As you travel during the winter months, consider the important survival gear items to keep in your car. Your literal survival may even depend on it.
Example: Stranded on the highway, stuck in a major snow storm or ice storm, along with everyone else. The cars are running out of gas. No heat. Now what? Hypothermia sets in…
Here’s a real world example that is occurring as I post this article:
The fact is, we’re not always dressed appropriately for an emergency when we hop in the car to go somewhere during the winter. We assume that everything will be alright. During the winter, it’s especially important to have adequate warm clothing and protection form the elements. Even if you’re not wearing them, it is highly advisable to keep a separate dedicated set of cold-weather gear in the car (e.g. an extra jacket is better there than hanging in your closet at home).
Here are a few ideas to consider:
List Of Winter Survival Gear For Your Car
Full Gas Tank
I’ll start with this… Get in the habit of keeping your gas tank as full as possible. Not only providing more range, but if you’re ever stranded in the winter, you will then be able to run your vehicle’s heater much longer.
Keep one of your extra jackets in the car. If you ever need to double up, or if you simply do not have adequate outerwear protection when you need it, this could be a life saver. If you don’t have an extra jacket, keep a sweatshirt, sweater, or ‘something’ warm!
A wool blanket is a very good choice of winter survival gear for your car. Or a fleece blanket. Keep one extra blanket in the car for each person that typically travels in your vehicle.
A warm pullover hat that will also cover your ears. Fleece is a good insulator. I have lots of hats. And there’s always an extra one in my ‘glove box’.
Not the cheap kind with no insulation, but something warm with ‘Thinsulate’ or other insulation. Mittens are great too.
Not the thin decorative type, but a substantial warm scarf. A scarf makes a big difference keeping warm.
A rain poncho provides a significant protection from developing hypothermia if you need to walk far in a cold rain (assuming you have a proper jacket underneath!).
Walking Shoes/ Boots
Depending on your climate and geography, this might be sneakers or hiking boots. You may not always be wearing shoes that are good for walking, so this is a good thing to keep in the car just in case. Keep a pair of warm socks with them too.
I always have a box of these hand warmers (amzn) at the ready during the winter months. Multiple uses, including keeping some in your car!
Food bars are a good calorie-dense and light weight emergency food to keep in the car. Put a bunch of them in a zip-lock or container and keep out of the sun.
Even having a few water bottles sitting in your cup holders will be better than nothing. If you have to hoof it, water bottles are easy to carry or throw in a bag.
A simple shoulder bag or light backpack to carry a bit of gear (food/water) if you have to walk out.
Since we’re talking about winter, keep a small shovel in case you need to dig out of a slippery situation.
You probably already have one, but double check to be sure.
Windshield Washer Fluid
Keep extra of the kind that will not freeze (sub zero for me). There are lots of washer fluid varieties that will not hold up to freezing temperatures, so check the label.
Newly Installed Windshield Wiper Blades
There’s nothing worse than not being able to see out of a partially icy slushy streaking window while your old wiper blades are barely clearing away the mess. Dangerous…
A tow strap to pull yourself or others out of a snow drift. If you get stuck, other drivers may stop to help but rarely will they have a tow strap. I always have at least one of those flat tow straps in the truck (example).
If you feel that you might ever need them, just buy a set that matches the size tire on your vehicle. Practice putting them on! Don’t just put them in the trunk without knowing how to install them.
You can buy conveniently sized containers of this stuff to keep in your trunk. Obviously used for traction if you get stuck.
Keep at least one decent LED flashlight in the car. Regularly check the batteries.
An already weak car battery will become even weaker when it’s very cold. What if you need a jump to get the engine started? Or maybe a Lithium Jump Starter Pack (amzn).
Keep a small cash stash in the vehicle for an emergency situation where you might need it. Don’t be tempted to use it for non-emergencies. If you do use it, replenish it immediately.
Cell Phone Charger
You have a cell phone, but do you keep a car charger inside the car at all times?
Although a typical kit may include some of the items above, here’s one article which may give you more ideas.
If you are thinking about keeping a bag of Kitty Litter for winter traction, think again. Apparently for the majority of varieties, if you look closely at the bags contents it may indicate “clay” as the main component. What do you get if you mix clay with snow or slushy water and add some heat from the friction of a spinning tire??? You get mud. So now, your car is stuck in snowy mud. Instead, consider using sand, or very fine pea gravel. A strip of old carpet forced under the leading edge of a tire might work too.
Foods Might Freeze
During the winter, any food that you keep in the car which is ‘moist’ (canned foods, etc.) will potentially freeze, making it nearly impossible to eat. So during the winter keep dry foods for emergency storage.
Water Might Freeze
Similarly, keeping water in the vehicle (at all times) will also freeze (and potentially crack the container). The only way I know of to get around this issue during the winter (in regions where it’s often below freezing) is to simply get in the habit of bringing a fresh supply of water bottles every time you go out and drive (especially if on a long trip). I keep water bottles in a small cooler which helps moderate the temperature swings.
Focus on Warmth, Warm Clothing
One of the worst case scenarios would be getting stranded during heavy snowfall whereby you (and others) literally cannot drive any further. Depending on where this happens and the severity of the situation, will affect your potential rescue. The best case under this scenario would be in a populated location where you can walk a relatively short distance to shelter and safety. Worst case, you’re way out on the freeway somewhere in the boonies. To survive, you will need to stay warm. Please focus on your warmth, clothing, including footwear, in the event you have to stay in your vehicle for a long time or to walk away (only if shelter and safety is in sight or certain).
Danger of Carbon Monoxide In Your Vehicle
If stranded in your vehicle in deep snow, while the engine is running (for warmth) you MUST keep your vehicle’s exhaust pipe clear of accumulating snow or you will suffer (or die) from carbon monoxide poisoning.
That’s a start… Hopefully this will get you thinking about specific WINTER survival gear for your car.
Any further ideas?
[ Read: Warmest Winter Blanket Material ]