Vehicle Preparedness Kit
Vehicle Preparedness Kit

Leatherman ambassador Jeremy Hill is a big advocate for preparedness in all shapes and forms. With his background as a skilled woodworker, he understands the value of having the necessary tools on hand and then a few extras for when things come up. As somebody who spends a lot of time in his truck (picking up slabs of wood and delivering finished furniture), it’s no wonder he’s got his vehicle equipped with everything you can think of. Here is an extensive list of some of the items he recommends you keep in your vehicle.

Leatherman ambassador Jeremy Hill

I am distilling the list down to what I consider to be a well-rounded, concealable kit that could be used in the event of an emergency, but is also portable enough if one needs to abandon their vehicle in a bad situation. Since I also like to keep items concealed to limit attention for break-ins, I’m dividing my list into two categories: In the console and under the backseat.


In the console: My truck has a decent-sized console between the front seats, which is also lockable.

1. Lighters: A butane torch style and a regular Bic. I’ve used them to light my backpacking stove, sterilize a needle to remove a deep splinter, light cigarettes, and even start a fire or two. I keep both kinds just to have a backup because you never know when something might fail. 

2. Flashlight: Ledlenser, runs on AAA batteries. A flashlight is so useful for seeing into dark places: under the hood at night, along the side of the road, or just into your backseat when you’re looking for something in the dark. I’ve had to stop my truck and readjust a strap or bungee cord in the dark, and the flashlight was invaluable. 

3. Headlamp: I use a Black Diamond, runs on AAA. Sometimes you need two hands to work under the hood or perform a task in the dark. A headlamp makes it easy to see what you’re doing right in front of you. 

4. AAA batteries: Batteries are finicky and always seem to go out at the worst time. I keep a pack of 8 AAA’s in my console just in case. 

Center console with a Leatherman Surge.

5. Leatherman Surge: It can handle minor truck repairs; cut wires, wood, and seatbelts. I’m no mechanic, but I can fix the basic problems that might occur under the hood. With the Surge and bit kit, I’ve tightened loose battery cables, stripped wires, loosened stuck valve stem caps, and even cut a completely jammed seatbelt in an old Chevy with my Leatherman. 

6. Map and Compass: Gas station style folding map of the Georgia and US Southeast, because sometimes GPS isn’t available; and an inexpensive Coleman Compass. I have never had to navigate using a compass in my vehicle, but I have a small compass attached to my backpack. I have however, needed to consult a good old-fashioned road map in areas of poor or no reception. I keep one in the glove box, and aside from having to fold it back up, have never regretted having it. 

7.  Phone charging block and extra charger: In this day and age your cell phone is a lifeline. Why not take the extra step to make sure you have a charge in the event that your vehicle battery is dead, or that you are forced to go on foot and keep in touch with your people on the other end? 

8. Sunglasses: These are valuable for a number of reasons, not only do they keep the sun out of your eyes while you’re driving, they can keep dust out of your eyes in windy conditions, and shield your face from the sun if you are stranded or forced to go by foot. They reduce eye strain, which also reduces fatigue. 

9. Paper and pencil: Small Field Notes notebook and pencil for leaving notes, making a list, writing down information. In the event that you need to leave your vehicle, sometimes it’s wise to leave a note saying when you left or when you plan on being back. You can leave personal information such as phone numbers if need be. Or maybe you are on hold waiting for an insurance agent, or a wrecker service, and you need to write down information that they are giving you. I keep a little log and jotter book in my door pocket for just such instances. 

10. Cash: I have an Altoids tin in the conole with $50 in it just in case. These days, most people rely on cards or NFC payment methods with their phone; I know that I do. However, I can’t recall how many times I have needed cash in a pinch because some gas station credit card machine wasn’t working, or there was a sign on the door that said cash only. Having a little bit of cash tucked away in the console is a handy thing. 

Working under the hood with the Leatherman Surge.

11. A hat or knit cap: Keeps the sun off your head and out of your eyes if you have to walk, can shield your eyes from the sun while driving, or help to keep your head warm if it’s cold. 

Under the Back Seat: I purchased a simple plastic molded divider that was made to fit beneath my back seat in my Ford F-150. It has ample room for all of the items listed below and more. Otherwise you can also keep a medium sized Rubbermaid container under the back seat with these items in it. 

1. Basic change of clothes: T-shirt, track pants, fleece pullover, socks, underwear, lightweight inexpensive rain jacket, pair of older hiking boots or tennis shoes. I keep these in the backpack in the event I have hike out somewhere, or get stranded in a less-than-ideal situation. I want to be comfortable and safe; not trying to navigate a potentially unfamiliar place in a pair of dress shoes or flip flops. I keep clothes that are lightweight, flexible, quick-drying so that they aren’t too hot, allow me to move with alacrity, and keep me dry.  

2. Toilet paper in a gallon size ziploc bag: Besides its primary and most obvious use, toilet paper has may virtues from applying pressure to a wound to using as tinder to start a fire. The Ziploc keeps it dry, clean, and can serve as a waterproof container or trash bag. Needing to answer the call of nature is, well, natural and inevitable. Not having to use leaves to clean up is a big plus. Or, if you’re walking and start to develop a blister, some folded layers of toilet paper between the blister and your shoe make a world of difference. If you find yourself in the unfortunate need of making a fire to stay warm for the night, a little TP makes a great firestarter. 

3. Simple food: Lance cheese and peanut butter cracker packs or Nature Valley granola bars that won’t melt or get sticky. I rotate these things every few months. They keep well in cold or heat. These are great to have on hand if you’re stranded waiting for help, or if you’re trying to keep hungry kids settled while you work to remedy whatever situation you’re in. Keeping your energy up and blood sugar stable allows you to feel better, think clearly, and make better decisions. 

4. Jet Boil Zip: It’s a small backpacking stove and .8L pot all in one. Very packable, very easy to use. You never know when you might need to boil water quickly to prepare a freeze dried meal, make water potable, or sanitize something. In the event you are stranded and/or forced to shelter in place, the ability to prepare a hot meal or water is both physically and psychologically beneficial. Maybe you’re broken down in a remote area, or help won’t be available for a while. If it’s cold out, or you need a moment to regroup and think clearly, it’s remarkable what the normalcy and ritual of a hot cup of coffee or tea can do to calm you down and revive your spirits. 

5. Food and drink: I keep three Mountain House freeze dried meals (I like spaghetti and meat sauce, breakfast skillet, and chili mac with beef) in my truck. All of these come in the smaller, vacuum packed Pro Packs, which don’t take up much room. All are able to be prepared with boiling water, and can rehydrate in the pouch. I also have a few Starbucks Via coffee pouches, an insulated Yeti 10oz Rambler, a lexan spoon, and 2 bottles of water with the Jet Boil. If you’re in a situation where it looks like you will be stranded all night, it’s really a boost to your morale and your health to have a hot dinner and/or a hot breakfast. A few years ago, I was stranded in an ice storm in Atlanta, GA. The South doesn’t handle snow and ice very well, and I had the misfortune of being stranded on a back road, hemmed in on either end by accidents, which blocked the road. I was miles from home, and decided to wait it out for a while. A while became hours, and the weather continued to worsen. Authorities recommended sheltering in place, and I agreed it was in my best interest to do so. While I would have survived the night without, I was able to stable off boredom and discomfort by preparing some Mountain House beef stew, and a cup of coffee. It was after Dawn before things started to clear up, and another few hours before I could start moving again. I made Mountain House biscuits and gravy and kept myself busy and full while I waited. 

6. First Aid Kit: A small backpacking kit has basic supplies (bandage, gauze, triple antibiotic ointment, bandaids, tweezers, butterfly bandages, ibuprofen, Imodium, Benadryl). There are a thousand reasons to keep a first aid kit handy. I work outside a lot, and it’s not uncommon to be stung by yellow jackets, or sustain a minor injury lifting something heavy or using a tool. Having Benadryl or ibuprofen on hand can be a lifesaver. In the event of a cut, it’s important to be able to treat a wound and keep it clean in the field. 

7. Gloves: Firm Grip Flex Impact – for changing tires in wet conditions, warmth in a pinch, general hand protection when loading/unloading payload from truck. Gloves have saved me from busted knuckles, scraped fingers, cold hands, or simply from getting dirty many times. Such an easy thing to carry, and even trucks have a “glove" compartment. 

Backpack full of supplies in the back of the truck.

8. Backpack: Simple, nondescript, roomy and comfortable. I have a black Kelty daypack that I keep under the back seat. The bag is to load my gear into if I am forced to leave my vehicle for some reason and walk to safety. It’s important because in the event that I might need to abandon my truck and walk (if I’m broken down in a dangerous area or situation, or decide it’s better to seek assistance on foot), it’s important to be able to take enough supplies to be as comfortable and confident as possible.

9. Duraflame firestarter: In the event that I might need to make a fire in winter conditions. I understand that this may seem a little extra, but I was raised believing that it’s better have something and not need it than to need it and not have it. Maybe you won’t need to make a fire in an emergency, but you might need it on a camping trip. The small bricks take up 5 inches of real estate, and last indefinitely. 

10. Blanket: Rolled up fleece blanket for warmth. I think everyone should keep a blanket in their car. Maybe you’re stranded and it’s cold, or maybe you or a family member has sustained shock – a blanket will help. Or, maybe you’re just on a long road trip, and your wife is like mine and gets cold at 74 degrees… I leave mine folded on the back seat. It has come in handy with everything from keeping me warm to protecting the leather in my truck when I put something heavy or sharp on it. 

11. Sawyer mini water filter: An inexpensive and very lightweight way to ensure clean water in an emergency. This is another thing that many people might consider to be extreme. But, clean water is necessary for survival karma and at only a few ounces, it’s a serious game changer if you find yourself needing to purify water to drink or cook with. I have several of these for backpacking so it’s extremely easy for me to put one under the seat just in case. 

All of this may seem excessive to someone who has never been in a situation that required preparedness, but all of it weighs under 15lb in the backpack, and easily fits under the back seat and in the console of my truck with room to spare. In a perfect world, you would never need any of this to get by, but things happen. Chances are if you carry a Leatherman tool you’ve given some thought to being prepared in some way or another. The peace of mind that preparedness brings is worth it even if you are lucky and never need to utilize your provisions. 

-Jeremy Hill

(Follow Jeremy to keep up on his woodworking projects)

Disclaimer: This preparedness kit is a suggested guideline compiled by Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. Leatherman does not guarantee users to be safe or free from hazards associated with these activities. Please consult medical personnel in the case of an emergency.