In every one of your vehicles, you should have basic tools that can be used to conduct minor repairs. These tools also form your tool foundation for Bugging Out. Ideally, you want to have a large tool chest full of every tool imaginable, stored at some self-sufficient-off-grid-retreat. However, this is not reality for most of us. Therefore, the tools stored in our vehicle, should provide adequate support for any mechanical or building needs. I have several toolboxes, stocked and ready to go, in case I need to flee my residence. But, who knows if I will remember to pack them or have time to pack them if I leave abruptly. So the tools that are always stored in my vehicle will be there whenever I may need them.
Why Do You Need Tools
The need for tools is obvious; they allow you to fasten, break, cut, repair, modify, etc. But, the need for tools in a SHTF scenario is significantly higher. More than likely, the repairman will not be able to come to your home, or you will not be able to take your vehicle to a mechanic. Therefore, you become your own repairman and mechanic. Almost everything we own requires some sort of tool to open, modify, and repair.
The tools stored in your vehicle need to serve two purposes. The first is conducting maintenance and repairs on your vehicle if you are on the road. Maintenance and repairs are needed regardless if you are broken down on the side of the road, or if you have bugged out to the remote Montana. You need tools in both scenarios.
The second purpose is building and repairing things post SHTF. More than likely, you will not be able to drive down to your local Home Depot to purchase what you need.
Stocking Up on Tools
Stocking up on extra, or redundant tools, can be a costly venture. I look at the tools stored in my vehicle as a backup tool resource for daily tasks around the house, and as my primary tool resource away from my home. Depending on your available budget, having multiples of the same tools may not be feasible. At a minimum, your tools should be consolidated inside of a single bag or toolbox so you can quickly throw them into your vehicle.
One way to amass more tools is by going to your local pawnshop. The pawnshops where I live have chests of tools, from sockets to wrenches, to large power tools, which can be purchased at discounted rates. When building a tool reserve, you do not need to have the same brand name; you just need to have the tools. Who cares if they are used, as long as they are quality tools and are in good shape? Another way to build your reserve is to go to your local hardware store, and purchase the store brand. At the ends of most tool aisles, you can find cheap but effective, off-brand tools. I look for the $5-$10 deals, which may include mini-screw drivers, small socket sets, or other specialty tools. Just make sure to try them out, before you put them in your tool box. I will not argue that high quality tools cost significantly more; however if I had to choose between a large resource of cheap tools or a few expensive tools, I would pick the cheap tools any day.
Tools and Expendables (Required Items)
There is some overlap between tools and Recovery Gear (Part III), so I have tried to categorize each item into the category that I feel it best fits in. Additionally, there are some specialized tools that we have purposely left out. This article’s intent is to provide the foundation for a basic toolkit; simply add tools that you will need to your own kit.
Since space in your vehicle is a valuable resource, we have tried to limit the required tools to fit inside of a 12”-19” tool bag. Standard hammers are normally 16” long, so we recommend a 17”-19” bag. Additionally, our standard tools are non-powered so that you do not require a means of charging depleted batteries.
Lastly, for those that do not have any tools, we tried to assemble an adequate tool kit, with a budget of around $150. Some mechanic’s type tool kits could suffice, and you could find cheaper tools locally. Conduct your research before making any purchases. The goal here is to supplement the tools that you already have.
1. Bag – We prefer tool bags, over boxes, since they can be stuffed into available space. A rigid box does not have flexibility. However, if you have a larger vehicle, or extra space, a rigid box may work better. The tool bag should have an excellent zipper, although it is not necessary. Look for a durable fabric, preferably rip-stop that can take the wear and tear caused by the tools and the environment.
2. Duct Tape – You can never have enough duct tape, since it is very versatile. Try to keep a full-unused roll inside of your tool bag.
3. Electrical Tape – Arguably as useful as duct tape, and allows you to conduct minor electrical repairs and splicing of wires.
4. Pliers – Pliers are versatile tools, which allow you to cut, crimp, tighten, etc. There are several different types of pliers, each with their own purposes.
5. Screwdrivers – I recommend having a screwdriver set, with multiple tip sizes and shorty screwdrivers.
6. Socket Set – Socket sets are primarily used to conduct maintenance and repairs on your vehicle. At a minimum, you should have a small socket set; however a large socket set or mechanic’s socket set is recommended.
7. Wrench Set – Wrenches can fit into places and situations where sockets cannot. Or, they can be used with your socket set to hold nuts in place, while your socket is securing/removing the bolt.
8. Adjustable Wrench – Adjustable wrenches, or crescent wrench, are useful tools, and can be used with sockets and wrenches. The benefit of having an adjustable wrench is so you can adjust it to a size that is larger or smaller for your sockets and wrenches. Keep in mind that a socket or wrench is preferred, and using adjustable wrenches my cause you to wear down (strip) your nut or bolt. Whenever using an adjustable wrench, make sure you adjust the size of your wrench so that it is as tight as possible around a nut/bolt.
The optional items below pose many different transporting challenges, although they are extremely beneficial. While the required items are non-powered, several of our optional items require batteries and/or fuel. The purpose of the following items is to provide non-standard support (cutting of locks, cutting down trees, etc.), and to make some tasks a little easier (powered drills). This list could be endless, so add your specialty tool or item to your personal vehicle inventory.
1. Bolt Cutters – Bolt cutters are used to cut bolts, locks, or fencing. Bolt cutters could come in handy if you have to break a lock to a storage shed because you forgot the keys. We recommend heavy duty bolt cutters, which are large and heavy.
2. Chainsaw, Bar Fluid, Chainsaw Oil – A chainsaw is used to cut through timber, and can be included in the recovery category. It is recommended to have bar fluid and oil fuel additive on hand, as well as an extra-sharpened chain. Given the size of a chainsaw, it may not be feasible for individuals that have smaller vehicles.
3. Sledge Hammer and Chisel Set – A sledge hammer is used to bash objects back into shape, to break them, or a great backup zombie dispatching device. A chisel set can be used with your sledge hammer so that you can break through things more easily.
4. Electrical Multi-tool – An electrical multi-tool is used to strip, cut, and crimp wires.
5. Hammer Drill – A hammer drill is more powerful than a cordless drill. However, whichever one you possess should do fine in your kit. Don’t forget about the drill bits. It is recommended to have a battery operated drill (see battery considerations).
6. Locking Pliers / Vise grips – Arguably, vise grips could be a mandatory item. However, if you are on a budget, we recommend the other pliers first. Vise grips allow you to vise, or put pressure on an item, and are extremely useful for stripped bolts/nuts.
7. Reciprocating Saw – A reciprocating saw, or Sawzall, is a very useful cutting device. You can purchase different blades for different tasks, and the blades are relatively inexpensive. It is recommended to have a battery operated reciprocating saw (see battery considerations).
8. Mechanics Socket Set – Larger than a standard socket set, and could include wrenches and other tools. You could find a mechanics socket set that includes many of the required tools, although they are usually single items (one flathead screw driver, instead of multiple flathead screwdrivers).
9. Spark Plug Socket Set – If you socket set does not include spark plug sockets, you will need some. Spark plug sockets are designed to provide enough clearance to remove a spark plug.
10. Zip Ties – Zip ties can prove very useful, from securing wires to lashing limbs to make a shelter. It is recommended to have several different sizes, and ones that are UV rated. While more expensive, UV rate zip ties will last longer when exposed to the environment.
Battery Consideration - If part of a group, it is recommended to standardize battery powered tools (brand and model) so that batteries can be shared amongst all group members. This may be hard if group members have already purchased tools, or plan to use their corded tools. You will also need a means of charging your batteries. A small solar setup can be used, or an inverter can be installed on your vehicle. If going the inverter route, ensure that the maximum wattage supports the wattage required by your charging device.
Building a tools reserve is a high cost investment. Ensure you are purchasing quality tools, preferably with a warranty. However, cheaper tools can be purchased for vehicle kits. The important thing is to have the tool for the job.
If you are part of a group, then de-conflict tool inventories. For instance every member of the group does not need to own a chainsaw or bolt cutters. But, you should have one of these for every few members. You will need to determine the number of items per personnel, and categorize specialty items and the quantities you should have for your group.
You can never have enough duct tape and zip ties, since they can be used for a multitude of tasks.