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

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:

Get Home Bag

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.

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.


I 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

You 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

If 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.



A 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.


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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