Most people know that keeping a first aid kit, jumper cables and a spare tire in their car for emergencies is a good idea. But there are some other things you should have that you might not have thought of—and, if you’re stranded without them, you could end up in trouble.
Whether you’re on a long road trip or just running a quick errand on the other side of town, don’t leave the house without putting these 8 items in your car.
1. Phone charger
Chances are, you’ve never left your home without your cell phone or smartphone just the way it is. But that won’t do much for you in a pinch if your battery dies. To make sure you can make calls or use your smartphone’s navigation system whenever you need it, be sure to have a car phone charger with you. Such chargers plug into your car’s cigarette lighter, and can be purchased for less than $10.
2. Flashlight with spare battery
If you end up stranded on the side of the road after dark, a flashlight is a must-have, both to check your car for trouble and to light your way if you need to walk somewhere for help. Along with your flashlight, make sure you keep an extra set of batteries in case the ones in the flashlight don’t work.
Smartphones and GPS devices are usually very helpful in finding your destination. But if you can’t get a cell phone or satellite signal, they won’t help if you take a wrong turn. Along with your modern navigation technology, be sure to keep the old-school tool with you: the road atlas. If most of your travel is local, you’ll only need the atlas for your state, but if you frequently travel out of state, you should purchase a few for each state you’re likely to visit.
4. Emergency beacon
If your car breaks down on the road, you run the risk of being hit by a car that doesn’t realize you’re stopped. Ensure your safety by purchasing a set of emergency beacons, which you can place near your vehicle to alert passing traffic that your car may be in its path. The flare set is available for only $25.
5. Bottled water
In an emergency situation, water is essential to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Keep a 12-pack of bottled water in your car in case you find yourself stranded somewhere without access to clean water.
6. Protein bars and other non-perishable snacks
Be sure to stock up on food in case your car breaks down or you get lost and far from civilization. Stock up on nutritious, high-protein foods like protein bars, bagged or canned beans, and beef jerky. This type of food can last for months, if not years, but check periodically to make sure it’s still edible, and replace it when it’s expired.
Even in your car, you can get hypothermic on a cold night if you don’t have proper insulation. Be sure to keep some warm blankets handy to ensure everyone in your car stays warm in case you are forced to take shelter there overnight.
8. Emergency hammer
If you’ve been in a serious accident or your car has been submerged in water, you may need to escape through the car window — so you need a tool that can help you open it immediately in an emergency. An emergency hammer, such as the LifeHammer, costs less than $15, and can be mounted on your vehicle’s console so you can reach it any time. Most likely, you won’t need to use it, but it’s good to know that it’s there just in case.