Things To Keep In Your Car Kit

What’s in your car kit?

If you are like most other people, you probably spend a fair amount of time driving in your car. While it may seem like you could easily and quickly get help if you broke down or became stranded, please do not assume that this will always be the case.

What if you had to ‘bug out’ in your car?

Please consider any or all of the following items to include in your car kit…


In case you have to walk, you will need a backpack to keep your supplies in. A comfortable – quality pack for you, and an extra pack for any potential passenger (to help carry supplies – e.g. water is heavy).


I actually keep 2 pairs of gloves in the truck. One pair is a medium-weight winter pair and the other are work gloves. The winter gloves could become useful even during warmer months during cool rain or bad weather. The work gloves are a good quality leather and will become useful for any related task.


I keep at least 2 flashlights… one inside the vehicle for normal use, and the other in the backpack. Both are LED flashlights for longevity. For the one in the backpack, I keep the batteries out of the flashlight because it will be the least likely to be used and I don’t want battery acid leaking into the flashlight from aged batteries that I’ve forgotten about. I replace them once a year.

Signal Mirror

I keep this exact signal mirror, but any will do. An inexpensive and readily available solution are those compact mirrors that the ladies keep in their purses…

Water bottles

I store six conventional size water bottles which I keep inside of a small cooler (along with food bars) on the backseat floor. The cooler helps to slow down and temper the heat effect of high summertime temperatures which can really heat up the inside of a car.

LifeStraw Water Purifier

In case I exhaust my supply of water that I keep separately in the vehicle, I also keep the LifeStraw because it is small, simple, and you can drink directly from a stream or pond, etc. Having said that, ANY water filtration device is better than none. There are a number of portable water filters available that could fit in your backpack. You could also choose to keep water purification tablets, but check the expiration dates every year.

Water Container

In addition to my water bottles I have a steel water container, the kind that are typically used by hikers with a screw-on lid which also acts as a handle/loop for tying on to things. I prefer steel because you could boil the water if you needed to, and steel is safer than aluminum regarding consumption.


The most convenient and calorie dense food for a car kit are some sort of food bars. I keep a variety of them in a gallon size Ziploc bag, inside of the same cooler where I store the water bottles (and for the same reason). If I ever had to hoof it, I would simply put them in the backpack. I also keep a sealed DATREX pack of emergency food bars (these are what’s used on lifeboats – very compact and calorie dense).


Any knife will do. The sky’s the limit and there are a zillion choices. I always keep a pocket knife on my person, but I also have one reserved for the car kit backpack – a fixed blade knife.

Knife sharpener

I have several DMT knife sharpeners, but I like the DMT mini for the backpack because, you guessed it, it’s small.


Whatever you do, don’t forget the toilet paper. You will thank yourself should you ever need it! It weighs next to nothing and a roll of it consumes very little space in your backpack. Keep it sealed inside a one-gallon Ziploc bag (squish the roll a little to make it fit if you have to).

First Aid Kit

I keep a medium size First Aid Kit inside the vehicle itself. You could also choose to build your own mini First Aid Kit to keep in the car kit’s backpack. One first aid item that I highly recommend that you purchase separately (assuming your kit did not come with it) is a QuikClot or similar, to stop the bleeding in a serious accident situation.


Every prepper should own a supply of 550 paracord (the ‘550’ refers to load weight – pounds). I keep a supply of at least one full 1,000 foot roll at the house, of which I strip off what I need for various tasks, kits, etc. Spool up what you feel you need for your car kit backpack. I wrote this article awhile back on the Five Benefits of Paracord.


Keep a compass and know how to use it with a map.


I keep several maps in the truck. One National Road Atlas and at one road atlas for my state and surrounding states. I also keep several paper maps. Also consider getting a topographical map of your area or the areas that you frequently travel.

Fire Starter

In the backpack, I keep several sources of ignition including a magnesium flint, a lighter, and matches in waterproof container.


Keep a small supply of tinder in a waterproof container. I keep several Vaseline soaked cotton balls and store-bought kindling sticks in a small container in the backpack. If it’s wet and rainy, you might need this to start a fire… unless you’re Cody Lundin ;)


A cloth hand towel and/or bandana will have many uses, including water filtration of heavy sediment prior to further purification. A bandana on the head will drastically help keep the heat off and will absorb sweat. Having a cloth material assists with cleaning, splinting, strapping, and all sorts of countless uses.


I keep a small pad of paper and pencil sealed in a Ziploc bag. It could become useful to leave a note or notes for others if you leave your vehicle, etc. It’s also a good idea to have emergency documentation (hard copy paper) in your vehicle.

Rain poncho

Even in the summer, hypothermia can be an issue in the cool/wet rain. You must keep some sort of rain gear in the vehicle in case you have to hoof it. A small rain poncho is just that, small, and easily fit in your backpack in its original pouch that it came in.

Seasonal clothing extras

Always keep something extra. For example, in the summer you might consider to designate one of your sweatshirts or light-weight spring/fall jackets inside the car. It gets cool at night and you might need it. And, or, also keep a blanket, preferably wool.


This is a broad category, and I’ll leave it to you to decide what group of tools works best for you – regarding potential repair of a vehicle breakdown, etc.

Personal Protection

A weapon. Improvised or otherwise. Fact is, you may be glad you had it…

Walking Shoes

If you have to walk, and if you are not wearing comfortable walking shoes, you will be sorry you hadn’t kept a pair in the car.

You can go “all-out” and really fill up your car with emergency supplies, but these that I’ve listed I believe are fairly adequate for most any normal emergency situation while out in your vehicle.

Consider it food for thought.
A 72-hour kit of sorts.

Also, knowing that no two people would build the exact same kit, comment and add your own opinion or experience with putting together a basic preparedness car kit


  1. I have everything in this list in my truck. I use a different compact water filter, but still, the contents are categorically the same.

    I would add:

    Small Lightweight Tarp
    Handheld Radio
    Spare Batteries for Radio and Flashlight(s)
    External Power Pack for Phone

    My teenage son was once stranded on the roadside, and his phone was dead. Fortunately, I had him outfitted with some basic supplies, including an external power pack, giving him emergency power for his phone to call for help.

  2. Good list. Most are in mine. I also have a tire plug kit, 2 cans of slime, compressor and a commercial hose bib key to get water. I’ve been thinking about the cooler idea. Tired of changing food. Plus put the 1st aide kit in the cooler also. I figure I will only take this when going out of local area. I also keep a construction crayon in case you need to mark on walls. (Disaster scenario) Most people have whistles, don’t forget ear plugs. Try blowing that whistle in a confined room. You will have them in your bag.

    “Critical Thought” – stupid me. I will add a radio to mine. Hats are mandatory for me. They are everywhere. Unfortunately the hair is departing my presence. :-)

    1. Yeah, let’s not talk about the whole hair thingy. The departing hair is one of the reasons I always have a hat around…not so much for vanity, but for keeping the sun off a scalp that is less protected with each passing year. LOL!

  3. My vehicle gear is nearly identical to Ken’s list with the inclusion of CriticalThought’s list. I keep a winter kit all year, which is a compression stuff sack with warm, thick socks, snow pants, goretex shell, and thermal (wool) base layers. An extra pair of shoes and a “broken in” pair of combat boots. A trench tool/shovel, axe, and portable solar recharging kit complete my vehicle load out.

  4. Many years ago (40) I lived in Las Vegas. One day in the summer I took my pickup truck off road and into a wash in the Valley of Fire. Temperatures were in the 115 range. I got stuck trying to drive out. It was up hill in soft sand and loose gravel of the wash bed. Back then Las Vegas was a much smaller town and no one visited the Valley of the Fire in the Summer so the chance of someone driving by on the nearby road was zip. Luckily I had a shovel with me (OK, I was digging out red sand to use in a landscaping project on my home). My truck was buried to the rear axle and I had to dig it out and dig a path for the wheels. Without going into all the details it took awhile and I was pretty damned thirsty by the time I got back to blacktop. Without that shovel I’m not sure I would have made it out. Not having any water would have sealed my fate. In the desert you cannot have too much water with you and off road a shovel is a necessity.

  5. I agree with Ken’s list. However, I keep a 9mm Sig with two spare mags because……..terrorists.

    That said, perhaps sanitary stuff for the women in your group and a day or two worth of any prescription meds.

  6. I like things that can serve more than one purpose; so instead of a tarp and rain coat, I have a couple of large heavy duty trash bags, could be used for many things: tarp, rain gear, ground cloth, carry sack, etc.

    It gets so hot here that cigarette lighters will explode inside a closed vehicle, so to keep a few of those in my pack I wrap them with several feet of duct tape. It keeps them from exploding and is useful itself for lots of things.
    (you’ll think you’ve been shot at if a lighter explodes while you’re in the vehicle with it *ask me how I know* :), it’s that loud, and flying plastic shrapnel is really dangerous)

  7. I don’t have all those things. I do have some other things, though

    Hiking Boots
    Wool hat(s)
    Several kinds of gloves including liner gloves, mittens, leather gloves…
    Small stove (for boiling water)
    Cell phone
    Blanket or sleeping bag
    Head lamp
    Jumper cables
    Fruit juice, M&M’s
    Food and water for my dog, who is usually with me wherever I go.
    Big Atlases with lots of maps of nearby states. And local maps.
    Topo maps if I am in the mountains.

    I am too old to do much hiking these days, but I still have the supplies I used to have when I regularly hiked with the Colorado Mountain Club. Including lots of extra jackets, hats, ponchos and gloves for people who might be with me or that I run into on the trail who were usually unprepared.

  8. I too have everything except the knife sharpener and compass. I was never very good with a compass. In addition I also have cell phone charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket of which I was glad I had one day when I was locked out of the office that my job sent me too, and my cell phone was dead (as it frequently is because I never use it). I will have to look into an external power pack as I didn’t know there was such a thing.

    I also have a 3-wick candle that I made in and Altoids metal tin using bee’s wax. The bee’s wax has a much higher melting point so it doesn’t melt in a hot car.

  9. Essentially, I have similar items on the list, I also carry Nikon binocular for scouting the travel path and magnifying glass (back up for fire starting), I have a Texas CCL and therefore a 1911 on me. In my truck, a Marlin 336-30.30 with scope. A deer rifle does not arose curiosity.

    1. Man, I’m glad you posted. I had put binoculars on my list of things to add a while back, and just completely forgot about them. I’ll have a pair in the truck by the weekend.

      1. binoculars. knife. lighter. good stuff I added in my list from here.

  10. I have no trunk space left in my Scion XB due to all the gear I carry in the back and under the seats. Next year when I retire and no longer commute I will get a truck. Thanks for all the info above, I am going to add more gear this week. I love this site.

  11. Your suggestions are good. The two things that jump to mind other than your list for vehicles is duct tape and zip ties. You cant go wrong with a full roll of tape especially the “Gorilla” brand. For zip ties I suggest going to the dollar store or Harbor Freight and get a variety pack. Larger ones are good for vehicle repairs in conjunction with the tape. Smaller ones are very useful for repairs or modifications to your personal gear bag etc.

  12. More years ago then I care to admit, when I was living in Denver we received a couple of feet of snow. I made it out okay but one of my friends had to ditch his car (due to traffic jams) and had to walk several miles to his home. After that I changed my hiking boots to a waterproof winter hiking boot.

    Also I talked to a few folks that got caught in the traffic mess in Atlanta earlier this year. Several of them said, they wished they had a deck of cards and/or a book in their car to help pass the time.

    Guess what I added to my to my vehicle.

    1. I moved to Aurora in ’96. I was walking home in a few feet of snow. I didn’t know that I was walking through an area that was terraced. Oops. Fell into several feet of snow. Had to climb back up the terrace.

      Don’t live there anymore.

  13. I am working on all this stuff! One idea I had had was eye glasses. I wear contacts and can’t see very far without them. My eyes can’t handle wearing them for more than 2 days straight. Got a cheap pair of prescription ones I keep in my car at all times and another pair in my BOB.

  14. It’s also a good idea to keep a charged, extra phone in your glove compartment, even a cheap flip phone without a cell plan. They can still call 911 if you need to.

Comments are closed.