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Quality products and tips to help you build your own car emergency kit

n007
The list author says: "With winter storms abound this year, I thought this would be an ideal time to list items that everyone should consider carrying in their car at all times in case of an emergency. Many of you may remember the tragic story of the Kim family a few years ago. We will never know for sure, but a few simple items in their car may have saved all of their lives. The Equipped To Survive website has a short article examining this issue that I would strongly encourage everyone to read: www.equipped.org/blog/?p=43 I'm not implying you must duplicate Doug's kit, but it should get you thinking in the right direction.

First you have to figure out what your kit actually needs. Who is going to be in the car? How often and how far do you drive from home? What kind of terrain and weather will you encounter? How much room in your trunk can you spare? Only you know these answers, so think about it carefully.

I wrote this list because the fundamental problem with every preassembled "emergency" kit is that the components are absolute **** quality. Companies source the components from 3rd-party manufacturers, almost always in China, and then assemble a flashy looking kit at an affordable price. What you have in fact is a collection of dollar-store quality items that aren't going to hold up in a real emergency. Does it make sense that an emergency kit comprised of $25 dollars worth of equipment can really do all the things it promises on the label? Remember, you are trusting these items with your life or the lives of your loved ones. If you want quality you can depend on, you'll have to research and choose the components yourself.

Again this list is more about critical thinking, you don't have to use these exact items (or even all of them). Second, always choose the safest, most foolproof option whenever possible: locking over non-locking tools, one-handed over two-handed operation, bright over dull colors, water-resistant over non-water resistant, etc."
Energizer Hard Case Impact Resistant LED Flashlight with Batteries - TUF2AA1E
Energizer Hard Case Impact Resistant LED Flashlight with Batteries - TUF2AA1E
"A sturdy flashlight is a given. There are thousands you could choose from at every price point, so I will only iterate what I think are mandatory features: LED light, one-handed operation, water-resistant, impact-resistant, AA batteries. This model from Energizer fits the bill perfectly and is widely available at any hardware store."
Petzl E91 PL Tikkina 2 Headlamp, Lime Green
Petzl E91 PL Tikkina 2 Headlamp, Lime Green
"A headlamp is even better than a flashlight because it allows you to keep both hands free (or in your warm pockets!). You just need to illuminate your immediate vicinity, so you don't need a high-powered model with lots of features. The Tikkina from Petzl features 2 brightness settings and will run for a whopping 190 hours in economy mode on just 3 AAA batteries."
Spotlight Rechargeable Flashlight (Orange)
Spotlight Rechargeable Flashlight (Orange)
"Put that unused lighter plug to good use! Inspired by VW and BMW, the advantage of this flashlight is that it will always be charged and ready to go when you need it. Recommended as a 2nd flashlight for when you temporarily need light instead of depleting the batteries in your main flashlight or headlamp."
Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman Kit
Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman Kit
"Like a flashlight, a first aid kit is a given and there are hundreds to choose from. The problem with most first aid kits is that they don't include enough materials for heavy bleeding. No one is going to die from a scraped knee, but you can bleed to death from a cut artery. AMK has a great reputation for quality, and this kit specifically includes materials to address heavy bleeding."
Nestle Bottled Water 16.9oz Per Bottle, 24 Bottle Case (Brand Varies By Region)
Nestle Bottled Water 16.9oz Per Bottle, 24 Bottle Case (Brand Varies By Region)
"You need water to survive, that's a fact. Keeping a couple of 6-packs in your car is the easiest and cheapest way to keep clean, drinkable water ready for an emergency. Be sure to have enough for everyone in your car and replace them before they expire."
Aquamira Frontier Emergency Water Filtration and Straw
Aquamira Frontier Emergency Water Filtration and Straw
"You may also be forced to drink whatever water you can find it. This filtration "straw" will keep you from getting sick and allow you to drink from even the most shallow puddle or stream."
Generic Genuine US Military All Weather Poncho Liner Blanket
Generic Genuine US Military All Weather Poncho Liner Blanket
"After water, staying warm is critical. The venerable poncho liner (a.k.a. ranger blanket) is one of the most useful things the army has ever invented. God knows what magical elven fabric it's made from, but it's astonishingly warm for its weight. A regular blanket would suffice as well. If you're driving in the winter, you will obviously want something thicker or even an actual sleeping bag."
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Sixty Bar Variety Pack (.84 oz each)
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Sixty Bar Variety Pack (.84 oz each)
"You'll need some basic food to stave off hunger and keep your energy up. Granola bars are the most logical choice- they're individually wrapped, require no special storage, and don't expire quickly. Other foods that you would take camping would also be a good choice- beef jerky, nuts, trail mix, candy, etc."
Charmin Ultra Soft Bathroom Tissue 9 Family Rolls
Charmin Ultra Soft Bathroom Tissue 9 Family Rolls
"Let's face it, you have to do your business. Might as well use real toilet paper instead of leaves. Keep a roll in a Zip-lock bag to keep it from accidentally getting wet."
3M 2245 Heavy Duty All-Weather Duct Tape
3M 2245 Heavy Duty All-Weather Duct Tape
"'nuff said."
Buck Knives 750 Redpoint Serrated Folding Knife with Yellow All-Weather Grip Handle
Buck Knives 750 Redpoint Serrated Folding Knife with Yellow All-Weather Grip Handle
"Nothing is more contentious than the subject of survival knives. Again, this is your choice but I will list my desirable features: locking or fixed blade, partially serrated, one-handed operation, bright handle. This model from Buck meets these criteria, is well-reviewed, and is very affordable to boot."
Fiskars 10 Inch POWER TOOTH Folding Saw (7947) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Fiskars 10 Inch POWER TOOTH Folding Saw (7947) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
"In my opinion, one of the most useful yet overlooked item in an emergency kit. With a saw you can clear fallen branches from your path, cut small trees for firewood, improvise a splint, etc. This folding saw from Fiskars is solid, compact, and locks in place for safety."
Wenger 16320 Swiss Army RangerGrip 78 Knife, Red and Black
Wenger 16320 Swiss Army RangerGrip 78 Knife, Red and Black
"Of course why carry a separate knife and saw when you can carry one Swiss Army knife? Plus you will gain an assortment of implements like a can opener and various screwdrivers. Wenger/Victorinox have many models with locking blades, but remember to choose a one-handed version. Also, unless you're keeping a bottle of wine in your kit, a philips screwdriver is far more useful than a corkscrew."
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit Multi-Tool with Pouch
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit Multi-Tool with Pouch
"But I can't live without pliers you say! Regardless of whether you think SAKs and multitools can coexist or not, there's no shortage of choice from Victorinox, Leatherman, Gerber, etc. Personally I've always liked the SwissTools. The quality is second to none, and every tool opens independently, locks in place, and can be accessed from the outside of the handles without opening the pliers."
LifeHammer The Original Emergency Hammer (Orange)
LifeHammer The Original Emergency Hammer (Orange)
"This doesn't go in your kit per se, but needs to be mounted where you can easily reach it from your seat. Too often I've seen these left in the glove compartment (or worse, the trunk), where it's completely useless to a trapped driver in a serious car accident. There are many other rescue hammers on the market, but this is the original and best-reviewed."
resqme The Original Keychain Car Escape Tool, Made in USA (Orange)
resqme The Original Keychain Car Escape Tool, Made in USA (Orange)
"An alternative (or backup) to your emergency hammer. The advantages are that it saves you the trouble of mounting your hammer and is always within reach. The downside is that it adds bulk to your keychain."
Michelin 5100 Smart Jumper Cables with Surge Protection
Michelin 5100 Smart Jumper Cables with Surge Protection
"In this age of ubiquitous roadside assistance, many would argue jumper cables are unnecessary. However, I'd rather get a boost from someone (or offer a boost!) than wait in the parking lot for AAA to eventually show up. With these "smart" jumper cables, you don't have to worry about matching polarities and the built-in surge protection keeps your electrical system safe."
Slime SS-PDQ/06 Smart Spair 15-Minute Emergency Tire Repair Kit
Slime SS-PDQ/06 Smart Spair 15-Minute Emergency Tire Repair Kit
"This emergency tire repair kit will allow you to temporarily repair and reinflate a flat tire so you can drive to help. I've personally used and can vouch for Slime, it does what it says. The caveat is it will only fix small punctures less than 5mm in the treadwall. If you have a slash or a sidewall puncture, you will need to install your spare tire after all."
Stanley J5C09 1000 Peak Amp Jump Starter with Built in Compressor
Stanley J5C09 1000 Peak Amp Jump Starter with Built in Compressor
"If you need to be completely self-sufficient, this is your answer. Not only will it jump start your battery, but most models also feature household power plug(s) and USB port(s) for whatever electronics you need to run. A compressor is just icing on the cake and allows you to reinflate flat tires too (buy a bottle of Slime as well)."
Duracell Instant USB Charger/Includes Universal Cable with USB & mini USB, 1 Count
Duracell Instant USB Charger/Includes Universal Cable with USB & mini USB, 1 Count
"A backup power source for your cellphone is a must. Some have an internal rechargeable battery and others run off AA batteries. Just make sure it is compatible with your cellphone (you may need to buy a spare USB cable) and keep it charged or stocked with fresh batteries."
Etón NFR160WXR Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger (Red)
Etón NFR160WXR Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger (Red)
"A self-powered weather radio will provide entertainment and allow you to monitor NOAA announcements. Many models also feature a built-in flashlight and USB charger port to recharge your cellphone, thus serving many vital functions in an emergency. This model from Eton is compact and well-reviewed."
G & F Heavy Leather Palm Gloves with rubberized Safety Cuff, Large, 1-Pair
G & F Heavy Leather Palm Gloves with rubberized Safety Cuff, Large, 1-Pair
"You'll need work gloves to protect your hands if you attempt any car repairs or other rough work. Choose leather for proven durability."
UCO 9-Hour White Candles for Candle Lanterns - 3-Pack
UCO 9-Hour White Candles for Candle Lanterns - 3-Pack
"A simple candle can provide so many things- light, warmth, a renewable source of fire, and to some people a symbol of hope. These candles are long-lasting and will burn cleanly without smoke or dripping wax."
Zippo Outdoor Line Emergency Fire Starter (Orange, 4.50 x 4 x 6.25)
Zippo Outdoor Line Emergency Fire Starter (Orange, 4.50 x 4 x 6.25)
"You may need to start a fire to keep warm, melt snow, or signal rescuers. This Zippo kit is basically a flint ignition wheel and specialized tinder in a compact, self-contained package. The original "Spark-lite" kits are also a fantastic choice. Avoid magnesium sticks, they're needlessly cumbersome for the average person."
Fox 40 CMG Whistle with Cushioned Mouth Grip
Fox 40 CMG Whistle with Cushioned Mouth Grip
"A whistle is a crucial part of signaling. It will carry much farther than your voice and requires a fraction of the energy to use compared to yelling. The Fox 40 Classic is the best choice. It's one of the loudest whistles on the market, has no moving parts to break or jam, isn't affected by water or cold weather, and has been proven tried and true by countless users."
Revere McMurdo FastFind 10-91-001-210A Model 210 Personal Locator Beacon
Revere McMurdo FastFind 10-91-001-210A Model 210 Personal Locator Beacon
"A PLB may be the most expensive item you purchase for an emergency but it will almost certainly save your life. An activated PLB sends a distress signal via satellite to rescue teams, who can trace your location using your signal. There is no subscription fee, only registration is required. This McMurdo unit is reliable, light, and compact, and is also the most affordable model on the market."
Erapro TAS 2-Piece Standard Vehicle Snow Traction Aid Bright Orange (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Erapro TAS 2-Piece Standard Vehicle Snow Traction Aid Bright Orange (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
"If your car is rear-wheel drive and/or you encounter heavy snowfall, you should keep a set of traction mats in your car during the winter. These will provide your tires the necessary traction to propel your stuck car out of the snow or ice."
Ames True Temper 1518000 Penguin Collapsible Emergency Snow Shovel (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Ames True Temper 1518000 Penguin Collapsible Emergency Snow Shovel (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
"If it snows heavily where you drive, you may find yourself stuck after parking or while driving, especially in rural or mountainous areas. Carry a good portable snow shovel to free yourself. Look for a thick plastic or metal scoop, comfortable handles, and a solid locking mechanism. Avalanche shovels, while much more expensive, are very compact and virtually indestructible."
DEWALT DCBAG3 Heavy-Duty Ballictic Nylon 18 1/2-Inch Tool Bag
DEWALT DCBAG3 Heavy-Duty Ballictic Nylon 18 1/2-Inch Tool Bag
"Lastly, you'll need a good duffel bag to pack everything in. Depending on the items you've chosen and your trunk configuration, you may have to experiment a little until you find a solution that takes up the least amount of space. Generally speaking, tool bags are much more durable (and often cheaper) than duffel bags intended as luggage."
One list item is no longer in our catalog.