If you think emergency preparedness is the stuff of crazy Armageddonists holed up in the woods, think again. Life is full of all sorts of emergencies, and some are more dramatic than others, especially those that happen when you’re out on the road. Having a well-stocked emergency kit in the trunk of your car can save you time and money during big (evacuating before a hurricane) and small (oil splattered on your windshield) emergencies. Click ahead for a list of the basic items you should keep in the trunk of your car, plus some deluxe extras, to make sure you’re prepared for anything short of a zombie apocalypse.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Deluxe: LED Flares, Clip-on Light
Let’s just say your car has broken down in the middle of the night and you DON’T have a flashlight in the trunk. How are you going to check the engine? Walk down a dark, scary country road to the nearest gas station? You get the point. Make sure you also stash fresh batteries for the flashlight and check it every few months to make sure it’s working. For the deluxe kit, throw in a set of LED flares and a clip-on light to keep your hands free for quick engine repairs.
Eveready Floating 6V Lantern w/ Battery - $8.29
Supreme Rechargeable LED Road Flares 6-pack - $185.00
Basic: Aerosol Tire Inflator
Deluxe: Tool Kit, Jack, Spare Tire
If you don’t know how to change a tire, it’s time to learn. Ask your dad or check out a YouTube tutorial. It’s standard guy knowledge to be able to change a tire, and if you’ve got a serious blow-out on the road, changing your own will save you money or the time of waiting for AAA to come do it for you. For the basic kit, have a can of tire inflator in your trunk, It’s a temporary solution for a slow leak, but it will get you back on the road quickly. For major flats, you’ll want to have a lug wrench, a jack and an appropriate spare tire for your car. The good news is if you drive a new or used car, it most likely already has the jack, wrench and tire in the trunk.
Mechanics Tire Inflator 16 oz. - $5.49
Smart Wrench System 3-Piece - $17.98
Black Bull 2 Ton, 12-volt Electric Car Jack - 68.00
DEFIB FOR YOUR BATTERY
Basic: Goof-proof Jumper Cables
Deluxe: Rechargeable Jump Starter (with Inflator)
Everybody accidentally leaves their lights on all night at least once. It pays to be prepared with a set of heavy-duty jumper cables. If you’re uneasy about connecting the cables, invest in a set of Goof-Proof cables with an LED indicator that lets you know if everything’s connected correctly BEFORE you start your car. For complete autonomy, go the deluxe route and get a Rechargeable Jump Starter and you’ll be able to start your car without the help of a Good Samaritan. Bonus, the Wagan emergency Jump Starter also includes an inflator for low tires, and doubles as a 12V power supply.
Smart Jumper Cables - $39.95
Wagan Rechargeable Jump Starter w/ Inflator - $99.95
DON’T GET LOST
Basic: State Map
Deluxe: U.S. Road Atlas
In an actual emergency when your electronics might not be so reliable, having a good old-fashioned folded up paper map of your state highways could be invaluable to your safety. Besides, your car’s GPS and your smartphone’s map app won’t be able to help find alternate routes when a highway is closed or clogged. For the ultimate in preparedness, keep your state map in the glove compartment and stash a U.S. Road Atlas in the trunk.
State maps from Rand McNally - $5.99
KEEP IT CLEAN
Basic: Windshield Wipes
Deluxe: Hand Wipes, 1-Liter Bottle of Water, Roll of Rags
A dirty windshield is a liability at any time, especially so if you’re in an emergency. Stash some windshield wipes in your kit for clear vision in a flash. For the deluxe kit, you’ll also want to include some hand wipes for cleanup after emergency engine repair or changing a tire. It’s also a good idea to keep a 1-liter bottle of water and some rags in the trunk for cleaning up a muddy windshield, and the water bottle will also come in handy if your car has overheated.
Windex Wipes 28ct., available nationally - $7.99
Grease Monkey Heavy Duty Wipes 30ct. - $4.99
DEALING WITH MOTHER NATURE
Basic: Folding Shovel & Blanket
Deluxe: Ice Scraper, Bag of Rock Salt
If you live in a cold area of the country, a folding snow shovel is invaluable to your car’s emergency kit for digging yourself out of a snowed-in parking lot. In other areas where snow isn’t a concern, but rain and mud are, opt instead for a pointed, spade-style, folding shovel for digging yourself out of a muddy rut. In an extreme winter emergency you can also use the shovel to build yourself a snow shelter. Keeping a waterproof blanket in the trunk is also a good idea for winter emergencies, as well as medical emergencies when someone might need to lay on the cold ground or be covered up. The blanket also comes in handy when someone is chilly in the back seat, or for “emergency” use in a cold stadium at a football game.
Sport Utility Shovel - $34.95
Waterproof Outdoor Blanket - $39.95
BRINGING HOME THE YARD SALE PURCHASE
Basic: Bungee Cords
Some emergencies are less dire than others, like buying that great easy chair at a yard sale and trying to secure it in an open trunk for the drive home. Make quick work of that chore by having some bungee cords handy. For larger impulse purchases that need to be secured to the top of your car, like that couch at Ikea, you’ll want some rope in your trunk, as well.
Highland Bungee Jar 20 pc. - $11.29
Everbilt ¼” x 50’ Nylon Rope - $8.71
Basic: First Aid Kit
Once in awhile an “emergency” is really an emergency and a first aid kit is needed, so be sure to have a well-stocked one in your trunk. You’ll use it for everything from small cuts and scrapes from hiking, or pulling the ice pack for a sore shoulder after a day of camping. Make sure you’re always checking the kit and restocking when necessary. For a deluxe version, throw a couple of large towels in the trunk, too. In an actual emergency, they’ll come in handy. Just ask any young couple who hasn’t made it to the hospital in time and delivered their baby in the backseat of their car. Okay, maybe that happens more on TV, but being prepared is not a bad thing!
Red Cross Emergency Preparedness 106 pc. First Aid Kit - $20.49
Next: 7 Amazing American Adventures
KEEP IT TOGETHER
Basic: Canvas Duffel bag
Deluxe: Small Daypack
Keep all your emergency supplies neat and organized in the trunk by storing them in a large duffel bag, maximizing your trunk’s room. In a big emergency when you might have to abandon your car, you can use the bag to carry your belongings. For the deluxe kit, you can also stow a small daypack in the duffel bag, handy and useful all the time for life’s smaller emergencies, like an impromptu picnic or day at the beach when you need to carry a few extra things and a plastic shopping bag just won’t do.
Cabela’s 48” Heavy Canvas Duffel Bag - $84.99
REI Trail 25 Pack - $59.50