Making Your Own Jeep Survival Kit

Overland Expo 2015 - JK Jeep Wrangler Orange - Truck Camper Adventure - Jeep Survival KitIn August 2012, the Discovery Channel debuted a reality survival TV show titled One Car Too Far. The five-part series featured former British special forces operative Gary Humphrey, self-proclaimed gear-head Bill Wu, and a 2002 Jeep Wrangler in special survival situations set in the mountainous Chilean wilderness. During the course of each episode, the duo, along with their trusty Jeep, employed established survival techniques and MacGyver-like mechanical tricks to solve problems and get back to civilization. Lots of survival shows have aired in the past, but never one using a vehicle like a Jeep Wrangler as the focus of the show.

The show’s main appeal–aside from featuring a red TJ–was how the two tackled problems using everyday items and things you can find in the wild. On one episode the two successfully used an egg to repair a cracked radiator, while on another, they used a log to repair a broken axle. The show not only taught viewers essential survival skills, but also how to think outside the box to solve problems. A great byproduct of the show was that it got me thinking about my own Jeep adventures and what were to happen if I ever got into trouble on some distant 4×4 trail here in the American Southwest. What tools and items would I need to get me back on the road? What items would I need to survive two or three days in the wilderness in the event of a “bug out” scenario, major breakdown, or accident?

Relying on the experience of myself, other Jeep owners, and the TV show, I sat down and started compiling a list of items to include in my Jeep Survival Kit. The process of building this list wasn’t too painful. A kit capable of dealing with the most common on-road and off-road emergencies can be assembled for about $100 dollars. The easiest route is to buy a ready-made kit like those found in auto-parts stores or on the Internet, but the quality of these kits is often poor. What’s worse, these kits usually offer only a small fraction of the items you actually need in an emergency. The best route is to build your own kit that addresses your own personal needs as well as taking into account the climate in which you live and play. These can include things like snow chains and cat litter for traction in winter, medications, dog food, and extra water for hot climates. This kit already assumes you have a spare tire, bottle jack, and lug wrench to change a flat tire. Here are the items I recommend for your Survival Kit:

In addition to the small items contained in your Survival Bag, you’ll also need a few other items that are too large to fit in your bag. These add more cost, but are necessary for certain emergencies and for off-highway use. Here are the additional items I recommend:

A few words about some of these items are warranted. An air compressor is a must-have item. Not only can it be used to inflate a flat tire, but it can also be used to air up all of your tires after a day on the trail or at the sand dunes (airing down your tires can increase traction and make a ride less harsh). The Hi-Lift jack is another must-have tool. The versatile jack can lift, push, pull, winch, clamp, and extract. As is the case with any jack, extreme caution must be exercised when using one (never get underneath a lifted Jeep nor should you ever put your head above the handle). The only real negatives with the Hi-Lift are its size and weight–finding a place to store or mount it can be a pain.

You probably noticed that I didn’t include a winch anywhere on this list. Some of you were probably about to call me out this, but here’s why I didn’t include one. Winches are certainly nice, but I don’t consider them an essential item. Yes, if you’re into extreme rock crawling and exploring far off the beaten path, then I’d get one. Otherwise, save your money and buy the Off-Road Recovery Winch Kit for the Hi-Life jack instead. It’s less money and less maintenance in the long run. If you’re not familiar with the set-up, there are plenty of YouTube videos that explain how it works. Make sure you assemble the kit and test it before embarking on your trip. The last thing you need is not having the right tool and enough light to put it together when you need it.

Now that you know what to buy, next you have to figure out where to store everything. As any Jeep Wrangler owner can attest, storage space is at a premium. Sure, you can remove the back seat to create more room for storage, but this isn’t always an option. This means you need to be creative on where you store your gear. Use the roll bars to attach items like flashlights, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers and the locking trunk area for larger, bulkier items like your folding shovel and your survival bag. And don’t forget about the voids underneath the front seats and underneath the front hood along the sides.

Jeep Survival Bag - Truck Camper Adventure

In conclusion, having a Survival Kit is not only the wise thing to do, but it can also save you big bucks in towing fees. The small investment in time and money can also save you time and grief in the event of a breakdown or emergency. Sure, you may never need it, but chances are you will, especially if you travel solo. It’s best to be prepared. So, if you don’t have a Survival Kit, take the time to make one. Who knows, you may even enjoy the process of making one. I know I did. I hope you found my list useful. As always your feedback on the contents are welcome. If there’s anything you feel I overlooked, please let me know. This isn’t a be-all, end-all list. I consider this list a work in progress.

About Mello Mike 907 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.


  1. Excellent list. I thought I had picked up on a few missing things but then realised that you already had most of them included in your Survival Tin. I like to carry a couple of mini gas lighters as well as the matches but that's just my preference. Plastic supermarket carrier bags are handy for carrying, waterproofing, wrapping and even tying up things. I usually fold a few up really tight and stuff them into gaps. A small coil of thin but fairly stiff wire can be useful for making torch-holders, cup-holders, hooks, handles etc. I have nothing else to add, yours is a very good list 🙂

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