We hope you never get trapped in your car during a snowstorm, but it can happen. Sometimes simply checking your tires, car battery and having enough gas isn’t enough. Here are a few essentials to keep in your car, just in case:
We’ll start with the obvious. Keep a stash of non-perishable or long-shelf-life food items like granola & protein bars, beef jerky, dried fruits, canned beans, peanut butter, nuts & seeds, dried grains, protein powders, honey, and waxed cheese, to name a few. The best foods will be a mix of high-protein and natural sugars. It’s important to avoid anything that might explode or break open if it freezes. That being said, most soft-plastic water bottles have room to expand when they freeze.
We highly recommend you keep a basic first aid kit and know how to use more than gauze and bandages.
This should be a no-brainer. While you shouldn’t leave the house without them in the winter, sometimes you or one of your passengers might forget or lose them. Keeping a spare in your car can’t hurt!
If your socks get wet, it can be worse than not having socks on at all, especially if they’re cotton. Changing into fresh, dry socks can be a difference-maker when trying to stay warm.
Most people know layering up is the best way to stay warm, so having emergency layers in your car can be a lifesaver. Especially when an existing layer gets damaged or wet.
Blankets can be useful in multiple ways. Thermal blankets can be found for less than a few bucks and are incredibly compact. Like these Mylar emergency blankets, we found on Amazon that includes 10 blankets for less than $10.
If you run out of gas, light, and warmth, quickly becomes a necessity. Not only does it help you see and stay warm, but these items can be crucial to prevent your car from being hit (reflectors) and even help the emergency crew locate you if you’re not easily visible in the dark.
Hand-crank radios can be hard to come by these days, but they are a better option than chargeable or battery-operated in an emergency since they’ll never run out of power. Some will even let you plug in to charge your devices with the crank power.
This can be any old phone, really, but non-smart phones are best as they tend to have a much higher battery life when not being used, especially if you take it out of the phone when not in use. Why have an old phone in your car? Make sure the phone is new enough, but most phones have an SOS or emergency option that lets you call 911 even when there’s no SIM card active in the phone. This can be better than a phone charger or battery pack in case you crash and break/lose your phone. I keep a $15 flip phone in my glovebox, so I always know where it is in an emergency.
If and when it becomes safe to travel again, it’s important to have everything you need to operate your vehicle in an emergency situation.
As the common saying goes – “If it’s supposed to move but won’t, use WD-40. If it moves and it’s not supposed to, use duct tape.” Duct tape has many uses when you’re in a pinch, so we recommend always keeping it in your car for emergencies. My uncle was such a proponent of this; for a while, practically half his truck was made of duct tape!
Rope or twine can be extremely useful in multiple situations, whether it’s building a makeshift shelter from your extra blanket or fixing something that broke. The golden rule I learned was to always have at least 10 feet or it on you to be useful.
If you’re in an unfamiliar area, a map and compass can be a lifesaver when your phone/GPS dies or have no reception. You shouldn’t use them as a first option as it’s usually better to shelter in place until emergency rescuers can find you, but if you run out of options, it’s good to have a final one to get to safety.
This might not always come in handy if shoveling out your car would prove too tiresome or useless if the road isn’t plowed enough to move. Still, if you or another car goes offroad or the snow is high enough to cover the exhaust, that can be deadlier than the temperature when it is blocked and fills your car with deadly fumes. A shovel can ensure you and the cars around you can not only get unstuck but also keep a clear path for exhaust fumes to exit the vehicle.
If you need to leave your vehicle, it should be a final option unless you can see the shelter you’re leaving your car for and know you can get in safely. Even so, other cars might not be able to easily see you in a snowstorm or the dark, so improve your odds by wearing reflective tape/vests and staying off the road as much as possible.
This surprises some, but being caught without sunglasses in the winter can be an eyesore. Light reflects very well off the snow (the reason it appears white), and if you’ve ever had to walk outside when there’s snow on the ground and sun in the sky, you’ve probably noticed it makes it difficult to see and can cause sunspots in your vision. This is referred to as “snow blindness.”
Posted on January 3, 2023
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