The only thing worse than being stuck on the road is being stuck on the side of the road, or worse, completely off the road. Many of us are woefully underprepared for any lengthy vehicular stoppages, but it's never too late to fix that. A good emergency kit is the perfect companion for when your road trip, day/night drive, or even that simple trip to the supermarket takes an unexpected turn. Everyone from experienced drivers to teenagers going solo for the first time should put their trunks to good use -- by packing the items below, you could turn an unforeseen stop or detour into something much more tolerable.
We've broken this list out into items that you'll always want on hand (everyday essentials), and others that are great to have for longer trips (road trip requirements). We've even included links for some of the more unusual items.
The closer to home you are, the more likely you'll be able to find quick help. Still, these items can turn a ruined day into a minor inconvenience on the way to making that appointment or getting home in good time.
Non-perishable food - forget breakfast as you were rushing out the door? Stuck in traffic with a rumbling stomach? Energy bars were made for situations like this, and have a decent shelf life.
Garbage bag - always respect your mobile home away from home.
Water - if you're unlucky enough to break down on a hot day, you'll be glad you have it. Bottled water is great and is refillable, but water pouches are also available if you need to save space and don't have a tap at the ready. Water is also useful for cleaning things, both people- and car-related.
Batteries - for the flashlight, and anything else that doesn't plug in.
Rain poncho - the only thing worse than unexpectedly changing a tire is unexpectedly changing a tire in the rain.
Duct tape - for quick, easy fixes.
Phone charger - a charged phone can show you where the nearest gas station, repair shop, parking, and other important services are.
Small shovel - for digging yourself out of trouble.
Replacement headlight bulbs
Ice scraper - winter is closer than you think.
First aid kit - don't forget the aspirin.
Gloves and/or clean rags - working under the hood can get messy.
Sunglasses - road glare is an unforgiving beast and sun visors never seem to position themselves in the right spot. And for those of us with less than stellar eyesight, an extra pair of glasses or spare contacts and contact solution can prove to be very insightful.
Tire jack and lug wrench - make sure they're where they're supposed to be.
Car manual - you may also want to brush up on basic car care maintenance before you head out. Knowing tire safety is a good place to start.
Pack these provisions along with the above items, and make your next long-distance drive a worry-free expedition.
Food - if you plan on driving longer distances try dry cereal, almonds and other nuts, jerky, and sports drinks. Just be sure to check those expiration dates. And remember - cars get hot, and things tend to melt.
Toilet paper - you just never know. Remove the cardboard tubes and flatten the roll to save room.
Soap - your seatmates will thank you.
Ziploc bags - use them to store the above items. Double their duty and use them to store excess trash.
Water filter - there are many lightweight, inexpensive options to choose from.
Maps - yes, your phone does directions too, but just in case.
Heavy-duty blanket - if your situation turns into an overnighter.
Sleeping bag - if your stop becomes an overnighter.
Other basic car care items - your car gets thirsty, too. Having extra oil, antifreeze, and windshield washer fluid on hand can turn potential panic into just another pit stop.
A good musical playlist
Earbuds - for when the replacement driver's musical playlist is not good.
Lip balm - it's never around when you need it the most.
"Ramen" symbol by Mayene De La Cruz, "Pickaxe" symbol by Luke Anthony Firth, "Notes" symbol by Cris Dobbins, "Warning" symbol by Robert Leonardo, "Toilet Paper" symbol by Cindy Hu, The Noun Project collection.