15 things to pack in car for emergency

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY of today’s Sev­enth Gen­er­a­tion newsletter. It is ti­tled 10 things to pack in your car for an emer­gency” but as fif­teen items are listed, so the title is al­tered for this post to “15 things to pack in car for emer­gency.” The au­thor is listed with a generic by­line “green­write.” I am in­cluding this here be­cause it is that time of year, winter has come early, and we are step­ping through the doors long ago opened to GCC (“global cli­mate change”). So read and follow re­li­giously if you live in an area that has blizzards!

Now, I moved from Penn­syl­vania to Cal­i­fornia in June of 1978, so I as­sume that I missed this bliz­zard. Al­though I was in enough that I un­der­stand: in my last winter there I was dri­ving from Har­ris­burg (where my girl­friend lived) back to Wilkes-Barre via In­ter­state 81. It was late and I was tired and so I pulled over to a road­side rest and took a nap.

It was Oc­tober, so I thought that I was safe from cold. Ha! When I woke up, there was six inches of snow on the ground. I took my chances on the highway and ended up stuck be­hind an 18-wheeler for eleven hours due to a jack-knifed car and U-Haul a mile in front of us. I had many of the items in my car that are listed below (plus a couple of bot­tles of wine which com­pli­mented the joint that the trucker had with him)

But that’s an­other story. Here is Greenwrite’s list of ten things to pack in your car for an emer­gency (he/she cheated: there are fif­teen items listed). I added some com­ments in red print to the list and a couple of thing to the end.


Booze is not a good idea if you are se­ri­ously stranded alone in the cold in the middle of nowheresville. (Of course, if you happen to have some at hand drinking it will seem like an ut­terly sane decision.)


Blankets, water, and food

At the risk of dating my­self, I will admit to being stranded in the bliz­zard of ’78. It was a biggie that hit the East Coast and shut things down for the better part of a week. My car just gave up and died in traffic back up in Prov­i­dence, RI. The only emer­gency supply I had on hand was a beach blanket, but it came in handy as I trudged through blinding, snow, and wind to the home of some friends. I was lucky that I was stranded in “civ­i­liza­tion” with help nearby, but since then, I’ve al­ways kept an emer­gency sur­vival kit in my car. Here’s what’s in it:

1. Warm Blanket.

If you have to wait in cold weather for help, you will want an extra layer to help you stay warm.

This is im­per­a­tive and I am glad it’s listed first.

2. Flash­light.

I keep a good-sized, wa­ter­proof flash­light with fresh bat­teries, as well as some spare bat­teries. I also carry a hand-crank LED flash­light and emer­gency can­dles as a back-up (and don’t forget the matches).

I rate match­sticks higher than the au­thor here: both as a source of light and when the sit­u­a­tion is truly dire, as the mak­ings of a source of heat.

3. Snow shovel.

This can take up a little room, but I found a GI-shovel in the Army/Navy store that folds in half and has a metal blade. It comes in handy when you just need to clear snow from around the wheels.

A shovel is a must!

4. Hand warmers.

Smash the bag and the chem­ical re­ac­tion in­side cre­ates heat to de­frost fin­gers that may be trying to change a tire, fiddle with an en­gine, or just stay warm.

Great idea.

5. Bottle of water and a few pro­tein or snack bars.

I re­plenish these pe­ri­od­i­cally as they can get a little stale by the end of the season.

If by a “bottle” he means a 12-ounce com­mer­cial bottle of spring water, I would sug­gest a case. Pro­tein bars and trail mix will go a long way.

6. Light­sticks.

Easily found at the dollar store and useful as a light source or a safety mea­sure if you need to shovel snow from around your wheels at night.

Great idea.

7. Flares.

Not just for winter. These should be in your trunk in all sea­sons for putting next to your car if you are pulled over in distress.

A must.

8. Whistle.

Yelling gets old (and tiring) fast. A whistle can be used to signal for help or to scare someone who may be trying to take ad­van­tage of your situation.

I never needed to yell; the few such emer­gen­cies I was in were on well-traveled roads and dri­vers tend to as­sist one an­other. Still, go buy a BIG LOUD whistle.

9. First Aid Kit.

I stock it with a few ex­tras like lip balm and a few doses of any pre­scrip­tion med­i­cine we need.


10. Extra hats, socks, and mittens.

I can’t em­pha­size enough how staying warm while you wait for help can be lifesaving.

And sweaters or pull-overs; you have to keep your chest warmed.

11. Siphon Pump.

If being out of gas is your problem, and you get of­fered help by a good Samar­itan, you want to be able to get a gallon or two of gas out of an­other gas tank to get you going quickly.

Hand-cranked pumps can be found easily.

12. Jumper cables.

See #11. If your bat­tery is dead and help hap­pens along, these could help get you own your way again.

I never leave the house with these. Also, bat­tery recharging units are small and affordable.

13. Road salt, sand, or cat litter for traction.

In the ‘70s, my old car al­ways car­ried sev­eral 5-pound bags of crunchy kitty litter.

Not only is it good for trac­tion, but placing them above the rear tire well in your trunk can be just the extra force for fric­tion to get you out of a hole.

14. Battery-powered radio.

If your car dies, chances are your car radio has or will soon. Having ac­cess to news can help you as­sess your situation.

With smart­phones this may be redundant.

15. Deck of cards, book, or travel game.

Waiting can get te­dious, even when you’ve alerted someone and help is one the way. These can help pass the time.

There are al­ways three books in the back seat of our car; you never know when you need to help someone else while away the time until rescue arrives.

Get­ting stranded in your car in the winter is no fun. It can leave you feeling vul­ner­able and at risk. Having a winter emer­gency kit on hand not only gives you peace of mind but pro­vides sup­plies until help arrives.

Other sug­ges­tions are 16) a 5-gallon can of gas; if the cold is deep enough, you may be turning the car on and off for the heater. Run­ning out of gas is a bummer. A trick that Berni taught me from 15 years of living in Alaska: 17) a plain candle burning in an empty tin can—a typ­ical large-size coffee can works just fine—on your back­seat floor will keep the whole in­te­rior of the car warm!



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