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Survival / June 25, 2017

6 must-have items for your car’s emergency kit

Written by: Mitch Harris

As a population, we’ve gotten pretty comfortable in our cars. We generally consider them to be little rooms on wheels—they’re private, carpeted, and climate controlled. Most of them even have an electrical outlet.

That comfort gets people into trouble. Motorists die every year when their cars break down or crash in bad weather or remote locations, and most of these deaths could be prevented with just a little preparation.

What you put in your car’s survival bag will depend on your specific circumstances. Drivers in the desert may need extra water, while those in New England should pack a snow shovel. But every automobile survival kit should include these six things.


1. Boots, socks, and gloves

Most automobile emergencies don’t result in a week-long struggle for survival. Even in remote areas, help can usually be found just a few miles down the road.

But we don’t always get in the car dressed for a long walk. Drivers are often wearing dress shoes, flip flops, or high heels, and none of those make for very good walking shoes.

Throw your oldest pair of hiking boots into your trunk with a pair of warm socks and some work gloves (car repair can be rough on the hands). Add a warm hat and jacket if you live in a cold climate.


2. A Communication FaiLsafE

When charged and connected to a cellular network, your phone can get you out of almost anything. So keep a car charger in your vehicle at all times and stock cords for both Lightning and Micro-USB ports. In an emergency situation, you may also have reason to charge your passengers’ phones.

I also recommend stashing a “spare charge” in your auto survival bag. Tools like Core Third’s LKG 10000 Powerbank will keep a charge waiting in case your car’s battery dies.

If you often drive in remote areas with no cell reception, I also recommend packing goTenna off-grid communication system. This pocket-sized device connects to your iOS or Android phone to enable texting, GPS, and location sharing in areas without cell service.

The LKG 10000 Powerbank can store enough juice to fully charge two hand-held devices at once. We sell it for $39.95.

The goTenna connects to any modern smartphone to enable text messaging, GPS, and location sharing anywhere on Earth. We sell them in pairs for $149.

3. Tools (duh)

This one is a no-brainer—you probably already have a jack, a spare tire, and a basic set of tools (pliers, wrench, and screwdrivers) packed in your trunk already. And if you don’t, you really should.

Those basic tools are enough to handle most everyday car troubles. But if you often find yourself in remote areas, you’ll want to stock something a bit more serious.

The Survival Axe Elite from Off-Grid Tools is a sort of Swiss Army Hatchet. In addition to a steel blade, it contains a seat belt cutter, a pry bar, a gas valve shut-off wrench, and 26 other features.

For full-on overland adventures, also consider stocking some extra gas and a spare battery.


4. A First Aid Kit

If you wreck your car in a remote area (or you come across someone else’s wreck), you and your passengers will become first responders.

Pack your car’s first aid kit with this in mind. Don’t rely on the same combo of band-aids and blister pads that you’d take on a day hike—make sure your car kit has some items that are designed to treat serious trauma.

The MyFAK kit from My Medic is stocked with trauma bandages, a CPR shield, and a tube of Celox: the blood clotting powder used by military field medics.

With 30 different features, the Survival Axe Elite is sort of like a Swiss Army Knife... but it's an axe. We sell it for $89.

MyMedic's MyFAK first aid kit contains everything from burn cream to blood-clotting powder. We sell it for $99.95.

5. A flashlight

This seemingly obvious piece of gear is often overlooked. We get so used to relying on headlights and cabin lights that its hard to imagine being without them. But when the car’s battery dies, there we are.

Pack your flashlight with batteries, but don’t store the batteries inside the light itself. Long-term storage in the hot trunk of your car can rupture alkaline batteries and ruin the light.

The Setatec Touch 1K Flashlight is powered by a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that can also be used as a power bank for your devices.


6. Food and water

Whether your automotive emergency is a crash, a breakdown, or just and empty tank of gas, it’s likely to leave you stranded for at least a while. Make sure to pack enough food and water to keep yourself fed and hydrated for a day or so.

Store a whole gallon of purified water if you have the space—you may also need it to put out a fire or to clean dirt out of a wound. I recommend trail mix or CLIF bars for food, but anything that won’t melt or spoil will do.

What items do you keep in your automobile survival kit? Email [email protected] to let us know. 

about the author

Mitch Harris

Mitch Harris embraced the Every Day Carry trend long before it was cool. From the day he got his first pocket knife, Mitch has devoted himself to staying prepared for every eventuality. Through his position at Shoulders of Giants, he’s able to keep his kit stocked with the very newest and best EDC gear.

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