Packing a Roadside Emergency Kit

Soldiers have them, law enforcement officers have them, doomsday preppers have too many of them: The often overpacked and underutilized vehicle go bag.

A typical vehicle go bag may consist of maps, ammunition, and food rations. Unless you’re anticipating a zombie apocalypse, you won’t need these types of items, but this doesn’t excuse you from the experience of setting up your own go bag. At the Dillman Driving School, we’ve thought through and set up plenty of vehicle go bags over the years; whether for teen drivers or families going on a road trip, we’ve found the best starting point is to consider the climate. If you live in a cold climate, think jackets, blankets and heat sources. If you live in a wet climate, opt for a water proof bag. While the possibilities are endless, here are our suggestions for what the daily driver should include in their vehicle go bag.

THE BAG

Don’t put too much effort into finding the perfect bag. It doesn’t matter how much it costs, or how cool it looks. What matters is that it holds what you need it to hold and that it is comfortable to carry for a few miles if need be.

We highly suggest a traditional two strap backpack or a single sling strap backpack. They are easy to find and cover a broad range of price points for the picky consumer. Be sure to choose a bag in a bright color or a loud design for increased visibility. 

Seal Line Dry Bag Series. 

Seal Line Dry Bag Series. 

While not a sponsor, we carry the Seal Line Dry Bag. The Dillman Driving School is located in Saint Augustine, Florida, and hurricane season is a very real thing. We looked for a bag that was easy to carry, waterproof, and since each vehicle has one, we needed a bag that didn’t break the bank. 

THE CONTENTS

There are many variations and brands available when considering our suggestions. While the contents are important, they are meaningless if you’re not sure how to use them. Please seek proper training on any items you are unfamiliar with. Learning the safe and proper use of an item in a stressful and potentially emergent situation is never ideal. This being said, here is our list, in no particular order:

Ziplock Bags: Nothing secretive here. Fill a ziplock sandwich bag with a spare credit card and some cash. Make sure to vary the denominations between ones, tens, and twenties. $100 total is a good amount. Resist the temptation to dip into this fund in non-emergency situations. These funds can be used for gas emergencies, to pay a tow truck, or ride share service. Depending on your location, these funds may set you up with lodging for an evening as well.

Flares: Two road flares at a minimum. Road flares, when lit and properly placed, signal to other motorists that a road side hazard is approaching. When dealing with a flat tire or mechanical malfunction, light road flares and place them 20 and 25 yards behind your vehicle. Be aware of nearby foliage and recent weather conditions. If you live in a normally dry climate, lighting road flares by grasses probably isn’t the smartest thing to do. Also, be cognizant of volatile liquids potentially leaking from vehicles. In a pinch, road flares can also be used to light camp fires or signal passing motorists. If glow sticks are available, use them prior-to using road flares to signal.

First Aid: This first aid kit is not a fix all. You’ll want to keep it minimal. A few various bandaid sizes, a roll of gauze, a few gauze squares, hand sanitizer, and a pack of Tylenol, Motrin, and Pepto will do. You’ll use this kit for minor non-emergencies. The gauze squares and roll may be used for a pressure bandage if necessary. Hand sanitizer, because of its high alcohol content, works well as a cleansing agent for minor cuts and scrapes. The blister packs Tylenol, Motrin, or Pepto will likely be the reason you’ll be digging into your bag frequently. Just remember, as with all contents, replace everything you use.

Leatherman Squirt PS4

Leatherman Squirt PS4

Multi-Tool: These range in price and design drastically, but we doubt you’ll need a C4 punch and blasting cap crimper in your multi-tool. Instead, pick up a multi-tool in the $30 range and make sure it includes pliers, a knife, and a screwdriver option. We recommend the Leatherman Squirt. 

Emergency Bivvy: Traditionally, a bivvy is a small, lightweight, waterproof shelter. An emergency bivvy can be used as a blanket, a makeshift shelter, or as a watertight cover for a blown window. If walking is in order, grab the bivvy and use it as a poncho in inclement weather. Emergency bivvies are incredibly small when folded up and have endless uses. One may even consider laying out a bivvy to assist in keeping an outfit clean while changing a tire.

Duct Tape: Let the jokes begin. No, we’re not advocating using duct tape to fix shattered tail light lenses or to secure the muffler. Duct tape still has legitimate uses in the automotive world. If you have a window blow out and you are using a bivvy to keep a watertight, airtight seal in your vehicle, you’ll need the duct tape to secure it. If you’re momentarily abandoning your vehicle, leave a note by affixing a strip of tape to the window. In a pinch, you can also use the duct tape as a temporary fix for a loose hem. Just make sure the hem and tape are on the inside of the garment.

Light Source: Yes, I know, there’s an app for that. Don’t overlook the importance of including a good flashlight and a few green glow sticks in your bag. Green, in low light situations, provides the greatest differentiation between natural colors. Both flashlight and glow sticks will assist in low light quick fixes and will come in handy for signaling purposes. Always use glow sticks prior-to road flares for signaling purposes. Road flares have a more important use in providing a heat source and should not be disposed of until absolutely necessary.

Jumper Cables: Please include a set of jumper cables in your bag. It’ll cut down on headaches later, and it’s always a great gesture to assist others in need of a jump. If you’re abandoning your vehicle to seek fuel or shelter, grab your go bag but remove the jumper cables. They add unnecessary weight and take up room that could be used for other things.

Sustenance: Fill a Nalgene bottle or other BPA free bottle up with water. Assure a tight seal and throw it in your bag. We recommend the 32-ounce size. Include a few granola bars or other temperature resistant foods. Lifesavers are aptly named and a smart choice. Replace your food and water supply ever 3-6 months depending on what foods you choose. If you live in a cooler, mountainous climate where snowstorms are frequent, consider a single walled stainless steel water bottle. You can fill it with snow or river water, then boil the contents for crude purification.

Writing Utensils: Think utility. With a family dominated by girls, we love sparkly gel pens as much as the next, but in this instance, it is all about permanent, waterproof writing. Grab a few black sharpies and throw them in your bag. For secondary writing utensils, ballpoint pens and wooden pencils work well.

Options: Depending on weight, room, and needs, here are a few things to consider adding. An extra pair of socks will come in use somewhere down the road. A travel sized sewing kit will prove useful for emergency clothing fixes; think before an important interview or first date. Regardless of gender, throw some hair ties and a couple of tampons in your bag. Most guys stutter at the thought of carrying around a tampon in a vehicle go bag, but take a moment and think. Everyone knows tampons are great for nose bleeds and pressure bandages. Think of non-traditional uses too. Tampons can be used to temporarily plug a leaking hose and get you to a safer location. They also make great fire tender. While we don’t recommend driving through water, The guys over at Top Gear used a few to plug a gas tank, keeping water out while crossing a deep river.

Whatever your selections, we highly suggest that you prepare and carry a vehicle go bag. Set it up to your preferences and throw it in your trunk. Depending on what you pack, you may need to check in and replace a few items every 3-6 months. Otherwise, it’ll be there when you need it.

Products recommended by our family: 

SealLine Gear: https://www.seallinegear.com
Leatherman Squirt: https://www.leatherman.com

For driving or travel related questions, or to submit an idea for consideration, visit https://www.dillmandrivingschool.comor send me a message robert@dillmandrivingschool.com - You may also DM on Insta @dillmandrivingschool