Vehicle Survival Kit


It’s winter time, holiday season, and you’re driving with your family to a relative’s house when your vehicle spins out of control after hitting ice. It spins several times before coming to a halt on the side of the rural road in a ditch. What are you going to do next?

Hopefully this scenario never takes place but considering the staggering amount of vehicle accidents that take place each and every year, it’s probably more likely than you’d think. If this were to happen would you 1) know what to do until assistance arrives/could be located and 2) would you have the appropriate resources to keep you and/or your family safe until 1 is accomplished? A vehicle survival kit should come with any newly purchased vehicle in an ideal world because let’s face it, you probably spend a good amount of time commuting to and from work, socializing with friends and family, and in general running errands. With all that time spent in your vehicle, it’s amazing how few people even have the absolute basics such as water or jumper cables in their trunks.

It’s easy to dismiss the idea of a survival kit being stowed in each vehicle in your household because of cell phones and other devices that enable you to call for help should an accident happens or you become lost or stranded while in your vehicle. But keep in mind, it’s also very possible to lose that ability to communicate and call for help. You could be in a location that doesn’t receive cell phone coverage, there could be natural or man-made conditions preventing your phone company’s network to be properly functioning. The point is, for minimal time, energy, and resources, you can assemble a survival kit specifically for your vehicle and gain the peace of mind knowing you’ll be prepared while driving you or your family in your vehicle.

If you simply don’t  have the time or energy to devote to making your own vehicle survival kit, you can always purchase one.

Bare Essentials

Before you actually assemble anything for your vehicle survival kit, consider the size you have to work with. Do you have a sedan, a SUV, truck, etc? Each type of vehicle has enough space to store a bag or backpack where your kit can be housed.

Also consider how many individuals your kit will support – is this just for you , or do you need additional supplies for spouse, children, or even passengers who may happen to be with you if an emergency happens.  Remember the main function of a survival kit is to aid you (the survivor), to get through whatever emergency may happen, until you can either get assistance or resolve the emergency situation in some other way. It’s not designed or intended for long term survival, rather , a vehicle survival kit should be (at the very least), enough to get you through whatever it is that’s happening.  Here are some basic ideas to get you started:

Water – Enough for at least 1 gallon per individual, for every day the kit is designed to provide support. For example, you just need the kit for yourself; you desire to have 3 days worth of support out of the kit; you figure assistance will either find you or you’ll find them by that point.  So multiply (daily gallon consumption) x (number of users) x (number of days you want the kit to provide support) = water need. In this example, you’d need at least 3 gallons of water to be stored in your kit.  Because vehicle survival kits are more likely to be exposed to extreme temperatures (as opposed to home survival kits), it’s strongly recommended to store the water in bottles. If you wish to bottle and store your own water, you can always buy food safe water containers for relatively cheap. Just be sure you leave a bit of space before you cap it to factor in the water freezing/unfreezing if it’s going to be exposed to cold climate zones. There are plenty of options if you choose to bottle your own water, just make sure you get enough and have some means of bottling/drinking it if you opt for a larger gallon container.  Having a canteen or water bottle is essentially if you choose to utilize water containers larger than 3 gallons.

Food – There’s a lot of options for food, some better than others, but no right or wrong choices. The main point of storing food in your vehicle survival kit is to provide nourishment if you become lost, trapped, or otherwise find yourself in an emergency setting. Like water, you just need to plan for enough food for the number of desired users for the desired length of time. Your food selection will obviously need to be non-perishable and temperature extremes (specific to your region) will need to be taken into consideration when making your selection. Keep in mind that you don’t need a 3 course meal to get by; the food should provided energy until assistance arrives or can be located. Calorie bars are an ideal type of food for a vehicle survival kit because they’re lightweight, cheap (you can buy or make them), can withstand temperature extremes, and have a reasonable shelf life.  Keep in mind that checking on your survival kit and rotating items is a good habit to establish. Check on your kit at least once a year and rotate items such as food, water, batteries, etc., if the shelf life has expired or you feel the need.

Shelter – Keep in mind, for this category, you may not realize something as having a good blanket available can potentially satisfy the need for shelter and staying warm/dry. Specifically for storing in a vehicle survival kit, good types of blankets to consider storing include wool, Mylar or thermal (space blankets), etc.  Especially critical in cold climate zones, but any type of weather, having a blanket is a must. You may also want to consider obtaining a reflective or bright colored blanket so that it can double as a rescue signal if appropriate.

Additional Vehicle Survival Kit Items

Keep in mind; the items discussed above are the absolute bare minimum you’ll want to keep for your vehicle survival kit. If you don’t want to purchase a pre-assembled kit, start with those essential items first and then work on expanding your kit until you’re satisfied.  It’s always a good idea to establish a budget for your kit before actually buying anything. Not only will doing this make for a less overwhelming process, but will also make sure you don’t get carried away and buy items you really don’t have any need for. While buying the latest and most innovative gear is nice for some people (who also have deep enough pockets), for the average individual looking for peace of mind and practicality, a good individual vehicle survival kit can easily be assembled for less than $50.

The following list is broken down by a main category with related suggested items. Keep in mind this is a list that exists solely to get your creative juices flowing. Ultimately, no pre-made list will be 100% comprehensive to your specific needs and circumstance. If you have additional items or wish to publish your ideal survival kit items, please contact us!

Signaling / Navigation

–          Flashlight / Lantern (be sure to stock batteries in a waterproof container if you have any battery powered devices you’re counting on. Consider looking into hand cranked/solar powered devices.

–          Flares

–          Something to make a fire with such as lighters, matches, fire steel, etc. Remember to always have at least 2-3 methods available to start a fire. You may also want to consider storing some kind of fire starter such as firesticks or petroleum jelly fire starters.

–          Strobes

–          Map and compass – Obviously these items are only useful if you know how to use them. If you do choose to stock a map and/or compass, make sure it’s an up to date map and consider updating every few years for whatever area you’re likely to frequent.


–          Clothing specific to your regions climate zone. It’s always ideal to stay dry so if possible, make sure your clothing/boots are waterproof and/or weather resistant. Remember the 3 layer clothing system so if you have the space available, pack 1-2 layered outfits. Most vehicle survival kits only need to provide 1 set of clothing with extras of the basics such as socks should one pair become wet.

–          Rain ponchos


–          Baby wipes or wet tissues

–          Hand sanitation (this can double as a fire starter if you’re using traditional an alcohol based hand sanitizer).

–           Any medicines you may currently be prescribed.

–          Common OTC medications such as aspirin, antidiarrheal’s, etc.

–          Toothpaste/tooth brush, etc.

–          Petroleum Jelly (can also double as fire starter when combined with cotton balls or other tinder)


–          A deck of cards or some books could come in handy if stuck waiting for assistance. You could also bring a small notepad and pen to record your thoughts or doodle to pass the time.

–          Assume there won’t be a network available so no wireless devices, manual games and activities are especially useful if children are involved.

Safety Items

–          Fire extinguisher

–          Houdini Automotive Escape Tool or related product type of product… if you’ve never seen one, it’s a multi tool designed for individuals who may be trapped in a wrecked vehicle or for rescuers who need to break in the vehicle for assistance.

–          Vehicle repair items – This includes the basics such as jump cables, basic tools, duct tape (this has multiple possible uses), car jack, extra tire, etc.

–          Cash in various denominations including coins for pay phone if applicable, some also use phone cards instead of coins.

–          Documents – Having copies of important documents such as insurance policy, basic identification, etc., isn’t a bad idea to have in an emergency situation. The down side of course being if these documents are left in your vehicle as a functional vehicle survival kit should be, there’s a risk of them being stolen (though there’s always the risk of your identity being stolen, can happen to anybody).



Keep in mind these items and use them as a starting point to get your critical thinking skills fired up when planning your ideal vehicle survival kit. Remember everyone’s ideal survival kit varies from person to person because everybody has different priorities and circumstances to prepare for. If making your own kit doesn’t seem worth the time or energy needed, you should at the very least, purchase one to have just in case an emergency happens. It’s better to have spent $50 or less on a functional kit and not have to need it, rather than to need it and not have it. If you’d like to add additional suggestions or items that you use in your kit, please contact us and we’ll post it so that others may benefit from your knowledge and experience.

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