Emergency Kit Checklist for Safer Winter Driving

Living in a climate that can provide severe Winters means it’s vital to make sure you are adequately prepared for those seasonal changes when they come.  Below-zero temperatures and snowfall can mean life-threatening situations for the unprepared.

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Don’t Get Stranded in Winter

Winterizing your car should be considered an essential task for anyone living in a region that is expecting a cold season, especially in these days of climate change and unpredictable weather, and that includes having an emergency kit in your vehicle in case the worst happens.

Knowing what to put in your kit isn’t always obvious so read on for our essential winter car emergency kit list.

Our Essential Winter Car Emergency Kit List

The Basics

We’re calling these items “basics” because you should consider them essential things to have in your car any time of the year, not just during Winter weather.

A first aid kit is the most obvious item to add. What should be inside that first aid kit could fill an entire article of its own, but as a rough and ready guide you should have at least the following items;

  • Band-aides
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Bandages
  • Adhesive tape

Another item that is worth keeping in your car at all times is some multi-tool. One example of this is a Swiss Army Knife, though there are alternatives. A compact-yet-powerful torch is also an excellent addition.

Safety First

An emergency winter kit for your car should serve many purposes. First and foremost, it should be able to keep you safe. Even in cold weather we often leave the house under-dressed, particularly if we are driving between two places and don’t expect to be spending much—if any—time outside.

If something goes wrong, however, you may find your clothes not up to the challenge of keeping you warm.  You should always pack a blanket or two in your kit, as well as additional smaller items of clothing such as mittens, socks, and hats.

If you find yourself stuck in a snowdrift or broken down at the side of the road in a blizzard, you have enough to worry about without losing your fingers to frostbite as well!

Tools

Once you can be relatively sure you won’t immediately freeze to death, the next thing to think about is tools that might help you get out of any sticky situation.

At the very minimum, pack an ice scraper and a snow brush. In particularly bad weather, you may find your windscreen wipers overwhelmed. Or, if you have to pull over for any length of time, you may need to be able to clear your windscreen manually.

On the same theme, it can be handy to have a can of de-icer in your kit.

Beyond that, it’s time to start thinking about more dangerous situations. A small compact snow shovel should be considered an absolute essential in any winter kit. Being able to dig yourself out of a patch of deep snow could put a quick end to a very stressful situation.  Particular if you travel on long stretches of a mostly deserted highway where passing traffic isn’t frequent.

You should also pack a pair of quality jump leads. Being trapped in the snow can often result in a flat battery as you use your lights and heaters, so you’ll want a way to get going again when help arrives.

Be sure to get quality jump leads because low-quality ones can very quickly melt if they are not up to the task.

Plan for the Worst

If you get trapped or stranded in winter weather, your kit should be able to help you get by until either help arrives or you can get out of your predicament.

Try to keep a selection of food and drink in your emergency kit; bottled water should be a bare minimum. If you want to go all out, you can look into food rations with long shelf lives.

These will often be dehydrated or condensed, and pack a lot of nutrition into a small package, though they will be more expensive than your regular groceries.

Other items to consider for the worst-case scenarios are reflective warning triangles (included with many cars these days) and road flares.

Bear in mind that if you set a reflective triangle up and are trapped in heavy snow for some time, you may need to get out and clear snow off of the triangle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need Snow Chains?

For most people, snow chains are overkill unless they live in an area where snow chains are necessary for much of the year. They are a bit cumbersome for packing into an emergency kit; however, there are alternatives such as snow socks, which wrap around your wheels.

How Much Should I Put in my Kit?

It can be easy to go overboard and fill your car with emergency supplies that you might never need. Finding the right balance between preparedness and practicality can be tricky, but consider the likelihood of needing each item you put in your kit.

Also, consider the amount of space it takes up. As an example, the snow chains mentioned above are bulky and probably unnecessary in moderate climates. Snow socks would be equally as unnecessary, but take up hardly any space.

How Do I Stay Warm if Stranded in the Snow?

In addition to making use of all the blankets and extra clothes you’ve packed into your emergency kit after reading this post, you can also use your car itself.

Running the engine will keep the heater warm, which in turn will keep you warm. However, you should try to use it sparingly; you don’t know how long your fuel will have to last.

Also, if you are trapped in heavy snow, you will have to periodically check your exhaust to make sure it is not buried in snow. A blocked tailpipe will essentially suffocate the engine and cause it to stall.

Our Essential Winter Car Emergency Kit List in Full

  • First aid kit
  • Multi-tool of some kind
  • Torch
  • Blankets
  • Mittens, hats, and other additional warm clothes
  • Ice scraper
  • Snow shovel
  • Reflective warning triangle and road flares
  • Jump leads
  • Water
  • Emergency food
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