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Car Essentials – The Best Gear and Tools to Keep In Your Vehicle

Table of Contents

Unexpected situations happen daily, ranging from something as simple as a flat tire to something more serious. Regardless of the situation, in an emergency scenario, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. 

Preparation for emergencies has become a common practice for many people today, with many choosing to stock bug-out bags, survival kits, and emergency car kits. You can personalize your kit by adding various gear to meet your specific needs, and it’s always a good idea to be prepped and ready for whatever life throws your way.  

But what gear should you have in your kit? We’ll discuss all the necessary gear and other things to stock up on for your emergency vehicle kit/bag.  

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First Aid

Arguably the most important type of gear to have in your car, first aid supplies are an absolute necessity in every emergency kit. When building your emergency car kit, you’ll want to make sure that you’re stocking necessary first aid supplies for any potential injuries that could occur.  

Building a first aid kit involves various considerations. Our guide on gun range first aid kits goes much more in-depth on the different types of gear and supplies you’ll need in your kit. As always, we highly recommend taking a course on trauma or tactical first aid. Those courses will give you in-depth knowledge of all these essential supplies, so you can use them effectively in an emergency situation. With that said, here are some essential components you’ll find in most serious first aid kits:  

Tourniquets—A tourniquet is a device designed to tie around a wounded limb that can be tightened to constrict blood vessels, slowing down or stopping a wound from bleeding. One of the most popular tourniquets available is the C-A-T, but SWAT-T and RAT tourniquets are great too.  

While tourniquets can be a life-saving tool against deadly arterial bleeding, they are not a first line defense for your average cuts and punctures. Tourniquets are meant as a last-ditch, final defense against serious extremity injuries, solely to buy time for the victim to reach a hospital or more intensive care. If the injury can be controlled by bandages and gauze, it’s often better to treat it that way than risk nerve damage, compartment syndrome, or pressure necrosis. 

Also, it’s important to note the time of application for a tourniquet, which is why you should ALWAYS have a marker pen packed with your tourniquet. When you apply a tourniquet, you can write the time of application on the tourniquet or on the patient. This information is crucial for first responders when treating them.  

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Bandages/Gauze—Compressed gauze can be packed into wounds to control bleeding and prevent any contaminants or debris from entering the wound. While there any many different types of bandages and gauze, most operate the same way: packing wounds and applying compression. That said, not every injury needs combat gauze, so it’s worth keeping a few regular adhesive bandages in your kit for the everyday cuts. 

Antiseptics/Antibacterial Ointment—Antiseptics can be used to clean/disinfect any injuries, while ointment can be applied underneath a bandage or wrap to keep it from getting infected later on. 

Other Items—Some other items you’ll want to have in your kit are trauma shears, burn gel, chest seals, and backups to more crucial items, like tourniquets. Most of these will also be discussed in a trauma/tactical medicine class, so once again, we recommend looking for training in your area. 

As first aid kits have become more readily available, so have prepackaged, high-quality first aid kits. Some of the most popular options for pre-packed kits are from North American Rescue, MyMedic, and Blue Force Gear. Each kit comes with most, if not all, of the aforementioned gear, and each manufacturer also has first aid kit refills for any disposable items.  

Something to note, most of the items in your kit, like adhesive bandages, ointments, and other sterile supplies, have a shelf life of around 3 to 5 years. Be sure to check the packaging for expiration dates to plan accordingly. 

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Lights

If an emergency occurs when you’re in a low light environment or at night, you’ll want to make sure that you can see what’s around you.  

Lights are the crucial piece of your emergency kit that can greatly aid you in many situations, but especially when it’s dark. There are a few different types of lights on the market today, with the most common being handheld lights, hands-free lights, and weapon lights.  

Handheld Lights

Handheld lights are great when you don’t need to use both hands. They can be cumbersome when you need to use both hands. Fortunately, they come in a wide array of sizes and can be stored in your car or truck with ease.  

Hands-free Lights

This type of light is incredible for maximizing your versatility. Hands-free lights provide a lot of illumination in their surrounding area, or can be focused on highlighting something specific, depending on the light type. Some hands-free lights have magnets that allow them to snap attach to the hood or other parts of your vehicle. Others have straps and can be worn on your head to light up whatever you’re directly looking at.  

Another option is a portable lantern-style light. These can easily be stowed in your vehicle or hung on the outside of a backpack. Lanterns aren’t great at throwing bright light in a narrow area, but they can flood areas with ample light to provide adequate lighting in a wider space.  

Weapon Lights

Bad things can happen at night, so if you’re in a scenario where you need to deploy your pistol, it’s crucial for you to be able to see and clearly identify a target. Weapon lights can do more than just light up your target. Their added weight can aid in recoil management, and they also prevent you from having to hold a separate light with your offhand, giving you total control of your pistol.  

What to look for in a light:

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Depending on your needs and wants, you’ll need to take lumens, candela, throw, and flood into consideration before purchasing a light. Lumens are a measure of the amount of light emitted per second by its source. High-lumen lights will have a brighter projected beam. Candela is the measure of how bright a light is at a specific point. Beams with a tighter projection and high candela can often appear brighter, even if they have a lower lumen count.  

Lastly, throw is the maximum reach of the flashlight’s beam, and flood is the width or diameter of the beam. Lights with high throw can illuminate spaces that are pretty far away but won’t necessarily work well in illuminating a wider space. A light with a high flood won’t have as much throw, but it will illuminate a wider space. Throw and flood can vary heavily between lights, but you can often estimate a light’s performance based on its ratio of lumens to candela.  

The topic of lights and what to look for can be confusing to newcomers, our guide to choosing the best pistol lights goes more in-depth about what goes into a good light.  

Batteries and Battery Chargers

If you plan on having anything electronic in your emergency vehicle kit, it’s best to plan to make sure you have a plan to power them. The best way to do this is to have extra rechargeable batteries, and a charger so they can be reused.  

Depending on the tool, different electronics sometimes have different battery types. Flashlights and radios, for example, each use different battery types. Most flashlights use either commonly found AA or AAA batteries, while radios often use proprietary ones (some use common batteries depending on the model). 

Batteries are no good without a charge though, fortunately, there are a plethora of chargers available that can charge multiple types of batteries. However, having multiple batteries and chargers for those batteries takes up vital space that could be used to store other necessary tools and equipment. These are essential items to have in your vehicle kit. Streamlining your setups to have gear that uses the same batteries frees up space in your kit while keeping the task of recharging your batteries simple.  

Knives: Fixed and Folding

It goes without saying that knives are incredibly versatile tools that can be more than useful in a multitude of different situations. For example, knives can be used to cut rope/string, trimming kindling for a fire, fileting meat, cutting stuck seatbelts, and even defense if necessary. That said, there’s always been a debate as to which is better to have a folding or fixed blade knife. 

Well, both have their advantages, but comparatively, fixed blade knives tend to perform much better than folding ones.  

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Fixed blades don’t have any mechanical locks or mechanisms, making them more rigid and stronger than folding knives. High-quality fixed blade knives have full tangs, this minimizes the risk of blade damage when using it. Compared to a folding knife, you can still perform the same tasks, but it will be more difficult to do so since their size is generally smaller, and the hinge of the folding mechanism can be damaged with extensive use.  

Folding knives still have their benefits, though. The smaller size of folding knives makes them much easier to store on your person, easily fitting into a pocket. Though not as strong as a fixed blade, high quality folding knives can still be strong enough to perform basic tasks without failure.  

Regardless of which knife type you pick; you’ll want to make sure that they’re of good quality. Blade steel, blade profile, and locking/opening mechanisms are all factors to consider before buying. Like first aid and weapon lights, this topic can be pretty involved; our guide on knives and blades breaks down everything to know before purchasing a knife. 

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Clothing: Headwear, Outerwear, Footwear, and other Gear

Clothing is often overlooked when traveling to different places. When in a car or truck, there are comforts like heat and A/C that’s readily available. Because of this, it’s easy to not think about the clothes you’re wearing when you’re leaving to get gas or to go to the store. In a worst-case scenario, your vehicle could break down during inclement weather, or when the temperature is extreme.  

If you know you’re going to be driving for more than 25-30 minutes to a location, it’s best to know what the weather is forecasted to look like and what the temperature is going to be so you can plan accordingly. Still, it’s never a bad idea to have specialized clothing in your emergency vehicle kit.  

Outerwear, like jackets and ponchos, can easily be stored and provides an extra layer to keep you out of the elements if necessary. Like hats, they can keep you dry when it’s raining, warm, when it’s cold, and provide you with extra storage provided your outerwear has pockets. There are a lot of solid options that you can include in your kit. Keep in mind that you should look for outerwear that’s made of durable materials. Leather, canvas, and wool are all resistant to water and retain heat in cold environments. Even better, there are lightweight options available too, keeping you from overheating when wearing them in warmer climates. 

Clothes

Though not always necessary, a change of clothes is worth including in your emergency kit. Building a kit is all about being prepared for whatever life throws your way, and it could be something as simple as falling in the mud when on a hike. Also, a pair of gloves can keep your hands dry and warm if you’re rucking through colder environments.  

Headwear

An often-neglected article of clothing is headwear. A good hat can keep you warm, dry, and protect you from the sun. Additionally, hard bill hats give you a mounting point for clip lights and other tools you may need quick access to in an emergency. Beanies, ball caps, and boonie hats are excellent options to keep in your vehicle kit. Just like how hats can benefit you, so can a good set of outerwear.  

Footwear

Your footwear is more important than you might think. Think of it like this: if you’re in an area with uneven and sometimes slick terrain, it’s best to have a pair of shoes with extra tread instead of a pair of flip-flops. This is exactly why you should have a good pair of boots or shoes in your emergency vehicle kit. 

All-purpose and tactical style boots are one of the best options to keep in your emergency kit. These types of footwear are made from durable materials, having thick soles for keeping your feet protected, and semi-rigid shafts for ankle support. They’re often lighter than work boots, using synthetic nylon or a mix of nylon and leather to create a lightweight yet durable boot. A further consideration is water resistance. Boots like the Johnny Combat from VIKTOS have a waterproof option; when your feet are wet, it can lead to your feet getting waterlogged, allowing for bacteria, fungus, and blisters to develop.  

As great as they are, it isn’t always possible to wear boots like these in day-to-day life. They are, however, highly worth adding to your emergency kit. And fortunately, there’s a plethora of men’s boots and women’s boots available, each with different features weights and tread styles. If you’re looking for more info, our guide on tactical boots goes even more in-depth on this topic.   

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Eyewear

Protecting your eyes should always be a priority, as without them, you can’t see. Depending on the scenario, there could be a multitude of threats that could potentially damage your eyes, ranging from dust, debris, or even thrown or falling objects.  

Anything that can damage your eyes or hinder your sight in any way can be drastically detrimental to your survival in an emergency scenario. Due to this, we highly recommend having eye protection in your vehicle kit. There are some different factors to consider before purchasing, though.  

Like most products, there are different types of glasses for different purposes. Clear safety glasses are often used as eye protection when shooting, performing car maintenance, and when operating tools like saws, drills, and grinders. And tinted lenses like sunglasses are commonly used every day to protect from UV rays and retinal burn. All types are useful in their own regard, but like most gear, they can be streamlined to fit multiple purposes.  

Eyewear with ANSI Z87 rated lenses are some of the best available, being incredibly strong and resistant to impacts. While commonly found in clear safety glasses, these lenses can be used in sunglasses and goggles as well. Glasses like the ESS ICE Tactical Eyeshield kits come with multiple lens types for different purposes, that are easily stored in the included carrying case. Designs like these make it easy to include multiple types of eyewear in your kit without taking up too much space. 

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Binoculars

Binoculars aren’t typically the first item people think of when creating an emergency kit, but their uses and versatility make them a valuable addition. As you know, they allow you to see things far away. This is useful in a variety of ways. They can be used to spot fires, survey the surrounding area to check for threats, identify wildlife or hazards, or to easily spot landmarks for navigation. And these are only a few examples of why binoculars are a great piece of gear to include in your vehicle kit. 

Most binoculars available are collapsible or can be compactly stowed away in a carrying case, making them easy to store in a bag or within your vehicle. Also, most optic companies like Primary Arms, Vortex, Leupold, and SIG Sauer, to name a few, all produce great binoculars. To help narrow down which one is the best for you, our guide on the best binoculars can point you in the right direction.  

Bags and Backpacks

When building your emergency vehicle kit, there are a few different ways you can store your gear. You can either put things in the storage compartments of your vehicle, or you can keep your gear stored in a backpack for when you have to go on the move.  

Backpacks have always been the standard option. With a good bag you can easily store most, if not all, of your emergency gear, and have the ability to travel on foot with it if necessary. Still, there are numerous options for backpacks available, which can be confusing for newcomers. 

What to look for in a backpack:

While it’s basically impossible to determine which backpack is the best, there are key aspects found in bags that make them better than most others on the market. For instance, durable materials such as nylon and canvas are great for larger bags, while lighter nylon and fabrics are perfect for smaller drawstring bags. A larger backpack is great for carrying a lot of gear at once, but it will be heavy. Lighter bags can’t hold as much, but they’re easier to travel with due to their lighter weight. Keep in mind that many range bags often have backpack straps built into them, making them a solid option with a good amount of storage.  

Personal preference will be the determining factor as to which you choose. For some, having a larger backpack works as they can support the extra weight and have access to more materials and supplies. For others, they might prefer a lighter bag with essential items, leaving the rest of the supplies in the car. Ideally, you’ll want to have as many supplies and pieces of gear on your person as possible. Larger bags like the Primary Arms Modular Assault Pack make this possible, though you can fit essentials into smaller bags.  

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Additional Storage

Additionally, larger tactical style bags are built with maximum storage in mind. They often have multiple pockets, sleeves, and in some cases, MOLLE webbing on the outer facings. MOLLE webbing allows you to easily attach pouches and other equipment on the outside of your bag. Most first aid pouches, firearm cleaning kits, radios, have clips or come with a pouch that can be attached to MOLLE webbing. MOLLE pouches give you access to the outer space of your backpack, maximizing the amount of gear you can carry.  

There are a lot of benefits when using MOLLE pouches. instance, having your first aid kit and radio housed on the outside of your back gives you quick access to them when they’re needed. It beats having to empty out your bug out bag just to grab one piece of gear. 

Magpul DAKA Pouch

A great storage option for electronics or important documents is the Magpul DAKA pouch. The DAKA pouch comes in a small, medium, or large size, and is waterproof, making it perfect for any materials that need to stay dry. It’s made out of durable polymer infused materials features a translucent window on one side of the pouch, as well as two large carabiner latch points. In your kit, you could use it to store a GPS unit, fire starting materials, first aid supplies, and even food or ration packs. 

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Conclusion

The best way to get ahead of an emergency is to be prepared for it. Having a dedicated emergency kit in your vehicle provides you with all the essentials you’ll need to be ready for any scenario you might come across.  

If you’re building an emergency kit, remember to continue researching the different materials and gear we mentioned above, and practice how to use them. Having the necessary gear won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use it. Attending local classes like those from North American Rescue gives you real life experience firsthand, making you ready for whenever an emergency happens.  

After researching, writing out an emergency stockpile checklist will help you to prioritize the necessary gear you’ll want to have. Being prepared for any scenario is always beneficial, and having a ready-to-go emergency kit will provide you with peace of mind and readiness for anything.