I travel a lot. Too much for my wife’s preference. But that is what pays my bills. My job has me flying and driving around the country, which makes me vulnerable to travel delays and potential disasters. With any business trip within 200 miles, I prefer to drive. Any extended business trip (4 days or longer on site) within 300 miles will result in driving as well. When you add up the time it takes to drive to the airport, park at the airport, navigate the airport, go through security, waiting at the gate, on boarding the plane, waiting for takeoff, flying, deplaning, getting your bags, getting a rental car or taxi, and then finally making a local trip to my destination, it is prudent to measure the costs of time and money in order to justify flying. Flight was fun many years ago. Today, flying is just a bus in the air. Due to typical distances of my trips, I fly more often than drive by a ratio of 5 flights to 1 drive. Flying results in a greater degree of vulnerability, since fly inherently limits what can be transported on a plane. But I prefer to drive, whenever I can. Driving is much more comfortable and pleasant. I can play my favorite tunes, listen to YouTube, listen to audio books, and talk on the phone while driving.
I prefer to drive to my business destinations because I am in control of my situation. Statistically, flying is safer than driving, due mainly due to careless idiots and drunks on the road. Even in this day and age of severe drunk driving laws, nearly every night when I drive from the airport to home, I see cars weaving back and forth across the divider lines. Driving drunk goes against my survival prepper principals. But I’m a very safe and cautious driver. And I am very confident in my driving skill. The main reason for wanting to drive to my business destinations is my Macdaddy car survival kit. My car is a typical 4 door family sedan, so that I can haul my kids and my survival kit around town. My wife drives the mini-bus for primary child troop delivery duties. Both our vehicles are fully kitted with mac’ed out, fully capable survival kits.
Recently, we have needed our vehicle survival kits. The severe snow storms the past 3 weeks have tested the capacity of our vehicle kits. Fortunately for our family, the impact of the severe snow storms were limited, primarily by NOT DRIVING during bad weather. But I got stranded during one of my recent business tips. A massive snow storm was a disaster situation for many people, but merely a minor inconvenience for me. That’s because I was prepared.
Selecting and Preparing Your Vehicle
First place to start with a vehicle survival kit is choosing the right vehicle. If you live in an area of the country that expects snow or ice during the winter, choose a vehicle with 4-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, and electronic vehicle stability control. A rear-wheel drive Mustang in Northern Climates can only be a Summer fun car. I drive in both Northern and Southern climates, so I have a 4 wheel drive Sedan with all season tires. As other folks were slipping and sliding in the snow and ice the last three weeks, I was carefully but effectively driving through the winter mess. If I lived in more rural part of the country, I’d likely be driving a 4-wheel pickup truck. If I foolishly lived in the midst of a large city, then I’d probably have small 4 door sedan, sized of narrow parking spots.
To have a vehicle survival kit, you need a place to store your vehicle kit. A small sports car is a non-starter for disaster preparedness. You need a trunk or an enclosed truck box to contain your survival kit. Behind the 3rd row is a storage area for my wife’s minivan, where her car survival kit is stored. My survival kit is in the trunk of my sedan. And the trunk is filled.
With any vehicle, the first aspect of survival preparations is good and regular maintenance. Any slack in maintenance is going to show up in during an emergency event. If vehicle battery is older that 3 years, it is more likely to fail during the next cold weather event. Haven’t flushed and filled the radiator in the past 2 years, the next heat wave may sideline may result in overheating. During severe rain or ice storm, bald tires may result in totaling your car. The best and most important element of disaster preparation while driving is having a well maintained vehicle. So follow the recommended maintenance schedules as dictated by the vehicle manufacturer.
A place commonly neglected is tires. When ice storms come through the Southeast US, those vehicle involved in accidents commonly have old, nearly bald tires. Another component of vehicles that get neglected is belts. Failure of engine belts is a common cause of being stranded and calling for a tow truck. Change all the various fluids in your vehicle as the manufacturer recommends. In maintaining your vehicle, you will have confidence that it will be available during an emergency situation. With good maintenance practices, not only will you more likely glide through an emergency event, your vehicle will likely last longer also. Being a sold prepper is about being frugal as well. Playing for regular maintenance is cheaper than a new car payment.
If you become stranded or in an accident, the first option for survival is calling for help. There are several layers of redundancy that I have for travel communications, including:
- Have a charger in your vehicle for your mobile phones. While you drive, keep your phone on the charger. Thus in the event of a break down or being stranded, your mobile phone is fully charged.
- I carry a spare battery or portable recharger battery when I travel. My portable battery can recharge my mobile phone twice. If you are unable to connect your phone to its network provider, turn off the phone for the periods between trying call. When a phone is unable to connect to the network, it will quickly drain its battery. When in an emergency situation, call for help first. Then call your family or friends. Be brief. No long chatty talks. You need to save the precious charge level on your battery. Quickly say, “Hello. It is . I am stranded by the roadside. My location is xxxx. Help is on the way . I’m okay . I’ll call you again as the situation changes. I need to save my phone battery. Good bye.”
- As a back up, there is a CB radio in the trunk of my vehicle. Every year, it gets tested. Keep a lingo card taped to the CB radio box. Reference: CB Radio Slang and Trucker Slang and How to Talk on a CB Radio and CB Radio Codes
- Also in the trunk of my vehicle, carry a portable crank AM/FM radio with Weather Band and World Bands. With a crank radio, you may create your own power source and not rely on disposable batteries. Even if I can not communicate, at least I can receive news and weather alerts via the radio. This radio gets tested every year to ensure it is working. Any crank radio has a rechargeable battery within. And with time, all rechargeable batteries go bad. Thus is must be tested every year.
- Have a red triangle or red bandana to attach to your vehicle as notification that you have an emergency event.
- A set of walkie-talkie’s in case you need to walk away from your vehicle and a family members is planning to remain with the vehicle (more often than not, my wife and I take the walkie-talkies into amusement parks or festivals for when we are separated)
- Several Flashlights of various sized for signaling. You can’t beat the new LED flashlights, which draw less power and last much longer than traditional light bulb flashlights.
- Spare batteries for all flashlights and radios (replace the batteries every year)
- I don’t have a handheld ham radio or marine radio, but I’m on the lookout for an inexpensive used portable ham radio (if you live near the coast, I do recommend keeping a VHF Marine handheld radio in your vehicle).
- Keep paper roadmaps in the vehicle. A detailed map for my local county. And state maps for the entire region. If power goes out, GPS is down, batteries are dead — always have a paper backup.
- Each of our vehicle has a build in GPS system, which is invaluable with lost or took a wrong turn.
- In my vehicle, I have a portable GPS device. If I need to rent al car after flying, I’ll take this portable GPS rather than renting a device. If I need to walk away from the vehicle, the portable GPS can provide me with directions.
- For last-ditch location finding, have a small compass stored in the kits.
Food and Water
Always have food and water with your vehicle. You never know when you’ll be delayed from a meal. My children seem to be hungry whenever they are 5 minutes into any vehicle trip. Something about being in a vehicle that triggers munchies in my children. For me, it is movies that gives me munching.
- My family has a sizable snack pack in the form of a large zip lock bag in each vehicle. It holds crackers, nuts, chips, fruit bars, cereal bars, hard candies, pretzels, and other munchies. We can make two whole meals for each family member just from the snack bag.
- In both vehicles, several MRE’s are stored in the survival kit. These are last resort foods, if stranded. These are trashed and replaced at the end of each Summer, as the Summer heat kills the shelf life of MREs.
- Two gallons of water are stored in the trunk. This water is primarily to fill a radiator or windshield washer fluids. But it is also available for drinking, if stranded.
- Have a portable water filter. My portable water filter is the Berkey Sports Bottles. This portable water filter will create 50 gallons of drinkable water from open water sources.
- In the passenger area of both vehicles, there are two quart-sized water bottles for each family member – 8 bottles total. If drank during a trip, these are replaced immediately upon returning home. During the height of summer, often we’ll take an additional cooler with juice or cold water.
- My every-day-carry kit (a sizable fanny pack), there are some additional hard candies and cracker packages. This kit goes everywhere I go, including family drives.
- There are camping forks, spoons, and knives for each family member in the kit.
- There are garbage bags in the kit to collect garbage and protect items from moisture.
- Essentially, there is enough food in the car for 3 or 4 full days.
- In each vehicle, there is a small portable fishing kit.
- If the trips is expected to go three hours or longer, such as a day trip of hiking or to an amusement park, then we’ll also pack a cooler with sandwiches, fruit, cheeses, chips, juice, and more. Any day trip should be accompanied by a cooler of food.
Every vehicle should have a tool kit. The tool kit is not just to help me, if stranded. But more often, I’m helping other stranded people.
- Tire changing iron
- Tire jack
- Various screw drivers
- Several hand wrenches
- Battery jumper cables
- 50 feet of nylon rope
- Duct tape for fast, temporary hose repairs
- Fix-a-flat cans for fast, temporary tire repairs
- Tire pressure measuring device
- A manual tire pump to inflate a low tire
- Regular hammer and rubber mallet (rubber mallet is to pound out dent that my press against a tire after an accident)
- Crowbar – I carry a crowbar in my vehicle to pry open jammed doors or trunks after an accident.
- Tape measure – countless reasons to measure something while traveling. Usually my wife wants to measure furniture dimensions.
- Spare fuses – for quick replacements
- Metal wire – used to temporarily tie up loose parts, such as a dropped exhaust system or damage muffler
- Quart of oil – whatever specific grade is relevant to the vehicle, in case of an oil leak
- Gallon of premixed radiator fluid – in case the radiator over heats.
- An empty 1 gallon fuel can. This can be walked to a gas station. NEVER carry a filled fuel can. In the event of a car accident, the fuel can is likely to rupture and cause a horrific fire.
- More stuff which escapes me a the moment
Self-defense and safety
Always have a means to defend yourself from attackers or robbers.
- Keep a can of bear pepper spray on the little shelf on the driver’s door. This large can of pepper spray can chase away several attackers. And is useful for wild animals or stray feral dogs.
- A small container of pepper spray (1/4 ounce) on each key chain.
- Concealed carry pistol – depending on my situation, I’m always carrying either a .380 ACP pocket gun or a 9mm carry pistol. And always have two spare magazines with me. For long trips, I’ll take a complete pistol kit, which contains cleaning tools and fluids, extra magazines, and several hundred rounds of spare ammo. The kit is locked with a pad lock to prevent children, hotel maids, and bad people for quick access.
- For extended trips, I’ll also carry a shotgun in the trunk. I have a 20 gauge Mossberg shotgun as a trunk gun. The smaller 20 gauge is manageable by my petite wife. A 12 gauge is too much gun for my wife. With my shotgun, also carry several boxes of shotgun ammo, including slugs, bird shot, and buckshot. Usually two boxes of each. The shotgun itself is carried loaded the first shell of birdshot, and then 4 shells of buckshot. The first round of birdshot is primarily to chasing away wild animals. There are coyotes and rapid foxes running around my area. Birdshot is a good warning to bad people and causes a bad day at short-range. The buckshot is for those unable to heed the warning.
- If I was travel after a SHTF, WROL or TEOTWAWKI event, I’d also be carrying a full carbine kit – either an AK-47 or AR-15 with as many spare magazines that I had at hand. Plus, I’d be traveling with vest carrier and plates. I pray to god that this is never needed. But I’m ready to defend my family in this ultimate extreme situation.
- My wife’s SHTF weapon is a Hi Point carbine in 9mm. It is an easy to shoot, low recoil pistol cartridge rifle. My petite wife cannot handle an AR-15. The Hi-Point is very effect, very accurate out to 75 years. I’m able to produce 2 inch groups at 50 years. The 9mm round out of the Hi Point rifle gains 100 FPS and is very capable for self-defense at short-range. The added benefit is sharing ammunition between my primary carry pistol and with this Hi Point Rifle. This rifle also doubles for hunting small game, as some might use a .22 LR rifle. In a WROL situation, this rifle will be used to take down squirrels, ducks, and other small game.
- On my person while driving, have a sizable pocket knife. The blade is 4 inches long and kept very sharp. This blade also serves as a rescue knife, if I need to cut myself or someone else out of a vehicle safety belt. And serves for close range self-defense.
- On our vehicle key chains, there are a small 1/2 ounce vial of pepper spray.
- In my vehicle’s trunk, there is an 18 inch machete. This is used primarily for survival purposes, in case I need to set up a camp site. It also doubles as a defense weapon in a worst case scenario.
- Have a fire extinguisher rated at B/C for fuel and electrical files. Often I come upon vehicle fires, so my fire extinguishers is more likely to be used to help rescue others.
- The crowbar and tire irons may double as defensive weapons.
- Have a very robust first aid kit for each vehicle, including blood stopper bandages, Israeli bandages, and just about every type of over the counter medicine.
Shelter and Comfort
Be always ready to set up a temporary shelter. And always be ready to shelter within the vehicle, in case you are ever stranded. The follow are several items that are carried in either mine or my wife’s vehicle.
- A wool blanket for each family member – Provides ground cover and bedding in the summer. Provides heat retention in the winter. The wool blankets are stored in very large zip lock bag to protect against dirty and moisture. The blankets are washed twice of year, when not being used. If used on a trip, they are washed on a weekly basis.
- Two large tarps. Have two 12 foot by 12 foot thick plastic tarps. With these tarps, can improvise a rain shelter with ground cover. Often the tarps come out during picnics or sporting events to provide ground cover. Have 50 feet of paracord and 50 feet of nylon rope to hang up the tarp. And have cheap tent stakes to affix the tarp to the ground. My children’s soccer team can be found sitting on one of the tarps during Saturday games.
- If we are taking a long journey, often we take a sleeping bag for every family member. We have sleeping bags rated to 20 degrees for all family members. These are outdoor quality, not the kiddy sleepover bags that are cheaply sold for children play dates.
- In my vehicle, carry a small (2 person) four season tent. And have a sleeping bag rated to 10 degrees. This is to be used if stranding during a long business trip.
- Have a box of portable disposable hand warmers. These packets, once opened and exposed to the air, provide about 5 to 8 hours of warm. Tuck one or two of these in your sleeping bag, and you will sleep nice and toasty warm, even outside in freeze temperatures (provided you have a well rated outdoor quality sleeping bags).
- A small portable toddler toilet with various bags that attach underneath. Provides for a more comfortable was to go to the bathroom.
- Have 4 packs of toddler wipes for cleaning after bathroom event. And 4 packs of baby wipes for cleaning other body parts. As my children are making messes in their travels and activities, the baby wipes are keeping us all clean. I’m a messy eater, so I’m using the baby wipes as well.
- Have several ways to build a fire. Have matches and lighters of various sorts. Have a magnesium wand for creating sparks. Have a can of sterno in each vehicle for starting fires and cooking. Have several candles. Lots of miscellaneous paper in the vehicle for starting fires.
- Two folding camp chairs in shoulder carry bags. These camp chairs are commonly used at sporting and other outdoors events.
- If we are stranded, we would be able to set up a camp sit, pitch a tent, start a fire, and live in relative comfort for several days.
For all those folks that were stranded and had to walk away from their vehicles during the recent snow storms, they would have had a more comfortable and less stressful situation, had they a vehicle survival kit. My kit is just an example. You would do well to customize your vehicle kit to your local conditions. Welcome your comments and suggestions.
May all your travels be fun and safe.