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Everything You Need in Your Car Emergency Kit

broken down car emergency snow
Paul Viant/Getty Images

Planning a road trip? Here’s everything you might need to plot a cross-country journey, a family vacation, or a solo trek.

Traveling backcountry roads or long stretches of highway, no matter the season, can bring a sense of isolation. If your car breaks down or you slip off the road, that isolation can turn into a life or death situation. Having a few essentials in the car can help save your life (or someone else’s) if you run into trouble on remote streets or during a road trip. We’ve put together a list of essential so you can create your own car emergency kit — something that should be in your vehicle at all times, just in case.

Satellite Phone

When you really get stuck and need help (or just need to let someone know you’ll be late for dinner), you need a satellite communication device, which can text people from anywhere in the world. From the middle of the Pacific to Antarctica, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ sends messages to phones, social media, or other inReach devices. When you need major help, inReach models can send deliver an SOS alert for search and rescue. The Explorer+ is also a rugged handheld GPS, showing you exactly where you are in the world on the maps you have installed.

Garmin inReach Explorer+ Satellite Communicator
Garmin inReach Explorer Satellite Communicator

Battery-Powered Jump Starter

A dead battery on a car isn’t much of an issue in a crowded parking lot, but alone in the middle of nowhere poses a much larger problem. If the battery in your phone is dead, the situation is even worse.

If the car’s battery is dead, then plug in the included jumper cables. As long as there are three bars of power on the bank then you can easily jump up to a 3.8L V6 engine (ToughTested also has a larger version for up to 7L V8’s). The “no-spark” cables can’t be connected incorrectly and give you a green light when it’s ready to boost.

The Power Bank can also charge your phone multiple times. Just plug in your USB cord and you’re good to go. Recharge it easily in the car with the included cigarette lighter USB charger.

ToughTested Pocket Jump Starter and Power Bank
ToughTested Pocket Jump Starter and Power Bank

Portable Generator

Power is such a requirement for all our devices these days. When our phone, inReach, or jump starter are dead, then we might be in trouble in remote areas (or maybe we’re just stuck without Netflix on a camping trip).

Portable power to the rescue! The Explorer 240 battery station from Jackery is a lightweight, super mobile generator that can charge your phone, laptops, and tablets — even fridges and TVs. With 240 watt-hours of power, it can charge a phone 15 times, a laptop four times, or run a 32-inch TV for three hours. Easily charge it from your car’s DC port, a solar panel, or at home on any plug. Any time you go on an extended trip just put the little 6.8-pound unit in the back of the car and you know you have power for days.

Jackery Generator Explorer 240 Portable Power Station
Jackery Generator Explorer 240 Portable Power Station

Pocket Chainsaw

If a tree comes down behind you on a forestry road, what do you do? Having a pocket chainsaw in the car would help. The UST Sabercut Pro is a chainsaw chain with a handle on either end. Wrap the blade around a branch or tree and slide the handles back and forth. In just minutes you can get through big timber. It’s great for cutting downed timber for the fire or dealing with a tree branch in the backyard you can’t reach. The teeth are self-cleaning and it’s easily sharpened with any chainsaw sharpening tool.

UST SaberCut Pro Hand Chainsaw – $30
UST SaberCut Pro Hand Chainsaw

Traction Mats

Roads that are normally a simple Sunday drive in the summer can be deadly traps in the winter. Even burly 4×4 tires or winter rubber can be no match for ice or thick slush. The MKII Traction Mats from MaxTrax are built for getting your car free from sand and snow in the worst situations. The fiber-reinforced, engineering-grade nylon mats go under your tires, creating instant traction to get you unstuck. Handles on the sides make great grab points for shoveling or tying to a roof rack.

MaxTrax MKII Traction Mats
MaxTrax MKII Traction Mats

Extra Clothing

If the car’s not running in the middle of winter, the temperature inside is going to drop quickly. Having warm clothes and blankets will go a long way to keep you warm, but a solid puffy jacket is step one to warding off the cold. The StormLoft Jacket from Outdoor Vitals is full of 800+ water-resistant down and only weighs 10 ounces. The athletic cut, long back hem, and thumb loops keep it close to your body, saving that precious body heat. When you’re not using it, pack it into its own pocket and toss it in the trunk.

Outdoor Vitals StormLoft Ultralight Down Jacket
Outdoor Vitals StormLoft Ultralight Down Jacket


Clean water is one of the most important things we need in emergency situations. With a top-notch water filter, it can be easy to get. The Liberty Water Bottle from LiveSaver makes getting clean water from the grimiest places easy. The Liberty has two modes for cleaning water. Method one: Unscrew the bottom and scoop up 400 ml of water; two pumps on the bottom of the bottle force water through the internal filter, making it ready to drink. Method two uses the included 5-foot scavenger hose in the water then pumping water into another water bottle or bladder you have. The Liberty filters most viruses, bacteria, and cysts.

Lifesaver Liberty Water Bottle
Jackery Generator Explorer 240 Portable Power Station


Humans can go for three weeks without food as long as air, shelter, and water are taken care of, but really who wants to go that long between hot meals? Good To-Go dehydrated food is created by a long-time pro chef Jennifer Scism. The packages are free of preservatives and low in sodium so you don’t get the gut rot feeling that comes with some dehydrated foods. The single servings are tiny and easy to throw in the back of the car. Tasty packs like Pad Thai, Mexican quinoa bowl, or kale and white bean stew make a far better emergency meal than scrounging around in the seats for crumbs. Just add hot water and you’re good to eat. Single servings are around $10; doubles cost about $14. They’re great for backpacking trips or even at home when cooking is just too much work.

Good To-Go Dehydrated Food
Good To-Go Dehydrated Food Pad Thai

Best Emergency Kit

In an emergency, do you have time to put everything in a bag that you’d like to take with you? Uncharted Supply has put together a pre-built emergency kit and bug-out bag with all the essentials for surviving 72 hours.

The comfortable, waterproof backpack holds everything you need. All the individual parts are stored in color-coded pockets in a rigid insert. The insert itself is covered with instructions and tips that could be helpful in emergencies. The kit holds a knife, fold-up shovel, paracord, food rations, a water bottle, fire-starting supplies, sunscreen, water filter, air filtering mask, and tons more.

Uncharted Supply Co. Seventy2 Survival System
Uncharted Supply Co Seventy2 Survival System

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