Whether you’re running to the grocery store or taking the Great All-American Road Trip, your vehicle should be home to a car emergency kit. A quick web search will confirm that car kits come in a variety of sizes and compositions: there are small kits designed to deal with minor medical issues and breakdowns in town, larger kits for off-roading and/or long distance journeys, all the way up to full size survival kits for folks going into the backcountry. Rally drivers racing across the Australian Outback or the Sahara will often carry a huge number of spare parts in case of a breakdown and enough outdoor gear for a long-term expedition.
Which of these is best for you? That depends—on how, where, and how often you drive, the kind of vehicle you’ve chosen, and your individual preferences. In general, there are some core components that all of us should have in our trunks or bed-boxes:
- A First Aid Kit. It’s a must, as I’ve said before. You can put together a basic one fairly cheaply, or a larger and more advanced kit for longer drives away from town. The choice is yours, but make sure you have one and that you know how to use it.
- A Cell Phone and Charger. Communication is vital, so make sure you can reach out and touch someone if you need to.
- Flares and an Emergency Warning Triangles. If you have a breakdown, you’ll need to alert other drivers to avoid further catastrophe as you wait on the side of the road.
- A Tow Rope. If you need to pull your car out of a ditch or off the road, it’s an essential tool.
- Blankets and Clothing for Inclement Weather. If you break down in cold or rainy weather, you’ll be glad you included these.
- Bottled Water and Snack Food. Comfort items for a long commute or a breakdown.
- An Empty Gallon Jug and Toilet Paper. Just trust me on this one.
- A Fire Extinguisher. A large all-rated fire extinguisher, at that. Make sure you check it regularly to make sure it’s ready to use.
- A Flashlight or Two and Extra Batteries. It’ll get dark eventually, so make sure you’re ready.
- Work Gloves. For emergency repairs and other rough duty.
- Jumper Cables. If you don’t need them, someone else will. Be prepared to be a good Samaritan.
- Foam Tire Sealant. You may need to fix a flat in a hurry. This stuff works great.
- A Tire Gauge. Keep an eye on that air pressure.
- A Jack, a Tire Iron, and a Spare Tire. In case the tire sealant can’t do the job.
- Basic Tools. A couple of screwdrivers, some pliers, and the all-essential duct tape. You can do a lot with a little if you know how.
- Rags and Hand Sanitizer. You may need to clean up after an emergency repair.
- Maps of Your Area. GPS can and will go down at the worst possible moment. Have a paper backup.
- Contact Info For Your Friends and Family. A critical part of any emergency plan, and doubly important on the road. You might want to have a tow service in there, too.
- I never go anywhere without a book or two. Make sure you’ve got something in your car to kill the time while waiting for a tow.
There’s a host of other items you might need depending on your location and season, but we’ll discuss those circumstances in future articles. For now, this should get you started—and the basics can go a long way with a little creativity!