Sometimes we’re so focused on the “big picture” we forget little things, like common sense emergency preparations for everyday life. One of those steps everyone should take today is building a basic supply kit for your vehicle. Here are a few items everyone should keep in their trunk:
1. Cell Phone. I know most of you have and carry a cell phone, but if you’re anything like some folks I know, it’s not always fully charged. Make a habit of keeping that phone charged when you’re at home so when you’re on the road you’ve got maximum power. If you’re one of those who absolutely refuses to carry a phone, make an exception; get a phone, even an old one (make sure it’s digital though, because the analog phones don’t talk to the new digital networks), keep it charged, but if you don’t want to be available, just keep it turned off. If you ever need to call 911 or a loved one, you’ll be glad you’ve got it.
2. Toilet Paper. If you’re ever stuck in the car for a long time, you’re going to need it. Or maybe you’re on the road in an emergency and nature becomes your new bathroom. Besides, there are runny noses and all the other common ailments that should have TP at the top of your list. An addition or alternative is baby wipes.
3. Flashlight. Obviously a flashlight comes in handy at night when you need to change a tire, investigate a problem, help another motorist, or even as a weapon of last resort. For the latter I suggest a MagLite(tm).
4. MREs. We all know MREs aren’t the best long-term survival food, but they’re hard to beat for your car. They’re packed with calories and perfect for the kind of emergency situations you might encounter on the road. In a crisis you’ll want to preserve your cash and stay on the move, so don’t let hunger become a distraction.
5. Ice scraper. Okay, maybe you live in south Florida and think you’ll never need an ice scraper, but why risk it? Travel might take you north and you don’t want to be found trying to scrape your windshield with a credit card. Who knows what natural disasters might bring about short term climate changes that could give us bizarre weather to deal with. If you do live in a northern climate, you must have some chemical hand warmers as well as matches, a stable candle and an old coffee can; burning the candle inside the can creates a radiator effect and can substantially increase the temperature in an enclosed space. Even in the South these items can come in handy.
6. Water. You can last for weeks without food but at most a few days without water. Keep a gallon or more in the trunk, and rotate it out every week or so to keep it fresh. It might also come in handy if you have a coolant problem.
7. Folding shovel. If you’re stuck in the ice or snow, a shovel might come in handy, but there are innumerable other situations in which a shovel might come handy, especially in a “bug out” situation. It happens to be another weapon of last resort as well.
8. Portable air compressor. In a survival situation, the roads might not be as well maintained as you’re accustomed to. There could be abandoned or damaged cars on the road and the landscape could be strewn with rubble. The last thing you need is to be stuck on the side of the road with a flat. A portable air compressor will give you the ability, under most circumstances, to pump up the tire and get back on the road until you can find a more permanent solution.
9. Fire extinguisher. With quick action you can use a portable fire extinguisher to stop a little fire from turning into a full blown inferno.
10. Handgun/Shotgun. Your home armory won’t do you any good if you’re on the road and run into trouble. In a crisis, a stranded motorist is particularly vulnerable because the bad guys know the police are occupied or otherwise unavailable, so you really should have a means to defend yourself. Nothing beats a shotgun for defense, but practically speaking, many motorists will need a handgun. Be sure to consult your local laws before keeping a weapon in your car at all times.
11. Duct tape and rope. The applications are endless, from car repairs to first aid. Keep in mind that temperature extremes will cause the duct tape to go bad, and the only thing worse than not having it is thinking you have it only to find out in an emergency that it’s worthless.
12. Extra fluids. I almost didn’t add this to the list, but I’m often in someone else’s car and discover they don’t carry extra coolant, oil and gasoline with them. A little bit goes a long way, so don’t feel like you have to keep 10 gallons in the trunk; 1 or 2 gallons might get you out of danger or to the next gas station. Be sure to rotate that gasoline out on a regular basis.
13. Cash. Put $20 or more (use small bills though), into a small envelope and tape it to the underside of the passenger side floor mat (thieves may check the driver’s side). There’s no telling when you’ll use it!
14. First Aid supplies. A first aid kit (there are special kits for motorists). A blanket will be helpful for anyone exposed to inclement weather.
15. Backup pair of socks and shoes for the primary driver. It may not be practical to keep a pair of socks and shoes for every member of your family in the trunk, but whoever the primary driver of that vehicle is ought to have a pair of shoes in backup. If you ever have to get out of the car in inclement weather, or to push your own vehicle or someone else’s, having a dry, clean pair of socks and shoes can make all the difference in the world.
16. Basic tools: a Leatherman style tool, screw drivers, pliers, and a spring-loaded center punch (much easier for breaking windows than those Life Hammers), a funnel and a little bit of wire (great for tying things together, especially if they’re hot and the duct tape isn’t an option).
17. A full tank of gas! Never let your car get below 1/2 tank.
18. Poncho/reflective attire. In a downpour, it’s invaluable, and in bad weather or at night, a reflective vest might save your life.
19. Jumper cables and tow strap. If you can’t get the car started, attach the tow strap to the frame of both vehicles and you’re off!
20. Roadside flares/reflective triangle. Especially handy if you find yourself stranded around a blind curve or where you’re otherwise at risk from traffic.
21. A Rubbermaid type storage box to keep all your supplies in.