Emergency Kits – Being Prepared on the Road

by Sayak Rivers | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

A roadside emergency can happen at any time and no one enjoys being stranded on the side of a road. A variety of complications can occur, from a flat tire or mechanical breakdown to exhausting the fuel supply. Sometimes it is just an inconvenience, other times it may jeopardize your safety. However, being prepared by having a well-equipped emergency kit packed away in the trunk can increase your safety, lower stress levels, and help to get you back on the road quickly.

For those that have roadside-assistance coverage or an auto-club membership with roadside assistance, you would need to call and then there is typically a wait time of an hour or more before that help arrives. Certain items are recommended to be kept in a vehicle, even if it only gets driven for everyday, around-town driving. Many items can be put into a preparedness kit, you will need to plan accordingly for how you will be driving, daily use, winter driving, or a long road trip, and adjust what is in your kit for maximum functionality.

Basic kit:


In an emergency, this can be the single most valuable component of your kit. Keep a charger handy, one that plugs into the cigarette lighter or other power point in the car.

First-aid kit

Include an assortment of bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic cream, instant ice and heat compresses, scissors, aspirin, and a first-aid how-to manual.

Fire extinguisher

Carrying a compact, multipurpose dry-chemical fire extinguisher unit that’s labeled 1A10BC or 2A10BC is recommended. The more quickly a fire can be put out, the less damage it will cause.

Reflective hazard triangles or flares

These will give other motorists advance warning of your presence, especially at night.

Tire pressure gauge

Jack and lug wrench

Spare fuses

There are several types, so make sure to keep an assortment on hand of the proper type for your vehicle.

Jumper cables or a portable battery booster

Jumper cables (12 feet long) are easy to use, provided you have a second car available. With a portable battery booster, the need for a second car is eliminated.


Choose one that is bright and weatherproof. A flashlight with a magnetic strip, flexible mounting system, or a stand allows your hands to be free for other tasks. Make sure to also have extra batteries and a bulb available.

Gloves, hand cleaner, clean rags and paper towels

Basic tools

Including a set of socket and open-end wrenches, a multi-tip (flat and Phillips-head) screwdriver, pliers, and an adjustable wrench.

Electrical and duct tape


Multi purpose knife

A small tarp

Heavy-duty trash bags

Wool blanket

Emergency phone numbers on a laminated card

Including auto-club or roadside assistance numbers with the necessary information.

$20 (or more) in small bills and change

If you are stranded in an area with a power outage, ATMs and credit card machines will be affected. Having cash may reduce problems in trying to get gasoline, a restaurant meal or hotel room.

Pen and a pad of paper

Uses include leaving an informational note on the windshield or jotting down information after an accident.

Non-perishable emergency food

List of options could include granola or energy bars, almonds, sports drink mix, jerky, dried fruit, whole wheat crackers, hard candies, dry cereal, trail mix, peanut butter packets, etc.

Bottled water

A book or a couple of small games – Include a deck of cards to help with the waiting time.

Toilet paper

Additional items that you may want to consider for other long-distance or winter driving include:

Coolant hose repair kit and tape

Windshield scraper

Good visibility is vital for safety. When driving in winter, snow and ice can build up quickly and reduce visibility.

Tire chains and tow strap

Blanket and winter hat

If you are stranded in a stalled car you won’t have the benefit of a heater. A blanket and hat can make you much more comfortable as you wait for help.

Chemical hand warmers

These can be found in the sporting goods sections of stores.

Small folding shovel

If you get stuck in snow, this can be a vital tool. A folding camping-style shovel is more convenient to store in the vehicle than a longer-handled shovel.

Traction sand

This can help provide some traction on slick road surfaces.

While there is not a “one tool to fix it all” when it comes to roadside emergency needs, you can have both peace of mind and the tools to help yourself by traveling with an emergency kit in the trunk of your vehicle. As the old saying goes, “failing to prepare is like preparing to fail.” Just a little preparation on your part can often save the day.