Table of Contents
In today’s world it certainly pays to be prepared.
Do you remember how you felt the last time you weren’t prepared for something?
It’s not a good feeling.
With as many accidents, issues, and breakdowns that take place while RVing, it’s worth considering how you might feel when you’re faced with an unexpected twist or turn in your plan.
Or what’s worse – a real emergency.
One of the most interesting books I’ve read recently is called The Checklist Manifesto.
It’s written by an internationally famous cancer surgeon, Atul Gawande.
In the book, Dr. Gawande talks about his experiences as one of the world’s leading cancer surgeons.
He explains why, even with super-specific training and years of experience, smart people still screw up.
One of my favorite parts of the book was reading about his time spent with Boeing’s checklist engineers.
Yes – that Boeing. The Boeing that makes many of the world’s largest airliners, including the 747 and the 777.
With thousands of people’s lives at stake each day in their airplanes, Boeing employs engineers whose sole task is to develop the most effective emergency checklists in the world. Their pilots, crew, and passengers depend on it.
There’s a lot of other great info in the book, and I don’t want to spoil it for you.
But if you don’t want to read the book, that’s fine.
You don’t have to read The Checklist Manifesto to still benefit from the power of checklists.
The DoItYourselfRV Emergency Roadside Kit Checklists
After extensive research with a large group of experienced RVers, I’ve developed several checklists that you can use in preparing and packing your own RV emergency roadside kit.
Since your experience, travel interests, and rig are unique you might want to add to or subtract from the items outlined in the following pages.
In fact, that’s even better than just blindly acquiring all the items included in this eBook.
The most competent explorers, tradesmen, engineers, etc. only use what they know.
They don’t rely on others advice – at least not without evaluating it themselves.
To make your decision-making easier, I’ve separated out the kits based on needs.
If you’re a weekend warrior, don’t do a lot of boondocking, and generally are fairly detail-oriented and handy, you can probably get away with just the basics.
In that case, the Bare Minimum Emergency Roadside Kit may be for you.
But if you’re planning on going off the grid, traveling far away from support services and other experienced help, you might want to carry a little bit more firepower with you.
You might want to select items from the Be Prepared for Nearly Anything Kit.
I know you’ll find this information useful and entertaining. 🙂
Let’s get started!
Bare Minimum Emergency Roadside Kit
With so many modern conveniences available to you, it’s easy to overlook some of the simpler items.
This kit is what many would consider to be the bare minimum.
These are items that you want to be able to pull out and use at a moment’s notice, and with total confidence in their operation.
If you’re an occasional traveler and don’t stray too far from home, you should consider the bare essentials listed below.
(10+ Feet Long and at least 6 gauge). These are essential for ‘jumping’ your car or tow vehicle. 10 gauge cables are designed for cars, while 6 gauge cables will work for an SUV or truck. Be sure to get cables that will clamp down onto smaller car size batteries, because you might just be getting a jump from one of these vehicles. Don’t know how to use jumper cables? Watch this quick video:
You could try to make your own, but it’s cheaper and more convenient to simply purchase a ready-made kit. This convenient, 121-piece kit from AAA has all the essential first-aid supplies you’ll need.
I’m sure you’ve got a bunch of hand-me-down D-cell powered flashlights lying around. I personally exchanged these out for newer, LED flashlights. LED flashlights are brighter and lighter than the old, traditional kind. It’s worth the small price to upgrade.
Laminated Card With Emergency Numbers
I recently made one of these for use in my day job. I used simple 3 mil self-laminating sheets and doubled them up (sandwiched the paper in between) to make a quick reference card for a project. You could use either Microsoft Word or Excel to create your data sheet. Doesn’t have to be fancy, and it should be tailored to your needs. You can modify this template I made for you here.
Make sure you buy one that is made of stainless steel and has high ratings. Knock-off multi-tools are often sold at flea markets and overseas. Although cheaper, they’ll bend if you torque something too strongly. Trust me, I’ve done it.
Don’t get caught out in the middle of some desolate highway without any way to pump your flat. You can use a 12V compressor by plugging into your vehicle’s 12 V outlet. You don’t even have to run the car or truck while you operate the compressor.
I talked to one of the experts at VIAIR Corporation, a major manufacturer of fractional horsepower DC oil-less air compressors for the automotive market, and here’s what he had to say,
“If the tires you’re planning to service need 90 to 120 PSI, I recommend looking at the 300P or larger.
If you have more than 4 tires to top off, then you should choose a compressor within the 400P series.
If you are going to inflate rear duallys, the 400P-RV is the best option.
The 88P is a great affordable compressor for trucks with 33 inch tires or smaller and can inflate up to 120PSI.
It can also inflate the occasional flat. However it is the smallest compressor designed for truck tires and RV tire inflation.”
Cash in small denominations
Credit cards are great, but you can’t barter with them. Always keep $100-300 in cash on you, but in small denominations like $10s and $5s. A fistful of $5s looks pretty big, and will come in handy if you need some roadside help. Did you know even the Navy SEALs carry some cash with them on their missions? Money talks I guess…
These are cheap and highly useful. Don’t be that person changing your flat next to the highway at night without one.
Gone are the days of standard combustible flares. New LED road flares are safer, brighter, and less toxic. With 360 degree visibility and 4 AA-cell battery operation, these LED flares will work quite well.
I would definitely stay away from Fix-a-Flat or other tire sealant products. I had a flat tire on a rental vehicle one time and instead of a spare tire, the rental company left me with some tire sealant. It made a mess and didn’t work – plus it just about ruins the tire. Instead, use an actual tire repair kit that will fix the tire right on the rim.
It’s always a good idea to keep a blanket in your vehicle in case of emergency. A vinyl-backed blanket will provide a greater range of uses than a simple blanket. Use it for picnics, changing flat tires, or keeping warm.
Cheap and easy to keep stashed behind a seat or in a storage compartment. Although critical for winter driving, I keep an extra bottle in my vehicle at all times. You might consider getting the type designed specifically for removing bug residue.
Be Prepared for Nearly Anything Emergency Roadside Kit
If you grew up a Boy Scout and simply insist on being prepared you may feel the need to expand upon your emergency roadside kit.
Here you will find many items for extended emergencies and repairs.
This kit includes everything in the Bare Minimum Emergency Roadside Kit in addition to the items below.
If you’re ever stuck in a position where you run out of battery power and don’t have an inverter, a hand crank electric generator can really come in handy. Find one with smart phone charging capability (USB charging cable) and you’ll have communication in short order.
Unsure how to dress a wound? Forgot CPR since you last took it in high school? This well written, easy to understand first aid manual well get you up to speed.
Simple, yet effective. Everyone should be armed with this stuff these days. And every woman should carry this in her purse or glove compartment. You never know when some yahoo is going to come at you. Be prepared.
No, you’re not trying to take beautiful pictures with this. You just never know when you might need to document something important. Whether for an insurance claim or some random event that you just wished you had a camera for, a single-use camera will come in handy.
Extra Over-the-Counter Medication
I took some iburprofen today, it’s a wonder drug. It’s awful having a splitting headache and not having a simple OTC ibuprofen to knock it out.
Plus aspirin will probably save your life if you’re having a heart attack. That’s enough reason for us guys to always carry this stuff on us, especially in a stressful situation.
Be aware that some OTC medications are best kept at room temperature. Storing them under the seat is probably better than in the glove compartment for this reason. You might want to keep them in a locked pill container if there’s a chance at little kids getting at them.
You’ll have to consult your owner’s manual to determine what oil your engine takes, but you might want to keep some extra motor oil with you, especially if your truck or camper is a little long in the tooth.
Nothing fancy here. More than a few times I can remember working on some equipment and thinking, “What I really need is a simple funnel.” Be smarter than me, keep one with you.
A fuse value pack contains all the amperages you’ll need to replace a blown fuse in your tow vehicle or truck. I’ve had fuses blow several times in older vehicles, and it’s a great feeling knowing that you have a backup in case one of yours blows at a bad time.
An old standby that you shouldn’t leave home without. There’s a reason why you see beater cars driving around with duct tape on windows, bumpers, and headlights – it works. You can even buy automotive duct tape that is transparent. Also useful for many non-automotive applications.
Find a strap that doesn’t stretch under load and that is strong enough to use for towing. You’ll want hooks on either end for easy attachment.
It’s a good idea to go a step further than just mosquito spray, and get a product designed for all types of insects. Some types will even kill bugs that come into contact with your skin or clothing after application.
Taking the idea of keeping a blanket in your car all the time a step further, upgrade to a zero degree sleeping bag. With modern fabrics and insulation, cold weather sleeping bags are a lot cheaper, lighter, and less bulky than they used to be.
An old-fashioned whistle is great for a lot of things. Flagging down or alerting others to your presence isn’t easy if you don’t have something that an make a loud, piercing noise. Emergency whistles can be heard over a mile away.
These are so handy I always keep a couple of bags with different lengths in my toolkit. I would opt for the larger sizes (12”+) if you only want to get a single package. Larger ties can always be cut down prior to use.
A poncho is such a simple article of clothing but it does the best job of keeping you dry when it’s really pouring. My recommendation: don’t get the cheap disposable kind, buy a solid one made from PVC with sealed seams, like this Swiss military surplus one.
Sun-screen can only do so much, so it’s a good idea to get a wide-brimmed hat to help block harmful rays from the sun.
Find yourself a military-grade collapsible shovel that will do just about anything except act as a crowbar. Won’t take up space and is super strong.
Ever watched MSNBC’s ‘Lockup’ prison documentary series? Don’t take the time to make your own shank, just buy one. Useful for those places where you can’t concealed carry, but you still want the peace of mind of having a defensive weapon at the ready.
Comes in sizes ranging from 2/4” to 2” in width. Get the higher quality tape that is thicker and will withstand moisture and heat/cold. Wrapped properly, this stuff simply won’t come off. You don’t have to use this tape for just electrical repairs. It could be used to repair broken glass or snug together items in a semi-permanent way.
These towels are compressed into the size of a quarter, and expand with the application of just a few drops of water. They’re great for cleaning up small spills or wiping off your hands if you’re caught doing some unforeseen repairs.
Gone are the days of bulky, rough, ill-fitting leather work gloves. Modern materials have improved the fit and function of work gloves so that you’ll have dexterity and protection for almost any type of job.
Some jobs are just a mess. Grease, oils, and sewage aren’t fun to mess around with. Get yourself some vinyl or latex gloves and be free from gross stuff getting on your hands. You can also find some nice latex-free gloves if you have a specific allergy to latex.
It’s no fun sitting around frying up in your RV or tow vehicle. You might think this isn’t a necessity, well maybe not. But do you remember how crazy hot in gets in vehicles while you’re just parked somewhere for 5 minutes? Don’t waste gas and kill your A/C. Break out this guy and stay cool while you wait in your vehicle.
I recently had to throw out some greasy parts in my garage and made the mistake of putting them in a regular garbage bag. Even with double bagging, the heavy metal parts stretched and tore the bags open as soon as I hefted them up. If you’re ever in a situation where you’ve got either heavy or really nasty stuff that you need wrapped up, make sure to get the tear-resistant bags instead of the regular “garbage bags”. Yes, there is a difference.
Auto shop towels are made of cotton and are highly absorbent. They’re great for cleaning up messes. And the good part, if you can’t wash them – throw them out. At about a quarter apiece, they’re much more useful and economical than buying roll after roll of paper towels.
Don’t let water ruin your matches. I know you’re probably like me and grab a hunk of matches when the server’s not looking on your way out of a semi-fancy restaurant. But the problem is, those things are useless when they get damp. Remember the last time you tried to use a book of matches that’s been sitting in your kitchen drawer for a year? Probably didn’t work. This waterproof / stormproof match case will solve your fire-making needs. Comes with 25 waterproof matches, case and 3 strikers.
I’ve tried many of the fancier lighters out there, and each has their own set of problems. I’ve found that the best lighter is the standard BIC. The rod lighters require some finger strength to light and can be unreliable, taking more than a few clicks to finally get the flame going. Either pick a value pack up at the store or order a few of them here.
It’s a Matter of Survival Emergency Roadside Kit
If you’re traveling way off the grid, you’ll want to be ready for the the weird and unexpected.
Have a look at what will make your survival all the more probable.
Cat litter is great for getting added traction if your tires are stuck in the snow. Did you know that trains shoot sand in front of their wheels when they stop? They do this to put some friction between the metal track and the wheels. Cat litter is also super absorbent in the case of spills. Make sure to get the fragrance-free kind if you’re like me and don’t like fruity smells.
With carbon steel teeth, this light-weight and Made in the USA pocket chainsaw will really come in handy if you’re away from your work shed and without your normal assortment of tools. Available in either 24 inch, 36 inch, or 48 inch sizes this chainsaw will cut through a 3 inch log in under a minute – faster than a hatchet.
Here’s the pocket chainsaw in action:
These factory-sterilized plastic bags won’t leach chemicals into your drinking water and are handy for water purification using chlorine or iodine tablets. They roll up and are easy to pack into tight spaces.
I was in the military for 6 years and ate my fair share of MREs. Biggest misconception: they don’t taste terrible. In fact, the amount of food in an MRE is about twice that which you can eat in a single sitting, and it’s pretty good too. They’re made for really hungry people! Back in 1997, the US Government started labeling genuine MREs as unlawful for resale. So keep in mind that the MREs you buy, while they may look real, aren’t actually the real deal.
How many times have you found yourself working in the dark, trying to balance a heavy, metal, and top-heavy flashlight in one hand and your tool in the other? What if I told you that there’s a simple and inexpensive head-lamp that could solve your problem? You’d probably get it right away like I did. I use this light all the time while cleaning dimly lit areas or taking my dog out at night for a quick potty stop.
Can be used for temporary shelter or as a work surface to keep your bottom and knees dry on wet ground. One note of caution: don’t expose tarps to sunlight for extended periods of time. They’ll deteriorate fairly rapidly if left out in full sun for a few weeks.
Buy a pack of these and keep them in your roadside emergency kit. They have a shelf life of at least 6 years and heat up quickly.
This fire starter comes with several survival-essential items such as an emergency whistle, waterproof container for tinder, and a dependable ferrocerium rod with metal striker for starting fires the old fashioned way. Even if you forget your lighter, you’ll be able to start a fire in no time – the first time.
Being outside on a sunny day without proper protection can make you feel uncomfortable quickly. There’s a reason why mountain climbers, outdoorsmen, and extreme-endurance athletes use skin-protectant – it works. You can buy lip balm with varying levels of skin protectant, but I’d go for the highest SPF offered, which is usually around SPF 50.
Many sunscreens don’t contain moisturizer or enough protection to minimize UV damage. Here’s some more information on SPF by the Skin Cancer Foundation. This SPF 110 option is the highest-rated sunscreen I’ve come across, probably why they call it an “Age Shield”. Being a lotion, it’s not greasy or oily like typical lesser-quality sunscreens.
You’ll probably like this game – a lot. But you’ll also be very uncomfortable playing with people you don’t know. This game will keep you sane when all hope seems to be lost.
A great tool for making yourself easy to spot while outside your vehicle or RV. Make sure to get the industrial-grade kind which lasts 8-12 hours. They’re brighter and more durable than the novelty type.
Candles? You betcha. They don’t require batteries and can be used for cooking, for light, or as a general heat source.
But make sure to get survival candles which burn for 36 hours (one wick) or 12 hours (all three wicks lighted).
Extra shoelaces or paracord is cheap and has many uses. Hanging a signal mirror, tying a splint, tying up a tarp lean to, and the list goes on. Put them in the glove compartment and leave them there. Bonus tip: get the hockey skate size – extra long.
Don’t be dumb like me and work on car engines, shoot guns, and attend rock concerts without wearing hearing protection. I’ve got an annoying case of tinnitus to deal with for the rest of my life. Fortunately, today’s RV generators are very quiet. But if you’re faced with being around loud noises, put your ear plugs in and save your hearing.
We’ve discussed many items that you’ll want to be sure to carry with you on long road trips. But what about things that you can use before you set off? Preventing corrosion on your batteries is an important element of being prepared for long-term use of your RV. Use an aerosol battery sealant to make sure your batteries are ready for sustained operation.
Oops, I Forgot to Do It Emergency Roadside Kit
Some folks just don’t bother with an emergency roadside kit at all.
Many times there’s so much to pack that it’s easy to forget things.
The good news is for anyone who fails to plan, it may pay off if you keep these common items with you while traveling.
You might be surprised at their many uses.
Tampons – Can be used as a makeshift toothbrush, to plug a leak, as a water filter, and for cordage. Don’t believe me? Read this. Some survival experts even recommend a new name for the tampon: Tactical Adventure Medical Preparedness Outdoors Necessity (T.A.M.P.O.N.)
Condoms – They can easily become a sanitary reservoir to hold water or to keep important items dry like mobile phones or matches. Also they could be used as a flotation device and a tourniquet. Read this interesting article for more ideas.
Lubricant – Can be used to treat exposure to poison ivy, lessen pain of blisters, and for of course…general lubrication on gears, locks, and other parts in a pinch.
Bandana – It can be used as a hat, sling, tool for removing sediment from water, or even serve as a tourniquet.
Watch the many uses of a bandana here:
Soda Can – Tabs on a soft drink can be made into a fishhook. You can also start a fire with a soda can and chocolate.
Here’s an Idea on How to Store your Emergency Kit Items
Regardless of your choice of emergency roadside kit, you will need some way to keep it organized.
Depending on the amount of stuff you’ve accumulated, you might want to keep most items that aren’t bulky in a single location.
One idea: a large military-style molded plastic storage box.
What to Do Next?
If you have any items you feel strongly about and that you include in your emergency roadside kit please let me know here.
Looking for more great DIY tips?
Click here to go to the main website and enjoy hundreds of the best DIY RV articles on the Internet.