With winter coming, it’s time to update and rotate the car emergency kits! For winter driving in particular, here are 11 essential survival items to have in your trunk:
1. Water. If the water is kept in a box/tote/etc. in your trunk, it actually doesn’t freeze as quickly as you might think it would. Open the bottles and pour a bit out, then re-close them if you’re afraid of them freezing and bursting.
2. Food. Think high protein, something filling. Maybe one of these homemade survival bars. Or the commercial types. Jerky would be good also. Keeping some food in your belly will help keep you warm and provide energy if you’re stuck or have to hike out of somewhere.
3. A way to make fire. Waterproof matches, a lighter or two, fire starters, whatever you need to be able to get a fire going.
4. Blankets. You’ll probably be pulling these out even if there is no emergency, but for sure you’ll be glad you have them if you’re stuck on the side of the road in the winter for even an hour! The thrift store is a great place to look for used wool or other warm blankets.
5. A good knife and/or multi-tool. There is nothing so sacred about your vehicle that you couldn’t use parts of it to stay alive. But how are you going to cut your car seats and seatbelts into modified snowshoes without a good knife?
6. A shovel. Slide off the road into a snowbank and a shovel can mean the difference between being stuck there and digging 3 feet of snow out of your way and getting back on the road.
7. Gloves. Some sturdy, warm, work-in-able gloves would be best.
8. Light. There are fewer hours of daylight in the winter and the chances of something happening when it’s dark out are pretty good. Keep a good flashlight handy and make sure the batteries are charged or fresh.
9. First aid kit. Important stuff. If you can help yourself or your passengers before medical help arrives, you’re that much better off.
10. Communications. Keep your cell phone, CB, or ham radio charged and in the vehicle with you. This doesn’t need to be in your trunk–it would be better up front where you can get to it and use it easily. Help may be just minutes away if you have a method of contacting someone.
11. Spare tire, jack, and tire iron. This should be a given to be in your trunk, but check your spare’s air pressure, make sure you know where your jack is and how to use it, and make sure you have a way to get those lug nuts loosened and tightened back up! Changing a flat tire in the snow is no fun, but it would be better to have the means of getting it done and getting back on the road than having to wait for someone to rescue you.
Just a few items in your trunk can mean the difference between a miserable, possibly life threatening experience on the road and coming out alive and well. Now’s as good a time as ever to get those winter supplies in the trunk, especially before you start that holiday traveling!
How about you? What would you add?
Keep preparing! Angela
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Practical Parsimony says
Keep a car charger for your cell phone. My car cigarette lighter and charger can recharge the phone even if the car is not on. It is virtually impossible to make sure the cell is charged everytime I enter the car. During the tornado that left us without power for five days, I just went to the car and plugged in the phone. I understand that some car cigarette lighters or the charger itself does not always charge with the car off, so that would be a good thing to test instead of depending on it to work with your combination of cigarette light and charger.
Don’t use rechargeable batteries. Cold kills them, zaps the charge right out of them. I found this out when I had a camera that used batteries. Now, I have lithium batteries and this is not a problem. Summer use is best for rechargeable batteries. Or, you can keep them in your pocket, not allowing them to hit each other on the end. I do use rechargeable batteries, and I have lots in all sizes. Of course, if you have a battery charger that will charge from a cigarette lighter, no problem.
Also, I read that if you have nothing to drink, you should not eat. Juice from canned food would count as water. I had never heard not to eat if you could not drink. So, maybe or not?
If you have different information, I have no problem with your correcting me.
Not eating if you have nothing to drink seems a bit extreme as some foods have a fairly high water content on their own. You wouldn’t want to eat super dry foods, salty things, etc. that would get you dehydrated, so just consider the type of food you have if you have no water available before eating it. I have water in the trunk so I should be able to eat what I need. :)
Polish prepper says
You also wouldn’t want to eat food that’s high in protein as digesting proteins requires a lot of water.
Jennifer W. says
It makes sense not to eat salty or dry things if you have nothing to drink. Doing so would make you dehydrate faster. However, if you get stuck on the side of the road in winter, and there’s snow, you can melt the snow to drink. You don’t want to just eat it because that will lower your body temperature fast and use more energy to warm you up again.
Practical Parsimony says
I don’t think the article was talking about not to eat an apple or a can of peaches. But, somehow, you will end up in worse shape by eating and not drinking than by refraining from eating if you cannot drink. It did not specify salty or juicy. So, I read it on the internet which we all trust to give us the gospel truth, right?
However, I do have experience with the rechargeable batteries in my camera going dead in the cold…lol.
Had a reader email that she keeps kitty litter in her car to use for traction. I’ve heard of this before but never tried it. Anyone tried using kitty litter for traction on icy or snowy spots?
If you use kitty litter for traction, get the plain clay kind, not the clumping kind. It works fine for putting under tires when you’re stuck in snow, or when your tires are spinning on ice, but it doesn’t hold up very well when it gets soggy-wet. Then it just turns into gloppy gunk!
Sand is a better option. You can buy large sandbags in waterproof sacks at any Home Depot or Lowe’s, and put them in your trunk or the bed of your truck. It provides the extra weight that most vehicles don’t have on the rear end, which stabilizes the car while you’re driving, and if you need to open one up to actually pour the sand for traction because you got stuck, it’s right there. When freezing weather is over and I don’t actually need the sand bags in my vehicle, I just store them in the garage or on bare dirt next to my garden.
My dad, a former Marine, always made sure I had a 5 gallon bucket of regular kitty litter in the trunk. It’s come in handy more than a few times. First off, it adds additional weight to the back tires if you need to get traction. Second kitty litter works great on snow or ice to create traction. I’ve used it to get out of slippery situations for myself and other motorists. Today I make sure that I always have water, blankets & kitty litter in my trunk in the winter.
Someone You Know says
I have used kitty litter, the inexpensive clay type. It sucks to put it kindly. The clay-type cat litter turns to mud, once it comes into contact with water.
Jeanne S. is right, sand is a lot better as traction control. I have used it for many years, here in …
Instead of keeping the sand in the tubes (It’s called tube sand around here) I keep the sand in used 2 1/2 gallon jugs. It’s easier to pour, and the jugs last a lot longer then the tubes. Plus, the jugs allow you to easily carry the sand when you transfer it to the garage, in the spring.
For folks worried about the water issue. If there is snow on the ground, scoop it up, place it in a container, wait for it to melt, then drink it. If you heat the container, make sure to push the snow down every once in awhile. The melting snow creates a dome that slows the snow from melting. Plus, in a pinch, you can use your body heat to melt the snow. Just make sure its in a container ; – )
Almost lastly, Frank Zappa was right “”Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow” and Never, eat snow; it lowers your body temperature possibly causing hypothermia.
Lastly, thanks Practical Parsimony for the tip on carrying a car charger for our cellphones. It’s a neat idea.
Chains, tow strap, jumper cables, small tarp (to lay on to get the chains right).
Migs (El Guapo) Martinez says
I recommend Duct Tape, comes in handy for a million things! I also recommend a compact portable stove for heating water\snow! MRE’s aren’t very tasty but come w\instant coffee\drink, and food, keep it in the glove-box. Lastly, a book or magazine to read in case you’re waiting for help to arrive! Stay safe and keep warm! -Windy City
I would keep an extra complete change of clothes, in case what your wearing got wet. Nothing makes me colder than wet socks.
Lighters get cold in a car during the winter, and you would have to warm it up in your hand to be able to get a full sized flame, so I would keep the matches.
Flares would be a good addition to keep in the truck, in case you can’t get your self out, you can at least signal to other drivers or police where you’re at for help, so you don’t have to wait outside your car.
I keep $50 in my car, in case I forget my wallet or if any services I need is cash only (like towing or motel).
North Dakota says
Kitty litter or sand for traction on ice, a metal coffee can and emergency candles for heat, and mylar blankets because they are compact and efficient, extra dry gloves/ hat/sweater/sweats in case you walk and get wet. and of course, a regular roadside kit with jumper cables and the basics. and never let your tank get below half a tank if your on a roadtrip in the winter.
North Dakota says
The coffee can and candle can be used as heat if you absolutely can’t move, but if you just get some snow in your tires, it can be used to melt it and get you back on the road.
If you have room for heavy kitty litter and sand why not just buy chains for your drive wheels? If needed, just use your car mats for temporary traction. Don’t mess with sand or kitty litter. There is an adhesive spray on traction that works for temporary situations also.
a candle can keep you from freezing. it gives off enough heat
There are a lot of good suggestions here. My first item is a woolen watch cap, most of your heat loss is from your head. Second, woolen socks. Third, for ladies who wear skirts and dresses, sweat pants. Fourth, Hot Hands hand warmers. Fifth,a pee can: if you think you can hold it for a day or two, you are wrong and peeing on the floor, wetting yourself or going outside are all bad ideas.
I’d strongly recommend a pair of boots with a rubber tread sole and a pair of coveralls. A pair of ice cleats to slip over your boots in slippery conditions is also advisable if you live in an area that can get icy. If you’ve ever tried to walk around in snow and ice with dress shoes on, you know how quickly that will get your feet wet, or more ominously, cause you to slip and fall. If you have to get down on your hands and knees to spread your kitty litter or sand around your tires, or worse, help push your car out of the snow or a ditch, the overalls will help you keep your dress clothes from being ruined. If you don’t have a lot of storage space for your gear, look for the waterproof Tyvek painter’s coveralls they sell in the paint section of most hardware stores. They’re light and easy to pack away.
North dakota says
ALWAYS keep kitty litter on hand! Hand warmers are nice too.
I also pack glow sticks. I buy them on sale (usually $1-$2 a pack) around Halloween. They can be used for as a light source and can also be taken outside the car if needed. I also pack small flashlights for similar purpose. Along with the matches and lighter, I also pack newspaper wrapped around a small bunch of kindling.