Prepare Anywhere: 10 Things to Stash in Your Car

Seeing all these storms on the weather channels has me pondering winter storm preparedness.  As some of you may recall, we’ve dealt with the winter storms of the Pacific Northwest as well as the typhoons of the Pacific and ice storms in Texas. Now I’m on the east coast, watching hurricanes hit our southern states, blizzards hit our northern states – and where I am, the two are expected to combine into a doozy of a wind – rain – who knows what storm.

If there’s one thing that worries me, it’s the idea of being away from home when a storm hits and strands us in the car at length.  Ugh!  When I lived in the mountains, even just sitting in traffic at length due to avalanche control gave me the willies, frankly.  It might sound silly, but I try to make sure that we have emergency supplies that are appropriate for year-round travel, plus some extras for winter wildness.  To that end, here’s a list of ten things we keep in our rigs that I’d highly recommend making room for in yours – and the bulk of them are probably in your house or garage already! (These items are separate from vehicle-specific emergency supplies, which we’ll cover another day.)

  1. Sturdy leather gloves: Handy for changing a tire in the rain, protecting hands from a hothotHOT! steering wheel in high summer, for some protection if you have to provide first aid at an accident, or for adding some warmth if you’re stranded due to a snow storm.
  2. Jumper cables: Whether you need the jump or someone needs one from you, these fall under the category of all-season needs.
  3. A flashlight: If you have a Harbor Freight store near you, keep an eye out for their coupons for a free flashlight with any purchase.  That’s how we’ve stocked our vehicles with flashlights on the cheap, and we like the little wrist strap they have on them.  Super handy if the issue is changing a tire in the dark or eyeballing an engine.  Also very good for signalling for help if you’re stranded at night or in a storm!
  4. First Aid kit: This need shouldn’t need to be explained.  Just make sure that you restock as soon as possible if you find yourself relying on the bandages for boo-boos or the aspirin for a headache.
  5. Cash: Tuck some fundage away in a cubby somewhere – Murphy’s Law says the day you run out of gas on the freeway is also the day the bank will be updating their website so your debit card doesn’t work.  😉
  6. Blanket(s): Mylar emergency blankets are awesome because they come folded into a tiny package that fits just about anywhere, but nothing beats a good wool blanket if you’re stuck on the side of the road.  Even an old afghan tossed on the seat is better than nothing – and if there is a toddler involved, try to make sure there’s a second-favorite “woobie” floating around.  (My kids will attest that you shouldn’t make it the VERY favorite; that needs to be in their room, thankyouverymuch!)
  7. Road maps: Current maps covering your city and state/province, as well as a country map; if you’re on a road trip, get a map for each state you’ll pass through or a spiral bound atlas with all the states and the country.  Real, old school PAPER maps.  Because yes, Virginia, cell phone batteries do die and GPS devices are sometimes wrong.  (See also Murphy’s Law which states that when you need them most, both will conk out.)
  8. Food and water: Non-perishable snacks that won’t melt in summer heat.  Buy them prepackaged or pack them yourself, whatever works for your budget.  Just make sure that you rotate them by periodically eating (easily done while sitting in traffic on a Friday afternoon!) and replacing them.  If you live in an area with a high rodent population, take as many precautions as possible to hide food scents and crumbs.  I’ve read horror stories of critters that have slipped into vehicles through the tiniest spots imaginable and turned the interior of a car into what looks like a frat party gone bad.  As for water, you might be satisfied with some bottled water, or if plastic is a concern – especially in summer – grab some Mylar- or aseptic packaged water instead.  Option three would be to have reusable water bottles such as Klean Kanteens that your family always fills before heading out the door.  (Other brands are suitable too – we choose stainless steel bottles because they can also be put on a fire in an emergency to boil water for potability. If you’re trying to spend as little cash as possible, use whatever you have on hand, even if it’s a Slurpee cup!)
  9. Notepad(s) and pencil(s): We like the Rite in the Rain brand because you can, well, write on them in the rain.  *chuckle*  As for pencils – let me just remind you that crayons will melt and markers and pens may leak or burst.  (Don’t ask me how I know that ……)  If you have a child, make a little room for an extra notepad and a package of colored pencils.  If you have more than one child, I suggest having more than one package of colored pencils.  Oh yes, and a small pencil sharpener.  (Again with Mr. Murphy, who states that when one child has the only sharpened blue pencil, every other child NEEDS IT RIGHT NOW.)
  10. Paper hygiene products: Start with a mini roll of TP; add some feminine supplies, baby diapers and wipes, and adult incontinence supplies as necessary for your family.  Store in a large plastic zipper bag inside a plastic shopping bag so you have layers to protect supplies from moisture and the spare bag for the trash as needed.  Why do you need these in your car if you already have a diaper bag or purse?  Because Murphy, my dears.  Because.  Murphy.  

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, folks.  If you really want to, you could turn your car into a traveling survival compound and be ready for anything.  This is just a quickie list to get you thinking ~ and I hope it does just that!

Want more ideas? Check out these lists as well: