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10 things to keep in your car this summer

Carlton Boyce / 01 August 2017

From painkillers to binoculars, we round up the essentials you need in your car this summer.

Man unfolding picnic blanket on grass next to a basket filled with food.
Keep a picnic blanket in the boot, so you're always ready for an impromptu meal.

The key to surviving any kind of extreme weather is preparation and the summer is no exception. At the first sign of winter ending I clear my car of de-icer, ice-scrapers and my old heavy work coat, and replace it with some more seasonally appropriate items.

Of course, you don’t have to keep all ten things in your car but I bet you’ll be surprised how useful each and every one is!

1 A bottle of water

A large bottle of water is always handy, whether it’s to drink, rinse your hands with, remove bird poop from your car’s paintwork, top up your engine’s cooling system, or give some to a passing thirsty dog whose owner isn’t as well-prepared as you!

Of course, you’ll change it regularly if you’re going to be drinking it at any point as it’ll start to taste funny if it’s kept in a hot boot for weeks on end. But if it’s for any other use, just stash a bottle somewhere secure and forget all about it.

2 Sun cream/a hat

Optimistic, perhaps, but I’ve been caught out more than once by an unexpectedly sunny day and returned home several shades redder than I would have liked. 

Plus, it’s a nice thing to be able to share sun cream with other people when you notice them eyeing it up; which is why I pack factor 50 so young families can borrow it safely.

 How to treat sunburn.

3 A lightweight, waterproof coat

I carry one for the same reason I keep an old parka in the boot all winter – I can be hopelessly naïve about how accurate the local weather forecast is and when it turns out to be wrong, the rain doesn’t necessarily have to stop play. 

There’s usually a telescopic umbrella somewhere in the car too, for exactly the same reason.

 The best walking destinations in the UK.

4 Wet wipes/hand sanitiser gel

When a shower simply isn’t feasible, giving your face and neck the once over with a wet wipe or two is the next best thing. You can also use them to remove spilled food from the car’s upholstery, wipe the dipstick when you’re checking the engine oil, and clean a multitude of things from portable BBQ utensils to dirty café tables. 

Similarly, a quick squirt of hand sanitiser makes you feel much more comfortable about handling and eating food when there’s simply nowhere to wash your hands properly.

How to clean a BBQ.

5 A picnic blanket or a towel

A picnic blanket or large towel keeps you warm when the sun goes down, protects your car’s upholstery when you’re wet and muddy, can be used to dry wet and sandy feet, and can even be fashioned into a makeshift windbreak. 

Oh, and it can be spread on the floor when you’re having an impromptu picnic too.

 Easy picnic recipes.

6 A bin bag

One of the most altruistic items on this list, a bin bag is there solely so to pick up other people’s litter and take it home with you to be disposed of properly.

I also keep an old carrier bag in my rucksack, so when I find a discarded water bottle or sandwich wrapper in the mountains or on the beach, I can take that back to the car with me, too.

5 UK beaches you can drive on.

7 A small road atlas

I yield to no man in my love of GPS and vehicle-based satellite navigation systems, but when I hit an unexpected road closure or diversion it’s my old AA road atlas that lets me plot my own way round it.

 Of course, a paper map never breaks down, freezes, runs out of power, or sends me in the wrong direction because I mixed up two towns with the same name, either.


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8 Painkillers

A small packet of painkillers can save the day by warding off all manner of ills, aches and pains. And, best of all, by pre-planning and stocking up in advance, I can buy a packet of the supermarket’s own brand for under 50p, rather than having to fork out a fiver for a proprietary brand from a motorway service station in an emergency.

What's the difference between ibuprofen, paracetamol and asprin?

9 A big bag of sweets

Nothing, but nothing, can revive a car full of flagging passengers than whipping out a bag of sweets. Again, if you stock up when you see them cheap you can pay about a pound for a big bag of fruit gums or boiled sweets rather than the £4 a motorway service station will charge.

How to keep grandchildren entertained on long car journeys.

10 A pair of binoculars

If you’ve got a pair of binoculars (or a monocular, which is what I prefer) then the car boot is a very good place to keep them. Whether it’s for bird watching, giving to recalcitrant children to help keep them quiet, or gently scanning the landscape during an especially gorgeous sunset, having a pair to hand can enhance an already wonderful day. 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.