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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.

There are four optional tinder sources that can help with making a fire in an emergency situation. The ability to make a fire is an essential part of survival in the outdoors or in an emergency situation. The experts usually discuss making a fire with the use of natural materials. Demonstrations of primitive fire making occupy the discussions in the survival and outdoor literature. One of the essentials of making a fire is the use of combustible materials to start a fire. Let us take a look at some optional tinder sources to consider for your fire-making kit.

Cotton Balls or Cotton Pads

The most common type of optional tinder source are cotton balls. Cotton fiber is a natural material from cotton plants. The fibers are harvested and processed into cotton balls at a cotton mill. If you happen to be going by a cotton field you may see cotton-like balls on the plants. These white balls are called, bolls. Cotton bolls are combustible material. Cotton bolls are not as dense as the cotton balls in the local grocery store.

Moreover, a simple cotton ball will take a spark very easily. It has one disadvantage; the cotton fibers burn very quickly. Potentially, the cotton ball can burn out before a tinder bundle can catch on fire. There are a couple of ways to help the cotton ball hold or extend a flame once the fibers begin to ignite. One method to help the cotton ball hold a flame is to saturate it in candle wax. Another method is to saturate the cotton ball in petroleum jelly. Candle wax and petroleum jelly produce the same affect on the cotton fibers as a wick on a candle. They help the fibers burn more slowly while retaining the flame. Thus, after application of the wax and petroleum jelly to cotton, they act as fire or flame extenders when the cotton fibers catch fire. In turn, the cotton ball now is an optional tinder source.

Hand Sanitizer

A second tinder option for your fire making kit is a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer contains both rubbing and ethyl alcohol at a concentration between 65% and 95%. The kind of ethyl alcohol that is in hand sanitizers is flammable. As a result, the liquid or semi-jellied hand sanitizer will ignite with a heat source such as a match, butane lighter, or ferro rod. The semi-jellied compound that forms the hand sanitizer does not evaporate easily and will hold a flame longer that just the liquid alcohol by itself. However, when liquid hand sanitizer combines with other tinder sources, it functions as an accelerant to create fire. Not only is liquid hand sanitizer a good consideration as an optional tinder source, hand sanitizing wipes are also a excellent options for a tinder source.

The best hand sanitizing wipes are those individually wrapped by Purell™. Hand sanitizing wipes are different from an alcohol wipe that is in a first aid kit. They are also different from a Wet Wipe®. The hand sanitizing wipes have a concentration of ethyl alcohol of between 50 and 70 percent (PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes Alcohol Formula, Safety Data Sheet, 2016). This makes them an ideal item for a personal emergency survival kit or to keep in your wallet, purse, or backpack as a multi-use component of your EDC loadout.

 

Alcohol Prep Wipes

The third household item that makes a great tinder for fire making are the alcohol prep wipes in your household first aid kit. These wipes contain up to 60% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol infused into a small paper or cotton cloth square. It is important to know that there is another kind of wipe in a first aid kit that is an antiseptic wipe containing .13% benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient. Benzalkonium Chloride is an antimicrobial soapy substance which makes it useless for making emergency fires.

Furthermore, the major difference between using a wipe that contains hand sanitizer and one with rubbing alcohol is burn time. Rubbing alcohol evaporates very quickly and when it ignites it will burn off before the paper or cotton square starts to burn. Remember that experiment your high school chemistry teacher did by soaking a wash cloth in rubbing alcohol and lighting it on fire and the cloth did not burn? By contrast, the wipes containing hand sanitizer will burn more slowly and this quality makes them ideal for starting an emergency fire for survival.

 

Dryer Lint

A fourth household item that makes a wonderful optional tinder source for emergency fires is dryer lint. There are many blog articles and YouTube® videos discussing the various ways to employ dryer lint as a fire making item. Dryer lint has a similar quality to cotton balls. Loose fibers from the clothes that are being dried fall off of due to the rubbing and tumbling in the dryer. Those fibers collect on the lint catch. They, then, can be collected for later use to start an emergency fire. The major difference between dryer lint and cotton balls is that dryer lint sometimes has within it multiple types of fibers, such as cotton, wool, and polyester.

Final Thoughts

A major component of survival is being adept at improvisation. The homesteading community calls it “repurposing”. The list of optional sources of tinder are by no means exhaustive. There are many other kinds of materials that can function as tinder sources. The experts agree that being able to make a fire in an emergency is essential for wilderness survival. The same skill also is critical in an emergency in other locations such as a suburban or urban environment. Therefore, improvising tinder materials from household items is one way to think outside the box to prepare for an emergency.

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