12 Critical Tools for Social Chaos or Basic Home Preparedness

By Lee Bellinger / November 12, 2013
The line between a convenience and a life-saver is a thin one! During an unexpected breakdown – even a short one – anything can happen.
A rock may come flying through your window as a pack of adolescent vandals run roughshod through your neighborhood.
A pipe under your sink might lose its seal. If you’re unable to reach a plumber, the soggy mess that’s spilling out onto your kitchen floor is yours to deal with. A loose floorboard becomes a tripping hazard… a loose wire in your car leaves you without transportation.
But, if you have a good set of tools, you can handle each and every one of these scenarios and many others without relying on anything other than your own handy-work.
During peaceful times, having the right tools nearby means you can make quick repairs around the home and save money on calling the handyman. But, in the middle of a breakdown, a good set of tools is invaluable and can even be lifesaving.
A Dozen Must-Have Tools
for Your Household Toolbox
All Purpose Toolkit
The 12 tools we suggest here are a good starting point. And they are cheap – at least until a crisis comes. They’re the ones you should consider essential. However, that doesn’t mean that these 12 items will complete your toolbox. While you are going through this exercise you may find it useful to add a number of other tools as well.
Flashlight with Handcrank Charger or Rechargable Batteries: Amazing how many people don’t have a working flashlight available! Perhaps the single most important tool you can own is a working flashlight. Yes, we know – you have a flashlight already. But does it work, is it fully charged, and (forgive us for asking the obvious) can you find it in the dark? If you bought your last flashlight two years ago and tossed it in your ‘junk drawer,’ you have the equivalent of a gun that’s out of bullets – namely, a rock. We urge you to buy a good quality flashlight, keep it where you can easily find it even if the power is out or your home is full of smoke, and keep fresh batteries in it at all times.
Hammer: A good, solid hammer is a must. With a hammer, nails and some scrap wood, you can build or repair furniture, reinforce windows and doors, or build a fence for your garden. Hammers are also great for breaking anything that needs to be broken. For example, if you’re out of fuel and the temperature is dropping, a hammer plus an old piece of furniture equals the life-saving firewood you need to survive the night.
Screwdrivers: You’ll want a few different screwdrivers in your toolbox. Have at least one straight-edge screwdriver and one Phillips-head screwdriver. A couple different sizes of each wouldn’t hurt. Whether you’re working on furniture, on a car, or under the sink, chances are high, you’ll need a screwdriver handy. You can also use a screwdriver to wedge a door closed (or open) or to open a bottle if you’ve misplaced your corkscrew or bottle-opener.
Drill and Bit Set: A power drill is indispensible. It gives you the ability to install and remove screws quickly and easily. Plus you can use it to drill holes in just about anything – an ability that comes in useful for a number of repair and building jobs. A cordless drill will work even when the power is out, provided you’ve kept it charged.
A Standard  Plier
Pliers: In the right situation, a well-built set of pliers can be worth its weight in gold. A pair of pliers gives you the ability to grip things more tightly than your hands are capable of doing. And, you can bend, twist, or compress things with pliers. We recommend a slip-joint pair of pliers. They give you a good range, and you can use them for everything from straightening a bent nail to tightening a nut to repairing your kitchen faucet to fixing a bicycle.
Adjustable Wrench: Wrenches are used to loosen and tighten things from pipe joints to nuts and bolts. An adjustable wrench gives you the ability to change your wrench size to fit the job at hand. Also consider adding in a set of socket wrenches. With a good adjustable wrench and socket set, you can do a surprising number of repairs on your car from replacing the battery to repairing coolant leaks to fixing a worn serpentine belt. In the event of a breakdown, reliable transportation may be imperative. Your tool set can offer you peace of mind on that front.
Vice Grips: Whether you’re gluing something together or holding it in place while working on it with other tools, a set of vice grips is like having an extra set of hands. Really strong hands.
Hacksaw and handsaw: If you ever need to cut a metal or plastic pipe, and you don’t have a hacksaw on hand, chances are you’ll make a mess of the job. Keep a hacksaw and replacement blades in your toolbox so if you ever need to cut a tough material, you’ll be ready. Keep a handsaw in there, as well. Handsaws are good for cutting wood whether you need to trim a tree, gather firewood, or trim materials for a building project.
Utility Knife: A utility knife is often the most-used item in a toolbox. You can use it to cut drywall, to trim shingles when repairing your roof, to cut flooring, to cut plastic sheeting, to cut shims, to score materials so you know where to cut with your other tools, and much more.
Multi-Tool
Multi-Tool: A multi-tool is your grab-and-go tool. If you’re headed away from your home, it may not be convenient to carry a heavy toolbox with you. A multi-tool has most tools that you might need in a pinch. Leading brands include Leatherman and Wenger (Swiss Army), but there are many lower priced alternatives as well.
Tape Measure and Level: Measure twice and cut once, the old adage goes. When you’re making repairs or building something new, the ability to measure before cutting will save you no end of frustration. An accurate level can also help you make sure what you’re working on turns out how you want to in the end, whether you’re building a bookcase, hanging a picture, or framing a door.
Universal DC to AC Outlet Converter Adapter: We know that’s a mouthful and it may sound complicated, but it’s simply a way to plug in any standard electric item to your car’s cigarette lighter. As long as your car battery is good, you can power just about any tool or appliance. These adapters are available for as little as $5 from major online retailers like Amazon. Most truck stops and auto parts stores sell them as well. We recommend you keep one in each vehicle you own.
Becoming more self-sufficient means being able to rely more on your own skills and tools. A good toolbox can prepare you to handle most minor repairs around your home on a day-to-day basis. It will also help you handle bigger repairs and other kinds of jobs if you’re ever in a crisis and need to get something built or fixed.
A stocked toolbox is a smart, convenient thing to have on hand no matter what, and it’s just one more way you can become ready for anything.