Introduction: Auto Emergency Survival Kit

Picture of Auto Emergency Survival Kit

This is an emergency survival kit that I originally put together to keep in my wife's car.  She travels a great deal for her job and particularly a lot during the winter months.  This kit is designed to help 2 people to survive if stranded during cold weather.  However, most of the components are multipurpose and are useful in any season or geographic area.  Since the first kit was constructed, I have replicated it and keep one in all of our vehicles.  It would make a great base kit if it becomes necessary to quickly evacuate your home in a disaster situation.

Step 1: A Lot of Gear in a Small Pack

Picture of A Lot of Gear in a Small Pack

All of the gear on the table is kept in the pack with a little room to spare for additional items if required.  This kit is organized in purpose groups and includes tools, survival aids, utensils, sheltering items, sanitation supplies, first aid supplies, food, and water. 

Step 2: Protectective Gear & Sheltering Group

Picture of Protectective Gear & Sheltering Group

In this group I have the following items to help keep you warm and dry in the event you become stranded during inclement weather:

1.  Military surplus casualty blanket.  This is a light weight, heavy duty,  reusable mylar backed blanket with grommets along the edges. It can be used as a blanket or a shelter.

2.  A light weight bivy shelter tent.  It comes packaged with the tent, poles, stakes, and guy cords.

3.  (2) stocking caps.

4.  A zip seal bag with a variety of chemical body and hand warmers.

5.  (2) mylar space blankets.

6.  (1) pair of leather work gloves.
7.  (2) pair of brown cotton jersey work gloves.  These should probably be exchanged for wool gloves or mittens, but these are what I had on hand when I put the kit together.

8.  50' of 550 para cord.

9.  A zip closure bag containing a box of strike anywhere matches.

10.  A zip seal bag containing (2) tea candles, (1) 9 hour emergency candle, and a small roll (about 6') of duct tape.  The candles can be used for light and to melt snow for drinking water.  The duct tape case fix or repair just about anything.

11.  A large bandana handkerchief.  This can be used as a handkerchief, head scarf, bandage, sling, signaling device, and many other uses.

12.  A military surplus triangular bandage or cravat.  Larger that the bandana, the cravat has many possible uses.

13.  (2) vinyl rain ponchos.

Step 3: Tools & Equipment Group

Picture of Tools & Equipment Group

Included in the kit are several multipurpose tools:

1.  Air Force pilot's survival knife.  Any medium sized fixed blade knife with about a 4 inch blade will do.  I like this knife because it is very sturdy, and has a heavy leather case with a sharpening stone. 

2.  Folding stainless steel trowel with nylon case.  This trowel can be used to scrape away ice and snow or to bury your toilet waste.

3.  Mini LED Maglite with nylon case.  The LED model is a little more expensive, but it gives better light and has longer battery life.

4.  Pocket note pad and pencil.

5.  Map reading compass w/ lanyard and magnifier.

6.  Gerber multitool w/ nylon case.

7.  LED headband light.  This model uses the same AA batteries as the Maglite.

8.  Zip seal bag with spare AA batteries and a commando style wire saw.

9.  Pocket survival guide.  I included this in the kit mostly to remind me of the things I should already know and to keep my mind occupied. 

10.  Pocket Survival Kit.  I included this mini kit just in case one person had to leave the vehicle to go for help.  My Instructable on assembling a PSK can be found here

11.  (2) 8 hour chemical light sticks.  You'll need to keep track of the expiration dates for these and replace them when the get out dated.

12.  Waterproof match case with strike anywhere matches.

13.  Rescue whistle.

Step 4: Water Storage & Food Prep Group

Picture of Water Storage & Food Prep Group

These items were included to provide containers for water storage and sterilization and to prepare hot food it you're stranded for an extended period of time. The Nalgene bottle and canteen are kept full of water most of the time until the temperatures stay below freezing. The canteen cup and the metal graniteware cup can both be used to melt snow for drinking water or to make coffee or tea.

1.  32 oz (1000 ml) Nalgene water bottle.

2.  1L Swiss Army canteen.  I chose this canteen because it came nested in an aluminum cup and it fits nicely in the side pocket of the backpack.

3.  Metal graniteware coffee cup.

4.  French military surplus 3 piece mess kit.  Look at the next photo to see what is stored inside.

5.  1 quart collapsible plastic water bottle.  This bottle takes up very little space in the pack when it is collapsed.  This container can be used to treat drinking water or for a urine bottle so you don't have to get out of the car during inclement weather.  Just don't forget what you used it for!

6.  Lite My Fire plastic combo spoon spork.

Step 5: Emergency Food Group

Picture of Emergency Food Group

I included several shelf stable emergency food stuffs just in case you get stranded for an extended period.  Although these items have a long shelf life, you will need to keep track of their expiration dates and replace them when necessary,

1.  2400 calorie Mainstay ration bar.  This food bar can be broken into (6) 400 calorie servings and has a 5 year shelf life.  It is SOLAS approved as a survival ration.  It is supposed to taste a little like a lemon bar and is not thirst inducing.

2.  (2) 2-1/2 oz cans of Underwood Deviled Ham.  As long as the cans are not bulged out the food is edible.

3.  (1) package of MRE crackers (to spread the Deviled Ham on).

4.  (4) packages of instant soup mix in a zip seal bag.

5.  (2) Oatmeal breakfast bars.

If you're planning a road trip it might also be a good idea to make up a couple of travel food packs like this one.

Step 6: First Aid & Sanitation Group

Picture of First Aid & Sanitation Group

This group contains some sanitation and comfort items to use while you are stranded and after you get rescued.

1.  3 pack of hikers/backpackers toilet paper.

2.  Toiletry kit with travel sized health & beauty items.

3.  Package of wet naps.

4.  Large and small plastic trash bags.

5.  First aid kit in waterproof dry sack.

6.  Water purification tablets & neutralizing tablets.

Step 7: Additional Items to Keep in Your Vehicle

Picture of Additional Items to Keep in Your Vehicle

Here are a few items that are also kept in the vehicles along with the jack, lug wrench, small tool kit, and warning triangle.

Step 8: Final Thoughts...

These are the items that we keep in our vehicles for emergency situations.  Hopefully, we will never find ourselves in a position that requires us to rely on them, but I think it is cheap insurance.  With OnStar, Garmin, and cell phones, the odds of being stranded for a prolonged length of time are pretty slim, but it can happen.  Even if you can reach the auto club or police, they might not be able to immediately reach you due to storms, floods, blizzard conditions, etc.  I believe fate favors the prepared and I prefer to have control of my situation.  I'm constantly tinkering with my kits adding, deleting, and changing items.  If you choose to make your own kit you should customize it to your needs and the areas you travel. 

Step 9: Epilogue

Picture of Epilogue

One of the things about making these instructables is that they make you think more about the things you've made. Since originally publishing this one, I found the need to add a few things to this pack. 

1.  While shopping for something else at Walmart, I came across this 3'X3' blaze orange SOS maritime marker panel.  I thought it would make a great distress marker that could be attached to the car's radio antenna or waved at a passing vehicle or aircraft.

2.  (2) Blaze orange hunting vests.  Your first job in a survival situation is to help the rescuers find you.  These orange vests can be seen from great distances especially from the air.

3.  (3) fiber coffee filters.  These filters can be used to strain water from a pond or road ditch into your water bottles for further purification.


itsruthanitha (author)2016-02-26

Recently I bought this Emergency Survival Kit, In my opinion, it's convenient and reliable, I love survival whistle, Includes led Flashlight and Multi Function tools card. I got this code "PD10" and got a 10% discount.

ruggb (author)2015-12-16

FYI, a HAM radio can be used by anyone, anyplace IN AN EMERGENCY.

the issue would be figuring out how to use it without using it. Find a HAM to help u.

gdsmit1 (author)2015-09-15

Nice kit, but not something I would want to put together all at once.

I've found that strike anywhere matches have gotten really hard to find. I haven't seen them in a store in years, and online retailers don't seem to want to ship them. Any suggestions on where you find your strike anywhere matches?

marcsachs333 (author)2014-11-09

Even though you might have mentioned it somewhere in the thread, how much did it cost to put this pack together?


SparkySolar (author)2014-10-25

Thank you for your nice Instructable.


johngriswold (author)2011-09-06

I would be inclined to suggest an amateur radio. Sometimes cell phones don't work. Amateur radio almost always does, and had far far better range than the FRS radios you can get at the local WalMart. is a great starting place. It's an easy test to get a license.
John, KK1X (my amateur call :)

crummett (author)johngriswold2014-09-23

I agree. A ham license is pretty easy to get, and you can get a decent handheld radio for less than $40. Get a car charger for it and you're all set.

ashutter (author)2013-11-24

I was looking at the emergency vehicle kit in the red bag. I was wondering about how much all that stuff cost in total to put that entire bag together?

diyoutdoorsman (author)ashutter2013-12-08

Sorry for the delay in replying to your question. I really didn't keep track of the cost for the complete kit. I would guess there is probably a couple hundred dollars of stuff if you bought everything all at once. Most of the items I had accumulated over time and just consolidated into a complete kit. A lot of the gear was bought on sale or close-out at sporting goods or surplus stores and/or online. My advice is to buy the best equipment you can afford and add to the kit a little at a time. Start with things you already have in your camping kit, kitchen, etc. Then add the universal non-seasonal items. Add/upgrade items as you find them or can afford them.

trksh22 (author)2011-09-09

I'm wondering how this can be changed to work with a family with children. I have a 3 and 6 year old and wonder what would be needed to accommodate them. I mean, I have some ideas, but I have no real clue. Really, this kit should include them, right? Why do I feel the need to throw a chapter book in there? Legos to keep them occupied? The mom in me wants to over do it! Any advice? As far as I know there aren't any surviving with kids guides.

Sorry, I found only one.

I found a couple of books on Amazon: Survival Mom: How To Prepare Your Family For Every Day Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios. It's VERY GOOD!! $14.71 for paperback, $11.04 For Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle, and have an Android phone or tablet without it, check on Google play. Peace.

diyoutdoorsman (author)trksh222011-09-09

I have seen a few survival guides for children, and I think you should definitely include items to protect them. I think I would make a kit for each of them and put it in their own pack. That way they can feel like they are part of the program. I would include the same type of clothing items that are in your kit, stocking cap, gloves or mittens, a rain poncho and maybe even a jacket. Think bright colors. After you have them warm I would include a few survival items at least for your 6 year old. If a child becomes separated from you they should know basic safety procedures, (find a policeman, fireman, adult, etc). They should have their name, parent’s name, and contact information in the pack, maybe on a waterproof card or even a dog tag. The children should know that they should stop, make themselves as comfortable as possible, don't panic, and wait for help. Their first job should be to help the searchers find them. That means they should stay in one place, have a loud whistle, a bright bandana or scarf, or something to wave. As far as food goes it may be a little harder to keep something for them, but the same items I have in my pack should work, at least for your older child. Maybe substitute Spaghetti-O's for the deviled ham. You might consider putting together a travel pack similar to this one that I use for backpacking. A few substitutions should give you a basic snack pack. For the first aid kit, you might add items related to children, but I would keep it in your pack. As far as items to keep them entertained, I would think about the things you would normally take with you on a car trip to keep them occupied.

trksh22 (author)diyoutdoorsman2011-09-09

Thanks so much for the all the help! I am going to do that. They know how to react to an emergency at home, but I never thought about what to do outside of the home (like being separated - my instructions bank on other adults, easily identifiable, being around), besides the bare basics.

Again, thanks! One thing, they'd definitely go for the deviled ham over the Spaghetti-O's!

rogue_saint_michael (author)2013-10-15

Very comprehensive! This is great BOB set up too. To have one in every vehicle is essential, imho. Survival is so much easier when every person has their own copy of this. Repetition is never underrated. Peace.

BlackHawk7529 (author)2013-07-28

What kind of backpack is that?

It is just a basic book bag type backpack. I chose red so it would be easily recognizable. It has a couple of side pockets for water bottles and some inside pouches. It is nothing remarkable but it is well constructed with good straps and zippers.

camping crazy (author)2012-11-13

also those zip lock bags are handy in a survival situation for water storage,collecting berries, etc

Tacks (author)2012-10-18

I realize that depending on where you live that the legality of a gun may be an issue, and you have expanded on my personal Bugout Bag, showing me several things that I do not have that I should... but living in Michigan and being outdoors and miles from society for a few weeks a year, I NEVER create a situation where I don't have the resources to protect myself from a wild animal or (god forbid) a human force that can threaten my well being without options. Even a semi-decent .22 and ammo can run you less than $150 and provide you with a resource to hunt squirrel or other small game. Again, I will be adding items you have mentioned that I do not have to my Bugout bag, but I will ALWAYS have either a .22, or the 9mm that never leaves my car, with me to protect my life;or those around me.

Blechmen (author)2012-04-17

This is a very easy and understandable way of showing us what to bring and i love that you split them up into section. but you should use image notes.

diyoutdoorsman (author)Blechmen2012-04-18

Thanks for your comment. I had image notes on almost all of the photos. But, some of them seem to have randomly either disappeared or moved from their original position. I've posted a bug report in the forums. It looks like I will have to edit several if not all my instructables.

Blechmen (author)diyoutdoorsman2012-04-21

Oh ok but your instructables are great and very clean

beefcrisps (author)2011-11-27

Great use for the coffee filters, would never have thought of that.

Verga (author)2011-09-09

I have been intending to build one of these for both our vehicles, this is the incentive I needed. Thank you for writing a well thought out and executed Ible.

sweenr (author)2011-09-08

Looks really good, but I had one question: how does your kit handle the heat? I live in an area where during the summer (which is most of the year) it can stay in excess of 100 degrees in my trunk. Is there anything in particular that you would need to keep an eye on in the extreme heat?

diyoutdoorsman (author)sweenr2011-09-08

We live in Missouri and the summers get fairly hot. We had several days this summer in excess of 100 degrees. Everything in the kit is pretty stable. About the only thing that seems to react to the temperature is the chapstick in the first aid kit. It gets a little soft from time to time. Also, you need to keep an eye on the expiration dates on the food items and the medical supplies. The shelf life of some items will decrease in extreme temperatures but nothing will spoil. The items that are moist (i.e. wet naps, alcohol pads, etc) will tend to dry out over time. The baby wipes in this kit are about a year old and while still moist are not as wet as they were when new

djzadjza (author)2011-09-06

very nice

panzerfaust379 (author)2011-09-06

Overall nice job, I'd add some things to keep your self at 98.6 degrees. Maybe a
wind breaker with hood, a extra pair of wool socks & perhaps a fleece pullover. How much does it weigh?

It weighs just over 18 lbs. It could be lightened up a bit by some substitutions and changes.

davis65536 (author)2011-09-06

Nicely organized. I didn't see if you've got a pair of disposable latex gloves. They're handy for unexpected mucky jobs to save getting your hands filthy. Don't take up much room, either.

Actually, they are in the first aid kit. I just didn't breakout the contents of that kit inthis instructable.

dimtick (author)2011-09-06

WOW.....GREAT JOB!!!!!!!!!
I've got a small kit in my cars but nothing like this.

here's my few thoughts:
water purifier. I don't think those tablets will get you very far. there are small water purifying water bottles that may work better.
i keep one of those small window hammers in the front of the car in case your stuck in the car and need to break a window to get out. make sure it's one with a knife to cut the seat belt if needed. I keep it under the seat with a small fire exenguisher.
I keep a small auto kit with tools, jumper cables, etc.
When I travel in winter I make sure that I have a small snow shovel & a bag of kitty litter. the kitty litter is invaluable if you find yourself stuck in a snow drift and have to dig yourself out and need traction on ice.
I also have some plastic wheel stops and a good lug wrench. the lug wrench that comes with the spare stinks and the lugs that are put on with a impact wrench are impossible to loosen. I got a flat once during winter, and had to stop on a small incline. when i jacked up the car, the car slid backwards on the ice and fell off the jack, even tho i had the parking break on. had to call a tow truck for that one.
I also keep some heavy duty rope that can be used as a tow rope if your stuck in a ditch.
i also have a small radio. I use one of those combo, radio-flashlights. it has a hand crank which can also be used to charge a cell phone. i've never had to use it (knock on wood) so i'm not sure how well it works.

some other things I do.
i keep up with vehicle maintenance and have our car checked out before doing traveling.
i make sure the our cell phones are charged before leaving.
all our cars have deer whistles that are supposed to scare away deer. I'm not sure if they work but I've never hit a deer even tho we travel thru heavy deer areas.
i'm a big believer in using Rainex on our windows. I've driven thru some major rainstorms and never had problems with visibility.

diyoutdoorsman (author)dimtick2011-09-06

Thanks for the feedback. I considered a water filter, but decided against it. My thoughts were that first, we almost always have a few bottles of water in the car. Second, there are 50 purification tablets in each package. Each tablet is supposed to treat 1 liter of water, that 50 liters. Hopefully, we would be extracted before we ran out of tablets Third, we have the ability to melt snow or boil water if necessary. Upon further review though, I might add a couple of the filter straws that are available. I think I will also add a few coffee filters to at least strain out sediment.

In addition to this kit I also keep many of the tools you mentioned.. There is a 4-way lug wrench, a set of jumper cables, and a small automotive tool kit in the trunk. We each received a glass breaker & strap cutter as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law a few years ago and it is kept in the center console of both vehicles. I keep a tow strap in my truck, but I don't think my wife has one. I should probably correct that. I also have a set of wheel chaulks in the truck but not the car, I should probably fix that too.

dimtick (author)diyoutdoorsman2011-09-06

your kit is much more thorough than mine is.
for us, we do a lot of cross country driving (can't afford to fly), but am never far from civilization and am never in a place without cell phone service. my kit is geared toward being able to call for help and be ok until help arrives.

diyoutdoorsman (author)dimtick2011-09-06

My wife and I both do a lot of cross cuntry driving in rural areas. Often times cell phone coverage is spotty. She has OnStar, but I don't. The theroy behind the kit is that in the event we become stranded in some remote location, we would be able to wait out the storm, flood, mechanical failure, or other misfortune in the vehicle until help arrives. During the winter in say, South Dakota, that could be 2 or 3 days. In the event that help doesn't arrive within a couple of days, we would have sufficient equipment to split between us and allow on person to go for help. About

10 years ago, our car broke down on Interstate 70 between Salina and Hays, KS. We had AAA, but the cellphone coverage faded in an out. It took 5 calls to the auto club before we could relay out location and it took over 4 hours for a tow truck to arrive. Even though we were on a major highway, not one person stopped to check on us in all that time. Thankfully, we had plenty of water and snacks and it turned out to be just an inconvenience. Had we been in another area or gotten stranded during severe weather, we might have been there a lot longer. I've always gone by the therory that it is better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it.

Lorddrake (author)2011-09-06

fantastic job organizing and maximizing your emergency kit.

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