Winter is filled with many defining characteristics: holidays, snow days, cold temperatures, and, of course, winter storms. Along with the inconvenience of winter storms, though, comes the danger of getting stuck in your car for long periods of time. This often occurs when snow or ice storms hit, creating unexpected traffic jams or causing road accidents that make it harder to get to your final destination. For these reasons, it’s vital to keep a winter car emergency kit and to keep it handy during these months.
Let’s start with the basics. A flashlight—complete with fresh batteries—make it easier to change a flat tire, check under the hood of your car, and to illuminate the inside of your vehicle after the sun has set. This is a definite must have in your emergency kit. Test your flashlight to ensure it works before you put it in your car for the winter and also pack some extra batteries.
First Aid Kit
In case of minor injuries, a first aid kit is important to have on hand in your winter car emergency kit. Pick up one from your local drug store or assemble one on your own with fresh materials.
You’ll also want some gear to help you get unstuck in the event that your car won’t budge due to snow. A reliable shovel is a good place to start in being prepared for this. Put a regular or foldable shovel in your trunk.
You’ll need to keep your windshield free of snow and ice if you want to drive safely, making a snow scraper and brush an absolute necessity. Invest in one that’s sturdy and that possesses a long handle. Having this on hand will work a lot more efficiently than your car’s defroster, especially in freezing temperatures.
Keep some water in your car to consume in the event that you do end up stuck. Staying hydrated is essential to staying healthy, so keeping a gallon or so in your trunk is a good insurance policy.
Again, in case you get stuck in your car for an extended period of time, you’re going to want to have a few easy-to-eat snacks on hand to keep your energy levels up. Granola bars or trail mix are yummy and healthy, making them easy to stow in your vehicle. Resist choosing foods that could become overly hard when they get cold for your kit, such as chocolate bars, as that could result in a chipped tooth. That’s the last thing you need on top of being stuck in the snow!
Warm Clothes and Blankets
Since you may not be able to leave your car running the entire time you’re stuck, it’s vital to have warm clothes and even blankets in your emergency kit to ward of hypothermia. Keep gloves, scarves, wool socks, hats, and even extra sweaters in your car. Also throw a blanket or two in as an added measure.
Car or Portable Phone Charger
Keeping your phone in working order is helpful in situations where you’ve been in an accident or are stuck. Since you won’t want to let your battery be depleted, keeping a car phone charger or a portable battery extender in your emergency kit is a smart idea. Remember to check the power on your external charger occasionally as it can lose energy over time.
Especially when it’s cold outside, car batteries are likely to fail. Jumper cables play a vital role in reviving your car so that you can make it to your destination safely. Definitely pack these in your kit.
Flares or Reflectors
When you’re stuck on the side of the road, you’ll want to be able to signal to other drivers that you’re there to avoid further trouble. Flares or reflectors help you to do so. Also consider adding a reflective safety vest to your kit to further identify yourself in dark or snowy conditions.
Keep your items well organized—perhaps all in one bag in an easy to reach area of your car. Also, to aid in winter driving safety, keep your fuel tank at least half full at all times and have your car checked for routine maintenance at the beginning of the season to ensure it’s in good working order before you hit the road.