Home Gear All Weather Essential Survival Gear Checklist For Your Car

All Weather Essential Survival Gear Checklist For Your Car

Well, it is summertime once again and everybody is packing up their cars to head out on vacation.

Whether you are going to the beach, going to the big city, or going to the woods, there are some specific items that you always want to have in your vehicle before you leave.


Quick Navigation

Vehicle-Related Items
  Jump Pack
  Electric Air Pump
  Gas Can
  Rescue Items
  Road Flares
  Signal Mirror
  Cellular Phone
Survival Items
  Bottled Water/Water Filter
  Fire Starters
  Emergency Blankets
  First Aid Kit
Other Items
Final List


Unfortunately, every year there are families that have their vacations turned into survival scenarios because they do not pack the safety and survival essentials they should.

If you have the right items with you then even a disaster can be handled quickly, and you can be back on your way to fun.  In this article, we will cover the variety of items you need in your vehicle and why.

Vehicle-Related Items

Not everybody that heads out on a road trip has the luxury of driving a brand new vehicle.  Many of us including my family will be taking an older vehicle across country and hoping that everything works out.

This means there is a chance that the vehicle may have issues before you get to your destination.  If you have the right items with you, you can likely get through this scenario quickly.

Jump Pack


When the weather is especially hot or especially cold, batteries can lose their juice.  The days of asking a stranger to jump your car with jumper cables are over.

People are typically just not that trusting anymore.  In addition, using jumper cables can damage both vehicles.  These days you can get a jump pack without spending an arm and a leg.

These are stand-alone packs designed to jump your vehicle if your battery does not have the power needed.  Just be sure you buy one with the power to handle your specific vehicle.  The bigger the engine, the more power you will need out of your jump pack.

Electric Air Pump/Spare Tire

electric air pump

Tire issues are one of the main reasons that people have road trips interrupted.  Often, they are caused by a nail or screw embedded in the tire and causing a slow leak.

Tires with slow leaks can be refilled so you can get to a tire shop and have the leak patched.  With an electric tire pump, you can just plug it into the cigarette lighter on your car and air up the tire in just a few minutes.

There are also times when your tire has a complete blowout.  In these scenarios, it is vital to have a spare tire ready to put on the car.  Just remember that spares are a temporary solution unless you have a full-sized spare.  If it is less than full-sized, you need to get to a tire shop and get a replacement as soon as possible.


crescent tools set

If you have any mechanical experience, having the right tools can be very helpful.  I like to always keep a small socket set, a set of pliers, a few screwdrivers, electrical tape, duct tape, and zip ties.  However, you should never just guess what is wrong with your vehicle if you do not have the experience to back it up.  If needed, call a professional.

Gas Can

gas can

While it is not safe to drive around with a can full of gas in the trunk of your car, it is always a good idea to have an empty gas can with you.  If you run out of gas and must walk or hitchhike to a nearby station, you may need to have your own gas can.  Always bring one that holds just a few gallons, so it is not too heavy to carry long distances.

Rescue Items

emergency road flaresWhen you are stuck on the side of the road, getting other people to help is often your best option.  However, you could be out in the middle of nowhere with limited visibility.

You need to be able to signal for other drivers to stop and help.  Here are some items that can help you flag somebody down.


Road Flares

These magnesium flares will burn bright for a long time.  Just spark them and lie them on the road right next to your vehicle.  They work

great to get the attention of other drivers when it is foggy or dark.  In addition, they let other people know where you are so you don’t get hit by another vehicle.

Signal Mirror

signal mirror

You might be in a situation in which you can see for miles, but most of the vehicles are on an adjacent roadway.  In this case, using a signal mirror can help you get their attention.  If you have been in an accident and your vehicle has run off of the road, this is especially helpful.



It is vital that you have a flashlight in your gear for several reasons.  It can be used to look under the hood or chassis to figure out what is wrong with the vehicle. If you must hike to find help, it can keep you from tripping on debris. In addition, your flashlight can be used to signal for help at night. Always have one with you.

Cellular Phone/Batteries



These days your best option to get help is to use your phone.  However, there are times that disaster strikes at the worst moment possible.  A couple of years back we had a horrible ice storm and my car slid off of the road.

At that same moment, my cell phone battery died.  Luckily, I had a backup battery and cord to charge my phone and get help.  Always keep a charged backup battery and cord in your vehicle.

Survival Items

There are a few basic items that you always want to have in case you are stuck in a broken-down vehicle for a long period of time.  These are primarily based on the four pillars of survival: food, water, fire, and shelter.  Here are the items I suggest:

Bottled Water/Water Filter


I like to keep an entire case of bottled water in the trunk of my car for emergencies.  You can only survive three days without water, and that is in normal conditions.

If it is especially hot, especially cold, or you are completing physical labor, you will need water sooner.  I also like to keep some sort of water filter in my vehicle along with iodine tablets for water purification.  This ensures that I will have drinking water even if I run out of bottled water.

Fire Starters

fire starter

You need to have multiple ways to start a fire with you when you go on a road trip. I like to keep my Zippo lighter, a couple of Bic lighters, and a Ferro rod with me when I can.

Zippos are windproof and can be refilled with any flammable fluid.  Bics are cheap and reliable.  Ferro rods require no fuel and are windproof and waterproof.


nature valley granola bar

It is good to have some food with you to give you the calories you need to keep going.  I like to have a good mix of carbohydrates and protein for the most consistent source of energy.  Granola bars and jerky are great for this.  If you combine the two, you will have all the energy you need.

Emergency Blankets

emergency blanket

Keeping warm and dry can be an issue in some of these roadside scenarios.  You do want to stay in your vehicle, but it can get pretty cold at night.  Emergency blankets have a reflective coating that reflects 90% of your body heat back to you.

You can wrap up before you get some sleep, or if your vehicle is unsafe you can use them as a shelter.  You can buy disposable space blankets, or you can spend a bit more and get reusable tarp-style emergency blankets.


smith and wesson

In any survival scenario, your most important tool is your knife.  I like to carry a fixed-blade, full-tang knife.

However, if you do your research you can find folding blade knives that are very reliable.  It is almost impossible to recreate the edge and strength of a good knife with natural materials, so have one with you.




Cordage is another tool that is difficult to recreate with natural materials.  It has more uses than I can name in this article.  I like to keep some 550 paracord with me at all times.

This cordage is thin and incredibly strong.  In addition, you can split open the outer sheath and pull out the seven interior strands.  You now have eight times the cordage you initially began with.

First Aid Kit

first aid kis

You never know what might happen in a vehicle.  If you get into an accident, there may be a need for immediate first aid.

Always have a basic first aid kit in your vehicle that includes but is not limited to having bandages, antiseptic, pain medication, allergy medication, and butterfly strips.  In addition, I like to keep quick clot packs for severe wounds that will not stop bleeding, and a medical stapler to staple deep cuts closed.

Other Items

It is good to have a compass with you in case you need to leave your vehicle to find help.  You already have your knife for self-defense, but that may not be enough.  Vehicles on the side of the road are an easy target for criminals.  If you have a conceal and carry permit, you may want a handgun with you.

It should be noted that you are always best to stay with your vehicle as long as it is safe to do so.  Also, you should have some sort of roadside assistance program if at all possible.  You can always expand on the list provided here.  This is just covering the basics to get you started.  The more you have with you, the more likely it is that you will get back to having fun quickly.

Final List:

  • Jump Pack
  • Air Pump
  • Tools
  • Gas Can
  • Flares
  • Signal Mirror
  • Flashlight
  • Cell Phone/Batteries
  • Bottled Water/Purification Method
  • Food
  • Fire Starters
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Knife
  • Cordage
  • First Aid Kit
  • Compass
  • Optional Handgun


  1. The main benefit of a commercial signal mirror like the StarFlash™ mirror at Amazon linked here is the retroreflective aimer that lets you accurately target the very narrow (0.5º) sunbeam. The photo that illustrates “signal mirror” doesn’t convey that. Could you replace that image (the 5th image in the linked Amazon listing) with the 2nd image in the linked Amazon listing? That image shows the proper way to use the signal mirror. There are also good alternative illustrations in the Wikimedia Commons category: “Signalling mirrors”. The section “To Read Further” on our website (below) has two papers by the father of the modern signal mirror, Richard S. Hunter, the optical scientist at the National Bureau of Standards who developed three generations of retroreflective signal mirror aimers in the 1940s.


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