Emergency Car Travel Kits: What gear to Take with you on the Road

Having an emergency roadside vehicle kit is an important part of being prepared.  Having the right equipment can mean the difference between getting back on the road in one piece, and being stuck in a situation that could quickly turn ugly.

A flat Tire on the side of the Road

List of Items that Should be in Your Roadside Emergency Kit

Food & Water

Food and water should be on the top of your list of considerations, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • A Gallon of water per person, per day for every day you plan on being out on the road.
  • High Energy, High-Calorie Foods like nuts, energy bars, and sardines.
  • Sugar, Hard Candy, and foods that provide quick energy and morale boosts.

Shelter & Protection from the Weather

Protecting yourself from the elements, especially in the case of a breakdown, is an important consideration when selecting emergency gear for your vehicle.

  • Sleeping bags rated for your climate and a couple of wool blankets for each person in the vehicle.
  • A small tent, tarp and some paracord for stringing up an emergency shelter.
  • Extra clothing for the environments you are traveling through.
  • Hats, Gloves, socks and an extra pair of hiking shoes.

Communications Gear:

Having a way to communicate during an evacuation or disaster is essential to your survival. From contacting loved ones to staying on top of disaster-related news you need to have multiple ways to communicate and gather information during your time on the road.

  • Cellphone with Backup Cell Charger.
  • A good potable solar panel to charge your radios and your cell phones. Check out our list of the top portable solar chargers.
  • CB Radio & or a multiband ham radio.
  • Flares & other Signaling devices

Survival Gear:

Vehicle Specific Gear:

  • A Good Quality Floor Car Jack
  • Tire Chains or a set of Trac-Grabbers (perfect for extra traction in  snow, mud & sand)
  • Traction Matts (Great for getting unstuck in snow, mud & sand)
  • Tire Pump, Patches & a can of Fix a Flat
  • Spare Tire (preferably full size)
  • Jumper Cables
  • Zip Ties
  • Spare Hoses, Fan Belts, and Hose Clamps
  • Shovel (to dig your way our if you get stuck)
  • Oil, Transmission Fluid, Antifreeze, Brake Fluid and Windshield Wiper Fluid. (Don’t forget the Funnel)
  • Gas Can (if you can safely carry it on your vehicle)
  • Good Set of tools (wrenches, Vice Grips, screwdrivers, wire cutters, multitool, etc…)
  • Duct tape & Electrical Tape
  • Extra Fuses
  • Windshield Scrapper & Brush
  • Tow chain or a Tow Strap.
  • Rags

What’s in your car/truck kit?

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  1. Got many, many years of off-roading, rock-crawling, and trailriding – the above was a good list, but for trail-side repairs or in the event of needing to fix your overland vehicle or cannibalize off of other abandoned vehicles in a SHTF scenario… I was able to pack most of my kits into 1 or 2 heavy-duty gear bags. The kind that keep their shape when opened helps a lot, especially when you need to rummage around it looking for something.


    Baling wire: Wrap a bunch of it around a piece of wood or tool handle.
    Funnel: Amazing how many people leave this out of the list
    Tarp: (I am a fan of vinyl shower curtains – fold up small, good to use as a drop cloth or overhead cover)
    Assortment of nuts & bolts
    Hose Clamps
    Break free: PBlaster is great – quite flammable too
    Flashlight category should include some sort of head-mounted light so you can work under a car or in an engine compartment with both hands free – LED kind is ideal.
    KNOWLEDGE: Bring what you think you may need, but if you don’t have some basic automotive maintenance repair skills or even understanding, you’re just dragging around a lot of extra weight.

  2. I love this- I would just add something that i recently learned about. For those traveling with children, make sure you have their information taped on the back of their car seat. Vital information that can save their life in the event they are transfered to the hospital. They dont take the children out of the car seats, its like their own back board so they leave them in. You might not be able to verbally tell anyone your childs name, age, blood type or allergies.

  3. The funnel idea is a excellent one, make it a long skinny one that can be used in the small fuel filler hole all cars have today. It is really hard to put fuel in a car with out one. Tire plug kit is very usefull.. you don’t even have to remove the tire from the vechicle.

  4. I have a battery powered jumpstarter/air compressor/ radio/ flashlight/ 12V outlet and AC inverter unit. It’s a WAGAN Powerdome 400, about $110 on Amazon.

  5. this is a great idea, i’ve never thought of a car travel kit, the only thing i can think of right now to add is extra light bulbs for the car incase a bulb goes u dont want to have a crash because u cant see anything

  6. I would add an emergency windshield (clear plastic material sold in car shops), an extra fuel cap, and radiator cap. Yes those tire plug kit with some rubber plug and glue works in tandem with the mini compressor. An extended light that can be attached to the batteries or the cig lighter can help one work around the vehicle better. I also carry a cig lighter plugged hand held search light. Dont forget the EWD, any kind. MFCW. thanks.

  7. good list … got it covered all but the gas can I’ve spilled to to many gals. of fuel trying to carry extra… you need to add a axe or saw to your list cutting chunks of wood to place in the ruts is a main stay for redneck car removal

  8. I would also include some JB Weld, I have used that to repair a damaged radiator before. Maybe some silicone gasket maker and a siphon pump.

  9. a siphon hose is good; an extra few gallons of gasoline or diesel fuel (small amounts of diesel are good for liquid fuel candles); a tire plugging kit for quick-fixing a tubeless tire ($5 or less at any auto parts store); water purification tablets and/or chlorox; large garbage sacks (not for refuse, but for raincoats, tarps and draped over a large hole in the ground to recover distilled water for drinking); a very good quality shovel to dig this hole, as well as to bury human waste and valuables–including canned food (you can bet that the chances of burglary/robbery are going to be dramatically increased); several hundred feet of light cordage (1/8 in diameter/plastic coated because it ties easily and securely)*; an full sized axe**; a couple of good chef knives; a whetstone; a CB radio; an am radio with several changes of AA batteries; a number of cigarette lighters/candles; the SAS survival handbook–because you don’t practice this every day. Consider the value of a bicycle! * ** essential for building a shelter to provide shade in hot environments as well as a haven in cold ones–to break up dried wood for fires (green wood WON’T burn!); a simple leaf rake has great value for collecting tinder–BUT THINK OF YOUR WATER SUPPLY FIRST***–saving a few dozen milk jugs full or even bringing along a pitcher pump might be useful ***you can go without food for days

  10. I wonder about the water. Among other things. I live in an area that gets below freezing for months out of the year. What do you do about extreme cold temperatures, and how do you protect your gear?
    I do most of the work on my own vehicles, so I carry an insane amount of tools with me. I’m constantly in my car, so I carry a ton of my emergency supplies there. That way, if I’m home, or at work, I’m covered.

    One thing I’ve seen, in living in upstate NY for 33 years, is people forget some basic car care skills or tips, and no one thinks of them until SHTF.

    1. Don’t put things like a fire extinguisher in the trunk. You need to get at it ASAP. Bolt it under the driver seat if possible.
    2. Spray all your locks and hinges with graphite. Keeps moisture out, and keeps locks from sticking in cold weather.
    3. Spray all rubber seals, as well as tires (to prevent dry rot) with a silicone based spray (Black Magic Tire Wet). This keeps moisture from sticking your doors shut. (Don’t forget the trunk seals as well!)
    4. If you have a car with a trunk, and a back seat that does not fold down, keep important items inside the car when possible. If you crash, get stuck, or whatever, and you need to get to those items, a trunk that is stuck shut will be your biggest obstacle. Keeping the seals clean, all the drains and hinges clean will reduce the chance your trunk gets stuck shut. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to help pry open someone’s trunk that was frozen shut to get a spare tire, or jack out.
    5. Snatch strap. Not a traditional tow rope, but a flexible strap. The bungee like effect will help small cars pull out ones much heavier than a usual tow rope. I’ve pulled out 18 wheelers with my old car using this. Even if you don’t need it, someone else you come across might!

  11. I like the food idea. But what I do is throw a box of granola bars from costco (96 pieces). Its not that big and it will last you forever and it wont spoil for a while.

    I also bring 600′ of pink streamer (basically pink 1″ rope) which is great for identifying your location and using as rope. Can be bought at Home Depot.

    Extra hose clamps
    Fishing wire
    Emergency Strobe light (can be seen much further than other lights)
    Multi-tool with auto-glass breaker/seatbelt (keep it next to the driver)

  12. Good list and comments. I’m a traveling sales man on the road quite a bit, so thinking practically on a day to day basis, I have the following adds/ideas:
    – paper towels
    – roll of toilet paper
    – Contact case/solution/extra contacts since I have bad eyes
    – 1 pair of socks (walking in the rain to a gas station)
    – extra underwear (been stuck overnight before)
    The TP for both emergencies on the side of the road, or when the hotel has particularly bad paper themselves. Love the shower curtain as a drop cloth to check under the car. Planning on getting a silicon funnel that collapses flat to replace the standard one in my car to save space.

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