Everything for Electronics
Nuts & Volts Magazine (July 2017)

What’s in Your Grab-and-Go?

By Bryan Bergeron    View In Digital Edition  

I own two grab-and-go bags: one for survival and one for the phone calls for help on a friend’s stereo, computer, or quadcopter. The survival bag has the usual flashlight, matches, water purification tablets, bandages, tourniquets, and pain killers. My grab-and-go for electronics is a little more involved, and the contents shift a bit with the technology I’m likely to encounter on my “rescue missions.”

As listed below, most of the kit can be categorized as instruments, tools, parts, or safety related.

Digital multimeter
Clamp-on AC ammeter

1” diameter extendable mirror
Diagonal cutters
6” Crescent wrench (2)
Driver kit with screw and bolt head attachments
Small rubber mallet
35W soldering iron
Swiss army knife

Assorted fuses
Electrical tape
Duct tape
Solder wicking braid
8” Tie-wraps (6)

Safety Related:
Medium Band-Aids®
Alcohol-based hand cleaner/sanitizer
Clear goggles

The instruments include a small Fluke DMM with a set of good sharp leads. A small inexpensive Extech clamp-on AC ammeter is my insurance when working with AC powered systems in which the circuit breaker is theoretically in the “off” position. I like to verify that the circuit is, in fact, dead.

The tools in my grab-and-go bag are largely generic, multi-purpose, and self-explanatory. I love my head-mounted light because I inevitably run out of free hands when working behind a car dashboard or other tight space. The mirror is also a life saver in cramped quarters, as it allows me to inspect connections without full disassembly.

A standard 35W Weller soldering iron with a lightweight cord works in just about any environment that has AC power available. If I’m going to work on a circuit installed on a boat or otherwise away from the mains, I’ll bring along a small butane torch. The Proxxon Microflame Burner works well in windy environments and is easy to refill with generic butane.

I’ll add to my core selection of parts as the task demands. However, at a minimum, my bag contains an assortment of fuses — both automotive and the standard 0.25 x 1.25” 3AG variety — with a few values ranging from one to five amps.

My favorite method of solder removal is to use braid. It’s less messy and much more compact than the Teflon-tipped solder suckers.

On the top of my list of safety supplies is a set of clear closed goggles. By closed, I mean that the top and sides are rubber/plastic, with small ventilation holes. I don’t like the simple sunglasses style eye protection because it’s all too easy for debris to enter the eyes.

Band-aids and sanitizer are for the inevitable minor cuts that I’m likely to encounter, simply because accidents happen.

As with my disaster grab-and-go bag, my electronics grab-and-go is for quick response to an immediate need. I’ve found it covers 80% of my house calls to friends. Your grab-and-go might include other instruments, tools, and parts depending on your interests and the typical needs of your friends.

If you don’t have enough spare tools to create an electronics grab-and-go, then the next best thing is to create a checklist of what to pack when you get a repair/help request.

I’ve found the hard way that simply tossing tools and parts in a backpack and heading out the door without thinking through what I’m likely to need is a recipe for disappointment and wasted time.

What’s in your grab-and-go?  NV