By Amanda Tallent
Taking on the cold for your next trip? The winter season can bring some beautiful white wonderland scenes to your hiking trail or campground, totally transforming the landscape. While you’ve most likely packed proper clothing and gear for your trek, have you prepared your car for winter weather too? Winter weather conditions like snow, sleet, and ice can make simply getting to your starting destination a challenge.
If you plan on driving to your next adventure during the winter season, you should prepare your car with a winter emergency kit to keep you safe in any scenario. Icy road conditions may shut down roadways while heavy snow can make certain roads impassible, possibly leaving you stranded for hours on end. To stay warm, hydrated, and safe in these scenarios, there are a few items you should keep in your car just in case you find yourself in an emergency.
From a winter backpacking trip to hitting the slopes in Italy, don’t get on the road without these essentials packed away in your car:
- Ice scraper
- Snow shovel
- Flashlight and batteries
- Warm blanket
- First aid kit
- Reflective triangles
- Phone charger
- Kitty litter
- Jumper cables
Download and print these winter car emergency checklists and contact sheets to prepare for your next winter trip.
What to pack in your winter car emergency kit
If you have enough room in your trunk or backseat, pack the items into a large duffle bag or storage container. To always be prepared, pack your emergency kit once and leave it in your car all winter season long.
Food and water
As a seasoned outdoors person, you probably know your favorite non-perishable snacks so go ahead and add some of those to your winter car kit. Jerky, granola bars, and trail mix are some great options. These should tide you over if you’re ever stranded roadside waiting for weather conditions to ease up or for help to arrive.
Water is another essential item to keep in your car kit. Preferably, you’ll want to pack a large glass jug of water so that it holds up better than a plastic bottle or thermos. Just be sure to replace both the food and water every so often to keep them fresh.
Those who have lived through cold winters probably own multiple snow shovels and ice scrapers. You’ll want to purchase a collapsible snow shovel to keep in your car to save space. Shovels can either help you get your tires unstuck in the snow or to uncover your snow-covered car to make you more visible to rescuers. Ice scrapers obviously help scrape ice from your windshield so you can see better and drive safely.
Kitty litter may be a surprise to some readers but it is used to help gain traction in the snow. Other alternatives are sand, road salt, or snow mats to help your tires get unstuck.
Your car should already be equipped with a first aid kit, but if it’s not, you’ll certainly want to include one for winter travel. Also, pack some reflective triangles to set out on the road to keep you visible to passing drivers or those coming to help you.
When it comes to staying warm, pack a heavy-duty blanket and some extra sets of socks, gloves, or winter clothes if you have space. If you’re stranded in your car for a while, you won’t want to waste your gas and battery by keeping the heater going. That’s why you should also pack a flashlight, batteries, and matches for other scenarios where you may not have light or heat.
Have you ever jumped a car before? Driving in winter weather can wreak havoc on your battery so you’ll want to make sure you have jumper cables somewhere in your car too. Otherwise, you’ll have to depend on other good samaritans or a tow truck driver to jump your car with their own cables.
Pack a phone charger, preferably a car charger and a backup portable charger, for emergencies. Keep an emergency contact list with you that has emergency numbers for the area your travelling in (it isn’t 911 outside the US!) and any friends or family members in case your phone dies.
Of course, these items are always good to have on hand should you get trapped by a snowstorm, but the safest bet is to stay indoors in inclement weather. Keep updated on local conditions and reschedule your adventure if it’s too dangerous.