Before I begin this list, let me stress that your vehicle is probably one of the most important TSHTF pieces of equipment you currently own. Chances are you will depend on it to move you
out of a deteriorating situation, or to get out before it gets bad or worse. At a time like that, knowing that you took steps to secure your vehicles top operation will be worth every penny
you might spend to get and keep it up and ready for the task.
You no doubt have seen the news stories of a mass of people trying to evacuate ahead of a hurricane or disaster. The roads are full and all along them are the vehicles that had trouble of
some kind and are stalled, out of fuel or broken down somehow. You do not want to be that poor soul stuck on the side of the road in the middle of an evacuation route waiting for help. More
often than not there is ample warning, but folks often do not heed it well. Some folks end up having to go with what they got, at the worst time possible, because they had "just one more
thing to do" before they evacuated. Some just wait until the last minute before making a move. Make your evacuation in the first minute possible. In a mass mandatory evacuation, you really
want to already be gone well ahead of the crowd.
Down here in the gulf, a lot of folks like to wait it out and see where a storm is going to make landfall before doing anything. Katrina taught a lot of folks a hard lesson about waiting
around. As people moved north they filled up all the hotels, motels, and shelters starting with the closest ones first. Eventually some folks had to go as far north as Arkansas to Southern
Missouri, before even finding simple lodgings. We are talking a spur of the moment trip with all you can carry of over 800 miles one way.
WOULD YOU BE CONFIDENT OF MAKING A RUSHED 800 MILE ROAD TRIP IN YOUR VEHICLE AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE?
This is a list of things that can be carried in a simple duffel bag or tote bin in your vehicle's trunk or behind the seat. If you drive a truck with a toolbox in the bed, that's all the
better. Also, some people are more mechanically inclined than others are, so you might want to amend this to suit your specific needs.
This list will give you a good idea where to start, and that's what it's here for.
Nothing is carved in stone, each individual has their own limitations and skill set and needs. As road service mechanic, I keep my vehicles in tip-top shape and I can honestly tell you I
make a good living from folks who do not take proper care of their cars or trucks and try to travel without being prepared. I often stop to help stranded motorists so I tend to carry a bit
more than the average Jack or Jill. I list what I carry in my vehicles and the reason why.
Most items are small and don't take up much room, but if you have to make a sudden trip in the middle of the night or whenever, you will be able to handle a lot of situations and stay on
the road on the way to a safe place. (For all bottled oils and fluids I would suggest you keep them in a spill proof container such as a pail or bucket in your trunk or truck toolbox. This
will save you a messy clean up in case of a leak. It can also be a barf bucket, a tote for the sandy shells the kids pick up at the beach or a receptacle to carry the water you need to refill
the radiator after you've repaired the blown hose.)
- FUEL: One of the best things you can do is keep your vehicles fuel level at 1/2 to 3/4 tank full at least. Most fuels are now up to 10% ethanol alcohol which can lead to
condensation in your fuel tank. In a sudden crisis or evacuation do you really want to be waiting in line for fuel? Do you want to be out on the road stuck in traffic and risk running out
of fuel? On average keeping at least 1/2 tank of fuel will give you around 100 miles of travel before you need fuel. You can extend that even more by keeping some extra fuel in a safety
gasoline can at your home that you can use to top off your tank for such emergencies.
- GREEN CASH/FOLDING MONEY: In case of a state or regional power failure, gas stations or auto repair shops may not take your credit/debt card and insist on cash payment only.
During Hurricane Katrina, when power went out to New Orleans banks, their customers found out their credit/debt cards did not work. I recommend you have enough cash to buy gas to go 800
miles and then double that amount for other expenses. So, for example, if your car gets 20 miles/gallon and gas costs $4/gallon, you need (2*800*$4)/20 = $320 in cash.
- OWNER'S MANUAL: If you buy a used car and the owner's manual is missing, order a replacement through a dealer. One of these days you might need it to identify a blown fuse,
figure out how to reset the clock or know where to place the jack when you get a flat tire.
- MEDIUM SIZE STORAGE CONTAINER(S): One or two storage containers to hold all your emergency car kit stuff so it doesn't roll loose in the back of your SUV, hatchback, car truck,
or truck toolbox.
- HEAVY DUTY JUMPER CABLES: These can save you a call to your auto club, tow truck, friend, or asking a neighbor or stranger for a jump. Sometimes you accidentally leave a light on
in the vehicle or leave an accessory on and it drains your battery down to where all you get is that dreaded "click" when you try to start up. Also, if the guy stalled out ahead with a dead
battery is blocking the road when you are trying to get out or away, it could come in handy. Buy the heaviest gauge jumper cables you can with the best heavy duty clips. There is nothing
more frustrating than to try to jump start a car and the cheap chintzy jumper cables you have won't work. I live in a condo complex with a lot of working class immigrant families.
Frequently a neighbor will ask me for a jump. He will already have out some chintzy jumper cables he picked up at GoodWill or that someone gave him for free and we will struggle for about 5
to 10 minutes trying to jump-start his car. Finally I will haul out my heavy duty jumper cables and his car will start right up.
- JACK AND SPARE TIRE: I don't think this really needs any explanation. But I will suggest that you ditch the "do-nut" spare and get one the same size as your other tires. The
"do-nut" spare will work for a maximum of 50 miles at a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour, but its not really designed to run at full speeds and it will effect traction and steering on
front wheel drive vehicles.
- 4-WAY LUG WRENCH: This tool will give you extra leverage and speed up things if you have to change a tire.
- FIX A FLAT, 2 CANS: For a simple flat it can save you time from being stuck on the road. It will seal and inflate a tire enough for you to drive to where you can get it repaired
- 12 VOLT AIR COMPRESSOR: Nothing is worse than a tire with a slow leak and no time to fix it properly on the road. This will save you having to look for air service, while trying
to get out of Dodge. Just a small one will do the job, and they don't take up no more space than a small radio, but if you need to add air to your tires they are priceless.
- TIRE PRESSURE GUAGE: This tool will help to make sure your tires are properly inflated. Measure when the tires are cold, before you have driven on them. Keep an air gauge in the
center console as a reminder to check each tire once a month. Low tire pressure can cause dangerous blow-outs, and tires under-inflated by only 6 pounds per square inch can reduce fuel
economy by 5 percent and reduce tread life by 25 percent. Your car's specified tire pressure is in your OWNER'S MANUAL or posted on a sticker in the driver's side door frame. It's normal
for tires to lose a pound or two of pressure a month.
- LED FLASHLIGHT, LED LANTERN, LED MAGNETIC WORK LITE, AND/OR LED HEADLAMP & SPARE BATTERIES: A good flash-light or headlamp is important out on the road for seeing what your doing
or to use for signalling. Look for a headlamp, flash-light, or lantern with a strobe feature for signalling. My personal preference for a flash-light is the Mag-Lite with at least at 3
D-cell capacity. It is tough, bright, has an adjustable beam from spot to flood, and can be used as a pretty good attitude adjuster if need arises. Ask any cop or bouncer why they carry
one. A LED headlamp will help keep your hands free if you need to change a tire at night or do a repair under the hood or under the car. A LED magnetic work lite is very handy, for working under the hood or as
- GLOW STICKS, ROAD FLARES & SAFETY WARNING TRIANGLES: if you do have a breakdown on the side of a busy road, these will mark you for the authorities to locate faster in the night.
A set of triangle warning reflectors fold and pack into a box that will fit in the trunk or spare-tire compartment of most vehicles. Whether it is day or night, professional truckers place
them 10 feet, 100 feet and 200 feet behind a rig to give following traffic plenty of notice of a disabled truck. You should do the same if you get a flat or are forced to pull over,
especially when there's not much shoulder on the road. Plus the road flares can be used to start a fire if you need one. Glow sticks be a great passive lighting device for your vehicle's
interior, a distress signal and also increase visibility if you're changing a tire on a poorly lit section of highway. Glow sticks typically have a shelf life of two years, so be sure to
check expiration dates once a year. Industrial grade Cyalume sticks sell for $3.75 each and last up to 12 hours.
- ONE GALLON OF AUTO WINDOW SHIELD CLEANER REFILL: Get the lowest temperature rated window shield cleaner you can find. Very useful for driving in dusty or freezing conditions,
especially at night.
- PARACORD & BUNGECORDS: Tie it up, tie it down, use it to make the tarp a sunshade. You can always find a use for the stuff.
- COMBINATION SNOW BRUSH AND ICE SCRAPER: This will help you clear your car of snow and ice after a winter storm. Even if you live in a hot climate like Texas or Arizona and you
think you will never need to use this tool, if you need to drive 800 miles north in an emergency to where there are winter storms, this tool will be invaluable. It can also function as a
crude snow, sand, or mud shovel if you slide off the road.
SPRAY BOTTLE OF CAR WINDOW DE-ICER: This will help you de-ice your car windows without scraping or warming up the car.
Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of 2/3rd rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol) and 1/3rd water. This mixture will not freeze so you can always keep it in your car.
- COLLAPSIBLE TELESCOPING TRUNK SNOW SHOVEL OR CHILD'S SNOW SHOVEL: This will help you dig yourself out of snow, mud, or sand should your vehicle get trapped or have no
- VEHICLE FLOOR MATS AND/OR CARPET STRIPS: These will not only protect the floor inside your vehicle interior, they can also do double duty to give your wheels traction if placed
just before the drive wheels. You can also use carpet strips 12 inches wide and 4 feet long for traction if you get stuck in the snow. I find they work better than spreading cat litter.
These are what's used in the Jeep community for when they go off-roading and get their wheel or axle stuck in the mud.
- BASIC FIRST AID KIT: For those minor injuries that don't require dialing 911, a few bandages, gauze, tape, disinfectant, tweezers and ibuprofen are handy for handling minor cuts
and scrapes on the road, especially if you are traveling with kids. Medication for motion sickness is another thoughtful addition. I recommend Adventure Medical Kits because they are
designed for remote medical needs. These kits are superior to the average Red Cross kit.
- WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS AND/OR PORTABLE WATER FILTER: Use to treat water if you do not have space to store water (enough to treat one gallon of water per person per day for 3
days). A good water filter is the Katadyn Hiker Pro. Most tablets treat one liter (quart) of water per tablet, so you will need a one liter (quart) bottle to mix the water to be treated and
- (WOOL) BLANKETS, EMERGENCY MYLAR (SPACE) BLANKETS, MUMMY SLEEPING BAGS, AND SMALL (COUCH) PILLOWS: If you must rest at a rest stop or are stalled in cold weather, these will help
keep you warm or can be used for shade in hot weather. Full size pillows will take up too much space. Mylar space blankets can also be used for signalling. Get high-quality mummy sleeping
bags that can be stuffed in a small sack for easy carrying. At a bare minimum, you will want the mummy sleeping bags rated down to 30F degrees. It is better to get them rated to 15F
degrees. A zero-degree (0F) mummy sleeping bag might be your first choice in areas that routinely go below zero degrees during the winter.
- RAIN GEAR/PLASTIC PONCHO WITH HOOD: You want to be out in a downpour trying to fix something without it?
- QUART OF YOUR MOTOR'S OIL: Most older American cars burn about one quart of oil every 1,000 miles. So on a trip of 800 miles you might run low on oil. If you have time, check
your engine oil level before you flee. If you don't have time to check before you flee, check at your first gasoline stop. You can find out the type of oil your motor uses by looking at
your owner's manual, engine valve covers, or asking your vehicle mechanic.
- SMALL FUNNEL WITH LONG NECK: From fuel to service fluids this item is handy to have.
- GOOD PAPER HIGHWAY MAPS OF COUNTRY AND REGION: In case the Internet is down, you need good paper maps of the highway system. Carry a map of at least your home state and city.
Unlike a fancy GPS navigation system, a good, old-fashioned paper map will never lose its signal, blow a fuse, go wacky from sunspots or lead you astray. And in a pinch you can use it to
start a fire or hang it in a window to shade a cranky baby. I prefer map books of the entire highway and road system of the country and every state. Many gas stations sell regional highway
maps. State highway maps are also available at many highway rest stops. But when TSHTF, both gas stations and highway rest stops will quickly run out of maps, so have your maps ready ahead
of time. Map out possible back road routes, but avoid back roads in winter storms. While people are headed to the interstate parking lot, taking back roads will be less crowded.
ONE CLEAR 5X7 PLASTIC POLY TARP/PAINTING DROPCLOTH: It sure beats having to lie on the ground in the dirt, in the mud, or on the wet road trying to fix your car or change a tire.
Plus it can be used to make an emergency solar still to distill grey (dirty) stream water, green vegetation, or even your own urine for drinking water. You can use a tire iron or a stick to dig the hole for the solar still if you
don't have a shovel or garden trowel.
- RAGS/AUTOMOTIVE MICROFIBER TOWELS: Simple cotton rags or automotive microfiber towels will be handy to have to clean auto glass or if you get into something paper towels just
- LEATHER GLOVES: You will know when you need them. If it's freezing cold, hot, nasty, or filthy you will be glad you got them. I prefer Lamont Mechanic Pro Leather Gloves.
- AUTO RESCUE KNIFE: this tool is a combination lock-back knife (get with the edge 1/2 serrated), seatbelt cutter, and glass punch (to break windows). Keep in a latched center
storage unit or your glove-box in case you roll your car and have to cut your seatbelt while you are upside down.
- SMALL PICNIC COOLER: If you are on a long evacuation trip and pick up cold foods along the way, the cooler will help keep them cold. Make it as small as possible but still big
enough that it will hold a gallon of milk.
- GOOD FULL SIZE LEATHERMAN TYPE POCKET MULTI-TOOL: This thing is priceless out on the road: a knife, saw, pliers, file, punch, etc., that can cut wire or slice a blown radiator
hose, tighten a loose clamp or tweeze out a tiny fuse. If you also have duct tape and a little imagination you can now handle almost any emergency. It can save your butt.
- PAPER TOWELS 2 ROLLS & TRAVEL PACKS OF TISSUE: You will have to clean up sooner or later. Save all the extra napkins you get from fast-food joints. They are great for mopping up
spilled coffee, checking the oil, cleaning a squished bug or smeared bird droppings off the wind-shield, and even handling a big sneeze. Several travel packs of tissue can be useful.
- WET DISINFECTING WIPES: I prefer the BIG MULE brand but any will do for cleaning up in a pinch.
- ROLL OF TOILET PAPER: Put the roll in a gallon zip lock bag to keep it dry.
- BIG HEAVY DUTY PLASTIC GARBAGE BAGS: Not a big box; maybe a small one of 10 or so. Keep a few large, heavy-duty plastic trash bags in the trunk. They can be used to cover the
muddy ground when you need to change a tire in the rain, as an improvised poncho or as an emergency seat cover under a wet dog or soiled child. Or use one with duct tape to cover a broken
- EMPTY 1 OR 2 GALLON SAFETY GASOLINE CONTAINER: If you do run out of fuel and are within walking distance of of gasoline service station, this empty gasoline container can be
carried to the gasoline service station, filled, and it's light enough filled with gas to carry back to your stalled vehicle.
- PRESTONE RADIATOR STOP LEAK: 2 bottles. Most modern car radiators are a combination of a metal core and a plastic reservoir. This is a recipe for a eventual problem just from the
physics of heat expansion alone. Sooner of later most of these things will bust at the seam. This product will patch a small hole enough to get you out of a pickle and on to a repair
- GALLON OF ANTIFREEZE/COOLENT: Chances are when you decide to bug-out your not going to be the only one. There will be others too, trying to get out or just get home. There's
going to be traffic, and even some jams, stop-n-go, and stand-still gridlock even. This is actually harder on your vehicle than open road driving, especially for your cooling system. I can
all but guarantee you if your vehicle overheats you will not be near any open water source. It's Murphy's Law, plus water alone will not prevent overheating and boiling over.
- SERVICE FLUIDS OTHER THAN MOTOR OIL OR ANTIFREEZE/COOLENT: In today's modern vehicles, they have many sensors that help to keep the motor from reaching the point of damage if
something goes wrong. The problem is often these sensors will stop your engine the second one is triggered. A low level of OIL, COOLENT, TRANSMISSION, POWER STEERING FLUID, or even BRAKE
FLUID can cause your vehicle to shut down and not crank leaving you stranded. Having a quart of oil, transmission, power steering, brake fluid, and a gallon of antifreeze/coolent can bring
your levels back to specifications and cause the sensor to release and the motor to crank again.
GO-BAG, LIVING IN CAR SURVIVAL AND ESCAPE KIT, OR HOMELESS HYGIENE KIT: If you are single and only have one car, you might consider keeping your Go-Bag,
Living In Your Car Survival and Escape Kit or at least a Homeless Hygiene Kit permanently in your car.
However, be aware the high temperatures of the summer will degrade go-bag food faster than its expected shelf life and the freezing temperatures of the winter will freeze all go-bag
water-based liquids. The go-bag will come in handy if you have to abandon your car.
- ELECTRICAL FUSE ASSORTMENT: If you run a lot of 12 volt accessories, sooner or later you will blow a fuse. Most vehicles now days have a fuse for everything, and they will blow
at the worst times it seems. Having an assortment of fuses can get you back up and running. A set of spare fuses and the tool used to pull them from the fuse block will cost only a few
dollars, and with them you can fix common electrical issues. For example, it's not unusual for the wind-shield wiper fuse to blow if the blades are frozen to the wind-shield. Check the
owner's manual or ask your mechanic to find out what style and size fuses you should carry as spares.
- SPARE KEY: Sooner or later everyone locks their keys in the car. If you have a copy of the key stashed in your other pants pocket or on the vehicle, you can simply unlock the
door. A magnetic key case you can get at any hardware store can be placed behind the bumper, for example. Your spare door-lock key does not need to have the expensive microchip required to
start the car.
- GORILLA (OR RESCUE) TAPE, 1 ROLL: It's like DUCT TAPE on steroids, at nearly twice the tensile strength and adhesive power though. This stuff will hold like crazy, a roll of it
is worth its weight in gold for emergencies. It will hold a busted radiator hose enough to get you on down to the nearest repair shop or parts house. Anything you would use DUCT TAPE or
GAFFER'S TAPE for, this stuff is better! If you can get pink or orange, it can double as a signalling device if you wrap it around a nearby tree or pole or your car's antenna.
- RUBBING ALCOHOL: 1 BOTTLE. This will cut grease, dry quickly, and help you to tape up a radiator hose where it will hold tight should you need to.
- TIE WIRE, 1 ROLL: From holding up a dragging tail pipe, to using it to make a tie-down on the frame of your vehicle, it is every bit as versatile and useful as GORILLA TAPE.
- ELECTRICAL TAPE, 1 ROLL: Always handy for splicing wires for trailer lights, electrical connections, etc.
- 5 MINUTE EPOXY (2 tubes) and J-B WELD (2 tubes): With everything now plastic, both of these can save you a lot of time. They work fast, set quickly, and are tough as nails. They
are like liquid DUCT TAPE and twice as strong.
- TIRE PLUG KIT: This is handy if you are more auto savvy, it allows you to plug a tire puncture quickly.
- DECENT SET OF BASIC HAND TOOLS: When you need them you NEED them! You can pick up a fair set at any big box store's auto department. May I also suggest a good pair of vice grips,
crescent wrench, end wrenches, socket set, and a claw hammer. Trust me on the hammer.
- HEAVY DUTY TOW STRAP 20 FOOT: If you need to be pulled out of the road or need to hook on to somebody else to pull them, this will be a lot lighter and easier to work with than
the old fashioned chain. A tow strap has a bit of an elastic quality, and will not jerk your vehicle as much, or be as abrasive as a chain might be. It also takes up less space.
- SPARE UNI-BELT OR FAN & ALTERNATOR BELT(S): Depending on your vehicle, you will have a "uni-belt/serpentine belt": one big belt that runs your cooling fan, A/C/, and charging
system, or on older vehicles two or more of these belts. Having a spare one that fits your motor can save your skin from being stranded, or damaging your vehicle trying to run without it.
Plus if you blow a belt and have to call a roadside assistance company, having the belt will save you the ungodly "parts mark-up price" on one, assuming they have it or can get one for you,
depending on where you break down.