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the perfect emergency road kit

Whether you're an avid road-tripper or just enjoy the scenic route once in a while, a solid emergency road kit can go a long way. We'll help you throw together a customized and comprehensive kit to keep in the car, just in case.

However you create your emergency kit, remember that it won't be able to help in all scenarios. The goal is to have an answer for as many situations as possible without taking up the entire trunk and backseat. Take a look at the following to determine what you may need and when.

When winter rears its head

When winter rears its head

Even if you don't live in an area known for harsh cold or snow, you never can tell what Mother Nature's going to throw your way. Keeping these items in your car can help you avoid trouble:

  • Windshield scraper. Provides a reliable way to create eye-level visibility (since the car periscope is still just a dream). And having a brush on one end can help wipe off those hard-to-reach side mirrors.
  • Tire chains. These will help your tires bite into even the sludgiest of side roads to give you some much-needed traction. Practice putting them on at home, too, so you don't spend an hour in the cold figuring it out.
  • Sleeping bag. You might think "blanket" when packing for winter drives, but the sleeping bag, by letting out less air, can conserve even more heat during long waits.
  • Gloves. Bitter cold can make steering wheels hard to grip. Gloves can help you grip the wheel and keep your hands warm until the heat kicks in.
  • Shovel. Especially in urban areas with mostly street parking, you may need to dig your car out after heavy snowfall.
  • Cat litter. The nifty traction this pebbly material creates can prove instrumental in making that big surge up a slippery hill.
When you're stranded

When you're stranded

If you're off the main roads, car trouble or a natural disaster can leave you stranded and waiting for help. Keep these road-kit items in the car just in case the unexpected happens:

  • Fire extinguisher. You can help stop small fires from spreading.
  • Smartphone charger. By now we'll assume most people keep their smartphones on them, so we won't bother suggesting that. But how about keeping a car-battery-powered charger in the glove box?
  • Road flares. At night, you can use flares to flag motorists and alert them that you're in some kind of trouble.
  • Flat tire kit or tire-puncture sealant. The toolkit can fix a flat tire in a flash. If you don't have one, you can spray some tire sealant on a minor flat to help you get to a mechanic.
  • Jumper cables. You'll be a Good Samaritan short of a working battery so long as you keep jumper cables in the trunk.
  • Flashlight. A powerful and weatherproof model will ensure that you'll at least have light for as long as you're marooned. Extra batteries never hurt, either.
  • Medications. Keep all necessary prescription drugs on-hand, especially if you have young children with you.
  • Food and water. Non-perishables like granola bars will help you keep your energy and wits about you for long waits. One gallon of water a day per person should maintain proper hydration.
When accidents happen

When accidents happen

These road-kit essentials can help smooth out the post-accident process, whether it's in sorting out insurance issues or caring for minor injuries.

  • First-aid kit. A comprehensive one will let you quell minor bumps and bruises.
  • Camera. Keep track of all the damages for your insurer by snapping a few photos. If you have a smartphone on you, you're all set.
  • Pen and paper. If your phone lacks a note-taking function, employ the old-fashioned method to record contact and insurance info at the scene.
When you're hitting the open road

When you're hitting the open road

Here are some items that account for the needs you or your car have on road trips.

  • Tire-pressure gauge. Check your tires' pressure before heading out to help avoid a flat.
  • GPS. If you can spring for it, it makes all the difference on unfamiliar ground.
  • CB radio. A CB can keep you connected to civilization where cell service is spotty.

The whole kit and caboodle

There you have it. We know it's a lot to take in. But once you have your emergency road kit in place, you'll be equipped to handle a wide range of dangerous situations.

Related links

Disaster-proofing your insurance
From the Esurance blog: Mother Nature's disasters may be natural, but paying for them sure doesn't feel like it.

If your engine overheats
Read 5 steps on how to handle an overheated engine in the Esurance blog.