Emergency Winter Driving Kit

by evelynsaenz

What do you need to keep in your car when driving in the winter? Here is a list of essential, emergency items every driver should have stored in the trunk in case of emergencies.

Put on studded winter tires and fill the car with gas. It's time to head to the slopes. But is that really all you need when driving a car in snow country? Oh, no! There are quite a few essential items that every driver should carry, tucked into the trunk just in case of an accident, breakdown or a slide into a snowbank.

As you are driving along, your car heater will keep you nice and toasty warm. But if you get stuck in a snowbank, you won't be able to keep your car running so the temperature in your car will quickly go down. I have never understood why cars are not better insulated. Once turned off, the temperature drops quickly and exercise to keep your body temperature up inside the car is next to impossible. You are going to need warm clothing and blankets.

In some cases, you might need to get out and shovel the snow away from the tires, exhaust pipe, and maybe around the whole car. If you plan to go from house to car to mall, you might think that those high heels with spaghetti straps are adequate but once stuck in a snowbank, winter boots are much more appropriate.

A few hours stuck on the side of the road may leave you hungry, thirsty and bored. Being prepared with a bottle of water, candy bars or beef jerky as well as a good book, pad or paper and pencil or puzzle book will keep you content for hours.

With snow coming down heavy and fast, or skidded way off into a ditch quickly covering your car with fluffy white may leave you invisible to help. Think of including a brightly colored piece of cloth to tie to your antenna, flares or break down triangles to show people that you are indeed in trouble asking for help.

Below you will find a list of items that I carry in my car. Please let me know which items you find most helpful and especially include items you find essential that I may have forgotten.

Have a safe and uneventful drive in the snow...

Winter Driving Kit

List of Items to Keep in Your Car in the Winter
  • Blanket
  • Book or Notebook and Pencil
  • Candles, a metal can, and strike anywhere matches in a waterproof container
  • Extra clothing (Socks, hat, sweat pants, mittens, long sleeved shirt, sweater, coat, Winter Boots)
  • Flares, Hazard Triangles, Bright cloth to attach to the antenna
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Ice Scraper with brush
  • Matches (Strike anywhere in a water proof container)
  • Shovel
  • Snacks (Candy bar, Beef Jerky, Dried Soup, Dried Nuts, Dried Fruits)
  • Water


Blanket in the Car

Stay warm with a Blanket

One of the most important things to have in your car in the wintertime is a blanket. When temperatures are cold enough to snow you need to stay bundled up in order to keep from getting hypothermia. If you are walking around or riding in a heated car you won't need a blanket but if your car is stuck in a snowbank the temperature inside the car will drop quickly. Having a blanket handy will help you to keep your body temperature toasty warm. 

Wrap up. If it is really cold and you are with others in the car, snuggle together with blankets wrapped around you. Be sure to carry at least one blanket per person riding in the car. A blanket will keep you warm until help arrives.

Imagine being Stuck in the Snow for Hours Waiting for a Tow

What would you need to keep warm and patient while you wait?
Stuck in the Snow
Stuck in the Snow

Extra Clothing in case of a Break Down

Winter Clothing for Emergencies

If your car breaks down or you slide off into a snowy ditch, be sure you have spare winter clothing tucked into your trunk. Include a pair of socks and winter boots to keep your feet warm. Add a sweat suit, long sleeved shirt, sweater and a winter coat. Layering is the best way to stay warm.

Don't forget gloves to keep your extremities warm. Having a couple of pairs of gloves will be important if you need to shovel out, brush snow off your car, scrape ice from the windshield or otherwise need to be out in the elements where your hands could get snowy and thus wet. 

A hat and or a scarf will keep your head warm. They say that most of the heat in our bodies can escape through our head. Put on a hat or wrap a scarf around your head and neck to help retain that heat. If you have a hood on your coat, put that on too. Frankbeswick suggests a balaclava, the kind of ski hat with just holes for your eyes, nose and mouth. Great idea!

Staying dry is essential to keeping warm. Having extra snow gear means that if something gets snowy and wet you always have an extra set to change into.

An Ice Scraper will help you clean off your windows if they are coated in ice or snow.

Every car should carry a good ice scraper.
Mallory 532 26" Snow Brush with Foam Grip (Colors may vary)

Mallory's 26" COOL Snow Tool Brush is comfortable and easy to use with its curved handle, comfort foam gripand unbreakable scraper blade. Thick bristles make brushing snow and i...

View on Amazon

Ice Scraper

An Ice Scraper can be used to clean off your car in the Winter

Every car should have an ice scraper. It not only will help to scrape the ice off your windshield but it can also be used to brush off snow.

You can use your ice scraper to clean off your license plate, headlights and emergency lights as well as the side mirrors.

Do you have an ice scraper in your car?

Emergency Food and Drink

Winter Emergency Snack Foods

If you were stuck in a car for several hours in the cold what would you like to eat and drink? Of course you are going to need food that keeps well indefinitely so the choices are somewhat limited. 

The obvious are candy bars but you don't have to limit yourself to just sweets. Granola bars are probably a bit more nutritious. Nuts and dried fruit or gorp are also good choices to give you energy. 

Beef jerky is a tasty treat and can provide a bit of protein.

Canned foods are not a good choice because they can freeze and burst in sub zero temperatures. 

Packets of instant soup, tea, or coffee might be nice if you use your candle to heat some water.

If you know you are driving a long distance, you could pack sandwiches and either soup or a hot drink in a thermos which would be quite welcome if you happened to break down or get involved in an accident.

Always be Prepared

What else do people keep in their emergency preparedness kits?

Of course you don't want to overload your car but there are some other things you might want to keep in your car. Here are some suggestions from readers:

  • Fingernail clippers
  • A first aide kit
  • Chapstick
  • Flashlight
  • Jumper Cables
  • Cellphone and charger
  • Handwritten list of emergency phone numbers (In case your cell phone battery dies.)

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Symptoms of Frostbite and Hypothermia

Of course the reason that we worry about keeping warm is to prevent frostbite and hypothermia both of which can cause permanent damage and even death.

You can read about these two symptoms of over exposure to the cold in articles by the Mayo Clinic in order to better understand how to prevent them.

Keep your emergency supplies in your car at all times. Stay warm and safe.

Burn a Candle for Light and Heat When Stuck in the Snow

Place your candle in a Metal Can to prevent a Fire
White 7 Day Candle - 3 Pack

Three - 7 day candles Glass Candles Unscented

View on Amazon

Candle in the Car

Heat and Light from a Candle

Until today I had never thought about keeping candles in the car in case of emergencies. Candles can cause fires and would seem strange in a car but then I needed to rethink this idea. Candles also produce heat and light, both greatly appreciated if you are stuck in the snow on a cold, dark night.

With the candles you will also need to keep a stash of strike anywhere matches. I put mine in a metal Band-Aid box and then slip it into a ziplock bag to keep them dry.

Of course you don't want to just attach the candle to your dashboard. Include a large metal coffee can. Light the candle and drip some wax in the bottom to make it stand up. Then add some water to the bottom to prevent a fire. Or use a Prayer Candle which comes in a glass vase and can be much more stable. A votive would also be quite stable.

Place your candle in the middle of the car in a spot where it will not be able to ignite clothing or papers. Be sure to crack your window to let in fresh air.

Use your candle as a light source as well as a heater. Read a book, write in your notebook, or do a puzzle to pass the time.

Turn your nightmare into a pleasant evening with a candle or two heating and lighting up your car.

Are you prepared to be stuck in the snow?

Do you have a snow emergency kit in your car?

Get off the Road

Find a Bed and Breakfast

When the roads get bad, before you get stuck in the snow, you have an alternative. You can get off the highway and find a place to stay until the road conditions improve. 

Royalton Bed and Breakfast is located between Exits 2 and 3 off I-89 in central Vermont. 

Recently we had an ice storm with cars sliding off the road left and right. Many people stopped at gas stations, worried and undecided about continuing. 

Two different parties called me about staying at my bed and breakfast. One party decided to book a room, drove the three miles to my B&B and were warm and cozy for the night.

The other party called me back from the highway. They had decided to continue driving but had slid off the road just south of the exit. They spent the night in their car.

Before you continue on, when the roads are no longer safe to drive on, find a bed and breakfast or other lodging and wait for the road crews to do their job.

PS: You will find a link for reservations to my B&B just below. We are open year round and welcome you whether the weather is good or bad. 

Cold Weather Tips

Keep Warm in the Winter
Outside temperatures are plummeting! How can you keep your house warm? Drafts, cold floors, freezing pipes? Here are some tips from snow country...
Vermont is a delightful place to stay for the weekend. Come stay at Evelyn's Bed and Breakfast in Royalton, Vermont.
Updated: 02/05/2014, evelynsaenz
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Winter Emergency Comments

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evelynsaenz on 01/03/2014

You're welcome VioletteRose. Stay safe and if you have to drive on slippery roads, don't forget your emergency travel kit.

VioletteRose on 01/03/2014

Very informative and helpful, thank you!

evelynsaenz on 01/02/2014

More good suggestions, Tracey.

Tracey on 01/02/2014

I also keep a compass, some lip balm and a small first aid kit in my emergency bag. :)

evelynsaenz on 01/01/2014

Thank you for suggesting the hot drink and balaclava, frankbeswick, I have added these suggestions to the article and appreciate so much your imput.

frankbeswick on 12/31/2013

How about a thermos flask containing a hot drink?

Very important is keeping the head warm.Your head contains one sixth of your body weight and is an energy powerhouse, so you can lose much heat through it. You can see this when you go completely under the blankets at night, and you find that once your head is covered you warm up quickly. A balaclava would be a useful head covering

jptanabe on 12/31/2013

Great tips! I should add a blanket to my car - I have the shovel, ice scraper, flashlight and my husband is good at bringing snacks! Candle is an interesting idea too.

evelynsaenz on 12/31/2013

Often people drive up from the south unprepared for the road conditions. Having a pet to snuggle with can also help keep you warm until help comes but much better to have extra clothes and a blanket for the pet to snuggle inside with you so you both stay warmer.

Joan Adams on 12/30/2013

We rarely have deep snow in the south, but I have known folks to travel north and get stuck in severe snow. I remember one friend in particular who told a horrific tale of spending a night out on the road, stuck in the snow - just she and her tiny dog. She managed to keep that little dog warm all night! Great information, Evelyn!

evelynsaenz on 12/30/2013

My dad still reminds me to put a shovel and a blanket in the car when the snow starts to blow. It sure can come in handy.

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