Every driver needs to have an emergency kit for the car’s trunk, and smart preppers also keep a Bug Out Bag in their vehicle trunk.
But what about inside your car?
There are dozens of situations where you might not be able to get to the items in your trunk.
Like if you get rear-ended.
Or if it is pitch black outside and you can’t see your way to the trunk.
Or if you find yourself in a situation where every single second counts…
For these reasons, you should have these survival items in your car’s glove compartment.
It is dark, you are on a deserted back road, and your car stalls on you. Don’t go outside without turning on a flashlight first. The last thing you want is to add a sprained ankle to the problem!
I keep two flashlights in my glove compartment. One is a huge, heavy flashlight. (Amazon link) Not only is it super bright, but it can be used in self-defense for blinding an attacker by shining the light in his eyes and then bashing him over the head with it.
The other flashlight is a survival headlamp.
Headlamps are awesome because they give you light while freeing up your hands. Even in non-emergency situations, this is a big help.
My wife assures me that going to the bathroom in the dark with a headlamp is a lot easier than doing so while holding a flashlight!
2. First Aid Kit
I’ve got a complete first aid kit in the trunk of my car, as well as a mini version in the glove compartment. The main item here is heavy sterile gauze in case someone sustains arterial bleeding, which needs to be controlled right away.
This is a survival item that a lot of people forget about. In accidents and other emergencies, there is often a lot of glass, debris, and maybe even fire around.
For example, let’s say that you get rear-ended, and all of your survival items are in your trunk. How are you supposed to open your trunk without cutting your hands on all the broken glass?
Opt for heavy-duty work gloves or get a pair of cut-resistant gloves. (Amazon link)
4. Seatbelt Cutter
I’ve got one of these (Amazon link) on my keychain, but I have an extra one in my glove box too. Not being able to escape a vehicle because of a caught seatbelt is a genuine problem!
5. Window Breaker
Along with the seatbelt cutter, you’ll want a window breaker in your emergency glove box kit (the item above incorporates both).
Don’t think that you are so tough that you can smash through a car window with your hand. You might succeed, but slice open an artery in the process!
Read our guide to the best car window breaker tools.
6. Face Mask
Face masks are essential for protecting yourself from fumes and airborne contaminants during emergencies. Just think about how many people are still dying from the terrorist attacks of September 11th because they got cancer from breathing in all the toxins in the air.
An N95 face mask (Amazon link) is probably the most practical choice. You can read about N95 face masks here.
If I had to rush out of my car quickly and only grab one item, it would be my multi-tool. With the knives, screwdrivers, scissors, and other tools on it, I could significantly increase my chances of surviving any SHTF situation.
Though I will also say that you should probably keep your multi-tool in your pocket or keychain at all times and not just in your glove box.
8. Road Map and Compass
Don’t get spoiled by GPS! Navigation systems fail, and you could find yourself very, very lost.
Nothing beats a standard paper road map and compass for navigation – just make sure you learn how to read a map.
Orienteering is a fun way to practice this, along with these other fun ways to learn survival skills.
9. Pepper Spray
Because of varying state laws about concealed firearms and some issues about keeping a gun in your glove compartment, I’m not going to list “firearm” here (though it is an option).
Instead, pepper spray (Amazon link) is an excellent alternative to guns as a self-defense weapon.
Plus, you don’t always want to kill an attacker…
What good is a raincoat in your trunk if you get all wet while going out to get it?
Wet = Cold = Death
Seriously, staying dry is important, so make sure you’ve got a poncho (read survival poncho reviews) in your glove compartment in addition to the change of clothes and rain jacket you should have in your trunk emergency car kit.
Bonus: Fire Extinguisher Under Your Seat
I’ve never had to use my car’s fire extinguisher, but a friend of mine did save someone from being seriously burnt (possibly to death!) by quickly getting out his fire extinguisher and putting out a fire that had started in her car.
So don’t put your fire extinguisher in your trunk. Keep it under your seat where you can get to it very quickly!
What other survival items do you keep in your car glove box? How do these differ from the ones you keep in your trunk?
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Don’t carry pepper spray, in some places it’s illegal, but you know that sticky lock?
Those small aerosol cans of WD40 are great for curing that only don’t get it in your eyes, very painful.
Best bit about it?
It’s legal carry as you have a good reason for carrying it.
Yes, always check the laws in your own state for things like this. Great tip on the WD-40 can!
I also keep a candle, matches and hard candy in my glove box.
Your heavy gauze won’t stop arterial bleeding alone, you’ll have to use a tourniquet. There are various models, the best are the ones you can apply with one hand (say you have to apply it to your own arm). Apply as high above the injury as possible, the use heavy gauze etc. to pack the wound. After time, slowly release the tourniquet and check for bleeding. If it’s stopped, remove the tourniquet, if he hasn’t re tighten.
More info on tourniquets:
When and how to use a tourniquet
Best tourniquets to buy
A simple boot lace saved me,along with maxi pads
May I suggest flairs?
Sure – could definitely be useful
11.Rain pants. Why only be half dry?
Haha – good point!
I keep a few light sticks and bandannas could be used as masks. One of those flashlights that has a red moving warning light is a plus.
Great ideas – keep em coming.
Pocket size hand mirror , emergency blanket, mini sewing kit
Probably should keep your seatbelt cutter closer than your glove compartment. If you seatbelt won’t release you may not be able to reach the glove compartment.
I have the Resqme tool zip tied to my sunvisor on the drivers and passengers side.
Hey Thanks Alan, that is a genius tip, easily within reach and can’t be lost or displaced in an accident.
A couple 4 oz water envelopes I got from Emergency Essentials.
Heavy duty garbage bags, can be used as a poncho or to carry your stuff if you have to bail. I also carry an emergency go backpack behind my seat which includes a water filtration straw, empty water container, lighters and long glowing light sticks. Dry clothes and rain gear. All very compact.
Solid kit EMC
I have a valid credit card (with plenty of credit) in the car in case of an unexpected expense (hotel, taxi, garage bill etc)
I’ve also read that wasp spray is a good defense. It can shoot 15 feet(?)—so you don’t have to wait for the attacker to get in arm’s reach— and is perfectly legal.
Could do a job!
Please don’t use wasp spray. There’s been so many articles, and even YouTube videos. A guy suckered his friends into allowing him to spray them and trying to attach him. It hurt, but they easily kept coming. Not to mention, Dow to the warnings on the bottle, the guy you spray could sue the hell out of you and he’d win.
Wasp spray is a terrible idea and a myth that I wish would disappear already.
Car cell phone charger. Your cell phone is your prime coms device. A car battery can keep this on line until you are rescued. I just keep mine plugged into the lighter socket 24/7.
In SF, CA we have breakins, and many items in the glove box are taken quickly. Sometimes, cars have side locks that open the trunks, and stuff is stolen very quickly there. Make sure that the trunk lock on the driver side. I get wooden cigar boxes from Smoke shops to store items under the seat. If boxes are place inside and out of the way, may be unseen by the thieves.
Good tips Gordon, make it as awkward as possible for the lowlifes.
This was a good review. Although I have been refining my Car Winter Emergency Equipment for 40 years since moving from Socal to Canada, there is always room for improvement. This time it was finally getting a window break tool that is also a phone charger, so it is always handy in the console charging station and can’t fly around the vehicle in a rollover. I also moved the winter work gloves up to the console from the “Car Bag” in the rear, where there is also a “Get Home Bag,” Dog Bag, and First Aid Kit.
I have to agree with the comment that glove boxes themselves are vulnerable to thieves. Mine has been rifled twice, but luckily the humble-looking packs behind the rear seats (representing over a thousand dollars in equipment and supplies and dozens of hours) were left untouched.
I keep only “cleaning supplies” in the glove box now…paper towel, wet wipes, hand wipes, glass wipes, rag, swiffer (for the dashboard, seriously), plus a face mask. Might have to add that heavy-duty trauma bandage after thinking about the potential for bleeds, though….
Thanks Katie, the window break tool that is a charger sounds perfect, i’ll look out for one. Really clever point about it staying within reach as well. Unfortunately not much we can do about the petty thieves so just have to chalk it up to the “cost of doing business”
Note to Katie regarding idea about emergency escape tools that also have USB charger – I found a few. Walmart has a 6 in 1 tool, Amazon has an awesome one that has a car charger. Brand is Ztylus I think. QVC has one and a couple other companies have them. Some have quite a few functions. Just do a search for “auto emergency escape tool with usb function” and you’ll find what you need.
You must have a LARGE glove box Lol
I have two bug out kinda bags I guess u can say in my car, one is for clothes and stuff like that with first aid and other bag has other items that I figured what was best for me. but also I added a milk crate strong one, can be used for what ever you want/need it for. comes in handy, plus in one of my bags I have a zip lock big bag and folded up several clear largest garbage bags I could find so I can use for rain gear, but also can use for other uses if that rain gear one wears out use it for something else that way its not a total loss. also have a glass emergency thing for your glasses. wool blankets,socks, anything wool is good to have if you are able to pack it. gum and hard candy would be handy as well
You’ve gone above and beyond there Patti! I like the idea of the garbage bags with multiple uses.
There is a generation driving nowwho neer knew how bad GPS cud be. My first encounter was 1994 & if you were lucky it cud tll you where you were within 400yrds. Now the accuracy is within feet, but don’t get spoiled by GPS!! Navigation systems fail, or the government degrades the signals during wartime, and you could find yourself very, very lost. During a short war in the Middle East our military degraded GPS for a few days so the enemy was really lost. Since 9/11 I have been truly lost just 2 times. Both in daylight, it it was overcast & I cudnt locate he Sun. Scary situation. Since then I always carry a compass, and exit the car and walk up the road a bit to read it. Map books were very popular 20 years ago & I have picked up several at garagesales soeach car has a library of detailed town maps covering southern ontario right up to northbay.
Nothing beats a standard paper provncial road map and compass for navigation – just make sure you actually learn how to read a map.
Fascinating insights. Can’t imagine GPS working at all during a true SHTF scenario. This is when knowing the traditional skills becomes invaluable.
GOS May well work in a SHTF scenario. What is more likely is the military will “de tune” it so it’s accuracy for non military receivers will be very poor & barely functional.
The point of moving the compass away from the car is so that the steel in the car does not affect the compass reading, nor does the electric currents flowing in the car’s wiring.
A Smith’s 10 in 1 survival tool, wrapped in a bandana makes a compact, versatile “kit”.
Removable L.E.D. flashlight (with strobe),
Whistle, and a
In a HEAVY DUTY baggie
Add some waterproof matches, Tea lights,
(on average burn for 3 hours)
(they burn for apx. 20 minutes)
Birthday “trick” candles
(they burn for apx. 10 minutes)
A mylar blanket,
And last,but not least; a SAWYER water filter kit
(apx. $20-$30 @ Wal-Mart)
The SAWYER filter is safer and last longer [100,000 gal.] than any “waterstraw” [1000 gal.] !
Become a MULTI-TOOL !
The *SAWYER water filter needs 2 “screw cap” bottles to work properly.
Not true – it comes with an included straw which works just like the Lifestraw. Also included is a water pouch and it can attach to standard water bottles straight out of the box. For more see our article where we go in-depth on the Sawyer water filter
Water. You can’t last long without water. So a few water bottles under the passenger seat (don’t place anything under the driver’s seat, I nearly lost my life when an item from under the driver seat slid under my brake & I couldn’t stop easily!)
I also carry boxes of cereal in my trunk. It’s a good food that lasts a long time. Loaded with carbs & sugar so gives you instant energy.
Your window breaker is part of the car, Just pull out the drivers side head rest and the bars on the bottom are pointed and you can use that to break the glass, but always remember to hit the glass in the lower aft corner..
Fantastic tip William. Thanks.