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Editor’s Note: This is a revised and updated list for 2018.
We all know what a bug out bag is: “A portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster.” You will hear such a kit referred to by many other names, including “72-hour kit”, “go bag” or “G.O.O.D (get out of dodge) bag”. The exact term you use is not really important since the whole goal is to have basic essentials for survival readily available should disaster strike.
A couple of days ago I wrote about the myriad of things that could happen to put you and your family in a bug out situation (see A list for those that think it will never happen to them). Some situations, such as an earthquake or tsunami, are natural disasters and others, such as a nuclear melt-down or civil disobedience, are man made. The common thread with all of these disasters is the need to mobilize quickly and to have everything you need ready – really ready – with no scrambling around or afterthought.
So imagine this. You are on a road trip and your vehicle stops. It is early evening and starting to get dark but you are pretty handy around cars so you open the hood, move a few hoses and wires around, then try to get things going again. You are alone and there is little if any traffic on the deserted road. As much as you try, the engine is deader than a doornail and you are stuck. It is now dark and there you are in the middle of nowhere.
Darn, you forgot to charge your cell phone battery so you can’t call for assistance. And man oh man, it is starting to get cold. You are hungry and you are thirsty.
What I have described is a situation where a bug out bag in your back seat or trunk would become invaluable. So today, I will list out some essentials for the car kit and challenge you to gather these items and more so that you will be ready if and when you are stuck in your car for an extended period of time.
Get Prepared With An Emergency Car Kit: The Ultimate Car Survival Kit
Best Practices: 46 Items to Include in your Vehicle Emergency Kit
- Tow chains
- Jumper cables
- Spare tire
- Tire jack
- Fix-a-flat – Also check out BDS DIY Tire Fix Kit article
- Fire extinguisher
- Gasoline funnel
- Cigarette lighters
- Duct tape: Learn about the many ways to use duct tape here.
- Disposable gloves
- Well-stocked first aid kit (here is one I put together myself)
- Well-stocked tool kit
- Solar blankets
- Wool blankets
- Warm socks
- Rain coat
- Cash (bills and coins)
- Winter hat
- Heavy gloves
- Heavy sleeping bag for winter, lighter sleeping bag for summer: Learn about the best sleeping systems here.
- List of important phone numbers
- Can opener
- Garbage bags in various sizes
- Paracord or rope
- Quart of oil
- Sewing kit
- Baby wipes
- Toilet paper – See article: Are You Toilet Paper Prepared?
- Hand soap
- Hair brush
- Tooth brush
- Change of clothes
- Various towels in Ziploc bags (women can use to urinate in if caught in traffic)
- Water filter (such as the Lifestraw) – You can check out the guide to the best Water Filters here.
- Edible nuts stored in raw honey
I don’t know about you, but I got some good ideas from this list. And shame on me; for all of my foresight I did not have a fire extinguisher in my car. Thanks, Elaine, for your valuable contribution to Backdoor Survival and to our preps!
Consider getting a concealed carry permit if you travel a lot alone.
State laws vary on concealed carry permits. Some states recognize permits from some other states. Check your state rules and those of the areas you travel in or plan to before carrying but there is something to be said for having a legal right to carry a firearm in your vehicle. While times may be okay now, they can quickly change. Even if you do not think it is necessary now, it is nice to have the option. The classes are easy and cheap to take. Yes it is a bit of a hassle and honestly I think that it is just another tax to exercise your right to bear arms but it is best to go the legal route.
Some states like Alaska are open carry. I remember when living up there that it was no big deal to carry a firearm. Of course I also recommend that you don’t carry any firearm with you or in your car that you are not 100% proficient and comfortable with. This means taking it out and practicing sometime. I don’t care how long you have been around firearms, you get rusty if you don’t get out there and shoot some practices rounds and practice how to maintain and troubleshoot your firearm.
Also you want to always follow the rule of not pointing unless you really intend on using it. Just pointing a gun at someone can be considered a major assault charge a lot of places. Scary situations can lead to unclear thinking.
Tire Fix Kit
You don’t want to be stuck on the road because of something as simple as a flat tire. Check out the post “Tire Fix Kit For SHTF” for complete details. Some items to consider for basic repairs include:
- Fix A Flat (Make sure to get the one that is rated for highway speeds)
- 12 Volt Inflater. If your battery is the problem then this won’t help but if it is just a flat then you can get your tire pumped up in little time.
- Spare Tire
- Jack and other tools to change a tire
Always remember to make sure that your spare tire is properly inflated every few months and right before any hazardous driving conditions. If the weather forecaster says that there is a storm coming your way and you know that you will probably have to drive in it then you should check out your car.
There are a lot of people that travel with their dog. If you do this often then make sure to plan for them too. A few days of dog food, some treats, an extra leash, and a few days of any daily meds they take is a good idea. Chew toys can help them pass the time waiting for the situation they are in to change.
That being said it is important to make sure your dog has their rabies tag on and it is up to date when traveling. This is the one vaccination that the law pays the most attention to.
Further Resource: you can learn more about Pet Survival Kits here.
There are various ways to handle if you need to use the bathroom and are not anywhere near one. Carrying a roll of toilet paper or some type of tissue in your car is not a bad idea. There are also various urinal like appliances that you can have on hand but most of you are probably fine with roughing it without all that.
Supplies For Children
Getting trapped on the side of the road with kids poses its own set of challenges. It is a good idea to have some entertainment in the car for them. Now days a lot of kids have battery powered electronics so they may have some entertainment with them. Some battery banks stashed back can provide some extra power or you can pack some old fashioned entertainment suitable to the age of your kids. How about putting together a small tote that has a few items in it?
Also make sure that when you are packing emergency food and medications that you do not leave out the kids that travel with you. 3 days worth of food for you is one thing but 3 days worth of food for you and two kids or a family of 4 is a different scenario all together.
Remoteness versus urban break downs
This post was written from the perspective of being out in the middle of nowhere when a breakdown occurs. If you don’t normally travel that far from civilization then you may be able to narrow down how much supplies and the type of supplies you keep in your car kit.
There are some great shoes out there that are gorgeous and fun and all that but they are certainly not made for covering some ground if needed. I don’t go anywhere very far from home without having some shoes that I can cover a little ground in if need be. Walking 3 miles in flip flops is not something I am too keen on. If you have some idea of where you are and can walk to get help then that may be the best solution. Of course this is weather dependent as well. In some cases you are better off staying put for awhile until conditions improve somewhat.
You may need to change up your footwear that you keep in your car for walking sometimes or at least make sure you have thicker socks if you have to walk in colder conditions.
For those that travel a lot, especially in areas where there are still some very isolated places, a flare gun is not a bad idea. There are plenty of cases of people running off the road and not being found until it is too late or they are in a lot worse shape. There are places in the mountains where if you ran off the road but were not visible right from the roadway, that you may not be found in time even if there is a search effort going on. Thick vegetation can mean death in extreme circumstances. A flare gun that is tucked away but still relatively accessible can allow you to signal for help.
This just happens to be my list and a pretty darn good one the average for Joe and Josie. But this is just a starting point since your needs may vary, especially if you have children in which case you would also want to include some small toys and other amusements to keep the little ones occupied.
Getting stuck in a vehicle could happen anytime, anywhere. Think about the list above and add the additional items that suit your particular situation. As with all of the weekly preps in my “Getting Prepared” series, nothing is written in permanent ink. Every situation, every household, and every budget is different. The important thing is to take that first step.
The moment is now.