When you are out on the road you never quite know what types of situations will come up.
From bad weather and car problems to medical emergencies or being stranded in your car, having an All Scenario Emergency Kit in your car will help you be prepared, feel confident, and even provide assistance when an emergency strikes.
The top 50 items you should keep in your car for all types of emergency scenarios break down into the following categories: shelter, safety, water, food, communication, and tools. For each of these groups, you will either need the item itself, or something to help you acquire it. Start with a blanket, water, food, a first aid kit, and a radio. Then continue to add items as you can until you have covered everything.
Fifty things is a lot, and you may not have space for every item on the list. But try to get at least the basics for each category to make sure you are covered.
Under each category are questions to ask yourself to make sure that you have the basics, and then you can build from there.
Shelter and Safety
If you are on the road and get stopped due to weather or something happens to your car, you need protection from the elements and to stay safe both inside and away from your car.
- Do I have something to keep me warm, dry, and physically ok?
- Do I have a way to see in the dark? Will other people see me?
- Can I get out of my car safely and be safe around other drivers?
Car Emergency Kit – 50 Essential Items
1. Blankets / Emergency Blankets
2. Rain Poncho
3. Warm Gloves, Socks, Extra Clothing
Bad weather is a very common reason to pull out your emergency kit. If you get wet or cannot run the heater on your car, having extra clothes for warmth is very important.
4. Durable Bag
Your bag should be large enough to hold as much of your kit as possible while still being small enough to move it in and out of your car.
5. Garbage bags
These can be used for waterproofing or carrying things if you need to leave your car.
6. First Aid Kit
A basic first aid kit is non-negotiable and should include bandages, gauze, basic medication, gloves, scissors, etc.
7. Flashlight or Headlamp and Batteries
You will want to make sure you can see what is happening if you happen to be stuck during the night or if you need to look under the car or the hood.
8. Emergency Roadside Kit
These kits usually include reflective triangles, flares, reflective vests, and other simple tools to keep you safe, especially if you are around other drivers. If you are stopped on the side of the road and have to get out of your car to fix something, a reflective vest will make sure you are visible to other cars.
9. Self Defense Item
These items could be whatever you are comfortable with to protect yourself and your family. It could range from pepper spray to a handgun, just depending on your comfort level, budget, and needs.
10. Fire Extinguisher
11. Car Escape Tool
Car escape tools are small devices that can break windows and cut seatbelts easily. They are usually the size of a keychain and quite inexpensive. They should be kept in the glove box, hanging from the rearview mirror, or somewhere else very handy should you need to escape your car quickly by breaking the window or cutting off a seatbelt.
Water and Food
Water and food may not be required to fix a flat tire. But if what seems like a 1-hour fix turns into an 8-hour fix, water and food will make all the difference. You will never know how long an emergency will last and having food and water on hand will be crucial to survival.
- Do I have access to water for every person in my car to survive?
- Do I have enough water for maintenance needs?
- Do I have access to short-term (snacks) and long-term (meals) food?
Water is one of the most important items to have in any kit. Water will keep you hydrated, cool off a hot car, put out a fire, and so much more. Keep enough water for each person in your family to survive for at least a day in hopes that you will be able to access more or filter any if you run out.
13. Emergency Water Filter
In the event you run out of clean water, you can use water from a nearby lake or stream if you have a filter or a way to clean it. Check out my article on which emergency filters I recommend here: Best Emergency Water Filter Straws – My Top Picks!.
For short-term emergencies, snacks will really make a difference. Not only will they keep hunger away, but they can also be a great distraction for kids. Pack things that keep well in all types of weather such as granola bars (non-chocolate), dried fruit, hard candies, crackers, and trail mix (again, without the chocolate).
15. Freeze-dried Meals
For emergencies that may last longer, having nutritious full meals on hand is important. These can be a prepackaged MRE, or you can freeze dry your own meals if you have a freeze dryer!
16. Fork / Knife / Spoon
Food will only be so helpful if you don’t have a reliable way to prepare and eat it. Grab a camping utensil or even a cheap metal set at a thrift store to make sure you can eat!
17. Paper Towels / Rags
These are super important for oil spills, food messes, or even medical emergencies!
18. Hand Sanitizer
While sanitation is very important, you will want to keep as much of your water for drinking as possible. Hand sanitizer will help keep your hands clean in between being able to wash them.
Having actual cash and quarters on hand will help buy food, use a payphone, use a laundromat, or even buy supplies from people around you. Always have a good variety of bills and coins in your car in a safe, inconspicuous place.
A good number of emergencies can be shortened or maybe even prevented if you have a way to communicate. When putting your kit together, ask yourself:
- How will I let people know where I am?
- If my cell phone does not work, how can I get in touch with people?
20. Phone Numbers
Cell phones have made it no longer necessary to memorize everyone’s phone numbers. But if you have to borrow a phone or use a payphone, you are going to want a list of phone numbers for people who could come help you.
21. Solar Emergency Radio
In some emergencies, a radio could be the only form of communication available. Make sure you know how to use your radio before packing it away.
22. Car Phone Charger / Extra Battery Pack
23. Car Insurance Information
Hopefully, this is already in your car. But double-check that you know who to call, what you can call about, and how to get help when you need it.
Tools will probably take up a good amount of room in your car emergency kit. While this could be a sacrifice to give up half (or most of) your trunk, these tools can make the difference between life or death in an emergency.
When gathering all the tools for your kit, ask yourself these questions:
- How will I know where I am, where I am headed, and where to possibly head for help?
- How can I keep myself physically well, safe, and identifiable?
- What do I need to keep my car safe, running, and in good condition?
24. GPS Unit
26. Addresses and A Map
You may have the directions to a loved one’s house or emergency shelter memorized but having an actual address will be crucial in case you need to have someone else drive you there or you are not able to think clearly.
27. Basic Hygiene Kit
Soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, a small towel, and feminine hygiene supplies should all be included.
28. Daily Medication
If you or a member of your family depends on medication, make sure to include a few days worth in your car. This includes inhalers, epi-pens, or even contact solution. This may come at an extra expense, but it will be well worth it to make sure everyone is well if you cannot make it home quickly.
29. Basic Documents
Make a copy of your passport or driver’s license and keep the copy in your kit.
31. Bug Out Bag
Keeping your bug out bag in your car could be super helpful if you are the sole driver of your car. You could also make two separate bags, one for the car and one for home to be prepared for an emergency wherever you are. Here is a list of things to include in your bag: Bug Out Bag Essentials Checklist.
32. Deck of Cards / Entertaining Game for Kids
One could argue that the most common emergency you will face in your car is boredom. If you are stuck in bad weather, traffic, or anything that just leaves you safe but stopped on the road, something to do will make a huge difference, especially if you have kids! Fun familiar games that will get people laughing and staying calm are great options.
33. Jumper Cables
34. Car Battery Self Starter
35. Spare Tire
36. Tire Jack
37. Basic Tool Kit
If something comes loose under the hood of the car or you need to change a tire, make sure you have the basic tools to fix it like a screwdriver or a socket wrench.
38. Tire Pressure Gauge
39. Tire Inflator / Sealant
A spare tire will usually be all you need, but have it on hand in case of multiple flats or for helping other drivers.
40. Gas Can
41. Ice scraper
42. Ice Melt, Kitty Litter, or Sand
If your car gets stuck on ice or in the mud, ice melt or sand under the tires will give you enough traction to get yourself out. Kitty litter is helpful for absorbing moisture if you are stuck in slush but can turn to slush quickly so make sure to work fast.
43. Tow Chain
44. Small Shovel
This could get you out of the snow, sand, dig a toilet, or help make a shelter or fire.
45. Snow Chains
47. Duct tape
So many things can be fixed in a pinch with duct tape. From putting up an emergency shelter to fixing something simple on your car, duct tape can really get you out of a pinch.
48. A Lighter
49. Instruction Manuals
All of these tools are super useful, but only if you know how to use them. Most of the time you can probably search for instructions online, but you never know where you will be or if your phone will be working during an emergency. Keeping a set of instructions for jumper cables, a car jack, tire inflator, or anything else you or another driver of your car is unsure of.
50. A Positive Attitude!
One of the most important things to make sure you have in any emergency is a positive, can-do attitude. Yes, there will be a lot of stress and anxiety if you ever have to use your kit. But having confidence that you have done the best you can to prepare and keeping a positive attitude will do more for you than a perfect car emergency kit.