks by striking the positive and negative ends together. This is a harder way to make fire, as you will have to catch the sparks in fine tinder and grow the fire from there, but it will work.
Emergency Medical Care
When an emergency happens, the likelihood of you sustaining an injury is high. Pack the following items in your kit to be ready in case of medical problems. Blood loss and infection are the two main things you must be prepared to prevent.
Bandages, Gauze, and Tape – Buy a box of band-aids in a variety of sizes. Bandages should be replaced every few years because they can become unsterile after a while. A bandage that is not sterilized can actually make your injury worse by causing an infection. A roll of gauze and medical tape can be handy for larger injuries like burns.
Antibacterial Medications – A little tube of antibacterial cream is a great thing to have. Infections are dangerous in emergency situations. Use a good quality antibacterial cream to help prevent infections. A little bottle of iodine is a good add-on for cleaning wounds.
Medications – Put a bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen in your bag for fighting off minor pains. Bayer is recommended by doctors for its ability to thwart heart attacks. A bottle of eye drops can also come in handy if your emergency involves blowing sand, smoke, or other irritants that might damage your eyes.
Wipes – Baby wipes are a wonderful thing to include in your survival kit. They can be used to clean your hands, clean your knife, and to clean your bottom. Plus, baby wipes are way more portable than rolls of toilet paper.
Perishables You Should Have On Hand
Above are some of the most needed tools for survival situations. The two most important things in any emergency that will last any length of time are food and water. Most waterways today have some level of contamination, and quite a few are unsafe to drink without processing. You should not drink out of natural waterways without treating the water first.
Water – The next time you drink a bottle of water, save the empty bottle and put it in your bag. It’ll take up space, but when you need water, it will be essential. You should not store water long-term in your car. It can grow algae and make you sick.
Clean water is necessary for life. You can go many days, even weeks without food, but only a short time without water and you will be in grave danger. One of the easiest ways to make sure your water doesn’t make you sick is using purifying tablets. They don’t cost much, don’t take up a lot of space, and have an excellent shelf life.
Boiling water will kill any bacteria living in the water. You should always be able to make a fire from your gear kit, so it is really a matter of a container that can handle the heat.
These days, water bottles with built-in filters are affordable and commonplace. You can pick up a bottle that filters water for less than $20 online and this is a great thing to have in your kit.
Food – Nuts tend to have a long shelf life when properly stored. Numerous companies today sell pre-made bars that will supply the needed calories, proteins, minerals and vitamins, and fats to keep you from dying in an emergency. A long, five-year shelf life and the ability to withstand the extreme hot and cold conditions of being stored in a car makes these bars from Millenium Energy Bars a winner.
It is also a good idea to toss a couple of the little sugar, salt, and pepper packets into your bag. You never know when a little seasoning might make an awful survival meal not that bad.
Canadian officials recommend that you keep a can of dog food in your survival bag. This is because people who are not accustomed to emergency situations tend to eat their food too soon. The dog food will be there when you must eat something. It isn’t good, but it will keep you alive. Pro tip: you can use dog food to lure and trap animals you might rather eat. Better read up on trap building and skinning, though.
Blankets, Clothing, and Such
Extreme hot and cold temperatures can create myriad problems for people who are in emergency situations. Plan ahead and make sure that you have the necessary equipment to stay healthy.
Socks – One of the most valuable items of clothing you probably don’t think about is socks. Socks keep moisture from accumulating on feet, which can cause bacterial outbreaks and make it hard to walk. Keep at least one extra pair of socks on hand.
Blankets – A wool blanket is your best option. Wool stays warm even when wet and can be packed down pretty small. If your kit is simply out of room, get one or two of the Space Blankets. These are basically Mylar on a plastic sheet, but they do a great job of reflecting heat. This will keep you warm. You can also use the blanket for temporary shelter.
A Hat – You will lose more body heat from the top of your head than any other body part. Put a knit cap or even a baseball hat in your bag to protect yourself. A hat with a bill can also be useful for keeping the sun out of your eyes. Lots of foldable, collapsible hats are out there that are great for emergency kits.
Your emergency gear bag should be fairly lightweight and easy to carry if you have to hike out of a bad situation. Keep it stocked and in your car at all times, and you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can get out of trouble.
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