How to create a smart Emergency Car Kit

An emergency car kit is smart because most of us spend a good deal of time with our vehicles.  They are typically with us (or close by) most anytime we leave home.  As such, it is a good idea to keep emergency supplies in our vehicles.  If we aren’t at home, we will likely be where our vehicle is.

Emergency Car Kit

Is an Emergency Car Kit Really Necessary?

I keep our main 72 hour kit go-bag in our van.  So for a long time, I rationalized that I had everything I needed in there and didn’t really need a separate car kit.

But, a few years ago, my blog readers began asking about my car kit. So, I gave it more thought.  In doing so I actually came up with quite a few situations that I was completely unprepared for: some small, some far more serious.  In fact there are some “emergencies” that are really only possible when you are in your car (getting stranded?) As a result, I’ve re-vamped our car kit and I’d like to show you what I’ve done.


What I did not include:

I have taken into consideration the fact that I normally have our full 72 hour kit go-bag in the car.  There are things in that kit (like clothes, blankets, basic meds, hygiene items like toothbrushes & soap etc.).  As such, I have not included those in my car kit.

I also have not included but the most basic shelter type items.  In most cases, I believe I could use my car as my shelter.  Plus, I have basic shelter items in my 72 hour kit go-bag.


What I’ve prepared for:

I categorized my preparations into 3 separate categories and I’ll go over each individually.

1.  Small everyday “emergencies” such as:

  • Someone needs a band aid
  • A newly potty trained child needs to go to the bathroom and there isn’t one anywhere near
  • My hair is driving me nuts and I need a hair tie
  • I’ve got a headache
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

2.  We are stranded for any number of reasons:

  • The car breaks down
  • We get stuck in bad weather

3.  We have need to walk some distance because:

  • The car breaks down and we need to walk to the nearest town
  • There is a natural disaster of sorts and help is not coming for some time.

I need to note that I feel a situation where the entire family would need to walk a distance would likely be pretty rare.  Even if there was a disaster, we may still be able to (slowly) drive our car to the nearest town.  If we breakdown outside of town, we’d likely call a tow truck.  If forced to walk to town for any reason, either my husband our myself would walk into town; the other would stay behind with all the kids.  I think in most situations, we would be able to better survive in our car then out in the elements.  But since I know it may be possible that we would be forced to “evacuate” our car, I’ve included a few provisions in case this happens.  You may feel differently.


Alright, now let’s look at each category in a bit more detail:


1.  Small Everyday Emergencies:

  • A few bandages and alcohol wipes and Neosporin
  • Childrens Ibuprofen
  • Adult Tylenol and Ibuprofen
  • Feminine needs
  • 2 water bottles (my two girls are ADDICTED to water: it creates mini-emergencies all the time)
  • Sippy cups (for young kids)
  • Lotion
  • An empty water bottle and collapsible funnel (gross, but necessary when you have 3 kids that are out of diapers, but still can’t “hold” it for that long!  We’ve had quite a few issues with this…one was while driving around the airport waiting to pick up my mom.  There was no parking…no way I could run all 4 kids into the bathroom by myself….)
  • Hand Sanitizer (see above, plus oh so many more things my kids seem to get into)
  • Sunscreen
  • Empty Gallon Ziplocs (think soiled clothes or stinky diapers)
  • Small Flashlight (LOVE these: we own way too many to count)
  • A bag of random small stuff (chapstick, hair ties, pens, a safety pin and rubberband)
  • Tissues
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Napkins
  • Crackers
  • Cash (not pictured, I forgot to include it in the picture)
  • Cell Charger

Here it all is:


I put it all in this bucket (except for the napkins which went in the glove compartment):


And put it between the two front seats:


2.  If we are stranded:

I also have additional suggestions of items you may want to consider if you are stranded during a winter storm: Winter Car Kit

Here it all is:


I put it in this tub:


and put it in the back of the van with extra water, sheets for picnics and our main 72 hour go-bag kit:


I’ve also made a goal to keep shoes for everyone in the car.  I’ve always told myself this was unrealistic b/c I can’t afford to buy and extra pair of shoes for the kids each year to just sit in the car.  But, I finally realized, we can just store our gym shoes in the car instead of our closets.  When we take them off, they simply go back in the car instead of our closet.  We’ll see how it goes!  (-:

When we go on a road trip, I will take out everything but the tub and we will pack our stuff on top of it / around it.  That is why I chose that tub: b/c it is short and long which makes it easy to stack things on top of.  I know that would make it difficult to get to if we were stranded, but I’d rather deal with that stress than try to pack it on top of everything!

I’ve also included a few other things in different areas of the van.  We are lucky to have a lot of little cubbies / storage areas in our van (one reason why we bought it):


 3.  If we’ve got to leave the car:

I know that our full 72 hour kit go-bag is in the car too, but I wouldn’t want to carry that (it is HEAVY) unless I had to, so this bag just has what I think I may need to walk into town.

  • Crackers
  • 6 water bottles
  • Wipes and diapers (I keep the wipes I store in this bag in a ziploc inside their carrier.  Otherwise they dry out after just a few weeks.)
  • Granola bars
  • Feminine Needs
  • Pain killer
  • Heat packs
  • A small first aid kit
  • Whistle / compass
  • Crank flashlight / radio
  • Toilet paper
  • Garbage bags (to be used as ponchos if needed)

Here it all is:


And I put it in this bag:


Where to buy all this stuff?

  1. A lot of it you likely already have lying around the house!  Take a look…I bet you’ll find things you didn’t realize you had!
  2. You can also purchase a lot of it through the links above.  Anything in green is a link and you can click on the word to be taken to a place where you can purchase that product.
  3. Much of it can also be found at your local Target / Walmart.



Three different suggestions for an emergency car kit depending on the "emergency!



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32 Responses to How to create a smart Emergency Car Kit

  1. linda February 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    thanks so much

  2. Rhonda February 24, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    Misty I have to say this is the most comprehensive article on emergency car kits, that I have seen. I really appreciate the way you broke everything into categories for ease when preparing. Know wonder you are my favorite site and I do enjoy your pins on Pinterest as well, Kudos. Rhonda/TX

    • Misty February 27, 2017 at 8:17 am #

      Yay! I’m glad it was helpful! Thank you so much for your kind words. They mean more than you know!

  3. michelle wolfe August 20, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    how do I print the list for the car normal and emergency?

  4. Gena July 22, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    #3 My small SUV doesn’t have a lot of space so if my husband and I are going on a day trip away from are car we have a small back pack with our Go-bag/72 hr. bag, which we can fill from the Go-bag and whatever we have in our picnic basket or the SUV, it really saves on space.

    • Misty July 23, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

      Thanks Gena!

  5. amii May 29, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

    Meds in the car can become damaged/ degraded / toxic in the heat, some in as a little as a week if you’re talking summer in the southwestern US areas. An insulated container, and only keeping a few at a time of each in smaller finger pot style containers labelled with at most “replace by (6 months from date today)” are a very good idea. Nothing worse than thinking you’re helping, only to have given someone more of an emergency by using expired meds, or one’s lime aspirin or Tylenol which can become dangerous if not stored properly

    • Misty June 1, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      Great tips and ideas Amii. Thanks! I had heard that meds could lose their potency, but never heard that they’d become toxic. Do you have any info on this I can read?

  6. amii May 29, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    ‘re:flashlight, storing the batteries without draining- alternatives
    Human powered or solar flashlights are becoming quite common and inexpensive, or, if you want to use one you already have in order to consume less, store the batteries IN the flashlight, using electrical tape to cap the end of the last battery and the spring of the flashlight- think of the tabs that come in toys etc that include the batteries, it just stops the connection so you can store the batteries in place instead of taking up more room, which means less chance they will get lost or be in the way… thinking of you, big ole 4 D cell taking maglight.

    • Misty June 1, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

      Amii, if you have a suggestion for a high powered solar / human powered flashlight I’d love it! I have quite a few, but they are all pretty weak sauce next to a battery powered one.

      And I LOVE the idea of using the electrical tape to cap things. Smart.

      • amii June 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

        I have a goal zero camp light- it can charge via solar panels (plugs to usb cord, included) has a crank, and it crazy bright, with adjustments to make the charge last longer.(48 hours on low) best charging comes from plug in of course, but it does have the other options for extended outages.

        • Misty June 8, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

          I have a bunch of goal zero products in my home, but hadn’t thought about moving them to my car kit. Thanks Amii!

          And sorry it took me forever to get back to you! My computer crashed and I’ve been dealing with that for a while!

  7. luci May 13, 2015 at 11:53 pm #

    Only other thing I can think of is a jumper box has its own power in case no other vehicles around to get ya going. My dad has one it is wonderful,,, some even come with air compressor feature 🙂

    • Misty May 18, 2015 at 11:53 am #

      I’ve seen those. Gonna go see if Amazon carries one. Thanks Luci!

  8. April October 25, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    Please use caution putting the first extinguisher in the door of your vehicle. A number of fire extinguishers work by displacing the oxygen and/or dispersing powder with the intent to suffocate the fire. If your vehicle was struck in the door, the fire extinguisher might explode releasing those chemicals all over your passenger. None of that is something you want to inhale as you’re gasping from the shock of the accident and it would make it incredibly hard for the first responders to locate injuries. Plus, since the contents of the canister are under pressure, there’s always the chance that any damage caused to the container may turn it into a projectile causing injuries of its own. You may want to move it farther into the interior of the car where it is more protected in case of an accident or move it to a compartment further away from passengers.

    • Misty October 27, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      I hadn’t even thought of that April. THANK YOU! I’ve moved the extinguisher to the center of the car.

  9. Stacey December 11, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    I have one more suggestion for you–extra Benadryl (or other OTC antihistamine) tablets and cream. We do a lot of day hikes in good weather, and it always seems like someone ends up bug-bit or into the poison ivy.

    Also, I found out the hard way that I had developed an apple allergy–on our way home from an amusement park, having a lovely bowl of caramel apples (my last)–and my throat almost closed up before we found a convenience store to replace the Benadryl we “thought” was in the car.

    Not everyone has that sort of issue but there are enough people who do–you might end up saving someone else! Obviously anyone who has an issue serious enough to need an Epi-pen should make sure to have a spare of those when going out!

    • Misty December 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      Thanks Stacey! Great tips. I do keep Benadryl in my first aid kit. I’m glad I”ve never had to use it! Wow, an apple allergy??? Who would have thought?

  10. Kat December 8, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    One summer on our long car trip we got stuck behind an accident on the interstate. No exit close by and more importantly no bathroom or privacy outside the vehicle. After some time passed my 4 year old couldnt hold it any longer. After combing the vehicle for ideas I found an old (unused) diaper. Worked perfectly!! Even now I keep a few diapers stashed for that “just in case” moment.

    • Misty December 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

      Great tip Kat! Thanks so much! (and sorry for my very late response)

  11. Brenda June 21, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    There is one thing that I would like to suggest for if you get stranded. A tarp with some tie downs (think shelter). If you are stranded in hot weather the last thing you would want to do is stay in the car with the little ones. Setting up shade for the car or for a place outside could be lifesaving. Heat stroke is very bad.

    • Misty June 26, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks Brenda!

      Sorry for the late response. I’m on vacation and a bit behind! (-:

  12. Kelly T. June 19, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Thanks for your help in this area. We live only 40 miles away from the wildfires in Colorado, and this info is extremely helpful right now. It gives you some peace of mind to have some things with you, and a small softside folding cooler has helped us more than once, with some water, easy to carry, and if the smoke gets bad, you can put some water on a hankerchief over your face and nose to lessen the effect of the smoke, especially for my little boy. Thanks for your ideas and guidelines, I especially appreciate the lists of what your family has done, because than you don’t have to think so much to get things together to help your family. Thankyou.

    • Misty June 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      You are welcome Kelly! Thanks for your additional tips. I pray your situation improves soon!

  13. Deb Coleman June 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    I just found your site and it is Wonderful!! I love how you repeat the cycle and that by reading people’s comments, I can learn even more. In this economy, it is so important to take baby steps or you will feel overwhelmed and might give up. Thank you for the great ideas and links! 🙂

    • Misty June 19, 2012 at 9:11 am #

      The comments are the best part Deb! So many knowledgeable people here!

  14. Brenda June 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Talk about timely, just last weekend my husband and I with 2 of our granddaughters (4 yo twins) traveled to another state for the weekend. The weather turned bad and we ended up coming home early. Keeping one eye on the weather I realized that we were not prepared for an emergency. We did not have extra water or snacks for the girls. I always keep a first aid kit in every car. We made it safely home but before we go on another trip I will be creating an emergency kit for the car. I have 2 weeks to get ready because we leave for Hilton Head, SC. Thanks for the list and I will let you know if I think of anything else to add to it. 🙂

    • Misty June 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      Personal experience is the best teacher / motivator ever! (-:

  15. Aimee June 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    This is a great post, Misty, and very timely for my family as we are getting ready to travel for a couple weeks. I have quite a few of the things in your everyday emergencies list in my purse at all times anyway, but it would be more useful to just have a set in each vehicle, especially for DH.

    This time around, my travel emergency kit has to look a little different since we’re going by air. So far, it includes OTC meds, bandages, ointment, a tiny sewing kit, safety pins, printouts of our flights, phone numbers for our airlines, relative’s phone numbers, tissues, and snacks raided from our regular emergency kit. We’ll have to carry our important documents anyway since we’re flying. I wish I had tiny flashlights to include.

    For the curious, the light travelers at another blog I love have had this discussion a few times before:

    • Misty June 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      The small flashlight that I linked to (the link) is my all time favorite Aimee (not that I’ve tried every one out there), but I do really, really like it!

  16. {amy k.} June 15, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    this is such a fabulous idea! i always have good intentions to put something like this together… but now i just need to act on them! this list is very helpful!

    • Misty June 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks Amy!