Building a Vehicle Emergency Kit

When building any survival or emergency kit, there are a few basics to consider for short-term survival in an emergency. Use the following checklist when starting any survival kit. 

The bold items in the checklist below are all a part of the Companion Survival System.
  • Air: One face mask with a filter at best or a bandana at least.
  • Shelter: A mylar blanket, tent, warm gloves or clothes, and a rain poncho or jacket.
  • Shelter repairs: Knife, multitool, duck tape, or zip ties
  • Communication: A whistle, USB rechargeable flashlight, cell phone, two-way radio, or hand-crank radio.
  • Power: A power bank or a hand-crank radio that can charge a phone.
  • Water: A water bottle and a filter or something to boil water.
  • First Aid Kit: Something to stop bleeding and protect against infection.

Once the basics are covered, we can start to fill the bag with more purpose-specific items. 

The vehicle survival kit is the first survival kit to create because if you are away from home, chances are you drove. The vehicle survival kit is also minimal because if you are evacuating the area, you can bring your other equipment with you; however, since you can never assume you will be able to get back home, it is crucial to have the basics already in the car. 

Never assume; always prepare as if all your assumptions go wrong. 

Have a plan and make a backup. 

Start by considering how to stow the gear in your vehicle. There are many organizational options to choose from, like one that attaches to the back row of seats and keeps the trunk space clear, or something with compartments  and can be taken out of the vehicle easier. We do not recommend putting the vehicle equipment in a bag or backpack because it may get confused for something else and removed from the car. 


Jumper cables. Sometimes we forget to turn off a light, and the battery dies; it is always good to have a pair and know how to use them to help yourself or someone else who is stranded. 

Escape Tool. Escape tools can quickly break a car window and cut a seat belt to escape from a vehicle.

Medical Supplies. A first aid kit for a vehicle should be different from a survival or a hiking first aid kit. A standard first aid kit may be all that is needed in a vehicle accident, but not for severe bleeding. It’s also essential to be trained and familiar with the correct application and use the medical equipment you have. Some basics are absorbent gauze, quick-clot gauze, self-adherent wrap, a splint, and a C-A-T Tourniquet. Be careful looking for a tourniquet on Amazon as there are many scams and fake products. The Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T®) by North American Rescue® is made in the USA and is the medical and military gold standard, and for $30, it can save a life if you take the time to learn to use it. Adding these items to a first aid kit for your vehicle is third on our list. 

Tie-downs: Another item that is good to keep in the car that is cheap and doesn’t take up much space is a set of tie-down ratchet straps. A zip tie might be able to secure a hose under the hood enough to get out of where you are with a. 

Safety Lights: A set of safety lights to warn other drivers of a broken down vehicle or accident around a corner are essential in a well-prepared vehicle kit. 

Tools: Pliers, hand-axe, and a folding shovel are tools that only do one thing but do them very well and can get you unstuck and moving again in bad weather or terrain. 

Cold-Weather Gear: A good blanket or woobie will fit nicely under the front seats. A mylar blanket can also work and can also be used to repair a broken window temporarily with duct tape. 


The first thing to consider as an extra is a power bank capable of jumpstarting a car. Jumper cables are still essential, but having a backup in case there is no other car available and you don’t have time to wait for someone else. An extra water filter or two as you should never drink unfiltered water. For children or anyone who gets motion sickness, a Travel John or Travel Jane may also be something to consider. 

A few extra items to consider for travel would be to pack a small fire extinguisher in case something catches on fire under the hood or inside the car, and either a small amount of gravel or kitty litter to help with traction if needed. 

Creating a vehicle survival kit will also greatly depend on where you live, the type of vehicle you drive, and how far you regularly drive. If you live in an area that regularly gets about 100 °F (37.7°C), you may need to move your first aid kit inside and take it with you when you go on a long drive, but the gauze and wrapping you can always leave in no matter the temperature. 

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