Yes, it’s a silly title. If I had called it “A 72-Hour+ Kit for your vehicle“, or
something similar, you might have just said “another one of those…” and ignored
it, completely. No chainguns, no rocket-launchers, some humor. A disclaimer: Anytime I recommend
a particular item, the URL is the manufacturer, so you can see specs and compare.
Probably cheaper online or locally. I’m not shilling for any outlet, just showing
you my own picks, where appropriate.
I’m not a big “car guy”, so the first thing to think about for your Suburban
Survival Vehicle, IMHO, is “kinda-crappy-looking”. I have a 2001 Kia Sportage.
It has never been detailed since I bought it, or had anything but the windows
washed. I (purposely) toss grocery store receipts, empty water bottles, empty
megamart plastic bags, and the occasional free grocery store real estate publication
on the floor.
It also has non-matching tires, (1 with white wall on outside, because I could),
its share of dents and dings, a roof-rack and reliable 4-wheel drive. Take good
care of it mechanically, but the shabbier it looks, the more invisible it is. It
can, and has, gotten me out of flooded campgrounds and snowbanks. A good trade-off.
I’d like an older, non-computerized engine, but I guess I just have to deal.
Why the junk? There are 2 reasons: When I’m in the outdoors, I always have water-resistant
containers and dry tinder. When I’m in the city, my vehicle is ignored by thieves. (I go into
Northern VA and Washington, DC on a fairly-regular basis – this is a concern for me).
You want your new Batmobile to scream “Nothing to steal here.. move along..
Go look for a new BMW, Mr. Sleazebag-Robber”. Cool is not your friend. Don’t paint
it in digital camo, or put your NRA sticker on it, either.
(I’m a proud NRA member, but ‘guns here! rob me when I’m gone!’ never seemed like
a great idea. Be invisible and ignored, instead.)
Now, it’s time to start “pimpin’ the lousy-lookin’ ride”. Your first trip is
to your local megamart. ( A lot will come from there. Go elsewhere/local if you
have objections to certain corporations, it’s ok…) Please note: if any of the gear I
recommend is illegal in your current area, DON’T carry it, or move. Obviously,
if you already have any of this gear in your vehicle, you don’t need to duplicate it.
On trip 1, you will need :
2 “seat back organizers” (yep, the ones that some bozo thinks will make a neat place
for your kids’ coloring books, etc.. yeah, right.. – from automotive aisle)
2 fanny-packs with attached belts (luggage aisle end cap )
1 small fire-extinguisher (‘safety’ aisle)
1 ‘goose-neck’ crowbar (hardware aisle or Home Center)
1 2-4 socket 12-volt cigarette lighter extension (automotive)
1 roll of Duck Tape (yes, duck, not duct – it doesn’t stick to galvanized ducts)
I like the “Gorilla Tape” brand – my opinion.
A “spider wrench” that fits your tire’s lug nuts. If you have a vehicle built
since 1990, yelling “LOOSEN!!” vociferously will work nearly as well as the
lug wrench that comes with the vehicle. You want some real leverage.
A can of WD-40.
You’re going to hang the ‘organizers’ behind your front seats. Put the fire
extinguisher into one of the pockets, right now, where you can reach behind the
passenger seat and find it by feel. The crowbar goes right next to the driver’s
seat, preferably on your ‘strong hand’ side – a pry bar/lever/campfire poker/
window-breaker/attitude-adjuster. Don’t leave home without it….
Practice reaching for them. Now. Make it muscle-memory. NO kidding. Getting to
the crowbar or extinguisher without thinking can save your life in a serious accident.
You are now better-prepared to survive than 99+% of the other folks on the road.
Spend 3 minutes a month practicing and don’t become a statistic. Start thinking
of your vehicle(s) as ‘extended-EDC’. Finding these tools should be as automatic as
finding your knife.
Cinch up the fanny-pack belts, and hang them behind the headrests- you will be
filling these with the “essentials” over the next few weeks – multi-tool, flashlight,
fire-making gear, fishing gear, a folding knife, compass etc. Yes, you should
carry these all the time, anyway. Now you have 2 more sets. You might have passengers.
The “organizers” can become low-rent backpacks in really severe situations.
Plug in the ‘extension outlet’ (most of us have stuff that runs on 12VDC). You
will use the duck tape (and black pvc tape and masking tape, if you have them) to
wrap the cables, clumsily, at random intervals – even if you plug in a brand-new
GPS unit (that you ought to hide under a walmart bag or an old newspaper),
“frayed, bad-looking” wiring make it “not worth stealing”.
On trip 2, you’re going to get:
1 plastic “milk crate” (storage aisle) for trunk or behind seats
1 gallon windshield washer fluid
2 quarts appropriate-weight motor oil
2 quarts appropriate automatic transmission fluid (if you have an automatic)
2-3 quarts 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol (pharmacy) – hand-cleaner/antiseptic/
kerosene-stink-free fire starter/alcohol stove fuel.
1 plastic gas can w/spout (no gasoline – THAT’S suicidal, but you might run out
someday, and need a way to carry fuel.)
1 gallon drinking water for radiator (Drink a bit so jug won’t break if it
A can of ‘Fix-A-Flat’ (or any brand) tire inflator.
Put these into the milk crate, stick in trunk, or behind back seats. Now, you have
most of the fluids your vehicle may need, and you will be happier if you DO break
down. You’ll be adding more, don’t worry if the crate isn’t full yet.
Third trip (vehicle tools) :
a) I’ll assume you have basic automotive repair tools – if not, get a kit that
has wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, jumper cables, etc.
b) An ‘innocuous’ storage box. I use an orange ‘waterproof ammo box’ from a sporting
goods aisle. I use it as a stand when I need to spray paint something. NOT an obvious
shiny new toolkit that might be pawned for crack-money in the city.
c) The highest-wattage inverter you can find that will plug into your 12v sockets.
This turns 12VDC into 110VAC to run/charge your modern electronics. If you have
ever been stuck in snowstorm with a dying cellphone, you know this can
save your bacon. Do the tape-trick on the cables.
d) a package of “Singing Straws” (grocery aisles) – big, fat corrugated straws for kids
that make noise when drinking – insulation for wiring, hose/tubing splices, drinking
out of puddles, blowing on tinder, etc. A million uses, good in any kit.
e) a package of pvc electrical tape, a roll of duck tape to stick in toolbox,
a roll of annealed copper wire and a BIG bag of zip-ties.
f) Paper road/topographic map book(s) for at least your local state. Eventually,
your state and all surrounding ones. Keep in big zip-top bags in your
“organizers” – GPS may not always be there when you need it. Even a few year
old paper map is better than “Where the <expletive!!> am I?” Your local
paper phone book is another good thing to keep there. You probably haven’t
used a phone book for years, but they send you one anyway. Maybe the emergency
is as simple as needing to use a pay-phone (remember those?) to call a tow-truck.
Dry tinder, if nothing else.
On your next few trips (Some depend on season – or look online), you’ll want to pick up :
1) a tent – it can be a small ‘2-person’ dome. Shop right around Labor Day. This
won’t be your only shelter item, but many times more comfy than a trash bag in the rain.
2) The biggest “gym bag with shoulder strap” you can find on the luggage aisle.
Yes, if you have to abandon the vehicle and walk, you WILL curse my name.
If you DON’T, you will find that a flat bag with a zipper is easier to lean
over the back seat and access, and not a target for theft like a cool internal-
frame high-tech backpack. Black or dark grey is good. If you have to choose
between a military camo pattern and ‘Hello Kitty’, then “Think Pink”.
A realtime urban camouflage-tip: find the rattiest, most tattered pair of men’s
underwear you can obtain. Dump leftover coffee on them a few times and let
them dry. Let a bit “peek out” of the zipper, and NO ONE will steal the bag.
3) Once “back to school/winter” season begins, pick up 2-4 “fleece throws” for about
4 bucks each. Combined with emergency mylar blankets, these can keep you (and
passengers) warm and take up less space than sleeping bags.
4) A box of big, heavy “Contractor” trash bags. One will be the liner for your
gym bag. You will find uses for the rest.
5) Some “Space Bags<tm>” or other evacuatable zipper bags- you’ll save space and
keep your gear dry.
6) The day after deer hunting season ends where you are, pick up a good set of
insulated hunting coveralls, preferably with a hood, on sale. Get one size (S-M-L-XL, etc)
larger than you normally wear, so it is easy to put on over your clothes. Put
it in its own bag to stay dry, and suck out the air to save volume. I have
had mine almost 10 years, and it has saved my rear on 5-6 very cold occasions.
7) The best first-aid kit you can afford. Add some “EMT shears” if there are none.
Consider getting a truly-watertight container for your first aid gear. A gauze
dressing that has been marinating in swamp water is not much use.
8) A 2-burner propane camp stove and 1-2 small gas cylinders. I do competitive chili
contests, so I have a few of these. One always stays in the vehicle. It sounds
like a luxury item, but, if you find yourself stuck after a snowstorm, etc., easy
hot water/food is a huge morale booster. Propane is often easy to find. If you
travel with kids, this becomes a high-priority item.
9) A 1-burner butane stove, and 1-2 gas cylinders. You may have to go online, or to
an Asian supermarket to get these. It is worth it. You still have to be very
careful, but butane won’t automatically kill you if you have to use it in
a semi-enclosed space. Propane will. Winter happens. Be prepared. Keep one in
your house, too, even if you have a gas grill outside.
10) Several “Dollar Store” or IKEA plastic shower curtain liners. Cheap, tiny
packages, and often handier than a big roll of plastic sheeting. Packages
also make good (cold liquid) drinking cups. A roll of plastic painter’s tarp is good, too.
11) A case of bottled drinking water. Drink enough so it doesnt burst if frozen
12) Gloves! A box of nitrile exam gloves (many people have latex allergies- be safe), a
couple pairs of high-temp plastic and cloth work gloves (the cheap grey and blue ones)
and at least one pair of good leather work gloves. I can guarantee that you
will use them all, at some point.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of lists of other gear and food to store in your kit.
Fill that gym bag etc. with your personal choices. I won’t even get into personal
preferences on knives, multi-tools, energy bars, food (You WILL need food), sharpening gear,
firearms, cordage, fishing equipment and clothing brands.
“Gerber vs. Leatherman or MRE vs. freeze-dried” is too close to arguing religion,
for my tastes. Use what YOU prefer and YOU know about. You are going to be the one using it.
Some “Extreme” Tools to consider – Some take a bit of looking. Some may not be legal where you live.
Some are just very-seldom mentioned on lists, but extremely handy things to have.
(I do not recommend ever breaking Federal, State or local ordinances. Keep your hunting and fishing
licenses up to date, too, and respect fish and game seasons, unless you have no choice.
Public Service Announcement over.)
1) A small (Approx. 2 foot) garden spade with a D-handle. I like my Spetnaz shovel,
but this will make your life easier if you have to dig a hole vs. dispatching
‘zombies’. If you have used any e-tool before, you will understand. (any Home Center)
2) A real chopping-axe, not just a hatchet. I like the Gerber/Fiskars for price/size/
durability/edge-holding. Again, just my opinion, get your own favorite.
3) A wrist-braced slingshot and at least 1 package of steel ball-bearing shot and
a spare set of tubing/pouch. Get 2, and practice at home.
4) A machete. My current favorite is a tossup between the Cold Steel Kukri-style
(wins on size/weight/cost) and the Meyerco Sawback with handguard (I DID break a
couple fingers being dumb years ago…) The Meyerco would be a great pirate
cutlass in a hand-to-hand combat situation.
5) A Stanley “FuBar” prybar/demolition tool.
Very handy for dismantling things – the next evolution of the crowbar.
It can scare ‘zombies’ or turn an old pallet into lumber or firewood quickly.
6) 3-4 Stainless-steel “flan molds” (online or at a Hispanic market). These are
about 8 inches in diameter, 2 inches high with 4 spring clamps to hold them shut.
Fairly watertight storage containers for “All the little junk that gets lost
at the bottom of the bag” and they make great impromptu cooking pots.
7) An “Escape-Rescue Knife/Tool” – one hand opening, a glass-breaker, safe seat belt cutter.
Clip it to YOUR seatbelt where you can reach it quickly in an emergency. I
have never been upside-down in a lake in a sinking vehicle, but I haven’t
had hand-crank windows for years (miss ‘em). Guess what happens to those buttons if the
electrical system craps out?
8) Depending on were you live, a ‘kid-size’ snow shovel (No room for full-size
in the Sportage. If you live in South Louisiana, etc. you probably won’t need this)
A cut-down Dollar-Store broom is also not a bad idea in snow country.
9) A “minnow-seine” net. Approx. 3×30 feet, fine mesh. If you happen to catch
something bigger, and get ‘rescued’, feel free to say “I was catching bass
bait, officer, want some lunch??”. I never tried using mine as a hammock.
(Gill nets and cast-nets are not legal where I live, but quite useful as well.)
10) A net hammock. Sleep comfortably off the ground in warmer weather. Stick one
of those shower curtains over it as a tarp if you expect rain. Could also be
used as a game trap or a net for very large fish.
11) A (light-duty) trailer-hitch kit. I’m not sure if my vehicle can handle it,
but worth a shot.
(Note: I have not added this yet – next month, with luck.)
12) A box of Surgical Masks or Industrial Dust Masks. For First Aid safety or in
dusty/toxic environments – Think lower Manhattan on 9/11, or even Burning Man.
13) A set of swimming goggles, or even a real SCUBA mask. Same reasons as #12,
and, who knows, you might want to do some spearfishing for food, some time.
14) A multi-pump air (not CO2) pistol and ammo (pellets and BBs). Again, get 2
and practice at home. I like the Crosman American Pumpmaster Classic for price,
availability and quality. The Chinese imports you find at flea markets are
not bad either. mmmmmm… squirrel…
15) If you have room, and access to an Asian market, etc, get a cheap carbon steel
wok. (not nonstick). You CAN cook in a tin can or a canteen cup, but why not carry the
most generally-useful cooking-vessel in the world, if it’s cheap, small and easy?
16) A set (or 2) of real, OSHA-approved safety glasses, or goggles that will fit over
your prescription glasses. I always get OSHA safety Rx glasses, and carry the
detachable side-guards in the vehicle.
17) A 12-volt air-compressor/tire-inflator. Cheap, light, small. Why not?
*18) An empty, resealable coffee can, with a full roll of toilet paper in it.
Even if you don’t like the other recommendations, keep one of these in every
vehicle. You will thank me eventually.
My own “suburban batmobile” kit evolved over 10-15 years, several vehicles,
and set me back about $400 US, in total. Every item has been used, even if
just on camping trips. Many have been used in more adverse conditions, usually
‘surprise’ blizzards and blowouts or ‘the dotcom-crash’ in 2000. It has paid
better dividends than the 401k ever did.
Everything fits easily, and mostly hidden, in the back hatch area of a Kia
Sportage, which is not at all a big vehicle.
This is by no means the ultimate BOB-kit, and won’t keep you alive forever, but the
better-prepared you are for all the curve-balls life may throw at you, the more
likely you are to live through them in relative comfort. The vehicle should never
be your only prep effort, but it is an important one, for most of us. “If you fail
to prepare, you prepare to fail”.