There have been many incidents in which people became stranded with their vehicles, so I’ve put together a Top Ten list of things you should carry in your car. These are in no particular order — I recommend you have all of them.
1. Cell phone and charger — Your ability to call for help is what will get you out of your situation faster than anything else. Make sure to carry a cell phone charger that can keep the phone powered up through the vehicle’s battery. You don’t want your cell phone battery to die just when you need to call for help.
2. Emergency blanket — In fact, you might want two blankets of different types. One can be a nice fluffy car blanket that rolls up in a tight little sausage shape, and the other is a pocket-sized Mylar emergency blanket that is reflective on one side and takes up almost no space.
3. Water — Carry a gallon for each person in the vehicle. If you end up stranded for a couple days, you’ll appreciate having this.
4. Food — Have granola bars or other high-calorie snack foods tucked away in the vehicle. The nice thing about trail bars is that they’re compact, they last a long time and they’re not messy. Rotate food items out of the vehicle and into your pantry every six months, and replace with fresh.
5. Fire starting stuff — A fire can be useful for signaling, purifying water, cooking, drying your clothing, keeping you warm, and just keeping you company at night. Have a few methods of fire starting in the vehicle.
6. Medications — If you’re taking medications, carry an emergency supply of them in the vehicle. Some medications, like insulin, might require refrigeration. If so, carry a small ice chest that will preserve the meds for a few days, in case you get stranded. When you go on a trip, bring medications fresh from your house, perhaps in a small duffle bag, so they don’t sit around in the vehicle and get old.
7. Sanitation items — This includes hand sanitizer, toilet paper, perhaps baby wipes, and feminine products that might be needed.
8. First aid kit — Assemble the kit yourself, so you know exactly what’s in there. It wouldn’t hurt to get some basic emergency medical training. Contact your local fire department to find out about available training.
9. Extra clothing — Toss a coat into the vehicle, even if it’s summer and you’re not expecting to stay out late at night. You never know what might happen, and having a jacket, some gloves, a cap, maybe an extra pair of socks will come in handy. For sure have some 5-mile shoes in the vehicle, in case you need to walk to find help.
10. Tools — You want to be able to take care of minor breakdowns. Have a jack, lug wrench, spare tire, and the knowledge of how to use these items. Carry road flares (they make great fire starters, and they also warn other motorists that you’re having a problem). Carry a powerful flashlight and extra batteries. And carry a tarp, in case you need to work on wet or muddy ground.
So there’s my Top Ten emergency items to carry in your vehicle. Feel free to add to the list.