Building An Epic Car Emergency Kit That’s Right For You
As responsible adults, we understand the importance of keeping emergency supplies in our homes.
We’ve built a large stash of emergency supplies and tools for an unknowable future.
We buy plenty of band-aids and Neosporin for cuts and scrapes.
We horde flashlights, candles, and bulk packs of batteries for electrical outages.
Heck, many of us make it a priority to stockpile extra toilet paper for that surprise blizzard.
Because running out of T.P. IS absolutely a real emergency!
And if you’re a reader of Skilled Survival, you’ve likely got an emergency water storage plan.
But when it comes to our cars, trucks, and vehicles, we act as if nothing bad could happen between point A and B.
Everyone knows they should take the time to build out an extensive car emergency kit but too few actually do.
But the good news is, you’re here now, you’re reading this article.
So you’re finally going to get prepared for those treacherous roads with an epic car emergency kit.
After reading this article, you’ll have all the information you need to build your own car emergency kit.
And hopefully, you’ll also have the will to follow through and actually get it built.
So let’s get started.
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BUILDING THE ULTIMATE CAR EMERGENCY KIT
Before we jump into building your car emergency kit, I just want you to double-check you have the tools you need to change a tire. A car jack, a tire iron, a full spare (or at the very least an emergency donut spare).
If you don’t have those items in your car or truck or van right now, I want you to take care of them immediately.
DO NOT WAIT, if you get a flat without these basic tools, you’re 100% relying on others to help you. That’s not how we operate around here at SkilledSurvival!
And if you don’t know how to change a tire, it’s time to learn. If this sounds like you, watch the video below. For everyone else, let’s continue…
As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.
Emergency Kit Organization
The first step in building an emergency car kit is to figure out a way to organize everything.
Allowing your supplies and gear to haphazardly roll around in the trunk of your vehicle is a terrible idea. Not only will it be an annoying racket but it’ll damage the gear and supplies you’ll need during a real emergency.
So you need an emergency kit bag, duffel, or box. One that’s large enough to keep all your car emergency supplies organized and safe.
There are a lot of options so we’ll just show you one of our favorites and tell you why.
This duffel bag is perfect to keep all your car’s emergency kit gear organized and safe. It’s got tons of storage (48 liters) and zippered internal dividers to keep your gear compartmentalized.
But what I like most about this duffel bag is that it converts into a backpack.
But carrying duffel bags are great for short trips (like in and out of gyms or work) but they’re no good for long hikes. But backpacks with two straps over your shoulders, that’s ideal.
You can comfortably walk much further with a backpack on. So this duffel/ backpack combo is an ideal solution for a car emergency kit.
The duffel gives you the low profile, easy to pack, and organize kit you want in your trunk, while the backpack option is great for the worst-case survival scenario.
Emergency Water (H2O)
Water is one of the most critical emergency/survival supplies – period. The moment you find yourself in an emergency without water, your survival countdown clock starts ticking.
Sure, in extreme weather (blizzard or heatwave) a shelter from exposure can trump the need for water. But in general, outside of those extreme situations, water is priority numero uno.
So make sure to add some fresh drinking water to your car emergency kit.
I recommend doing this by filling up stainless steel, single-walled water bottle. This is the best way to store fresh drinking water in a vehicle.
Much better than buying those thin plastic water bottles. Why? Because those thin-walled plastic water bottles are weak and can easily rupture.
They won’t hold up long-term in a vehicle that’s always on the move. Plus, they’ll burst when exposed to extreme heat and cold conditions.
Protect your precious emergency water supply by keeping it in a strong water bottle.
The second part of your car’s water plan is adding tools to turn natural water into drinking water.
If your vehicle is ever stranded in the middle of nowhere, you’ll quickly deplete whatever stash of freshwater you happen to have.
Not long after, your body will begin craving water otherwise known as being thirsty. Soon you’ll be forced to scavenge for a natural water source.
Hopefully, you’re able to find a small creek nearby, or a pond, a lake, a puddle, whatever. But drinking water from a natural source without proper treatment is a big gamble.
Water can look fresh, clean, and delicious, but you can’t detect hidden microscopic bacteria with the naked eye.
So it’s smart to pack essential water filtration and purification tools and supplies.
That way, you can process that natural water and drink confidently knowing you won’t get sick. Because the last thing you need in an emergency or survival situation is to fall severely ill.
Drinking contaminated water can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting. It can turn a serious situation into a deadly one in an instant.
So let’s start with filtration first; you should stash at least one personal water filter in your car’s emergency kit.
I highly recommend you get a couple of sawyer mini water filters. Not only is it small to pack and lightweight, but it can also filter 100,000 gallons of water!
This little water filter is ideal for both travel and car emergency kits.
What makes the Sawyer Mini so powerful is its inline design capabilities. Use it like a straw or an inline filter to remove 99.999% of harmful bacteria.
Here’s my full video review of the incredible Sawyer Mini.
Water filtration is an important first step in processing natural water, but you’ll also need to purify it before consuming it.
Sure, filtration alone is better than nothing, but why gamble at all if you don’t have to.
So there are a few ways to purify the water you’ve collected.
First off, you can boil the water for a few minutes to kill any remaining hidden viruses. As long as you can start a fire (we’ll cover fire tools in a later section), you can boil water. But only if you have a stainless steel SINGLE walled water bottle.
The key here is 1) metal 2) single wall.
You want it to be metal so you can put the water bottle on fire without fear of melting.
If your container is plastic, the fire will melt it. And the best case with plastic is the melting plastic will contaminate your water. But the worst case is the plastic will put a hole in the bottle and poof, there goes your precious water.
Double-wall bottles are designed to keep liquids cool longer by having two walls (inner and outer walls). But if you try to boil water in one, it’s going to take a really long time because you have to transfer the heat through 2 walls.
And in the process of trying to boil water, it’s possible for the trapped air between the two walls to build pressure. Build enough pressure, and the water bottle can explode. This explosion can also be called a bomb – so single wall water bottles ONLY for your car emergency kits.
Another way to purify the water is by using water purification tablets. What’s nice about these is they’re cheap, small, and lightweight. So there’s no excuse not to add these to your car emergency kit.
So your best bet is to get a small personal water filter, a single wall stainless steel water bottle, and some water purification tablets. With these three emergency water tools, your emergency hydration needs are all set. Congrats!
As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.
Now, many people may be surprised that shelter is the second topic we’re covering (most think food would be next). But as we mentioned earlier, in extreme weather shelters can quickly become the number one survival priority.
Plus, food is one of the least important short-term emergency supplies. You can survive weeks without calories. Yes, severe hunger is no fun, but it’s not very high on the survival priority list (at least initially).
Ok, so when it comes to survival shelter options, there are two extremes we’re worried about. Freezing to death in a blizzard or dying from heatstroke and dehydration.
The good news is, we have a bivy sack survival tool that can buy you precious time and save your life in either situation.
The TACT Bivvy
Mylar is a very thin flexible material that doesn’t allow air transfer. So by default, it traps/reflects heat.
So, when you hop inside a Tact Bivvy, it’ll trap the heat your body naturally generates. This helps to prevent hypothermia and frostbite in extremely cold conditions.
It locks in your body heat, keeping your core and limbs warm and protected.
You see, the TACT Bivvy is more than a blanket, it’s a sleeping bag. This may seem like a small difference, but this setup traps heat much better than a blanket alone.
Also, the TACT bivvy is packed in a small portable bag. This keeps your Mylar sleeping bag organized and protects it from accidental punctures.
So for me, it’s worth the few extra dollars to get the TACT Bivvy.
But what about extreme heat? I did mention it can be helpful in these dire situations as well!
You see, Mylar’s superpower is reflecting heat. So when Mylar is facing toward you, it reflects your heat back to you. However, if you point the Mylar material away from you and toward the sun instead what happens?
Mylar will block the sun’s energy from traveling through it.
Just turn the TACT Bivvy inside out (so the Mylar is now on the outside). Then find a way to create a makeshift canopy (using some more emergency tools discussed below). And get underneath it.
Instant shade, instant cool.
And if you happen to be in loose soil, you can dig a shallow pit (with a survival shovel) to expose cool layers of soil. Then you can lay in the cool dirt to help lower your core body temperature.
You see, with the right tools and knowledge, you don’t have to become a victim of a dire situation. You can act, save yourself, and buy time for escape or rescue.
Note: if you dig a pit, don’t lay under a Mylar blanket or tarp, etc. with the blanket against the top of the hole. This setup now becomes an oven, the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish. The tarp or Mylar blanket must be off the ground. You want it to create shade and allow air to flow through and out instead of trapping it.
Here’s my full video review of the TACT Bivvy.
Vehicle Recovery Tools
Ok, water and shelter are done, that wasn’t too tough now, was it? Now it’s time to talk about tools and devices to prevent you from getting stranded in the first place.
The three leading causes of becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere are:
- Flat Tire
- Dead Battery
- Running Out Of Fuel
We already discussed the need to invest in tire-changing equipment – most vehicles have these tools available by default. So let’s focus on the remaining two issues; dead battery and running out of fuel.
The best way to survive an emergency due to a dead battery or running out of fuel is to avoid it becoming a survival emergency in the first place. So it’s important to invest in simple tools that can quickly fix these problems.
In the past, the only way to fix a dead battery was to carry a bulky set of jumper cables or to lug a large battery pack jumper around.
However, with technological advances, intense crank power is now available in a device the size of a smartphone.
This device is powerful and compact. It even fits your shirt pocket.
Plus, the age-old problem with jumper cables is they rely on another vehicle to work. So that alone makes them less than ideal.
Once you’ve got a Powertech 8000 jumper pack to handle the occasional dead battery, you should put together a plan to deal with the “ran out of gas” problem.
Yes, we all should try to follow the Grandfatherly advice of “fill up your tank when it gets below half.” But life’s busy, and most of us wait until we’re on E and sometimes on fumes before filling up.
This is a recipe for disaster. But we normally get lucky and find a gas station around the next corner, at least until our luck runs out…
However, caution is required: Keep away from heat or any heat source. Keep it away from the reach of any other person than yourself.
Keep it away from children. Make sure it is well sealed.
Do not use or store it in any place where there is a potential risk for any damage to the bottle. Check the bottle frequently to make sure there’s no leakage.
It contains flammable fluid and should be treated as a dangerous material.
You should also pack a siphon kit as well. That way you can siphon off a bit of fuel from a passerby in a pinch.
Ok, now that we covered those two issues, it’s time to add a few highly useful survival tools to your emergency car kit.
The following tools are what you need you ever need to go into true survival mode.
As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.
Escape and Rescue Tools
Now we need to remember what the goal is for most vehicle emergencies. 99% of the time the goal is to be rescued.
Maybe the check engine light comes on in the remote desert, and your car rolls to a permanent stop. Or maybe your SUV rolls on its side on a snowy mountain trail. Or perhaps you’re stuck on a mountain pass in a blizzard and get stuck in the drifting snow.
These are all vehicle emergencies that happen every year to lots of people and families. Sometimes the stories have happy endings, but occasionally they end in sad tragedy.
So any tool that can help contact the rest of the world to get help is a tool worth adding to your car’s emergency kit.
This smart car emergency tool is one you should keep in your car and not in the kit you keep in your truck. This is one tool you’ll want to keep front and center at all times.
This looks like one of those basic car chargers – the ones that plug into those old school push-button cigarette lighters.
But that’s just 1 of the 6 tools behind this life-saving device!
It’s also a portable battery pack. It always keeps a small portable battery pack topped off with energy so you can keep your phone charged even with a dead car battery.
It also has a glass breaker built into the tip of the charger. This is huge for vehicle emergencies.
If you ever accidentally drive into a large body of water and your car starts sinking you have to get out fast. The water pressure won’t let you open and door and what happens if your window won’t go down?
You need a way to break it.
With this device, you have immediate access to pull it out of the charger port and slam it against the glass.
Instant shatter and a fast escape!
But what about your seatbelt? What if it’s jammed and you’re struggling to unlatch it?
Well, this tool also includes a belt cutter. The cutter knife is built into the side of the device in a safe but effective way.
So between the glass breaker and the belt cutter you’ve got a tool at the ready to escape from a car fast – no matter what.
Whether it’s a fire, water disaster, or your vehicle’s flipped over, whatever, you now have a tool at the ready to get out when time is of the essence.
Ok so that’s 4 tools, there are 2 more to go…
The next tool in this 6-1 survival device is a built-in flashlight.
In my opinion, flashlights are sort of like EDC knives; you can never have too many. I like to keep flashlights everywhere, especially in my:
- truck’s glove box
- survival kits
- bug out bag
- first aid kit
- everyday carry bag
- get home bag
- bedroom side table
So I welcome having an extra flashlight as a part of this incredible survival tool.
Plus, the flashlight has a strobe mode which is ideal if you’re looking to get someone’s attention at night. The strobe function helps rescuers find you or get attention from a random traveler.
So the 6 in 1 Emergency Car Tool and Charger is a:
- Car Charger
- Backup Battery Power Bank
- Instant Shatter Glass Breaker
- Seat Belt Cutter
- Regular Flashlight
- Emergency Strobe Light
And all these tools within easy reach for the driver. It’s truly the smartest and perfect tool for vehicle emergencies.
A rescue mirror is a small device that’s easy to add to your car’s emergency kit. It’s small and lightweight, but this device can be powerful.
It reflects the power of the sun so you can alert rescuers or any airline that may be passing overhead.
Just point the bright reflected light towards your target and move it back and forth quickly. This will create a flashing signal that can travel many miles.
This is another great tool to help you get help fast in a dire emergency.
Survival Lighter or Ferro Rod
One of the best ways to get the attention of a search and rescue team is to produce a bunch of thick black smoke. And fortunately, all vehicles have one excellent source of black smoke – tires.
When the rubber from tires is set on fire, it lets off an obnoxious thick black smoke. The sort of smoke can be seen for many miles.
It’s a perfect beaconing SOS signal for a rescue helicopter that’s actively looking for someone.
The search goes from a needle in a haystack to shooting fish in a barrel. But this rescue signal won’t work if you can’t get a fire going in the first place.
I like packing a survival whistle for 2 reasons.
First, the good ones absolutely scream. They are so loud the sound will travel several miles. And if you’re able to blast it frantically, anyone within earshot can’t help but investigate to see what’s going on.
Second, it might be the most affordable piece of gear ever.
They are small pieces of plastic so you can add one for just a few dollars. Now that’s what I call a fantastic return on investment.
It’s one of those “no-brainer” survival tools you just add to your car’s emergency vehicle kit; no questions asked.
Bad things are going to happen if an unsuspecting driver coming around a blind bend only to find a broken-down car in the middle of the road.
If they hit your vehicle at nearly full speed people are going to get hurt or worse.
Hopefully, you’re smart enough to get out of the vehicle and not stay in it or stand in front of it. If it gets hit and you’re in or near it you’re in fatal danger.
It’s sad, but it happens all the time all across America, especially on multi-lane highways in major cities.
Nothing good happens when vehicles are broken down on or near busy roadways.
It’s the right thing to do, and it’s an important emergency car kit tool I wish more people took seriously.
Every car emergency kit should include basic medical supplies (like the MyFAK Pro from MyMedic). Bandages, gauze, painkillers, antibacterial ointments, etc.
But you might also want to add in a few specialty medical tools (depending on your level of skill and comfort).
Here are two kits you might consider adding to the basic medical supplies
Bleeding Control Kit (which includes a tourniquet)
Because uncontrolled hemorrhage is one of the most preventable causes of death in the United States.
Suture Kit (for stitching up nasty cuts)
The suture kit is a specialty medical kit that’s rarely needed until it’s freaking needed ASAP.
If you are serious about preparing for medical emergencies, check out our comprehensive guide to building your own survival medical kit.
Must-Have Survival Supplies
I think a survival multitool is one of the most underrated survival tools.
You want access to a variety of tools and sure, you can buy a survival knife, and a set of pliers, and a screwdriver set.
Or you can get a smart survival multitool that has all these tools and more in one.
You must add a small radio to your car’s emergency kit.
If your emergency is due to adverse weather, you need a way to tune into the weather reports.
Is the blizzard you just accidentally drove into ending soon or is it just starting?
The answer to those questions is intelligence. The information you need to make better decisions during a dire emergency.
Here are a couple more ways a survival radio can save your life:
- In a widespread emergency, you’ll want to know which roads have been knocked out so you can take the right ones.
- If a major disease outbreak occurs you’ll want to know where it’s headed so you can avoid those dangerous areas.
- Maybe a nuclear attack (or EMP blast) has sent the nation into turmoil – you’ll want to know which direction is safe and which is not.
So pack a small portable radio, the Katio Pocket Radio is perfect for this.
A good hand crank radio is also a great backup source of information (and a last resort charge for your cell phone).
With these radios, you’ll get the intel you need without taking up precious emergency kit space.
Survival Shovel /Sand
Getting stuck in snow or mud is a major cause of becoming stranded. But if you can get your vehicle out of this situation, then you avoid becoming stranded, right? Yes.
You need to add a survival shovel to your vehicle. That way you can shovel your way out of snow or mud. Digging out from around your tires and work being able to work your way out is an important tactic.
We recommend the EVATAC Tactical Survival Shovel. It breaks down into a compact size, but tough enough to get the job done.
It also includes a few extra survival tools as well, which will come in handy during an actual survival emergency.
Also, add a sack of sand or kitty litter as well. I was skeptical of using this stuff up until the first time I gave it a try, and it worked like magic.
If you’re stuck because your tires can’t get traction, sprinkle some sand in front of the slipping tire. You’ll be amazed how quickly the tires will grab and get you out of an icy rut.
Light Weight Rugged Solar Charger
From flashlights to GPS units to cell phones, there’s going to be a decent amount of technology in your car emergency kit. All worthless devices without electricity!
So be sure to add a solar charger and battery pack if you depend on any of those items. Make sure to include the cords for each device!
Skilled Survival highly recommends the Anytime Charge Solar Power Bank.
Why? Because it’s one of the most durable, compact, and cost-effective portable solar chargers on the market today. But don’t let its compact size fool you, it’s also got a massive 10,000 mAh battery capacity!
The massive battery storage is enough to charge any of your devices multiple times. Plus, with dual charging outputs, you can power multiple devices at the same time!
Simply plug in your devices via the supplied USB cable (you can use any USB cable) and press the power button. Your device will begin to take power from the Anytime Charge right away.
Recharging the Anytime Solar Bank couldn’t be easier – just leave it in the sun and it will automatically fill the large battery bank back up ANYWHERE.
Plus, it’s splash resistant and comes with an emergency flashlight with a strobe function.
NOTE: At the time this article was published, you could snag some bonus Tactical Flashlights For FREE if when you buy multiple Anytime Solar Chargers. Click here now, to see if this deal is still available!
I’ll keep this simple. Everyone knows you should pack a warm blanket for vehicle breakdowns in frigid weather. But you should also pack a fire blanket.
If you’re ever in a wreck with fire, you want something to throw on it and snuff it out. A fire blanket is perfect for such dangerous flames. OR you can wrap up in it to protect yourself from flames.
Paracord is amazing. There are hundreds of survival uses for paracord, and those are just the most obvious ones. There are thousands of possible uses.
Now, it’s easy to add some paracord to your emergency car kit. Just buy some paracord and toss it in or even better get a paracord survival bracelet.
Either way, find a way to get some paracord in your car for emergencies.
Self Defense Options
Becoming stranded on the side of a remote road in the middle of the night can be a scary proposition. It can be a helpless feeling.
Especially if a creepy person decides they want to lend you a hand?
You better have a way to defend yourself should their “help” not be so helpful after all.
Now, if you’re into firearms you’re all set. But if firearms intimidate you or you never learned how to use one, there are other self-defense options.
Pepper Spray, Stun Gun & Personal Alarm
There are two important aspects to a good self-defense pepper spray.
1) the actual pepper spray effectiveness (or heat level)
2) the spray pattern and distance.
Sure, some people try to make their own pepper spray, but I don’t recommend that for actual self-defense.
Ever tried to change a tire in the pitch-black dark? Not only does it make this task more challenging but for some, it might make it impossible.
Breakdowns and accidents are not exclusive to daylight hours. Heck, they’re often more dangerous and more frequent during the night.
You’ve got to have at least one superbright EDC flashlight so you can see what you’re doing.
Food (a.k.a. calories)
Finally, it’s worth stashing some calories in your car emergency kit. And while this is a lower priority than the other items we’ve covered so far, it’s still worth adding.
But just remember, good taste is not the goal of emergency kit food. The goal is to stash food that lasts and remain safe even after many hot and cold temperature swings.
So you should focus on adding something with low moisture content and high-calorie density. These energy bars meet these requirements and are calorie-dense. They’ll also “keep” well even under intense temperature swings.
The worst is to start rooting around in your emergency kit to keep your hunger pangs at bay, only to pull out a moldy orange or a melted candy bar.
Optional Survival Tools
In this section, I’m going to show you a few pieces of survival gear that are not 100% necessary but might make sense for you.
If you’re ever involved in a life-threatening emergency, then a set of survival playing cards will be the last thing on your mind.
However, if you’re just stranded, but you know help is on the way, you might need something to do. Something to pass the time and keep boredom at bay.
If you’ve got friends or kids with you, a deck of survival cards can help pass the time as you wait for the tow truck to arrive.
Hand warmers are a nice emergency car tool to have in a pinch.
This device is rechargeable and will warm up your hands or feet within minutes.
My goal for this article is to get more people to build vehicle emergency kits.
I hope we provided some unique tools and devices you’d never considered. And we hope many of them make sense for your car’s emergency kit.
However, we also know there are many other tools and devices that other people recommend. So if you know of a vehicle emergency tool that you feel should be on this list, but you didn’t see it, leave us a comment.
We’ll check it out, and if it makes sense, we’ll be sure to add it to this car emergency kit list.
“Just In Case” Jack
P.s. Do you know where the closest nuclear bunker is from your home?
There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.
Click on the image above to find out where you need to take shelter.
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