The Cargo Hold: 9 Things Every Man Should Have in His Trunk

If you’re currently using the back of your car as one big dumpster, you’re not only disgusting, you’re wasting space. Clear out your trunk of meaningless debris and pack it with these essentials so you’re ready for any emergency – from serious road side troubles to a serious case of beach boredom.

Junk in the trunk is usually a good thing; we can all agree on that. However, the trunk of your car should be completely devoid of junk and used only for temporary storage. That being said, a little bit of cargo space must be designated for seven items that every man should have within reach at all times.

Of course, I realize it’s the 21st century and men aren’t expected to be prepared to solve every car problem as much as they used to be and “I can have feelings too” blah blah blah (although I’ve yet to hear a legitimate reason why this willful automobile ignorance is beneficial in anyway), your “I’m a modern metrosexual man who doesn’t need to know about cars” attitude will not do you a lot of good when you’re alone in a puddle of tears on the side of the road.

(Note: I’m neglecting to mention “a spare tire and jack” in the following list because if that’s not in your car already, you’ve got some serious problems.)

Jumper Cables


Derr. No-brainer. Maybe your battery with Durablast Technology won’t ever die but you can jump someone else’s car for them. That’s basically like taking a bullet for them, in the parlance of automobiles; they’ll never forget.

If you can swing it, a portable AC/DC power system is a great way to ensure you’ll never have to depend on the kindness of strangers and/or the chances of someone having jumper cables when YOU need a helping hand.

Check out Grease Monkey Part 3 for proper Jumper technique.

Flashlight

Even when you’re stuck during the day, some areas of your car are very obscured by darkness and difficult to see. Getting one that can hang from the inside of the hood or that will sit still without rolling is key to you not losing your mind while trying to locate both of the terminals on your car battery after an endless New Year’s Eve party.

First Aid Kit

Hopefully you’ll never need it in the way you expect but I promise you’ll end up opening it in search of a Band Aid within weeks.

By the way: in isolated situations, “First Aid Kit” also means having a fire extinguisher nearby because fires and gasoline generally don’t put themselves out (in your car or someone else’s).

Tool Box

You will not actually require a complete tool set but a pair of screwdrivers and some “self-adjusting” pliers (like the Robogrip) are a must for nearly any problem you’ll encounter/attempt to solve on your own. Others I would recommend: duct tape, crescent wrench, and a knife.

Fabric Shield


Either a blanket or towel is essential in protecting you from kneeling/lying in filth on the side of the road, when there’s a problem nearer the ground. A blanket also proves extremely useful when you’re stranded in the cold, waiting for someone while the towel can serve a purpose as a seat cover when you’re transporting something that could stain/ruin your seats (pets, plants, bags of ice, etc.).

Many of the above items can be found bundled in reasonably priced sets designed for one’s trunk (like this AAA Roadside Assistance Kit plus an emergency blanket). However, you can save yourself some cash if you create your own “Survival Kit” with items you already own – you’re better off assembling a team of tools with which you’re familiar than plunking down $30+ for a case full of cold, new, foreign items (some of which you’ll never need, anyway).

Clearly I wasn’t telling you anything you have not heard by saying that you need to stock your car with whatever’s necessary to keep all of your car-bases covered. However, most guys neglect to consider that they should also equip their cars with items to keep the DRIVER covered, in the case of trouble.

Cargo items

Freshen Up

For the paranoid, self-conscious, obsessive-compulsive teenage girl in you, create a Man-side Assistance Kit. Items like waterless hand cleaner, hand sanitizer, deodorant spray (I’d recommend Kill It Dead), moisturizing cream, suntan lotion, cough drops, and some sort of aspirin are never a bad idea to keep handy in case you don’t have time go home or the drug store before a party or a meeting.

Target has an entire aisle dedicated to “$1 or Less” travel-sized items; do yourself a favor and check it out.

Game On

You’ll be very wise to ensure you keep some entertaining items in your car that aren’t CDs, to protect against boredom when you’re a part of an impromptu trip to the beach or park or something.

Toss a deck of cards in the glovebox and a football in the trunk. Above all sporting goods, the football is the most logical one to keep by your side: you can play catch without needing gloves, you can play a real 11-on-11 game in any open space (it doesn’t even need grass!), and – unlike with soccer – everybody will want to play, once you start tossing that pigskin around. It doesn’t hurt to toss a small hand air pump back there, either.

Do You Copy?

I always buy an extra battery for my current cell phone and stow it away in my glovebox. You may always keep an eye on your charge meter but there’s bound to be a day where you’re stuck on the side of the road but your phone is without power because you absent-mindedly spent too much time on the phone talking to your girlfriend earlier.

Insert: an extra battery — the car’s version of the green “1UP” mushroom. I should also point out that the back-up cell battery is a good idea even for those of you with cigarette lighter cell chargers because if and when your car battery dies, your cigarette lighter goes with it.

Snack Bar

A bulk box of granola bars from Costco in the trunk means two things: a) you’ll never worry about leaving the house without breakfast, b) you won’t have to fake not-being-hungry at that party at which you don’t want to stay long yet feel obligated to attend.

Tossing a couple big bottles of water back there is not a bad idea, either; especially for when you personally need hydration after the impromptu pick-up basketball game and/or when you’re stuck in traffic in August and your engine is nearing the melting point of steel.

It’s your car. It’s your personal vessel. It’s your Millennium Falcon. You owe it to yourself (and the rest of us) to make sure you cannot only keep it going but that you could survive in it.

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.

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  • Ken

    Don’t forget a suitcase or duffle with shirt, pants, underwear, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste.

  • http://ijpc-cincinnati.com/ Max

    I found this blog very important and very interesting.

  • Kyle

    In a pinch, floor mats are good to use when you need to kneel beside the car to change a tire. I also keep an old cell phone that’s not in use in my glove box. Even though it’s not activated, all cell phones are required to be able to make emergency calls–good to have if your current phone dies or you don’t have it with you in the car for some reason.

    Great list.

  • http://www.georgedunhill.com George Dunhill

    I think the “freshen up” tools should really be in the glove compartment (in my opinion). There is only so much you can fit there but I would (not that I do) keep my deodorant and skin cream there.

    I’d also add that you should have a box of essential car cleaning tools too (paper towel, mother car wax, windex, etc etc).

    Great list though!!

  • Stephen

    Does anyone have any ideas about how to organize all these things in the trunk? I can just throw things back there, but inevitably they get beat up, torn, dirty, or squashed as time goes on. Any good ideas about things that might attach to the side of the trunk to hold these things in place? My little jumper cable pockets back there are useless.

    Thanks for the help.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Hey Stephen, I use a milk crate similar to this one: http://ow.ly/7cWfm

      Helps hold everything together and doesn’t slide around. If you still have sliding problems, use some of that bumpy rubber they sell to line shelves. http://ow.ly/7cWhO

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.barrow.75 Matt Barrow

    I’ve actually got my own system for this, and it works out just fine for me.

    1. First-Aid Kit-I actually have a flip up compartment in the back of my cargo area, and have it velcroed down.

    2. Tool bag-it’s an old tanker tool bag I got years ago for $10 from sportsmansguide.com. It’s got everything from a 4-way lug wrench and socket set to pliers, wrenches, and screwdrivers

    3. Jumper cables/air compressor-I keep these, along with oil, funnels, anti-freeze/coolant, and road flares in a milk crate. I’m planning on upgrading the milk crate though. It looks tacky

    4.Hygiene-I keep deodorant, body spray, wisps, and hand sanitizer in the console, along with my camera and extra packs of smokes

    5. Blankets-I keep a fleece and a wool blanket in the car in case of emergency or picnic. Or even a drive-in on a cool night. It’s nice being at a drive-in and seeing my wife snuggled in the fleece blanket.

    6. Flashlight- Glovebox, along with air fresheners, insurance cards, and napkins/straws/forks/spoons and an altoids tin with change and a few dollars

    7. Water/Food-I’ve had it happen: broke down on the interstate at midnight. Wife and I had to sleep in the car, and luckily I had water, protein bars, and beef jerky in the car, along with the blankets. It saved us a hungry, thirsty and uncomfortable night.

    Take it from me: Be prepared

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.barrow.75 Matt Barrow

    Milk crate or trunk organizer. The milk crate does look tacky though. And also a tool bag, preferably one from military surplus, as they are extremely tough. And use velcro for the first-aid kit. That way you can keep it out of the way

  • dfnvov

    A buddy of mine puts cat food (no joke) because it gives traction in the event of getting stuck in snow.