Welcome Winter. Winter brings about some hazardous conditions that could put travelers in danger. Icy roads, snow drifts, bald tires, lack of all wheel drive. So many things to consider when traveling in the winter. Obviously, as a driver, use your best judgement on whether or not it’s safe to hit the road. No matter the road conditions, if you are in an area with snow and cold, an emergency kit should be in your trunk.
Every Minnesotan has an ice scraper in their vehicle, but there is more gear needed as a winter driver. I’ve compiled a list of items to include in your Emergency Winter Kit. When the need arises, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Phone Charger & Phone ($varies)– Most everyone carries their phone with them. Keep your phone charged at all times, a dead phone is useless.
I once made an emergency call to my husband with only 8% battery left. My hand was crushed in a metal dog door handle and the jam. I was able to send off a picture of the drill bit needed to free my hand and my location before my phone died. I still don’t have full feeling in my middle finger. Had it take much longer, I’d likely be down a digit. He got to me in 10 minutes rather than hours after he would have realized I hadn’t returned at my usual time.
**Communicate** Let people know where you are going, when you get there and when you plan to return. Safety first!
First Aid Kit ($20)– A well stocked first aid kit can assist in simple sliver removals to major bleeds. Be sure to have a first aid manual in your kit. You may have the knowledge to use the equipment, but if you are the one in distress that knowledge doesn’t help you.
I learned my lesson on traveling without a first aid kit the hard way. While biking to a waterfall my dog, Xena, made a mistake causing me to flip over my handlebars on a gravel trail. The following day, I purchased and stocked a first aid kit to toss in my day-pack.
Jumper Cables ($15)– Extreme cold can kill a car battery. A set of jumper cables should be kept in every vehicle.
Spare Tire ($varies) & Tire Changing Kit ($50)– Having a spare tire in or under your vehicle is useless if you don’t have a portable jack and tire iron to accompany it. Don’t rely on passersby to have the tools you need. You may just find yourself on a seldomly traveled road with nothing but a tire that can’t be put on.
Small Shovel ($15)– Having a folding shovel in the car have help get you out of drifts and banks that have trapped you or another driver. In extreme emergencies, it can be used to dig a snow shelter.
Non-clumping Kitty Litter ($3)– Sometimes we just get stuck on ice or packed snow. It happens, sprinkling some kitty litter will help get traction for your tires and get you on your way.
Knife/Multitool ($10)– You never know when or for what you’ll need a knife. I’ve needed a knife in so many different situations. It’s just a good idea to always have one on hand, but in case you forget one, have one in your emergency kit.
Window Marker ($4)– These markers are great for letting others know that you need help, have already gotten help and leaving the date on your vehicle to let authorities know when this vehicle was left.
Gloves and Hat ($10)– Keep a pair of gloves and a hat in your kit. When a car repair becomes necessary, gloves rapidly become essential.
Gear To Consider
Rechargeable Spot Light ($22)– A spot light comes in handy with breakdowns that occur at night, giving you a light source to fix your vehicle. Batteries lose their juice quickly in cold weather, a rechargeable light can be powered off of the car battery.
Tire Patch Kit ($10)– Having a patch kit at your disposal can aid in repairing a tire rather than changing it. Speaking from experience, it’s much easier to fix the hole from a nail or screw than to change the whole darn thing. Keep in mind, you’ll need a lighter to be stored along with the kit to burn off the extra rubber from the tire plug.
Portable Tire Inflator ($23) and Pressure Gauge ($2)– As you can see, I’m putting a lot of emphasis on tire care. No tires, no travel. My portable tire inflator has been my most frequently used item of all of my roadside kit items.
Warming Packs ($5-10)– These will be greatly appreciated when stranded in cold temperatures or even returning to the vehicle after a cold winter ski adventure. Single use warming packs are a regular item I like to toss into my day pack as well, great for little kid fingers and toes.
Duffle Bag/Tote ($varies)– Not all vehicles come with a storage compartment. A simple tote or duffle bag will do the trick. I prefer the duffle as it’s easier to grab and carry in an emergency.
Extreme Situation Items
Road Flares ($8)– In blizzard and white out conditions, it’s difficult to spot a vehicle in the ditch, especially when you aren’t even sure where the road is. Best thing about these; the cold can’t drain the battery, there is no battery.
Blanket/Sleeping Bag ($10-50)– We have a small blanket for our kids for everyday use, it makes for a cozy ride in the car. For emergencies, we have a spare sleeping bag in the kit. If stranded in dangerous conditions it is imperative to keep the body warm to prevent hypothermia.
Full Change of Clothes ($varies)– Have a full change of winter clothes in a zip-lock bag for each person who regularly rides in your vehicle. If someone becomes wet for some reason, it is important to get them out of wet clothing and keep them dry.
Basic Tools ($varies)– Having a few tools like screwdrivers, small hammer, and a pliers are helpful in many situations.
Rope ($4)– Rope is such a versatile tool. It can be used for making splints on an sprained ankle, erecting a temporary shelter, making a bow sting for a fire starter, hanging a pot over a fire to melt snow for water. I keep a small coil of paracord in my kit. It’s light weight, strong, and compact.
Fire Starters ($2) & Waterproof Matches ($4)– Fire gives warmth and light. Being stranded in extreme temperatures might come down to how long you can keep yourself warm before help arrives. In remote areas, this can be longer. Having a way to create fire can be life saving. A couple of fire starters and water proof matches should be kept together. Finding wood to burn isn’t as hard as getting a fire started.
Candles ($5)– Candles are a more reliable source of light than flashlights. Batteries don’t last in extreme temperatures. Tea light candles work great for giving off light, be sure they come with a tin so wax doesn’t get on everything.
Hand Sanitizer ($3) & Toilet Paper ($1)– When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Keeping toilet paper and hand sanitizer in your vehicle is great year-round. Both of these can also help start fires. The alcohol in the sanitizer makes a surprisingly effective fire starter.
Snacks ($varies)– One way the body can keep itself warm is by digesting food. Keep high calorie snacks that don’t freeze or melt in your emergency kit.
Water Purifying Tablets ($9) & a Small Pot– Keeping water in your vehicle poses one single problem. It freezes. Water sources around you are also likely frozen. That leaves ice and snow unless you happen to be near a river that hasn’t frozen yet. Treating your water before drinking it will help keep you safe from parasites.
Free Printable available for your own personal use, be prepared and be safe!