LIFESTYLE: Winter Storm Diego Shows The Value of A Bug-Out Bag In Your Car — Here’s 25 Things To Have In It

By D. Lanier Shook         December 10, 2018

I’m writing this as I — and millions of others — recover from Winter Storm Diego which unceremoniously introduced winter to the Mid-Atlantic. (Am I the only one wondering if the next one will be Winter Storm Dora?) I was fortunate to be in a good place during the storm — I didn’t have to get out until the afternoon when the temps were up and the roads already traveled. But this storm drove home the importance of what is colloquially referred to in some circles as a “bug-out” bag.

Dollar Stores are a great place to pick up most of these items.

According to MacMillian Dictionary “bug out” means to leave quickly. According to Wikipedia the term comes from the US Army in the Korean War (although there’s no citation for that.) The article also suggested the term “get me home” kit, which is probably more accurate for what I’m describing, but “bug out bag” has a good alliterative ring to it. Whatever you call it, you need to have a bag in your car with these 25 things in it.


Cameras, phones and flashlights are just a few of the devices you need batteries for. Maybe AAA, AA, or 9V batteries are what you need, but you may want to consider getting spares of cell phones batteries. Don’t forget about the little preloaded chargers that will load you phone up with enough juice for several calls. Like it or not, a cell phone is one of those things you have to have with you in winter weather.


Blankets are great any day of the year but in the winter they’re essential. Most of the year they’re just a nice pillow or a cover for the scattered coloring books on your back seat. But this time of year they can save your life.

Booster cables

Always have booster cables with you. A lot of people will give you a boost if you have cables.  Of course there are snazzier options, like the little suitcase chargers, but the important thing is to just have something with you to boost a battery.


Cash. Cash money. Carry at least twenty dollars with you, preferably five ones, three fives, one ten, one twenty, four quarters, ten dimes, etc. But whatever amount you carry the important things is to have it on you.

Cash allows you to get gas when the network is down. It lets you use a pay phone(yes, they still have those :)  ).  It lets you pay for parking. It makes sure your credit card doesn’t give you a hassle if you use it out-of-town. I’ve had this happen and its annoying to have to call and assure them it was you who used it in Georgia and not some thug.


A camera is always nifty thing to have with you, but this is a different type of camera I’m talking about. This is a a camera you’ll use if you have a traffic accident. God forbid, but it does happen occasionally. Follow the lead of commercial carriers, who have camera kits in their vehicles with instructions how to use them. When you take these pictures go from the outside in. Take photos of the big picture first, then move in closer. Get shots of both vehicles, any tire tracks, the road conditions. Make copies and get them to your insurance agency. Always have a camera on hand, it could save you a lot of money.


A cell phone could save your life and this is why God made pre-paid phones. You can get one at nearly any store and these will often get a signal when your phone may not.


You should probably carry extra clothes any day of the year. If you rip something or get it soaked you will want to have a replacement on hand. You can leave it on a hanger or just put it in a garbage bag.


Carry a cooler to keep food and drinks cold. (Always take your own food and drinks to save cash, plus avoid stopping.) Coolers are also great places to toss trash.


A flashlight is an essential which can make life easier or even save your life. Today you can choose from a variety of flashlights from ones that you can land a plane with to little LED ‘book lights’ that are about a dollar and usually come with batteries preloaded. There are really cool solar powered flashlights or ones that are hand cranked. Always have one on hand.

Garbage bags

Garbage bags can be used for everything, including trash. Or you can store other things in them(like clothes— clean or dirty). If something is stinky, dirty or icky you can even double bag it and tape it up. This technique is what I still use when handling bio-hazard or medical waste. Don’t forget about the smaller sizes, either like the the Special Forces Mark One gallon sized zip-loc, the half-gallon and other smaller sizes. I’ve even sealed a hot wash cloth in one and used it on a sore neck.

Lighter( or matches)

These are important standbys. They need no batteries. And in the winter the heat of one match is enough to keep you from dying if you are in a car. (Or that’s what I’ve been told.)


GPS is good. GPS is great. But GPS is electronic and has to be updated. It can fail.  So get a manila envelope and just start collecting maps. Some you can get for free, most you can get for five bucks or under. They make great souvenirs and don’t need batteries.

Pen/pencil and paper

Sometimes you need to jot down directions. Sometimes they’re for you and sometimes they’re for someone else. But remember, ALWAYS STOP SAFELY BEFORE YOU JOT STUFF DOWN. No, I don’t think all of you out there are stupid. I just don’t want to get anybody injured.


A few winters ago I drove around town with a four-foot long shovel propped in my backseat. (If you were in WNC  last winter you’ll understand why.) In fact the day after the big pre-Christmas snow I wouldn’t have been able to get into the parking lot at work without it. My philosophy is simple. If your car is in good shape, you have plenty of gas, are in good shape and have a shovel there is no reason to get stuck. So keep a shovel in your car.

Spare fluids

Coolant, oil and gasoline should be carried in manufacturer recommended containers and in a safe place where fumes won’t bother you or your passengers. Some of you might want to carry spare parts, such as fan belts and such, was also mentioned. Oh AND ALWAYS CARRY A SPARE TIRE AND TIRE JACK. (Make certain you can get to them.)

Spare glasses

Here I’m talking about both sunglasses and reading glasses. Like the SEALs say, ‘two is one, one is none.’ I keep an extra pair of reading glasses, at least four pairs of sunglasses, two or three pairs of driving glasses and probably four to eight pairs of roll up sunglasses in the car. The rollups are great to give/loan passengers.


The uses of tape and its varieties are endless. Carry it in your car, your purse, your pocket, your desk, everywhere. Pick up mulit-packs of clear tape at the dollar store and stash them everywhere. Electrical tape, duct tape, paper tape work too, but the little rolls are great. (These are the little clear rolls you use for gift wrap.)

If I get a cut, small or large, I can use pieces of clear tape instead of a band-aid. You can use these to seal up bags or anything else. Richard Preston was absolutely right when he said sticky tape was the birth of modern epidemiological study(in the Hot Zone. Great book, you should read it, although don’t on a full stomach.) Tape keeps everything in or out. Always have it on hand.

Toilet paper

This is kind of self explanatory. For very obvious reasons always have toilet paper in the car. They sell real nice little individually wrapped rolls, which is what I carry.

Umbrella and rain coat

Always, always, always have an umbrella in the car.  I carry at least five. I’ve picked up several little ones for one dollar from the one dollar store and I have several bigger ones. There’s no excuse for not having an umbrella that works.

Also carry a raincoat. If you are stranded in the winter it can keep you warm and they’re available at the dollar store for one dollar. (The little ones just a bit bigger than a deck of cards.) Once they’re out of the package they probably won’t go back in so just fold it up tight and put it in the trunk. These are thin plastic and would work very well at keeping you warm.


If you have a cooler in your car with drinks you should already have water. You can live days without food, but not near as long without water.


These are helpful for keeping your hand warm and your attitude cheery.

Kitty Litter

This will give you traction when you get stuck. (Also helpful if you pick up a stray cat. Yes, that is a joke.)


Grab a few packs of peanut butter and crackers, that should be enough. Other great things to throw in are peanut butter, yogurt, dried fruit, or nuts.

Weather Radio

Most places have a weather radio channel at 530 am, but you can find dedicated weather radios. Weather radio apps are also available for your smartphone. If you want to get extra brownie points, buy one with a hand-crank. Some of the fancier ones even have lights on them.

Window Scraper or Deicer

These are essential and can be picked up at the dollar store for, well, a dollar. There are long ones, short ones, or even ones with gloves attached.

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