Coffee Can Survival Kit: Don’t Travel Without It

Feature | Tin Can painted with coffee | Coffee Can Survival Kit: Don't Travel Without It

Always have a coffee can survival kit handy in your car, and learn how to complete one with this guide!

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How to Make a Coffee Can Survival Kit for Your Car

Why You Need a Coffee Can Survival Kit in Your Car

Emergency preparedness in transit spells the difference between surviving the unthinkable and becoming part of a tragic statistic. You should have an emergency kit as well as the basic tools and gear that come with the car.

Cars have become an integral part of life, they're practically home. We use them to go to work, bring the kids to school, and for just about any transportation need we may have.

And if we stay in our cars for long hours every single day, there is really a good chance we will get caught driving or in the car when an emergency survival or an SHTF situation occurs.

So it only makes sense our car should be just as prepared with survival gear as our home. With that said, here's how to make a car survival kit with a coffee can!


When caught up in an emergency situation, having the right tools will increase your chances of survival. Tools with multiple functionalities will make it a lot easier and faster to do the things you need to survive.

  • Multi-tool
  • Pocket knife


In any outdoor survival situation, the ability to make fire is vital. Whether you're preparing your shelter in the dark, cooking food, purifying water or keeping you warm, these tasks are impossible to achieve without the use of fire.

  • Strike Anywhere Matches or Lighter
  • Ferrocerium rod
  • Tinder or fire starter (Vaseline cotton balls)
  • Candles (wrapped in aluminum foil)

What Is a Ferrocerium Rod? It is a synthetic substance that sparks when struck.


One of the essential things we can't live without is water, most especially in a survival situation. It prevents our body from dehydration and other health complications that it brings.

That's reason enough to have a water bottle with potable water for drinking, cleaning, and whatnot.

  • Water filter
  • Iodine tablets
  • Water bags


Hunter cooking food with a portable gas burner | Coffee Can Survival Kit: Don't Travel Without It

Even though you can live for several weeks with nothing to eat, you still need a sufficient amount of food to stay well. Emergency food, like survival protein bars, will give you the energy to do what is needed in an emergency.

Be sure to have ample food supply in your food storage and periodically check its shelf life for expiration. You wouldn't want to end up in a worse situation.

  • Protein or energy bars
  • Some dried fruits
  • Packets of instant soup
  • Other small food items

RELATED: Amazing Amazon Deals For Your Survival Kit Under $20

First Aid Kit

From simple cuts and bruises to more serious injuries, having a first aid kit helps reduce the severity of the wound and pain. Including first aid items in your coffee can survival kit and gear is not an option, it is a must.

That said, below is a short list of the items you must have in your car emergency kit checklist.

  • Steril pads
  • Bandages
  • Steril gauze
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Medical tape
  • Aspirin and painkillers
  • Personal medicine

Supporting Items

Accidents happen anywhere, anytime, but preparation is key to your survival. A portable ham radio in your emergency survival kit will also make a great addition to your cell phone. A wool blanket will be very useful for winter survival.

With these additional items, here are some more essentials you might want to include in your emergency roadside kit or coffee can survival kit.

  • LED Flashlight
  • Compass
  • Nylon rope or paracord
  • Poncho (bright colors to attract attention)
  • Duct tape
  • Extra batteries
  • Signal mirror
  • Mylar emergency blankets
  • Whistle
  • Paper and pencil
  • Toilet paper
  • Garbage bag
  • Plastic spoon
  • Small film canister fishing kit (fishing lines, hooks, dry flies, a few lead weights)
  • Money (a couple of nickels, dimes, quarters and $20 bills)


Watch this video from Survival Lilly and find out how to turn your car into a bug out vehicle, too:

Now you know how to make a car survival kit in a coffee can. So wherever you find yourself, and whatever situation you get into, you will have them ready when you need them. Remember, “it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Do you have a coffee can survival kit? Tell us what's inside your kit in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 9, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

107 Responses to :
Coffee Can Survival Kit: Don’t Travel Without It

  1. STMA says:

    What is used to pound the nails in?

    1. Terry says:

      Your wheel spanner…

    2. Matt Dorr says:

      Like the cavemen used, “A Rock”

      1. nicole says:

        use your tire iron?

        1. LazrBeam says:

          Your head?

  2. coleche says:

    Besides the kit mentioned above, I also carry a backpack (no frame) stuffed with a towel, Handi wipes, a change of undergarments and a change of clothing for both my wife and myself. We keep these and a blanket in both vehicles.

  3. Ryan says:

    I find this quite interesting but have point out two “wastes” in my opinion.

    1. Don’t take a mirror. You are in your car in this scenario. Just rip one off you car if TSHTF.

    2. Poncho and 2 garbage bags? Just use one of the garbage bags. Get the heavy duty black ones and they’ll last longer.

    There. My 2 cents.

    1. Great Grey says:

      Ryan the problem with a car mirror is that it is big and heavy, nor are they as easy to remove as some think, and you may break it trying to remove it. Also my compass has a mirror.

      1. Mrhycannon says:

        Most car visors have a mirror.. They should be easy to remove..

    2. Cheap Uncle Joe says:

      Go to a computer repair shop and get a broken hard drive… take it apart … the hard disk is shiny metal and nearly indestructible.
      Also, an ammo can from Walmart ($4+/-) is far easier to stow and carry. (A piece of line through the handle will keep hands free.)

      1. David says:

        That’s what I thought until it broke… it’s plastic with a metalized outer layer….

        1. Scott says:

          I use a military surplus ammo can.

  4. Terry says:

    I would add: an emergency blanket, you never know what the weather is going to be like; a power charger for your phone; water; water; water; and some thing like an expandable plastic bottle to pee/crap in, you may be stuck in the car for some reason… unless of course you carry these kinds of things in your car anyway…

    1. Renee Brown says:

      Instead add a few Ziploc bags. Cheaper and lighter and can be used by putting them over your can. Zip up. No mess no smell. Easy to dispose of.

  5. Mark says:

    I’d add a couple bandanas or compressed towels, a mini butane lighter, several feet of duct tape, and a small bottle of liquid hand soap. Also extra prescription meds if you use them.

    1. Dale says:

      I’d stay away from the butane lighter, especially in cold weather and/or at high altitude. Based on considerable experience in the Colorado Rockies, they don’t work as well as you might hope. Waterproof matches or a more conventional Zippo type lighter would be a better choice.

      1. SmokeHillFarm says:

        I’ve used Bic disposable lighters in very cold weather. Just stick it in an inside pocket so your body heat keeps it warm & it should do fine. They store better than Zippo, whose fuel will evaporate in a few weeks or a month. storing the fuel separately fixes this, of course, but you’d better have spare flints, too.

        My objection to matches is that a lot of lights takes a lot of space. A Bic disposable will light briefly a couple of thousand times (based on my smoking history) & takes negligible space. Best to have several sources for fire, though.

        1. FrankD says:

          Problem with butane lighters is they don’t generate much heat at high altitude, think Rocky Mountains.

  6. Steven G says:

    Don’t forget the all important duct tape. Protein bars as well and any powdered drink mix (w/ sugar).

  7. Mags says:

    Add some rolled oats. Freeze the oats for a few days to kill any protein sources that might be in it, the just seal it into a long term storage bag with a new oxygen absorbers. It should keep for years. Oats are far more nutritious that proceesed food powders and with the additon of a little water, can be formed into a small cake and eaten raw. You might also add one of those filtering water straws or a glass bottle of water (with enough air to allow it to safely freeze in the winter.


    I am new to this, and appreciate all of the knowledge I am gaining. What about an eyeglass repair kit for the emergency can?

    And since I was able to get the thermal blankets, one of those would fit nicely. As I do not make coffee, the local dollar store has many types of canisters similar to the can.

    1. FrankD says:

      Better yet, carry an extra pair. It’s what I do.

  9. Debbie says:

    Depending on the season, put some hand warmers in it.

  10. cr says:

    If your vehicle has roof racks and your tarp has grommets then some electrical ties or cord to tie it to roof to make a shelter.

    1. kt says:

      Great idea, CR, about using the car’s roof rack. Bunking up on the roof would keep you off of wet ground or snow, and of course, away from the odd animal. Height would be good for observation and security. Only downside would be in heavy wind or driving rain.

      1. Anonymous says:

        you have a vehicle…you could sleep in..smh

  11. AJ White says:

    Im a simple man. I carry a knife, can of dog food and can of spam with 2 gal. water. tarp. military blanket. pretty much everything else can be used off of the vehicle. speaker wire can be used for tying things, battery can be used to arc tinder (if you have gas – fuel. if you have oil – fuel.) vehicle mirror can be used for signaling. If things got really bad, you can use a lot more from a vehicle to get by, maybe destroying your interior of spare tire in the process. BUT definitely a cool idea for the coffee can idea.

    1. Maria says:

      Great post! Thanks for the food for thought!!

      1. Raffles says:

        Dog food? Why not human food?

        1. Fizzlecat says:

          Unless you had a dog with you, I suppose you could use the dog food to lure some type of creature into a snare (so include snare wire!) Be sure to have some way to process the critter, A sharp knife would do the trick. A small knife sharpener would be good to keep that thing sharp. A metal cup that you could boil water in or warm soup in, but don’t try to drink out of it, even if you boil your liquid in something else. It’ll burn your lips off, then you’ll be in more trouble!

  12. Alex says:

    Any necessary periodic meds for regular occupants.

  13. left coast chuck says:

    While it is okay to rip mirrors off the car, in place of a mirror, use one of the CDs that still come in the mail or an old one from home that is still nice and shiny. It has an aiming hole in the middle for signaling. Be sure to keep it in its protective sleeve to keep it shiny. The garbage bag is better than a poncho. The black will keep you warmer in sunlight than an orange or light colored poncho. In addition, in some circumstances you may not want to be found and a dark color will conceal better. You have other avenues of attracting attention than the clothing you are wearing. A space blanket under a black 55 gallon trash bag will keep you warm and may protect you from thermal imaging which in some instances might be what you would want.

  14. Paul says:

    Another useful container would be a 1 gallon paint can. You can buy them at hardware stores and since they are a ‘sealing’ can your stuff will stay dry and dirt free for as long as you want.

    1. captain mike says:

      An excellent idea. Has a handle for carrying too. Swapping out my cans this week. They will also hold a little more. I think some of the posters here are going a little overboard – the idea is the CAN kit. I carry other stuff as well, but the can does provide some focus.

      1. Dave says:

        better tape an old fashion bottle opener or a screwdriver to the can in order to take the lid off.

  15. Alex says:

    General: Duct tape Duct tape Duct tape. Instead of braided nylon, use Paracord 550

    First aid: Any necessary periodic meds for regular occupants.

  16. obsidian says:

    I used to leave $50.00 in a can with road side survival stuff.
    I let the wife know and the one time I needed that $50.00 I got out the can and it was gone.
    So was half the stuff in the can, dumped to get at the money.
    The wife said, “That money has been gone a long time ago!” Yup I told her, this is for emergency situations only, she said but my sister needed gas.
    Lesson number one,either do not tell your wife about the survival kit, do not pack money or think seriously about a divorce as a survival option.

    1. Deez says:

      OR you might occasionally check and ‘rotate’ what you have in there. Just in case, someone uses something and forgets to replace it. 😉

    2. captain mike says:

      My wife disses me on preps. I let her know the stuff is in the car, in case she needs it, but an emergency is in the eyes of the beholder. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage. I hide money in several different caches throughout the vehicle for a number of reasons. We may well be together and then we both get the benefit while reducing the risk.

  17. obsidian says:

    Seriously, I’d add a military type steel/aluminum canteen, a canteen cup made of steel and some Sterno.
    Instant coffee, sugar and if you want creamer.
    A wool blanket.
    A knife that comes with a fire stryker.
    A small hatchet that also has a nail puller.
    A pack of playing cards.
    Get a flash light that has a weather and am/fm radio that is solar or wind up magneto or squeeze magneto powered.

  18. Delores says:

    Keep a large candle in a metal coffee can. It can raise the temp. up 30 degrees in your car if you should get stranded.

    1. Sheri Hein says:

      I used to carry an empty 1 lb. coffee can, a roll of TP, an bottle of isopropyl alcohol, and a lighter/matches in my car-if you put the TP roll in the can, pour alcohol over it and light it, it burns for quite awhile and throws off good heat

  19. James Bell says:

    The forever match how can you reload the match? What wick etc?

  20. Paul says:

    I will add a few light sticks

  21. Ajamacus says:

    Add a magnifying glass to also start a fire (if sunny).

  22. K.W.(Sam) Harth, USNDV/Ret says:

    Incase a coffee can will not be large enough for your personal survival kit. I have found. a small plastic toolbox or tackle box works well. Especially if you get one with two shelves and compartments to separate items of your choosing.
    A small or medium multitool is always a wise item to include.

  23. Deez says:

    I keep a couple of tea candles along with a small ceramic pot. With these and a cup. I can heat water warm enough to have a warm drink if/when needed or make soup.
    I have also acquired some canisters which diabetic testing strips come in. These are labeled with honey, matches, sewing kit, etc. since they are waterproof, they work well and can be tucked in different places in a compact car or even a sub compact car.
    Thanks for the list, some of these I wouldn’t have thought of until I needed them.

    1. Izzy says:

      I like the idea of using the diabetic canisters Deez. Perfect size for many things. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

  24. Jerry Y. says:

    another item that you touched on is the fuel for a stove, I like to use Sterno it comes in 2 different sizes and can be used to keep warm, start fires or cook with, candles work better for light, I use to carry this with me on long hunting trips when I was younger, it is sent free as long as kept closed so no worry about game smelling it, its lite and very easy to use and burns well when its raining and the large can burns for over 2 hours

  25. Keven says:

    Candles are a great idea as long as you live in cooler climates. I had three 9 hour candles in my get home bag. but I found they had become one unshapley blob due to melting. Use chem lights for visual aid and if you need fire for warmth/cooking you can carry a few of the fire starter sticks, miniature fire logs, for those needs.
    Some of the items people are mentioning, all excellent things to have, will not fit in a coffee or paint can along with all the other gear you want to have in the can. If you have a bug out or get home bag already in your vehicle then the survival can would be supplemental. For those who don’t have a bag this is a great way to store and carry some minimal gear and won’t cost you a fortune to make up as compared to a full blown bag.

    1. Joseph Spencer says:

      As an old grunt I see a lot of good ideas in here. My contribution to of this is to suggest you include a toenail clipper and a small tweezer. They both fit in a watch pocket and can save you a world of pain.

  26. Delores says:

    A large candle in a metal coffee can, if you are stranded can raise the temperature 30 degrees in the car or truck.

    1. Izzy says:

      Delores; One candle flame will only raise the temperature 1 degree per hour. You need minimum 5 candles to make, even a modicum, of difference. Candle flames eat up oxygen, so you have to remember to have a window ever so slightly cracked.

      People don’t realize how fast hypothermia can set in (30-45 minutes). Seriously, while candles will help, you need more than candles in your car.

  27. gryphon says:

    Don’t forget a trailer hitch and a fairly big trailer to carry all the stuff you’ll need. Maybe a small Airstream trailer with a couple weeks of food, water, gas for the generator, and a couple thousand rounds.

    1. Raffles says:

      Don’t forget the solor panels to run the big screen and the big green egg. I mean what, are we savages!?

  28. kt says:

    I would add a very small radio, with batteries stored separately: for news, updates, and morale support. Double-wrap radio in aluminum foil, to try to save the radio just in case your situation is due to an EMP.

  29. Sharo says:

    We have lived and worked in two contrasting climates over the years. In the first 4 seasons climate winter was the most dangerous and required precautions to stay alive if you were stranded in your car. Everyone carried a shovel, sand, sterno, candle in a can, blankets, water, jumper cables, duct tape, gloves, hats, boots. flares and sometimes extra fuel.We always had a few cereal bars in the glove box.
    When we moved to the desert climate summer was the challenge and the gear changed. We still carry a shovel but not a snow shovel but a sand shovel, duct tape, jumper cables, starting fluid, blanket for shade (it does get cold in the desert night), large sun hats, flares, a first aid kit with sun screen, umbrellas for protection from the sun and a cooler has a permanent place in the trunk just to get the ice cream home from the grocery store and the most important in either climate is those gallon jugs with water for the car and for us. Since all this prepping started I now include a go bag in my car with a map of the city I am in, good walking shoes, a change of clothes to protect from the sun and the other personal items such as toilet paper, gloves, water filter straw, sun glasses, dried fruit and jerky my multi tool, and a cell phone charger. So much emphasis has been made by the prepper to call it prepping but this is just common sense life skills that you need to use everyday. Even if the SHTF senerio does not happen car break downs with the kids in the car do. You can be trapped in your car in a blizzard or in 117 heat on the side of the freeway and be in jeopardy in a short period of time. Here again do you stay with the vehicle or go to a safe location. You must be prepared for the elements to have that choice. Prepare to survive and live another day no matter what situation you are in. Think, make good choices.

  30. geo says:

    a decent multi-tool, such as Ozark Trail, about $10 at Walmart. Also a box of birthday cake “joke” candles, that relight after blowing out. A couple of disposable butane lighters, (even after the fuel is gone, the flint can be used to start a fire), some steel wool, which will burn even when wet. Water purification tablets, about $5, “Life Straw” for water filtration, Space blanket (mylar), about $3 at Walmart. LED worklight, about $4 at Harbor Freight, extra batteries, AA power bank for recharging cell phone. Verizon prepaid cell phone (can be activated from the phone, without access to a computer) with $10 refill card. These are frequently on sale for $5 at Fry’s, Walmart, Radio Shack, etc. Also good to have a prepaid debit card with $100 on it. Cash is also good to have. 1x $20, 2x $5, 10x $1, a roll of quarters a few dimes, nickles and pennies. Cash may be useful even if no other people are around. Vending machines may still work! (this is a very short list, I always carry much more than this in my car!)

  31. Izzy says:

    Add a sealed bottle of ‘vanilla’ to your first aid kit. If you get a toothache from a starting infection, the pain can be blinding. Vanilla acts relatively fast on killing pain and also helps stop the infection. Pack about a dozen cotton balls in a clean baggie along with the vanilla. You can spot apply as well as rinse mouth with the vanilla. Cayenne pepper also is a plus to have.

    1. Last Gasp says:

      In the mountains of Idaho blizzards and breakdowns can be deadly. My dog is with me when driving more than half the time and we both have BOBs in every vehicle.Two soft packs in case we have to hike out.. He weighs as much as I do so I figure he can be responsible for his own water, food, and first aid. We share a wool blanket with a space blanket on the outside(dog’s toenails tear a space blanket). Clove oil is the best thing for toothaches, on a small cotton ball. Immediate relief.

    2. Fizzlecat says:

      Oil of cloves is a dental anesthetic too, and comes in tiny bottles!

  32. curt says:

    The best fire starter is cotton balls packed with petroleum jelly. You can fit almost 50 into a film canister. The light fast and burn a lot longer then you would think. Also I would add a flashlight.

  33. Dale says:

    At this year’s NRA convention in Indianapolis, there was an outfit selling glowstick type lights and other camping/survival type gear. One of their cooler items was a self-contained firestarter available in several sizes. It has a wood handle, magnesium rod, striker bar, and steel blade/striker all held together with a leather thong. You can check out their line at Some of their items could be added to your can and still have some room left.

  34. AK says:

    DONT wrap your candle/s in foil if you live in a warm state!

  35. Joe T Silva Jr says:

    Great idea for an overnite trip. Hadn’t thought of these items since my scout days. Thanks

  36. Mrhycannon says:

    Many wild things are edible and nutritious.. Everyone should learn what wild things are edible.. That comes to a huge amount of biomass.. I forage routinely for a lot of what I eat daily.. Also easy on the food budget..

  37. Julie says:

    I would add a few cotton balls and a tiny jar or if you can find them foil packets of petroleum jelly. Can be used for first aid and/or fire-starting.

  38. Jennifer Jones says:

    A aluminium-silver survival blanket…doubles as a mirror. Then add an optic fire starter magnifying lens.

  39. Robert says:

    I appreciate this article because this is something I have yet to do. I have a co-worker who has a car survival kit but I haven’t put one together yet.

    But the one thing I have done that doesn’t go in a kit but rather in your head is mapped out a way to get home not using the freeway and trying as much as possible to avoid bridges in case what you are surviving is more local like an earthquake – I live in the west but earthquakes can happen anywhere. But it doesn’t have to be an earthquake, other parts of the country have tornadoes and hurricanes which can also tear up roads. And of course if there is an EMP chances are you will never be able to start your car.

    Fortunately I work at an oil refinery and they have lots of bicycles on the premises for people to get around the refinery without having to spend a lot of time walking and to get to places you would not want to take an internal combustion engine. My idea is that if the roads are torn up I would take one of these bicycles to try to make it home if it was impossible to drive my truck (which is 4 wheel drive). If it was a local disaster, I would bring the bicycle back to work as soon as I could. I am not a thief.

    I realize that the vast majority of people do not have access to company bicycles. They do make folding bicycles that can fit in the trunk of most cars. Perhaps a folding bicycle is not the most ideal form of transportation but it will do in an emergency.

  40. Cybercom says:

    There are many things, which can be used to fill a coffee can. Weigh out what you, personally feel you need for your circumstances. Are you disabled? Will you have children and pets with you? Do you have critical medication, which needs to be with you in case of an emergency? The considerations are many. The information posted here is excellent for a basic coffee can kit for your car, but your special needs must also be considered.

    Personally, I feel a need for a pair of palm-sized transceivers and and a small, hand-held HAM radio.

    Lastly, I think an empty paint can is better than a coffee can. It holds more, the top provides a good seal that won’t pop off with a little jostling, it’s waterproof, and it has a handle for easy carry. If you don’t have one (or more), ask a painter.

    1. Fizzlecat says:

      Remember that the heat inside a car will deteriorate medications, melt candles, kill batteries, and I’ve read where the plastic bottles that water comes in will leach chemicals into the water if left in a hot car…

  41. prsmith says:

    For the car? No; insufficient. If your auto tools don’t get you back on the road, what you want is a get-home kit and that should support a three day, three night hike. Backpack, compass & local map, old hiking boots w/ 2 pair heavy socks, 2 pair underwear, long sleeved shirt, broad brimmed hat, work gloves, weapon in holster w/ 25 rounds ammo, insect repellent, toilet paper, 3-full day meal replacement bars, high protein drink mix, fishing/trapping kit (just in case), mess kit, water straw (&/or canteen/water purification tabs), high energy trail mix, xylitol chewing gum, bandana, 25′ paracord, poncho, foil blanket, 2 or 3 kinds waterproof fire starter (bic lighter, flint & steel, waterproof matches, dryer lint, char cloth, petroleum jelly), 1st aid kit, flashlight/headlamp w/ red lens & batteries, spare cell phone battery, wind up/solar emergency radio w/cell charger, multipurpose tool in belt sheath, folding camp saw, small sewing kit w/ 25yds waxed floss, whistle/mirror/15 minute highway flare, small digging/trenching tool, niceties: book, small tablet/pencil, hard candy, flavor straws for water. . .KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICE! is full of survival and camping videos that can help prepare you.

    1. Fizzlecat says:

      Great suggestions! I also carry a small prying tool in mine.

  42. John W. Pierce says:

    Instead of gauze, carry packages of mini and maxi pads to use for bandages. No better absorbent bandage on the face of the earth. Also carry tampons and Polysporin or Neosporin Ointment. Tampons coated with Poly or Neosporin can be used to stuff into bullet holes to help stop bleeding and ward off infection until medical help can be obtained. Honey poured into wounds and covered with mini or maxi pads can keep out air and germs. You can buy them in thin individual packages that could act as keeping them sterile. Douches of vinegar and saline could be used to wash out wounds and bullet holes before bandaging. Women’s hygiene products can be used for just about any trauma event with great success. If saved my life or yours, why care about what it originally was designed for?

  43. linda-jones says:


  44. Gerald Kimes says:

    Regarding your article on waterproffing matches – you might want to consider using Citronella wax for waterproofing. Anytime Citronella candles are burned ther is a lot of wax left after the wick is used up. I find that dipping matches in this does a good job and does not require pinching, the liquid penetrates the wood nicely.

  45. Kyle says:

    Having read through most of the comments I am reminded that the most common SHTF situation is getting stranded in your car during a snow storm and living out in a “something-Nothing State” (there is a few Something and a LOT of Nothing) I think being found is a good thing.
    Some things to add:
    -I would add a mirror for signaling instead of ripping apart the car.
    -Pick up chunks of tire from those ‘road gaders’ the truckers leave behind; through those on a fire when you want to be seen. They make that thick black smoke and burn forever.

    Just a few thoughts…

    1. Sharon says:

      In the event you don’t have a mirror you could use a CD – which most people have in their cars. They would reflect light just as well as a mirror.

  46. SmokeHillFarm says:

    I use a small Rubbermaid container to carry my emergency stuff in, which is similar to your list. I also carry a small .38 pistol and three boxes of ammunition, wrapped in a hand towel and then in a Ziplok bag. On longer trips I’m inclined to stick my AR-7 survival rifle (.22) and a .22 pistol in the trunk, too, though one has to be careful of different laws in different jurisdictions.

    I like the Rubbermaid containers better than coffee cans since you can pick from a lot of different sizes & shapes to fit in your particular vehicle. Being limited to just that one coffee can would force me to leave out stuff I’d really like to have, and the square shape seems to work better anyhow.

  47. Mary Pattie Butters says:

    One can make a stove. Use a 3 lb coffee can that has had one lid removed. On the side of the can on the end with the lid, make 3 holes with a triangle drink opener. (church key) On the side opposite of the three holes cut a three sided rectangle about 2 to 3 inches deep with tin cutters. Being careful fold the flap into the can. Take a large tuna can or similar shaped can and stuff it with cardboard that has been cut as wide as the depth of the can. Roll very tightly and insert into the can so that it is full. Stuff three pieces of cotton cord midst the cardboard to be the wicks. Pour hot melted wax slowly over the cardboard until it can no longer soak up any more. When you need a stove place the tuna can on dirt or a rock. Place the stove over it so that the flap faces the drift of the wind. Be careful of the hot wax. The stove is good for bacon, pancakes, eggs, hamburgers, grilled sandwiches etc. Two people can share a stove; thus a buddy burner. It can easily be stored in a car with the survival kit inside.

  48. Glen Mcallister says:

    silver thermal blanket

  49. Sharon says:

    I’m curious about the candle wrapped in aluminum foil – wouldn’t a candle melt before you got around to using it? It gets pretty hot in a car in the summer time.

  50. David Moore says:

    Your first aid kit is a little bit light. I would add the following items:

    Basic sewing kit
    Large roll of gauze
    Four maxi pads
    Two tampons
    Two medium bandanas
    One large square cloth 2-4 feet square.
    Parachord bracelette (in addition to the. one already packed)

    The maxi pads are for making a pressure dressing.
    The tampons are to stuff into a bad puncture wound.
    The bandanas are for making a splint to stabalize a fracture or for use in making a pressure dressing.
    The large cloth is for making a sling or as part of a bandage around the torso.
    The parachord bracelette because one is never enough.

  51. RangerRick says:

    I taught that idea to classes for years and then the better idea came to me. Use a paint can. Seal the lid ,nothing get in or out. You can also use it as a flotation device, water carrier.

    I also made my survival heater/stove using a 1 gallon paint can. I would glue the smallest coffee can in the center of the paint can with opening to the top and used the second largest coffee can turned up side down for a cook plate. Take the 100 hour candle and put on top of cook plate for light, place down in the small can and cook / heat water
    Using 100 hour paraffin candles

    1. Mary says:

      Wish I could see pictures of how these stoves are done. Cant see it in my minds eye

  52. Brilliant Idea- never would have thought of a coffee can. We don’t really have horrendous winters here in the UK and the risks of getting trapped somewhere aren’t perhaps as high as they would be in the US but it’s a great idea for everyone, small and compact particularly as you can never really know what will happen! -Thomas

  53. Cathy says:

    You may want to consider adding a few mylar blankets

  54. nyla says:

    Read most, lots of good ideas but what about toilet tissue

  55. Theo13 says:

    weight and space should not be a factor when loading something in the car, Your car kit should include

    things to get the car moving again: (jumper cables, spare tire, jack, lug wrench, can of fix a flat, a small jug of gas, tow straps, a shovel to dig out the car, a gallon of water (or just the jug, you can refill it) some nylons (use as a fan belt if needed), something to add to the radiator to plug a leak (such as pepper)) and of course a tool kit (screwdriver set, wrench set, ratchet set)

    things to get you out of the car: escape tool, crash axe

    signal kit: flashlight(s) with a strobe capability, chem lites, flares, and/or hazard triangle

    a means of staying warm: blanket, space blanket, bivy bag, warm clothing, rain gear

    some food and water (but you should not be in the habit of leaving it stored in the car, particularly in the summer)

    a first aid kit including things you might need in a car accident (fabricated neck brace = a taped rolled up towel, some SAM splints, in addition to your standard bandage and stop bleeding stuff)

    add a small fire extinguisher and you should be good

    What if you have to abandon the car? you won’t need any of the things to get the car moving again, things to get you out of the car (you are already out but that crash axe might come in handy) or the fire extinguisher. So if you have to carry some of the signal items (flashlights), your means of staying warm, food and water and the first aid kit – you might need to pack all that in a ruck sack… Include a means of starting a fire, a means of purifying water, and a small stove and you are now on the move!

  56. Ben Parsons says:

    I would recommend a couple (at least) old fashioned railroad flares. I got my last batch at an auto parts store. They have a multitude of uses. And, if no one has mentioned it yet; duct tape.

    I use a plastic tote – but generally only pack them into our cars in winter. Water and a couple GI wool blankets I consider critical. Year round first aid kit w/supplies to stop bleeding.

    A whistle with simple compass.

    I live in Indiana which is relatively densely populated enough that I likely won’t have call to practice any wilderness survival skills – so don’t overthink this. But there is a real possibility that I could end up in a snowy ditch during a snow storm and may have to live in my car for a couple days – in winter I always keep the tanks at least half full.

  57. Jonathan says:

    Add these to the list: Dry thick wool socks are not only a warm comfort item but will protect your feet if you have to walk out. Life Straws a great BUT if they get frozen with water in them they are destroyed and useless. Carry them close to your body in cold weather. If you have a CD player in your car you probably have a CD or two. They make great signaling mirrors and weigh almost nothing plus they don’t break like glass. A tough sharp knife is absolutely essential, two is even better, one large full tang and one small multi blade folder.

  58. Ken Bucher says:

    Living near NYC, I have a rather different set of things in my vehicle. Certainly I have most of the stuff mentioned above, but the MOST likely thing I will need and at the very top of my bag is Quickstop. Why, because the most likely event I will encounter is a severe traffic accident and I have the training to help. That is not to say that I might need to abandon my car at some point, but it is far less likely than I will need to help someone else. A lot of good info above and thanks to all who contributed.

  59. Anonymous says:


  60. Anonymous says:

    get a flint & steel fire making kit from a re-enactor catalog and a spork (spoon on one end & fork on the other). If the flint or steel get wet you can still make fire.

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  62. Anonymous says:

    I like a 5 gallon empty paint can, Will hold everything needed including blankets and spare clothes

    .Rich G.

  63. Tom Guiod says:

    Haven’t seen the use of a simple solar water distiller. You just need a good sized piece of clear, heavy duty polystyrene (a large contractor trash bag is perfect) and a clean container about the size of 1 lb. coffee can. Also a small shovel to dig a hole. Instructions can be found on many survival web sites. No need to carry water filters and purifying tablets or lots of water for that matter.

  64. DanO says:

    I made a port-a-potty for my wife using a large water cooler that is about 2 feet tall (squatting height) and filled it with extra heavy duty garbage bags, a roll of high grade toilet paper, a baggy or packet of bottom end wipes and the same of hand wipes. In an emergency you can sit on the cooler rim with a garbage bag liner, do your business, clean up, tie the garbage bag closed and dispose of in an appropriate place.

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