Things to Keep in Your Car

36 of the Most Useful Things to Keep in Your Car


Has this ever happened to you?

You’re out running errands, shopping for groceries, going to the bank, and searching for the perfect miniature lazy boy recliner for your cat, when you’re suddenly stricken with a snack attack. You haven’t got any food with you, and you haven’t finished your shopping, but you must. have. fud. now.

So you “reluctantly” go to Taco Bell and get something quick, but end up ordering at least 2x as much food as you need because it’s just so cheap and you’re indecisive. Or you buy a supremely unsatisfying mini pizza from the food court at Target and a bag of popcorn because it just smells so good, and maybe a churro too.

Then you finish your shopping, feeling guilty about all the food you just ate, and you prepare to move on to the next errand. As you walk out to your car, you feel a headache coming on, which you don’t have any aspirin or even water to treat with.

You find that your car won’t start, and you finally get the 4th or 5th person that passes you to agree to jump your car, but then you realize neither of you have jumper cables. When you close the hood of your car, you smash your finger and it starts gushing blood all over everything. All you have in your car to try to stop the bleeding is a long receipt.

Suddenly a thunderstorm rolls in, and your clothes are soaked through before you can manage to take shelter inside your car. In your hurry to get in, you break your flip flop and don’t have another pair of shoes with you. You don’t have a change of clothes, so you sit shivering inside the car.

You call AAA to have someone come and jump your car, but they say they’ll be there in 30 minutes, which you know means 3 hours. Your phone battery will only last 20 minutes at the most, and then you’ll be in danger of being driven to insanity via severe boredom. You have to pee SUPER badly, but you’ve misplaced your mask and won’t be allowed inside any establishment with a bathroom. Then you realize you forgot to buy light bulbs.

Sound familiar? This happens all too often to so many of us.


Sadly, all of this could have been avoided if you had just paid closer attention to the Lion King and absorbed its primary lesson:


The Lion King Be Prepared GIFs | Tenor

Perhaps you’ve never thought about it this way, but I consider my car a traveling storage unit.

That doesn’t mean I keep the backseat stuffed to the brim with hoards of backdated Time magazines or collectible figurines or “things I might need someday”. It means I keep essential items for a variety of possible scenarios in my car at all times, usually in my trunk, so I never have to suffer through a situation like the one I just described.

But what should you keep in your car? If you stock the items on this list, you’ll be prepared for almost anything. At the very least, you’ll be prepared for most situations that are likely to occur. (I admit it, the scenario above may be a LITTLE far fetched.)


Without further ado, 36 of the Most Useful Things Women Should Keep in the Car:

1. A dress

I like to keep a casual dress in my car, just in case the weather suddenly gets hot or I need it to throw over a swim suit or something. You never know when it might be just what you need.

2. Meds

This is definitely one of the better things to keep in your car that can easily be overlooked. I like to keep some aspirin and ibuprofen handy, in case of a headache, backache, menstrual cramps, etc. Obviously if you need other medications, like allergy meds, an inhaler, etc. it would be a good idea to stock those too.

3. Shoes (sandals and closed toe)

You never know when you might need a fresh pair of shoes, or a different kind of shoe from the one you left the house in. I like to have closed toed shoes in the car in case I decide to go for a hike but left the house in sandals. The opposite is also true – you never know when some activity is going to make you wish you had sandals instead of tennis shoes. I also like having an extra pair just in case my tennis shoes get wet for some reason.

4. Towel and bathing suit

While you likely won’t need a bathing suit without advance notice very often, it doesn’t hurt to keep one in your car if you’ve got more than one. Even if you decide against the suit, I highly recommend keeping a towel in the trunk no just for swimming, but for any cleaning or drying of anything.

5. Water

Keep at least a gallon of water in your car – I like to keep 2 or 3 – and also a smaller, portable water vessel. There are so many times I have an empty water bottle when I’m out and about and no way to fill it, especially when hiking. You also never know when you might be stuck somewhere for a while and will want it.

6. Snacks

I have been so bad in the past about going out to run errands and eating a bunch of crappy food because I’m suddenly feeling starving and my self control and discernment goes out the window. So I started keeping snacks in my car. Choose ones that won’t spoil quickly, like nuts, granola or fig bars, crackers, etc.

7. Jacket

I live in the Bay Area, so it’s pretty much a must to bring a jacket along with you year round, because even on the nicest days it can turn chilly quickly. The thing is sometimes I still forget, because I’m tricked by how warm and sunny it is when I leave my house and I can’t imagine needing a jacket (or the weather keeps it from even occuring to me to bring one). Even when I do think to bring one, I don’t like having to carry one back and forth from my house to my car all the time, so I keep one or two in my car all the time. That way I can feel the freedom of leaving the house “without” a jacket, but I know I’ll be covered (pun intended).

8. Band aids

You never know when you might get a cut, so I like to keep some band aids and neosporin in the car. Having varying sizes is a good idea, but just the standard size is good too.

9. Umbrella

Tut, tut, it looks like rain! But it might not when you leave the house 🙂

10. Toilet paper/Paper towels

This is mostly for emergency roadside bathroom breaks, or just for convenience when I go camping. It gives me peace of mind.

11. Tampons

I never want to be caught out and about or in a situation where there are no tampons available when I need one! That’s why tampons are one of the most important things women should keep in the car. I also like to have them to offer someone else who’s in a pickle.

12. Picnic blanket

This is one of the best things to keep in your car! I’m a huge fan of the spontaneous picnic and/or laying a blanket out in one of my favorite outdoor places to read a book, drink something tasty, or catch up with a friend. I keep a thick-ish blanket (to protect you from very poky grass) that I don’t really care about dirtying in the car that is my designated picnic blanket, and I just bring it inside for a wash when it needs it.

13. Car jumper

I recommend either having jumper cables in your trunk, a portable car battery jump starter, or both. The latter is nice because you can jump start yourself without needing another vehicle, but it also might be wise to have old fashioned cables in case your battery pack one runs out of juice for some reason.

14. Tire pressure gauge

A lot of air filling stations have tire pressure gauges built in, but some don’t, or you might want to use one to fill bike tires to the right PSI.

15. Rope

You never know when you might need to tie something to the top of your car! I’m always finding things curbside that I want to take home, and since I drive a small car, the roof is the only option.

16. Extra car fluids

Keep things like engine coolant, windshield wiper fluid, oil, etc. on hand just in case you need a top off.

17. Empty gas can

This is just for an emergency, if you run out of gas and need to bring gas to your car instead of the other way around.

18. Change of clothes

You never know when or why you might need a change of clothes. The weather could turn colder than what you dressed for, or the clothes you’re wearing could get wet or super dirty, you might not realize in time that your period has started, etc. I like to keep a pair of leggings, a shirt, socks, bra, and underwear, so I know (along with the extra shoes I already mentioned) that I have a completely new outfit available to me.

19. Snow chains

This may or may not apply to you, but if you live in a snowy place or like to take trips to places that get snow, these are a good idea. It may be a pain in the butt to find some in a pinch when you need ’em, and you may end up having to pay a premium price.

20. Book

Never let yourself be bored again! You may find yourself waiting forever at the DMV, in line for something,or waiting for a friend or for roadside assistance. Whatever the situation, don’t depend on your cell battery or reception to keep you entertained. You may lose either of those, or it may be important to conserve your battery for calls or texts.

21. Hazard triangle and jack

In case you get a flat tire, you’ll want a jack to fix it, and a reflective hazard triangle for safety and visibility to other drivers on the road. (I’m going to assume you have a spare tire already in your car).

23. Sunscreen

Don’t get caught in the sun unprotected!

24. Masks and hand sanitizer

Sadly, these days, you need a mask to go anywhere, so it’s good to have at least one extra that lives in your car in case you forget one. I also like to keep a hand sanitizer spray in my car that I use every time I get in the car after being in public.

26. Camp chair

This could be used for a camping trip, but it also works great for spontaneous picnics! I keep a camp chair and a few back jacks I picked up at a yard sale in the trunk so I’ll have some kind of seating with back support if I ever want it.

27. Pen and paper

I’m a writer, so I like to have a notebook and some pens in my car because I never know when inspiration might strike, or I might have some ideas for my blog. Even if you’re not a writer, a pen and paper are still two things you should have in your car. You may want to take down notes from a phone call you have, write down an address, to do list, leave someone a note, or any number of other things.

28. Lighter

Especially useful when camping for lighting a fire, BBQ, or camp stove. Also helpful obviously if you smoke, or for destroying loose threads on your clothing.

29. Knife

Use this to cut up fruit, slice cheese or salami, cut lengths of rope, defend yourself against a bear or in a bar fight, etc.

30. Duct tape

The ultimate fixer of things. Useful for restraining kidnapping victims. Or plugging a hole in something. Dividing the car into two separate sides when you and your partner have a fight and they refuse to apologize, NEVER to be crossed under any circumstances. You get the idea.

31. Mints

Mints are good to have if you want to avoid offending a companion with rank garlic breath, or mask the smell of a beer on your breath if you’re driving. Obviously, I do not condone drunk driving, but sometimes one has one beer and then has to drive somewhere. It’s better if your breath doesn’t betray you. Maybe you have a job interview and realize you forgot to brush your teeth. In my opinion, mints are a better breath freshener than gum because some people are very annoyed by the chewing of gum and see it as unprofessional, and also you may end up getting stuck without a place to dispose of it when you’re finished chewing.

32. Cash+coins

You never know when you’ll need coins for a parking meter, or cash for a bridge toll or state park fee. I like to keep a few dollars in coins, and around $20 (broken into smaller bills) in the car, just in case.

33. Chapstick

Be ready for a kiss at any moment! Or at the very least, avoid being uncomfortable with super parched lips. It doesn’t have to be name brand Chapstick. Any quality lip balm will do.

34. An extra phone charger

Make sure you have a wall cube!

35. A flashlight

Your iphone already has a flashlight on it, but what if it dies? Or you need to conserve the battery? Or you need two lights? A good ol’ fashioned battery powered flashlight is always a good idea.

36. A whistle

In an emergency situation, you may need to try to call someone’s attention to yourself from far away, and a whistle can often be louder than your voice (and it’ll spare your vocal chords).


Pro Tip: Get a grocery crate or some other kind of vessel to keep all of this shiz organized in your trunk 🙂


That’s my whole list – the most important things women should keep in the car. You should take stock of your own life and activities and add any essentials that are not listed here. A couple of obvious things I can think of right away are that you may have kids or dogs and may want to stock related items for them. You can get all these things on Amazon or at Costco if you’re looking for a one stop shop, or you can collect the items from your stores of choice.

But if you store these things in your trunk, you’ll have them wherever you go and be much better prepared for a whole slew of scenarios you may find yourself in.

P.S. You may be interested in these other posts:

What to Pack for Camping

How to Stock Your Liquor Cabinet Like An Adult

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Hey there! I'm Megan.

Hey there! I'm Megan.

I believe in cultivating a happy life with intention, using one small building block at a time.

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