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Get Prepared With An Emergency Car Kit: The Ultimate Car Go Bag

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: November 9, 2021
Get Prepared With An Emergency Car Kit: The Ultimate Car Go Bag

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We all know what a bug-out bag is:  “A portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster.” You will hear such a kit referred to by many other names, including “72-hour kit”, “go bag” or “G.O.O.D (get out of dodge) bag”. 

The exact term you use is not really important since the whole goal is to have basic essentials for survival readily available should disaster strike.

A couple of days ago I wrote about the myriad of things that could happen to put you and your family in a bug-out situation (see A list for those that think it will never happen to them)

Some situations, such as an earthquake or tsunami, are natural disasters, and others, such as a nuclear melt-down or civil disobedience, are man-made. The common thread with all of these disasters is the need to mobilize quickly and to have everything you need ready – really ready – with no scrambling around or afterthought.

So imagine this.  You are on a road trip and your vehicle stops.  It is early evening and starting to get dark but you are pretty handy around cars so you open the hood, move a few hoses and wires around, then try to get things going again. 

You are alone and there is little if any traffic on the deserted road.  As much as you try, the engine is deader than a doornail and you are stuck.  It is now dark and there you are in the middle of nowhere.

Darn, you forgot to charge your cell phone battery so you can’t call for assistance.  And man oh man, it is starting to get cold.  You are hungry and you are thirsty.

What I have described is a situation where a bug-out bag in your back seat or trunk would become invaluable.  So today, I will list out some essentials for the car kit and challenge you to gather these items and more so that you will be ready if and when you are stuck in your car for an extended period of time.

Best Practices: 46 Items to Include in Your Car Go Bag

This list was sent to us by one of our readers, it’s quite handy for when you’re shopping so that you don’t forget anything.

  1. Tow chains
  2. Jumper cables
  3. Spare tire
  4. Tire jack
  5. Fix-a-flat  — Also check out BDS DIY Tire Fix Kit article
  6. Fire extinguisher
  7. Gasoline funnel
  8. Candles
  9. Flashlight
  10. Cigarette lighters
  11. Matches
  12. Flares
  13. Duct tape: Learn about the many ways to use duct tape
  14. Disposable gloves
  15. Well-stocked first aid kit (here is one I put together myself)
  16. Well-stocked tool kit
  17. Solar blankets
  18. Wool blankets
  19. Warm socks
  20. Rain coat
  21. Cash (bills and coins)
  22. Winter hat
  23. Heavy gloves
  24. A sleeping system; heavy sleeping bag for winter, lighter sleeping bag for summer
  25. Paper
  26. Pen
  27. Whistle
  28. List of important phone numbers
  29. Can opener
  30. Knife
  31. Map
  32. Garbage bags in various sizes
  33. Paracord or rope
  34. Quart of oil
  35. Sewing kit
  36. Baby wipes
  37. Toilet paper — See article: Are You Toilet Paper Prepared?
  38. Hand soap
  39. Comb
  40. Hair brush
  41. Tooth brush
  42. Change of clothes
  43. Various towels in Ziploc bags (women can use to urinate in if caught in traffic)
  44. Water
  45. Water filter (such as the Lifestraw)
  46. Edible nuts stored in raw honey

I don’t know about you, but I got some good ideas from this list.  And shame on me; for all of my foresight, I did not have a fire extinguisher in my car. Thanks, Elaine, for your valuable contribution to Backdoor Survival and to our preps!

Consider Getting a Concealed Carry Permit if You Travel a Lot Alone

State laws vary on concealed carry permits. Some states recognize permits from some other states. Check your state rules and those of the areas you travel in or plan to before carrying but there is something to be said for having a legal right to carry a firearm in your vehicle.

While times may be okay now, they can quickly change. Even if you do not think it is necessary now, it is nice to have the option. The classes are easy and cheap to take. Yes, it is a bit of a hassle and honestly, I think that it is just another tax to exercise your right to bear arms but it is best to go the legal route.

Some states like Alaska are open carry. I remember when living up there that it was no big deal to carry a firearm. Of course, I also recommend that you don’t carry any firearm with you or in your car that you are not 100% proficient and comfortable with.

This means taking it out and practicing sometimes. I don’t care how long you have been around firearms, you get rusty if you don’t get out there and shoot some practices rounds and practice how to maintain and troubleshoot your firearm.

Also, you want to always follow the rule of not pointing unless you really intend on using it. Just pointing a gun at someone can be considered a major assault charge in a lot of places. Scary situations can lead to unclear thinking.

Tire Fix Kit

You don’t want to be stuck on the road because of something as simple as a flat tire. Check out the post “Tire Fix Kit For SHTF” for complete details. Some items to consider for basic repairs include:

  • Fix A Flat (Make sure to get the one that is rated for highway speeds)
  • 12 Volt Inflater. If your battery is the problem then this won’t help but if it is just a flat then you can get your tire pumped up in little time.
  • Spare Tire
  • Jack and other tools to change a tire

Always remember to make sure that your spare tire is properly inflated every few months and right before any hazardous driving conditions. If the weather forecaster says that there is a storm coming your way and you know that you will probably have to drive in it then you should check out your car.

Pet Supplies

There are a lot of people that travel with their dogs. If you do this often then make sure to plan for them too. A few days of dog food, some treats, an extra leash, and a few days of any daily meds they take is a good idea. Chew toys can help them pass the time waiting for the situation they are in to change.

That being said it is important to make sure your dog has their rabies tag on and it is up to date when traveling. This is the one vaccination that the law pays the most attention to.

Further Resource: you can learn more about Pet Survival Kits here.

Bathroom Supplies

There are various ways to handle the need to use the bathroom and when you’re not anywhere near one. Carrying a roll of toilet paper in your car or putting together a hygiene kit for your car is not a bad idea. There are also various urinal-like appliances that you can have on hand but most of you are probably fine with roughing it without all that.

Supplies For Children

Getting trapped on the side of the road with kids poses its own set of challenges. It is a good idea to have some entertainment in the car for them. Nowadays a lot of kids have battery-powered electronics so they may have some entertainment with them.

Some battery banks stashed back can provide some extra power or you can pack some old-fashioned entertainment suitable to the age of your kids. How about putting together a small tote that has a few items in it?

Also, make sure that when you are packing emergency food and medications that you do not leave out the kids that travel with you. 3 days’ worth of food for you is one thing but 3 days’ worth of food for you and two kids or a family of 4 is a different scenario altogether.

Remote vs Urban Break Downs

This post was written from the perspective of being out in the middle of nowhere when a breakdown occurs. If you don’t normally travel that far from civilization then you may be able to narrow down how much supplies and the type of supplies you keep in your car kit.

Walking Shoes

There are some great shoes out there that are gorgeous and fun and all that but they are certainly not made for covering some ground if needed. I don’t go anywhere very far from home without having some shoes that I can cover a little ground in if need be.

Walking 3 miles in flip-flops is not something I am too keen on. If you have some idea of where you are and can walk to get help then that may be the best solution. Of course, this is weather-dependent as well. In some cases, you are better off staying put for a while until conditions improve somewhat.

You may need to change up the footwear that you keep in your car for walking sometimes or at least make sure you have thicker socks if you have to walk in colder conditions.

Flare Gun

For those that travel a lot, especially in areas where there are still some very isolated places, a flare gun is not a bad idea. There are plenty of cases of people running off the road and not being found until it is too late or they are in a lot worse shape.

There are places in the mountains where if you ran off the road but were not visible right from the roadway, that you may not be found in time even if there is a search effort going on. Thick vegetation can mean death in extreme circumstances. A flare gun that is tucked away but still relatively accessible can allow you to signal for help.

Final Thoughts

This just happens to be my list and a pretty darn good one the average for Joe and Josie.  But this is just a starting point since your needs may vary, especially if you have children in which case you would also want to include some small toys and other amusements to keep the little ones occupied.

Getting stuck in a vehicle could happen anytime, anywhere.  Think about the list above and add the additional items that suit your particular situation.  As with all of the weekly preps in my “Getting Prepared” series, nothing is written in permanent ink.  Every situation, every household, and every budget is different.   The important thing is to take that first step.

The moment is now.



Aff | Tactical Pen

[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon

Tactical Pen / Multi-Tool (Flashlight, knife, etc)

Stay Protected
Aff | Tactical Pen
[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon Stay Protected

36 Responses to “Get Prepared With An Emergency Car Kit: The Ultimate Car Go Bag”

  1. Great information from the article and even more information from the comments. The list you provided will surely be used in my car. And I am so glad you tell us what car you have. I have a smaller vehicle and wasn’t sure if I could fit the list in my car but it worked great. Thank you so much!

  2. Here’s how a south american guvmint (Chile) views this problem:

    a fire extinguisher
    a safety triangle
    a spare tire
    a med kit

    and the latest: a reflective vest.

    The *stoopit* part of the vest is that it only needs to be IN the car (not in the trunk). And it MUST be saturn yellow. It can’t be any other colour. It can be draped over the driver’s seat or hanging on a clothes hook or in the glove box. There is no obligation whatsoever to actually WEAR it.

  3. Don’t forget the plastic liners from wine in a box. They can be used as a seat cushion, flotation device, etc. very handy and made out of a tough grade of plastic. Very handy.

    • I keep a 120+ psi hand pump in my truck – great for keeping bike tires pumped up let alone 100+ psi 2 liter water bottle rockets 😉

  4. What size car are you driving? If I put all that crap into my Honda Fit there would be no room left for anything else other than the driver. I’m 74 and doubt that long-term “survival” is any real option anyway. Thanks, but I’ll pass on this one.

    • I don’t. My wife drives a two door Honda, I drive a Toyota 4X2 with the extra fake back seat (not the four door model). We both keep most of the stuff on the list in each vehicle. Since we live in Hawaii we don’t need the cold weather stuff, and people on the Mainland wouldn’t need it in the summer. A small backpack carries much of it, and the rest goes in her trunk or in a plastic box in my back seat.

      Still, if you think it takes up too much space, eliminate whatever you want. The list in’t a command: it’s suggestions for things to consider. Water, food (we like Lifeboat Rations as they taste good and are packed for long life in hot/cold conditions), a first aid kit, jumper cables, a couple or three flashlights, a cable to charge your phone, a small blanket, duct tape, a few disposable ponchos and a few other things don’t really take up much room.

      PS: We keep a small gas can in each vehicle, but they are unused because we don’t want fumes. If we ever need to use one, we will then replace it with a new one.

    • PPS: I’ll bet a nickel there are plenty of people stuck in their cars in the NE today who wish they had all this stuff and a lot more. Especially more candles for heat, and a good snowmobile…

  5. Good list, Elaine K!

    May I also suggest the following relatively compact items — minimum one set per occupant:

    -Mechanic’s gloves (in addition to items #14 and #23 in your list above);

    -Foam ear plugs (for sleeping beside the road or whatever);

    -Sleep mask (self-explanatory);

    -Snow goggles w/clear lenses (to be used — day and/or night — outside your vehicle in that blizzard that has you stranded);

    Also, carry a tarp (to lay on the snow when installing tire chains or changing a flat; also makes a great shelter if your vehicle should become uninhabitable).

    Above all, have the know-how to use your tools and other gear properly and effectively.

  6. This is a great list to start with and just like any other ‘kit’ needs adjusting for the users, the geographical area where you live, and just how far from your home you live. What I keep in my car depends on these things. Let’s take Gaye as an example. She’s told us she’s normally living on an island in the Pacific Northwest, her needs for traveling around that island are going to be different than when she goes off-island. The climate and season of the year also make a difference. Where she’s at now in the southwestern part of the US makes for a difference in what she carries. She may need to be more concerned about where and how to gather fuel should she need it for a fire than she would in the PNW.
    One thing which caught my eye was the heavy sleeping bag. In my travels around the western half of the US, heavy duty just didn’t enter into it. A light sleeping bag (in what is climate appropriate) along with the all-weather space blanket can do wonders plus if I have to leave the vehicle, it’s still light enough to carry.
    Water, I normally carry a gallon or two in any vehicle I drive. Traveling away from home more than 1 1/2 hours…I also have a collapsible 5 gallon container full (this has been needed several times while traveling). That fire extinguisher? Yep, have used that to help someone in need a few times also.
    Then, having all this in a vehicle is only good if you know how to use it. We have within us a thing called ‘muscle-memory’, this begins to work in situational events when you repeatedly use what you have in the vehicle. Just as any training requires repetition, so does any kit we have. For example, although I now have a foldable military shovel, my go to is my walking stick. With my stick, I can dig, I can also use is for defense and offense plus when walking it takes some weight off the legs and equalizes it to 3 instead of 2. My preference is for a pair of walking sticks but I like to have one hand free. Again, it’s about preference to the person, climate, geography, and let us not forget the size of the vehicle. 😉

  7. Add a small gas can to the list for just in case. We also have a gas siphon pump. In winter months we add a can of de-ice for door locks and windows. A container of kitty litter to aid in traction.

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