Now comes the fun part: GEAR! I’ll break this down into three posts: gear in general, gear for dogs, and gear for people.
Flashlight or headlamp, flares, sign, blanket, candle, gas can, bungee cords, rope, zip ties, booster cables, multi-tool
No one ever wants to need to use this stuff but I’d rather have it than not. And besides, if it makes you feel better you can be carrying it for someone who was not as well prepared. I’ve never had to boost my own car but I’ve had plenty of people ask to borrow my cables.
In fact I would say that if you have nothing else, have booster cables and flares. Scratch that: FLARES. If you break down in a place of low visibility, it doesn’t matter if you can boost a car when another one plows into the back of yours. So make yourself visible.
Every place that sells automotive equipment that I have ever been to sells assembled safety kits that will contain most of the items I’ve listed above so if you’re not sure what you should have, it can take out the guesswork to just go buy one. And they come in a handy case to keep everything neat and tidy.
When it comes to a flashlight, I keep a large D cell in the front of the car. It can be a bit cumbersome but I find it easier to manipulate a larger flashlight than a smaller one. A headlamp is also very useful since you can just put it on and go. Whatever light-making device you have, check the batteries routinely and especially before you leave. Give yourself enough time to get batteries if the ones in your light are dead.
I keep most of the bungees, rope, and zip ties in a small cloth bag that I pack next to my safety kit. I also keep a few more bungees and tie-down straps in with the spare tire so they stay contained but accessible.
This is important. One of my Standard Road Trip Rules is to listen to the radio but there are times when you can watch the radio cycle through again and again and you get nothing so back-up tunes are important. Maybe download an album and wait until you’re on the road to listen to it. If you’re travelling with kids, get them to make a playlist. Yes you may end up listening to the same song that you’ve already had burned into your brain but it’s a great way to get them engaged and excited about the trip. And who doesn’t remember being younger and belting out the tunes with your friends? It’s fun to sing along even if you’re by yourself and it can help keep you awake. A small confession: I dance in the car too. Next time you’re stuck in traffic and a great song comes on just car dance, then look to the cars on either side. Guaranteed to brighten your day.
First Aid kit
Here are some photos of the kit I put together:
The kit from the outside.
Clockwise from top left: rubbing alcohol/tape, gauze, safety pins/sterile gauze pads/cotton balls/cotton swabs/nitrile gloves/antibiotic ointment/self-adhesive bandage/syringe/scissors/needle-nose pliers/tweezers/bandages/antihistamine.
Dosages for antihistamines.
There’s a few little things about it that you may immediately notice. It’s in a hard plastic case. That keeps everything intact from all the stuff banging around in the trunk.
It’s got a bear bell on the handle. That is so I can hear it moving if it gets knocked aside in the dark. It’s also a good place to keep a bear bell if we go hiking somewhere where a bell is a good idea.
The Icy Cool Towel gets cold when you wet it. I’ve never used it but I’ve heard that they work really well so I keep one handy in case someone, human or canine, needs to have their temperature lowered in a hurry.
On lid, I have all the dog’s information including names, descriptions, breed, age, weight, and medical conditions. I have done this in case I am ever incapacitated or if someone is trying to help me in an emergency. I have the same information with their documents which I’ll get into in a later post.
On the side, I have dosages for antihistamines. I spoke with one of the technicians at my vet and she wrote it out for me (which is great because her writing is so much nicer). I then calculated how much each dog would get and taped that onto a bottle of antihistamine so that if I need to deal with an allergic reaction, I don’t have to bother trying to do math in a hurry.
Everything is kept in separate zip top bags. I do that to keep everything neat and contained and to prevent contamination from elements or dirt or blood.
I could have done the easy thing and bought a perfectly acceptable and functional kit but I thought there were things that there wasn’t enough of or other things that I wouldn’t use so I used the contents listed for one and built my own.
Yes there are places in the world with no cell reception. Granted some apps will function with no signal, you can’t alter your destination or look at anything in the area around you. So if you’re talking to locals and they’re trying to give you directions to something really cool, you might be missing out if you can’t figure out how to get there.
Pen and Paper:
I know I’m old school to suggest this. I like keeping a notebook with me because I find that I can scribble a thought down in the time it takes me to unlock my phone. I also like to write things down because I find that I remember details better than I do if I type it out.
If you’re a bit of a photo nerd like I am, you’ll bring a camera to record the trip along with the pen and paper. See…it’s all coming together. If you do bring a camera then you’ll want to make sure you bring all the cables and chargers and maybe an extra memory card and battery to last the entire trip and a good case or bag to keep it safe. I also pack a zip top bag big enough to hold the camera just in case of rain. At least with bluetooth technology, you can download photos to your phone and not have to lug a laptop with you if you want to reduce the chance of losing photos if your memory card craps out. Which mine did. In the Bahamas. After my brothers wedding. After swimming with pigs and visiting an island of iguanas.
I keep a small collection in the car for parking expenses and such. It’s usually funded when I go through drive-thrus and I toss all my quarters and loonies ($1.00 coins) in there. I keep a baggie of American coins in the door pocket for toll roads and parking meters when I’m planning on crossing the border. And both are concealed if I’m out of the car although let’s face it: if someone is going to break into your car, they’re going to break into your car whether they see $5.00 in change or not.
No one ever wants to lock their keys in the car but imagine doing it on a hot day when you have dogs in the car? I’ve been lucky to have never done that but if it does happen you better believe that that window is coming out as soon as I find something to smash it with. I make a point of using the keyless lock function to lock the car. It’s habit. And if it’s habit, I’m not likely to accidentally lock myself out. But if I do, I keep a spare key in my pocket. NOT HIDDEN ON THE CAR. I know there are all kinds of gadgets to secure a spare key but I don’t use them for the same reason I don’t leave a spare key hidden around my house: someone can find them. Another reason to keep a spare is just in case I lose or damage my main key.
You can buy coolers that run on 12 v that you can plug into your car. They come in all sizes which means you can find one if you just want to keep a few snacks and drinks cool or enough to feed everyone for days. And you can also set it up to keep things warm as well. Some have an adaptor so that you can plug it into a wall which is great for when you are done driving for the day and don’t want to risk draining your battery. But hey then you can use those booster cables! I bought a mid-size Koolatron which I put on the floor behind the front passenger seat. This spot allows me to reach it from the front and also keeps the fan from getting blocked by anything.
I bought several water- and air-tight bins that I use for carrying my food supplies. I like these because they are small enough to stack two high in my trunk but still hold enough supplies to keep things organized. I spent a little extra for ones that were water tight so that it would reduce the chance of any accidental moisture damage to my food. OK let’s be honest: I mostly buy my food but I was more concerned with the dog’s food since Piper is on a special diet.
Clear plastic bins with snap closures and gaskets to keep out air and water and my Koolatron cooler.
Just. In. Case.
I have covers on all of my seats and I supplement the dog cover with several blankets for their comfort. It keeps my upholstery cleaner, reduces the funky wet dog stink, and is a heck of a lot easier to clean. It also minimizes the hair ,and dirt, and change that sneaks it’s way into the crease in the seats in the front. And since I create enough stink when I go out hiking in the summer or during long trail runs, it helps my seats too.
Cold Weather Specific:
Are you going to an area with a lot of snow? Then you’ll definitely want to have the ubiquitous bag of non-clumping cat litter for traction, salt, a small or collapsible shovel, a snow brush, and (if they’re allowed) snow chains.
So that is my list of general gear for the car. Can you think of anything I forgot or that you just “got to have” in the car when you travel?
Up next: gear for the dogs.