In this post, I’m going to give a checklist with over over 300 quality items to build the ultimate car emergency kit.
It is very likely that your car would be your primary form of transportation if you have to flee from a dangerous situation. But your vehicle on its own isn’t enough.
Your vehicle MUST be fully equipped so you can handle anything on your journey. Whether it’s a flat tire, varying terrain, or attacks from dangerous people, you need to be prepared to endure. This means you need to transform your car into the ultimate mobile survival kit. You MUST store the right gear in your vehicle. Should this be your very best gear? Maybe not, because if your vehicle is stolen, you would lose it all.
But your car emergency kit must include high-quality gear that will help keep you alive and safe. There must be enough food, water, and supplies to allow you, your family, and your pets to survive for at least seven days. And we have the list right here so you can build your ultimate car survival kit.
Having your vehicle prepared and ready to go at the drop of a hat is critical. For this reason, make sure your car emergency kit is pre-loaded and ready to go. You might need to Get Out of Dodge quickly and you might not be able to go home first to get what you need. And you have to be able to fit it all in there.
Which leads us to…
Now, there might be times that you cannot store everything in your vehicle. What you can’t keep in your vehicle should be pre-packed so it can be loaded quickly. Options for packing your supplies include one or any combination of:
Whatever you choose to pack your supplies in, you should pack your vehicle with ease of access in mind. When packing all the supplies, make sure they are adequately organized. First and foremost, try to make use of all compartments and storage areas your vehicle already has.
For example, the glove compartment is the ideal place to store adapters, chargers, plugs, and batteries. And make use of the space under the seats. This is a great place to put items that easily slide underneath, such as a shovel, pry bar, tent, walking staff, or any other long, narrow items.
Attaching clips, hooks, zipper pouches, pen loops, CD holders, and other similar storage items throughout the vehicle can help store various small items. These are particularly useful because they are not obvious and look completely natural in the setting.
If packing in small totes, 5-gallon buckets, and/or bags, organize items according to category. For example, have one tote for food and water, one tote for personal hygiene and medical supplies, one tote with extra vehicle supplies, one tote for tools, and so on.
And then comes…
When packing everything into the vehicle, place the things you might need at a moment’s notice within easy reach. This might mean placing self-defense items within reach of the driver’s seat. Place emergency vehicle supplies at the front of the trunk area for easy access in case there is a problem while on the road. Extra items, such as food, water, and clothing can be placed in the back.
Finally, the last thing you want is to have your car emergency kit look obvious or stand out in any way. Make everything you store in your vehicle as inconspicuous as possible. This isn’t necessarily easy to do when you use totes and buckets, so cover the bulk of it with a blanket.
You should shop around and look for other storage ideas that look natural and don’t scream “I’m prepared!” Get creative. You never know what you will come up with.
This brings us to what you need to pack. What follows is a car emergency kit list of 342 suggested items. This is in addition to your standard car bug out bag. Each section in this list is organized into sections as follows:
Must-Have: You need to have the basic tools and parts to repair your vehicle and keep it in good operating condition. You never know when you will end up with a flat tire or your engine will overheat. By being prepared with the items on this list, you will keep your wheels on the road and have a better chance of staying safe.
Should-Have: I know the Must-Have item list seems huge, but every item on that list is necessary in a complete vehicle survival kit. Plus, a lot of the items are small so they don’t take up much space. Organize the items by category as you purchase them and keep them organized as you store them in your vehicle.
Once you have ALL the items in the Must-Have list, then you can start looking at the items your car emergency kit should have in addition to the must-haves. These are items that will help keep you safe and make life easier when you are trying to survive.
Nice-To-Have: Now, all the essentials and semi-essentials have been taken care of. Once you have all of them, you can turn to this list. These are items that will not make or break your survival per se. But you can include them in your car emergency kit to make your life a whole lot easier.
Go through the lists and click the Amazon links for the items you like. Save those links or create an Amazon wish list so you can go back to them later. Go one section at a time and check them off as you purchase them.
So, without further ado…
Find the Right Equipment for Your Situation (and Learn How to Use It) WITHOUT Spending 50+ Hours Researching, Sourcing, and Stressing…
Using a key holder is a great way to hide your key under your vehicle. Having this spare key is handy in case you lose your key. It also makes it possible for any member of your family or team to recover the vehicle if necessary.
To know how much fuel you’ll need in your car emergency kit, calculate a 400-mile range with full tank plus on board gas containers x Miles Per Gallon (MPG) based on city driving.
If your auto manual suggests a coolant mix, consider pre-mixing a 50/50 coolant/distilled water and store it in containers.
You should familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s operation before the need to bug out. Learn how to make basic repairs and practice changing the tires (video). This way, when you are on the road, you will be more prepared if something goes wrong.
Use a sealed pouch to contain items such as oil, coolant, batteries, and other items that might leak.
Having an automatic drive vehicle might allow you to drive with an injured limb. This could mean the difference between getting caught in a bad situation or escaping with your life.
You will need a minimum of 1,200 calories per person per day for seven days. This will be enough calories to keep each person in your group strong and healthy while traveling.
Make sure you know and record the expiry date of all food bars. Since they will be stored in the car, they must be able to endure heat of up to 150 degrees.
You’ll need a minimum of ½ gallon of water per person per day for seven days. This will ensure everyone has enough water to stay adequately hydrated.
Make sure you record the expiry date for all water purifying tablets and any other water purifying agents you plan to use. You don’t want to risk your health by using an expired purifier.
For Those Serious About Their Family's Life-Assurance Plan (and Not Just Life Insurance)Learn More
Personal hygiene is an important part of your car emergency kit for a couple of reasons. Having a toiletries kit personalized to the user is effective in boosting morale, which is important when times are tough. After all, we all feel better when we are clean and well-groomed.
Every person traveling with the group should have their own customized toiletries kit. These kits must include the following:
Personal Toiletries Kit
Pack each personal toiletries kit in its own container or bag and label it with the person’s name. These kits can then be packed in a tote to store in the vehicle or packed in the person’s backpack.
Personal Hygiene & Protection Kit
Personal hygiene also helps minimize the chances of someone getting sick or getting an infection. It is particularly important to ensure adequate sanitation for use of the toilet, proper hand cleaning, and the ability to properly clean laundry if necessary.
Depending on the emergency that has occurred you could be facing a potential biohazard. For this reason, you should be prepared to deal with any biohazardous material that you might encounter.
The list for your car emergency kit includes items for basic medical preparation. When putting this kit together, you should focus on the types of injuries you would associate with driving and being on the road, such as bleeding, burns, and fractures.
You can purchase a totally empty kit and build your medical kit from scratch. This is a good way to completely customize your medical kit.
If you are looking for an easier way to approach creating a complete medical kit, you can easily start with a pre-filled kit. This will have many of the basic items you need. Then you can fill it out with all the other items you need, which includes the items listed below.
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Emergency Med Tools
Knowledge is as much a part of your car emergency kit as physical items. So, this is a reminder to ensure you have your first aid and CPR certification up-to-date. It is also wise to get advanced first aid training so you are able to handle more serious medical situations when medical help is not available.
Having a reliable map in your car emergency kit is critical. This is particularly the case if you have to choose an alternate route. The best choice is a good 4 Military/USGS Map.
Paracord has so many uses. In the case of communications, it can be used to secure the Slim Jim antenna high in a tree so you can talk for up to 50 to 100 miles. (Training Video)
Make sure your military entrenching shovel is well sharpened. Aside from digging, it also makes a great tool for cutting through ice and can be used in self-defense.
A folding saw is compact so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your car emergency kit. Yet it is a must-have when it comes to clearing brush.
A pry bar is a great multi-use tool to have on hand. With it you can pry things open, use it as a hammer, and use it to gain leverage when lifting something heavy. It can also be used as a weapon if needed.
Having a folding bike in your car emergency kit is important in case your vehicle breaks down or is otherwise compromised. A bike will give you another form of transportation than simply having to walk. If you can, have a folding bike for each member of your group.
Please ensure that you are fully trained to use the mode of self-defense you have chosen. This means having your firearms license and regular practice to maintain your skills. It also means understanding how to properly use pepper spray and all self-defense tools.
Cash is an important item in your car emergency kit. Your cash should be hidden in your vehicle for when ATM’s/CC machines go down.
The items on this list take AA batteries. It is critical that your car emergency kit include reliable AA rechargeable batteries. Having these on-hand will ensure you have a consistent supply of batteries when needed. The recommended batteries are:
It is also advisable to get a good vehicle charger that will power laptops and tablets. This company is our recommendation:
Access survival equipment we’ve fully tested so we can recommend it to you.
If you can put 100’s of miles between you and the problem, vehicle emergency Gear may be your best prep. NOTE: Must-Have, Should-Have, & Nice-to-Have items are really just ideas. Your list may be different; but set a goal to go 400 miles & 7 days without stopping at gas stations or food stores.
This is perhaps the most critical tip of all, which is why we are repeating it. Hide a key under your vehicle. Because if you don’t have a key—because you lost it—you won’t be going anywhere fast. And you won’t be taking all your gear with you.
Get a hard copy of your vehicle repair manuals (either Haynes Manual or another one) to include in your car emergency kit. Once the grid is down, you will have no electronic access to these manuals. This is especially critical if you have no real knowledge of car repairs. As long as you have the manual, you have something to work with and something to show a mechanic if you have access to one.
If you are comparing fuel stabilizers, consider PRI vs Magic Tank. PRI is the clear choice because it can preserve stored fuel for up to 3 years. All Magic Tank does is give you the same mileage as you would get out of gas. But it costs more. The reason people use Magic Tank is because it is not combustible. And it still serves as a reliable source of emergency fuel.
Get a GasTapper Siphon. I can’t stress this enough. Newer vehicles have an anti-gas theft valve and/or a rollover spill prevention valve. What this means for you is that if things go south, you won’t be able to get gas out of abandoned vehicles with a regular siphon. You can also use the GasTapper to transfer gas between vehicles. This is the ONLY siphon out there will work on new vehicles.
If you have any electric gear at all, you need to keep it dry. Because once it gets wet, it’s game over. Freegrace Waterproof Pouches offer a high level of protection for all your electronic gear, including the Bestek Power Inverter. This includes protection from humidity, dust, and vibrations.
Get a good sleeping bag, one that is lightweight and warm. Yes, it will cost some extra money, but it is worth it. The SOL Escape Tactical Bivvy is the top choice when it comes to emergency sleeping bags.
Communication can mean the difference between life and death—literally! And Baofeng is the trusted name in radios. So, check out the Baofeng UV-5R Review Guide. There are also a couple of awesome videos that will provide solid information:
For a hands-free option when driving, these radio speakers are great options:
Use Vehicle Velcro, to temporarily attach chargers or other equipment to your vehicle.
When choosing a fire extinguisher, it is best to use one that is all metal, such as the Amerex B417, 2.5lb ABC Dry Chemical. Avoid plastic parts to get the best results. Make sure to regularly inspect your dry chemical extinguishers. And remember that your extinguisher can also be used as a weapon when needed.
Check out the video below for an entertaining review of the top 10 reasons to own US Survival Rifle AR7. This is a reliable rifle, but you need to be sure it’s authentic. This is a great low-cost emergency rifle you can store in your vehicle.
If you want to go camo, Krylon Camo Spray Paint is a must-have. Use it to literally SPRAY CAMO color on your vehicle, motorcycle, bike, trailer, or anything else. And if you want to get really creative, you can use it with Multi-cam stencils.
All of the water straws and bottles listed above can filter the “Deadly Three”, which are Cysts, Bacteria, and Viruses. It is essential that you have at least one straw and one bottle for each person in your group. After all, sometimes there is enough water for you to scoop into a bottle and other times the water is too shallow. In these situations a straw is your best option. The options listed above are the best. You will be risking your health with inferior straws/bottles.
Seychelle is the go-to in ultimate filtering. The Bottle, Seychelle 28oz Flip Top w/ Radiological Filter the best-of-the-best of all the filtering bottles. If nuclear fallout becomes an issue, causing radiation to seep into water sources, this bottle could save your life. Use with your potassium tabs.
I know we said this above, but it bears repeating. ALWAYS record the expiration date of food bars and purification tablets. Write like this: Expires __/__. Record the expiration on the actual products and in a log book.
The best way to stock up on BIC lighters is to buy them in bulk, preferably on sale. This is a great fire starter to have in your car emergency kit. Plus, it’s a great addition to your barter list.
I highly recommend the Streamlight Waterproof Flashlight. It’s hard to lose because of its bright yellow color. Plus, it’s waterproof, which is ideal if you end up in the water or if there are heavy rains.
No two bugout scenarios are the same. No two journeys are the same. We have given you the base list from which to work, but you will have to tailor it to suit your needs. You will have to plan differently if you are driving into the mountains than if you are going across the desert.
For example, if you are going to be crossing rocky, rough terrain, then you will want to make sure you have plenty of tire repair material. You might even want to carry a second spare because the likelihood of getting a flat is higher than if you were doing straight highway driving. The point is to consider your unique situation, including the terrain and destination, when deciding what to add to your car emergency kit.
You should also be prepared to walk if necessary. This means packing a Get Home Bag (GHB) that will provide you with everything you need to survive for a few days. This GHB should be stored in your vehicle. It can be used to get home if the roads are blocked and you can’t drive there. It can also be used when you are bugging out and an emergency happens while on the road, forcing you to leave your vehicle.
No one wants the worst to happen, but it’s best to be prepared for it just in case. The world is a very unstable place these days. So, start building your car emergency kit now. And please let us know if we missed anything by reaching out to us in the comments section below.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to pack every item featured in our list. Your commute, travel habits, and the climate you live in should influence what you pack in your car. You can also save space by rotating items seasonally. For example, you don’t have to pack stuff for snowy weather during the warmer parts of the year.
Evacuating due to a natural disaster or industrial accident are two things to consider. Break downs and other accidents are also very common. Having emergency items in your car will allow you to get to safety faster and you and your family will be more comfortable if you have adequate supplies.
If you live in an area where wildfires are increasingly common, it is very important to be ready to get out of the area as quickly as possible.
Ideally you should have enough supplies for at least 72 hours with a week being a lot better if you live in areas where natural disasters and large weather events are common.
Roman is a notable figure in the sphere of emergency preparedness and has been featured in various news broadcasts, publications, and documentaries to weigh in on the subject. He has made multiple appearances on HBO, BBC, CBS, and other media outlets to provide insight on the critical importance of readiness under all circumstances. When he is not hard at work being the CEO of Ready To Go Survival and MIRA Safety, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, shooting, handball, and scaring his neighbors by taking out the trash in full MOPP gear.