Last updated on February 1st, 2019
As you travel in your car during the winter months, consider these important preparedness items kept in your vehicle. Your survival may even depend on it.
The fact is, we’re not always dressed appropriately for an emergency when we hop in the car to go somewhere. 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:
Scarf. Not the thin decorative type, but a substantial warm scarf.
Gloves. Not the cheap kind with no insulation, but something warm with ‘Thinsulate’ or other insulation.
Hat. A warm pullover hat that will also cover your ears. Fleece is a good insulator.
Poncho. 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.
Jacket. 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.
Blanket. A wool blanket is a very good choice, or fleece. Keep one for each person that typically travels in your vehicle.
Water. 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.
Backpack. A simple shoulder bag or light backpack to carry a bit of gear (food/water) if you have to walk out.
Food. Food bars are a good calorie dense and light weight emergency supply to keep in the car. Put a bunch of them in a zip-lock or container and keep out of the sun.
Shovel. Since we’re talking about winter, keep a small shovel in case you need to dig out of a slippery situation.
Ice Scraper. You probably already have one, but double check to be sure.
Snow Brush. Self explanatory.
Windshield Washer Fluid. Keep extra of the kind that will not freeze. 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…
Tire chains. Just buy a set that matches the size tire on your vehicle. Practice putting them on once, so you know how.
Sand, Salt. You can buy conveniently sized containers of this stuff to keep in your trunk.
Flashlight. Keep at least one decent LED flashlight in the car. Regularly check the batteries.
Jumper cables. An already weak car battery will become even weaker when it’s very cold.
Cash. 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?
72-Hour Kit. Although a typical kit may include some of the items above, here’s one article which may give you more ideas. 72 Hour Emergency Kit.
Full Gas Tank. Get in the habit of keeping your gas tank as full as possible. Not only providing more range, but if you’re ever stranded you will then be able to run your vehicle’s heater much longer.
Note: 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.
Note: 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.
Note: 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).
Note: 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).
Note: 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 items to keep in your vehicle during the winter season.
Any further ideas?