Whether you use your vehicle just for commuting and/or popping to the local supermarket, or you’ve alchemised a transit van into the ultimate dream van life home for travelling or living off-grid - safety should always be paramount.
It can be tempting to throw caution to the wind when living a nomadic lifestyle to feel like a true unburdened, unbothered bohemian!
Avoid this temptation!
The secret to staying safe on the road often lies within having a car emergency kit.
10 Must-Haves in Your Car Emergency Kit
To ensure a smooth, satisfying, and SAFE journey, always have the following items on-hand in your vehicle.
1. Portable Solar Power Station
Portable solar power stations are extremely beneficial - particularly for van lifers, campers, and other such wanderers. But they’re not a case of “one size fits all”.
The right portable power station for you depends on a series of factors, including the size of your vehicle, your power needs, and so on.
But you do need one, so taking the time to find the right power station for you will be the car emergency kit lifeline of your travelling endeavours.
Benefits of a Solar Power Station
A solar power station caters to your energy needs in a more reliable and sustainable way than traditional gas generators. Other perks of these little ditties include:
- Running small items, such as lighting, mini fridges, mini cookers, air-con, TVs, laptops, projectors, etc.
- Charging your chargeable items, such as phones, iPads, laptops, etc.
- Providing energy without needing to have a constant supply of gas, or needing to get somewhere quickly to top up your supply.
- Much more environmentally-friendly.
- A cost-effective way of energising your items - once you’ve purchased the initial products needed for your power station, there are no running costs - unlike that of trad generator.
2. First Aid Kit
And no, we’re not talking about the band!
Accidents happen, so it’s always wise to be prepared. Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit in your car emergency kit can help treat cuts, stings, burns, allergic reactions, sickness and diarrhea, and any other minor or superficial ailment that may take the fun out of your road trip!
What to Put in Your First Aid Kit:
- Plasters/band aids
- Travel sickness pills
- Iodine pills
- Biodegradable antiseptic wipes
- Safety pins
- Antiseptic and pain-relief creams
- Biodegradable baby wipes
- Aloe vera gel
- Any prescribed medication
3. Travel Water Filter/s
Those who are already accustomed to outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking, will already know that a good water filter is a staple in any car emergency kit.
Investing in a good-quality water filter will ensure all impurities and nasties are removed from any water source, while maintaining the vital vitamins and minerals that good, safe, and healthy water contains.
Why You Need a Water Filter
- To remove bacteria, heavy metals, and harmful contaminants and impurities from natural water sources, if you run out of your bottled water/van water supply and need to rely on natural options.
- To prevent dehydration during hikes.
- More environmentally-friendly than relying on bottled water.
- Great when travelling to countries with unsafe water.
4. De-Icer & Ice Scraper
These are almost no-brainer items for your car emergency kit - especially when travelling during the winter months, in areas of high-altitude, or in unpredictable weather.
Having de-icer and a good ice scraper on-hand in your vehicle will mean you can eradicate even the gnarliest of ice situations from your windscreen, ensuring you get to your next destination on-time and in a way that doesn’t put you - and other drivers - at risk.
5. In-Car Phone Charger
Having access to a phone is pivotal for road safety, in the event of injury, illness, vehicle troubles, being lost, during dangerous driving conditions, and more.
But there’s no point having a smartphone if you have no way of charging it. Invest in an in-car phone charger to allow you to charge your device while driving.
Your solar power generator will come in handy here too for charging your device if your vehicle is stationary, or if - for whatever reason - your in-car phone charger isn’t working.
6. Fuel Can (Plus Stock)
A fuel can is only as good as the contents inside it.
Ideally, electric vehicles are our preferred modes of transport, owing to their sustainability, but we appreciate this isn’t always practical - particularly for travellers venturing into areas where electric top-up stations aren’t as readily available.
Keeping a good fuel can stocked up at all times can help you out of many a pickle while on the road. This is particularly relevant during colder weather when vehicles are more likely to break down.
Please note: always make sure you have good breakdown coverage - and do not drive if you think your vehicle is unsafe.
7. Thermal Clothing/Blanket
This should be a staple in your car emergency kit - particularly for those travelling in remote, cold, or high-altitude areas.
In the event of a breakdown, or when heat sources are scarce, thermal padding to keep warm is an absolute must.
Those doing van life for the first time often find the winter months to be a real eye-opener, and relying on the heater in your vehicle as your only warmth option is a foolish idea.
Thermal clothing can quite literally be lifesavers (or at least will keep frostbite at bay) in the event of an emergency.
Other Benefits of Thermal Wear
- Saving energy/heating.
- Easy to move in and sweat-wicking.
- Maintains insulation properties, even when wet.
8. Jump Leads
Another no-brainer item, but sometimes we can forget to include the most obvious items in our car emergency kit. Don’t let it be this one!
Even if your vehicle is brand new/has a brand new battery, not being prepared for the chance it might not start (for whatever reason) is an ideal full of folly!
Also, if your vehicle has lots of gadgets on the go, this can drain the battery - another reason to make sure you’ve got a nifty portable solar power station!
9. Emergency Snack Supply
Stocking up on long-lasting snacks - and resisting the urge to chow down on them - will come in handy in the event of an emergency.
If you’ve broken down in the remote outback of St. Nowhere, or are traipsing the dizzying heights of a snowy mountaintop somewhere - chances of coming across a cornershop are small, so keeping a well-stocked emergency supply of snacks is a wise move.
Ideal Emergency Snacks Include:
- Bottled water
- Chocolate and sweets
- Dehydrated/dried foods, such as fruit and veggies.
- Breakfast/protein bars
- Peanut butter
- Dried cereals/granola (make sure it’s in airtight packaging)
- Non-dairy milk choices, such as coconut milk, oat milk, almond milk, hemp milk, etc.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Whisky/tequila. A nip of this may help warm the cockles if you’re stuck somewhere cold and dark - and it’ll never go off! Obviously, do not drink this if you hope to be driving soon.
10. Hi-Vis Clothing
Folks who spend a lot of time on the road should always have a high-visibility item in their car emergency kit.
This can come in immense use if you break down in the dark, need to exit your vehicle and walk somewhere potentially hazardous (such as along a motorway), or in the event of a real humdinger, like needing to be rescued via helicopter.
Not only will this garment keep you safe from other vehicles, but it will also increase your visibility when waiting for your breakdown assistance (or that helicopter!).
Car Emergencies: FAQs
What are the best ways to stay safe on the road?
As well as having a well-stocked car emergency kit, ways to keep safe include:
- Plan your route. Always avoid getting lost by planning your route and being aware of any areas of your journey that may be hazardous, lacking in civilisation, or have difficult driving conditions, etc. Always take precautions and have an old-fashioned paper map, as well as your emergency gadgets, such as a satellite phone.
- Always have sunglasses on hand. This may sound silly, but bright sunshine can impair your visibility and impaired visibility can increase the risk of an accident. If nothing else - excess squinting isn’t much fun!
- Invest in a good flask/thermos for warm drinks on cold nights.
Other items to include in my car emergency kit?
- Tyre inflator
- A torch
- A flare
- Foil blanket
- Emergency contact numbers (don’t rely on your phone’s contact list!)
- Medical information
- Up-to-date insurance documents
- Snow shovel
- Items for solo female travellers, such as a rape alarm.
Safety should always be paramount for those travelling - particularly for folks living off-grid, as well as solo female travellers - and taking the time to ensure you have a well-stocked car emergency kit - and replenishing any used/perishable items as soon as possible - may just save your life.