The Ultimate “Just-in-Case” Car Kit

Hat, Gloves and scarf

You won’t be much help when your fingers are numb from frostbite, right? Keep old, but good quality gear on hand.

Road flares

On a dark highway or country road, it’s nearly impossible for another motorist to spot your car from a distance. Protect yourself by packing road flares — and using them — when you’ve pulled to the side of the road. Set them up in a tapered fashion, with the widest point closest to your vehicle. Here’s where those matches come in handy.

Granola

Well, it doesn’t have to be granola, but that’s my personal favorite. It’s long lasting, fills you up, and provides a good dose of carbohydrates to keep you moving. You can also opt for trail mix or protein bars. Heck, why not throw a Red Bull in, too?

Spare tire

Most new cars these days don’t come equipped with a spare tire. Instead, manufacturers, to save on weight and boost fuel economy, are providing flat tire sealant in a can. These work fine for short fixes that will get you to a gas station a few miles away. But if you’re in a remote area, it’s not likely to help much. If you’re going on a trip away from civilization, buy a spare. Then learn how to change it. Seriously, you can YouTube it. Then ask yourself: Where did I find the time to watch all of those cat-on-a-fan videos, but never this?

Tire Repair Kit

If your new car actually did come with a spare, consider yourself lucky. But still, pick up a can of Fix-a-Flat or similar patching foam from your local hardware. If you run over a nail or are slowly loosing air pressure, this will do the trick until you can make it into the repair shop without the hassle of changing that tire.

Water

The paranoia in me urges you to skip the plastic water bottles (which can leak chemicals when left in high temperatures, like a trunk), and choose boxed water for your just-in-case kit. You can find packs of these water boxes, developed especially for emergency situations, online. While the human body can go for quite some time without food, water is a daily necessity. If you can, pack a stainless steel bottle for filling up from a stream or melting snow.

Map

A paper one. The kind that requires mad origami skills to refold. If your GPS is on the fritz, and your phone is dead, this is your next best bet. A state map should suffice unless you’re planning a trip beyond the border. And if you’re planning to venture into remote regions, buy a topographical chart for the region you’re visiting. It will help you navigate to a populated area, since commercial maps are inadequately detailed.

Matches

Now’s the time you wish you’d been a more observant Girl Scout. As it turns out, the gig wasn’t just about cookies. (Damn those Samoas!) With a book of matches, you can create some warmth if you’re seriously stranded in cold weather.

Cell Phone Charger

These days, most of us don’t climb into our car without a charger, thanks to the ever-dwindling power of a smart phone. This is a good thing; it means that you’ll have juice to make an emergency call if needed. For the overachievers out there, it’s worth your while to also slip a battery-powered charger into your kit, which will provide extra energy for your phone even if the car’s battery is kaput. Don’t rely on the myth that your phone conserves energy for a 9-1-1 call or that by dialing a certain pattern of numbers, you’ll be gifted with an extra five minutes of power. A dead cell phone usually means a dead cell phone.

Pen and Paper

In the case of an accident, a simple pen and notepad kept in your car console can be invaluable. Or, if you’re vehicle has broken down and you’re going to make the trek toward the nearest main road (experts vehemently advise you stay put instead, waiting out help), you’ll want to leave a note saying which direction you’ve gone and by which time you plan to return if unable to find help.

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3 Responses to “The Ultimate “Just-in-Case” Car Kit”

  1. Lucille Dolab says:

    Excellent info!!! Thank you so much for this really vital list!!!

  2. Rob Feinstein says:

    Thanks, Jessica, for a great article that includes some things I didn’t think about keeping in my car.
    FYI on the jumper cables – Michelin now offers Smart Jumper cables that take the fear out of using them because it doesn’t matter which battery post you connect the clamps to. You can’t get electrocuted or damage your engine. (And no – I don’t work for Michelin.)

  3. Anne Marie Hayes says:

    Thanks, Jessica, for a great article that includes some things I didn’t think about keeping in my car. FYI on the jumper cables – Michelin now offers Smart Jumper cables that take the fear out of using them because it doesn’t matter which battery post you connect the clamps to. You can’t get electrocuted or damage your engine. (And no – I don’t work for Michelin.)

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