All of our vehicles have an emergency bag behind the seat or under the floor. And I’m not talking about salt or litter for winter, or flares, or the typical things people consider an “emergency car kit.” This is not for your vehicle, but for you.
Think about the important things you’d need for survival: water, food, shelter. Of course, just like a car kit, this is dependent on weather, so you’d probably want to seasonally change things up.
Next, think about where you could be stranded and where you have to go—how far is it? What are the conditions between here and there? Would you normally be alone or with your family or group? How many?
Because there are two of us and we usually aren’t more than a few hours’ driving distance away, under normal conditions, I keep four bottles of water in each vehicle. That’s half a gallon, which is only enough, under emergency conditions, for one person for half a day—that includes washing and cooking, neither of which you’re probably going to be doing if you’re focused on getting home.
The biggest consideration, of course, is how long it will take you do that.
With a three-hour drive on country roads, we’d probably still have a three-hour drive. If you’re in the city and trying to get to those country roads, you might have to add a lot of time to that commute. Even if you’re just going to the ‘burbs, it could take close to a day—particularly if you’re reduced to walking.
A three-hour drive, walking, could take two days or more, which is why our kits also contain water purifying tablets. Much easier and lighter to transport than water itself, and in the country, you’re much more likely to find water sources. If you live in an urban area, I’d recommend two gallons per person.
We keep granola bars, dried fruit, and beef jerky, hiking staples, in our vehicles. You’re going to need energy, and the convenience stores and gas stations and fast food joints are likely to be shut down or looted during a SHTF event. Or be in the process of being looted, which is a whole other issue.
You won’t be full, you won’t have an actual meal, but you’ll be able to keep going.
Right now, you’re probably picturing a nice, sunny day, about 70 degrees or so. Think about that heatwave the last couple weeks—could you keep going when temps are close to 100? No, and you shouldn’t try. That extends your travel time, and especially your water intake. You could travel at night, which means you should also keep a flashlight and batteries in the car, and check/test/replace as needed, as well as matches.
You could also keep a sun hat (or rain hat) and a couple bandanas in your bag. Bandanas can cool you off, bind a wound, keep smoke or gasses or smells away, and filter water, among other uses.
We have two reflective blankets in each vehicle, because, on the other side of the coin, it could be 20 degrees. Plus, you can make a dandy shelter, fairly warm. Bandanas again: they’ll help warm the air you breathe and keep frostbite off your face. We also, at all times, keep various gloves in our vehicles; work gloves, winter gloves, they can all be used regardless of season.
We also have knives in our bags. Get one, learn how to use it, keep it sharp. Its uses are endless, and not only potentially for defense: cutting branches for a shelter or fire, making a splint in case of injury, cutting cloth, opening packages or cans, and so on.
You don’t have to Tetris a ton of things into your car, but you do have to have the basics, just in case. Just in case of what? A blizzard, a heat wave, mechanical failure, an EMP, SHTF, even a major road blockage from an accident. Remember, though, that you may have to pack out whatever you can carry, so make sure you pack smart and light—and make sure you’re in good enough shape to carry what you need.