Survival Tip: Emergency Car Kit

Has you car ever broken down, leaving you stranded for hours?

Cars stuck in blizzardHave you ever been caught in a sudden snowstorm, or ice storm, making roads impassable, or worse yet, end up with your car stuck in a ditch? Ever run out of gasoline in a remote location – or have your truck over-heat in the desert? Discovered that a flash flood took out the bridge leading to your home? Been involved in an accident?

A few weeks ago, I discussed the benefits of having a First Aid Kit in our vehicles, as well as in our home. You can read the content in: Survival Tip: Accidents Happen. But, today I’d like to take it a step further and talk about having an Emergency Kit in your vehicle.

Being Prepared for the Unexpected

Being prepared for all types of unexpected circumstances helps us to not only be more self-reliant, but gives us some sense of a peace of mind. It’s not a fun experience to have your car break down. But wouldn’t it be less traumatic if you knew you had resources on hand to stay warm, hydrated and fed while you wait for assistance?

It’s true, I don’t have to worry about ice and snow here on the west coast, in southern California. But I’ve lived in the Midwest and in Colorado, and I haven’t forgotten about those storms.Road Damaged in Earthquake People living in those areas tend to carry extra coats, blankets, shovels, food, water and chains in their vehicles at all times.

But even here in sunny California, we have our own natural disasters. Wildfires and earthquakes can be even scarier, in that we don’t get a weather notification the day before saying that it’s heading our way!

But where do you start when planning an Emergency Kit for your vehicle?

I wish I could wave my magic wand and give you the perfect answer, but alas it depends on many factors: where you live and the weather, your age and physical condition, whether you have children, pets, how far is your commute to work?

Every Car Emergency Kit should be, and needs to be, tailored for you and your family’s individual needs. When I first began thinking about creating a kit, the task felt daunting. That’s why I decided to share my own personal Car Emergency Kit with you– to give you someplace to start. You can use this list and customize it for your own weather, location, children, special needs, etc.

The important thing is to start – one step at a time will get you there!

BackpackMy husband and I have the following Emergency Kit items in each of our vehicles. No matter which vehicle we’re in, we’ve got the same resources on hand. We used medium-sized backpacks to store all the smaller items in one place. We made sure to purchase packs that wouldn’t be too bulky or heavy to carry, if need be. And they are easy to grab and go. Larger items, such as the wool blanket, Aqua-Blox and Water Brick, are stashed in a large mesh bag, so that they are also easy to move.

Here are the items found in our Car Emergency Kits:

In the backpack:

San Diego County Map (highlighted possible emergency routes on maps)

List of phone numbers and emails to use if cell phone is inoperable

Photocopies of important documents, such as passport, birth certificate, medical info

Cash (make sure you have some smaller denomination bills and coin, as well)


First Aid Kit

N95 Dust Masks

Led Flashlight and Batteries


Emergency Candles

Solar /Hand-Crank Radio with Light and USB Charger

Whistle and Lanyard / mirror

Small Notebook and pencils

Multi-purpose Tool

Multi-purpose Knife

P-38 Can Opener

Paracord and Knotless Gear Ties

24 inch Pocket Chainsaw

Heavy Duty Work Gloves

Duct Tape


Sewing Kit

Extra Batteries

Strike Anywhere Matches / Waterproof Matches

Small Tarp

Trash Bags

Rain Poncho

Mylar Thermal blanket

Hand Warmers

Fingerless Gloves

Wool Socks

LifeStraw Utra-Compact Water Filter

3600 calorie Ration Bars (5-year shelf life)

Canned meats you can open and eat without cooking such as tuna, chicken, sardines

Tea Bags

Mag-Strike Fire Starter

Toilet Paper

Travel Size Toiletries: toothpaste/brush, soap, shampoo, comb

 These are additional items we keep in a mesh bag in the trunk as well:

Wool Blanket (Army Surplus store)

Aqua Blox – potable water

Empty Water Brick (to gather water if needed)

Heavy Duty Tow Strap

Hand-Made Soup Can Burner with Sterno candle and Enamel Coffee Cup

Still Find This Overwhelming?

If you still find the thought of doing this overwhelming, or too big a strain on your budget, do what we did. Start with the most important basics: First Aid Kit, Led Flashlight & Batteries, Mulit-purpose Tool, Mylar Thermal Blanket and Water. Then each week add something from your list. You can find some of these items at an Army Surplus, or discount stores.

Before you know it, you’ll have a great resource in the trunk of you vehicle.


What kind of Emergency Kit do you currently have?
Have you ever had to use it?   What was your experience?


  1. Ruth Shepler

    Great job, Indy. Sure there are more items, but your list seems almost more than adequate. Thanks.

    • indy

      Thanks Ruth – it’s difficult to narrow it down sometimes, and if i lived in a different climate, it would include much more… Thanks for the comment!

  2. Lois Joy Hofmann, Author

    After my husband and I were caught in traffic for two hours one afternoon on Hwy 5 near LaJolla, California, while the road was closed in both lanes waiting for a women bent on suicide to jump–or not–we decided to add a “Little John” and “Lady Jane” to our emergency kit. These urination vessels can be purchased at boating stores such as West Marine.

    • indy

      Great idea, Lois! For those of us constantly dealing with heavy traffic it could come in very handy! :0) Thanks!

  3. Tim James

    Added: Car headrest, warning sign, vehicle fire extinguisher, trailer rope, escape emergency device

    • indy

      Great points Tim! Thank you so much for reading and taking time to make these suggestions. Much appreciated!



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