Everything I Keep in My Car
Updated: Feb 2
While I'm definitely not prepared for everything, I'm prepared for a lot of weirdly specific situations. Here's a breakdown of the 20 items I always keep in my car and why I like them. Let's go, from the dashboard to the trunk!
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I don't have a "modern" car. If it were human, it'd be old enough to drive. So I don't have the in-built chargers and touchscreen navigation and entertainment. I've attempted to recreate those features in a way that makes sense for me and my preferences.
1. Wireless Car Charger & Phone Holder
I use this every single time I get in my car. It automatically opens with an infrared sensor and clamps to hold the phone in place. Mostly I just use it as a mount so I can have navigation and/or music in around the same location as an in-built entertainment/nav system, but it's also a Qi wireless charger, which has saved me a few times to recharge while I get somewhere. It has different attachments for air vents and adhesive for flat surfaces; I have it stuck near my car's radio so it's within reach but not in the way of my vision. It's hooked into the Bluetooth receiver and charger below.
2. Car Charger & Wireless Bluetooth Adapter
This plugs into the cigarette lighter and works as a transmitter adapter for FM to Bluetooth, so I can play music and phone calls using my car's old radio. It has 2 USB ports, so I plug in the car charger and mount above, and have another port free for if a passenger ever needs to charge their phone or device.
The Center Console
Now on to the stash of goodies hidden beneath the plasticky cage of a center console.
3. Reusable Shopping Bag
$42 for set of 3, $14 each
As a graphic designer, one of my all time favorite pieces of design are plastic bags. However, I do really prefer reusable bags that don't involve killing plastic trees. These use recycled ripstop nylon, can hold up to 50 lbs, fold into a 5"x5" square, and are machine washable. Win-win-win-win! I use this a lot, especially as a bag when I go thrifting. It fits a surprising amount.
4. Lip Balm
$7.49 for two pack, $3.75 each
This is my favorite lip balm, I have one stashed in every place I spend a lot of time. I love Burt's Bees and this does exactly as it says—ultra moisturizes.
5. Hand Cream
If you work with your hands, you know how dry, cracked, and calloused your hands can get, especially in the winter. You can feel the difference immediately as you put it on your hands, it's incredible. Plus, you only need a tiny amount, so it lasts a long time.
6. Polarized Sunglasses
I found these years ago at a store in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, and fell in love with them. They fit so perfectly (which is tough with a giant head) and are insanely comfortable. They were too expensive for me at the time, but they sat in my bookmarks until I could buy them. Worth the wait and worth the money. Obviously polarized and 100% UV protection is a must for driving, so the other cars don't blind you with glare and you protect your vision over time.
7. Altoids Cinnamon Mints
$9.99 for two pack, $4.99 each
Maybe a lot of you aren't huge fans of cinnamon flavored products, but I legitimately almost cried when Listerine discontinued their cinnamon flavored mouthwash. These are a real kick in the pants in the morning, and clears out any residual flavors left in your mouth from lunch or coffee. The tin is great for a center console because it can be tossed in blindly while driving and not break.
8. Change Purse (filled with quarters for parking meters)
I loved playing with squeeze coin pouches as a kid. What better way to keep your parking meter quarters and spare change you find on the street? This is such a cute storage solution.
9. Spare Phone Charger
Spare chargers are always useful, and I like braided cables for heavily traveled or used chargers. I don't really know what to say about these, I have a ton of them. They're six feet long, tough to destroy, and convenient. I've yet to break one after 4+ years of daily use (knock on wood).
10. Super Warm Touchscreen Gloves
These got destroyed in a campfire last year (still salty about that), so I'll be picking up another pair for all my winter drives. They're comfortable, fit super well (measure your hand!), and keep you insanely warm because they're double-layered. See those little swirls? Those are grip lines, and they work well for both the steering wheel, a travel mug, and your phone. I really love these gloves.
The Second Row
Time for all the utility items!
11. Insulated Drink Caddy
This is so great if you're the coffee gopher, especially if you're like me and you have only two cup holders in your entire car. I have the dividers set for 3 drinks, which works really well and fits large drinks, too. It zips shut and keeps things upright, y'know, the way you want your drinks to be.
12. Steering Wheel Desk
I just have this haphazardly thrown in the second row of seats in my car. It fits on the steering wheel and is great when you want to eat in the car after grabbing takeout or if you need to stop somewhere to fire off an email or deal with something on a laptop in the middle of a drive. It's easy to slide on the wheel and stays in place well. Only use when the car is in park, obviously.
13. Car Trash Can
I have this on the back headrest of the passenger seat. It's right in arm's reach, leak resistant, and keeps a nice amount of trash off the floor or seats. Plus, you can just take the whole thing and dump it in a trash can. If there's spills, it's waterproof and cleans quickly.
14. Extendable Ice Scraper
If you live in the northeastern US, you know that an ice scraper is a staple of winter (and sometimes fall...and spring...). It's a really shitty experience when it's the first snowfall or bad ice storm and you forget to account for additional time to clear off your car. This isn't a magical fix for that, but it extends your reach by 3 feet, which can make it feel a bit less stressful. With an SUV, it's great having a super long scraper to brush snow off the top. This one detaches into pieces for smaller storage, which is nice.
15. Compact Umbrella
Pretty basic part of a car stash. I keep it in the little pocket on the side of the car door. Nothing super special, it's a nice sized 42" umbrella made with fiberglass to fight the wind. It's small when collapsed, so you almost forget it's in the car until it's raining.
My car trunk truly represents business in the front, party in the back.
16. Camping Chair with Built-in 4 Can Cooler
I always have 2 camping chairs in the back of my car, in case I want or need to sit, plus a friend. They come in their own case with carrying straps, so they're nice and lightweight to lug around. Plus, they fold up super easily and have cup holders and a little cooler. I use these all the time, and they don't take up a ton of space. Probably my favorite thing in my car.
17. 2-Person Camping Tent
You never know when you'll want or need a tent. Spontaneous camping! It packs down into a small carrying case and takes only 10 minutes to set up. It's great for one to two people and has attachments for inclement weather. Doesn't take up a ton of room in the trunk, so it's not too much of an imposition to keep in the car.
18. Car Jump Starter & Power Bank
I keep this permanently stashed in the door pouch in my trunk, always ready in case I need to jump start a car. I've used it for all of its features, and it works really well in every situation I've needed it in. It's got a wireless charger, 2 USB ports, an AC/DC outlet (lifesaver for a laptop!), jumper cables, and an LED flashlight. It can hold its charge for up to 18 months, which I can verify as true. I do check it every quarter, and if it seems low on charge or if I used it recently, I plug it in for around a day in my trunk's cigarette lighter, which is conveniently right next to the door pouch that holds the unit. It's not enough draw to affect the car's battery, but if you're concerned, plug it in at home or on a long drive and then unplug it at your stop.
I used it to jump start someone's car at a gas station without any prior knowledge of using a portable jump starter. It's SO MUCH easier to use than regular cables, which carry the risk of blowing out the live car's battery if you use them wrong, and honestly stress me out so much. It has the instructions on the carrying bag, so you don't even have to surreptitiously Google if it's red to dead or donor first.
19. Solar Power Bank
Harness the POWER OF THE SUN...to charge your phone. This has wireless charging capabilities as well as USB ports. The flashlight is a bit annoying because I always accidentally click it on, but I'm sure it would be nice and convenient in an actual emergency. It holds a lot of charge and the top is a small solar panel, so you can recharge it without plugging it in. I love this, even though I only really take it and use it on day trips and longer. Super convenient as a regular power bank and not too expensive for a quality solar panel.
20. Travel Blanket
I guess I like prepping for emergencies. This is a blanket that compacts into a small 4.5" x 9" carrying case, but folds out to 70" x 56", a nice sized microfiber blanket. It's great for camping, gridlock in cold weather, air travel or public transport, and for outdoor events in the fall.
I think that covers everything I keep in my car at all times. I realize just how much emergency travel items I carry around, but I've actually used all of them! I'd love to hear what's your favorite thing you keep in your car.