Most people can prep their vehicle for emergencies in about one hour with items they already have around the house. Of course, this is basic prep, and you can spend a great deal more time refining your vehicle emergency kit later, but the important thing is to get from “zero” to “something” right away.
In S1 E2 of Survival Tips, we do a surprise inspection of Jake’s Jeep to see how he fares with his preparedness. He’s the SnoMan’s oldest son, so he’d better pass inspection!
Basic Vehicle Emergency Kit
- Tire change. This item requires a run-through; change the tire and make sure you have all the tools you need, and that the spare is properly inflated. Make sure everyone who drives the vehicle is capable of safely changing the tire.
- Fire extinguisher. This is the one item you might not have just lying around the house, but you can get one for under $30. Here’s one example from Amazon that includes a mounting bracket.
- Water. Ideally, you should store one gallon of water per person per day. Realistically, I know that’s hard to do in a vehicle, but one thing is undeniable — it’s better to have some water than none. I recommend you buy a case of your favorite bottled water, stick it somewhere in the vehicle, and then forget about it. If you ever do tap into it, replace it immediately. However you store your water, make sure it will withstand freezing without bursting its container. Just FYI, our water stock came in handy when our entire family got stranded on the highway for several hours late one night due to a fatal accident ahead of us. The Interstate was shut down and became a parking lot for four hours.
- Snacks. We also tapped into our snacks that same night. Stock anything you’ll be happy to eat. A balanced diet is something you consider globally, but an emergency food stock in your car is really about eating something quick and easy, without cooking, just to get you home. Just make sure it can take heat and cold, and that you have the means to open it, if it’s canned food. Easy-pull canned goods work great, and so do snack bars. Avoid chocolate, which gets messy in the heat. Rotate your stock two or three times a year, since the intense heat in parked vehicles will degrade even canned goods. I rotate the stuff into my pantry, so nothing goes to waste.
- Jumper cables. I have to warn you: Good cables are expensive. Get them if your budget allows, but again, something is better than nothing. If all you can afford is cheap cables, they could still get you going, so go ahead and put something in the car. Here are some fairly expensive 800 amp cables from Amazon. Look for the following indicators of quality;
- Heavy gauge. Small gauge number means thicker cable.
- Copper wire. Most cables are made of copper-clad aluminum; all-copper cables are very expensive.
- Long cables. The longer the cable, the easier you can connect to another vehicle. However, longer cables transmit lower voltage, and so they need to be correspondingly thicker. I recommend at least 16-foot cables, and 20 is better.
- Sturdy clamps. Cheap clamps won’t hold up to frequent use. Hopefully, you won’t use the cables much.
- Tools. The basic tool kit includes duct tape, an adjustable wrench, a flat-head screwdriver, a #2 Phillips-head screwdriver, pliers with a wire cutter, a flashlight, and a few zip ties. You also need something to cut with; this could be a knife, a utility knife, or a box cutter. You should also consider some sort of multitool like a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman.
- First aid. As usual, in a basic first aid kit I want to see, at a minimum, some adhesive bandages and some antiseptic wipes. I’m not saying that’s all you need, but these are the items I use most often, so I’m sure to include them in every kit. Additional items to consider for a basic kit: a few pain pills like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin; a razor blade or scalpel; antibiotic ointment; surgical tape; and a self-adhesive wrap, like to wrap a sprained ankle. You can get as elaborate as you want. I keep a kit similar to this one in my vehicle.
Your needs may vary — feel free to share your recommendations in the comments.