Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Car Kit

This was birthed when I first started driving with a few items like a tire pressure gauge and entrenching tool, grew with more items such as jumper cables and flares, was the beginning of a survival kit with the addition of a gallon of water when I crossed a desert, then expanded as I saw the wisdom of preparedness.

In keeping with my 15 Essential Systems and using my EDC (Every Day Carry) items as well as items from my hiking, camping, and road trip packing lists, this is my current car emergency and survival kit.

Although I reduce water and food items for running errands in town and day trips, keeping the bulk at home as my home preparedness kit, I take everything listed on road trips.


a. Luminous Suunto Clipper compass - on my car key ring.

b. Map(s)/road atlas.

c. Highlighters - I use yellow to plan and a darker color to mark my actual route to make it easy to see how far off-track I went.

d. Carson Lumi Click - a lighted magnifier.

e. GPSr and cigarette lighter adapter - optional. These things are great, but I've never relied solely on one.

To confirm my distrust, when I went to see "The Marriage of Figaro," I planned on dining at a particular restaurant after the opera and programmed the waypoint two nights before I left home. After the opera, however, something happened and my GPSr screen blanked out. It wasn't the batteries because I was using the DC adapter. It wasn't the DC adapter because it did the same thing with the batteries which registered a full charge on the meter before blanking out again.

Since I always have a variety of maps with me, I simply selected one and proceeded to the restaurant by memory of the street name and approximate cross street. It turned out that I was two blocks off on the cross street, but that wasn't far to drive in that vicinity.

I never did figure out what happened to it. It worked fine when I tested it after my return, even I went out of town to meet a friend for lunch.


a. Sun glasses with retainer cord, & clip-on keeper for car visor.

b. Sun hat or visor, winter hat or knit cap, scarf or neck gaiter - depending on the season.

c. Red bandanna - multiple uses.

d. Driving gloves/poptop mittens - convertible mittens are the greatest because they provide the warmth of mittens with the manual dexterity of fingerless gloves and all I have to do is pop off the top of the mitten to switch from one to the other - luv'em!

e. Shawl wrap, sweater, windbreaker, and winter coat - depending on season.

f. Walking shoes/hiking sandals/hiking boots/winter boots & socks, YakTrax Walkers - again, depending on the season.

g. Change of clothing appropriate for the season.

h. Cascade II poncho with DIY ties - breathable and much more comfortable than the PVC poncho of my exposure kit (next item).

i. E-kit: PVC poncho, N95 face mask, swim goggles, earplugs, nitrile gloves, plastic bags - in addition to protecting from dust, noise, or hazardous NBC materials; for extra protection in case of self-rescue, I can put the plastic bags over my socks inside each shoe to waterproof my feet and help prevent frostbite. The nitrile gloves may be used similarly inside my gloves or convertible mittens to further protect my hands.

3. HYDRATION - because water is vital, I have multiple backups for this system:

a. Brita Bottle/thermal water bottle/Katadyn filtering bottle, insulated carrier, Katadyn ViruStat or microfiltering cartridge - which water bottle I use depends on the season and how far from home I'm going.

For example, if I'm only running around town, I use the Brita Bottle or thermal bottle when I want to keep ice longer in over 100° F summer heat like it's been for 65 days so far this summer. For a long road trip, I take all three since the Katadyn bottle is part of my hiking and preparedness kits, using the Brita Bottle as it's intended to be used or to fill the thermal bottle with great-tasting water instead of taking along a Brita pitcher like I used to do.

I like the Katadyn bottle because it may be used as a regular water bottle, a microfiltering bottle when used with the microfiltering cartridge, or a purifying bottle when used with the ViruStat cartridge. It would be great if the carbon filter for the Katadyn bottle could be purchased separately so we have the option of using it as an aesthetic filtering bottle because it would allow every option. Then, I wouldn't need the Brita Bottle.

b. 18 oz. stainless steel bottle mug with fold-in handles and graduated measurements on the side and a foil pot pie pan as a DIY lid - to boil water if necessary. A regular 1 quart/liter Nalgene-type water bottle fits into these bottle mugs so there's very little additional space needed to take one along. Some come with their own lid.

c. 1-4 gallon(s) water, 1 DIY cozy - 1 gallon for day trips to 4 gallons for crossing a desert. I still need to make the cozy to keep the water from freezing during the winter. I thought of using an inexpensive polystyrene ice chest, but it takes up too much space.

d. Katadyn Micropur MP1 tablets and a quart zip bag - to collect water if the location is too shallow for my bottle or mug and to purify water if viruses are a concern when I'm using the microfiltering cartridge in my Katadyn or another bottle that's less than 1 quart/liter capacity. While it's okay to use an MP1 tablet with a lesser amount of water, I think it's a waste since the quart zip bag is so easy to have on hand.

e. Aquarium tubing, 4' - to siphon water if I can't collect it with my water bottle or zip bag.

f. Evaporated milk with non-dairy creamer to improve taste.

g. Hot beverage fixings such as powdered spiced apple mix and bouillon cubes. Since caffeine and alcohol aid both dehydration and hypothermia, there's no coffee, cocoa, or alcohol in my kit. The only tea is decaffeinated.

h. Box juice - optional, usually apple which is better for alertness than caffeine.

i. (3) 2-liter PET bottles for SODIS - optional, depending on how much space is available after packing my small car for a road trip.


a. Umbrella - use as portable sun shade as well as for rain.

b. Window shades & solar-powered fan - the fan hangs on the edge of a window to vent the interior hot air to the outside. Sorry, I've had it so long, I can't recall from where I bought it.

c. Space Emergency Blanket - I got one years ago and still keep it in the car at all times since I take the All Weather and Grabber blankets along only for road trips.

d. Space All Weather Blanket - sturdier, quieter, and easier to refold than a regular Space blanket; use as ground sheet, tarp, and signaling.

e. Therm-A-Rest Women's Trail Lite pad - from my hiking pack. I have an inexpensive closed-cell foam pad I use for car camping but it's too bulky for my pack or to keep in my small car. Not thinking, I got a 3/4-length Uber pad which doesn't insulate my usually colder legs and feet at all simply because it's short, so switched to the full-length Therm-A-Rest.

f. Space Grabber hooded all weather blanket - use as a hooded blanket and for signaling.

g. Plastic sheet (=> 2 mm thick) - create a greenhouse effect with a fire on one side when a Space blanket is used on the opposite side as a heat reflector for warmth. The sequence is: fire, plastic, person(s), Space blanket, and car or other surface to which the plastic sheet and Space blanket are secured. Also for additional purposes such as collecting dew or rain runoff for hydration.

Relying on only the car as shelter might not be a good idea because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and not being able to stretch out to sleep may prohibit getting the best quality of rest during an already stressful situation; it's a personal judgment call.

The problem with rigging a tarp or pitching an open-ended emergency tube tent is that wind shifts may cause the elements to storm in and the open sides permit insects and larger critters to share my shelter. I really don't like the idea of a snake snuggling up to me to share my body heat as I sleep and cringe at the thought of rolling over onto a rattler. While a mosquito net would help the open ends of a tube tent, it would have to be a large net to help with the open sides of a tarp.

I do have a hiking tent that needs to be staked out which I carted around in my car for a few years until I realized a free-standing tent would be better because of the variety of surroundings I was driving through.

When high summer temperatures turn a car into an oven making hyperthermia a concern, rigging a tarp to create shade would be more comfortable than getting under the car to stay cool. I can tie my All Weather blanket to my roof rack or close the car doors on the edge of one side and use my hiking poles or buy taller, collapsible tarp poles to hold up the other.


a. Cell phone with In Case of Emergency (ICE) info in phone book + cigarette adapter - I probably should get an additional way to recharge it in case I can't recharge it using the car battery.

b. Antenna help flag (red bandanna).

c. Fox 40 Mini whistle - on key ring.

d. Parker Jotter with Space Pen refill - the Jotter cost me less than the Space Pens were priced; I put a Space Pen refill in it because it writes when other pens won't.

e. Mechanical pencil & eraser.

f. Rite in the Rain® All-Weather notepaper - to leave weatherproof notes in case I leave the vehicle to attempt self-rescue so rescue personnel know which way I went and my condition; this paper needs a pencil or Space pen to be able to write on it.

g. Surveyor's tape, 30' - to leave a trail of "breadcrumbs" in case I leave the car to search for water so I can find my way back and so SAR may track me down.

h. Signal mirror.

i. Radio Shack NOAA Alert radio.

j. Grundig AM/FM/SW radio, optional - to keep up with what's going on in the rest of the world.

6. FIRE - Vital for heat, purifying water, signaling, cooking, light, and morale; I have multiple backups for this system as well:

a. Lighter - with an adjustable flame that mimics a blowtorch, butane lighters are not dependable at high altitude or when wet or cold, however, there are windproof and water-resistant models available.

b. Wooden safety and storm-proof matches in waterproof match safe - backup to the lighter.

c. Swedish FireSteel Army model by Light My Fire - ferrocerium rods work even if wet and will outlast both the lighter and matches by far.

d. (2) "Magic" can't-blow-out trick birthday candles - for windy conditions.

e. Magnesium block firestarter - the shavings are too easily blown away, but if sheltered by kindling and wood, will help dry damp wood so it can burn.

f. (6) PJ cotton balls and (5) PJ tampons - triple-sized cotton balls and super plus tampons slathered with petroleum jelly as DIY tinder stored in a plastic snack zip bag.

g. (3) Firestarting sticks - in case natural kindling is too wet.

h. Portable stove & fuel - for this car kit, I selected the Esbit Pocket stove.

i. (1) Nuwick 120-hour candle - to warm vehicle and some foods, it also provides light.

j. Silicone & wooden trivets - there's no point in melting or burning up the vehicle or ground sheet. The wooden trivet could also serve as fuel in a pinch.

k. Set of two nested camping pots (with fold-in handles) with lids, 1.3 & 0.9 liter capacity. The smaller pot stays in the car kit all the time while the larger pot gets added for road trips. I used to include a kettle, but decided it's unnecessary between my bottle mug and these pots.

l. (2) EzHeat instant reusable handwarmers - boil in water to reactivate.

m. Fire extinguisher - required by some U.S. National Parks.


a. Mini Maglite with red lens from accessories pack - in glove box to read maps and preserve night vision. I got this years before and converted it to LED before getting the LED model and haven't had a reason to remove it from my glove box.

b. Mini Maglite LED, accessories pack, Nite Ize headband, neck lanyard. A brighter light than my converted, older Mini Mag, I really like having the SOS and strobe features of the next-generation model.

The problem with the headband is wearing the flashlight on the side of my head makes me feel lopsided. As a result, I prefer the lanyard except it bounces when I move and I can't always direct the light to precisely where I'm looking without holding the flashlight in my hand.

c. Headlamp - I currently have three I don't like and continue to look for one I do. I put one of these three in my car kit.

d. (4) Chemical light sticks - to light car interior to aid visibility while I sleep without running down batteries or risking a fire. I'd hate for another driver to not see me when I need help or, worse, hit my car but because they have expiration dates and I bought a lighted traffic cone, I doubt I'll replace them after they're gone.


a. Snacks - a small selection chosen from Clif/Luna bars, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, crackers, or peanut butter-filled snack crackers. These are for day trips.

b. Three or more days worth of meals - instant oatmeal and Cream of Wheat, Bumble Bee's Tuna Salad Lunch on the Run, instant miso soup, Knorr's Sides - rice and pasta, Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, Ramen, foil-packaged or canned fish, chicken, or meat, canned vegetables, fruit cups, and Mountain House freeze-dried food (so far, I haven't liked the other brands I've tried). These are also my home preparedness kit. I prefer dried, dehydrated, or freeze-dried products because they don't have the weight of canned goods and there's no risk of breakage as with glass making this kit double as my evacuation kit. Although I realize they need water to prepare, and water might not be readily available, I hope to be rescued before my water supply is exhausted or be able to evacuate to a locale with an adequate water supply outside the disaster area.

c. Plastic plate as cutting board, paring knife, and a Frisbee for a plate because the raised edge helps prevent spillage. One of the camping pots can double as a bowl.

d. Eating utensils: plastic set of knife, fork, & spoon; citrus peeler for fresh fruit bought along the way.

e. Salt & pepper.

f. Manual can opener - even though I have a P-51 can opener on my key ring.

g. Punch can opener + cap lifter + corkscrew - leftover from my first attempt at making up a car kit for spontaneous picnics.


a. Commercially prepared FAK, lip balm, sun block, insect repellent, insect sting relief, artificial tears, rehydration mix.

b. Personal medications, multi-vitamin & multi-mineral pills.

c. Floss, toothbrush & toothpaste.

d. Toilet tissue pack/roll, toilet seat covers - this started out as a travel item.

e. Feminine supplies including a Freshette feminine urinary device (FUD) and a 2 L colored PET bottle - the Freshette is because I don't like exposing my bare butt in the great outdoors and hours in a car on an evacuation route wouldn't give me anything in the way of privacy much less a clean restroom. The bottle is so I don't have to let more cold air in by opening the door to go outside; it's colored so I don't confuse it with my SODIS bottles and so I won't have to regard the color of its contents.

f. Hand sanitizing wipes/gel - alcohol-based sanitizer gel will also help start a fire.

g. Facial tissue, hand lotion, foot powder, baby wipes - convenient sponge-type bath.

h. No Rinse shampoo, No Rinse body wash - for a more thorough clean-up when water is in short supply.

i. Biodegradable washing liquid - for body, hair, dishes, and laundry in fresh or sea water.

j. Solar shower - this black plastic bag, tube, and nozzle contraption that uses the sun to heat the water started out as a camping item because there's nothing like a hot shower.

k. Shout stain removal wipes, optional.

l. Quart and gallon zip bags for trash.


a. Squeegee, Rain-X wipes, windshield interior cleaner, ice scraper, spare wiper refills - leftover from the last time I bought refills since my wiper blades are different lengths

b. Leatherman multi-tool, knife & scissors sharpener, LifeHammer, ResQMe - on my key ring for when I'm not in my own car, I didn't know about the ResQMe when I bought my LifeHammer.

c. Gorilla Grip universal socket, 3/8" ratchet handle & driver extension set, adjustable wrench, entrenching tool, ax, Sierra saw.

d. Duct tape, 100' paracord, zip ties, bungee cords, bungee net - to secure items on the trunk lid's luggage rack.

e. Jumper cables, spare fuses, tow rope, traction mats & plastic bag to keep car clean after use, 1-gallon gas can, funnel, siphon, plastic bag to hold used funnel and siphon.

f. Bumper-mounted deer warning devices - absolutely fantastic for keeping bugs from executing kamikaze dives into my windshield; when the splats start up again, I know it's time to wash out the devices. And I've never hit a deer which is why I originally bought them.

g. 2-AAA Pack-a-Cone, warning triangle, flares, reflective safety vest.

h. Wheel block (a brick), jack, tire iron, spare tire, air compressor with cigarette lighter cord, tire pressure gauge.

i. (6) spare AAA cells for Lumnifier, Pack-A-Cone.

j. (4) spare AA cells for flashlights.

k. Eyeglass repair kit - gotta have sunglasses!

l. (3) 1-quart zip bags, (5) 1-gallon Hefty One Zip freezer bags, (3) kitchen can trash bags, (3) leaf trash bags.

m. (1) roll paper towels.

Some lists include a drive belt, hoses, and clamps. I don't because I have my car serviced according to the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual and take the car in for an oil change and to have such things checked before each road trip for my own peace of mind, ounce of prevention and all that.


a. Driver's license - in wallet.

b. Proof of insurance & phone #.

c. Registration & owner's manual.

d. Roadside assistance membership card with phone #.

e. ICE info - in wallet.

f. [Disposable] camera to record scene of accident.

g. Notebook to record accident info: other driver's license #, car plate #, insurance.

h. This list - to quickly assess what's available, use as tinder.


Cash & coins - I'm not sure what good these will be in an emergency or survival situation except to pay for a taxi, tow truck, or on-the-spot repairs since many businesses accept credit/debit cards. I keep coins in a Tupperware pudding cup in one of the car cup-holders for toll roads and parking meters.


a. Small ice chest - used without ice to insulate my FAK medications from heat when I park for a while to visit a site enroute to my next lodging.

b. Plastic bins - to store and easily transfer non-canned food and other preparedness items between home and car.

c. Doubled shopping bags for canned food.

d. Car accessory litter bags with Velcro closures - hung off the back of the front seats using the head restraint supports. These are used to hold my folding umbrella, maps, Mini Maglite LED flashlight, and other small items.

e. Car accessory storage bag that hangs in the trunk next to the back of the back seat - to hold almost everything in the Tools & Repairs category using a minimum of trunk floor space. Some items, like the brick, saw, and ax, are stored underneath or because of the angle of the seat back, between the bag and seat back such as the solar fan and sun shade during the off-season.

f. Car top carrier - for road trips. Abundant shopping in San Francisco and Los Angeles motivated me to buy a car top carrier system while I was in L.A. because of the greater capacity and providing more protection than the luggage rack on the trunk lid. I don't store car kit items in it.

g. Da car - ideally, items needed immediately such as the FAK, candle, matches, Space Blanket, and water would be within reach so the occupant(s) can preserve body heat while taking care of immediate needs without having to open the vehicle doors.

There's a luggage rack on the trunk lid, but because any cargo has to be netted, depending on state law, and tarped to withstand weather, I view this as a temporary carrier or for the last resort.

14. ENTERTAINMENT - The only items kept in the car at all times are my pocket and mini kites. I take my Kindle when I foresee waiting time while I'm doing errands in town. The rest are added for day or road trips as desired:

a. Camera, recharger, tripod.

b. Binoculars/monocular.

c. Crossword puzzle book, playing cards, assorted pocket, mini, and full-sized kites - under the right conditions, a kite could be used to signal my location.

d. Cassettes and MP3 player.

e. Cassette adapter and sticky pad for the MP3 player.

f. Kindle (also needs the cassette adapter) with games as well as reading material - I can recharge the Kindle using the inverter I got for my laptop.

g. Small musical instrument such as a tin whistle or harmonica and music book.

h. Watercolor painting supplies.

15. SECURITY & SELF-DEFENSE - Because this category depends on the variety of states' laws as much as personal preference, I generally limit it to my Fox 40 Mini whistle because if close enough, three blasts can really hurt a bad guy's ears giving me a chance to get away as well as signaling my need for help, three being the universal distress signal.

[Updated 11/18/2011]

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