Combining the list provided by five different expert sources (MSN Autos; Better Homes & Garden, February 2012 print edition; The Simple Dollar; MSNBC; and Consumer Reports), there are about 50 unique items that most people should carry in their vehicles at all times. Weather conditions and trip length are the main factors that alter the list of items needed.
The top 10 items the experts agree that everyone should carry in their vehicle are as follows: Bag of cat litter or sand (for traction when a vehicle gets stuck on a slippery patch), bottled water, first aid kit, hand cleaner, jumper cables, road flares (or hazard/warning light of some sort), blankets, food (non-perishable such as energy bars), hat/scarf/gloves, towels (for laying on when repairing a tire), and a flashlight. (Click on the above links for complete lists of recommended items.)
In an email survey of 15 individuals, the top 10 items to always carry in a vehicle include: CDs, GPS, map, phone charger, spare tire & jack, sunglasses, tissues/napkins/paper towel/Kleenex, windshield scraper (most of these people live in Michigan), blankets and jumper cables. With the exception of CDs, all of these items were on the experts’ top 50 list.
Also based on the survey, there are about 50 unique EDC items that people feel are important to carry in their vehicles. Only about half of those items are ones that the experts say everyone should carry. The other half, well, brought up some unique ideas for what’s important to carry in a vehicle.
Some of the items that the surveyed individuals carry in their cars regularly but that did not make the 50 items listed by the experts include various items for kids (books, diapers, toys, movies, etc.), a trash bag, recyclable grocery bags, hunting gear, dry cleaning, a gun, a phone book and a lint brush.
Winning the top spot (there’s no prize, sorry) for being the most prepared AND having the most unusual items in a vehicle is a 60-something man hailing proudly from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This U-per always has the following items in his vehicle in addition to most of the top 10 items in both lists above.
- Food for 2 people for 2-3 days. Remember, he is from the UP.
- Lantern. Not a flashlight, a lantern. A lantern can keep a person warm too, a flashlight can’t.
- Snow boots for 2-3 people. Wants everyone to be warm.
- Toilet paper. There aren’t a lot of options north of the Mackinac Bridge.
- Tie downs & canvas. Always wants to be prepared to carry home a deer if he hits it with is car.
He also doesn’t carry just one blanket, but 4-5 blankets as well as several umbrellas, folding chairs, and hiking gear for a couple of people. Additionally, he keeps something that apparently goes in a gas tank if the wind is blowing so hard that snow gets inside the tank. (Did you even know this could happen?) Few people are this prepared for sure.
This U-per, who has experienced extreme weather first hand, provides a valuable lesson for everyone, a lesson that the experts also stress is better to learn from others than from personal experience. That lesson is to avoid being caught in the middle of nowhere when something goes wrong with your vehicle. The end result can be wasted time, a large towing bill, and possibly a very cold and hunger-filled night in a ditch.
While packing all 50 items listed by the experts is probably not practical with regard to space, taking half of them will certainly go a long way in making an already unpleasant and sometimes downright uncomfortable situation go at least a little more smoothly. There are also road and travel safety kits that include the essential items and don’t take up a lot of space. Take the time today to assess your readiness for a roadside emergency.
DISCUSSION: After reading what the experts recommend and what some individuals keep in their cars, do you feel prepared for the road ahead?