How To Build An Emergency Car Tool Kit For Your Next Road Trip

Post Summary: The Gear You Need For Your DIY Emergency Car Tool Kit

Packing for a road trip is tough! You’re caught between trying to convince yourself to only bring the road trip essentials while battling the thought that if it fits in your car, you might as well bring it.

And honestly, we often find ourselves in the middle of that dilemma, too. But there’s one thing that should always be in your car during a big road trip. Do you know what it is?

A roadside emergency kit!

Honestly, there’s a good chance you may never need to use it – and we hope you don’t! But you definitely don’t want to find yourself broken down in the middle of nowhere with no supplies, no food, and no way of finding help. 

So what are the things you need to have in your emergency car tool kit? Keep scrolling for our top items to put in your own DIY roadside emergency kit.

Emergency Car Tool Kit - Car In Desert

How To Build Your Own DIY Emergency Car Kit

This post was written by Adventure Contributor, Whitney Matthews

Before you head out on your next epic road trip, it’s important to put together your own DIY Car Emergency Tool Kit. We’ll share the specific items you should add to it later in this post, but let’s start with the basics.

16.5 Clear Plastic Gallon Tote From Lowe’s

First, start by finding a clear plastic bin to store your items. This bin should be big enough to hold the essentials, but small enough to not take up too much space in your car. Browse these ones from Lowe’s that come in several different sizes to fit your car’s needs.

The, make sure you label your items with names and dates! This is especially important for items like water and snacks, but useful too if you have other items that may expire, like bear spray or chemicals. Labeling items will help you know clearly what they are for, and easily figure out when they need to be replaced in the future.

Alright, let’s get to our roadside emergency kit items!

A First-Aid Kit

HART Outdoor Multi-Day First Aid Kit (See Prices at REI Here)

Hopefully, the only thing you may need to use from a first aid kit is a bandaid! No matter how long your road trip may be, it’s important to always have a first aid kit in your car just in case you or someone else may need it! We like these compact kits for multi-day road trips.

Keep a first-aid kit in your car for these road trip routes:

Work Gloves

REI Co-Op Trailsmith Gloves (See Prices at REI)

Changing tires, digging yourself out of a ditch, or getting down to check under the hood can be dirty work. Make sure you have a pair of durable gloves to use for these times!

Work gloves are especially important to have in your winter car emergency kit, to keep your hands warm as you work outside.

Rain Poncho

Red Ledge Eva Adult Rain Poncho (See Prices at REI)

It often feels that your car breaks down at the worst of times, especially in inclement weather! Make sure to stay warm and dry if you are doing some quick car repairs in the rain. A rain poncho is inexpensive and takes up very little space!

Read More: How To Camp In The Rain (And Thrive While Doing It!)


REI Co-Op Down Double Camping Blanket For Couples

REI Co-Op Camp Blanket (See Prices at REI)

It’s smart to always have a blanket or two in your car. You may need to use it if you’re waiting for help at night or in the winter, if you find yourself needing figure out how to sleep in your car, or even if the heat in your car turns off.

And yes, it’s smart to have an extra blanket (like this space blanket for easy storing!) even if you’re traveling during warmer months or in warmer climates – you never know when the temperature could drop! Place like Hart Mountain hot springs or Leslie Gulch in the desert can be hot during the day, but freezing cold at night!

Portable Phone Charger

BioLite Charge 40 Power Bank

BioLite Charge 40 (See Prices Here)

Yes, most cars nowadays can charge your phone via a cigarette lighter or a USB port. But what if your car battery is dead? Make sure to have a fully charged, portable power bank with you, just in case. You never know when you might need it, and having a charged phone can be really handy for calling roadside assistance.

The BioLite Charge 40 power bank is freakishly light and slender, so much so that it can easily fit in your pocket for portable power. With its useful USB ports AND USB-C port, you can easily use it with any device (phone, iPad, other tools) for extra juice on the go.

Read More: Our 20 Favorite Photography Accessories For Busy Travel Photographers

Flashlight and Extra Batteries

Fenix LD30 Rechargeable Flashlight

Feni LD30 Rechargeable Flashlight (See Prices at REI)

Most, if not all, phones have flashlights in them, but phones aren’t always reliable because they die. So it’s always smart to have a backup lighting option ready, just in case! In a desperate situation, it never hurts to have some extra light. Grab a flashlight with LED lights to last long, and keep it small to fit in your glove compartment.

Note: a headlamp with extra batteries works well too! Compare some of the best and brightest headlamps here.

Water Bottles & Non-Perishable Snacks

Clif Bars Protein For Hiking

Read More: 15 Easy & Delicious Hiking Snacks To Take On The Trail

Separate from your snacking road trip essentials, you should always have a separate stash of emergency snacks. This way, if your car breaks down and you’re stuck waiting hours or days for help, you can stay fueled!

Pack a couple of disposable water bottles, or fill a couple Nalgene bottles for a more earth-friendly solution. For some non-perishable snacks that aren’t too bulky, consider protein bars, trail mix, and dried fruit, but keep them in their original packaging for added freshness. For more meal ideas, be sure to check out our list in quick & easy camping meals to make on the road!

Pro tip: When preparing for the possibility of waiting multiple hours, or days, for help to come, it doesn’t hurt to pack some extra hand sanitizer and toilet paper too!

Emergency Car Tool Kit (Repair)

You’d be surprised how many cars (especially older models) don’t have adequate emergency car tools on hand! Having an emergency car tool kit can be the difference between an expensive tow truck ride or fixing it yourself!

Before heading out on your trip, make sure you have all of these tools and that you know how to properly use them. Here’s what you should have in your roadside tool kit:

Pro Tip: We all know how to change a tire in theory. But it’s much harder when you’re having to try it for the first time in a real life situation.

Before your trip, make sure you know where in your car to find all of the tools you’ll need to change a flat tire. And maybe do a practice run or two before actually hitting the road. Here’s a handy youtube video to watch on how to change a tire.

Roadside Emergency Kit (Accident Essentials)

These are things you will only need in a true roadside emergency. Think of situations like your car flipping, getting stuck in a ditch, or being trapped the water. Really, we NEVER hope you need to use these emergency tools, but having these accident response items can help you feel more secure and safe in a demanding response. It’s always worth it to be prepared – it could save yours or someone else’s life.

These accident responses items are great for your emergency car tool kit because they can all fit in the glove compartment. Perfect for easy access in case of an emergency! This kit includes:

A Small Notepad And a Pen

Rite In The Rain Small Notepad

Rite In The Rain All-Weather Notepad – (See Prices at REI Here)

No, this isn’t for journaling about your trip (although, you should definitely do that!). It’s always smart to have a working pen and a small notepad in your car so you can leave a note if you need to abandon your car or share insurance information with another driver. It’s also a great way to pass the time if you’re waiting for help to arrive.

Read More: 15+ Incredibly Useful Road Trip Planner Apps and Tools To Download Before Your Go

A Map

National Geographic Road Atlas

National Geographic Road Atlas – (See Prices at REI Here)

Yep, we said it: an old-school, paper map. When you’re driving through new places, you don’t know what the cell phone coverage will be like. You definitely don’t want to be relying on your phone GPS and suddenly find yourself without service, or even worse, with a dead battery.

Have a safe backup in the form of a paper map, and store something like a USA atlas in your emergency car tool kit.

Seasonal Supplies

Read More: 12 Essentials You Need In Your Winter Car Emergency Kit

Depending on where you’re heading, or what time of year your trip is, it’s always smart to think about how the season could affect your road trip.

If you’re driving in the winter months, where it’s cold and snowy, be sure to pack things like an ice scraper, some hand warmers, and maybe some extra layers like beanies and gloves.

If you’re traveling during warmer months, or in warmer areas, bring sunscreen, extra water, and layers to keep the sun off your body. Check the weather and pack rain jackets or umbrellas, too, if applicable.

Other Items To Include In Your Roadside Emergency Kit

A No-Spill Gas Can

This one might come in handy if you’re planning to do some traveling in areas where you may not find service stations for extended stretches.

Think: Utah National Parks road trip, Highway 395 in California, Eastern Oregon road trip, or long lonely stretches of a Southwest road trip.

It’s definitely not a necessity, especially if you can’t fit a gas can in your car, but be sure to always keep an eye on your gas gauge and pay attention to road signs!

Duct Tape

Duct tape is so versatile, especially considering it’s small size. So it can come in handy for solving a multitude of problems, from preventing a blister, to fixing minor car issues until you’re able to get to the repair shop.

Might as well toss a roll in your emergency car tool kit for good measure!

A Deck Of Cards (Or Two!)

This one is purely to help you pass the time, if you find yourself waiting for help to arrive. It’s also a great pastime for any passengers in your car too!

Need more things to do while you wait? Download our list of fun road trip questions, or download these entertaining road trip podcasts before you hit the road!

Emergency Car Tool Kit Conclusion

This list might seem long, but don’t let it stress you out! Our hope is to help you get as prepared as possible so that if you find yourself in a road trip emergency situation, you’ll be ready.

And as we mentioned at the beginning of this post, you probably won’t need to use anything from your kit, except maybe a bandaid. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this list and where you’re going to find all of these things, there are some awesome brands that have pre-made kits ready for you to buy too!

Have you put together your emergency car tool kit? What are some things you would add to your roadside car kit? Let us know in the comments below!


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