Build your vehicle survival kit for on-the-road emergencies

Build your Vehicle Survival Kit for on-the-road EmergenciesSeeing that we spend a lot of our time driving around, we can be trapped in our vehicles at any time due to various unpredictable on-the-road events. Having a vehicle survival kit in your car can save the day when no one else is around to give you a helping hand. Sinkholes, rollovers, natural disasters and even unknown terrain could turn deadly if you are not prepared.

Accidents happen all the time and misfortune doesn’t care if you are running errands, if you are on vacation or if you are driving in the backcountry. Before you open your vehicle survival kit, you should start by assessing your situation. Answering to the following questions will condition your next steps:

  • Are you or any of the passengers injured?
  • Are you close to any type of civilization?
  • How far away is it? Can you cover the distance by foot?
  • How long is it going to take until you can make your vehicle mobile again?

Once you have assessed the situation you can use the equipment on hand and put in motion your survival strategy.  You will need to save yourself and limit the consequences of your current situation by using your vehicle survival kit.

Items for your vehicle survival kit:

  1. The survival bag of your choice, a bug out bag or your get home bag. These bags are designed to keep you alive and the items you’ve placed in them should sustain you in the event of an emergency.
  2. A car safety hammer. This tool can save your life if you get trapped in your car during a flooding or any other type of scenario that requires for you to quickly abandon your vehicle. These types of tools have three functions: a window breaker, a glass hammer and a seatbelt cutter. You can use the window breaker to shatter the windows of your car, while the small hammer can be used to clear remaining glass. The seatbelt cutter will make sure you can cut yourself free from jammed seatbelts. The most important thing to keep in mind when having such a too is that you need to keep it in reach, otherwise it becomes useless.
  3. A tire repair kit. Flat tires occur often when traveling through unknown terrain and if you don’t have time to wait for the roadside service, a tire repair kit is the best next thing. Make sure you have one in your vehicle survival kit as it will provide you with everything needed to repair punctures and get back on the road.

Related reading: Know your region before disaster strikes


  1. To finish the repair job on your tires, you will need an air compressor. However, things can get tricky here and you need to make sure the compressor you buy has the power to inflate your tires. Air capacity and pressure requirements vary greatly for car and truck tires.banner300_250_1
  2. A folding survival shovel. This item is extremely useful in an off-grid environment and you can use it to dig your way out of a tight spot. If the shovel has an incorporated saw blade, you can cut tree branches and use them as a grip surface to help the tires pull their way out when you get stuck. It can also be used to dig up rocks and put it in the sand to create traction.
  3. Jump-starter power bank. If you are forced to deal with a dead battery and there is no living soul around to jump it for you, you will need to rely on a stand-alone power supply. Such a device can jump your battery, but it also provides charging capabilities for multiple devices.
  4. A tow strap. There are various models available on the market and I recommend going with a heavy duty 30-foot tow strap that can handle more than 5,000 pounds in use. The tow straps are usually made from rugged polyester and they can be successfully used for self-recovery. You can also give someone a tow and you can use it for pretty much anything you can think of during an emergency. You can even secure it between an anchor and a wheel that is stuck to free it by creating a winch as you accelerate.
  5. A compact auto tool kit. This type of tool should contain all the standard items you would need for basic tinkering. A bit driver, bit sockets, a wrench and pliers, are all items you need among other things. Of course that this becomes dead weight if you have no idea how and for what jobs to use it.
  6. An all-weather tarp. A tarp is an indispensable item for your prepping plans and you should have one available in your vehicle survival kit or survival bag. There are dozens of ways in which a tarp can be used and improvising a quick shelter in an austere environment is probably the number one use for a survival situation.

Recommended article: How to make a shelter from a tarp – 15 easy designs


  1. Signaling items. Road flares and reflective signs should be part of your vehicle survival kit as you will be able to alert others (drivers or rescue parties) of your distress. While some people decide to keep in their cars only road flares since they have a double role, fire starter and signaling item, flares last only so long. On the other hand, a large reflective sign can be placed on the road or on top of your car and you won’t have to worry about its lifespan.
  2. Tire iron and jack. These basic items should be part of your survival vehicle kit as you will need the tire iron to break the lug nuts loose for each wheel and the jack to raise and lower your vehicle.
  3. A led lamp. While many people will keep a flashlight in their survival bag, having a led lamp (preferably a solar one) in your vehicle survival kit can prove much more useful. If you need to use both your hands for car repairs you can hang the lamp or place it wherever is needed.
  4. A small fire extinguisher. This item can help you put out small fires in your vehicle, preventing greater damage and loss. However, if you think gasoline is involved, you should keep your distance from a vehicle on fire.
  5. Food and water. You should already have some food and water packed in your survival bag and having a little extra will do no harm. I keep a 3 gallon water container in my car at all times and I also bought a case of 12 protein bars that I keep as emergency snacks.
  6. A first aid-kit. Once again, these should already be in your survival bag, but if that’s not the case or if you don’t have your bag with you, it would be wise to have a spare first-aid kit in your car. Don’t forget to also bring some toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, in case you will need them.
  7. Clothing for the season. Your survival bag might not be updated for the season and the clothes you placed in it may not fit your needs. Every fall I put some spare clothes in my car, just as a precautionary measure. I have a pair of pants, a wind and waterproof jacket, two pairs of socks, and a pair of boots. They might not be the best looking clothes, but they will do the job when needed.

A must read: Ask yourself this about your emergency supplies


  1. Navigation items. Today we are used to rely on our phones to navigate and to do pretty much everything we can think off. However, your phone may get damaged during an accident and you need to have backups. Having local road maps and a GPS system are the alternatives you should consider as these items will help you figure out how far you are from civilization and if you can get there.
  2. A multi-purpose stove like the Biolite Campstove. This ingenious stove system uses wood, twigs and all sorts of burning materials you can find in your environment to convert heat into electricity. Even more, you can cook your meals thanks to its various accessories, like he pot or the portable grill. This is an ideal survival item for any type of situation and you should have one in your car, regardless if you plan a hiking trip or prepare for an emergency situation.
  3. A cook set. People avoid adding pots and pans in their survival bags as they mostly carry ready to eat meals or foods that do not require cooking. Not to mention that such items can increase the weight of their bags. Since your vehicle handles all the heavy loads for you, it would be smart to add a cook set in your car.

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  1. Everything else missing from your survival bag. If you have some items missing from your survival bag due to various considerations, it is recommended to keep them in your vehicle survival kit as a backup plan. You will not have to worry about carrying the extra load and bulk on you and they will come in handy when time comes, without having to improvise for substitutes.

Making a vehicle survival kit should be mandatory if you spend much of your time on the road, but also if you plan to be prepared for the unexpected. In recent years, there has been an increase in people being trapped in their cars due to various disasters events (mostly blizzards) and the majority was caught unprepared. I honestly don’t understand why people don’t make a survival vehicle kit, especially if they have enough room in their cars. You can make one based on your needs, place it in your car and forget about it until you need to use it.

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One thought on “Build your vehicle survival kit for on-the-road emergencies

  1. One additional torch type is a wind-up type headtorch. It will only last about 10-15 minutes before you have to wind it again to recharge the battery, but it has pretty much infinite battery life. Plus it’s hands free whilst allowing you to direct the light much more precisely on the area you need illuminated.
    I also bought a couple of cheap led torches which plug directly into the cigarette lighter along with a corded adapter containing 3 sockets and a USB outlet. This allows it all to be stashed securely in the spare tyre well in the car

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