Car travel is a wonderful way to see the world, but it also comes with potential challenges: flat tires, empty gas tanks, accidental wrong turns. And when you’re really getting out there, those wrong turns can lead to situations that require a good bit of self-sufficiency.
We’ve created a go-to car emergency kit featuring items to keep you prepared should anything happen while you’re on the road.
No-Spill Gas Can: It’s hard to get in the habit of driving around with a small gas can, but trust us - you don’t need it until you do. And when you run out of gas, this will be your BFF.
Jumper Cables: Essential for jump-starting a dead car battery. Why hope that someone else has the cables you need to get back on the road?
Roadside glow sticks, flares, or flare alternatives: Stay visible, stay safe, and attract help when you need it most. Plus, flares are cool, right?
Matches and a lighter: Let’s hope you don’t end up having to spend the night after a breakdown, but when you do - fire is life.
Drinking Water: When you’re way out there, it’s best to bring extra water - whether you break down or not. One gallon per person per day is a smart starting point for setting out on any trip.
Headlamp: Being able to see (and be seen) in the dark is a huge benefit should an issue arise. Whether it's working on your car, or walking through the woods, a headlamp is a much better alternative to a flashlight. Just don't shine that thing in my eyes though, okay?
Trek Light Gear Blanket(s): Waiting for AAA or roadside assistance can get chilly. Keep a durable blanket in the car as an added piece of protection against the weather (or if you just want to lie off the side of the road while you wait). The blanket can be used as a backseat cover year-round so it doesn’t take up any extra space and you have it when you need it.
Small Tool Kit: You don’t need your entire toolbox, but a small tool kit or multi-tool can come in handy for fixes you can do yourself.
Spare Tire & Jack: Flat tires don’t need to slow you down (too much). Have the essentials ready - a suitable jack and lug wrench - and know how to change a flat. Don’t forget to check the air pressure on your spare tire periodically - there’s nothing worse than finding out your spare is just another flat.
Work Gloves: A pair of good work gloves can do double-duty when you break down. They can help protect your hands when you need to change a tire or get near a hot engine, and they can also keep your hands warm when the temperatures drop. Keep them in the glove compartment, duh!
First-Aid Kit: Small cuts, stomach aches, and minor issues can be handled with a kit that covers the basics. Whether changing a tire or working on the engine, injuries can happen when you’re broken down - a basic first aid kit is always a smart item to have with you.
Hand crank radio: If you run into a crisis or natural disaster situation while on the road, a hand crank radio is easy to charge and can help you know where to go for safety (and where not to go) when you need it most.
Portable Hammock: When you’re really broken down and not going anywhere, you don’t really want to sleep on the ground, do you? A compact and lightweight hammock stows easily in your car, and let’s be honest - you shouldn’t just use it in emergencies.
Batteries: Keep a stash handy for flashlights, radios, and other items that might require power.
Fire extinguisher: If a small fire ignites, you’ll be ready. Pack a small fire extinguisher designed specifically for automobiles and always be prepared for the worst.
Okay, you read the list - now put it to use and start adding the items you're missing to your car today!
Here's to safe travels and scenic drives.
Maggie Dodson is a creative writer living in New York City. An avid hiker and film buff, she spends most of her days sneaking wine into movie theaters and climbing mountains in the Hudson Valley with her husband and rescue dogs, Billie Holiday and Walnut.
For book + wine pairings and her merry misadventures, follow Maggie on IG at @maggiesdodson.
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