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Do you have a winter car kit? Even if your area does not often receive snow and ice, it’s still a great idea to have one. You never know when you may break down and need an item from it. I’ve seen a lot of people who -for whatever reason – overwhelm the emergency kits they keep in their car; especially in the winter. In reality, there are only 19 items you desperately need in your winter car kit.
Lately it seems as if winters have been getting harsher and harsher. Colder temperatures, more ice and more snow make winter driving all the more dangerous. That is why it’s so important to have a winter car kit that can help keep you – or your family – safe and warm in an emergency where you are stuck in your car.
Must Have Items for Your Winter Car Kit
You will need something to keep your winter car emergency kit together and organized. I personally use an 18-gallon Rubbermaid tote, but you should use whatever works best for your family.
Side Note: If you would rather not worry about putting a kit together yourself, you can buy a pre-made emergency car kit instead. They generally have most of what you should have so you would only need to add a few things.
The last thing you want though is for everything to be floating, bumping and getting tossed around because it isn’t container.
That tends to make it pretty hard to find things when you need them.
How to Build a Winter Emergency Kit for Your Car
As we go through this list of things you need in your winter car kit, I will do my best to explain why.
Some of them may not be exactly obvious if I don’t explain it. As always, you should make your own decisions on what to add to your kit.
You know your situation far better than I do. These 19 items are just what I consider the absolute minimum.
Items for a Winter Car Emergency Kit
A good set of jumper cables is important any time of year but they’re especially important during colder months.
Cold weather can drain an already weak battery leaving you stranded when you least expect it.
A thick blanket
If you were to get stranded, having a thick blanket on hand can keep you warm without the need to run your car. If you are broken down, it may not be possible to heat your car with the engine so having a blanket may be one of your only ways to stay warm.
I personally prefer moving blankets for this. They are meant to be used in rugged moving situations so they’re tough, but they’re also incredibly warm.
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Road Flares with Orange Caution Triangle
There is nothing more dangerous than a car sitting on the side of the road, at night, with no lights. It is a great way to get hit by a car whose driver can not see you; especially if you are in a heavy rain or snow storm.
Emergency Battery Charger
How many times have you been out and about only to have your phone die? If your car won’t start and you need to charge to get help, what will you do?
Having a fully charged portable charging pack in your winter car kit will ensure that you can charge when you need to.
Spare Cell Phone Charging Cord
You probably already have a charging cord for your phone in your car, but having a spare one in your winter car emergency kit will cover you if the other breaks.
I know personally, my own cord gets moved around so often (because of where it plugs in at) that I go through them quite often.
Humans can become quite dehydrated very quickly. If something drastic would happen and you would find yourself broken down off the beaten path, you may need it.
Keeping 2-3 gallons of potable drinking water in your car gives you the water you need to drink but also the ability to keep your kids hydrated if they happen to be with you. If your kids – or you – won’t drink plain water, add a few water flavor packets with it.
Like water, food is important too. You won’t be broken down and cooking, but if you happen to be stranded for more than a couple of hours, you will get hungry.
Quick snacks like individual granola bars, individual packs of nuts, fruit roll ups and the like will help keep you fed while giving your body the energy it needs.
It is important when you choose snacks for your winter car emergency kit that you choose foods that are high in protein and not low carb. Your body will burn both protein and carbs trying to stay warm.
Clean and Warm Clothing
If you’re broken down in the winter, there is a good chance your clothes are going to get wet while you’re checking out your car or even walking for help.
This means – at the very least – you should keep a complete change of clothes including socks and shoes in your winter car emergency kit. You will be glad you did when you’re cold and wet.
In addition to a change of clothes, you should also keep a spare warm winter coat in your emergency kit.
Gloves and Hat
Keeping right with our theme of warm, dry clothes, spare gloves, hat and even a scarf are all a good idea.
Metal Coffee Can
This one might sound odd, but it goes with the next must have item on our list. Yes, you should keep a clean metal can in your cars winter emergency kit. It doesn’t matter what size, but a super small one – such as a soup can – will not work well.
Be sure to trim any sharp edges so no one gets cut.
You’ll need that coffee can to go with the tealight candles you should carry. The reason is this; believe it or not, those tealight candles can help to give your car a tiny bit of heat if you are stranded.
When you place the candle in a metal can, heat from the flame is reflected off the metal can. Since heat rises, it will be sent upwards into your car. It won’t provide a lot of heat, but it should be good enough to warm your hands, feet and face should you need to.
12 volt heater
These days most cars and trucks offer at least one 12 volt plug. Put this plug to use by carrying a 12v heater in your winter car kit.
They heat surprisingly well and may be the difference between cranky and cold kids and warm, cozy kids.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice, having a set of tire chains can be the difference between getting stuck and getting home.
Once you’ve purchased them, you should also make sure you know how to get them off and on quickly so you aren’t standing in the cold fighting them.
You might not think so, but a huge number of people who live in snowy climates do not own a simple ice scraper.
If you’re one of them, it is smart to carry one in your car. Iced windows make it hard to see when help is coming down the road.
Gas can with 5 gal. gas
It’s fairly uncommon to see someone run out of gas these days. It does happen though. To protect yourself from it happening when help is far away, carry a gas can with a few gallons worth of gas in it.
I would hope that checking the anti-freeze levels is part of your normal winter car preparation, but if not, consider carrying an extra bottle of anti-freeze in your car.
If your levels run low enough that it causes mechanical issues, you’ll be glad you have it.
Mylar emergency blankets are great for a lot of things. One of the best uses is to reflect heat back into a room or area.
Having a few – at least one for each window, your front and back windshield and your bodies will keep you warmer than you would believe.
Combine that with the 12v heater above and you will actually need to watch for sweating.
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Unused Cat Litter
Carrying cat litter is a secret of most people who have spent any time ins now and ice. Cat litter has many uses aside from the obvious and one of them is to help car tires get unstuck.
When you get stuck in snow and ice, part of the issue is usually that your tires can not get enough traction to get you out.
Sprinkling cat litter under your wheels can give you the traction you need.
Do you carry anything other than the 19 items we’ve listed?