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You can't anticipate every possible roadside car or travel problem, however you should always have some sort of emergency car kit in your car. At the very least, you'll need a basic kit, but you also have other considerations.
What to Consider when Putting Together Your Emergency Road Kit
You'll want to decide if you're putting together a simple roadside repair kit or preparing for a more serious, perhaps longer-term situation.
- Where are you going and how often? The answer to this question will help you determine what kind of emergency car kit you need. For example, you may want one for your daily commute through suburban or urban areas, and another for special, longer trips to unfamiliar places.
- How remote will your travel be? Think about whether you usually drive on busy main roads or within a mile of businesses, residences, or service stations, or if you're heading out on much less travelled roads in areas where the nearest help could be dozens, even hundreds, of miles away.
- What's the weather like this time of year? Be aware of the kind of bad weather you can typically expect this time of year. Even if the immediate forecast looks clear, plan for the worst. Don't, however, carry too many weather supplies out of season. For example, bags of sand, salt, or kitty litter are important to have during snowy or icy weather, but add extra, wasteful weight during warmer seasons.
- What spare clothes might you need for extreme weather? If stranded in cold weather, you may not be able to keep your car running all the time. In case you have to sleep in your car or even leave it on foot, bring extra layers, including hats, gloves, and spare socks, as well as plastic grocery bags to put inside your shoes to keep your feet dry. If rain is more likely, have some rain gear on hand, and if you're going to be in a warm area and under the sun for long stretches, a summer hat or cap can offer protection.
- How long might you be stranded? Keeping the above factors in mind, consider the possibility that you could be stranded in your car for several hours, even within an urban area, or stuck in a very remote, untraveled spot for several days.
- Will drinking water be scarce? For a trip into a remote area, try to have enough in bottles for each person to drink a half to one gallon a day for three days. Also empty cans can be used to catch rainwater in an extreme situation.
- How about nonperishable food? Options include: protein or energy bars, nuts, peanut butter, crackers, canned tuna, cans of juice, canned soups, granola bars, raisins and other dried fruit, jerky, and hard candy. For long trips, stock enough to feed everyone in the car for three days. Rotate the more-perishable items out once a month and the nonperishable items once a year.
- Who's with you? When traveling with infants, young children, people with health issues, the elderly, or pets, take extra care to plan for any special dietary or medicinal requirements that may arise if you're stranded for a few hours or longer.
Storing Your Emergency Kit
Store larger items in a box, if needed, and smaller items in a backpack or duffle bag. That way, you can use the bag to carry supplies in if you have to leave your vehicle on an extended hike.
Whether boxed or bagged, make sure everything in your emergency car kit is secured so it doesn't roll or bounce ó especially if you're storing items in the passenger cabin, as loose flying boxes, bags, or tools can cause serious injury during an accident.
Check Out This Checklist
We've compiled a handy list of some of the most commonly recommended emergency car kit items. You can print this article to keep with you, or you can follow the link below, print out the checklist, and keep it handy when putting together your kit.
Emergency Car Kit Checklist[Download the attachment: Emergency Road Kit Checklist PDF]
In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car. This kit should include:
- Jumper cables
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- First aid kit and necessary medications in case you are away from home for a prolonged time
- Food items containing protein such as nuts and energy bars; canned fruit and a portable can opener
- Water for each person and pet in your car
- AM/FM radio to listen to traffic reports and emergency messages
- Cat litter or sand for better tire traction
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an extra change of clothes
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- A fully-charged cell phone and phone charger
- Flares or reflective triangle
- Baby formula and diapers if you have a small child
You probably can't stock it all, so look over the checklist and decide what's important to have in your car. Even a basic emergency road kit will not only help you overcome a roadside crisis, but could also save your life.
Popular Mechanics: The Ultimate Survival Preparedness Kit for Your Car
ConsumerReports.org: Roadside emergency kit: What to carry with you
American Red Cross: Get a Survival Kit
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