There are many types of spares and safety equipment to consider packing, whether you are on a weekend getaway or a year long adventure. To help you decide which equipment you need, I have compiled the list below. It is by no means comprehensive, rather an overview of the vehicle spares and safety equipment we carry with us on our overlanding trips.
A small set of basic tools can help out in many situations, even those that are not vehicle related. On big trips we carry two sets of screwdrivers (one large, one small), vice grips, pliers, electrical tape, adjustable wrench, Allen wrenches, a socket set and wrench set with the most common sizes for our vehicle. On shorter trips, or when space is a concern, we omit the wrench sets and extra screwdrivers.
Adjustable wrenches are compact and at times will be all you need. But there are tight spots where the adjustable wrench head will be to big, and not provide the secure fit to apply the necessary force to loosen or tighten a bolt or nut. If you have the space, carry a set.
Read the factory service manual for your vehicle to see what the most common sizes of nuts and bolts are. Make sure to buy hi-tensile nuts and bolts as replacements and then make sure you have the wrenches that fit.
Unless you are positive spare parts will be easy to find everywhere on the road, bring a set of belts, air, oil and gas filters and fuses. Also consider the most vital sensors for your model of vehicle. If the lack of a $2 fuse could leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere, you might want to pack it.
1001 uses, 'nuf said.
Arguably the best thing you can have in your tool kit when fixing a problem. A sturdy pair of leather gloves will save your skin or even a finger. They also come in handy when catching a tangled up pet monkey in Malawi.
You should have a fire extinguisher, warning triangle and road flares with you in the vehicle. Keep the extinguisher where you can reach it in case of fire, it's doesn't do much good locked away with all the other tools and spares. The triangles and flares are a great way to get the attention of other drivers coming around the bend. Quite a few countries require that you carry these.
In some places petrol / gas stations are few and far between. Often there is no guarantee that a fuel stop will actually have fuel. Take a jerry with you to avoid being stranded. Be careful when crossing borders with cans full of fuel. Officials may demand import taxes on the fuel that’s not actually in your tank.
Your gas cap might be hidden under an access panel, but that does not make it secure. Locking gas caps are cheap and well worth it to avoid having your fuel tampered with. It's not a bad idea to keep the original cap as a spare. We once refueled at the Serengeti’s only gas station, only to realize 300 miles later that the attendant never put the gas cap back on. The dry road conditions resulted in a lot of dust entering fuel system. Mud poured from the fuel filter after we changed it for a replacement several days later.
You might be tempted to use a half size spare tire to save space, but they won’t carry the load or last long on most roads.
How many tires should you take with on your trip? In all except extreme conditions one spare is fine. On our Africa Trip we carried two full size spares. We spent a good deal of effort building a special mount for the additional tire, but we never needed it.
Unfortunately tire irons that come standard with most vehicles are the practically worthless "L" shaped models. Invest in a proper spider type lug wrench that will allow you to apply some torque to the wheel nuts. There are collapsible versions available that are great space savers and just as sturdy.
Almost all punctures can be fixed on the road with a simple tire repair kit. A small air compressor is necessary to inflate the tire when fixed. Consider buying a can of tire inflator for those times when there is no immediate safe place to change or fix a flat.
The Hi-lift Jack is versatile and built to last. It can be used in any situation requiring lifting, pushing, pulling, winching, and clamping. When off-roading you should not leave home without it. It is the one piece of equipment that will save your ass.
Hi-Lift also makes accessories for specific situations; Jack protectors keep the mud and dirt out of the mechanical parts. And mounting brackets can secure your jack in place on the outside of your vehicle.
The Lift-Mate allows you to lift the vehicle from the wheel. It is designed so you do not need a jack point on your vehicle. It greatly reduces the amount of lifting needed to jack the vehicle off the ground. If you do not have any hi-lift jack points on your vehicle, consider purchasing a Lift-Mate.
The Hi-Lift Off-Road Kit comes with a nose attachment for winching, a winch tensioner, a tree strap and a sturdy pair of gloves. A cheap alternative to a built-in winch.
Be sure to read the manual before using any Hi-Lift Jack equipment. They may be easy to use, but are dangerous if you do not know how to operate them safely.
A tow strap works like a seat belt. It does not stretch and is capable of pulling constant weights over a variety of road surfaces, like towing.
A recovery strap works like a rubber band. It stretches a little and stores a huge amount of kinetic energy. When it reaches a specific tension, it recoils. Recovery straps are good for pulling vehicles stuck in sand or mud.
When using a recovery strap make sure you have proper attachment points. Never use a tow ball to secure the strap as it might sheer off and become a lethal projectile. The tow ball is not made to handle large forces and will break under strain.
Sand tracks and sand ladders come in many varieties, but all of them take up lots of space. If you plan to drive on sand dunes or the beach, consider picking up a set. As usual, prior research on your destinations will help you decide.
A voltmeter can tell you if your car battery is dead, dying, or if the problem is elsewhere. If you have to troubleshoot an electrical problem in the middle of nowhere, a voltmeter is critical.