Be prepared for any winter roadside emergency with a winter car survival kit. No one expects to slide on black ice or try starting their car only to find that the battery is stubbornly refusing to come to life. And when these unexpected inconveniences happen in dangerous winter weather conditions and frostbite-inducing temperatures, they can become life-threatening situations.
With just a little preparation ahead of time, you can set yourself up for survival success even should you find yourself stranded in a blizzard with nothing but the contents of your car. In this post, we will discuss the most important items you should include in your winter car survival kit. They are listed in the order you should prioritize using them in the event of a winter roadside emergency.
Call for Help
If you’ve become stranded in your car in dangerous, snowy conditions, your first priority should be to let someone who cares about you know where you are, what happened, and if you’re in any immediate danger.
Don’t Drive without Your Cell Phone
While you should always avoid texting and driving at the same time, you should also always keep your cell phone with you in case of emergencies so that you are able to let someone know where you are. If you’re injured, call 911 immediately. If you aren’t injured, call a nearby friend or family member and ask them to come and get you.
You can also call 911 for help even if you aren’t injured if you aren’t able to get immediate help from a friend or family member.
Why is contacting someone the first priority before getting warm or stopping the bleeding?
Because if you’ve been in a wreck and are alone and bleeding, or if conditions are extremely cold, you could pass out before anyone knows to be concerned about you. That’s a situation you may not be able to come back from, so make a serious point of getting into contact with someone who can help before attending to anything else.
If the situation allows, you can certainly apply pressure to a wound or start getting your supplies from the back seat while you call for help. Place your phone on speaker mode so you have both hands at your disposal.
Battery Charger with the Correct Cord
If at all possible, have your phone fully charged before you leave your home in severe winter weather conditions.
In the event that your car dies and isn’t able to charge your phone, it’s a great idea to have a battery block that’s already fully charged and has the correct cord to charge your phone.
You can keep this battery block in your winter car survival kit and check regularly to ensure it is fully charged, or keep it plugged into your car’s extra USB port–if it comes with one–all the time so you don’t have to think about it and it’s always fully charged.
If you live in a remote area or are traveling to one, having a satellite phone on hand is a smart choice. Satellite phones run on much stronger signals than cell phones, so they’re able to make calls to and from very remote locations.
Before purchasing a satellite phone or bringing one along on a trip, check the local laws regarding them. Satellite phones are actually illegal in many countries because they cannot be monitored like cell phones can.
Keep Yourself Warm
Hopefully, you left your house wearing appropriately warm clothes to start with. But here are a few things to keep in your winter car emergency kit to keep you warm in an emergency.
A thick coat and pair of waterproof snow pants are a minimum. It’s imperative that you keep dry. An extra pair of shoes, especially a pair of waterproof boots, will also come in handy if you need to walk around in the snow. Cold feet that are also wet can cost you toes without you even realizing it.
An extra pair of thick sweatpants and a warm sweatshirt would be a great addition, as well as a couple of pairs of fuzzy socks.
Keep in mind that this is all for one person. If you regularly have other people in your car, consider what extra clothing items would be beneficial to keep stocked for them.
A couple of blankets and/or a sleeping bag will come in handy if you’re out in the cold for an extended period of time. These layers will keep your body heat around to warm you as the outside temperatures drop. Space blankets are also a great choice since they have reflective material built in to reflect your body heat back to you rather than just holding onto it a little longer.
Chemical Hand and Foot Warmers
These are so nifty to have on hand. They’re easy to use and will assist your body in generating all that heat to combat the cold. And they are small enough that you can stick them in your gloves or boots to keep your fingers and toes going if you’re outside, such as to try to free the car, hunt for food, or walk for help.
A tarp may not seem like much protection against the cold, but it is wonderful protection against the wind. If you wreck your car and the wind is screaming through a broken window or another gap, a tarp could not only block the wind but also save your eardrums from all that annoying noise.
Even if the food itself isn’t actually warm, your body is going to need nutrients to keep running properly. Being underfed will put you in greater danger if you are stranded for an extended period of time.
So keep some snacks in your winter car survival kit so you can keep your body fed and it can burn that energy to keep you warm. And while you’re at it, add some bottled water to the safety kit. And keep them near your body so they don’t freeze while you’re waiting for help.
Attend to Any Injuries
If at all possible, alert someone to your situation and location before or while you begin to tend to injuries.
A bleeding wound can certainly become quite dangerous very quickly if left unattended. Items to include in your emergency winter car survival kit that will help stop blood loss include roll bandages, bandaids, and a tourniquet. In the event that you or a passenger suffers a severe wound to an arm or a leg, you’ll be very glad to have an actual tourniquet on hand rather than having to scramble for a belt or purse strap.
It also doesn’t hurt to keep a tube of topical antiseptic ointment around, as well as some hydrogen peroxide. If you were to be stranded for several days, these infection prevention measures could make a big difference in your life.
Other First Aid Items
Things like ibuprofen or acetaminophen could help with mild pain from car wreck-related injuries. For more first aid essentials, visit Survival World’s comprehensive list.
Free Your Car if Possible
If your car is still drivable and it is safe for you to exit the car to try to break it free, here are a few tips to help with that. Be sure to watch your step and avoid any nearby iced-over bodies of water.
Cat Litter or Coarse Sand
While spinning your tires over and over will just make smooth ice and wear down your treads, adding some cat litter or coarse sand to the snow around the tires will give the tires something to grab and can help the car get loose.
An alternative to particulates, wide strips of carpet or astroturf can be useful for getting free of a snowy situation.
If you need to dig your car out of a snowbank, it will feel a lot nicer to do it with a shovel than with your hands. A shovel will also make it a lot easier for you to keep dry than scooping it away with your hands would, even with gloves.
Maybe you didn’t get stranded in a snowbank out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe your car battery just decided to die while you were shopping for winter supplies. Hopefully, there are other people around willing to volunteer their cars to help you out, but what if none of them have jumper cables?
It’s smart to have these on hand all year round so you never get stranded because of a dead battery.
Make Yourself Findable
You’ve called for help, kept yourself warm, and tended to injuries. But what if it gets dark and your help drives right by you?
Keep a flashlight or two and spare batteries in your winter car survival kit. A flashlight can help you determine the shape of your car if it’s dark, and it can help you find injuries on yourself or others that might be missed initially from shock.
It’s best to preserve your phone’s battery by avoiding using its flashlight if possible. And flashlights are also great for signaling your location to the individuals coming to rescue you.
You’ve probably seen these on the shoulder of an interstate separating a pulled-over tractor-trailer while its driver fixes a problem or changes a tire. You can keep a set of these in your car to use in the same way if you’re stranded in the dark or in severe rain or snow to improve the visibility of your vehicle to others and keep anyone from driving into you by mistake.
These are especially useful if you’re stranded in a very remote area or if your car ends up going over the side of a mountain and becomes extremely difficult to find. Sending up a flare will help helicopters and other search and rescue people find you in a difficult area.
For additional resources about signaling for help, check out this Survival World article.
Year-round Car Maintenance
Don’t wait until winter comes to have your brakes checked out. Ice is dangerous enough without adding bad brakes to the mix.
Antifreeze Windshield Wiper Fluid
If you’ve still got the anti-bug-smear type of wiper fluid from the summer in your car, you should update to some weather-appropriate wiper fluid that will prevent ice from forming on your windshield as you drive, thereby improving visibility and decreasing your chances of running into anything.
Even if you’ve got the highest quality antifreeze wiper fluid ready to go, it won’t do you much good if your windshield wipers are shot. Be sure to change them periodically, especially if you notice that they’re not doing as good of a job of clearing the windshield as they used to.
Alter Tire Pressure as Temps Change
Colder temperatures mean decreased tire pressure. Google what pressure your car’s tires should have, and then visit a gas station with an air pump and bring them all up to the correct pressure.
Preparation is Key
With a little time and a little preparation, you can protect yourself and your loved ones traveling along with a well-prepared winter car survival kit.
If you’re wondering what specific gear would be best for your winter car survival kit, check out Essential Winter Survival Gear to Keep You Warm and Alive. You can find more information on winter weather preparedness and winter survival on our Survival World winter page. In addition to what we’ve shared, if you have any winter car survival kit suggestions, please let us know by leaving a comment below.