Traveler's Tool Kit

This section is dedicated to showing the tools I keep in the vehicle with me while camping and traveling.

I'll try to provide some insight into why I carry each tool and the specific uses for them. If I have dedicated reviews to an item I'll provide that as well.

Mechanics

This one is going to be fairly basic but I'll include some specific tips that you can apply to your kit.

It goes without saying a basic tool bag / box is essential. Especially for me because I own an old Subaru...

It doesn't have to be an overly expensive kit. A lot of my kit including my tool bag was thrown together in one trip to Harbor Freight.

My tool bag includes all the basic sockets both SAE and Metric, deep and shallow. My Subaru uses mostly metric sized bolts. But I make sure to include SAE as well because there's always a chance that it won't be my vehicle that is in need of repairs and being able to lend a hand to someone who is ill-prepared is always something I try to keep in mind. Other important items include, needle nose and standard pliers, combination wrenches, open end wrenches, socket extensions, vice grips, channel locks and screw drivers. But really your options are only limited by what you think you can carry.

It is also important to know where on your vehicle there may be parts that require a unique size tool to service or replace. For example, on Subarus like mine, the CV axles are a common failure point when the vehicle has been lifted. The nut that holds the axle in place is a rather large 32mm nut that isn't included in most basic socket sets. So I specifically made sure to purchase a 32mm socket to keep in the bag should I have to replace or remove an axle out in the woods or on the side of the road. So make sure to plan ahead for instances where a basic tool kit won't be good enough.

I mentioned the axles on my Subaru being a common issue. That brings me to another point. Know some common weak points on your vehicle. Carry some spare parts, so you are prepared to deal with an issue should it come up. To be perfectly honest, I don't carry spare axles at the moment. But I certainly should. I need to find the flexibility in my storage system to allow for those due to them being a known issue.

Repair Supplies. This is all the little things to temporarily patch an issue until it can be properly addressed. The most common items along these lines that I carry are zip ties, different sized hose clamps, spare hardware (nuts, bolts, washers etc), a very high quality duct tape (my favorite is Gorilla tape), a good sealant/ gasket maker. This Stuff (amazon) is absolutely the best I have used. It's a Nissan OEM gasket maker that you can buy at a Nissan dealership or on Amazon.

Lastly I'll just mention a couple basic items that are usually included with your vehicle, and that's a decent jack and lug nut wrench. The little wind up jack that comes with most cars will work for most situations but a good bottle jack is a good improvement. If you can fit two in your kit even better. That will allow you to lift one whole side or end of your car. As for a lug nut wrench, of course you could probably use the sockets in your tool kit, but having a solid longer dedicated lug wrench gives you more prying ability to break loose a stubborn lug nut.

It's also a good idea to carry some basic extra vehicle fluids. Especially if you drive an older vehicle like me. I keep some extra motor oil, a quart of transmission fluid, brake fluid and I usually have some water in the car for camping uses but it could easily be used to top off the radiator if I had to. Luckily I haven't needed to do that yet.

Electrical

Vehicle electrical issues can be some of the most frustrating and mysterious to deal with. And they can leave you stranded just as easily as a mechanical failure. Having some basic tools and supplies to diagnose and repair common electrical issues is essential for any vehicle, not just one that's being used for living out of or traveling in.

Some basic repair items that are easy to carry and can get you out of a tough spot and back on the road. These may seem obvious to a lot of people but they are worth mentioning anyway.

Fuses. Carry lots of spares in every size amp range that your vehicle uses. A lot of sudden electrical problems come down to a simple blown fuse.

Relays. Another small item that is not too expensive. It's easy enough to have a couple spares in the tool kit.

Electrical tape. Again fairly basic, but it can patch a worn through piece of wire insulation and protect against corrosion.

Wire nuts. These are not ideal for automotive use, however, in an emergency where you need to join two ends of a broken wire, they can do the trick to get you going again until the wire can be repaired properly.

Along the lines of tools for electrical items, the most essential and useful is a simple multimeter. These can be had for cheap and can perform lots of essential tasks for diagnosing issues from reading battery levels and finding shorts in a wiring harness.

One specific recommendation I have, particularly for people running a dual battery system in their vehicle, is to pick up a similar device called a clamp meter. These are basically a multimeter that is able to safely measure the amount of amps flowing through a wire like a battery cable. Due to the high current in these cables a normal multimeter will break and or melt if you touch the lead wires to a high amperage cable. It is important to get one that reads DC current as that is what is used in vehicle charging systems. The one I use and recommend is the Southwire 21550t AC/DC clamp meter. You can find my full write up review of it here.

Camp Tools / Recovery

Lastly I'll mention a few of my camp tools. Some of these will cross over into my Camping Gear list, but they are tools so I feel they have a place here as well.

Cutting Tools, an axe and a good knife (or two, or three) and a decent saw of some kind.

The axe I use and absolutely love is the Husqvarna 26" Multipurpose axe. This is not a cheap axe, but it is far from the most expensive either. Forged in Sweden by Hultafors, it comes out of the box wicked sharp and ready to go. At around $90 on Amazon, you are getting a much more expensive Swedish axe with a little less refined finishing for a big discount. Heads up, this is not the axe you lend to a buddy that will bury it into the dirt. You buy it and you will treasure it and keep abusive inexperienced hands away from it.

For my money, there is no better camp utility knife than a good old MoraKniv Companion. Another Swedish legend, but this time its only $20. They come razor sharp out of the box, especially the carbon steel version. I own both the carbon steel and stainless. Both are great but you need to take care of the carbon steel blade by frequent drying and oiling with regular use otherwise it will rust and tarnish.

Saws. As far as these go I don't carry a particularly large saw, i'll typically only use it to cut shorter pieces of firewood. The one I keep in my camping gear is the Felco F600 (amazon) folding saw. It's light and although small it has a fantastic blade that eats through limbs and branches. I've had it for years, and its held up fantastically well.

Recovery

I'll clarify this next section by saying I don't go out camping and traveling even to remote locations with the intention of off roading or pushing my vehicle to it's limits. If a road is thick and muddy I'll likely just turn around. Most of the time I'm by myself and the risk is not worth it.

That said, there's only a few key things I make sure to have for recovery. Most importantly, good tow straps. Also a decent come-along puller, and a shovel and snow claw. I don't carry traction boards, though they may be a good option for a lot of people. Knowing my typical destinations and terrains, as well as knowing that I'm not going to go out challenging my vehicle. I'm perfectly happy to turn around rather than risk being stranded. I've been dangerously close before, and it was not a fun experience. Perhaps I'll tell the story sometime.

With tow straps and a come-along I feel decently equipped to extracted myself from a bad situation. Like I slide in the snow into a ditch or something. I also have a decent little folding spade shovel for digging in mud and sand. An interesting little item I like to keep is a flat plastic snow claw (amazon). I first used this on a snow shoeing trip and I was amazed how much snow you could move with it. It takes up very little space so I toss it in my kit.

That pretty much sums up my tool kit. A lot of it may seem pretty standard but maybe there was some ideas in here that you may have overlooked. You can also look at a similar list I've made of some of my favorite camping gear here.

Take care and stay prepared!

-Donnie