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Do you have the four essential hand tools for your vehicle? The official winter solstice is just a few days away. Cold weather, ice, snow, blizzards, and extreme temperatures are the experience of this season. Many people in the northern parts of our nation ready themselves for this time of the year. Furthermore, a person driving on the roads in these conditions can find themselves stuck on the side of the road. There are four hand-tools that you can store in your vehicle that can help you to self-recover when you are stranded on the side of the road if you are mired in a rut.

The U.S. Army requires the operators of wheeled-vehicles to carry these four items on their vehicles at all times. They are accountable items. Moreover, many soldiers have lost some of their pay because of losing this equipment. These essential hand-tools have a name associated with them. They are called pioneer tools. The main reason for this designation is that the early pioneers carried these tools in their covered wagons as they moved to settle the western United States. A recent experience of mine reminded me of the value of bringing such tools in your vehicle.

1. Shovel

The first of the essential hand-tools that you should consider storing in your car is a shovel. The size of your vehicle will determine the size and type of shovel that will work for your vehicle. For example, the standard military d-handle shovel would be too large for a small compact car. Moreover, a standard military entrenching tool might be too small for an SUV. Shovels come in various sizes and styles. However, the best shovel for emergency roadside vehicle recovery is the d-handle, round-tip. By contrast, military folding shovels (aka. entrenching tools) are not designed for this type of application. Therefore, I would not recommend them for this purpose.

The best shovel for smaller vehicles is the ANViL® D-Handle Utility Shovel or something similar. Utility shovels are miniature d-handle shovels. They are small enough that they can be stored in the trunk of most sedan-type vehicles, such as the Chevy® Cruze or Nissan® Sentra. The best shovel for larger vehicles is the regular d-handle shovel, such as the Razor-Back® 30-inch, Wood D-Handle Digging Shovel. The digging shovel works best with mid and full-sized pickup trucks and SUVs such as the Chevy® Traverse or Toyota® 4Runner.

Furthermore, the value of carrying a shovel in your car cannot be overstated. A shovel allows you to dig out your stuck vehicle. A shovel can be used to place gravel or dry dirt in front of your tires to help with traction. Also, they can be employed to dig a fire pit or fire trough for building an emergency fire. They also can be used to construct a hasty shelter or windbreak.

2. Ax or Saw

Another of these essential hand-tools to carry in your vehicle is an ax or saw. We could collectively call them wood-processing tools. However, the value of carrying an ax or saw in your car is immense. The saw or ax is useful to cut wood. Wood logs can be laid in front of the tires of your stuck vehicle to provide some traction for your tires. Moreover, a saw or ax can be used, along with the shovel, to build a hasty shelter, build an emergency fire, or any number of other uses or needs in an emergency.

Axes

There are several sizes of and types of axes, as there are saws. You can read my article on woodcutters for more information on axes. The best kind of ax for a small sedan or economy car is the Estwing® 26-in., Camper’s Axe. It is not as heavy or bulky as a regular woodsman’s ax, but in an emergency roadside situation, it will be handy. Yet, the best ax for SUV’s and pickup trucks is the regular woodsman’s ax. The best ax of this type is the Hults® Bruk Akka Forest Axe. Those who are looking for a budget-friendly and dependable ax, there is the Echo® 28-in., Hickory Handle Limbing Axe.

Hatchets

Many people do not travel in large SUVs or pickup trucks. Therefore, storage space is limited in many sedans and hatchback vehicles. If you own such a car, then a hatchet is a good option if your car is too small to carry an ax. Hults® and Estwing® have great hatchets to consider as an alternative to the ax. Hatchets are smaller than axes. However, they give some chopping capability that can be useful if you are stuck on the side of the road.

Ax Principles

The working principle for finding a good ax is the material of the handle, type of bit, and weight of the bit. Remember that in a roadside emergency, you do not need a dedicated heavy-duty wood-splitting ax. Wood-splitting axes are not good choppers. They are most efficient using vertical strikes. They are inefficient for striking at angles or swinging horizontally.

Saws

Another consideration for these essential hand tools is a saw. The best kind of saw for roadside emergency applications is a folding saw. The best folding saws on the market are made by Silky® or Bahco®. I would recommend the Silky® Big Boy or the Bahco Laplander. However, the Fiskars® Power Tooth 10-in., Steel Bade, Folding Pruning Saw is an excellent option to consider. Saws tend to be more efficient in processing wood for emergency fires and building shelters. However, with a good ax and a folding saw, most wood processing needs during a roadside emergency can be accomplished.

3. Pick Mattock

The pick mattock is the classic pioneer and miner tool and one of the essential hand tools that you should carry in your vehicle. They are digging tools. These tools break up hard and rocky ground. The ability to dig around wheels stuck in mud or softened dirt is essential. Shovels are not effective in breaking up icy, rocky, or dry, densely compacted soil. Troops fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and at the Chosin Reservoir found out the hard way that a small entrenching tool is inadequate to break up the frozen ground. Therefore, a good pick mattock is a great asset to keep in your vehicle, if possible.

Pick Mattocks come in two sizes, miniature and regular size. A miniature pick mattock is an option if you are driving a smaller car. However, remember, that like the hatchet, a miniature pick mattock has its limitations. A good pick mattock to consider is the Husky 2.5 lb. Pick Mattock with 36-in., Hardwood Handle. The miniature pick mattock that can be a good option is the V&B Manufacturing Mattock & Pick Combo, 26-In. Hickory Handle, or something similar.

4. Sledgehammer

Sledgehammers are part of the essential tools that you should carry in your vehicle. They are excellent tools for larger vehicles. However, they also should be a consideration for smaller vehicles. The value of a sledgehammer is the ability to drive wooden logs into the ground or heavy stakes. In a roadside emergency, these hammers can be used for several applications. They are great for helping dislodge or breaking up large rocks. Yet, their most common use is to help with securing logs in front of your vehicle tires. Additionally, a sledgehammer can be used to break windshields to get an injured person out of a car. Yet, the most common sledgehammer used for roadside emergency use is the 2.5 or 3-pound sledgehammer. Smaller vehicles can store miniature sledgehammers or a heavy-duty hammer.

Final Thoughts

The storage of pioneer tools (shovel, ax, pick Mattock, and sledgehammer) in your vehicle will pay dividends in a roadside emergency. The size of your vehicle storage space will determine the dimensions of such tools. Your full-sized pioneer toolset can be stored in a military surplus duffel or seabag or your truck bed utility box. Moreover, a smaller version of these tools can be stored in a medium or large gym-type bag. I would also recommend purchasing a military HMMWV pioneer tool rack and mounting your pioneer tools in that manner on your bug-out truck or SUV if you can do so. So, be prepared, be safe, and consider storing some of these tools in your vehicle.