The Ultimate Bug Out Vehicle Gear List

Though a bug out bag can help you last anywhere between a couple of days to a week, a well-equipped bug out vehicle can help you survive for weeks away from home, just in case you didn’t get to or don’t have a bug out retreat.

shovel tow rope duct tape and more
shovel tow rope duct tape and more

In today’s article I want to focus on the gear that you should stockpile inside you car, excluding food and water, which will be the topic of a future article.

Now, before you start spending your hard-earned money, let’s figure out your needs.

You’re going to need…

  • ways to keep yourself warm
  • ways to stay in touch with what’s happening
  • ways to get from one point to another
  • ways to get out of the car in case of emergency
  • ways to protect yourself
  • ways to fix your car if need be (flat tire, dead battery)
  • first aid supplies, of course
  • ways to get your car moving again if stuck in mud, snow etc.

Of course, if you really want to be covered for everything, the more questions you ask yourself, the better. For example:

  • Do you expect to travel off road much?
  • Will you be forced to drive through the narrow streets of your city before reaching the highway?
  • How far is your bug out location?
  • How many people will use the car to bug out?
  • Can I protect my vehicle from burglars pre-SHTF? There’ve been cases where prepper cars have been looted and, although things like food and water can be replaced, other things such as guns and expensive gear… not as easily.

Ok, let’s not waste too much time and let’s see a full list of items you should consider getting (in no particular order).


No point in using precious fuel to keep yourself and your family warm. A few blankets can go a long way. This one, for instance, is also fire retardant.

While you’re at it, why not throw in a few space blankets? If you get a pack of 10, you can split them between your BOB, your GHB and even keep one in your EDC (in addition to your car).

Keep in mind that blankets come in different fabrics, sizes and thicknesses. Wool is great, so is polar fleece. The ones made of wool don’t get you warm as fast as polyester blankets do, however.

The reason is, wool blankets also allow your skin to breathe, while polyester keeps the heat trapped inside, making you hot and sweaty.

I’m not trying to say polyester blankets are bad, they have their advantages. For instance, they provide better insulation if you’re going to put them directly on the ground to sleep on.

If you’re thinking about getting cotton blankets, I would say “no” to them because, unlike wool, when cotton gets wet, it tends to stay that way. Not a deal breaker, though.

Extra Clothes

Extra pairs of socks, underwear, a t-shirt, a pair of pants (preferably cargo, because they have lots of pockets, thus allowing you to carry extra items), a pair of boots and even a jacket – these should all be inside the trunk of your car. Don’t forget a couple of bandannas for their numerous alternative survival uses.

Fire and Lighting

Not much to say here, it’s easy to get a quality flashlight and a headlamp. Some of the options to consider:

  • a couple of emergency LED flashlights (plus extra batteries)
  • a headlamp (in case you need to fix your car when it’s dark outside)
  • a hand-crank flashlight in case you run out of batteries

You may also want to add a reflective vest, in case you need to fix a flat tire at night or if you’re forced to abandon your car and continue your journey on the foldable bike you might have inside the trunk. You can get one for less than 10 bucks.

As for starting a fire, there’s no need to get fancy. A couple of lighters kept in Ziploc bags, waterproof matches, blast matches and some tinder should be more than enough.

A Tool Kit

…which should include a claw hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure, hex keys and so on. Of course, most tool sets are missing some of the less common items so you might have to get them separately, for example:

  • a ball peen hammer
  • torx set
  • distributor wrench
  • a circuit tester
  • tire traction chains
  • electrical tape and duct tape
  • a spark plug socket
  • breaker bar
  • RTV sealant
  • jumper cables, in case you need to boost your dead car. (try these)

Spare Parts

Such as:

  • a spare tire
  • spark plugs
  • wiper blades
  • spare bulbs
  • fuses
  • air compressor

Other Items

…such as:

  • ice scraper
  • snow brush
  • tow straps with hooks
  • a foldable shovel
  • transmission fluid
  • washer fluid
  • an axe
  • work gloves
  • engine oil
  • a tire repair kit
  • a fire extinguisher
  • an extra canister with fuel
  • coolant
seatbelt cutter windows smasher gadget
seatbelt cutter windows smasher gadget

Seatbelt Cutter + Glass Breaker

…in case you land in a body of water and need to get out ASAP. First you’ll need to free yourself from the seat-belt, then break the window and get everyone out.

You can get a two-pack and keep one in the front and one in the back. You might want to keep at least one in the center console, so it’s easily accessible from everyone in the car.

Means to Purify Water

Having a couple of water filters such as the LifeStraw is a must. One such filter can purify over 250 gallons of water.

Speaking of which, you may want to have airtight containers that you could use to fill with water you find along the way or with snow (which you will have to melt before you drink, btw).

The water bottles you should have filled with water can be used for that once you consume the water inside.

backpack blanket and baggage loaded with water bottles in car trunk
backpack blanket and baggage loaded with water bottles in car trunk


… or, if you prefer, a couple of monoculars, so two people can scout at the same time. Needless to say, when you’re out there and there’re dangers all over the place, you want to know exactly what’s happening.

Maybe you need to check your bug out location from afar when you get to it, to make sure it hasn’t been already looted?

A good GPS, a good compass (plus the knowledge to use it) and, of course, topographic maps of the area (preferably laminated to keep them waterproof) are needed.


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Walkie-talkies, flare guns, CB radio and, of course, a whistle can all be used to communicate. A spare cell phone, an extra battery plus a charger (solar, or hand-crank) are also must-haves. Last but not least, a good AM/FM radio, preferably hand-crank, will let you know what’s happening in the world.


Though your car can make a great shelter, expect to abandon it at some point and continue your journey on foot. This is why you should have a backpack inside the trunk with some essentials, including a 2-person tent, a bivvy bag or, if it’s warm outside, a poncho or a tarp.


There’re a lot of things you’ll be glad you printed out and placed in Ziploc bags: a copy of the SAS Survival Guide or, at the very least, a list of wild edibles and poisonous plants and copies of important IDs and even room to quickly throw in the originals before you bug out.


Having one or more guns inside your car is crucial (if the law allows it where you live), but don’t ignore the alternatives. Who knows what gun confiscation will look like post-collapse.

Having pepper or wasp spray, a good survival knife (more on that in a moment) and even an alternative survival weapon such as a slingshot or a bow could not only save your ass when you and your guns are separated,  but they’ll also allow you to hunt without making too much noise.

A Good Survival Knife

You should have at least a couple. Also, consider a folding knife because, at the end of the day, you might need both.

Fixed blade knives are better for heavy duty things while folding knives are better for more delicate things such as skinning an animal. Folders are also easier to conceal in various places around the car should you ever need them in a pinch:

folding knife inside car glovebox
folding knife inside car glovebox

A few suggestions:

First Aid

This will be the topic of a separate article and I’m sure you already know some of the items to get.

Just keep in mind that the shelf life of medicine is affected by high temperatures so, if your car stays for long periods of time under the hot sun, this could be a problem.

Putting them inside a wide mouth thermos will help but you should still rotate them.

Anyways, here’s what to consider for your car’s first aid kit:

  • Band-Aids
  • antibiotic cream
  • gauze pads
  • thermometer
  • cotton balls
  • aspirin
  • rubbing alcohol
  • Ibuporfen
  • and so on.

Other Gear Items

Just think about what you have or plant to put in your bug out bag and start building a similar bag for your car. Why?

Because, as I already said, you might have to abandon your vehicle and continue on foot. You can’t take everything with you but you can take the essentials.

That’s why having them all pre-packed in a backpack might mean that you won’t have to spend precious minutes packing.

Other items you may not need in your car that you can either put in a ready to go backpack or just your trunk:

  • a good multitool such as the Leatherman Wingman
  • a good compass
  • 2-3 ways to start a fire (which we already covered)
  • a tarp
  • emergency blankets
  • cash
  • Gorilla glue
  • sunglasses (those can go in the front)
  • a foldable bike (I already mentioned it but this could be your secondary BOV)
  • pen and paper
  • hand sanitizer
  • toilet paper
  • floss
  • umbrella
  • wet wipes
  • water purification tablets
  • trash bags
  • a cooking set
  • and eating utensils

Is anything missing from this bug out vehicle gear list? Let me know in a comment below.

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24 thoughts on “The Ultimate Bug Out Vehicle Gear List”

  1. What would you say are good ideas for those of us who do NOT live in colder climates? I’m pretty confident in my standard bugout preps (car, house, family home), but these articles always seem to focus on hypothermic situations.

    Are there any warm/hot climate considerations? Unless the poles shift, I am never going to see a night where it even gets close to 40 degrees. In fact, I sleep with the windows open in such weather.

    • 2 things that I pack in both my SHTF and EDC bags since I also live in a warm southern place, is 1) Sunburn Protection and 2) Insect Repellent you may also want to consider sunglasses and a snakebite kit. Just saying…. MAC former USAF Survival Spec.

  2. I would suggest the Sawyer Mini in place of the Life Straw. It weighs 1.4 ounces and will filter 100,000 gallons. The Life Straw as mentioned filters 10,000 gallon’s.

    • Just know that the Sawyer Mini filter 100,000 gallon claim to filtered water, is water that is very clean to start with. As the filter is used in sediment filled water, the capacity drops off rapidly, even when back flushed. And a filter won’t filter out any metals or pesticides that are usually found in farming areas that have rivers and ponds on a property. For these last two things to be removed from water, you must have a water purifier. Purifiers handle nearly anything you will encounter going cross country to reach your destination. Filters only “filter” debris/sediment and giardia out of the water source, a purifier will remove most anything you’ll find in the water source. Just so you know, there’s a huge difference between a filter and a purifier.

  3. As a First Aid Instructor, I highly recommend about 6 triangular bandages for your first aid kit. They are multi purpose.. can be bandages, pressure dressings, slings and perform a multiple of functions.
    You can get them vacuum packed and cost minimal $… if you cant’ get them at your local drugstor3s, try a first aid supplier, or of course, Amazon.

    You’ll also need some 4″ bandages, say 4, and 2″ bandages… min 4, preferably 8. You can get military style pressure dressings from an army surplus store too.. they are great for serious abdominal injuries or serious major cuts.
    A packed of butterfly closures will be important too.. and can take the place of stitches in minor cases.
    Throw in a tube of superglue too.. that’s what a lot of hospitals are using these days for minor cuts, in stead of stitches, believe it or not!

    There are other things you can put in too, but weight and space a always a limitation, I know.
    Do yourself a favour and take a wilderness first aid course.. . or at min, a standard first aid course, so you know how to use some of the above!
    Stay safe people!

  4. Good basic stuff, not to practical keeping everything in your vehicle. I’m one of your Florida followers and down here anything you leave in your car will cook, dry out or become brittle from the heat. Personally I’d like to stay in a warmer climate, but the fact is none of us knows where it will be safe or how we will be able to move around. While I have experience with aviation, boats, bicycles, cars, hiking, motorcycles, RV.s and pretty much anything one could drive. The question remains where will we go and how will we get there? My theory is you will need to stay highly mobile because no place will remain safe indefinitely.

    With all that said once I declare a high alert status everything will be loaded, fueled and at the ready should I need to move in a hurry. What ever you decide is right for you, practice. The wife and I just did a 1800 mile run over the Holidays expecting cold and ran into problems when we needed A/C instead of Heat so you just never know. One other note, make sure you maps, at least of the lower 48.

  5. RE: critique of “hypothermic” preps, I’ve seen folks get in trouble with hypothermia when it was over 60 degrees. If you can’t warm up, it can be trouble. In that vein and otherwise, a good cheap vehicle prep is one or more metal cans (coffee cans?) of sand and candles. Some of the sand can go under the wheels for traction, and even a small candle can help keep the interior of a vehicle or other relatively tight space pretty toasty. If you pour out some of the sand, you can stick the candle(s) down for secure heating and possible light cooking. You can at least warm up water for instant soup, coffee or tea. For outdoors only, a partially full can of sand with a little gasoline poured in can make a decent field expedient heat source and stove – but keep it modest when you’re learning the ropes – you don’t want a fireball – and let it soak in before you light it.

  6. in the military we had a bdar kit, battle damage assessment and repair kit. it had various straps, chains with couplings, steel wire of several sizes, tape etc. the idea being we could do field expedient repairs to get out of dodge. the wire was especially handy. tow straps and spare oils too. fixaflat and tire plugs ride in my truck along with a 12v compressor because i came thru oklahoma after a twister and ran thru nail laden debris puncturing all 4 tires. no tire stores left standing meant i was stranded in the zone. been meaning to get extra hoses and serpentine belt.

  7. Dan, good post. The one thing I would include (and we currently cannot afford this ) are night vision binoculars or monoculars). Invaluable for security.Arlene

  8. Most folks are not used to a lot of hiking and/or having to hike in the wrong foot ware. I always make sure I have Molskin in my pack for blisters.

  9. I don’t think a folding blade is better for skinning an animal, I’ve seen some pretty gnarly injuries from that, but other than that it’s a pretty good list.

  10. I would also suggest wet naps or baby wipes, trash bags, super glue, tin foil and at least one complete change of clothes. Also pet gear and an empty bucket of some sort. Try the ones that the cheap 1/2 gallons of ice cream come in.

  11. Replacing the lug wrench is an excellent idea. I use an 18 inch breaker bar (1/2″ drive) with a deep well socket that fits my lug nuts. An elderly gentleman taught me that tip when I was just starting to drive, years ago. Even my wife was able to change a tire, just to make sure she could, using that setup.

    • Same here! I also added a six inch extension and a couple of extra sizes of deep well sockets to help others as MY car’s socket does not necessarily fit the other person’s car’s lug nuts. The extension gives room so you won’t bang your knuckles when you finally break that stubborn last lug nut loose.

  12. There’s the matter of what can withstand extreme heat or cold of being stored in your vehicle long term. I keep some things in my car trunk and others in evac bags in my home. Also, if there’s a need in your area of path of travel, snow chains for your tires.


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