Car Emergency Kits for Travel

Vehicle/Travel Kit

Travel is often full of uncertainty. Mechanical failures, drowsiness, construction, etc can alter plans considerably. Getting stranded can be a miserable and dangerous experience. Having vehicle emergency gear in your vehicle can make a huge difference. 

Vehicle emergency kits should contain tools for basic vehicle repair, devices for communicating with other vehicles (cones, flares, lights), jumper cables, tow ropes. They should also include first aid supplies. It's surprising how often first aid is administered while traveling. Medications should also be included. We go through a lot of nausea meds when we travel with people who get car sick. We also use Tylenol quite often.

Experience: War Saved the Day

We broke down in the mountains one time. My dad walked up the road to a farmhouse we passed to call for help. When he returned he mentioned it would be hours before Mom arrived. He pulled out the emergency kit in the truck glove box and grabbed a deck of playing cards. We played War the entire time. We turned an emergency situation into one of my favorite memories because we had a simple creature comfort.

Most vehicles have trunks, consoles, glove boxes, or other storage compartments. Start with portable container like backpacks, or small duffles to fill with the right gear.

Recommendations:

  1. Invest in quality gear - when you're away from home and have limited supplies you want to be able to count on them.
  2. Check the batteries regularly on flashlights and other devices - we tend to forget about auto emergency kits until we need them.
  3. Start with a ready-made car kit - they usually have the correct essentials

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Table of Contents

Auto Kits

Auto kits (car kits) are a must for every vehicle. You don't want to be stranded, stuck or broken down without the right gear. Stowing an auto kit in your glove box, trunk or other storage compartment is crutial.

Make sure you buy quality gear. You don't want to rely on equipment only to have it fail. 

Jumper Cables

Car batteries can fail for a number of reasons. A set of jumper cables can be used to get your car started to get you on your way. 

Reasons a car battery fails:

  • cold weather affects the battery chemistry and it loses power
  • someone leaves a light on
  • the battery is beyond its lifespan

Tips for using jumper cables:

  • Required: make sure you connect the 2 batteries correctly. Choose a cable color and apply it to the positive lead on both vehicles. Don't cross the currents or you can cause large damage to your vehicle and/or cause injury to those working on it. My father connected two batteries incorrectly and one blew up and sprayed battery acid all over his face.
  • After connecting the cables to the battery terminals, let the running car idol or depress the accelerator slightly to drive current into the dead battery. After a moment try and start the dead car.

Make sure you get a quality pair of cables in your car kit.

Tow Rope

Icy or snowy roads can be a bit trecherous for anyone. Keeping a tow rope in your kit can help you get unstuck. 

Tips for using a tow rope:

  • The key is to find sturdy parts of your car's frame to connect both ends to. Don't rip off a bumper or part of the car because it can't handle the stresses of being towed.
  • Make sure your tow rope is rated for your vehicle. 
  • Be sure to stand clear of tow rope under stress. If it breaks, the event can be devastating. You don't want to be anywhere near the ends of the rope as they lose their energy.

Flashlight/Headlamp

Working on a car in the dark is miserable and can be dangerous. Be sure you have a flashlight or better yet a headlamp so you can see what you're doing. Also make sure you have working batteries or a crankable light so the batteries last for some time.

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Ultra Bright Headlamp

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Rechargeable LED Headlamp 450 Lumens

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Hand Crank/Solar Rechargeable AM/FM/SW Radio, LED Flashlight, Power Bank - Rugged

Emergency hand crank/solar powered energy source, radio, LED flashlight

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Crank Flashlight

Rechargeable hand crank and solar powered LED flashlight for survival

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Auto Kits

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Car Emergency Kit - AAA

Quality road emergency kit approved by the AAA organization

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Car Emergency Kit - Roadside Assistance

Basic roadside emergency kit with first aid

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Car Emergency Kit - All-In-One

Enhanced, high quality road emergency kit - 127 pieces

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Heavy Duty Car Emergency Kit - With Compressor

Heavy duty, high quality road emergency kit 90-piece with 48-piece first aid kit

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First Aid Kits

Small injuries and illnesses are common during travel. Handling cuts and scrapes or allergies, stomach problems, etc. should be easy first aid solutions. Every vehicle should have a first aid kit and you should know how to use the supplies within. 

Some people will want more robust supplies in case of trauma in an accident. Some kits come with a tourniquet, etc.

Here are the supplies we recommend for every first aid kit. You may need to add items to your kit if it's incomplete:

  • Supplies
    • bandages
    • triangle bandage (for a sling)
    • antiseptic wipes
    • alcohol wipes
    • gauze
    • tweezers
    • More...
  • Medications
    • allergy
    • Tylenol
    • Ibuprofen
    • Pepto Bismol
    • anti-nausea 
    • lip treatment
    • More...
  • Toiletries
    • toilet paper
    • feminine hygiene products

Having the supplies is one thing, knowing how to use them is another. Be sure you get some first aid training to know how to treat your passengers.

First Aid Kits

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First Aid Kit - Tactical

Tactical, Portable IFAK First Aid Kit

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First Aid Kit - Compact

Standard, Portable IFAK First Aid Kit

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First Aid Kit - EDC

Personal Everyday Carry IFAK First Aid Kit

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Trauma Kit - Small

Advanced First Aid Gear and Supplies

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Extra Emergency Gear for Your Car

Most trunks and trucks have ample storage space. If your car has space we recommend stowing some extra gear in your vehicle. 

  • duct tape
  • tool kit
  • toilet paper
  • multi tool
  • compass

For winters:

  • wool blanket
  • tire chains
  • sand bags - for added weight in the back of a truck

The goal is to be ready for an emergency. Accidents, break downs, and other events can require this extra gear.

It's surprising how often we have had to use these items. Often we're helping someone else. I've probably jump started 30 cars over the years and pulled dozens out of snow and mud. 

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Waterproof Playing Cards

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Compass

Standard orienteering compass for emergency navigation

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Multi-Function Shovel

Medium-duty, multi function survival shovel and tools

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Snatch Block (Pulley)

Heavy duty pulley for emergency mechanical advantage

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Other Gear

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Military Wool Blanket - L

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Full, 1-person

Generic military wool blanket for emergencies and the outdoors

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Toolkit - Medium

Medium emergency toolkit with organizer

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Toolkit - Large

Large emergency toolkit with organizer

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Leatherman Wave Multitool

Popular, reliable light-duty survival multi-tool

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Check Your Gear

Take out your phone right now and schedule quarterly notifications to check your auto supplies. Here are the items you should check quarterly:

  • make sure the first aid kit has been replenished and the supplies aren't out of date
  • check your spare tire's pressure
  • make sure tool kits and other gear is stowed and complete
  • be sure your tire irons and and lug wrench is in working order

1This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
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3 Most reviews are based on personal experience from one of our content editors. Some are based on research and the opinions of other reviewers.

 

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