According to The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the average American spends nearly an hour behind the wheel every day — for many, it’s far more than that. A spokesperson for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety said that driving is “probably the riskiest thing any of us do on any given day” from a purely statistical standpoint. This adds up to a simple conclusion: There’s a high likelihood that you’ll be in or near your vehicle when an emergency occurs. It’s therefore critical to have some basic survival gear in your car or truck at all times.

Like many of you, I’ve stashed emergency gear throughout my vehicle. There’s a glass-breaker on the sun visor, a flashlight in the center console, bottled water in all the doors, and tools and jumper cables under the trunk floor. But the bulk of my gear lives in a backpack that can be pulled out of the car and carried away at a moment’s notice. Some might call it a get-home bag, but it’s more aptly described as a general-purpose 24-hour emergency kit. The contents have helped me through numerous situations, from unexpected overnighters to a vehicle breakdown on a 116-degree F Arizona summer day.

The Pack

The basis for this kit is a Legion Day Pack from Cannae Pro Gear, which features a small 19.5 x 11.5 x 6-inch footprint and compact 21-liter capacity. It’s an entry-level model, and that makes perfect sense for this sedentary application. There’s not much sense in spending big bucks on a pack that’s going to get worn so rarely. Despite the affordable price, it offers lots of organized storage compartments as well as a hidden waist belt — a feature that’ll be helpful if I need to run while wearing it.

Make & Model
Cannae Pro Gear Legion Day Pack



Exterior Pockets

I’ll explain the contents starting from the outside. Two expansion straps at the base of the pack hold a rolled-up fleece pullover, which has proven its worth many times on cold evenings. The bottle pocket on the left side contains a 48-fluid-ounce Nalgene full of water — you can never have enough in the desert. The green disc under the cap is a Pillid storage compartment that holds water purification tablets.

I also carry a Source Hydration Convertube adapter, which lets me drink from the Nalgene on the move. This item stays inside the pack, since I learned its rubber pressure-relief valve slowly leaks water when it isn’t upright. If I’m heading out on foot, I’ll swap it onto the bottle.

On the right side of the pack, there’s a 5.11 Tactical 3×6 Med Kit pouch. It’s solely for traumatic injuries and is shoved into the side pocket so I can pull it out immediately if I witness a car crash. It contains shears, a C-A-T tourniquet, hemostatic gauze, an Israeli bandage, gloves, and medical tape.

The front of the pack features two compartments — a sunglass pocket and an admin pouch. The former contains multipurpose items such as paracord, zip ties, superglue, a BIC Lighter wrapped in duct tape, and hand sanitizer. The admin pouch contents are as follows:

  • Spare 8-round magazine for my Shield carry gun
  • Mora Garberg Black Carbon knife
  • SOG PowerAccess multitool
  • Coast HP7 flashlight
  • Streamlight Bandit rechargeable headlamp
  • Chemlight
  • UCO spork
  • Signal whistle
  • Compass
  • Ironclad heavy-duty gloves
  • Bandana
  • Notepad, pen, and Sharpie marker
  • Deck of playing cards

Main Compartment

The remainder of the gear is housed in the full-zip main compartment. A mesh pocket on the inside of the lid contains hygiene items, including deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, chewing gum, and wet wipes, as well as a trash bag for cleanup. Next are three pouches. The first contains energy-dense, travel-friendly foods such as Millennium bars and almond butter packets.

The rigid foam container has a tool I consider invaluable — a portable jumpstart box. There are many to choose from; this WinPlus 8000mAh lithium ion battery cost $76 on Amazon. It functions as a USB charger for small electronics, but can also deliver a high-output jolt through included jumper cable clamps to boost a weak car battery. This is the item that saved my ass on the aforementioned 116-degree day, when my car battery unexpectedly died at a rest stop in the middle of the desert. It allowed me to drive comfortably to the nearest auto parts store, rather than begging other motorists for a jumpstart or waiting for roadside assistance. There’s enough extra space for USB cables, a 12V car charger, and a small wall charger.

For a last-ditch charging solution, I slid an Enerplex Kickr IV folding solar panel into the laptop pocket. If all else fails, it’ll give me enough juice to make a phone call or top off my headlamp.

Everyone will recognize the bright red first-aid pouch from Adventure Medical Kits. It includes basic supplies for cuts, scrapes, sprains, and other non-life-threatening injuries. I supplemented it with a few additional meds, such as 24-hour antihistamines, a Mylar blanket, and an additional hemostatic dressing.

The final items in the pack are clothing — pretty self-explanatory, and held in place using the pack’s integrated elastic cinch straps. One notable item is an ultralight, water-repellent Pack-It Jacket from First Tactical. Made from a thin layer of ripstop nylon, it offers no insulation, but fits over the fleece to serve as a rain shell.

With the items in this backpack, I’m ready to deal with most everyday inconveniences as well as more serious situations. As I explain in my On the Grid column at the end of this issue, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it provides for my immediate needs in the event of a vehicle-based emergency.

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