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The Vehicle-based Suitcase


Chris Collard shares his three decades of backcountry breakdowns, and the tools and equipment needed to get you (and your vehicle) home alive.

If we sat around a campfire spinning yarns about our early exploits into the backcountry, my guess is that the memories, regardless of the details, have been filtered into blissful adventures. They were most likely simple affairs with a full complement of necessities: a cooler of coldies, sleeping bags, and camp chairs. I recall the first trip in my ’82 Hilux. My buddy Rich Currie and I blazed out of town one afternoon, bent on exploring a place called South Fork. The route, a muddy 6km trench, was a good distance from the tar and we had the place to ourselves. All was good until I buried the truck to its frame and realised the cooler lid made a poor digging implement. We survived, but the takeaway was that I should pack a shovel next time.

During the next adventure, a friend became mired in axle-deep snow. I attempted to pull him out with an old rigging rope, which immediately broke. Another takeaway… I needed to buy a recovery strap. A year later, the radiator and fan of another friend’s Jeep did the tango. I watched as the “old guys” in my club resuscitated the radiator with needle-nose pliers and coarse-ground pepper. Yet more stuff to add to my toolbox: pliers and pepper.

So, for this 4×4-skills instalment, we are diving headfirst into equipment; specifically, the tools, spare parts, recovery gear, and speciality items that might help you (and your rig) get home alive.

When it comes to self-supported travel, developing a list of what items to bring and what to leave at home can be daunting. After 35 years of takeaways, I suggest crafting one around your personal style of travel. If you favour day trips and staying in campgrounds a short distance from services, a basic recovery kit and tools may be all you need. However, if you pine for the road less travelled and pitching your tent in the loneliest of locales, a detailed evaluation is in order. Things to consider should be the age and condition of your vehicle, your mechanical skills, and available storage space. At the end of the day, packing your vehicle’s suitcase is akin to sorting out personal items for a big trip. Lay out everything you think you will need, determine what will actually fit, prioritise, and cull the items at the bottom.

To simplify things, I’ve broken the process into several categories: recovery, tyre surgery, spares, standard and speciality tools, welding kit, fluids, and go-to overlanding gear. Don’t feel compelled to stuff everything on my list in your rig; simply use it as a guideline.


Recovery List

Kinetic straps (2)

Tree Protector

Winch line extender (15m minimum)

Winch line damper

Pulley block (2)

Bow shackles (4-6)

Gloves (heavy duty)


MAXTRAX/Recovery tracks


Tyre Surgery

Tyre Repair List

Self-vulcanising yarns

Reaming tool

Yarn insertion tool


Razor Blades

Needle-nose pliers

Valve stems and cores

Valve core remover

Patches (various sizes)

Rubber cement


Cordless drill and bits

Micro paracord, baling or stainless steel wire

Large surgical needle

RTV silicone

Air gauge

Air compressor


Spares List

Battery cables


Axles and seals

Brake line

Clutch and brake slave cylinder kit

Fuel pump, line, clamps, filter


Distributor cap, rotor, coil, points

Leaf/coil spring

Radiator hoses and clamps

Steering (tie rod, links, ends)

U-bolts and nuts


Water hose (various diameters 1m lengths)

Water pump

Wheel bearings and seals


Tools (Basic)

Basic Tools List

Full set spanners

Full set sockets

Screwdriver set

Allen set

Channellocks (large, small)

Crescent wrenches (large, small)

Vice-Grips (large, small, needle-nose)

Files (combination, keyhole)


Mallet, hammer

Hub wrench

Pinion nut socket

Pickle fork (two sizes)

Pry bar

Snap-ring pliers

C-clamps (small)

Brake line bender


Telescopic magnet

Gasket material

Electrical connection kit, wire, crimper


Brass punch, metal chisel, and metal punch

Tape (Teflon, electrical)

Cleaning brush

Spark plug thread bore

Emery cloth

Dental tools (picks, tweezers)

Alligator-clip jumpers

JB Weld, Loctite, fuel cell epoxy

Stop leak

Utility knife

Tools (Speciality)

Speciality Tools List

Drill and bits

Bolt extractor set and reverse-rotation drill bits

Die grinder (various disks, wire wheel)

Pneumatic or electric cut-off tool

C-clamps (large)

Gear puller

Vice-Grips (C-clamp style)


Safety goggles

15m air hose

Vehicle-specific tools


Fluids List

Motor oil (2 litres)

Differential/transmission oil (2 litres)

Oil pump

Power steering and brake fluid

Brake cleaner

Carburetor or mass air-sensor cleaner

Drain pan, used oil container

Bearing grease (high temp)

Siphon hose (shaker type)

Starting fluid


Hand cleaner 

Welding Kit

Welding List

Ready Welder/Premier Power Welder/Unipower welder (optional)

Welding rod (6011, 6014, 7014)

Storage tube

Welding shield, gloves, brush, hammer

Battery welding kit: heavy-duty battery cable with terminal-mount ends 

Jumper cables or welding leads, two or three 12-volt car batteries 

Basic Overlanding Kit

Overlander List

Hi-Lift jack and base





Bungee cords, ratchet straps, zip ties

Rigging rope and paracord

Collapsible bucket

Jumper cables

Fire extinguisher

Tyre iron (4-way star type)

Utility mat

Safety glasses

Nitrile rubber gloves

Medical kit


Bug repellant

Canteen, water filter or tablets


Extra food (3-day supply)

Flask of spirits (your choice)

Flashlight/headlamp (extra batteries)

Sleeping bag for each occupant

Fuel sticks (fat wood)

Waterproof matches

Knife and multi-tool

Spare ignition key


Toilet paper

Biodegradable soap

Baling wire

Gorilla tape

Ziploc bags

Shop rags

Hardware (various sizes)

Metal flat bar, angle iron