It's that time of year when we bundle up in sweaters, hats, and scarves. As we venture outside to shovel snow or scrape ice off our windshields it can be easy to forget that there are some serious dangers on the road too. That is why you should make sure your car has a winter emergency kit! As we recently saw in Virginia where drivers were stranded in their cars for over 24-hours or in Northern California where there was 35-mile traffic jam due to snow.
This emergency kit differs from a traditional car emergency kit as you will need to be prepared for colder conditions and have ways to stay warm if need be. The good thing is if you already have a car emergency kit you will only need to add a few things to make it adequate for the winter months.
1) Keep in mind that you will need to be prepared for cold weather so make sure you have gloves, blankets, extra clothes, hats and coats. A sleeping bag is also a great choice because they are compact and are designed to keep you warm.
2) Your body will be burning more calories than normal when you are in the cold so make sure you have some food that is high in calories and is easy to store for extended periods of time.
3) Fill a container with water, but make sure you don't fill it completely full. If it is cold enough, the water will freeze and it needs room to expand. It is important to keep hydrated when the temperature drops because if you become dehydrated it can increase your risk of hypothermia. You can also use a stainless steel insulated water bottle. There is less risk of the water freezing and you won't have to worry about plastic water bottles cracking and getting all of your gear wet.
4) Keep a flashlight and extra batteries in your car kit. You may need it if it is dark and you are stuck on the side of the road during a storm. The flashlight will also be beneficial inside your car if it is dark. You will want to preserve your car battery as much as possible and a flashlight will mean you won't need to use the car battery for light. A flashlight is also good for signaling other drivers or rescue personnel.
5) If you have any pets with you make sure they will be warm. You need to make sure you have an extra blanket, food and water for them.
6) It is important to be prepared for anything and that includes having a shovel, scraper, and, or an ice scraper in your car kit. You want to make sure you can clear the snow and ice from your windshield. If you get stuck in snow, you may be able extricate yourself with a shovel.
7) Don't forget about the basics like jumper cables as well as road flares or reflective warning triangles.
8) If you live in an area with heavy snow, you should add tire chains and a tow strap. Even if you don't need it, you don't know when you may have the opportunity to help someone else.
9) A small bag of cat liter, sand, or safety absorbent can help you regain traction on an icy road. With so many vehicles with 4-wheel or all wheel drive, it is important to know how to use these and also how the traction control works when only certain wheels are slipping.
10) No emergency kit would be complete without a good first aid kit. You can build one of these yourself or you can buy a pre-made first aid kit. Make sure you know how to use each item in the kit. Also, make sure you add any medications that are specific to you and your family.
Once you have everything gathered, it is a good idea to pack it all together. If everything is together, you won't need to worry if you forgot something or if something was misplaced. We recommend a large bag like the Smuggler Duffel Bag. This bag comes in three different sizes so you will be able to get a bag that fits your requirements. Plus, this bag doubles as a backpack so it is easier to carry than a standard duffel bag.
AAA has some great suggestions including tips for driving in the snow, what to do if you get stuck, and more. You can see those tips here.
As with all emergencies, if you plan ahead and understand how to deal with the situation you will be much better off. Did we forget something or is there something you keep in your winter car emergency kit, please let us know in the comments.
We had created a FREE winter emergency car kit checklist. This list goes more into depth with the various items you may need and is a great resource for putting your winter emergency car kit together.