Having a few things in the car in case of emergency is just a smart thing to do, especially if you make longer trips, or live where the weather can be unpredictable! I tend to have a bunch of stuff in my car on a regular basis since we use my car as transport for production and design projects all the time, but I got to thinking about what should really be in our cars (not the heap of crap that was in mine) in case something goes sideways while you’re on the road.
I put together a list of a few of my favorite things that could make your day a lot better in a pinch – or really save your biscuit in case of an emergency. While this isn’t completely comprehensive, it’s a super start.
My mom gave me an auto escape hammer when I was a teenager, in a Christmas stocking, with a very knowing look that implied, ‘this item could one day save your life!’ I’m confident I got my ‘preparedness gene’ from her. As I’m pretty sure I traded in my Ford Taurus with that auto escape hammer in it, I think a new one might be in order.
This auto escape tool has a steel point for breaking the glass in your car in case you are submerged in water or your car is on fire and you need to get out. It’s also got a razor-sharp blade to help you cut a driver or passenger seatbelt if it won’t unhook. Pretty handy, if you’ve ever come across an accident on the road, or you’re not that good at holding your breath…
Along with that auto escape tool, my mom popped a set of jumper cables into the trunk. She wrote up an index card with the proper order and position to place each of the heavy-duty alligator clamps and laminated it, putting it with my jumper cables. The 12′ red and black insulated cables are copper, and ideal for jump starting a dead or weak battery with two cars parked nose to nose or side by side.
If you’re gonna jump start your car, it helps not to get run over while you do it, right? You can buy flares, but I like these reusable, reflective triangles – you’ll never be without their cheerful assistance. Easy to set up, this set of three collapsible reflectors can alert motorists, day or night, that you’re working on the car or in trouble.
Poking around under the hood at night can be really, really dark – so a powerful flashlight is exactly what you need. I like a lot of things about this tactical one – it’s light weight, and has a clip so that you can attach it to your sleeve or car so you don’t have to hold it while you work. It’s textured so it won’t slip around if your hands are wet, takes AA batteries and is surprisingly powerful, and has a zoomable focus to concentrate or widen light.
A blown-out tire on the road can be one of the scariest roadside issues. This aerosol tire sealant purportedly repairs flat tires caused by punctures up to about a ¼”, and works with all tubeless tires, and TPMS systems.
Every home and car should have a first aid kit! I like this small tactical first aid kit that’s been put together for you, because it is chock full of 120 physician recommended items. From band-aids to an ice pack soothe a kid who fell down, to the tools to help you deal with a more serious trauma while you wait for first responders, this first aid kit is where it’s at. Also, it’s camo and I love it!
All it takes is a few minutes outside in the rain to be completely soaked. A no-frills poncho can go on over your jacket or clothes, and keep your upper body dry without compromising your ability to, say, change a tire or jump start a car.
It goes without saying that when we’re in our cars, we all can make some of the BEST messes. I always keep wipes in the car, but have started keeping these heavy-duty wipes too – because they are slightly larger, and cover more ground – like your greasy hands after changing a tire.
Getting rear-ended is the pits. But having half your bumper drag on the ground the whole way home adds insult to injury. Enter: duct tape. I’m pretty sure duct tape can solve a zillion problems, but I like the black version instead of shiny silver – so you can repair your stuff in stealth mode.
On a recent work trip, I had a rental car and had the distinct pleasure of an early snow storm surprising me overnight, leaving a charming (read: frozen solid) layer of snow on my car. I wished fervently that the rental car company was kind enough to put one in the trunk, but … no. In honor of that moment, I offer you this handy ice scraper.
Nothing feels better than tucking a set of these hand warmers into your gloves, while you scrape off the windshield. I no longer live in the freezing East Coast, but fondly remember these tiny, air-activated warmers from skiing trips. They’d be immensely handy if you were stuck in the cold.
If you live, or drive through, somewhere cold – having a shovel in your car could mean the difference between getting home – or getting stuck. This collapsible shovel doesn’t take up a ton of space, but could be a serious part of your snow arsenal in a pinch.
Now here’s where I admittedly veer off into survival mode, but it has been known to happen to people – getting trapped in their car for some length of time. One of the most important things to keep in your car is water, people! Bottled water is a choice that lots of people make for ease, but I offer you another option: water pouches. These durable, filtered water pouches have a five year shelf life, and can withstand very high and low temperatures. A standard water bottle would explode if frozen, and overall are not a good solution if your car temps get very hot in the summer. Plastic bottles leach chemicals into their contents in hot temps – and these pouches don’t! Put a few in your glove box or in the pocket of your car door, and your basic daily needs for water will be met.
I hope you never have to experience being stuck in your car somewhere overnight, waiting for someone to come help. One of the scariest things about being stuck overnight, for me, is the possibility that my car might not be able to run and keep me warm – because it’s out of gas or damaged from an accident. Your risk of hypothermia greatly increases if your body is wet, or you’ve been in the elements at length, so keeping body heat up is vital. This tiny emergency ‘sleeping sack‘ (or bivy) reflects 90% of your body heat back to you, when you put it on. With its’ ‘mummy’ shape, you can pull it all the way up around your face to keep yourself warm in a real emergency.
I’m betting you’ve never seen this one. If you have, well, then YOU should have written this list! Survival Tabs are chewable emergency food, small and round, and when you eat them they sort of feel like a subtle, flavored tablet – about the same texture as a Flintstone Vitamin! While not unappealing, they are certainly a survival food. With a 25 year shelf life, you can buy these babies and tuck them in your car – and maybe even pass them on to the next owner of your car like I passed along my very first auto escape hammer!
How full-circle is that? Here’s hoping you never need any of this, but a little preparedness goes a long way when you hit a bump in the road. Learn more about staying safe while on the road with our Unsolicited Advice article, “Winter Happens, So Pack A Car Kit“.
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