Vehicle Bug Out Bag
You’ve just headed out the door after being told to evacuate and driven a short ways. All of a sudden, whamo!, you’ve blown a water hose, and you lose all your engine coolant. It’s late in the day on Highway 88 near Silver Lake, California, or some other similarly remote area, and you realize that the normally light traffic is nonexistent today. You’re probably stuck overnight. To make matters worse, it’s very cold, with rain that’s starting to look more and more like snow. Are you and your vehicle prepared?
If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve got the clothes on your back, maybe a few munchies bought at the local gas station food mart, a little cash, and a cell phone, which won’t, of course, do you any good because of lack of cell phone coverage in the area. You’re going to have a rough and cold night.
If you’re prepared, though, you should be at least moderately comfortable and only somewhat inconvenienced. Let’s see what you’ve got that’ll keep you from freezing.
If you’re smart, the first thing you’ve done is let someone know where you’re going and by what route, so if they don’t hear from you at a predetermined time, they should call for help. Second, if you’re at all serious about being prepared, you’re involved in amateur radio, and you’ll have a radio with the legs to get a message out since there’s usually somebody listening who can call the cavalry out for you. Still, depending on local conditions, it can be hours, maybe even a couple of days before someone can come to your rescue.
First, you should have brought along your personal bug-out bag, as described above. The extra clothes and coat will go a long way towards keeping you warm. You should have also prepared a bug-out bag for your vehicle, which should include items both for your own comfort as well as mild maintenance issues for your vehicle.
One point should be made right now– always try to keep your gas tank at least half full of gas! This way, if your car’s engine is in working order, you have at least some chance of getting to a filling station that has a working fuel dispensation system in case the local power is out. If your car is immobilized, it also lets you occasionally run your engine while you’re stopped by the side of the road to keep your battery charged so you can listen to your car radio and occasionally warm your vehicle up a bit at night, if you’re stuck in a cold area.
Let’s start with the personal items. In addition to the items in your bug-out bag, some supplemental items should be included in this larger vehicle bag. Put together a larger first aid kit that you always keep in your vehicle. A good place to start is one of the larger pre-prepared first aid kits found in the pharmacy section of most big box stores. This should be modified to include any necessary prescription drugs you need. If possible, another pair of prescription glasses should be located in your glove box, in case you break the ones you normally wear.
In addition, include both a pair of work gloves, which can keep your hands warm as well as serve as protection for working on your car, and a decent pair of cold weather gloves to keep your hands really warm. Include thick wool socks to keep your feet warm. For your head and neck, include something along the lines of a Navy watch cap and woolen neck warmer. If you’ve really planned for cold weather, you’ll have heavily insulated boots packed in the trunk. This is all in case you have to move around outside of your vehicle for whatever reason. Otherwise, stay in the vehicle, since it’s the best shelter you’ve got at the moment and much easier for rescuers to find than a person on foot.
Another item to have in the car is a small heater unit. There is a relatively new item on the market that’s really neat. It comes in the form of a small, propane-powered space heater that doesn’t put out carbon monoxide, so you can use it inside a closed vehicle without the danger of being overcome by toxic gas. One model to look at is the Portable Buddy Indoor-Safe Propane Heater******. Another is the Mr. Heater F215100 Portable Buddy Series Heater******. Both units can take the small size propane bottles, like you see attached to small one-burner camp stoves, and are specifically designed not to produce dangerous carbon monoxide. However, you still need to crack a window so the heater doesn’t use all your oxygen.
In addition, you should have at least three to five days of water. A good bet here is to go buy three or four shrink-wrapped “pallets” of bottled water for ease of use. You should also have food for the same period, whether it’s military-style meals, dehydrated “camping food,” or cans. Just remember that you’ll need something to open these. Always keep a Swiss Army Knife on your person. You’ll want the one that has scissors and a can opener attachment.
As for your vehicle there are some basics that you should already have in your car anyway. You should have a tool bag with, at minimum, the following items:
- A mobile amateur radio rig in good operating condition, or at least a dual band unit with a decent antenna, so you can reach out to any local repeaters. This can help you call for help if you’re in an area that doesn’t have reliable cell phone coverage. If you’re traveling to remote areas, consider installing an amateur radio that covers the high frequency (HF) bands for a farther reach. If you’re of the mind, install a CB radio to reach out to truckers on Channel 19, which is (un)officially recognized as the CB “emergency channel.”
- A list of your medical conditions and the drugs you take, kept in an obvious place. If you’re found unconscious, the paramedics will know better how to deal with your situation this way.
- A good set of jumper cables, at least 12 feet in length.
- Wrenches and screwdrivers of the appropriate size for the fasteners in your vehicle.
- Pliers and vice grips that can be used for many purposes, including pulling a nail out of your tire tread.
- Duct tape can be used to repair lots of things, even possibly acting as an emergency patch for a punctured tire. Also include tie wraps– the zip ties you use to bundle wires together in your Ham shack. These and duct tape are what holds the universe together. There are a lot of things that can be temporarily repaired with these items, maybe enough to get you to the next settlement.
- At least half a dozen large trash bags. These can be used as waste bags, emergency toilets, or as waterproofing for an emergency shelter.
- Safety wire– a stiff wire that comes in small, soldering wire-sized rolls– that is useful for, among other things, keeping a door or hood closed when the latch has failed.
- A container of anti-freeze.
- Two quarts of oil.
- Extra fuses (assuming you don’t have extras already attached to the fuse box cover).
- A transistor radio with extra batteries. Use this to save your car battery.
- A good flashlight with extra batteries. Try to choose one that uses the same batteries as your transistor radio.
- At least two flares and an emergency reflective road triangle.
- Paper and a pen for keeping notes, which is handy in case you have to leave your vehicle. You can tell rescuers which direction you’ve gone.
- A “HELP” sign to put in your back window.
- A small tire inflation pump that can be powered through a cigarette lighter plug.
- A good plug kit for tire punctures (found at any decent auto repair shop) that includes a can of “Fix-a-Flat.”
- Matches and a cigarette lighter, even if you don’t smoke. You never know when you might have to light a small campfire to keep warm or light a signal fire to get the attention of a passing plane. For this, use a bit of motor oil to get a nice black smoke for a signal fire.
- Toilet paper and Kleenex. These items can be worth their weight in gold. You don’t want to experiment with unidentified leaves to wipe yourself!
- Extra feminine supplies, if you’re a woman or regularly have female passengers.
- A good bag or backpack to put all of this in.
This is a short list. If there are items that meet a specific need of yours, by all means add them!
Just remember, none of these bug-out bags does you any good if you leave them at home or don’t take time to have them ready when it’s time to leave!