19 Items You Should Keep in Your Emergency Car Kit
Emergencies happen when you least expect them, but they don’t always have to be stressful situations. Have you ever been stranded on the side of the road? If you haven’t, you’ll be glad you came across these ideas before it’s too late. No one has time for a vehicle breakdown and no one certainly anticipates it to happen. The trunk of your car can be the Holy Grail of survival so why not start filling it now? Some people spend more time in their cars commuting than in their own homes so it only makes sense to be prepared on the road. It’s important to have an emergency car kit.
1. Jumper Cables
Jumper cables may be an obvious choice, but you would be surprised how many people don’t keep some in their car. They have saved me countless times in moderate emergencies. If you find yourself with a dead battery you are out of luck without some jumper cables. Don’t rely on someone else to have a pair – because it’s likely they aren’t prepared. I really like this 16′ AAA jumper cable set because they can actually reach. If your car battery is dead sometimes it’s hard to get another car close enough especially when you have short cables.
2. Spare Tire with Jack & Tire Iron
Most of us should have a factory spare tire with your car along with a jack. However most of us have not check its condition, ever. The spare could be in worse shape as the one you’re trying to replace. Temporarily check your spare tire pressure so that you’re not stuck with a flat spare when trying to replace a flat tire. You might also want to practice changing your tire at least once before you absolutely have to. If you don’t have a scissor jack with your car this one has really good reviews and it’s compact much like the factory jacks that come with most cars.
3. First Aid Kit
My general rule of thumb is to store a first aid kit in as many places as possible. Ever slammed your finger in the car door? It hurts like mad and usually needs bandaging, but many people rarely have supplies with them. Also if you’re traveling with your kids or grandkids they always find a way to get a cut or scratch. Not to mention more serious injuries can occur at any time so make sure you have a fully stocked kit or two with you.
4. LED Flashlight
Two out of the three times I’ve experienced a flat tire have been at night. A flashlight is necessary or even a headlamp if you prefer to keep it hands free. You can find LED flashlights that will run forever on a set of batteries, so stay away from the old incandescents. Some of these lights come with a magnet so it’s easy to position it on your car for hands free working. It will also come in handy if you need to walk down the road to get help or sign for help if you are stranded and can’t walk for help.
A multi-tool will mean you have a pair of scissors, screw driver, pliers, blade, wire cutters, file, bottle/can opener, and often times much more in one compact device. It takes up very little space and can be life saver in some situations instead of having a toolbox full of tools that could get misplaced. This Leatherman will get the job done and the reviews are awesome. Don’t just take my word on it – there are many different kinds on the market, so do some research and find on that is right for you.
6. Fire Starter
If you get stranded in the middle of nowhere you might have to wait a long time for the next passerby. You’ll likely be without cell service and could be stranded over night or for days. The ability to build a fire will be a huge plus. You can get all sorts of fire starters – the most preferred would obviously be a Bic lighter, several of them in case one malfunctions. Bics are great until the fluid runs out. Learning to use a traditional fire starter like this one will give you the reassurance that you will have a spark no matter the situation.
7. Weather Radio
A weather radio can help keep you out of harms way. If you plan to keep it in your car all the time, I recommend getting one with a hand crank and/or solar panel for charging in case the batteries die. Avoid tornados and flash floods by knowing when you’re in harms way. You can also get a HAM radio that can be used for communicating with the appropriate licensing which can also be programmed to store NOAA weather stations and other emergency related stations.
Not only will flares keep you safe in highly trafficked areas, you can also use the to signal for help from above or even use it as a fire starter if necessary. Having a way to signal for help can be more important as the water or food you’ve stored in your car. Food and water can be finite and ultimately the need for rescue is your saving grace, so make sure to have some sort of signaling device whether it’s a flashlight, mirror, reflective bivvy or some flares.
9. Paper Maps
Especially if you are on a road trip and in unfamiliar territory, you should never leave home without a paper map. I know it’s old school and everything is technology based, but your beloved GPS and other electronic devices will lose their battery power eventually and an old fashioned map could be your saving grace. Keep your maps in a ziplock bag or have them laminated so they are waterproof. It’s hard to read a soggy map.
10. Mylar Blanket
A mylar blanket, or space blanket is extremely compact and lightweight and easy to store in your vehicle and are really cheap considering the huge payoff they give in return by saving your life. Hypothermia is the number one killer in a survival scenario. Most people don’t think clearly and forget that maintaining your body temperature is a necessity in staying a live. A mylar blanket will help keep your body temperature regulated and can be a great signaling device for help due to their reflective properties.
I store facial tissues and bathroom tissue in my vehicle because they come in handy in the smallest of emergencies. From a nose bleed, to a rest stop that seems to be without toilet tissue I use my tissues all the time. In big emergencies they are good for cleaning up wounds due to unplanned infections or bacteria that could enter the wound. It’s important to have clean and hopefully sterile fabric materials for wound dressing or putting together a make-shift bandage.
Rainwater might not make you melt, but it can sure make you miserable and cause your body temperature to drop, which could start the onset of hypothermia especially with wet clothing if your car is uninhabitable. Get a bright color so it can be used as a signaling device. An umbrella can also create shelter if you have to abandon your car and can also block out the intense sun in hotter climates, which can help prevent sun burning and dehydration
As mentioned earlier with the mylar blanket, keeping warm is so underestimated. Most of us don’t think about the possibility of being stranded and being uncomfortably cold. It is a huge reality that the cold can kill you if you aren’t prepared. Take measures now to reduce the risk. Buying a mylar blanket is great – it can be used for many different purposes, but making sure you have on hand a fleece or wool blanket will keep you warm and toasty while lifting your spirits. Your car will run out of gas and then reality will set in, so don’t take this lightly.
14. Change of Clothes
You will be surprised how many times this will come in handy. If you get stuck in a rainstorm or fall into a puddle you’ll be glad you have some spare clothes. If you’re stranded for days you’ll most likely need an extra set. I recommend having a spare set of long pants and long sleeves for colder weather conditions in addition to some warmer weather clothing. Socks and underwear are moral boosters, so toss them in your car as well.
15. Spare Change or Cash
Okay, we all have a collection of change in our car door handle or center console, right? That’s good. Keep it there. You might also want to find a safe place to store a small amount of paper money also. If your wallet is stolen and you are in dire need of fuel, you’ll be glad you hid a stash of spare cash.
16. Seatbelt Cutter & Window Breaker Tool
We all hope that we never find us trapped in our vehicle or trapped while submerged in water, but if it happens a seatbelt cutter and window breaker tool will end up saving your life. This two way tool is not one that people usually think about when preparing their car emergency kits. Keep it somewhere easy to grab from the drivers seat for easy access.
17. Energy Bars
Energy bars are a great emergency food supply. They are compact and easy to store. You can stuff a few in the car door, glove compartment, or center console. Keep tabs on the expiration date and swap them out if you need to. We really like these Soldier Fuel bars and they have great reviews, but everyone has an opinion so do your research on taste and expiration.
18. Duct Tape
Duct tape has endless possibilities. You can find all sorts of articles online about the survival uses alone, I’ll let you Google search those. Just to name a few – you can use it to make your own weapons, traps, cups, clothes, blankets, shelters and the list goes on. It is easy to use and much fast that trying to track down or make cordage. Another popular use is for wound dressing. We usually buy ours online for cheap.
19. Water Filter
A water filtration device is always a smart thing to keep with you. The Sawyer Mini Filter will filter up to 100,000 gallons of water so you will likely not need to replace it for a long time. Since it isn’t wise to store water in plastic bottles inside your vehicle because it can get hot in the daytime heat and release chemicals, your best bet is a portable water filter like the Sawyer. It’s very small and will fit in just about any compartment inside your car.