URBAN SURVIVAL: The Vehicle Emergency Kit


Puppies may be delicious but they are of no use to you if you become stranded

As most of you know I am not really a fan of the BOB and I think the E&E bag is best suited to CIA agents and Ninjas. But one type of bag or kit I think everyone should have is a Vehicle Emergency Kit.

I have been stranded out in the middle of nowhere after my car broke down two times, once way in the mountains in the middle of winter in Virginia and once in the desert in the Middle East.

Both times I was stranded I was seriously unprepared, I was hungry and freezing my ass of in Virginia and the other time I couldn’t get a cell signal (and my phone battery died) when I was stranded in the desert.

Despite working as a civilian contractor and generally being involved in the survival community for most for my life I still catch myself being complacent. So after screwing up and being completely unprepared two times I put together a list of basic things to keep in my trunk in case of emergencies.

- Full sized Shovel: not a folding shovel, and actual full length shovel.

- 10 Road Flares: these are not only good for signaling and preventing people from crashing into your car but you can use them for starting a campfire.

- Water: Both drinking water (I just use bottled water that I replace every month) and water for your car (I keep the old bottled water for that).

- Disposable/Portable Car Battery Jump Starter: these go by names like “Auto Emergency Jump Start Battery”, “Power Pack Car Battery Charger Start” and a bunch of other names. It is hand-held a battery that you plug into your cigarette lighter that will trickle-charge or straight-up jump start your car.

- Cyalume Chemical Light Sticks: their is nothing more annoying than sitting in the dark all night in your car.

- Battery Powered LED Lantern: These are way better than a regular flashlight especially if you are digging or doing something with both of your hands.

- Handheld Flashlight: In my opinion you can go with a chicom flashlight from Wal-Mart if you want, no need to keep a 200 dollar light in your trunk (unless you have the bread).

- Duct Tape: No explanation needed

- Jumper cables: You won’t believe how many guys (who are otherwise squared away) don’t have jumper cables in their car (or they are so old they probably won’t even work without barbecuing someone)

- Fixed Blade Knife: Anything from a K-Bar copy to a short machete, no need for anything expensive. I keep a 15 dollar meat cleaver in the trunk, it is a great utility knife.

- Blanket: A real blanket (like you would use on your bed) or a sleeping bag. When I was stranded in the mountains in VA I had a cheap surplus blanket in my car, it didn’t keep me warm for shit.

- Cheap Rifle and some Ammo (if legal and you choose to, this is optional): I keep a Mosin-Nagant and a box of ammo all wrapped in 3 heavy duty glad bags with a bunch of anti-moisture packs and cleaning kit. When I was stranded in the mountains I swear I saw/heard a bear, I had a .38 stub nosed with me, but I figured that would only be good for shooting myself to avoid being eaten alive by a bear. Plus, you can’t go wrong with having a rifle handy.

- Full Sized Spare tire: The doughnut spare tire isn’t worth a shit, I tried to use one once and it fell apart (I was going like 60 MPH so it was on me).

- Full Sized Car Jack: The car jack that came with your car sucks, buy a "real" hydraulic jack from sears.

- First Aid Kit: I use a kit similar to my combat FAK but I add basic things like band-aids and aspirin. More info on a Putting Together a First Aid kit here.

- Food: This will depend on the weather where you live, some guys can get away with canned food, some MRE’s and some (like when I was in the Middle East) should used expensive freeze dried camping food. You will need about one day worth of food per-person, based on how many people are usually in your car.

- Car Charger for your phone: You should have one of these anyway.

- Handheld CB Radio: Only if you can afford one, this is more of a Vehicle Emergency Kit “luxury” item.

- Pair of Prescription Glasses: If you normally wear contacts keep a pair of glasses in your glove box, just imagine trying to walk out from being stranded after your contact popped out.

- Other: Screwdriver (Phillips and flat head), pliers, extra batteries, adjustable wrench, vice grips, 3 quarts of oil, bottle of antifreeze, car fuses (you will thank me for this one), windshield scraper (with long handle, even if you live in non-snowing states), notepad and sharpie, baby wipes, hefty paper towels, can of fix-a-flat (may or may not work), box of Glad brand heavy duty 3-ply garbage bags, a bucket and a bottle of Listerine.

Note: I am writing this out of memory so I may have forgotten a few things – also please feel free to post the items of your own Vehicle Emergency Kit, I am interested to hear what other people are using so I can add new things to my kit.


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and fending off killer bears with a 38.