12 Things You Need In Your Vehicle Emergency Kit - ITS Tactical

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12 Things You Need In Your Vehicle Emergency Kit

By The ITS Crew

VehicleEmergencyKitWith winter already upon us, it’s time that we all evaluate just what we have in our vehicles, and if it’s enough to handle an emergency situation.

The list we’ve come up with today is what we feel that, at a minimum, you should have with you in your vehicle.

Most of our readers are probably already prepared with these essentials, but it never hurts to share this information with those you care about. I’m sure we all people we know and love that hardly even carry a jack with them.

Instead of getting into a huge article on all the things you could potentially need in an emergency situation, we’ve decided to come up with a simple, basic list that creates the foundation of your Vehicle Emergency Kit.

We’ll definitely be expanding on this list and topic in the future, but it’s time that you at least get this stuff in your vehicle!

Jumper Cables

41-MMD1k+vL._SL500_AA280_One of the best things you can carry with you is a good set of Jumper Cables, this isn’t a time to get cheap, and like your grandfather always said “Buy cheap, buy twice.”

There’s plenty of cheap “made in china” cables out there, so be cautious. We recommend getting cables with multiple strand four gauge copper wire.

The alligator clips should also be made of copper with pressed/crimped connections to the cables. One of our readers pointed out that for high currents, soldered connections should be avoided as the solder might melt.

We recommend at least 12 feet of length, and the more the better. 16 feet is ideal for most situations and should allow you to get a jump from someone behind you if need be.


41Ep24w51ML._SL500_AA280_Having a flashlight with you should fall under the EDC (Every Day Carry) category for most of you, but it never hurts to have an extra in your vehicle.

There are many different kinds of flashlights out there, but essentially two types of light. Incandescent and LED.

Without getting too much into an Incandescent vs. LED article (which we’re planning by the way), get something that’s a dependable backup light.

Our first thought is LED because it can potentially last longer than an incandescent and will keep running even as the batteries get depleted.

Plus, LEDs nearly run forever and there’s no bulb to have to worry about changing.

On the other hand, incandescent bulbs are typically brighter than LEDs, depending on what you buy.

In the end, just get something that works for you, and will allow you to change a tire or inspect your vehicle at night. Throw in some extra batteries too.

Jack / Tire Iron

31BuEx8w-WL._SL500_AA280_Hopefully the Jack and Tire Iron that came with your vehicle are still in it. If not, it’s time to take care of that problem.

For those who could possibly be unfamiliar with a Jack and Tire Iron, a Jack is what lifts the vehicle to change a tire, and a Tire Iron is what you use to remove the bolts that hold your wheel on.

These two items are essential and without them you won’t be able to change a flat tire.

Also, be sure that your Jack is complete and in good working order. With most Jacks, there’s a rod that is used to turn the Jack to raise it. Make sure you have it!

Spare Tire

The most common vehicle problem is a flat tire, and having a proper spare tire with you can mean the difference between making it to your destination or not.

Always check your spare periodically to ensure it’s properly inflated and there’s no cracking in the rubber.

Yes, tires have shelf lives! A general rule is that a tire is only good for about five years before the rubber starts to deteriorate. This includes a spare tire that’s never been used, especially if your spare is exposed to the elements like on a truck.

So, think back to when you bought your vehicle, and if it’s been five years, replace it!

Simple Tool Kit

51y+PNmHVvL._SL500_AA280_Including a simple tool kit in your Vehicle Emergency Kit is always a great idea. At the very least, you should have the tools necessary to replace your battery.

A small wrench set, socket set and a pair of pliers will do most of the tasks required, but throwing in a few screwdrivers, some electrical tape / duct tape, tire pressure gauge and spare fuses will make it even better.

Fire Extinguisher

41P83BC0inL._SL500_AA280_Fire Extinguishers are an often forgotten element in most Vehicle Emergency Kits, and an item we feel is very important to have with you.

How many times have you seen a car on the side of the road that was either on fire, or nice and crispy from being on fire. It happens, and having a Fire Extinguisher with you could mean the difference between a burnt hose, and a burnt car.

There are quite a few Vehicle Fire Extinguishers that are manufactured, and even some that have a handy velcro backed bracket that will hold it in place on your vehicle’s carpet.

Fire Extinguishers made for vehicles will typically come in two different dry chemical configurations (ABC and BC), to fight different classifications of fires.

Here’s a quick primer on fire classes, using the wrong type of fire extinguisher on the wrong class of fire can make matters worse!

  • Class A: Ordinary Combustibles – Wood, Paper, Cloth, Trash, Plastics and Solids that are not metal.
  • Class B: Flammable and Combustible Liquids – Gasoline, Oil, Grease, Acetone and all Flammable Gasses.
  • Class C: Energized Electrical Equipment and Battery Powered Equipment
  • Class D: Combustible Metals – Potassium, Sodium, Aluminum, Magnesium (these require a special extinguishing agent)

Obviously carrying both types of extinguishers, ABC and BC, would be ideal, but at the least get a small ABC extinguisher made for a vehicle.

Remember that dry chemical fire extinguishers need to be turned upside down periodically to loosen up the chemical that will settle at the bottom of the extinguisher. If the chemicals become caked, the extinguisher may not discharge properly when it’s needed.

This goes for those extinguishers you have sitting around the house too. You do have Fire Extinguishers in your house right?

Emergency Signaling Device / Markers

41DY6mSrOcL._SL500_AA160_.gifThe purpose of an emergency signaling device is two fold, it can be used to alert oncoming traffic to your prescence on the side of the road, and can also be used as a distress signal in an emergency.

We’re partial to Road Flares, because in addition to the two uses mentioned above, they can also be used to start a fire. Carrying another way to start a fire with you is never a bad thing in our opinion.

Other markers available include brightly colored flags (a VS-17 marker panel is perfect) and reflective items. A flag can be tied to an open hood/trunk and reflective markers can be put out in a similar fashion to road flares, marking your location.

Extra Food and Water

Carrying extra food and water is a necessity in our book. The potential of being stranded with just the items in your vehicle is a sobering reality.

Yes, most of us drive along busy suburban roads where the Quik-E-Mart is just a few blocks away, but you’re not always in that situation, especially when traveling.

And, there may be traffic along the road you’re on, but when is the last time you stopped to help a stranded motorist?

Sometimes the best plan can be to stay with your vehicle until someone finds you, and having food and water is a good thing.


41dXeZxpjvL._AA280_A blanket is truly a multi-purpose item and can not only keep you warm in the winter, but can be used to treat victims in shock year round.

At the very least, carry a small foil-like space blanket if you’re tight on storage space. Something is better than nothing.

Rescue Tool

pd985The primary purpose of a tool like this is escaping from a vehicle, which in the event your vehicles takes a dive into a body of water, you’re most likely not going to be able to simply roll down the window to escape.

As the good samaritans we know all of you are, it can also be used for rescuing others that could be in a similar situation, or need to be pulled through a window to escape a vehicle.

Our choice in these situations is a dual-purpose tool that not only breaks glass, but cuts seat belt webbing.

We have a Benchmade Houdini Pro Rescue Tool that we’re evaluating right now, so far it’s a very good fit for these situations. We’ll be posting a review on it soon.

Knife / Multi-Tool

41yQDNUw40L._SL500_AA280_A good knife is an indispensable tool to begin with, and should already be part of your EDC, but like a flashlight, it’s never a bad idea to have a spare with your vehicle.

In addition to a knife, a good Multi-Tool will also come in handy and can replace needing to carry a few of the tools we mentioned above.

We’re partial to the SOG PowerLock because of its great leveraging capability and ease of use.

Extra Clothing / Gloves

Let’s say you need to make a quick run up to the store and decide to underdress for the weather since all you’ll be doing is running from your vehicle to the door.

Well, what if you get a flat on the way back and have to get out to change it? Or what if you become stranded in a disabled vehicle?

Having some gloves to keep your hands warm while changing a tire, or some extra clothing could mean all the difference in the world.

Do yourself a favor and at least toss a jacket in your vehicle.

Pre-made Kits

There are quite a few companies that produce an all-in-one vehicle emergency kits that contains most of what we’ve described here, but all of them we’ve seen are garbage.

Take our advice and build your own. Yes, you may pay more, but isn’t it worth the peace of mind knowing that you’ve bought quality items that aren’t going to fail when you need them the most?


We’d love to hear what you guys (and girls) carry with you for emergency purposes, and what you add to these basics we’ve discussed.

Even if you have all these items, this is a good time to dig them all out and make sure they’re in proper working order.

To quote the movie Spy Game, “When did Noah build the Ark? … Before the rain.”

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  • spenceman

    I would add a bit of food (mres, or a couple of pouches of rice and tuna, power bars, etc), also duct tape and baling wire.

  • Tierlieb

    “The alligator clips should also be made of copper with soldered connections to the cables. Crimped connections are decent, but have the potential of coming undone.” – One of the things I learned doing electric repairs: No soldering for stuff with high currents, the solder might melt. Good jumper cables therefore should have pressed/crimped contacts.

    • Tierlieb,

      Good tip, thanks! That definitely makes sense, and we’ll edit the article with the updated information.

    • Aaron McDoomsday

      A “good” set of jumper cables will have heavy gauge crimp ends on the wire with a bolt/screw connection to the clamp, similar to that of the setup for a welder’s ground clamp.

  • Jan

    Great topic! It’s amazing how many people don’t even carry jumper cables in their vehicle, let alone water, tools or a blanket.

    If you want to maximize your storage space and your vehicle has the spare tire mounted inside, the space inside/beneath the rim can be used to store a blanket or some clothing. Insulated coveralls stuff under there quite nicely.

    re tools: don’t cheap out. If you need to make a roadside repair, odds are it wont be on a shiny new part with non-corroded bolts and as Murphy’s Law states, if it can go wrong, it will. Before I realized the importance of quality tools, I broke several sockets and screwdriver bits on stubborn bolts and screws. This doesn’t mean you need Matco or Snap-on, just don’t depend on those cheapo tools at the checkout line in Pep Boys to save the day. Oh, and it’s also a good idea to include some long socket extensions in your kit.

    What do you guys think of the Gerber rescue hook (http://www.knifecenter.com/knifecenter/gerber/images/GB01943.jpg)?

    • Jan,

      Good tips! We’ve never used a Gerber rescue hook, but it seems very similar to the Benchmade Rescue Hook Model 7 we reviewed a few months back. Off hand by looking at the Gerber hook you linked to, I already think the plastic coating on the handle would be uncomfortable to hold. The rubberized coating on the Benchmade 7 Hook makes for a great grip, especially in gloves.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Steve

    I carry an RMJ Tactical Shrike in my vehicle at all times, it’ better than any window punch I’ve ever tried, can chop through vehicle doors and works great for firewood if stranded in the woods.

  • tex_blain

    I agree with Spenceman on the duct tape and bailing wire but one for those that drive in dirt or snow; A Shovel! Also you forgot a basic first aid kit.

    • tex_blain,

      A shovel is a great addition to these items. It’s not that we forgot to include a first aid kit, just that we felt it was something to leave for another article. We have an article coming up on different aid bags to keep not only in a vehicle, but in the home as well. We always carry an ITS Tactical Blow Out Kit in our vehicles.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Good stuff. I’m always amazed at the folks who carry absolutely nothing in their cars. One of the common gifts I give friends is a tool-bag, or ammo box, filled with emergency supplies for their car – Very similar to what you’ve listed here, actually.

    In my experience, vehicle kits should be tailored to your environment as well. I’ve spent most of my life, from childhood, living and working an hours drive (or more) from paved roads. Simple trips into town for supplies, or that one part to fix whatever problem, can turn into multi-day ordeals if things go wrong with the vehicle.
    A shovel, as noted above, is a big deal if you spend time off-road at all. And, in my experience, an e-tool is a poor choice for digging out a vehicle. A shovel with a full blade and solid construction will get you further, faster. Even a short handled shovel with a full-sized blade (you see these in a lot of the 4×4 and overland travel enthusiasts rigging).
    Tow straps and removal rigging are also a must if you go off-road much at all, and I tend to keep a tow strap in my vehicle all the time anyway even for strictly urban use. Just a handy thing to have that takes up little to no space.

    For tools in the car, I’m also a big fan of cheating – Augmenting one’s tool kit with one or two high value tools, in addition to the “right” tools. Vice grips are a favorite of mine.
    Using vice grips for a wrench is never the right way to do things – However… Its sometimes the only way. Vice grips are a constant in my vehicle kits. You can do so much with a pair of average sized vice grips (or two pairs), and add so much functionality to the other tools by having the vice-grips there as clamps, wrenches for odd-size or stripped nuts/bolts. Also, for changing the battery, they work better than “battery nut pliers” for loosening or removing the old, corroded, generally jacked up terminal nuts.

    Also, on the flashlight front – For the car, I really prefer a headlamp. Makes life that much easier when its already bad enough that you’re under the hood, or crawling around under the car itself. Also, on the incan vs. LED front – Anymore, my experience is that most LED’s actually out perform incans, particularly in tactical style lights. They offer greater brightness (and better control with multiple levels), with a more color neutral tone, with greater battery life and shock resistance.

  • In addition to the listed items, I also keep extra ammo for my primary pistol, cleaning kit for the weapons, a good knife, MRE’s, rope, folding shovel, binoculars, extra batteries for the flashlights, etc. as well as a basic emergency trauma kit. Few maps (topographic, road). And the ever important end all fix all – Duct tape. 🙂

    I end up switching out items in the winter/summer – keep an extra coat in the car for winter, extra blanket. I can fit all of it in two bags, my GOOD bag and a backpack. I tend to keep an eye on the water in the car though in the winter, had an issue in the past where it froze and burst one year and MAN was that a mess.

  • Tony

    A good reminder, but sheesh – very basic stuff isn’t it? I was hoping for an article that has a bit more “meat” on it. And while the first aid kit of a vehicle does deserve its own article, surely it could still have been at least mentioned?! I would claim it is quite an important item to have in a vehicle.

    On the flash light issue, this article sounds rather dated – there are some really bright LED lights out there, nowadays. Fenix has at this time, I believe, two separate 630 lumen LED lights and the last time I browsed Lighthounds on-line selection I spotted at least a couple of 1000 lumen LED lights. (Yeah, makes ones EDC light seem so… inadequate, doesn’t it? 😛 ) For more “normal” lights, a 200+ lumen LED is pretty normal. The only thing the incandescents have over most LED lights is the color of the light – if you’re trying to follow a blood trail, the cold blue light most LEDs put out make the red blood more difficult to see than a light with more neutral white output. But outside of hunting use (and there are neutral white LEDs too), I’d say the argument between incandescents and LEDs was settled sometime by 2005 at the latest.

    Oh yeah, and you did not mention batteries. Alkaline batteries do not like the cold at all. You’ll want to run lithium batteries in a spare flashlight, those are less (but not entirely) immune to temperature changes, and have a much longer shelf life.

    As for asking what I carry for emergency purposes… Where does one draw the line? 🙂 A CB radio can certainly help in case the local cell phone network loses coverage (and there’s another item for your list: cell phone charger), but is used for other than emergency use. Pen and paper is a fairly obvious thing to have in ones vehicle – and again, most likely used for mundane things.

    Still, let’s see… A shovel, an axe, a saw, a knife. Jack and tire iron, of course, but also a lenght of 2×4 to place under the jack – comes in handy on uneven and soft ground. Tow straps, clevises. (Proper tow points on the vehicle, naturally – and the time to figure out where they are and if they are durable enough for recoveries is before they are needed.) Spare tire. Compressor. (A cheap POS that I hopefully will be able to replace soonest. Finding decent compressors in this country is, unfortunately, something of a challenge, and nobody seems to sell the good stuff internationally over the Internet.) Alas, a winch is too expensive for us, but a mechanical come-along / ratchet will be added soon. A jerry can, empty usually but full if we know we’re heading out somewhere without frequent refueling points. (Driving in very poor conditions – off-road type driving like in heavy snow fall – can consume a lot more fuel than what you normally need for a given distance!) A nozzle for the jerry can – this is important! The first time you try to refuel from a jerry can you’ll see for yourself, but until then, just trust me mmkay? First aid bag, including some fairly basic stuff and additionally a bunch of chemical lights. (Handy little things for marking stuff in the dark – patients in a care situation, vehicles, whatever. Especially handy since road flares are a no-no here, and also useful for not setting stuff you’re trying to mark on fire. 🙂 ) Duct tape, water, MRE entrees and other food obviously. Esbit stove with fuel and other fire making instruments. (Both ignition methods and tinders. This is one thing where multiple redundancy is a very good thing!) Fire extinguisher, naturally, but also a blanket made for that use. A metal container that can be used to melt snow or ice, or to boil water. CB radio in the vehicle, hand-held PMR radios for mobile short range comms. Spare batteries for the walkie-talkies. Spare fuses for the most critical components of the vehicle. Space blankets, rain poncho liners, rain ponchos. Paracord, bailing wire. Aaaand a whole bunch of odds and ends that I am probably forgetting. 🙂

  • Tony

    …Darn. And now I wish I had an edit-button I could press. Reading back my post, I can see points where my attempts of humor can be mistaken for an condescending attitude. (Why yes, I know quite well I am not the first person in the world to refuel from a jerry can…) Not my intention at all.

    I hope those who read my comments remember that English is a second language to me. It is also rather late over here.

  • Ben

    Add a 1st Aid Kit, a map of the area you travel in, and a list of phone numbers you may need and you are good to go.

  • NEWWT55

    i try to keep a roll of quarters. it’s small and i sometimes do not carry a lot of cash. also it helps if you were ever to find a payphone (though these have become hard to find objects in a lot of places).


    The timing of this is right on the money as we just received about 8″ of snow overnight here in the Reno/Sparks area of northern Nevada. Been here several years now and have had similar kits in all my vehicles since the first drive in the snow.

  • Rex Dart

    Always carry at least a quart of oil, and automatic transmission fluid, and a gallon of antifreeze or 50/50 mix. If you do have a fixable leak, having replacement fluids can allow you to drive to help, vs. waiting for it.

    Most modern vehicles use a single serpentine belt to connect the engine with everything else under the hood, including the critical items like the alternator and water pump. Strongly consider carrying a replacement belt in your vehicle kit, just in case.

    Depending on the length of your trip, and the distance to help (try driving through western North Dakota some time, very lonely) carrying replacement hoses for the radiator might be worth while.

    Bottom line, keep up on regular, planned preventative maintenance on your vehicle, and many breakdowns can be avoided altogether.

  • Angry Pirate

    How about a shovel or entrenching tool?

    • Tony

      I’d definitely go for at least a hiking shovel over an e-tool, if possible. A full size shovel would of course be the best, but those tend to be fairly large, so perhaps not a reasonable item to carry unless you have a large vehicle or do serious off-roading. Of course, an entrenching tool is better than nothing (and when I drove a small sedan, mine saved my butt from more than one spot of trouble!) and some take very little space, but they are kind of short. On second thought, e-tools can be more useful as a pick, to chop planks into firewood and other such tasks (to give a few examples I have used mine for) than a light-weight hiking shovel though, so… I guess it’s a good thing I carry both these days. 🙂

  • steven

    Keep a decent breaker bar in the vehicle, the ones supplied with your vehicle are normally low quality and will either be too short or round off when you try to change the tyre. If you take your vehicle to a garage then the wheel nuts will normally be done up with an air tool, and normally too tight at that, its surprising how such a important tool normally gets overlooked. This simple piece of equipment is worth its weight in gold when your in a situation you dont want to be.

  • DukeDog

    i would like to add a comment about the tire changing equipment that comes from the factory with vehicles. if you drive a truck or SUV (like i do) and have ever had to change a tire with that piece of crap jack they give you with the car then you can share my frustration. the first thing i did was replace it with 3-ton hydraulic bottle jack. they make it so much easier to change a tire, however i have left the factory jack in its compartment in my SUV for redundancy (“two is one and one is none”)

  • Steven Baum

    I am of the school of thought that “one is none & two is one”.That being the case I have a backup for all safety net stuff in my home & my vehicle.I like the ColdSteel shovel as it can cut down a tree,open a car [ cuts metal ] and can even dig a hole,and as I also travel across the Canadian border – its the only weapon that is a tool [ LOL ] and as to the fire extinguisher = it too is a GREAT weapon as to stopping the ability to breath/see and as a impact weapon too.Just KNOW that you had better be totally justified in the use of such force,or say hello to your roomate Bubba.The list is not complete for me without a source of heat,candle’s and a small stove fit in my truck with ease.Wool blankets and a real first aid kit as well as was mentioned TOW good lights & food & water [ freezes in the winter here ].My list is more extensive but this is a good start,as you got the basics !!!!.

  • seth belt

    i didn’t read all of the long comments so i may be restating here but i never go any where without the ability to make fire.

    a great fire kit is a magnesium block that has the fling and striker on it and a ziploc bag filled with dryer lint. that stuff is the best tinder that costs nothing except clean clothing.

  • seth belt

    so i fail at self-editing. the block should have *flint* not *fling* for anyone who didn’t catch that.

  • John Longo

    90% of life is what you have on you! Flashlight, fighting/cutting knife, phone, gun (I carry a North American Arms 5 shot ,22 magnum mini revolver as a back-up- so small you’ll never forget it, yet effective!

  • martin

    Depending on how much room you have underneath your seat, it would be a good idea to put 1 MRE, 1 flash light 1 rescue tool underneath the seat. The multi-tool should go everywhere with you.

  • Adam

    Between the article and comments I think most of it is covered. However, second to a flat tire, the most common way for people to get stranded is simply running out of gas! It’s completely preventable too! Just last week we had a snow storm here which tied up traffic for hours on the freeway. That 1/8th of a tank you have isn’t going to last through that and sure enough, There was a girl going from car to car asking people if they had any gas cause she ran out waiting in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

    I carry a full MFC with nozzle in the back of my truck just for that along with the rest of my emergency gear.

  • Medius

    I like the idea of food, and I’d like to put the idea of an
    e-tool as part of the kit, too. You can dislodge a stuck vehicle,
    and anything else you can imagine for a modifiable shovel.

  • Reddog

    Good ideas, and good timing. The only thing I can add is that I use my food vaccuum sealer to help with space. My spare gloves are 1/4 the size, the stocking cap is almost nothing, the blanket down to 1/3 its original size. I even put the 2 bottles of water in their own bag in case of freezing and splitting. This does a couple of positive things: 1.) the soft gear is markedly smaller, so fits in a smaller space, and 2.) the bag protects the soft and otherwise absorbant marterials from getting wet while in storage. BTW-I didn’t take the Jerry can comment as condescending. It is true; it is like no other gas can. DON”T take it for granted!

  • Bergman

    I can’t for the life of me remember the brand name, but it wasn’t even a week ago I saw this really cool escape tool. It had a striker for breaking windows and a guarded cutter for cutting seat belts. But that’s not the really cool part, as all the escape tools have those. What made this one ultra nifty, was it clipped onto the seatbelt, right above the buckle. In other words, right where you’d have your hand after discovering the seatbelt had jammed after a crash.

  • NoveskeFTW

    In addition to the above, I add two more “critical” items that are both very easy to get and store: Two 8-12 hour chemlights and two 12 hour heat packs (the large kind designed for stadium seat cushions).

    The former will give you hazard free, no-battery light overnight (for two nights if you have two) and can be used for signaling (put a shoelace through the ring and spin it, if you don’t have paracord) or for marking your car in the dark so nobody runs into it. You can place it, hang it or tape it many places if you have to work on something and the omnidirectional light means it’s not balanced somewhere.

    The latter comes from having been stranded twice in very cold weather. In addition to the spare clothing and blankets I keep in the car, these guarantee you can survive for at least 24 hours since the heat is sufficient to supplement your body heat and keep you alive, even in truly cold temperatures. You can use them in your blanket if you shelter in place, or put them in your clothes if you have to pack out. If you live somewhere really cold (I don’t), you might want more than two.

    Two very inexpensive items you can get from your local REI (or equivalent… or Amazon) that last for many years with no maintenance, require no knowledge to use and could save your life.

  • Very great list indeed, I do see the need for more items, but cant argue with the pieces that you have selected. Good info and thanks for the help.

  • Jason Dellinger

    I agree that the kit should be tailored to the environment. If I traveled heavily wooded backroads, I would certainly have a compact bow saw or even a small chainsaw, especially in winter. If I traveled in the desert, I would have a lightweight tarp or some way to make an overhead shelter to block the sun.

    I agree completely that the flashlight should be augmented by a high-quality headlamp. The flashlight is all but useless when working with your hands (changing tire, under-hood etc). I have a model from Mammut that has blinking red LED’s on the rear that adds visibility which is essential for roadside work. Also, I have a cheap reflective safety vest from a big-box hardware store that costs very little, weighs nothing, takes up no room, but increases my visibility exponentially (especially at night).

    Flares don’t work for me. I’ve seen them fail (especially the cheap ones) and they have a tendency to tip over and be a general fire hazard, not only to your person, but to your vehicle and roadside as well. In other words, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. I like good old chem-lights and I have a few high intensity and a few long duration if I need to leave the vehicle overnight.

    I always keep 50′ of high quality all purpose rope and a 100′ hank of 550 cord along with a bag of cotton rags and a bottle of waterless hand cleaner.

    Finally, a collapsible 1 gallon water container is required for both vehicle and personal hydration.

  • Christopher C.

    I like to carry hard knee pads for working on the road. There’s crap all over the shoulders and if you’re already stranded, there’s not need to be even more uncomfortable. Actually, that was when I had a truck, now I have a PT Cruiser and I’m still struggling to find a balance of need/versus space in the rear. Another good item to have is an AC charged compressor. Doesn’t sound important but if it’s easier and possible to temporarily air the tire to drive out of the way to change it, I see that as safer. It’s always better to change the tire in a parking lot than a shoulder of a highway or lane of a road. Right now I have in my car:

    Leatherman Kick
    Maglite 2 CELL with LED upgrade (spare batteries)
    Cheap little LED Flashlight
    Heavy Duty Jumper Cables (they were almost $100)
    Craftsman auto tool kit…really small in size but big on tools
    6 Craftsman Screwdrivers, 3 of each kind. (I chose craftsman because it’s lifetime warranty…end of story)
    Vice Grips
    2 Blankets (even in the summer)
    First Aid Kit with Saline vials (for my dad and gf who are both sick and have medi ports)
    -(also good for flushing out eyes)
    Aspirin/Tylenol/Advil (some people are allergic to one or two)
    And a couple of ball caps.

    The ballcaps are something I think is very important, something my grandmother always told me to have in the car, especially living in Texas where it’s hot…107 yesterday. In the winter, I add a few different things like beanie caps, heavy gloves, and an extra coat/jacket. GREAT article!

  • TripWire

    Yes, you should have a good spare tire and jack, but a can of Fix-a-Flat is good in an emergency. In a bad neighborhood or in a SHTF situation, you may not have the 5 minutes to change out a flat, not to mention that if you are alone in the above situations there is no one to watch your back while you change the tire. Great article.

  • Rebecca

    I think it’s a good idea to have pads–even if you’re a man. Those things are made for absorbing blood and, if you are bleeding heavily, you won’t care WHAT you’re putting on your wound–as long as it works.

  • chris

    Coming from colorado i would add rock salt and/or cat litter. Both of these are great for winter/ ice conditions.

    • Jeffrey C. Anthony

      MRE’s I left out since they tend to be a little more temperature sensitive over time. I keep Datrex 3600 packs which are far more space conservative. Also a box of Clif bars.
      Shovel wise, i found a rather nice half sized shovel at a Black and Decker outlet store that fits in vehicles far better than a normal sized shovel, and is a little easier to use/handle than a folding option.
      I also keep a small cheap prepaid cellphone, cost me $30 up front, $10 per 3 months to keep the minutes. I bought the one up from the cheapest because it also has a camera for a> location identification to others b> insurance purposes c> evidence situations.

  • Darryl

    I replaced my factory lug nut wrench with the four tipped “spinner” variety. The leverage needed to bust a nut (on the wheel) was inadequate with factory tool but no problem with the spinner. Also, if not mentioned previously, a strong lengthy rope has many uses.

  • I have two mid size dufle bags i have tucked away under the back seats.
    1st bag i have: jumper cables, 2″ x 24′ tow strap and road flares flash light and multi tool.
    2nd bag i have: 2 M1A2 Bio Gasmasks. 2 fire proof snow jackets, medial wraps etc. Hand cuffs, boot knive and a Kbar. also have a set of lock picks and flip out baton, compass, and a couple of MREs’

    Anyone have anymore ideas. hit me up!

  • Aaron

    Looking through the posts the one thing I didn’t see was a can of WD-40. other than that some great lists, just tailor your kit to where you are at.

  • Audrey

    Two things I’d add to the list are a gas can (empty–something you could get gas in if the unthinkable happened) and a large garbage bag or two. If you have to change a tire and it’s wet or snowy out, having a quick “tarp” to put on the ground or even to use as an emergency rain poncho would be good.

  • Always be prepared. Don’t forget the first aid kit. Having kids, I never go anywhere without my neosporin and band-aids. I like to carry some kind of nuts and granola bars. Also, something bright colored to use for a flag if you get stranded is not a bad idea.

  • Donna

    This is in response to your 12 things to have in your car kit, Dec 6, 2009.
    My car is a 5 passenger car so I carry 5 of each of these things.
    space blankets
    water bottles
    ear plugs

    I also suggest you tell people to keep their seatbelt cutter in the front, not the trunk! I have to get another fire extinguisher & multi-tool. Thanks for your article!

  • Fizzlecat

    I just read an article warning women not to drink water from plastic bottles that have been exposed to the heat inside a car. Similar to microwaving in plastic or plastic wrap, the article says the heat allows dioxins to leach into the water or food. Dioxin has been found to cause breast cancer, and possibly other cancers. You might consider a padded glass or metal container… Thanks for the article! Reminds me I need to check my emergency kit before I leave on a planned trip soon!

  • terra

    I have added a folding shovel, its helped many of times, adding gravel or sand to get traction or to remove snow that has buildup near wheels; and I have added large garbage bags, handing if have to lay on grown or what ever

  • Hey thanks for writing this post. I have been reading about different survival kits and you are right, they are all junk. I am in the process right now of building my own survival kit for both of our cars and the house. Hopefully, I can keep the cost down but I am not willing to sacrifice either. Happy Surviving!

  • Been There Done That

    As you expand this article, you may want to add that a film canister of quarters, or even dollar coins, will prove invaluable if you forget you wallet at home. No Card? No Cash? No Problem. I keep mine in my tool box, and YUP, I’ve used it.

  • Been There Done That

    I may also add that a mechanical pencil won’t dry out like ink pens will, and won’t need sharpening like a standard pencil will. I’ve had the same one in my car for, oh, 20 years now. Still works fine.

    • @Been There Done That You are coming up with some really good stuff there. Have you ever been stranded in the middle of nowhere and needed these things?

  • lzyglutenfremom

    in addition to everything listed above, we include: first aid kit, toilet paper, books, flashlights, fire starter kit, candles, crayons and coloring books, cards, etc for kids and pet supplies. ( I should note, we live in Alaska, so car trouble in winter likely means dark, and depending on where you are, could mean overnight…)

  • Saisen

    I suppose I’m a little lax on what I carry every day, I’ve got my monkey fist 550lb paracord keychain (you never know when you need a good sturdy rope…) a small 2 1/2in folding knife (kept on a d-link for easy retrieving from my pocket) a capstick sized pocket led flashlight (hell just about everything I carry is on a d-link or keyring of somesort for easy access) a stainless steel bottle opener and a little bit of duct tape, almost forgot about my lighter…a source of fire is always a must.

    My car is a different story though… I’ve got at minimum 2 knives ranging from 2 1/2in in length to 4in in length (I dont own an emergency tool for my car, so both my knives are solid steel including the handle just incase) a large roll of gorilla brand duct tape, a roll of 550lb paracord, jumper cables, a spare blanket (kept tucked nicely away in a fabric bag velcro’d to the headrest of the front seats) napkins (believe it or not in a pinch enough of em make a quick kindling too…though they dont last long ha ha ha!!) a 2ltr of water which is changed out often, a flashlight and my awesome tire pump which fits in the glove compartment =D

  • JAC

    Every year someone gets stranded in their vehicle. It’s smart to have both minor repair items and survival items in your vehicle. It may cost a little more then a typical roadside emergency kit, but extremely worth it. When comparing, it should be apples to apples and your “vehicle survival kit” should be for all weather conditions. Not every kit is the same and compare the cost of making one to buying one and the shipping costs. You may want to consider AutoClubHero’s premium “Vehicle Emergency SURVIVAL kit” as part of your research. Comes with free shipping as well on Amazon.

  • DougKing1

    @BrianHook kinda like keeping a gun huh?

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