Packing A Survival Kit For Your Car

Every car should have a survival kit to protect against any emergency situation.

For the past few years, emergency preparedness has been a topic of great concern for most Americans. There has been a lot of press coverage on "disaster-proofing" our homes, but what precautions should you take to stay safe while in your car? With some basic advance planning, you can assemble a thorough survival kit for your car to prepare you for any trauma, whether it be an environmental or man-made event, or simply a roadside breakdown.

Your first line of defense is to make sure you keep your car running properly by staying up-to-date on any maintenance work. Get a complete checkup before embarking on any long trip. Always try to keep the gas tank at least half full, in case you may need to leave an area quickly, and, if possible, keep your cell phone charged at all times. Store a set of road maps in your car of your local and surrounding areas, as well as any regions that you visit frequently.

There are a variety of survival kits that you can assemble, based upon specific circumstances. The ideal scenario is to keep one of each of the following kits in each vehicle you own.

Roadside Emergency - Breakdown or Weather-Related Event

For this type of kit, you'll want to stock items that you may need should your car either break down or become stuck due to some kind of weather event, such as heavy snow or flooding. Key items include:

Booster cables

Tow chain

Warning lights/road flares


Cloth or paper towels


Sand/salt or kitty litter

Ice scraper/snow brush

Windshield wiper fluid


Fire extinguisher

In addition to the list above, many experts will now recommend seat belt cutters and hand-held tools that shatter windshields in order to escape a car trapped in an accident.

Survival Items

The following items are recommended in case you become stranded, or need to flee an area and remain in your car for any extended period of time. The latter could occur in an evacuation due to either an environmental or man-made disaster. Most experts recommend packing enough items to last 2-3 days.

Bottled water

Emergency food items (non-perishables such as trail mix or energy bars)

Water-purification tablets

Tissue paper

Extra clothing and shoes

Special items for children, if applicable (diapers, wipes, formula)

Thermal blanket (special reflective rescue blankets are best)

Matches and large candle in a deep can (for warmth or light)


AM/FM radio (battery or hand-crank powered)

Contact information (telephone information to reach loved ones)

Loud whistle (to alert rescuers to your location, if necessary)

First Aid Kit

In addition to the kits listed above, every car should have a well-stocked first aid kit. Basic items include a first aid manual and the following supplies:

Bandages in a selection of sizes

Sterile gauze or nonstick wound dressing

First aid tape



Prepackaged alcohol and antibacterial wipes

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Cold pack

Many companies make prepackaged first aid kits for the car.

For each of the kits listed above, you'll want to gather all items in bags or locked boxes or suitcases, and store in a safe place in the car. Keep survival items, a first aid kit, and emergency basics like a flashlight inside the car with you, while the roadside items should be safely secured in the trunk. Make sure that any items kept inside the car are properly secured to prevent them from flying around the car in an accident, or they could do more harm than good.

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