Organizing a Car Trunk

There are a few specific items that are recommended for inclusion in your car trunk or the “way back.”. Since some of the items are ones that you want to find quickly in an emergency, or you want accessible for daily use, and others may be fragile, good organization of your car trunk can be important. Here are some items you should have in the trunk followed by some hints about how to keep them in good condition.

First Aid Kit

Every car trunk should have supplies for the unexpected injury. The first aid kit should be a small kit with very basic supplies:

  • disinfectant
  • bandages
  • fever reducer
  • tweezer
  • first aid manual
  • non-latex gloves

These are supplies that it is well to keep together in one spot in the car trunk. Since these materials need to be clean and dry, the first aid kit should be in a waterproof container.

home institute 1 Road Emergency Kit

The road emergency kit should have the following, and these items may be placed as appropriate:

  • blanket
  • nonperishable snacks (including formula for infants)
  • bottled water
  • fire extinguisher
  • flare and/or reflector triangle
  • flashlight and extra batteries
  • spare tire
  • tire inflator (the kind that plugs into the cigarette lighter)
  • tire pressure gauge
  • tire jack
  • jumper cables
  • a quart of oil
  • a gallon of antifreeze
  • windshield wiper fluid
  • work gloves
  • a basic tool kit or multipurpose knife
  • paper towels or rag
  • writing implement that won’t freeze and paper
  • extra change of clothing and diapers for children
  • emergency car charger for cellular phone, or emergency power source

How can these items be organized in the car trunk? Some items may be kept in a duffel bag, while the liquids and fragile items could be grouped in a milk crate to keep them contained.

Cold Weather Safety Kit

For those who live or travel in cold climates, some additional supplies are useful.

  • a container of gas line antifreeze
  • lock deicer (move this to a coat pocket, keychain or purse if you suspect you’ll need it—locked in the trunk, it will be of little use)
  • snow brush
  • ice scraper
  • extra warm clothing such as hats, gloves, coats and socks
  • blankets or emergency blankets
  • snow chains for unexpected road conditions

Other Trunk Items

Other items that people often carry over the long or short term in their car’s storage area include:


  • portable folding chairs and stools
  • sporting equipment
  • pet exercise equipment
  • cinderblocks or bags of sand for traction
  • stroller


  • groceries
  • recycling
  • trash
  • children’s school backpacks and sports bags
  • trip luggage


Trunk organization means making the best of the peculiar parameters of your particular car’s storage space. While some cars trunks can be accessed from the rear seat, allowing any deep dark inner recesses to be easily accessed; others are only accessible from behind the car. How you arrange items will depend on how deep the trunk or storage area is and how you access it. General principles:

  • Put items you use everyday near the opening and more rarely used items in the less accessible portions.

  • Use milk cartons to organize and steady anything that should be prevented from rolling around. You can also color code the milk crates for easy identification (e.g., put the first aid and emergency equipment in a red crate, balls and Frisbees in green, etc.).

  • Use any storage wells built into the trunk to good advantage, such as holding gallon containers of liquid on the way back from the store.

  • Use trunk storage products found in the auto supply section of most stores, such as netting, dividers, etc. to organize the trunk.

  • Use items to brace other items.

  • Place emergency items in containers that you can identify quickly by feel (rather than sight) if necessary.

  • When transporting trash or other items that you wish to keep separate from other trunk contents, an easy way to protect other trunk material and the upholstery is to use a plastic garbage bag as a liner, or temporarily place a large, inexpensive plastic children’s sled in the trunk, and put the trash in that.

  • Written by Mary Elizabeth

    Related Home Institute Articles

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  • Emergency Information
  • Organizing a Garage
  • Introduction to Disaster Supplies