Keep Things Moving
Goal: Fix minor to modest issues to keep moving forward.
All the parts in this series:
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Navigation
- Part 3: Communication
- Part 4: Medical
- Part 5: Survival
- Part 6: Utility (You are here)
- Part 7: Lights
- Part 8: Defense
- Part 9: The Bag
- Part 10: Organization
- Part 11: Checklists
- Part 12: Conclusion
Let us introduce you to our dear friend, Mr. Murphy. Murphy’s application of his law is as pitiless as it is ill-timed. Murphy’s Law is why we implement PACE Plans for our core needs, as well as pack tools to fix whatever breaks. Because everyone who bets against Mr. Murphy loses.
As with everything else in our get-home bag, we do not pack tools for every possible eventuality that might befall us during our emergency journey home. Only the most probable. So we prescribe tools and items that are multipurpose and can be used in a variety of ways, whether that’s sealing a burst radiator hose or cutting open that infernal plastic package your freshly bought batteries came in.
You should already have a set of tools in your vehicle that match the bolts, screws, fasteners etc. that your vehicle requires. In the interest of saving weight and space, carry only what you need. You do not need a set of ASE sockets if you’re driving a Toyota. In fact, you probably don’t need a whole lot of tools if you’re driving a Toyota. If you’re driving a Land Rover, your usual trailer filled with spare parts should be fine.
Pro tip: when you’re working on your vehicle at home, use just the tool kit you keep in your vehicle. This will acquaint you with those tools and highlight the items you’re missing.
Keep the tool kit in the back or trunk of your vehicle. No need to carry such items in your get-home bag, for obvious reasons.
You should also keep in your vehicle a battery jumper, like the Noco Boost, and buy the one that is appropriate for the size of your vehicle’s engine. (Scroll down nearly to the bottom of this page.) If you can’t afford one or view it as a hassle, at the very least keep a set of jumper cables onboard.
Another emergency item is a fire extinguisher. Get one rated for A, B and C type fires, which should cover everything you might encounter. And make sure you secure the extinguisher somehow because they make fantastic artillery rounds during an accident if they’re rolling around free.
Another item to keep in the back of your car is an old bath towel. They’re incredibly useful day in and day out and if you’re in a get-home situation and need to bail out of your vehicle, you can stuff it into your backpack.
Final non-backpack item to have in your vehicle is the shop manual. We’re talking about the shop manual with detailed diagrams and repair details, not the owner’s manual that came with your vehicle that you never read. (Although, if you can’t get hold of the shop manual, at least make sure you have the owner’s manual in your glove compartment.) You can find PDFs of the shop manuals for a lot of cars, albeit not all of them and typically older models. If you can find it (Google your year, make, model and “shop manual” or “service manual”), download the PDF to your phone.
Now, the utility items you should keep in your get-home bag:
Let's go through each item in the pic.
- 1 Multitool. This is a no brainer. There are a ton of options, but when you’re shopping, stick to the better-known brands since they tend to be more durable, and don’t get carried away by the number of tools that are touted. Your tool should have a knife or two, pliers, screwdriver heads, a saw and wire cutters.
We love Leatherman tools, but there’s no denying they’re expensive. We keep a Leatherman Charge+ with us usually and have never had a complaint.
The Leatherman Curl is a nice tool, with everything you need at an affordable price.
We’re also fans of the Gerber Truss, as you can tell in the photos. It gives you all the core tools, is comfortable to use, is rugged enough for everyday use and retails for $52 with a street price around $40. Reviews will mention the crummy case and they’re not wrong, but we don’t care that much since we’re keeping it in our truck bag.
- 1 small roll of duct tape. Because duct tape. To save space, you could buy a flat roll like RediTape’s, OR just cut a piece of cardboard or grab a dowel and wrap it in duct tape from a regular roll.
- 1 dozen zip ties of various lengths, but at least two of each size in case you need to connect them for a longer tie. Crazy useful and versatile. If you pack a couple of thick ones they’re even good as improvised handcuffs, as long as the guy hasn’t watched all the YouTube videos about how to break out of them.
- 100’ of paracord. Essentially the cord version of duct tape in that you will never discover all its potential uses. Cut off a 2’ section and while you’re watching TV, practice tying knots: square knot, stopper knot, figure-eight joining knot, bowline, rolling hitch and a trucker’s hitch to start with.
- 1 pair of quality work gloves. If you have a favorite brand, buy an extra pair for your truck bag. If you haven’t yet picked a side in the glove wars, just about any pair of quality gloves with a leather palm will work. We’ve always liked Mechanix gloves and easily recommend their Durahide glove since it combines a comfortable mesh top with a leather palm. (It’s also machine washable! Just don’t throw it in a load with your unmentionables.) If you live in colder climes, get an insulated pair, like the Mechanix ColdWork Original.
- 1 bandana or shemagh, depending on your sartorial preferences. Can be used to protect from sun and wind, bundle up kindling for a fire, pre-filter dirty water before you purify it, and so much more. Also useful for masking or changing your identity if needed.
- 1 baseball cap. Similar to the shemagh and bandana for protection from the elements and changing your image on the fly.
- 2 trash bags. Roll them up separately with a few rubber bands around each since rubber bands are also great to have.
- 1 Sharpie + a notebook or small stack of 3x5 cards. We can’t count how many times we’ve wanted to leave a note for someone or write down their secret agave margarita recipe.
- Power specific to the devices you carry on you and in your bag: spare batteries, wall charger, 12V adapter and the appropriate cables. In our case, that means six AAAs for the headlamp, a cord for our phone, a cord for our Garmin GPSMAP, a wall charger and a 12V charger.
- Cash. Yeah, you can pay for your latte with your phone or watch or even plain old credit card. But how well does that work for you when you need to buy gas and the credit card terminals are all dead? A couple hundred bucks should be sufficient, especially in smaller bills. We know it’s a lot of money to just keep unused in a backpack, but put a little bit into your get-home fund each month and you’ll get there.
- Magpul DAKA pouch(es) to hold it all.
That’s it! It’s not a kit that will allow you to replace the head gasket in your Honda or keep you alive on a desert island. But alongside the stuff you should already have in your vehicle, it’ll help you react quickly to all the breaks, messes and surprises that would otherwise keep you from getting home.
But you know what can really slow you down when trying to get home? Nighttime. So let's go on to Part 7, Lights.
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