Prepping Your Car For Emergencies

Most preppers have a good assortment of resources stockpiled in their homes. But what happens if the SHTF while you are on the road? You might be a short distance from home, or on a long road trip. What kind of preps should you keep in your vehicle?

First Aid

A first aid is highly useful when you are on the road. My home first aid kit is a large duffle bag, stuffed full of every kind of first aid supply I could find. Here’s a rundown of the supplies in the full kit.

But for a car first aid kit, you want something smaller. So you have to pick and choose which supplies are best. I suggest: gauze, medical scissors (aka EMT shears), triangular bandages, first aid tape, a wide assortment of bandages, and a first aid book. Those little 3M steristrips are also useful for closing wounds. And you could throw in some antibiotic ointments, for use on small wounds only. — Never put ointment of any kind on large or deep wounds, because the ER staff will have to remove it to treat the wound, thereby causing more damage.


Bottled water. You can use this water to irrigate wounds, remove debris or chemicals from an eye, cool a person suffering from heat stroke, or of course drink it. You can also use the water if your engine overheats. Very useful stuff, water.


Storing Food in a car is problematic. The car is subjected to freezing temperatures in winter, and very hot temperatures in summer. And you can’t keep a refrigerator in your car. So my first suggestion is to rotate the food stored in your car frequently. Then choose foods that keep well, regardless of temperature. My top choices:

1. Cereal — the kind that you can eat without milk, basically as a finger food snack. Wheat Chex (other Chex), Craklin’ Oat bran, Granola, Cheerios, etc.

2. Trail mix — almost any assortment of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits will work. Avoid the kind with chocolate or candy as they will melt in the heat. Plain nuts, seeds, and dried fruits are also good.

3. Chips — potato chips, tortilla chips, similar chips. These are all fairly nutritious, as they provide electrolytes. Plain water is not enough in an emergency situation. You need salt, potassium (potato chips), magnesium and phosphorus (whole grains), and calcium.

4. Cheese cracker sandwiches — I like the Ritz brand ones, but any brand will do. These seemingly unhealthy little snacks contain all the electrolytes, including calcium and phosphorus from the cheese.

5. Protein bars — you’ll have to test out your favorite bars to see how they hold up in a car in summer or winter. But they are a good source of nutrition, especially when you can’t make a full meal.

Car Repairs

Check your spare tire (or that donut that passes for a spare) and related equipment. I find a can of Fix-A-Flat can come in handy. However, it doesn’t fix any and all flat tires. A real gash in the tire requires you swap out the tire for the spare. It’s also useful to keep some extra windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze in the trunk.

And while you’re at it, throw some clear plastic and duct tape in the car. Why, you ask? In case a window breaks, you can cover it with the plastic.

Jumper cables are a must have. You can buy one of those battery jumpers, which can start a car when the car battery is dead. But they are heavy and you need to make sure that the device stays charged.

Don’t forget to keep a good flashlight in the car, for a myriad of obvious uses: looking under the car or under the hood, signaling for help, etc.


If you have a carry permit, then you’ll have a firearm while you are on the road. However, traveling between states with a concealed firearm can get you in serious trouble. And I’m not qualified to advise you on that legal conundrum. Otherwise — where it is legal — you could store a firearm in a locked case in the trunk of a car. But of course it is not very handy in that location.

There are not too many other options for self-defense in your car. You could keep a modestly sized folding knife with your first aid kit. It is plausibly useful for first aid (cutting clothing, cutting seat belts, etc.). But you know the first rule of a gun fight, and it’s not “bring a knife”.


For winter time, if you live in a snowy area, a shovel is useful. Also consider keeping a wool blanket in the car. If you get stranded, both will come in handy.

If you get stuck in the snow, you might want to have some type of towing strap. These are generally made out of nylon, and have a clip on each end. They can withstand the weight of a car or small pickup truck. So if you get stuck in the mud or snow, and a passing good Samaritan will help, they can pull your car out of trouble.

If you think of any other ideas for a well-prepped vehicle, add them in the comments below.

– Thoreau

5 Responses to Prepping Your Car For Emergencies

  1. How about: * a siphon kit and an empty one-gallon gas can, in case you run out of gas and can’t get to a station.
    * a change of clothes and walking shoes for each family member in a backpack, in case you are soaked by a storm, mud puddles, or other life accidents.
    * a toilet kit, in case you are stuck in traffic and the kids have to “go”
    * a small box of trash bags, useful for keeping all kinds of dirty/smelly/useful stuff contained.

  2. A portable tent is also handy. I keep one in the trunk always. Also, a simple thing to include is a pot, few bags of Mountain House Freeze Dried meals and a home made #10 can stove. Just in case of an unscheduled camping trip :-)

  3. I’d avoid the towing straps with the metal hooks, especially for vehicle extraction – you want a recovery strap for that. Throw a blanket or jacket over the middle of the strap before yanking a vehicle out too, less chance of a snapback and hurting someone if the strap breaks.

    Amateur radio, even a Baofeng and a magnetic mount antenna, preprogrammed including the repeaters in the area. Best if you have someone in your group that can be listening for you to call (simplex or via the repeater), and a prearranged comm plan for making contact. Might also check if the local repeaters have autopatch/phone patch capabilities, and how to access it. Autopatch would almost certainly be a landline connection, and may still work even if cell service is out.

    Each of our vehicles has either an axe, hatchet, or bow saw, mostly for helping getting downed trees off the road when they can’t just be yanked out of the way with the recovery strap. But many other uses obviously.

    We keep a single burner duel fuel (gasoline/white gas) stove in our primary vehicle, and cans of the new/improved sterno for the others, for heat and cooking (and melting frozen water in the winter). And a fire extinguisher.

    Backpack, even if it’s not used to store the gear, is a good idea in case you decide to abandon the vehicle.

    All our vehicles are trucks with storage space available in the truck bed, and we’re very rural where cell service isn’t always available now, so I tend to go overboard on vehicle gear (especially in the winter). The Codename Insight blog (no affiliation) just did a “100 items to have in your vehicle” post a few days ago, it’s all good stuff and very thorough.

  4. While it’s nice to have as much as possible for an emergency, if you’ve got a small car, you have to particularly picky. Thanks for the list of what to prioritize!