10 Emergency Road Kit Essentials
Whether it’s a trip across town or across the country you never know when a blown tire could turn into an overnight stay in a cold, lonely snowdrift. Our celebration of National Preparedness Month continues with this look into building an everyday emergency road kit for your trunk.
Survival Versus Revival
When contemplating a DIY kit consider its mission. Are you trying to get back on the road or is the kit a strictly survival proposition? Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. While you certainly can’t pack a repair shop in your trunk, a collection of basic tools will keep a basic problem from taking your car off the road. On the survival guide side, the question is whether to pack for a Donner Party-like circumstance or merely a few inconvenient hours away from civilization. Kits can be housed in a spare duffel bag, backpack, or a flat plastic storage bin. Here are 10 must-have items to consider for your emergency road kit.
10. Revival: Jumper Boxes
Dead batteries put thousands of motorists on the sidelines each year. Jumper cables are good, but require a second vehicle - so we prefer the jumper box. Weight and size have long been a problem, but modern boxes are much more compact. The blue "dinosaur" box is three times larger than the newer red one. On the scales: Blue 19.63 pounds; Red 8.25 pounds. The red box, from Griot’s Garage, is rated at 900 amps, includes an LED flashlight, and is even able to charge cell phones.
9. Survival: Flashlight
Conventional battery-operated flashlights are dead. Today the choices are either a specialized hand crank or shaking mechanism emergency units that require no batteries or flashlights with rechargeable high-tech lithium batteries. Look for multi-taskers with radios, flashing hazard lights, alert sirens, glass-breaking hammer tips and seatbelt cutters. The lithium lights are mega bright, can be recharged via 12-volt power sockets or USB ports and can also serve as chargers for your cell phone.
8. Revival: The Big Three
There are certain portable products you can pack that will keep your ride on the road. The key here is to know your car’s weak points, systems that may be likely to hiccup, and include a few saviors in your kit. This trio of coolant, fix-a-flat and fire extinguisher is a good starting point.
7. Survival: Food
You think a bacon cheeseburger piles on the calories? There are survival food bars that can drop 200 to 400 calories on your metabolism in seconds. Mix a box of these with traditional granola bars that can also serve as soccer snacks or sustenance during a long wrenching session. It should be noted that non-perishable items that are individually packaged stay fresh longer.
6. Survival: Water
Water is essential. The question is how much are you willing to lug around? Dropping a few one-liter bottles is a good way to go. They will most likely be used along the way so check your kit periodically to ensure you have water. A family-style 2.5-gallon water briefcase is a great call on a longer road trip or for big families.
5. Survival: Clothing
This one is all about fending off the elements in a pinch, namely the cold and the wet. Combine a fleece garment and a light water-resistant windbreaker. You can mix and match to the best blend of heat retention and water resistance. You may also consider adding a shirt and a pair of sweats. Space challenged? Survival ponchos are also great solution in a super small package.
4. Survival: First Aid Kit
When it comes to first aid supplies we recommend going beyond Band-aids and Bactin. Some vehicles come equipped with first aid kits, these make a good starting point and you can add bigger and better bandages, gauze pads, and other next-level gear.
3. Revival: Tools
Before going anywhere, be sure you have a serviceable spare tire, a proper jack, and a lug wrench that fits. Got wheel-lock lugs? Got the key? Add a basic tool kit that’s capable of making quick work of ailments like a popped-off hose, thrown belt, or a random loose bolt. Don’t go overboard, we’re not looking to do a cam swap on the hard shoulder here.
2. Survival: Blanket
There are two ways to go here; pack your own extra wool or polyester blanket or look to the survival market and nab a heat reflective Mylar blanket. Beyond convenience, these gems retain 80 to 90 percent of your radiant body heat, are great space savers, and only cost $2 to $4 a pop.
1. Revival: Tow Rope
You may never use your tow rope but if you do it will be a real lifesaver, getting your vehicle back on solid ground before you have to hunker down in a distant snowdrift. True, it does take a second vehicle to work, but the alternative is big-time scary. If you drive a crusty old classic, barely rolling project, or a stressed out high mileage commuter putting one these kits together makes real sense. We know our cars inside and out and have a feel for what part or component system is primed to betray us, so we can tailor our kit for the car and not be left out in the cold when things go awry.