Winter weather is notoriously unpredictable. Sudden snowstorms, hail, and freezing rain all make for extremely difficult and dangerous driving conditions – according to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 25% of crashes occur on icy or snowy roads. Getting stuck because of snow or ice can also quickly turn into a survival situation if you’re not prepared. In many parts of the country, the nearest snowplow is hours or even days away, so you must be self-sufficient if you are stuck out on the roads. What is essential for your own winter emergency car kit?
Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to prepare yourself for winter driving and unexpected emergencies on the road. Let’s look at 11 items that you should keep in your car this winter to be better prepared.
11 Survival Items For Your Winter Emergency Car Kit
1) Ice Scraper
The reality of winter is that your windshield is likely to ice over almost anytime you leave your car out in the cold. To be safe, you need to clear off the entire windshield, your mirrors, and your back windshield before heading out on the road. Get a quality ice scraper that has a long handle and a built-in snow brush so you can easily clear snow and ice off the roof of your car after a storm. Very basic snow gear for those who live in it, but you would be surprised sometimes!
2) Snow Shovel
It only takes a couple inches of snow to make it difficult to move your car. A compact (preferably folding) snow shovel can help you dig out your car after a big storm, as well as help you extract your car if you end up in a snow bank. There are plenty of miniature snow shovels available that won’t take up too much space in your car. Here is a great option:
3) Tire Chains
If you plan to go anywhere during or immediately after a snowstorm and don’t have your car outfitted with snow tires, tire chains are essential for getting traction on the road. Make sure you plan ahead when getting tire chains - they have to fit the width and diameter of your tires, so local shops don’t always have the right size in stock if you go the day before a storm. Check out these universal sets that can fit most makes and models:
4) Salt, Sand, or Kitty Litter
When you can’t get yourself unstuck from a snow bank just using your shovel, adding some traction to the snow can help. In conditions that are close to freezing, rock salt can actually melt some of the snow and ice to allow your wheels to make contact with the road surface. Sand and kitty litter are both effective at giving your tires something to grab onto on the surface of the snow.
5) Road Flares or Hazard Triangles
In the event you do get stuck or slide off the road, it’s important to make sure that other drivers know you’re there so they don’t hit you. Road flares or reflective hazard triangles are extremely noticeable and can be placed as far up the road from your car as you need to warn other cars. They’ll also allow anyone who’s coming to tow your car or provide help to find your car easily. With LED technology, today's road flares don’t need to be a fire hazard anymore. Check these out here:
6) Extra Clothing and Blankets
Hopefully, having everything else on this list means that you won’t find yourself stuck for an extended time. But, if that does happen, you need to be prepared to hunker down in winter weather. Stock your car with heavy jackets and blankets, snow pants, warm socks, gloves, a hat, and anything else you need to stay warm. Hand warmers and snow boots are also a good idea.
7) Food and Water
If you’re preparing to be stuck in your car for several hours, food and water are also essential. Stocking snack bars and water can be the difference between a long wait and a survival situation if you get stuck during a particularly bad storm. Even if help is on the way, you’ll be more comfortable for waiting in your car if you have something to eat. Consider that your water will likely be frozen in the winter if you keep it in your car – it may not be readily available to drink.
Winter nights are long, so it’s a good idea to keep a flashlight around your car (here is a great spotlight option). Having a light makes it much easier to dig out your car in the dark or to signal for help if you need it. Also keep a few of these handy to light up the car while you wait:
9) Portable Battery Charger
In most cases, you’ll be able to call for help if you need it, even in the midst of a winter storm. But, that’s only true if your cellphone has battery left – and battery life can disappear notoriously quickly in the cold. Keep a portable battery charger and a charging cable in your car so you never have to worry about not being able to call in an emergency.
10) Jumper Cables
Winter cold can quickly drain car batteries, especially if you leave your car outside overnight. If you carry jumper cables in your car, you’ll have a much easier time finding someone who can help you get your engine running again. You might also want to consider a jumper generator, which will let you jump your battery on your own like this:
11) Tow Cable
If you keep a tow cable in the car, you might be able to save the cost of a tow truck after getting stuck in a snow bank. Often, after you’ve dug out your car enough, it just needs a little bit of a pull to get it moving again. A tow cable will let you get that pull from any good samaritan with a pickup truck who stops to help you.
Staying Safe While Driving this Winter
Winter weather can be extremely hazardous if you spend a lot of time on the road. But by stocking your car with these 11 essential items, you can make sure that your prepared for whatever Old Man Winter throws at you.