Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
If you didn’t already understand the importance of preparedness, the current COVID-19 situation should have taught you. As little as six months ago, would anyone have predicted that we would be facing a massive pandemic?
The same logic goes for when you’re driving. You never know when something bad may happen. What if you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere due to engine failure? What if the grid collapses and chaos envelops your neighborhood while you’re away from home?
This is why you need to always be prepared, and part of this preparation means having emergency items in your car. But which specific items should you have in your car at all times? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
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Keep most of the items on this list in a backpack so you can evacuate your vehicle with everything if you need to. Make sure your backpack is well made, rugged, has comfortable and adjustable straps, and has neutral colors that will help you blend in and not stand out.
Keep two blankets in your car at all times. The best one to get will be wool blankets or reflective heat blankets. Both will work well at keeping you warm. Avoid cotton blankets because they do a very poor job of resisting water.
Make sure that both blankets can pack down nice and compact so you can stash one or both away in your backpack if you need to bug out from the car.
Keep at least $100 in cash in your car at all times. This should be divided up into $20, $10, $5, and $1 bills. Keep the cash in a Ziploc bag for convenience and to help create some barrier in between it and the outside elements.
4. Cat Litter
For winter survival situations, you can spread cat litter on ice to make it easier for you to walk over.
5. Clothes (Extra)
Always keep an extra change of clothes in your car. Have one pair of hiking boots or shoes (you don’t want to evacuate your vehicle in sandals or flip flops), an extra pair of cargo pants or jeans, an extra shirt, a jacket, extra pair of socks, and gloves.
6. Fire Starting Devices
Plan on having at least three different fire-starting devices in your car at all times – matches, a magnesium flint striker, and a lighter will represent your best bets.
While you’re at it, include items that are easily flammable so you can get a fire going quickly. Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline or fire sticks are good options here.
7. First Aid Kit
Always keep a complete first aid kit in your car, and keep it separated in its own pack for ease of organization and transportation. This pack could then fit inside your backpack if you needed it to. Make sure to fully familiarize yourself with the inside of your first aid kit so you know all of its contents.
For this reason, it may be wise to buy all of the components separately and make your first aid kit truly customizable. It’s one way to make sure that you know everything that is included in the kit.
8. Flag (Red or Orange)
A brightly colored red or orange flag can be tied to the outside of an immovable vehicle during a winter snowstorm. This way, you should be visible to other cars coming by so you can hopefully be rescued.
Flares can also be used for signaling for help, such as if your vehicle becomes stranded, and from much farther distances than a red flag can. Have at least three in your car.
Always keep a good flashlight with an extra set of batteries in your car. This will make it easier to inspect your vehicle or to leave the car at night or in darkness if you have to. The best kind of flashlight to keep in your vehicle will have a powerful LED beam, but will also be small and compact so it can be easily carried around.
Keep enough food in your car to help you survive for at least three days. You need food that is small, portable, long-lasting, and come packed with nutrition.
Simple protein bars or energy bars would fill this bill nicely, but nothing too chocolatey or it will melt. You can also include MRE’s or similar food items where all you need is water and some heat to cook them up.
12. GPS Device
Keep a GPS device in your car with spare batteries. This can help you to navigate while you drive, and to navigate if you are forced to leave your car and bug out on foot.
This one is optional. Some people are uncomfortable at the thought of keeping a firearm in their car under the fear that someone may break into their vehicle and steal it. It has happened before.
The best solution is to keep your firearm secured, such as in a car safe in between the seat and center console or underneath the driver’s seat. Just make sure that the firearm is easily accessible so you can defend yourself from the driver’s seat if need be. Have extra ammunition as well.
Keep two knives in your car at all times – a fixed blade knife and a folding blade knife that you can keep clipped to the inside of your pocket. If you already keep a knife clipped in your pocket, it doesn’t hurt to have backups.
The fixed blade knife will be used for more heavy-duty tasks such as defense or shelter building or splitting wood, while the folding knife will be used for more precise work.
15. Jumper Cables
Even people who don’t keep a survival kit in their vehicle will usually at least understand the importance of keeping jumper cables in their car. If you don’t have jumper cables in your vehicle yet, change that.
16. Medical Mask
This would probably be wise to include just because of the current COVID-19 situation. Aside from that, a medical mask can also keep particles such as dust out of your mouth and nostrils too. As an alternative option, you could also go with a well-made bandana.
Paracord truly is one of the most versatile survival items ever invented. Keep at least one to two hundred feet in your car at all times. You can use it for shelter building, rappelling down a steep edge, making fishing line or a clothesline, or in the worst-case scenarios, for tying somebody up.
18. Personal Hygiene Kit
This is one of the most overlooked survival items to have in general, but it’s important (especially if you get stranded many miles away from the nearest town or city).
A complete personal hygiene kit has everything from hand sanitizer to soap to toothpaste to toothbrushes to a mirror and so on. It’s important to keep yourself clean.
19. Prescription Medications
Keep at least a three days’ supply of prescription medications in your car at all times too – especially if you really on these medications to stay alive or in good health.
A shovel will prove its worth to you on more than one occasion. You can dig trenches and latrines, use it for defense, or just dig holes as needed.
A full-size shovel should work for the back of a pickup truck. For a sedan or SUV, however, you can go with a smaller foldable camping shovel that will be much smaller and more portable.
Keep enough water in your car to survive for a minimum of three days. Preferably, keep it in a metal water canteen rather than plastic containers. This way, your canteen can be used for boiling water over a fire should you run out. It’s also more durable and will resist puncture hits much better.
While you’re at it, also include a water filtration device (such as a Lifestraw) and water purification tablets so you can make water you find safe to drink as well.
The above items belong in any vehicle, regardless of whether it’s a truck, SUV, van, or a sedan. Of course, feel free to add or subtract items based on how you see fit and on your circumstances and environment. Your end goal should be to have the very best car survival kit that you can get.
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you never keep cash in your car in todays world, now do you keep a gun in your car at all times along with a knife or prescriptions drugs. Those are things that people look for when they break into a car. especially the cash and a gun. Are your out of your mind to state that.
Keep your gun, knife and money in your purse. They have purses with a gun pocket in it. That way it’s not left in the car.
Cathy, I think that most countries would be more likely to be attacked with an EMP device.
Although all your nuke gear would be most useful.
G’day, thanks for the article, may I suggest that you get a battery jump starter instead of jumper leads because if your by yourself jumper leads will be no good.
How much gear do you want to carry and where are you going, overlanding or just running away from a bad situation?
If the world is turning to crap then carry everything on the list use your discretion.
I have been keeping a blast kit in my car with a heavier rainsuit, rubber gloves, goggles, face mask, duct tape and plastic bags for shoe covers in case we get nuked. You would have short amount of time to get yourself to a shelter but it would suck to have to throw your cloths and shoes away because they are contaminated with fallout and have to go naked while sheltering away from home. I also carry a trash bag to put contaminated items in. If you survive a nuclear blast you need to avoid the radiation and having supplies in your car can make all the difference.
Is possible to easily have 100 different CAR ESSENTIAL ITEMS in a small toolbox for different types of Emergencies,,, For Example,,, Basic Tools for Common Repairs, Flat Tire Fix Kit,,, Water Filter,,, Snack Bars,,, a Simple Cotton Bandana has over 100 different uses,,, plastic cable ties,,, Etc,,, We also have Lightweight Camping Supplies,,, Everything Total Weight is only around 20 pounds,,, and Everything Fits in a space similar to a Regular Airline Carry-on Bag,,,
A headlamp would help having free hands
If you store your water and food supplies in a styrofoam cooler, it will make the shelf life of food much longer stored in the car. I live in SoCal and summer time temps equal temps almost anywhere else except in the lower Sonoran Desert. Yeah, I know you don’t feel it because it’s a dry heat. I store my 1 liter water bottles in a styrofoam ice chest and I have never taken out a bottle in mid-summer that wasn’t cool to drink. It also keeps the bottles from freezing in extremely cold weather. I assume you run the a/c in the summertime in Phoenix. That helps ameliorate big temp swings.
I had SOS bars stored in my car for many years. I had them wrapped in about three inches of newsprint. I opened some many years past the best by date. They tasted like fresh bars. Now, I can’t verify that the caloric content was the same nor that the food value was the same, but eating them in place of a meal satisfied me until the next mealtime. My recollection is that they were 7 years past the use by date. I believe two things made them still edible. One, they are sealed in foil and the foil was intact. Two, they were wrapped in thick layers of newsprint, so even though they had been languishing in the trunk of my car for many years, they were not spoiled They could be eaten and they seemed to satisfy my hunger. Were they the equivalent of the 16 ounce slab of prime rib from House of Prime Rib? Come on, they’re SOS, lifeboat bars. Would they keep me satisfied for three days? I am certain of it.
There are other uses for N95 masks addition to the folderol of the recent past with the plague. We have frequent fires here in SoCal and having gone through hastily loading up while flames roared all around me and having come back to my home while smoke still hung heavily in the air, I can testify that N95 masks work very well in filtering smoke. They are uncomfortable to wear but much preferable to inhaling lungfuls of smoke. Do not use KN95 masks. They meet the standards of our BFFs, the Chinese, not U.S. standards. Okay, I am xenophobic. You are free to exercise your free will.
Sunglasses should be in your glovebox at all times. That’s not to look like Joe Hollywood. Intense sun can play havoc with your vision. Sun on the desert landscape will damage your eyes in a surprisingly short time, the same with sun on snow. Every hear of snow blindness? It is a serious condition that easily can become permanent.
As far as I am concerned, taking any medical info from WHO is in the same category as believing that the Chinese really are our BFFs. As far as I am concerned, they are a third world political — I won’t use any more pejoratives. They destroyed any limited credibility they might have had with me during the recent plague follies.
A wide brimmed hat for summer sun and rainfall and a watch cap for wintery days should be in your car at all times. You might just decide to go on a short hike on a nice day and find out that even though it is May, four hours in the sun left you with a nasty sunburn, especially that bald spot that those long combed-over strands don’t exactly cover. Once again, I can attest from personal experience that a sunburned head will give you a world class headache. I won’t bother to discuss sunstroke or heat stroke which can really ruin your day. A wide brimmed hat is four inches or more. Make sure to cover your ears. Sun protection for your lips is very important. My plastic surgeon says that the most frequent places he carves cancer from are the tops of the ears, the nose, the lower lip and the eyelids. The order listed is the ascending difficulty in repairing the area removed due to cancer. Don’t ask me why we had that conversation as he was carving away.
You should always have something in the car in which you can heat water over an open fire. While you can heat water by running the car heater, it just works better if you can stick your water heating device in open flame. A cup of hot bullion or a cup of hot coffee or tea can go a long way to boosting morale and stave off hunger pains for just a while longer. Your favorite bullion cubes wrapped in newsprint, any kind of instant coffee or tea bags wrapped in aluminum foil will last forever and a day in your glove box and taste soooo good when you are wet, chilled, tired and in a crummy mood.
I keep a survival kit in the vehicle that contains equipment least likely to be affected by temp extremes. The remainder is in a small “supplement” bag that stays in my mudroom or hall closet and can quickly be grabbed on the way out.
Need to add a big roll of duct tape
A gun and a knife in your car? You must not live in California. Possessing either in your car will put you in jail or prison. I hope your California readers don’t take your advice.
Many states are not that restrictive on human rights.
that’s not ‘ human rights’
Weird I thought it was in the 2nd Amendment in our Constitution! I do believe they call that section “The Bill of Rights” Since I am human I think I can say it is a human right!
Anyone choosing to reside in CA gets what they deserve.
Amazing that your rate of violent crimes are so much higher than in states where gun carry (including open carry) where violent crimes are practically non-existent.
ozie wilson says
The sad thing is that Californication was once one of the best states that one could live in. It was free, resource rich, offered plenty of opportunity and was environmentally different with ocean, deserts, mountains and more. I reluctantly left Cally in 1972 after growing up there…leaving some good people behind. I have lived a preparedness lifestyle my entire life…and never looked back on a state gone bad.
“Anyone choosing to reside in CA gets what they deserve.” Really, bro?? C’mon, you can do better than that.
That is not exactly true. You should read up on California’s weapons laws. Your masters in Schizomento will allow you to carry a concealable firearm in your car if it is in a locked container. An easy way to have quick access to it is to use a combination lock with 3 digits with the first two already dialed in. The lock won’t open until the third digit is accessed. I am not a lawyer and do not portray one in any entertainment media. However, you may carry a knife as long as it is unconcealed, If concealed it may not have a blade longer than 4″. It also may not be an automatic knife nor a gravity knife. It may not have two cutting edges. There is a bum who regularly walks around town with about a ten inch bowie strapped to his leg. I am sure he has regular conversations with patrol officers, but I have seen him for years, so perhaps only the newbies now contact him
Your ammunition must be locked in a separate container and I would recommend the same procedure for locking up the ammo. It can be locked in the container with the rounds stored in a magazine. It does not have to be loose.
I would recommend a different combination of each of the containers. Your area code makes one good number and the first three digits of your phone the other. I use various combinations of my old phone number for various combinations. It is very easy to remember. For instance if my number were 515-XYZ-ABCD, I might use 15X as one combination and DCB as the other combination. If I don’t remember the combination I put on the lock, I have an easy set of numbers to try to open the lock.
While Kallyforniya has too many stupid laws, thankfully, the legislators are too dumb to know the difference between “sic ’em” and “come here” so we do have some means available to us to defend ourselves
To the reviewers of this post. It would really help us oldsters if you used blackface type instead of gray face type. Many of us no longer have 20-20 vision and if our prescription is not quite current, reading six point type in gray face is aggravating at best.
Mud duck says
Why would anyone live in California it always catches on fire and it’s going to be the first to slide into the ocean. !!
Who would want to live in CA LOL. I think CA. has a concealed carry permit which means you could have one in your car if you had that. I have heard that they are very hard to get there though. Seriously though, Why would you want to live there. I spent 34 years there and couldn’t take the nonsense any more. I live in Ohio now and the difference is day and night. Our Governor just signed into law Constitutional Carry which means you don’t need any type of permit to carry a gun whether it is concealed or not.
or in Canada
Rick Palmer says
Flashlight, guns , knives , prescription meds .
I keep a 4 patriot rechargeable flashlight in the top , exposed part of my center console , where it gets enough sun to stay charged . It also has a USB port, if your cellphone needs a charge . The compass is so/so but at least you’ll have one if needed .
Guns, knives , and meds in your vehicle. You better be aware of any laws that will apply as you travel. Prescription meds should not be left in the vehicle, you know what your needs are , just pack a little extra when you leave the house . Vehicles get hot or very cold , neither is good for meds .
Living in Florida the daytime temperature in a parked car will seriously degrade some medical supplies. Tape, food, etc doesn’t keep well in those temperatures. The cost of warm winters.
Colleen Gallagher says
how about a potty and tp?
Not just for an EOTW event. With the highways being backed up longer and longer, it makes good sense to have some kind of relief receptacle in the car along with paper or wipes. TP lasts almost forever in a car. Wipes have to be checked periodically because they do dry out. While guys generally can just stand by the side of the road, most ladies are reluctant to drop their drawers in full view of perhaps hundreds of folks in cars with nothing else to look at.
Urinals are cheap and you can purchase them with a female adaptor. I have carried on in all my vehicles for a long long time.
Just two years ago, we avoided a head-on collision that took place right in front of us. I later read that the road was closed in both directions for six hours. It happened to be a stretch where if you were stuck with traffic in back of you, there was no way to get off. That meant that the cars that were behind us that stopped for the collision spent the next six hours sitting in their cars waiting for the road to be clear and the investigation to be completed. It used to be the mantra was to get the road cleared so traffic could move as quickly as possible. It seems to me since the turn of the century that road closures are being dragged out longer and longer and getting traffic moving has taken seconds place to making sure every piece of debris has been diagramed and measured and photographed, resulting in hours long delays sometimes stretching to a whole day or more.
And it can happen just like that on an ordinary day in clear weather with no reason for a head-on collision except for inattention of one of the drivers. If I hadn’t been paying attention and the shoulder hadn’t been as wide as it was, I would have either been another car in the collision or best case, stuck behind the debris on the road which closed all four lanes and apparently parts of the shoulders too.
keep an ice cream pail and lid in the car, line it with a plastic bag, and also use it to store some smaller items in it like tp, wipes, etc so everything is right there. To empty it all you need to do is remove the plastic bag and the pail is still clean and no door to it. You could store a couple of extra plastic bags at the bottom of the pail before you use one to line the pail, as well.
About the meds…many are not suited to be stored in temps that vehicle interiors reach. Check with your pharmacist. Also, they need to be changed out periodically, especially if stored in less than optimal conditions. The first that comes to mind is nitroglycerin tabs. Typically with those you get more in a prescription than is needed, but with the way insurance companies restrict refills to just the amount needed I would suggest asking your doctor if they have samples they can give you.
Basically good info, but not the best.
To much crap.
The extra clothes are optional. if you don’t wear good shoes or boots then you should have them and some socks would be good. Women take note here. Most guys can make do with their everyday clothing.
You should always have a light jacket and a rain poncho in the vehicle.
You can probably survive in the clothes you have on, for a few weeks if you had to.
The rain poncho should be an item by itself. hypothermia from getting wet is a real problem, even in summer.
Forget the personal hygiene kit. the medical mask and most of that “PC type crap”, worry about survival, not being properly clean or civilized.
Forget the cat litter, you will never have enough with you. use the shovel and spread some dirt around, it works just as well and does not take up space.
Jumper cables should be part of a minor auto repair kit, not a separate item.
Such as some screw drivers and adjustable wrench or two, a multi tool, some electrical tape and a water resistant self sealing tape for radiator hose leaks, some spare fuses, etc. The flares should be part of this kit also.
The modern GPS device, forget it.
Learn to have a compass and a map and use that.
Your batteries will probably have long gone dead and it will be useless when you need it.( the same goes for the batteries in flashlight also. Instead of a flash light, get a flashlight app for your cell phone.).
Having food and water for 3 days is a good idea but not really practical.
However some Coast Guard emergency survival rations don’t take up much space.
As for water, at least a gallon per person is a good start. If you had to abandon your vehicle you can carry a gallon of water, but not so easily 3 gallons.
Then you need to carry a “drinking straw” or water purification device and a Canteen.
I prefer a plastic canteen with a cover and a G.I.-Style Stainless Steel Canteen Cup. It conveniently is easily stowed away under your canteen. It provides you with a lot of optional uses.
A deck of cards or a book would be a good addition. Something to help pass the time, until you are rescued. A moral booster.
In preparing for a survival situation, one rule to remember “Less is better”.
A couple of things regarding clothes that I forgot to mention.
1) A good hat.
One to keep the sun off of your head in summer and to keep your head warm in winter.
2)A large handkerchief.
There are to many uses to list for this item. If you don’t know what they are good for then you need to research them.
But it is good for straining water, as good as most ” medical masks” for that kind of protection. (Besides the WHO recommends not wearing medical masks unless you personally are sick.) Some have survival info printed on them.
They can keep the sun off your neck and be wetted down to supply extra cooling. Just to name a few uses.
You disagreed with him and then pretty much repeated most of what he said. Your advice is ok but not the best. Most of the items are just common sense anyway and a lot of the items mentioned are given with the idea that the reader isn’t a total moron and can adjust it as needed.