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Roadside Emergency: Are You Ready?

Moulton barn Grand Teton with our Airstream.
Photo by my friend Peter Kemp

Roadside Emergency: Are You Ready?

Let’s face it, for most of us, RV travel involves covering vast amounts of road to get to our destination.  Traveling the highways and byways of America has its ups and downs.  Proper RV maintenance, planning travel routes around major cities, and visiting busy locations during off-peak times can all reduce stress and risk.

However, despite all the planning and preparation you’ve done, some things just happen.  A roadside emergency is one of those things that can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Whether it’s a fender bender, flat tire, or busted radiator, SAFETY is the name of the game. Are you prepared?

Most road travelers carry very little in way of self-reliance during a roadside emergency. Their “kit” is filled with items such as jumper cables.  Jumper cables are great, but have you ever tried to jump yourself off without the assistance of another vehicle? A better choice for this would be a lithium jump box like the NOCO GB150.  You can use this jump box to assist someone else or yourself.

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Today, let’s focus on the one item that ALL travelers should carry: roadside emergency markers. Road triangles, flares (incendiary or LED), or chemical/glow stick markers should be a staple item in your roadside emergency kit.

The purpose of these devices is to help create a visual warning to other motorists that a potentially dangerous situation is ahead. By alerting other motorists in advance, you are giving them more time to slow down, move over, and react to the upcoming situation. This can help greatly in your safety and preventing further accidents.

Let’s look at four different types of roadside markers in detail and determine which best fits your travel needs.

Emergency triangles. Photo via Pxhere (Public Domain)
Emergency triangles. Photo via Pxhere (Public Domain)

1. Roadside triangles

Roadside triangles are often referred to as DOT Safety Triangles. These are those orange or sometimes red reflective triangles you see behind transfer trucks on the side of the interstate.

They are durable and can be used multiple times, but in high winds, they can be blown over and become essentially ineffective.  They also do not have an internal light source, which means at night they require an external light source, such as a vehicle’s headlights, to shine on them for the reflective tape to be seen.

Even though they do fold down, they can be hard to store and assembly is required when needed. This can make an emergency situation even more difficult.


  • Waterproof
  • Durable
  • Great during the day
  • Fold up for storage
  • Produce no heat or fire


  • Not easy to store
  • Not great at night
  • No light source
  • Requires light to shine on them to be seen at night

2. Chemical glow sticks

Chemical glow sticks are another option for roadside markers.  These are just like the glow sticks your kids play with on Halloween, only slightly larger.

Chemical glow sticks. Photo via Amazon

They work through an exothermic reaction that occurs when mixing Dyed Biphenyl Oxalate and Hydrogen Peroxide.  They are easy to use, come in a variety of colors, and produce no heat or fire.

Major drawbacks to the chemical glow sticks is that their brightness is reduced by cold temperatures due to the chemical reaction being slowed. Also, they are not easily seen during the day.


  • Easy to use
  • Waterproof
  • No fire
  • Different colors
  • Long run time
  • Lightweight and easy to store


  • Plastic waste
  • Cold temperatures can affect brightness
  • One-time use
  • Can accidentally get activated in the package
  • Not good for daytime use

3. Traditional Incendiary Flares

Traditional Incendiary Flares, or Pyrotechnic Flares, date back to around the time gunpowder was invented. This type is very bright and can be used in rain, sleet, snow, etc.

Photo via Amazon
Traditional flares. Photo via Amazon

To safely use a traditional flare requires some training. I recommend that you “practice” with one in a non-emergency situation. The use of incendiary flares also carries a risk of FIRE.  This type of flare should never be used in dry conditions or when leaking automobile fluids are present.


  • They produce a bright light
  • Small and easy to store
  • Display well during daytime
  • Cheap


  • Sometimes hard to light
  • Can cause other flammable items to ignite
  • Short burn time (average 15 minutes)
  • One time use
  • Once lit, hard to put out
  • Risk of burn/injury when using

4. LED Puck Flares

LED puck-style flares from Hokena Safety Flares have in the last few years really started to make their presence known in the market.  Police Departments as well as other emergency services have started making these LED flares standard equipment in their vehicles due to their versatility.

photo by Author
HoKENA LED Road Flares

LED flares are easy and safe to use.  They are bright and provide multiple lighting patterns such as rotate, strobe, or constant-on.  They have a built-in hook and strong internal magnet that allow for different mounting/display options. These flares have a very long run time, as much as 5 days. They are battery-powered so the batteries will need changing periodically.


  • Reusable
  • Waterproof
  • Very bright
  • Multiple lighting modes
  • Built-in hook and magnet
  • Non-combustable
  • Easy to store
  • Durable
  • Long run time


  • Battery-powered
  • Not the greatest choice during the daytime

Each of these options have their own set of pros and cons, but having an emergency roadside warning system is a must for all RV travelers.  Having one of these systems is a great way to warn other drivers of your situation and allow them the time to move over and slow down.

I use the Hokena 5-pack LED Safety system.  I believe it clearly provides the best overall option.  They are a great way to increase visibility and provide a buffer between you and moving traffic without the risk associated with Incendiary Flares. They are brighter and more visible than Chemical Glow Sticks. They also are easier to store and provide better nighttime visibility than Safety Triangles.  LED road flares are a safe option that anyone can use.

As a side note, if you must exit your vehicle, you should wear an ANSI Class 2 compliant high visibility safety vests to help increase the visibility of your person.

Feel free to reach out if you have questions and don’t forget to follow us @Airstream_Nuts_and_Bolts on Instagram for our most current travel and project information.

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