Surviving On The Go
Whether you’re a prepper or not, you probably spend a lot of time in your car. You have to drive to the store, work, your kid’s soccer game, and everything else. Sometimes, you probably drive several states away for vacation.
What happens when something goes wrong during one of those trips? If you looked in your car right now, would you have the tools necessary to get yourself back home even if you couldn’t call for help?
We’re willing to bet a lot of you wouldn’t. Even a lot of the preppers out there tend to ignore their traveling habits when they’re putting together survival kits. Will your pantry full of food, the several go-bags in your closet, and the professional-grade toolbox in your garage help you when you’re miles away? It most likely won’t.
If you don’t have a dedicated car survival kit, you’re leaving yourself open to a lot of horrible possibilities, and you’re playing roulette with your life.
That’s why we’re going to go over every single detail involved in building or buying an emergency car kit. It’s important for you to know exactly what you’ll need to survive the majority of car-based survival situations, and you’ll be happy to know that the list of things to get isn’t too intimidating.
What Is A Car Emergency Kit?
In short, a car emergency kit is the same thing as a go-bag. However, instead of focusing on everything you need to survive in the woods or an urban environment on foot, the car kit is focused around repairing your car or getting the help you need to get out safely.
You also carry the basic survival necessities in your car kit, but the main focus is on the vehicle itself. After all, if you find yourself in a roadside emergency, do you really want to abandon your car to act like Les Stroud in the woods, or do you want to have everything you need to effectively use your car to survive.
Who Needs One And Why?
Your car can break down in the middle of nowhere, you might get into a really bad crash, or you might stumble upon someone else who has recently experienced something like that. Unless you have a survival kit in your car, your options will be pretty limited when you have to handle an emergency.
Build Or Buy? What Should You Do And Why?
We suggest building your own car survival kit. If you do, you’ll know exactly what you have at your disposal, and you’ll likely only have items that you actually know how to use. You can also save quite a bit of money by building your own emergency car kit. When you pick the pieces yourself, you’re more likely to find bargains.
That doesn’t mean buying a pre-built kit isn’t a valid option. Pre-built kits are convenient, and they usually come with everything you need. However, they can be pretty expensive, and they’re not as personalized as one that you build yourself.
Summer And Winter Survival Kit: Is There A Difference?
There is definitely a difference between summer kits and winter kits. A winter survival kit for car usage has to include items that can keep you warm, deal with snow or other weather-related issues, and it has to have items that allow you to safely maneuver in winter conditions.
Summer kits aren’t any easier to build, but they focus more on acquiring water and handling the heat.
Example Emergency Scenarios
A lot of different things can go wrong while you’re driving, but we’ll cover the five scenarios that are the most likely to happen.
These are realistic scenarios that are a reality for a lot of people every single day. We won’t be talking about zombies breaking out onto the highway, and we aren’t aiming to satisfy your inner Bear Grylls fantasy. These are things that can happen to you at any time.
Collisions are extremely common, and over 37,000 people die in them every year. That’s just in the United States. Global statistics are much more frightening.
You may think that you’re the safest driver in the world, but anything can happen to cause a collision. You might be driving on a country road in the middle of the night, and a deer might plow through your windshield.
You might be pulling out of your favorite fast food restaurant when a drunk driver rams his truck into you.
In a lot of these situations, you’ll likely be dead or receiving help within minutes. Realistically speaking, your survival kit won’t be of much use in the majority of survival situations. However, you can end up being the victim of a collision in the middle of nowhere, and if you do survive the initial emergency, you’ll have to think fast to survive until you get help.
You’ll need a medical kit to treat any wounds you sustain, and you’ll want the most varied kit possible to handle collisions that happen in different types of areas.
Cars aren’t made out of eggshells, but they do occasionally fail to work properly. Depending on where you are, that can be a major issue.
Obviously, breaking down in front of a mechanic’s shop with a few hundred bucks in your wallet won’t require you to bust out your survival kit. That’s not always the case, though.
If you breakdown in the middle of nowhere, you’ll have to deal with the weather conditions in the area, your food and water needs, and any roadside hazards that present themselves while you try to find help. Spare oil and a way to repair minor problems can also get you out of this type of situation.
Breaking down in an urban environment can produce a whole new list of things to worry about. If you’re in a bad neighborhood, you might not be safe waiting around for a tow truck or exiting your vehicle. Having a fully-charged phone to call police and a self-defense tool in your kit can help you survive while waiting for professional help.
One thing other guides fail to mention is that your own capabilities affect you in this situation quite a bit. Can you change a tire? Can you add oil to your car properly? Can you cool your engine down with water? If you can’t, you will want to learn how to before you start worrying about buying this stuff.
Getting stuck due to deep pockets of mud surrounding your tires or accidentally driving into a ditch can easily turn into a survival situation. It’s nowhere near as bad as facing a head-on collision, but it can lead to serious situations depending on where it happens.
Think about it like this. What if you get stuck in the middle of a bad storm, and it’s unsafe to just sit in your car to wait it out? What if you get stuck in an area that doesn’t see a lot of traffic? Are you just going to sit there for days?
A proper car kit should have a shovel and tow ropes specifically to help you handle this type of situation.
You see it on the news all of the time. Some guy underestimates a flooded road, and he ends up getting swept away in the flood. Suddenly, you see a bunch of news cameras filming him standing on top of his car.
On the news, you usually see rescue crews saving the victim, but that’s not always the case in reality. A lot of times, those people aren’t found until they’re already dead.
There aren’t many survival items that can help you abandon a car during this type of situation, but having a few tools that can help you call for help can mean the difference between life and death.
A simple beacon or flashlight can help you get the attention of other drivers or rescue crews, and a phone that’s outfitted with a waterproof case can help you call for help when no one else is nearby.
Sometimes, you’re not the one in the survival situation. You might be driving down the road one night, and you might see a man who wrapped his car around a tree. Will you help him if that happens?
It can be dangerous to help others sometimes, but if you’re prepared, you might be the only person capable of saving them. One of the biggest YouTube preppers around once said that preppers are like the sheepdogs of society. We’re prepared to handle things that others can’t, and we should do so if we can.
Keep in mind that whether you help or not is a personal decision. You should never see a wreck and refuse to do something as simple as calling the police, but you don’t have to attempt a rescue.
You might find someone who is caught up in a large variety of emergencies. So, it’s best to have a versatile kit to help with anything that pops up.
Suggested Contents For Your Kit
Now that we’ve gone over what an emergency kit for car usage is, it’s time to go over what actually goes into one. This car emergency kit list shows everything that you need to have, but there are a few bonuses we’ll talk about afterwards. For now, let’s cover the necessities.
Tools For The Car
Most of the issues you’re likely to face deal with your car failing to work properly. If you have a basic set of tools, you can usually avoid being thrust into a real survival situation.
A tire iron, an assortment of wrenches and screwdrivers, and other basic tools are necessities. You’ll also want to keep a spare tire and a tire repair kit in your vehicle, too.
Finally, duct tape has been patching up cars for decades, and while it won’t permanently repair anything, you can plug up a leaky hose or patch a gas line with it. We recommend throwing a roll of it into your kit.
Practice working on your car as much as possible in a controlled environment. None of the tools we listed are worth much if you’ve never learned how to work on a car before.
A flashlight is an instrumental part of any survival kit. In a car kit, it can help you work in the darker parts of your car’s engine, and it can help you navigate if you have to exit your car at night. It’s also good for signalling for help if you don’t have flares, but try not to blind other drivers with it.
Water And Food
If you breakdown in the city, you’re unlikely to be stuck without food or water for long. However, it can be a very different case if you breakdown in a remote location. For that reason, you should keep water and food in your car at all times.
You should follow the same rule that you do for a go-bag. Keep three days worth of food and water in your car. If you find yourself in a remote location, you’ll have enough to keep you taken care of until you figure a way out.
It also helps if a major catastrophe happens. It can function as a backup supply if your pantry runs out, and it can help you get home if you have to travel back during a situation that makes traveling a slow process. For instance, a societal collapse or a major disaster can clog up highways for days at a time, and once you’re in that situation, you’re not getting out unless you move on foot.
Just remember not to store things that can’t withstand the heat of your trunk. It will suck to think that you have a decent amount of food, but then you find out it’s ruined because the heat got to it.
Too many people forget to keep a fire extinguisher in their cars. Don’t be one of them. A fire in your house is bad enough, but a fire in your car can leave you trapped in what is essentially a ticking time bomb.
Collisions, oil leaks, or even accidentally dropping a cigarette can start a car fire. You don’t need to carry a massive extinguisher around, but at least carry a small one to ensure you can stop small fires from burning out of control.
A good tow rope can keep you from having to call a towing company for something minor. If you have a tow rope and a friend willing to come help, you can get yourself out of a sticky situation while avoiding tow costs.
You can also help others if you have a tow rope. If somebody is stranded, and their car requires more repairs than what either of you can handle, you can tow them to a safe spot.
Oil And Water
Running out of oil can overheat your vehicle and destroy its engine. Make sure you keep a decent amount of oil stowed away in your vehicle in case you run low.
Water isn’t just necessary for your own survival. You might need to use it as a coolant. It isn’t preferable to cool your engine down with water, but you can make it work for a few miles to get you home or to a safer location.
Keep an extra gallon in your trunk that you won’t use for drinking.
What happens if you wreck into a tree or a deer and sustain serious injuries? Well, if you aren’t near a community with rescue services, you might die. Sometimes, you need to be equipped to handle major injuries yourself.
A first aid kit needs to have more than just Band-Aids and antibiotic creams, though. You need to be able to handle puncture wounds and major lacerations. Broken bones are also common in vehicle-related accidents.
Before you build a first aid kit, make sure you know how to use its components. You don’t have to get a medical degree, but a few first aid classes will help a lot.
Jumper cables should be in your car whether you’re a prepper or not. Car batteries die pretty often, and it’s embarrassing to walk around asking everyone for help without having any of the equipment necessary to fix it.
You don’t have to drop a bunch of money getting the best set of cables available, and you don’t need to look for anything fancy. You just need a standard set to help someone jump your car in an emergency.
Obviously, these can be used to help others, too. While you’ll probably prepare yourself, a lot of people won’t. So, you’ll likely meet someone walking around asking for you to jump their car.
A shovel can help you with your car, and it can help if you find yourself in an on-foot survival situation.
In your car, it can help you dig your way out of deep puddles of mud.
In general, you can use it to dig bathroom holes, level land for a shelter, and anything else that requires you to move dirt around.
We don’t expect you to carry a big garden spade around. That might look a bit weird if you get pulled over. A good survival shovel will do the trick.
You’re not going to be stranded one million miles away from society every time your car breaks down. Sometimes, you’ll be on a dark road or a highway. An emergency beacon can keep people from running you over, and it can tell people that there is an emergency going on.
If you don’t throw up an emergency beacon, you risk getting hit by cars that don’t slow down for you, and potential help might pass right by you. They might think you’re just sitting around.
If you are in a remote area, it can draw the attention of people who otherwise wouldn’t notice you. That makes it a great way of increasing your chances of getting help.
Winter tends to be pretty cold, and even summer nights can make you suffer from hypothermia. You can rely on your vehicle’s heat if it still works, but that will stop working eventually.
A good blanket can help you stay warm while you wait for help, and it can be used to make a low-quality shelter if you don’t have a tarp. You’ll only need it for that if you’re forced out of your vehicle.
You can wind up needing a poncho in several situations. If you have to walk away from your car, you might get caught in the rain. If you have to get out to work on your car, you might get caught in the rain. Pretty much any time you’re forced to leave your car’s interior, you might need a poncho.
In a survival situation, it’s of paramount importance to stay dry. Make sure you have a poncho in your kit.
If you bought everything on this list so far, you have what you need to survive inside of your car. What do you do if you have to leave it? You might need your actual survival kit.
We’ve written guides about go-bags before, and you can reference those to help you make your own. In short, you need to have fire, water, cutting tools, cordage, shelter, and communication tools in your kit.
You’ll use your go-bag if you have to abandon your car, and you’ll have to use it if you get stuck in a long-term survival situation, too. It’s also where you’ll most likely keep your firearm. So, it can be useful if you’re stuck in an area where crime is common.
Your go-bag is such an important part of survival that we actually believe it’s the most important part of your car kit. You probably won’t have many useful things in it for repairing your car, but if you get lost without the other stuff, you can still get by with your go-bag. You might have to walk without the other items, but at least you’ll have everything you need to survive.
Packing For The Weather And Personal Items
Packing for the weather is extremely important, and most people in the United States will have to deal with several seasonal changes every year. So, expect to rotate these items out regularly.
For winter environments, you’ll want the following items:
- Heavy blanket
- Thermal underwear
- Spare socks
- Heavy clothing options
We recommend adding those things towards the end of fall. Whenever the weather tends to get fairly cold near you, you should rotate the clothing items in your survival kit.
Here’s what you’ll need for spring and summer survival kits:
- Spare summer clothes
- Long sleeves for working on your car
- Work gloves
- Spare jeans
- A hoodie or other light jacket for nighttime
You should put those items in your car the second the weather starts to get warm again. Those are general suggestions for a temperate climate. If you live in a tropical, desert, or mountain environment, you’ll want to make adjustments that make sense in your personal environment.
Personal items are also important to consider. Some can raise moral, and some can make survival less agitating. Keep in mind that your trunk will have quite a bit in it by the time you get all the necessities in. So, don’t try to pack your whole house into your car.
First, any medicines that you need should be a priority. Try to keep a few days worth of medicine in your kit. If you have a heart condition, being stranded for three days without medicine might kill you before the survival situation does. This should be a priority for anyone with a physical ailment.
Even people with mental disorders should store medicine. You might think you can survive without your bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety medications, but survival is almost entirely mental. A person with a tough mind but a weak body can survive a lot better than a fit person who breaks down the second it gets tough. If you have any disorders that compromise your mental health, you need to bring your medication with you. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it can save your life.
After you worry about medications, you need to worry about hygiene. You might get by without deodorant or brushing your teeth, but those things help keep your moral up. A couple preferred snacks can make you feel good, too.
Women have other hygiene needs that aren’t optional. If you’re a lady, you should definitely keep your preferred brand of tampons or pads in your vehicle. You probably already have some in your purse, but keep some spares around. You’ll feel more comfortable if your personal supply runs out, and your mental state will be a lot better.
Moral is the next thing you should worry about if you have room. If your trunk is packed to the gills already, you can do without the items we’re about to talk about, but they can help if you can make room for them.
Your personal items can be anything that makes you happy. A picture of your family, a pack of cards, or any other non-essential item can do wonders in a survival situation. We personally think that a lot of preppers forget about this aspect of survival when they build their bags.
Think about it a little bit. How many guides have you read that even mention bringing something fun along? They’re all focused on survival knives, tarps, and other things that you have to buy.
Those things are definitely important, but keeping your mental health up to par is also important. If you find yourself waiting for police to arrive or for help to drive by, a game of solitaire or another fun item can keep your mind off of your situation. That can be priceless for a lot of people.
Just make sure that you don’t devote a quarter of your kit to fun items. One or two will help you get by, and they shouldn’t take up much space. Your survival is still dependent on having the proper tools at your disposal, though.
Roadside Awareness And Safety
One risk is present when surviving with a vehicle that isn’t present in other forms of survival. You will almost always have to deal with other vehicles.
Roadside safety isn’t a joke. Can you imagine surviving a horrific accident just to get ran over while you wait for help? The following tips can help you minimize your risk of getting injured or killed while you’re stuck on the side of the road.
The first thing you need to do is get off the road. It doesn’t matter if you’ve blown a tire or overheated your engine. You need to try to coast your car over to the side of the road, and you want to get as far away from other vehicles as possible.
Just don’t move your car if you’re involved in a wreck. Leave it where it is until police can properly document what happened. If you don’t, you may face charges, and your insurance company might deny any claim you make.
Some emergencies might make that impossible, though. If your car is totaled in the middle of the highway, the safest thing you can do is quickly move yourself out of the road and call emergency services.
One thing you should never do is stay in the vehicle. If the vehicle is damaged, gas lines can be leaking, oil can be pouring out of it, and it might just explode. You also have to worry about other drivers accidentally running into it.
You should never leave your children or pets in the vehicle, either. Even if it isn’t damaged in a way that can be dangerous, the heat can kill them very quickly. If the car is out of commission, you should move your family away from the car with you.
Using proper emergency beacons is also a necessity. Flares and reflective signals can alert oncoming cars to your position, and they might just garner the attention of someone who can help.
However, you should never put yourself in danger to place them. It’s better to let drivers use common sense than it is to get ran over trying to lay down warning signs. After all, the average person knows to slow down if they see a car that resembles a crumpled aluminum can. If you do have an opportunity to safely mark the area with appropriate tools, you should do it, though.
Once you and your family are safe, you should try contacting emergency services immediately. It’s likely that other drivers will call before you, but you never know.
If you find yourself in a remote area, your options are a bit different. You still want to move the car if you can, and you definitely want to put up emergency beacons. However, if you ever have to leave your car, you should leave a note explaining what direction you went and what condition you’re in. If someone stumbles upon the car, they’ll be able to track you down that way.
All of these tips are pretty much common sense, but you’d be surprised by how often they’re ignored. Don’t be the person that stumbles around in traffic trying to wave cars down. Do things safely if you find yourself in one of these situations.
A car survival kit isn’t complicated. You probably have several of the basic items sitting in your car already. However, a lot of people neglect to acknowledge the importance of a fully fleshed out survival kit.
That’s a shame. Roadside emergencies are responsible for more than 37,000 deaths every year, and we’re willing to bet that a good portion of those deaths could have been avoided if the people had proper equipment in their car.
It’s not enough to simply outfit your car with a bunch of gizmos, though. You have to put in an honest effort to learn how each part of you kit is used, and you have to condition yourself mentally and physically to handle the stress of survival. Picking up a few extra skills won’t hurt, either.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on emergency car kits, and we hope you’ll check out our other articles on surviving life-changing catastrophes.