Camping & Survival

27 Emergency Vehicle Kit Essentials

Picture shows a broken down car with the hood up and a man on his cell phone beside it.

We talk extensively about the importance of having an emergency kit for you and your family. Often called a bug-out bag, an emergency kit contains everything you and your family needs to survive for 24 hours during or after an emergency or disaster, such as a severe weather event. Whether you decide to stay at home or leave the area, these kits must have essential medications, food, water, and other gear to keep you alive and at the very least, mildly comfortable. An emergency vehicle kit is like a bug-out bag, but slightly different. It contains the essentials such as water, warmth and nourishment, and additional supplies such as jumper cables and tools to fix a flat tire in case of mechanical failure or a tire blowout. The kit should remain in your car, easily accessible either in the back seat or in the trunk.

There are many reasons why you might find yourself stranded while driving—clogged evacuation routes, traffic due to accidents, tire blow out, mechanical failures, lost, bad weather, or flooded and impassable roads. I have found myself stranded in the middle of the city and out in the middle of nowhere due to icy conditions, car failure and flat tires. Sometimes it is necessary to pull over and wait it out until conditions or traffic clears, while other times you can phone for help. Either way, you need to keep some essential items in case of emergency in your vehicle.

When building your emergency vehicle kit, keep you and your family’s needs in mind. For example, being a single woman traveling long distances, you need to carry a form of self-defense. Before packing your firearm and ammunition, check the laws of every state you are passing through for its specific firearm transportation laws. If you have small children, you must carry diapers, extra formula, and a change of clothing, blankets and entertainment. For those dependent on medications or with special needs, make sure to keep an extra 24-hour supply of meds in your kit.

Picture shows a broken down car with the hood up and a man on his cell phone beside it.
An emergency vehicle kit is like a bug-out bag

The following are 27 essential items you need to pack in your car emergency kit.

  1. Self-defense
  2. Non-perishable snacks
  3. Bottled water
  4. Blankets
  5. Shovel
  6. Power cord to charge your cell phone
  7. A flashlight or headlamp
  8. Tow rope
  9. Duct tape
  10. Flare/distress signal
  11. Glass breaking and seat belt cutter tool
  12. Lighter or matches
  13. First aid kit
  14. Jumper cables
  15. Tire jack and tire iron
  16. Anti-freeze and coolant
  17. Motor oil
  18. Gas can
  19. Tire patch kit
  20. Rag or shop towel
  21. Plastic poncho
  22. Bungee cords
  23. Windshield scraper
  24. Enough cash for a tow
  25. Emergency number of local tow companies
  26. Compass or GPS
  27. Paper maps of the areas you are travelling in

During winter travel, you will need to add a few other things in case you are stuck in icy weather, such as kitty litter for traction. When temperatures drop, staying the night in your car is more challenging than the rest of the year. For more on winter weather travel, read “Build an Emergency Kit for Your Car” and “10 Safety Rules for Spending a Night in Your Car.”

Being prepared isn’t just about prepping for the apocalypse, but also about the everyday things that we cannot control like flat tires or bad GPS directions. An emergency vehicle kit will help you survive if you ever get stranded roadside.

What is in your vehicle emergency kit? Tell us in the comment section.

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Comments (15)

  1. The very first item should be a full-blown trauma kit (not mere first aid) with at least one and preferably several quality tourniquets. Google Dark Angel for kits and training.

  2. Have it all in both trucks. Plan to leave with both on our own Secret Highway. Can you guess It. We live in a non-flood area, so its an easy ride there and were on our way. Kind of like a 2 vehicle wagon train. You know, use one for cover and the other for flight if necessary. Other wise we’ll hunker down until we evaluate the situation before leaving.

  3. There’s a lot of things we could add to the list. I would include a couple of space blankets and triangular bandages to your first aid kit. They’re seldom included, they don’t take up much room and they’ll cover a multitude of sins. A copy of the ARC STANDARD FIRST AID AND PERSONAL SAFETY book would be another handy thing to have along.

    A plug for AAA might be good here too. Cash for tow emergencies would depend on how honest the tow operator is. I’ve seen a few instances with greedy drivers that you couldn’t stuff that much cash in your pockets. Some auto insurance plans offer similar protection at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately that’s only good this side of the border and we did a lot of roadside improvising in BAJA to get home.

  4. 1) If you are forced to drive during severe winter storms, fill your gas tank often — even if it is 3/4 full. It will give you a chance to get out of the car, stretch your legs and talk to others about weather and road conditions ahead.
    2) You must not get stranded overnight with only 1/4 tank of fuel!!!
    3)Keep your radio tuned to local stations for weather alerts, road closures, etc.
    4) While running your heater, don’t let the engine just idle. Rev it up to about 2,000 RPM so that the alternator keeps the battery charged.
    5) A light sleeping bag will keep you much warmer than just a blanket.
    6) Avoid getting comfortably warn — you will sweat then will be really cold when you must turn the heater off (never let it run continuously). You should strive to be just slightly chilly most of the time.
    7) If you see a snow plow approaching from behind you, immediately turn on your 4-way emergency flashers so he doesn’t hit your car with the plow which may extend 10 ft. or so beyond the side of the snow plow. (Keep snow brushed away from your tail lights).
    8) If you must get out of your car, take the keys with you so the doors do not automatically lock you out.
    9) Lots of other tips — just use your head and THINK.


    After working 21+ years and a private courier, I racked up a lot of miles in a year. While not specifically meant for cars, I used the best possible protection for my radiator and the “Best-Bang-For-the-Buck” Coolant protection I could find. I highly recommend Detroit Diesel Power Cool Plus. In either Concentrate or Pre-Diluted from, if there’s something better out there. I have no idea what it is.


    I have a Maxxima Model M84411-B White-LED Flat Panel Cargo Light mounted under the hood. It has a 331-Lumens rating and is Extremely Bright and has a 0.9-amp draw on the battery. It can be seen from great distances at night and can also be removed when needed for other duties, such as area lighting at night, camp lighting, etc. (you only limited by your imagination) and only measures ~29.3-Square Inches.

  7. Nice article.. however we, up here in the Upstate New York area have a few other things we usually keep in our vehicles. Getting stuck is a VERY real possibility or having to spend a night or more in your car is also a very real possibility. So here goes my emergency vehicle list:
    1. Roll of quarters. Vending machines will always take them and you never know when you’ll need them for emergency food.
    2. Along with the ‘cash for a tow’, which could be upwards of $200 or more up here, I prefer the $50 cash in $1 and $5 bills. Again, you never know when you might need a vending machine.
    3. Camping “toilet”.. and mine is basically a packet with 3 baggies in it that have a powder that turns into a gel when you ‘relieve’ yourself. You can find them in camping stores.
    4. Cold weather clothing. Blankets, extra coat, warm hats, emergency blanket (space blanket), gloves – two pair in case one gets wet, empty tin can, waterproof matches, emergency 20 hr candles (you’d be amazed how much heat will be given off by just one candle).
    5. Spare batteries for that extra flashlight you always carry.
    6. Few decks of cards. You need to keep your mind awake on something otherwise you’ll take the chance of falling asleep and may never wake up if it’s 20 below outside.
    7. Keep snow and rising water away from your car if possible. If not, put some sort of marker on the roof ‘antenna’ or some object that will make you more easily seen.
    8. Walk every hour. DVT blood clots in your legs are no laughing matter.
    9. Tools — if you’re so inclined.
    10. Can or two of “emergency flat tire fix” if that ‘tire patch kit’ listed above doesn’t work. The cans also will inflate your tire enough to drive on.
    11. Hand crank radio and flashlight. Good to know what the weather will or won’t be where you are.
    12. Bottle of windshield washer “below zero” solvent. I’ve used that to get unstuck from ice that had formed around a hot tire and snow melted.
    13. Safety reflective vest. Class III. Best to be SEEN and can be used to alert helicopter crews as needed when you wave it in the night.
    14. Food. I carry MREs. At least 3 of them. Prefer six.
    15. Emergency rations of water. Can buy them online or in camping stores. At least 20 to 40 4oz sealed bags.
    16. Toilet paper. Besides for the obvious, helps clean inside of windows too.
    17. Package of microfiber towels. These come in handy for lots of reasons.
    18. There is more.. but I think you get the hint.
    Be safe.. number one.


    Ground Black Pepper will stop small Radiator Leaks. Just apply into the Coolant and allow it to work through the radiator, and it will plug any small leaks. Until you can get it properly fixed or replaced.

    1. Instead of black pepper, why not just carry a can of radiator stop leak? Bar’s Leaks has been around for years and it does work.

    2. @ Bob in Mesa.

      If your like Richard, who carries a weeks worth of provisions in his car, your probably also going to be carrying condiments as well. Like, Salt, Sugar, Ground Black Pepper, etc. I just put I out there as an “Stop-Gap” emergency use item. You could us Duct Tape and Gunpowder, too. If your really resourceful.

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