Imagine it’s the middle of winter and you suddenly have to vacate your dwelling for some reason. You have no place to go, and no one is coming to help you. Could you survive in your vehicle if given only a few minutes of notice to vacate? Most of us would say, “No, not without gathering up a lot of household items first”.
Instead of waiting for the moment to strike, and testing out how quickly you can get your head (and your gear) together, why not prepare your vehicle right now?
Go ahead and download my FREE Vehicle Checklist for Emergencies, and then read on for some additional pointers.
Assess Your Current Vehicle
Make an honest assessment of your current vehicle(s) to determine whether you need to trade it in for something more practical in an emergency situation. If it is difficult to find affordable parts or service for this model, chances are it will be tricky to find anyone who can work on it when you can’t. A high mileage or deteriorating vehicle at the end of its’ lifespan would probably not be a good choice. Here are a few more questions to consider when evaluating your current ride.
Will there be enough room and comfort for your family? Does it handle well in snow, mud, or on steep grades and rough terrain? Is there adequate ground clearance? Will you be easily spotted two miles away, or is your vehicle stealthy? Is it sturdy enough to haul weight? If so, how much exactly? Are there secure locations to add features such as onboard solar, a tow package, or winch? Would you have room to carry extra fuel, supplies, and water? Does it require specialized tools for minor maintenance? Are there complicated electronic systems that can interfere with the proper function of unrelated systems simply because of a sensor failure? Could these electronic systems be hacked into remotely and compromised?
Address Maintenance and Repairs
If the vehicle sitting in your driveway still seems like a pretty good candidate, then take some time to list everything that is currently in need of maintenance or repair. Begin tackling those first. Pay special attention to the braking system, tires, suspension system, battery, alternator, transmission, radiator, belts and hoses, engine lubrication system, and so on.
Next, determine which breakdown situations you can already handle by yourself. If the list is pretty small, take the time to learn and practice. Can you change a tire or brake pads, use a jump box, replace a worn out starter, or change the oil and oil filter?
Find the Right Tools for Your Kit
Which tools do you need to work on every system in your vehicle? List out the specific tools (note the sizes of sockets, wrenches, etc) that fit your vehicle, or refer to your owner’s manual. Begin gathering each tool into your onboard car repair kit. Some tools can be replaced by just one multi-tool or something like this adjustable oil filter wrench from Craftsman. Even if you don’t know how to perform a repair yourself, having the right tool on hand for your automobile can be a lifesaver in case you meet up with someone who does. When buying tools or toolkits, don’t go for the cheap kits.
As with every item a conscientious prepper chooses to include, consider tools and equipment that can have multiple uses or are interchangeable. For example, if you already own a 20v battery-powered drill from Black & Decker, choose a heavy-duty multi-function tire inflator that you can power off of the same battery you already own. This 20v Lithium Cordless Tire Inflator model can operate from three different power sources and will handle nearly any inflation task whether you’re at home or on the go.
Add Some Offroading Features
Even if you only plan to be traveling on maintained highways, equipping your vehicle with certain features can make it a complete “home away from home”. The goal is to be able to take care of most every need you’d have at home while still remaining safe, mobile in multiple terrains, and able to adapt to rapid change.
For instance, installing a rooftop tent will give you an emergency sleeping area up off the ground, away from “critters” and descending cold air or frost. Most take only a few minutes to set up and provide permanent storage for a foam mattress and sleeping bags as well. An extra battery and solar panel can be used to help start your vehicle or run a portable cooler. A winch might be your only hope for getting out of a jam during poor road conditions. Installing a rear carrier can allow you to haul jerry cans, a spare tire, or a bicycle.
There are some pretty amazing Jeep Overlander builds you can find on YouTube to reference for examples. Nearly any vehicle can be converted into a home away from home, though, and there are lots of “nomads” who are even living in their cars full time. Here are three YouTube video examples from each end of the spectrum. Chances are, you’ll end up somewhere in the middle, taking bits and pieces from each to suit your specific needs.
5 Jeep Wrangler Overland Camp Setups by TrailRecon
Living in a Car on $800 a Month by CheapRVLiving
VanLife as Long Term Housing Solution for Solo Female by Exploring Alternatives
Consider Your Personal Daily Needs
Begin thinking about going through your week with only your vehicle, and its’ amenities, to sustain your needs. How will you shower or go to the toilet? Where will you sleep? How will you protect yourself if intruders harass you? Which resources will help you in storing food, staying warm, or cooking meals? What if someone gets sick or needs first aid? How will you communicate with the outside world or find places you can safely camp when not driving?
Everyone will have different limitations and special requirements for preparing their vehicles to be a sustainable alternative “home”. A family with little children will want to leave space for child safety seats, while a person with chronic pain might need special accommodations. As you will see from the free Vehicle Checklist for Emergencies, some of the recommended items may be unsuitable for leaving inside the vehicle full time. For instance, some items may be damaged by extreme hot or cold temperatures if left inside the car until they’re needed. In these cases, I recommend stocking the vehicle with as many items as possible and having at least one “bug out bag” prepared and kept indoors, that you can grab quickly.
Not every item mentioned on the checklist will pertain to you. You’ll want to keep your items pared down to be as minimalistic as possible, while also taking into consideration the additional weight and space taken up by each. What does your vehicle emergency kit include? Share your suggestions in the comments below.