Soldiers have them, law enforcement officers have them, doomsday preppers have too many of them: The often overpacked vehicle go bag.
A typical in-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. We’ve thought through and set up plenty of in-vehicle go bags over the years. Keep in mind that each persons bag will be different. Consider your location when setting up your bag. 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 average every day citizen should include in their in-vehicle go 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 it’s 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.
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. Here is our list, in no particular order:
Ziplock: 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 taxi cab. Depending on your location, the cash or credit card 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 and other foliage probably isn’t the best thing to do. Also be cognizant of volatile liquids or gaseous fuel 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 or Motrin 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 pack of Tylenol or Motrin will likely be the reason you’ll be digging into your bag frequently. Just remember, as with all contents, replace everything you use.
Multi Tool: These range in price hugely but keep some things in mind. A C4 punch and blasting cap crimper probably isn’t something you need in your multi tool. Pickup a multi tool in the $20 range and make sure it includes pliers, a knife and a screwdriver option.
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 makeshift poncho in inclement weather. Emergency bivvy’s 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 and write on it. In a pinch, you can also use the duct tape to temporarily hem your skirt or pants. Just make sure the hem and tape are to 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 flash light and a few green glow sticks in your bag. Green, in low light situations provides the greatest differentiation between natural colors. Both flash light 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. 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 resistent 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. We love sparkly gel pens as much as the next person, 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, ball point 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 an in-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 an in vehicle go-bag with you. 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.