15+ Survival Items To Keep In Your Car At All Times For SHTF

Rich M.
By Rich M. June 30, 2020 10:45

15+ Survival Items To Keep In Your Car At All Times For SHTF

We Americans sometimes overlook how much the automobile is integrated into our lifestyle. We are so accustomed to driving everywhere, that we don’t even think of it. Yet, our lives, especially suburban life, is designed around the idea that we drive everywhere. We readily accept things being spread out, because it’s really not an inconvenience to us. But without the car, it certainly would be.

That’s why I keep my car ready for survival. This is something I’ve done for over four decades now. The trunk of my car is a well-stocked emergency closet, with a large assortment of things that stay there all the time, so that I’m ready for whatever may come.

If you think about it, chances are pretty high that when a SHTF scenario occurs, you won’t be at home. Rather, you’ll be at work, school or any of a hundred other activities that occupy our time. But you can just about be sure that wherever you are, your car won’t be far away. That makes your car an ideal place to keep an assortment of emergency equipment, just for those times when you need it.

So, what sorts of things should you carry in the trunk of your car? Well, the list can get a bit extensive:

Related: 11 Things The Pioneers Carried With Them On The Oregon Trail

Get Home Bag

15+ Survival Items To Keep In Your Car At All Times For SHTF

The starting point is to have a get home bag. This is a survival kit, which has enough gear in it to make sure that you can make it home, no matter what.

That may include doing so on foot, if something happens where the roads are closed or the bridges are down.

Speaking of bridges, if you work on the other side of the river from where you live, it might be difficult to get home, if the bridge is down. Keeping an inner tube in the trunk of your car may seem a bit extreme, but it will be handy if you have to get across that river and the bridge is down.

I combine my Get Home Bag and my EDC bag, so my bag has a lot of other useful things in it, such as personal hygiene items, paper clips and extra batteries for my flashlight. I try and make it complete enough to take care of anything and everything I might need, not just for SHTF, but the everyday problems I run across in my life.

One of My Most Used Items

Rain happens, just in case you hadn’t noticed. How many times have you been away from home and it started pouring? We all say that we need to keep an umbrella with us, but that doesn’t mean we do. Either that, or we just have one umbrella and it is never where we need it.

I have umbrellas in all our vehicles, in the house, and in both by wife’s office and mine. That way, we’ve always got one available, no matter where we are. In addition, I keep a good rain poncho in the trunk of my car. It’s one of the most used items there.

Related: 13 Shelters That You Can Build With A Military Poncho

Good Walking Shoes

If you dress in business clothing at work, then you want to make sure you’ve got some good walking shoes in the trunk of the car. An old pair of tennis shoes or even loafers, which you don’t really use any more, will make it much easier if you have to walk home from work.


You should always have a jacket, hat and gloves available to you, even in the summer. I change these out with the seasons, so as to always make sure that I have something seasonally appropriate to use. In the summertime, I carry a hat that provides good shade, while in the winter I have one that is better insulated.

When I say gloves here, I’m thinking of two different things. Obviously you want to have some warm gloves or even mittens, if you live somewhere where it gets really cold. But the other thing is to have some good work gloves, to protect your hands if you have to do something like dig your car out, if its stuck or move a tree branch that’s laying across the road.

Related: 10 Prepping Items You Can Buy at the Salvation Army


15+ Survival Items To Keep In Your Car At All Times For SHTFI carry every day, so I don’t leave a weapon in my car, unless you count the fighting knife that’s beside the seat.

But I do keep an extra box of ammo in the car, just in case I find myself in a situation where I’m in a firefight. Chances of that are slim, but with all the unrest going on in the country, it’s not a chance I’m willing to take.

If you don’t carry concealed and the laws in the state you live in allow it, I’d recommend keeping a gun in your car. But if you do, get a lockbox for it and bolt that down in the trunk. That way, anyone who wants to steal your gun has to break into your trunk and then into the lockbox.


I always keep some food in my car, mostly high energy items and things that will keep me going for a while, like granola bars and jerky. While it’s possible to live for several days, without food, it’s not enjoyable. Keeping some food in the car just makes things easier if I get stuck somewhere in it.

Extra Water

I guess it comes from owning old cars, but I always have a couple of gallons of water in the trunk. It’s great for those times when the engine overheats, as well as those times when you overheat.

If you have some soap in your get home bag, you can wash your hands with the water, after changing a tire or dealing with some other problem.

Trauma First-aid Kit

15+ Survival Items To Keep In Your Car At All Times For SHTFYou never know when you’re going to get hurt or run across someone else who is. I’ve kept a trauma first-aid kit in my car for as long as I’ve been driving.

There have been several times, when I was the first one on the scene of an accident, even if that accident was nothing more than a kid falling off their bicycle.

By having a good first-aid kit in my trunk, I’m able to at least start taking care of them, before the ambulance gets there.

Of course, if you’re going to carry that trauma kit, you need to know what to do with it. So take the time to watch some good first-aid videos on YouTube or take a Red Cross first-aid class. My concealed carry insurance carrier offered an excellent class in treating gunshot wounds, which I took.

A Great Tool to Have

This is a great all-around tool and not too bad a weapon. I have a machete attached to my BOB and I keep one in the trunk of my car as well. Mine has a saw blade on the back edge. Overall, a machete is more useful than a hatchet or saw as a general survival tool and will freak out anyone who is thinking of giving you a hard time.

Pry Bar

15+ Survival Items To Keep In Your Car At All Times For SHTFIf the S really Hits the Fan, you may find yourself needing to do some scavenging. While the ethical and legal issues of this can be a bit sticky, survival comes first.

Having a pry bar could allow you to get into somewhere that will provide you with critical survival supplies, or even get into somewhere so you can get a night’s sleep out of the rain.

I’m tempted to replace my pry bar with a breaching tool, which could double as a walking stick, but I’m concerned about the weight. Besides that, I’m not sure if it would be a bit of overkill. I don’t want to end up carrying so much gear, that it slows me down going home.

A Godsend Tool

A small, collapsible shovel can be a godsend if your car gets stuck. I’ve had times when I needed to dig a car out of the snow, the sand and the mud. While it is never fun, it’s better than leaving the car there. The one I have is a bit big and heavy for carrying in my BOB, which is how it ended up in the trunk of the car.

Basic Mechanic’s Tools

I always have a set of tools in my car, so that I can make emergency repairs. Basically, you need box-end wrenches, a socket set, screwdrivers and a pair of pliers. You can do a lot of repairs with just that.

Of course, more than the tools, you need to know what to do with them. But even if you don’t, carry them. You never know who might come along that has the knowledge, but doesn’t have the tools.

Vehicle Liquids

It’s always a good idea to keep a couple of extra quarts of oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid in the trunk. While you should be checking those regularly, we all forget from time to time. When we do, our cars have a horrible tendency to surprise us. Carrying those few bottles along can ruin the surprise for our cars.


15+ Survival Items To Keep In Your Car At All Times For SHTFA good flashlight is a great thing to have, but a good headlamp is an even better thing to have in your car. That way, you have light, while having both hands free.

I’d recommend going for one that gives you a wide-angle of light, rather than just a spotlight. I’d also recommend buying the brightest one you can find. When you’re trying to fix something in the dark of night, you’ll want that extra light.

But those really bright lights tend to go through the batteries, so make sure you’ve got extra batteries on hand. Check your batteries often, as neither lithium nor alkaline batteries handle heat well. They can go bad, and you won’t even know it.

Related: How To Make Survival Lamps With Used Cooking Oil and Mason Jars


I got started keeping rolls of toilet paper and paper towels in the trunk of my car when I was traveling a lot in Mexico. You can’t always be sure that you’re going to find TP in the bathroom, even if you can find a bathroom to use. It’s just prudence to have your own. Besides, if you’ve got it, you can go just about anywhere you can find some privacy.

For paper towels, I always carry the heavy blue shop towels. That started for emergency car repairs, but I’ve found that they’re better for a lot of things. They’re also better when I have to disinfect things, in the world of COVID-19 we now live in.

Masks, Gloves & Booties

Finally, on this side of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t go anywhere, without being ready to protect ourselves from infection. That’s what the disinfectant up there with the paper towels is for, as well as the masks, gloves and booties. I’m one who still believes in wearing rubber gloves in the grocery store, but when I come out, I throw them away. If you’re going to use disposable gloves or masks, you’ve got to make sure you’re disposing of them.

I also buy Tyvek booties to put over my shoes. As with the gloves, that gives me something I can throw away, when I come out of the store. But they’re also useful if you find yourself stuck in the mud and you have your good shoes on.

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Rich M.
By Rich M. June 30, 2020 10:45
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  1. Tgvabygirl June 30, 14:03

    Thanks your information was help although i was considered Crazy Lady i started stockpiled this items since 2016. Yes, I’m a Trump Supporters but prepared.

    Reply to this comment
  2. common man June 30, 14:33

    while an inner tube might be a handy item for a float, but out of desperation you can always use your spare tire, but I always carry a couple extra thick garbage bags. not only can they be used as a poncho, collect rain water, cary other supply’s, keep things dry, they can be used to put your bag in and use it as a float to get across a river or out to an island, something I have done often while adventure camping.

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    • left coast chuck June 30, 16:28

      I was going to make the same comment, that trash bags filled with air and tied off make excellent flotation devices. Small zip ties are a handy expedient for tying off the opening of the trash bag.

      Another device is 1 or 2 liter plastic beverage bottles. Placed inside your shirt front and back, tuck your shirt into your trousers and button the neck of your shirt. Also works with t-shirts. Place as many bottles as will fit around your torso. With the bottles empty and the caps screwed on, they will support a large adult like a personal flotation device. They can also be attached to Fido or Kitty to act as flotation devices in the event of flooding. A 1-liter bottle on each side of the animal will flow a small animal. A 2-liter bottle or multiple 1-liter bottles may be needed for larger animals. Your pet pot-bellied pig may just have to swim for it.

      That prepper hint is from NHK, Japanese national television. The Japanese government is very much into giving personal survival advice to the residents of its country. They even give the advice in multiple languages.

      As a result of significant natural disasters in the last three decades, they have come to realize that self-sufficiency in national disasters is the primary means of survival. They very much encourage prepping. Obviously, none of their advice concerns personal self-defense weapons. On the other hand, looting and damage from miscreants is not a major problem in Japan. They don’t have a problem locking up felons and they carry out death penalty sentences on a regular basis. They don’t pre-announce when a death penalty sentence is going to be carried out. Not even the family is notified until after the event. There is no “right of the press” to be present. The first notice of an execution is when the family is notified that the body is available for retrieval if so desired. The public is notified in a low key announcement made a couple of weeks after the event. A little off topic but given how some U.S. political bodies have reacted in recent weeks, I thought it appropriate.

      Reply to this comment
    • rebelgray July 1, 13:04

      I keep a solar rechargeable flashlight in my 4 x 4 truck so I don’t have to worry about extreme temperatures variations killing the batteries in a flashlight. The solar flashlight has led bulbs for brightness. Works very well for me.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Stephen June 30, 16:12

    EMP shield be in your car. https://www.empshield.com/vehicle

    Reply to this comment
  4. left coast chuck June 30, 16:46

    While a bright white flashlight can be handy, I would suggest that a headlamp with a red light will be more useful in a get-home, end-of-the-world situation. First of all, the red light will preserve your night vision. That is a valuable function that you should strive to preserve. Secondly, a bright white light will advertise your presence to all and sundry, something you might not want advertised. A red light is not as visible at a distance and will maintain security if it is important. Unless you are running at top speed, you really don’t need a blindingly bright light to navigate. Once your eyes have become accustomed to the dark a dim light red light provides all the illumination you need unless you are doing surgery. You shouldn’t be running at top speed in that kind of situation unless you are being chased, in which case you really don’t want a bright white light clearly indicating where you are to your pursuers.

    I really wouldn’t want to walk any distance more than a block or two in a pair of old loafers. I would rather put on three pair of socks and walk in my stockinged feet than wear a pair of loafers for hiking home. Unless you are accustomed to walking distances your feet are the first things that you will begin to notice. I keep my best pair of hiking boots in my car and wear them at least one day a month to keep them broken in. Good boots and good socks are probably the most important item you can carry in your car as a get home device.

    For folks whose work takes them some distance from home on a regular basis, I would strongly recommend researching folding bikes and carry a folding bike in your car’s trunk. Walking through rubble is going to severely limit the number of miles you can cover a day. Riding a bike, even at very slow speed will more than double your mileage. You have a much bigger selection of folding bikes available today than in previous years. Usually they are a bit lighter than a full sized bike by a couple of pounds and can be carried over very rough terrain a little easier than a non-folding, full-sized bike.

    If your commute is 30+ miles each way you will be so happy you had that bike in your trunk. Thirty miles on a bike in a day is highly doable even if you haven’t ridden in quite while. Thirty miles on foot will most likely take 2.5 to 3 days or even more.

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  5. Ralston June 30, 16:56

    I also carry a paper map of the area. IF, it is so bad that you have to walk home, it might be likely that your cell phone “map” will not be working. You will need to find your way around trouble areas (looting anyone?) as well as avoid dead end streets and other areas where you will waste time having to back track.

    I also like the idea of keeping an inner tube, I will be adding that to my get home kit this payday.

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  6. Tug June 30, 18:28

    A lot of that stuff is in my EDC only the larger items are in my “get home bag” which also includes a Lifestraw water filter, a couple snares, a .22 LR Henry Survival rifle with plenty ammo,folding shovel and a fishing kit since I live up in the PNW and there is plenty opportunity to fish and procure small game.
    The rifle is separate from my daily carry

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck June 30, 19:56

      In SoCal, unless your route home happens to pass by one of the few lakes in the area, fishing gear is a waste of space and weight. In any event, if I am heading home, I don’t want to waste time fishing. I would rather miss a day of meals than waste a travel day by trying to catch a fish in the heavily fished waters of SoCal.

      As Tug indicated, what you carry is always dictated by your geographical area.

      Reply to this comment
    • Black Swan July 1, 06:15

      I was going to mention the Lifestraw if no-one else did, and I’m glad you did! Mine lives in a bag under the passenger seat along with other supplies. It enables me to carry much less water in the vehicle, which in turn reduces my risk of the containers breaking when the water freezes, or leaching a distressing amount of plastic into it if they overheat day after day in the summer. Opening the bottles and letting out an inch or two of the water, then re-closing, helps prevent breakage from freezing but also risks contamination, even if I’m careful.
      Instead, I carry just one full water bottle, and three empty jars or bottles. Then at the first sign of trouble I can fill them wherever I am. I will also run through a drive-thru if one is still open, and get a large drink and some food in order to delay when I have to bust out my granola bars. One more small factor there: If the SHTF incident is a sudden white-out snowstorm, if you just bought food they’ll feel more warm and fuzzy about letting you stay in their parking lot overnight after they close. I keep two blankets and a pillow in the back seat for that purpose, but also for couch-surfing when visiting family.
      Speaking of granola bars, keep them in a metal box, or you may find a mouse has beaten you to them! I once found evidence a mouse had broken open a snack bag in my car trunk. Who knows how it got in, but I got it out fast! That night, I emptied the car trunk completely except for laying down some newspapers and setting a couple of baited mousetraps. Got him on the first try. But to avoid the problem, a metal box helps, and it can be as simple as an old tea or cookie tin.
      One more thing I carry:at least four pairs of decent socks, not just one, with my emergency sneakers. Great if the event in question has led to wet socks on my way to the car, and it also enables me to help someone else avoid losing toes to frostbite in a blizzard situation, at trivial cost to me.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Illini Warrior June 30, 23:18

    nobody should be without a “jumper box” – having jumper cables always relied on an assist – now you can independently get a spark to your vehicle >> and if you have the right box a ready battery to long term power your USB device ….

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  8. IvyMike July 1, 00:28

    I second the umbrella proposal. Working men in Texas don’t use umbrellas but I started carrying one 20 years ago cause I got tired of water running down inside my rain poncho. Have to say, tough working class Texans like to make fun of me and my umbrella. I soon discovered an umbrella is also great to have in the desert, I have never had trouble with the heat but have had companions on desert hikes get into trouble, having the shade of an umbrella available can save you the tedium of a long fireman’s carry on a hot day.
    I once had a real life lesson (real life lessons usually involve too much alcohol consumed) that if you suddenly end up in the middle of a lake with no boat and dressed in street clothes you can save your butt from drowning by taking off your pants and tying each leg in a knot at the cuff, then you whip the pants over your head filling them with air, repeat as necessary, this is enough flotation to get back to shore. Doh! Could be useful in a river crossing.

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    • left coast chuck July 1, 04:34

      The only problem I have with an umbrella is that it keeps one hand tied up. A poncho with a hood obviates the problem of raindrops down the neck. A poncho leaves both hands free to fumble with stuff. When one is as uncoordinated as I, two hands are an absolute necessity.

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      • IvyMike July 2, 00:27

        I need to get a hands free umbrella that attaches to my tinfoil hat.

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        • left coast chuck July 2, 04:27

          Or you could just buy a hat with a four-inch brim. Tilley Hats of Canada makes a vented hat with a four inch brim that is pretty much rain proof. Of course, the best hat for keeping rain off one’s noggin is a good quality felt hat with a four inch brim.

          I was at a gun show and there was a guy custom making felt hats while you toured the gun show. It was a bit pricey, but it is more than twenty years old and still going strong.

          Reply to this comment
          • IvyMike July 2, 23:53

            Yeah, the rain really isn’t as big a problem as the sun, a friend my age had some early skin cancer necessitating they trim off the tops of his ears, his dermatologist said to always wear a 4″ brim so I gave up my ball cap and started wearing a boonie, it’s a decent rain hat too. A hooded poncho really limits your awareness in the woods, but it sure is hard to sneak up on a critter when carrying an umbrella.

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            • red July 4, 03:19

              Mike: Nutty suggestion–Germany makes a really great helmet that covers the ears 🙂 Paint it black and when you ride the Harley into town, the liberals will avoid you.

              Meanwhile, I’ve been sick and a woman I’ve been seeing looked at me and said, “I heard you died!” My dog died and somebody got that screwed up. “) I think it was Franklin who said, the sad news of my demise has been been just a little exaggerated. She’s a good woman–NO touch unless her brother is there, and NO touch a-tall if her kids are around. Very conservative folks. Very frustrating situation… niio!

              Reply to this comment
            • left coast chuck July 5, 02:39

              Yeah, Mike, the doc who carved up my left ear (sitting in the car with the window rolled down in the days before a/c) had several comments about skin cancer. He said in descending order: Top of left ear followed by top of right ear, nose, lower lip, upper eyelid. He said tops of ears were easy to do. The nose presented a few problems as did the lower lip and finally the eyelids were a real bear to repair.

              All of my skin cancers have been on the left side of my head and left forearm. Driving with one hand, the other resting on the windowsill of the open window.

              How the carefree days of youth come back to haunt us. We never heard about skin cancer when I was a carefree youth because our parents and grandparents didn’t believe in getting a sun tan. If you notice grandpap’s photo, his shirt is buttoned to the neck. HIs sleeves are rolled down and you would have to kill him to get a pair of short on him. Also his hat had a broad brim. None of that sun tan nonsense for him, nosiree. As for my parents, between the depression, WWII followed along by Korea, they didn’t have much time for lollygaging around in the sun getting a tan. My mother always wore a dress, broad brimmed hat and gloves even when going to the grocery store. After all, a lady didn’t appear in slacks in town. Those were reserved for camping trips or picnics. Gloves and a hat were de rigueur for a lady about in town.

              Of course, men also wore hats in public. It was JFK who signaled the demise of men’s hats. Up until the ’62 election, gentlemen wore hats in public. Took them off in the elevator and tipped them to ladies in public. One did not wear at hat at a table when dining. Oh, my goodness, what a social faux pas! Wearing a hat while dining was akin to belching audibly and loosening one’s belt visible the table.

              As a member of the Old Corps, I still get up tight when I see troops wandering around town in utilities. Off base in utilities? Only if you were performing your job or had a duty belt with a sidearm on, otherwise it was class As or civilian clothes. Even recruiters wear utilities outside the office. Lemuel Shepherd is rolling over in his grave.

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              • red July 19, 18:26

                chuck: Mom and aunts wore wide brim hats and long sleeves when doing field work and still got skin cancer. I don’t want to think how much worse it would be if they hadn’t. Friend down on San Xavier are full-bloods, and the wife scorches every spring. My must have 25 kids now, 4 of their own, the rest adopted during the famine in the 90s, when the dnc decided to ignore what Mexico was doing. niio

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            • Don July 18, 16:16

              Our only vehicle is a pickup so storage space is limited. My answer for that is a toolbox mounted in the bed of the truck. It is lockable and large enough to contain my BOB, other emergency equipment, some tools and even a small floor jack. Now I feel secure anywhere I go.

              Reply to this comment
  9. Midwest Transplant July 1, 00:54

    The only low point to being prepared is,should other people know that puts your vehicle at risk for being broke into.I’m sure most people who watch this blog also watch others,I remember one I watched was on a blog where Sensible Prepper was a guest and he had mentioned that his vehicle had been broken into and everything stolen,something to consider,yes being prepared is a good thing but being grayman is another,just my observation.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck July 1, 04:41

      Midwest: That’s called operational security. Keep your stuff in the trunk or if you have a vehicle without a trunk, shove it under the seats and have seat covers that hang down so that one can’t see what is under the seat.

      The windows in my van are tinted so that it is impossible to see into the back of the vehicle. That means you can’t see my stuff or what I am doing or even if I am in the vehicle.

      Even so, I have my gear covered with an old tarp so that even if I open the back of the van, all anyone can see is the old tarp draped over stuff. Still no idea what is in there. A couple of used paint cans on top of the tarp if you are in a really bad neighborhood can complete the scene that it is is painting gear.

      Personally, I would never go on a TV show and advertise that I am a prepper. Why would anyone do that? They would have to pay me enough so that I could move out of state and buy my 60 acre plot in some out of the way spot.

      Reply to this comment
  10. red July 1, 06:15

    Common sense! Good list to keep to hand out to others. niio

    Reply to this comment
  11. Tug July 1, 17:00

    I can show you a fishing kit no bigger than a tic tac box. Even in So Cal for some it could be the difference between Life and death.

    The line can be used for making snares or in construction of a temporary shelter.

    Survival means also looking outside the box

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    Reply to this comment
  12. Great Grey Owl July 6, 00:41

    Also some way of airing up tires and/or fixing flats. One trip I was on, I had 3 or 4 spares with me and used them all and it was all highway driving.

    Reply to this comment
    • red July 6, 05:37

      Great: Green slime in bugout vehicles. Before making a long road trip, I’ll empty air from tires and use a quarter can of fix a flat. Have not had to use a spare since, as long as I stay on pavement. BTW, never hit a bougainvillea. those thorns will puncture even man-made boot soles. As folks in Phoenix and Tucson can tell you, tho, they do look pretty decorated with wannabe burglars. niio

      Reply to this comment
  13. Tennessee Budd July 16, 14:46

    I would suggest open-end rather than box-end wrenches. Bolts & nuts aren’t always in a place where you can fit a wrench over them, but instead must be accessed from the side.

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