Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
Winter has come in with a bang for the past couple of years, with frigid temperatures and record snows. And that’s led to power outages … and to lots of cars stuck on highways. If winter weather left you stranded in your car, would you have what you need to survive until help arrives?
Creating a winter emergency car kit is simple to do, but too many people never get around to it. Don’t get caught without the things you need for safety and comfort. Here are ten things you need to keep in your car as soon as winter weather strikes.
10. Space blanket
These shiny little space blankets or survival blankets have been around for decades, but few people think about keeping a few in their car for winter safety. No excuses! Space blankets are inexpensive and compact. Stash one in your glove box, and put a couple into your emergency kit, too.
A reliable LED flashlight and extra batteries or a solar charger are another critical part of any winter safety kit. Night comes early in the winter, and even in the daytime stormy weather can make it almost impossible to see. Skip the white or silver lights if you can, as they can be almost impossible to see if your drop them in the snow. Choose a flashlight in a bright color or wrap a light colored one in vivid hues of duct tape.
8. Emergency candles and waterproof matches
Make sure you have several emergency candles in your kit, although with waterproof matches. A candle can provide light when flashlight batteries have died, and can even warm the inside of your car a few life-saving degrees. If you have to leave your car (not recommended unless absolutely necessary), candles can make it much easier to light a fire to provide warmth in a temporary shelter.
7. Change of clothes
Wet clothing is deadly to someone trapped in a winter storm, so make sure you have a warm change of clothing in your bag. A pair of sweats, a hoodie sweatshirt and a pair of winter underwear can be rolled up into a tiny bundle and secured with a bungie cord. I like to give old clothing a new use by putting them into my emergency kits…it’s not about fashion, it’s about survival. Just do make sure that the clothing you pack fits well and will work to keep you warm until help arrives.
6. Energy bars or meals
Cold weather means you’ll be burning a lot of calories, so make sure you have several high calorie snacks in your kit, too. Outdoor stores sell compact energy bars that can survive the cold. MREs are another good choice. Look for high calorie meals for the maximum value per inch of storage.
5. Gloves and socks
Keeping hands and feet warm can be a big challenge in a cold car, so make sure you have a good pair of winter gloves (waterproof) and warm winter socks in your car at all times. Tuck in a few of those chemical hand and foot warmers, too. They last for a few hours once activated and can help to protect your extremities from frostbite.
A collapsible snow shovel is one of those things your winter car emergency kit should never be without. You may need it to clear the area around your car door or to keep your exhaust pipe clear of snow.
Buy the best shovel you can afford — it’s not worth a few dollars to have the shovel snap in half when you need it most. If you have the space, a bag of plain kitty litter can also help you get out of a slippery spot. Sprinkle it in front of the tires to improve traction.
3. Emergency flares and flags
It can be hard to spot a car that’s off the road, especially in heavy or drifting snow so make sure you have working emergency flares and brightly color emergency flags to notify rescue workers. New LED flares are much safer than the old flame versions, and can often last longer. Hang a flag out of your window, on a raised hood or trunk or on a nearby tree or pole.
2. Cell phone back-up charger
Cell phones can be a lifesaver, but not if they have a dead battery. A car charger is always a good idea, but if you’re out of gas or are unable to start your car, that won’t help much. Keeping a back up charger with you during winter driving is a good safety practice. Tuck a solar powered cell phone charger into your emergency kit, too. It won’t help at night, but even on a cloudy day it will provide some charge.
1. Cup or water bottle
We all know that we need water to survive, but under no circumstances should you eat snow to try and stay hydrated. The energy needed to melt the snow inside your body could result in deadly hypothermia! Instead, keep a cup or water bottle in your emergency kit. Fill it with snow and place it in direct sunlight. When the snow melts, you’ll have water to drink. (Opt for a bottle with a built-in filter if you’re worried about how clean the water is.)
Keep your winter emergency car kit in the passenger compartment of your car, as your trunk could be frozen shut or damaged in even a minor accident. And remember, being prepared isn’t about expecting the worst. It’s about being ready to have the best outcome in any situation.