Assembling a Car Emergency Kit

Here in the Pacific Northwest Spring is just around the corner. We keep getting glimpses of the sun but not a whole day of sunshine yet. Around here, as soon as the weather warms up people hit the road. When Northwesterners aren’t snowboarding or skiing, they’re at the ocean, hiking, fishing, camping or on a lake.

All of those summertime outdoor activities mean we’re spending a lot of time in our cars, taking road trips. You should have some supplies in your car at all times, but summertime preparation requires a slightly different approach than winter.

In my car (and in my teenage daughter’s car), I have a bug-out bag with a crank flashlight, a few of these emergency food ration bars, reflective blanket, multi-tool, glassbreaker, hand warmers, rain poncho, knife, firestarter, whistle, paracord and basic stuff like that.

I also keep a hooded warm sweatshirt in the car, along with an old pair of yoga pants, a pair of cowboy boots and a good pair of socks. These are just always in there. My worry is that I will be stuck at work when there’s an emergency and I’m a half an hour’s drive away from home. I may need to walk home. While I wear sensible clothes and shoes to work on a daily basis, sometimes I wear clothes or shoes that I would not want to have to walk 30 miles in. This way, I know that I can switch out my work sandals for a good pair of work boots and hike home if I need to. Gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea, now that I think about it, but I’m less worried about that in summertime.

Basic first aid kit
My own car first aid kit could be better, honestly. I’m going to work on this over the summer and get better prepared. Have basic first aid kit items at all times, like gauze, tape, bandages, antiseptic and the like. Depending on your geographic region, you may definitely want to add anti-venom kit for rattlesnake bites or an epi-pen if you’re allergic to stinging insects.

Choose foods that can take the heat of being packed up in a close-up car in full sun. Many food items wilt. Some things that do stand up to summertime heat are nuts and seeds and nut butters in foil packs. Jerky, Dried fruit. Boxed crackers. Don’t choose anything like granola bars with chocolate chips, as these will melt and turn your bars into a huge mess.

This really is key. You can try some of our hacks to collect water that will work even in the desert, if you need to, but there’s also plenty of room in your car for a gallon of water. If you’re worried about kids and pets and other people who might be with you, then add a gallon of water for each person you’re going out with.

Gallons of water can take up a lot of room. If you’re space is at a premium, choose the boxed water which will stack more easily and fit in a supply box.

Plan for your good ol’ animal friends. It’s probably a dog you’re concerned about, so pack some high energy foods for them. Extra water. A leash and collar, even if you don’t normally keep them on one. If you’re in trouble at night, having a light on your pet could be really nice, so they don’t get lost. I suggest this Dog Brite waterproof lighted dog collar by Stoney-Wold Productions. If your animals become separated from you in the dark, you can find them more easily with a lighted collar.

Things you should consider having in your car:

  • Duct tape
  • Tarp
  • Sheet of plastic (for water collecting)
  • Paracord – even more than you think you need
  • a JIT phone charger/lighter/flashlight  – I recently got one of these and love it! Read my review for how long the flashlight worked when left on continuously. The JIT will give you enough power on your phone to send a text message or make a call, even from a dead battery. It’s small and the charged lighter heats up like a cigarette lighter to give you precious heat to light a fire.
  • A map of your area. Preferably one that is laminated.
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Bug repellent – boy, there have been times I was glad I had that old can of Deep Woods Off in the car!
  • Pepper spray
  • Deck of cards
  • Pen and Paper

I know I could come up with 20 more things that would be good ideas to have, but this is really just a general survival kit. We’re not talking about being out in the woods and living from your car for the foreseeable future. In my mind, the things I have in my car are minimal and are designed to get me and whoever I may be with home safely. That’s all starting to sound like kind of a lot. But really, these things don’t take up much room. I have my bag packed in the car, with a jug of water and a couple of sealable plastic bins. All of that gets pushed to the back of the trunk and I really don’t ever think about them being there or not. I still have plenty of room to put other stuff in the trunk like groceries.

What do you think you need in your car emergency box?