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OCT 07, 2022

How to make a winter emergency car kit to be prepared

Winter driving can be dangerous if you find yourself stranded away from home, so be prepared.

By

Caribou

8 min read

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With winter fast approaching, make sure you’re not left out in the cold if you become stranded on a snowy road. Putting together a winter emergency car kit is essential for protecting yourself as driving conditions worsen, and lower temperatures take their toll on vehicles across the country. Having the right survival essentials on-hand will prepare you for snowy roads and adverse weather – it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it!

Driving in the winter

Winter driving brings all sorts of challenges. As the days get shorter and darkness falls earlier, the increasing chances of ice and snow on roadways means driving can become more dangerous. Storms and snowfall can impede your view, and adverse conditions increase the likelihood of road closures.

The hazardous conditions brought on by winter weather are well known, but simply knowing about them doesn’t make them any less difficult for drivers – you have to take action and prepare. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17% of car accidents occur during winter weather conditions. Freezing temperatures also make it more likely your car will have mechanical difficulties or problems like a dead car battery. Therefore, it’s necessary to make sure you’re prepared should you end up stranded by the roadside during winter.

Winter car kits

Whether you’re an experienced driver or just got your driver's license, having a comprehensive winter car kit in your vehicle is essential as the snowy months close in. You may already have a few essentials in your car in case of an emergency – like a flashlight, spare wiper blades, or jumper cables. That’s a great start, but it’s not enough for a winter storm.

The hope is that you’ll never need to use this kit. However, it never hurts to be prepared with items that protect you from adverse weather and conditions. Imagine that you’re stuck on the snowy roadside waiting for roadside assistance. A fully-stocked winter car kit could be lifesaving in these circumstances.

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Winter car kit overview

You can start building your winter emergency car kit by collecting survival supplies, safety items, winter clothing, and car maintenance tools. These things will help to keep safe if you get stuck or slide off the road. You should gather the various items you’ll need and pack them into a large backpack or storage bin. Then as cold weather hits, keep the kit inside your car trunk when you hit the road.

So, what should you pack? First off, you’ll need to make sure to bring your cell phone and a spare 12V cell phone charger. Communication in an emergency is vital. A portable charger or extra battery pack is an additional bonus in case you’re unable to use your car’s 12V power outlet or electrical system to charge your phone.

Other important things to pack include a flashlight, jumper cables, flares, and a white flag or sheet in case you’re stuck in deep snow out of town with no cell service signal. The white flag can help attract attention to your vehicle from rescuers. To combat becoming stuck on snowy roads, a small snow shovel can help you dig out your vehicle. Other things like a window brush and an ice scraper help you clean off your car and increase visibility by removing ice from windows before driving.

Car-related survival kit items

In addition to having items on-hand to protect yourself and your passengers, you should also include items in your kit that will keep your car in good shape. These items will help fix and diagnose problems with your car and may make the recovery or retrieval of your car easier in difficult weather conditions.

Having sandbags or tire traction mats can help you avoid getting your wheels getting stuck. Packing a small snow shovel pairs well with these items. In more extreme situations, a small winch is also a handy optional item for pulling your vehicle or others out of the ditch if a car slides off of the road. Planning ahead with these items helps you prepare for common challenges and face anything that the weather and your vehicle throws your way.

Other auto-focused items include jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, a car jack, a spare gas can, and duct tape. The jumper cables are essential for getting a jump start if your car battery dies in cold weather. You can use the tire pressure gauge to check lower PSI in freezing temps or to help you establish if you have a tire puncture if you notice a sudden PSI drop while driving.

Personal emergency kit items

Your emergency car kit should also contain personal items, like medications, and a hygiene kit. Your personal survival should be the top priority if you end up stranded in a snowy ditch. Comfort hygiene items are often a secondary concern but may make a big difference and help you stay comfortable if you can’t get home for a few days.

Make sure your car's first aid kit is fully stocked with things like bandages, medical tape, gauze pads, pain relievers. If you’re on medication, try to store a small supply of your prescription pills in the winter survival kit so you have a supply on hand if you become stranded. Check them periodically to make sure they are within the expiration date. These things may prove vital if you are injured, cut yourself, or feel unwell.

Alongside the items you usually have with you like your cell phone and charger, pack some spare cash away in the kit in the form of a few $20 dollar bills. It’s always helpful to have an emergency cash stash for emergency purchases. Also, bring a small personal hygiene kit with essentials like hand sanitizer, chapstick, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. Prepare for every outcome, and you will be ready to take on the challenge of being stranded in the wintertime.

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Cold weather emergency items

Remember, wintertime weather conditions can change drastically with colder weather, varying amounts of precipitation, and snowfall in many areas of the country. Whether the conditions are snowy, rainy, or just downright freezing, adding a spare winter jacket into your emergency gear is essential. That extra layer will no doubt come in handy if you end up having to stand outside for long periods of time or at night.

Bring changes of climate-appropriate clothes, thick socks, and waterproof shoes, or snow boots. You should also pack some warm gloves and a hat, as well as some emergency blankets or a sleeping bag for yourself and anyone else that you may be traveling with. Staying warm is a must if you’re trapped on the roadside for a long time.

You shouldn't solely rely on your vehicle to keep you warm. An emergency candle and hand warmers make a world of difference by raising the temperature in a freezing car’s interior several degrees. The candle flame also provides light – even on the darkest winter night.

Food and other emergency car kit items

The hope is that you’ll never need to use a winter emergency car kit. But as long as you’re taking steps to be prepared, you should build your kit right and add any other items you think you’ll need. While it’s unlikely you’ll be stranded for an extended period, a storm or other adverse weather event might mean it could be a while before you receive assistance. Rescuing drivers in a blizzard can sometimes take hours.

You’re going to need sustenance, so pack a selection of non-perishable food, plenty of drinking water, and some power bars as part of your emergency kit rations. You don’t want to be dehydrated or weak in a time of emergency, and packing these items will help to increase your energy. Bringing beef jerky or salted peanuts can also help maintain your sodium levels.

Putting the list together

The list below includes the basic emergency supply items you’ll need to include in a comprehensive winter survival kit:

Car-related items:

  • Snow brush

  • Ice scraper

  • Tire pressure gauge

  • Sandbags or tire traction mats

  • Tow straps and/or a small bumper mounted winch

  • Jumper cables

  • A spare gas can

  • Jack and ground mat for changing a tire (if not included with your spare tire)

  • An oversized lug wrench

  • Basic repair tools and some duct tape for temporarily repairing things like leaky hoses

  • Paper towels for cleaning

  • Extra windshield washer fluid rated to below 0 degrees F

  • Maps of your local and regional areas

  • Tire chains

Personal and general survival items:

  • Gloves, a change of clothes, and an insulated winter coat

  • An overnight hygiene bag

  • A flashlight or headlamp

  • Extra batteries for flashlights

  • An extra USB battery pack

  • A medical kit with extra prescription medications (if needed)

  • Non-perishable food items like granola bars, protein bars, and dried fruit

  • Bottled drinking water stored in an insulated container so it won't freeze

  • Hand warmers or emergency candles

  • Emergency blankets

Car emergency kit summary

Preparation is key when it comes to winter driving. You never know when you will find yourself in a winter storm survival situation. Having your winter emergency car kit in your car truck is a great insurance policy to help you get back home.

With an emergency kit on hand, you’ll always have what you need to call for help, keep yourself safe, stay warm, and potentially even get your car back on the road. Winter is fast approaching, and snowy roads can be unkind to drivers. Get packing, and you’ll have the equipment to stay safe in even the most difficult conditions.

Winter car kit FAQs

  • What is a winter car kit? A winter car kit is a set of preparedness gear which is kept in your vehicle. It contains essential items that can help protect you from adverse weather and conditions if you become stuck in the snow or stranded in a blizzard.

  • What should be in a winter car kit? A winter car kit should contain the items you need to stay safe if you become stranded while driving in the snow. The kit should include a snow brush, ice scraper, a flashlight, a pair of jumper cables, a snow shovel, winter gloves, a change of clothes, an insulated winter coat, an overnight hygiene bag, extra batteries for flashlights, an extra USB battery pack, a medical kit with extra prescription medications (if needed), emergency blankets, hand warmers or emergency candles, and other similar items. Also keep some non-perishable food items like granola bars, protein bars, and dried fruit, and bottled drinking water stored in an insulated container so it won't freeze.

  • Where should you store your winter car kit? Emergency car kits can contain a lot of survival gear and clothing depending on how you build it. It is best to store the kit in a large backpack or storage bin out of sight in your trunk or hide it under a pull cover if you have an uncovered trunk storage area.

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