Introduction: Emergency Car Survival Kit

Picture of Emergency Car Survival Kit

In the wake of James Kim's death and what happened to his family I decided that I would make emergency kits for both of the vehicles in my family. The kits for sale in stores were filled with poor quality items that I couldn't trust in a serious situation, so I made my own.

Making your own lets you adjust its contents to your climate, budget and situations. I hope people will take the kit I've put together as a base to start their own.

Lets get started...

Step 1: Assembling the Contents

Picture of Assembling the Contents

This emergency kit consists of:

1.) Jumper cables (aka booster cables)
2.) Multi-Tool (one of those pliers that have tons of tools in the handle)
3.) Map (local area or area you'll be traveling)
4.) First-aid kit
5.) Flashlight
6.) Rag
7.) Duct tape (because you can fix a lot of things with Duct tape)
8.) Rain coat (the folded $1 type)
9.) Emergency blanket (the folded $1 type)
10.) Folding shovel (entrenching tool)
11.) Fuses for fuse box
12.) Water bottles
13.) Protein bars or M.R.E. (meal-ready-to-eat)
14.) Reflective tape or reflective triangles (flares are hard to find)
15.) Old Cell phone, fully charged. Call customer service via the phone to make sure it works. Do not make test calls to 911 (Service is not needed to make 911 calls). Most modern cell phones and cell networks can triangulate your position, this is very handy in an emergency.
16.) Lighter or water proof matches, or flint rod.
17.) Compass
18.) 550 cord (named after its tensile strength) or para cord. Google the number of uses for this stuff, you'll be amazed.

I'll address some of these items in the next few steps.

Step 2: Fire Is Important

Picture of Fire Is Important

When I made survival kits in the Army I had 5 different ways to make fire.

A fire will give you warmth when it's cold, chilly, and downright freezing outside.
A fire will provide you light during darkness so you can see to do other things.
A fire will allow you to cook your meals and boil water so you can consume them safely.
A fire will dry out your clothes when they've become wet so you won't get sick.
A fire will provide a way to signal for help, both, during darkness and daylight hours.
A fire will protect you from wild critters, they don't like fire.

So in short, add fire making devices to your comfort level.

Step 3: Organize the Kit

Picture of Organize the Kit

You'll want to place large items and items you wont need ready access to at the bottom of your kit.

In my case the jumper cables are large and would be cumbersome to move out of the way if I neede to get to the first-aid kit, so they'll go on the bottom.

Step 4: Communication Can Save a Life

Picture of Communication Can Save a Life

Not many people know that "out-of-service" cell phones can still dial 911. Dig through that catch-all drawer and pull out that old Nokia 5100 series and throw it in your kit.

Don't have an extra phone? Grab a $20 pre-paid phone(w/ roaming), because $20 is cheap insurance.

Step 5: Put It All Together

Picture of Put It All Together

This is the fun part where you get to put it all together.

Step 6: Make It Easy to See

Picture of Make It Easy to See

If you are forgoing the reflective triangles you should at least get the $2 roll of reflective tape.
This is the same type of reflective material you see in traffic signs, this stuff really pops when you shine a light on it at night. This add-on will be great if your changing your tire in the dark.

Remember you can add and subtract anything you want from this basic kit, just make it work for you and your climate. For instance I added a shovel because I drive in the snow parts of the year. If I lived in Arizona I might add a gallon of water to this kit, you get the idea.

Hope you have fun making your emergency kit.



jimmytvf (author)2013-08-30

how do you forget the water? and this kit also need a small blanket if you're gonna get lost in a cold place, or even cold nights, you don't know what is gonna happen

badace (author)jimmytvf2013-08-31

This kit isn't all inclusive. It's an alternative to the poor quality "emergency kits" sold in stores. None of those include water ;)

Though not pictured, item #12 in the kit is water bottles. I'd suggest people fill them with water for best results.

jompon2547 (author)badace2017-09-19

maybe survival water filter

TheGrayAssassin (author)badace2016-04-22

Nice idea. People need water to survive. If I were in Arizona, I would do that. However, if you live in the country with a lot of forests then you might want a LifeStraw.

jompon2547 (author)2017-09-19

would be nice to have flare gun with u as emergency call of self defence

Loveofchaos (author)2007-07-08

i would add a gun, a cheap .22 pistol would be an excellent thing to have (as long as you had bullets) if you were stuck in a long term situation you could use it to hunt and defend yourself from stuff like bears. (i know a .22 doesnt seem like a very formidable weapon to bear, try shooting for the eyes. pack a flare gun and shoot it with that.)

jompon2547 (author)Loveofchaos2017-09-19

it would be nice to 22. pistol for self defence

but it would be better with derringer with 410 in it

mctrog007 (author)Loveofchaos2010-02-09

This is absolutly the wrong advice.
 first off a .22 is just going to annoy the bear, pretty much anywhere you hit it. yeah an eye shot might make him think twice but while you have a several hundered pound bear coming your way with eyes the size of maybe two thumbs and he is shaking his head in rage. you can shoot all you want, "I" though will climb a tree as I already know I can't outrun the durn thing. Feel free to shoot though. While he is eating you I can get out of there.

Good luck to you.

sdljlsd (author)mctrog0072013-01-17

Accually, a .22 pistol is capable of killing any north american mammal with correct shot placement. You would only need to shoot the bear in the head to bring it down... forget about aiming for the eyes.

sandrak320 (author)sdljlsd2016-05-04

A .22 round is just going to bounce off a bear's skull and make it more angry.

Module 1 (author)Loveofchaos2009-05-19

you could also use the bullets to sart a fire(take gun powder out of bullet, spark,and run

TheGrayAssassin (author)Module 12016-04-22

Nope. Gunpowder doesn't start a fire, as almost all people believe. When lit, it produces enormous amounts of gas, which propel the bullet.

azechar101 (author)Module 12012-07-16

It will not work

badace (author)Loveofchaos2007-07-09

Good suggestion, I would advise people to check with local laws before putting loaded weapons in their vehicles. Some states require a lock and other require that you separate the weapon and its ammunition. I have a lot of fond memories of shooting my .22 in the Arizona deserts.

tjosephcarter (author)badace2015-05-05

If you don't know the gun laws where you live, you probably shouldn't own a gun. Particularly we Americans start getting all kinds of uppity about whether some of them are "legal laws" or not, but we should still know what they are.

Likewise, if you plan to carry your gun in your car, you need to know the laws everywhere your car is. It gets kind of ridiculous because what's required in one jurisdiction is forbidden in the next, but discussing the solution to that problem is kind of off-topic. ;)

One bit of advice, if you're carrying a gun on your person or in your car and you're required to inform police officers about that where you are, don't use the word "GUN" when doing it. "Here's my license and my CWP, and yes I have it with me today," is much easier on their nerves—especially for an officer's partner who probably can't hear much of what you're saying but will inevitably hear that magic word.

Loveofchaos (author)badace2007-07-09

im only 14 and i love going out and shooting my .22. with the bullet thing, of course. i would put in about 4 of those little 50 round boxes of winchester high velocity bullets. they seem to take no space at all. or u could just put in a brick of 500.

Arc4278 (author)2017-08-06

Where did you get the bag for this kit?

boris400 (author)2016-04-21

Storing the compass in close proximity to steel objects for any length of time is a bad idea. Object s like a steel vehicle body or the entrenching tool or multi tool will weaken the magnetic field in the compass needle, making it less and less accurate over time, until it no longer points anywhere near North.

TheGrayAssassin (author)boris4002016-04-22

Maybe, but I really doubt all of us know that. Thanks for the info though!

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.

amanda99w (author)2015-12-10

What kind of Rubbermaid bag is that? Where did you get ?

nadrr (author)2015-09-07

Good suggestion

mampoer (author)2013-08-30

You have an extra .com in the URL linking to the James Kim story.

badace (author)mampoer2013-08-31

Thanks! fixed.

baba4 (author)2013-08-09

this is a good addition to any car

Scozza (author)2011-10-21

Some really strong cord, like parachute cord, will also be handy in an emergency kit. Also a couple of plastic garbage bags, good for keeping things dry, distilling water etc.

badace (author)Scozza2011-10-21

Ah 550 cord! How could I have forgotten? Agreed, that's a perfect addition to any survival kit.

Musicman41 (author)2011-09-08

Another very useful use for a shovel: instant toilet. It would be good to add an almost empty roll of toilet paper.

Esmagamus (author)2011-03-20

I don't know how the hell you didn't remember including a high visibility vest in your kit.

Granted, most "emergencies" are likely to be just a flat tire or a broken belt on the side of the road. Here in Portugal, the law says you've got to have a vest along with the reflective triangle and you've got to wear the vest even if you're just replacing a tire on the side of the road. It has saved many drivers lives.

Also, those chinese jumper cables are not reliable at all. I often had situations where I couldn't jump start another car because the battery had been completely drained trying to use the starter to move the car out of the road. Most of the cable is insulation and the little conductor will dissipate any energy you're trying to get on the other car.

A better thing to do is take the cables apart and replace the stock cable with some proper welding cable or many strands of finer wires. Won't be cheap, but it will last for ages.

bradster2256 (author)2010-11-07

A little fact - you lose dehydrate faster in cold weather than in hot weather.

Knot71 (author)2010-08-04

I think the single most useful thing you could keep in your car would be a mobile phone and a list of emerency numbers... Then a space blanket. Tin Food and Water. (Spare fuel would also be useful) :-)

MT-LB (author)2009-07-01

Maybe you should keep a 3-gallon water jug in each car. Or purification tablets.

z28racer (author)2009-05-26

as far as I know they work any where as long as it has a veiw of the sky.

z28racer (author)2009-05-26

another good thing would be any type of GPS. A Tom Tom, Garmin,one for the roads or back woods does not matter they can all give you your exact location in longitude and latitude. so if you can get in contact with help they can actually find you instead of saying I'm by this or off this road or what ever

Module 1 (author)2009-05-19

I'm making this into more of an outdoor survival kit than a car kit. just remove the jumper cables, and change the duffel bag into a backpack. and add some fishing supplies

DeusXMachina (author)2008-01-19

I was thinking about water storage and it obviously has two issues: storage space (which is directly proportional to sustain time), and if you're up north, freezing. What if one could store 80 gallons in a small jug? If one had one of those compact Brita filter pitchers (~$11), they could produce easily enough fresh water from yuck water. They're cheap and really easy to obtain. I don't know if I would feel safe using it to filter absolutely putrid water (and even then if I were on the verge of dehydration I think I'd give it a shot!!) but certainly for any stream or standing water. Obviously have some water at hand as well in case you get stranded no where near any water.

Module 1 (author)DeusXMachina2009-05-19

here is a tip. if you are looking for water in the forest or whatever, get it from streams, not still standing water cause that is where mosquitoes lay their eggs. try to get the water as upstream as possible too.

stephenniall (author)2009-01-05

I have made a small sorta kit like this for travelling one tip is to put a Cellphone (Mobile for us Brits) antenna on the roof incase your stuck in

badace (author)stephenniall2009-01-06

Very smart. I'll be sure to do that. Every little bit helps when you're out that far from a tower.

jtpoutdoor (author)2008-12-24

like it- I have already put together something similar. I drive a Suzuki Jimney so there is EXTREMELY limited space for gear but stuff I always carry include most of the above (except I stash the torch in the front where I can reach it (it hangs off my gear lever)) and have one of those flashing beacon/seatbelt cutters in a hanging pocket off the back of the passenger seat (where I can reach it). Water bottle fits under the seat and spare oil stashes under the bonnet in the engine bay. I also carry waterproofs, swandri and have a fluoro vest on the passenger seat- no point in getting run over when you get out to change the tyre, oh yeah I have one of those wee tyre inflators as well with the slime stuff to fill up the tyre (in case of 2 punctures)., Tie down straps, a tow rope when off road, rated shackles and a small tool kit and overalls all fit in the main bag along with a couple of bits of sponge (for protecting the roof when tying odd loads on it) I'm thinking of a porta jump emergency battery charger- very small and neat, anyone used one?

nate121 (author)2008-10-17

adding a water ration would be good

sigsauerman (author)2008-09-01

Just a question, wouldn't protein bars be bad because they need more water to use? Finding clean water probably won't be easy to find. Seems to me that something with more sugar would be good as it provides more energy and is easier. Maybe some hard candies or just some Chewy bars or something. Correct me if I'm wrong. Great instructable tho!

badace (author)sigsauerman2008-09-02

Sugars and salt would be great, but in survival, protein and water is what you need to live. If you know you'll be traveling in an area that doesn't have readily available water, take some with you. This kit (though not specifically stated) was for folks that might get stuck on the side of the road for what ever reason, blown engine, heavy rains, snow, etc. Each persons kit should be customized for there environment, this kit is a starting point for your custom kit. Thanks for the feedback :)

jcurme (author)2008-06-26

The Eton FR150 Microlink is a great little solar/crank radio/LED flashlight/cell phone charger about the size of a deck of cards. Make sure to get the appropriate adapter(s) for your phone(s). A suggestion about batteries: get battery-operated devices that all use the same size, store them without batteries, and just keep a big package of batteries in the kit . Every 6 months, just take out the old package and put in a fresh one -- use the old ones in the house or other non-critical location. Easy to replace and no chance of leakage or accidental on.

UFT (author)2008-01-24

I Love the idea but it is missing one thing that would make your life alot easier, "A small Axe!". Can't stress enough the need for lots of firewood when stranded and the jumper cables and car battery make great firestarter sparks. :)

bujo0 (author)UFT2008-03-21

if you buy a good E-tool( the shovel) it will have a saw on on side of the head and an blade on the other. it is strong enough to use an an axe, and many military don't issue their men knives because the use the E-tool to hit people, so they can chop wood

altaria1993 (author)2007-09-26

here in the netherlands, you can even call the dutch "911"( 112) without a SIM card :)

totally_screwed (author)2007-07-10

For best battery life in the Cell phone, remove the battery. It is easy to replace when required.
If it's a pay-as-you-go, in the UK some operators disconnect Cell phones that have not received a call for six months or more.

With all battery devices, such as battery torches and strobes, if it has an even number of cells, reverse half of them, that way if the switch is accidentally turned-on [can easily happen in a bag], the batteries will not be discharged when you come to use it. Of course, you'll need to make sure the batteries are properly installed to use it.

Alternately, insert a disk of thin cardboard or hard PVC or similar plastic [e.g. a piece of CD / DVD or the CD / DVD case. Cut with a Dremel, hot wire or similar.] between the batteries for the same effect. That way, even if it's been left switched-on for six months or a year or so, the batteries will still work, just r'remove the disk and replace the batteries and it will work o.k.

Take a CD / DVD place a battery from the torch for your kit on the CD or piece of cardboard and draw around it with a suitable marker. Cut-out disk. Try in torch for 'fit'. Trimming may be required!

Label it 'battery insulator' 'KEEP!'

Instruct your partner and children about the need to remove it and why it's there!

Label all items that have a shelf-life. Batteries should be marked if not marked by the manufacturer.

Never use zinc chloride batteries for emergency battery devices. They have a small capacity, suffer from self-discharge and therefore have a very short shelf-life. Then they tend to leak corrosive fluid.

Alkaline batteries are best, they have a much greater capacity and long shelf-life because their self-discharge rate is so low that they will remain usable for years. In the UK, own-brand alkaline batteries from supermarkets and DIY stores offer the best value at ~50% of the price of the premium brands. Take twice as many batteries for the same price!

The best batteries are Lithium types. Highest capacity, best performance at low temperatures, longest shelf life, highest price.

For some reason I was unable to preview this! Apologies for any formatting errors!

unjust (author)2007-06-26

few things.
1- the jumper cables you want accessible, as the chances of them being needed vs power bars is pretty high if you're in a cold climate.
2-there are a number of LED strobes (like bike tail lights) that are very reliable and will be very visible if you power them with alkaline batteries, although their effacacy will drop when it's cold out. e
3- water. food is good, especially in cold areas, but a few bottles of water are a must. both for topping off an over heated radiator, and for drinking. dont' worry if it freezes.
4-toss a pair of nitrile covered gardening gloves, and a ~18x36" scrap of carpet. makes changing a tire much more pleasant, and gives you a little traction if need be. also gives you a modicum of insulation to not handle cold metal in the winter.
5-spare headlight lamp. nuf said.
6-hand crank radio with weather channels, and ideally a lighter outlet to power that cel phone (with charger) which will be dead when you want it.
7- if you're a naughty biscuit airplane blankets come in handy little plastic bags that can be stashed under your passenger seat to have clean blankets (also nice for picnics)
8-remember to rotate out consumables (batteries, water, foods) every ~6 months (like when you rotate your tires, or change to winter ones, or *cough* change your oil)

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