Vehicle Preparedness Kit

Person working on vehicle with leatherman curl

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.

Vehicle preparedness kit flat lay with leatherman curl

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 

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 looking under the hood, along the side of the road, or just into your backseat. 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 AAAs in my console just in case. 

5. Leatherman Curl 

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 Leatherman Curl and bit kit, I can tighten loose battery cables, strip wires, loosen stuck valve stem caps, and even cut a completely jammed seatbelt in an old Chevy with my Leatherman. 

Leatherman curl with bit driver

6. Map and Compass

Gas station style folding map, and an inexpensive REI Compass. I have never had to navigate using a compass in my vehicle. I have, however, needed to consult a good old-fashioned road map in areas of poor or no reception.

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

Not only do they keep the sun out of your eyes while you’re driving, but they can also keep dust out of your eyes in windy conditions, and shield your face from the sun if you are stranded or forced to go on foot. They reduce eye strain, which also reduces fatigue. 

9. Paper and pencil

Small Field Notes notebook and pencil. If 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. 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.

10. Cash

I have a tin in the console with $50 in it. Most people rely on cards or NFC payment methods with their phones. 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.

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. 

Bit kit and leatherman curl in backpack pocket

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 case I have a hike out or get stranded. I want to be comfortable and safe; not trying to navigate a potentially unfamiliar place in dress shoes or flip-flops. I keep clothes that are lightweight, flexible, and quick-drying.

2. Toilet paper in a gallon-size plastic zip bag

Toilet paper has many virtues (other than the obvious) from applying pressure to a wound to using it as tinder to start a fire. The plastic bag keeps it dry, clean and can serve as a waterproof container or trash bag. Some folded layers of toilet paper between a blister and your shoe can make a world of difference. If you need to stay warm, a little TP makes a great firestarter. 

3. Simple food

Cheese and peanut butter cracker packs or granola bars are my go-to. They’re great to have while you’re waiting for help, or if you need to keep hungry kids settled while you work. You’ll feel better, think more 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. 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 in my truck. All of these come in 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.

6. First Aid Kit

A small backpacking kit has basic supplies (bandages, gauze, triple antibiotic ointment, tweezers, butterfly bandages, ibuprofen, Imodium, Benadryl). I work outside a lot, and it’s not uncommon to be stung by yellow jackets or sustain a minor injury. Having Benadryl or ibuprofen on hand can be a lifesaver. It’s also important to be able to clean and treat a wound.

Pulling leatherman raptor rescue out of first aid kit

7. Gloves

Firm Grip Flex Impact – for changing tires in wet conditions, warmth in a pinch, general hand protection when loading/unloading a truck. Gloves have saved me from busted knuckles, scraped fingers, cold hands, or simply from getting dirty many times.

8. Backpack

Simple, nondescript, roomy, and comfortable. I have a black Kelty daypack to load my gear into if I am forced to leave my vehicle and walk to safety. It’s important to be able to take enough supplies to be as comfortable and confident as possible.

9. Duraflame firestarter

In case I need to make a fire in winter conditions. 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. If you’re stranded and it’s cold, or you or a family member has sustained shock – a blanket will help. It has come in handy with everything from keeping me (or my wife) 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. I have several of these for backpacking so it’s easy for me to put one under the seat just in case.


All of this may seem excessive to some, 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. Preparedness is worth it even if you are lucky and never need to use 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.

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