Remember when you bought your first car and your dad told you to keep an emergency kit in the trunk in case you ever broke down somewhere or got iced in or drove into a ditch?
Remember how you went “Sure, Dad!” while rolling your eyes internally and immediately forgetting that conversation ever took place?
And then remember how that very winter you skidded into a snow drift and were stuck spinning your wheels until Dad arrived with his trunk full of kitty litter and a smug grin to save the day?
Yeah. Do not want to revisit that delightful scenario again.
Winter’s an unpredictable season that can deliver blue skies one moment and icy sleet the next, so it’s important to make sure you’re prepared for anything—especially if you do a lot of long-distance driving or travel along more remote routes. Taking a little time to make sure all your bases are covered now will save you a whole lot of headache down the road!
Whether you’re putting together a winter emergency kit for the first time or looking to beef up the one you already have, make sure you don’t leave anything out with this handy checklist:
✔️ First aid kit
Basic but important. Standard first aid kits usually include Band-Aids, aspirin (or another pain reliever), antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, compression bandages, gauze pads, tweezers, cotton balls, medical tape, scissors, and hand sanitizer. Feel free to customize as you please!
✔️ Fire extinguisher
You might be picturing a big, clunky monstrosity that’s going to eat up half the space in your trunk, but fire extinguishers have come a long way. The smallest portable fire extinguisher is no bigger than a remote but can still shoot coolant a full 10 feet! Places like Canadian Tire and The Home Depot also sell small models for as low as $30—just make sure you keep an eye on their charge and replace them once they’re no longer usable.
✔️ Jumper cables
Pretty self-explanatory, and your car might have even come with a pair (check under the mat in the trunk). Use these bad boys to boost your battery if it dies, making sure to attach the clips in the correct order.
✔️ Wind-up flashlight
Because unlike your fancy smartphone and battery-powered flashlights, a wind-up flashlight will NEVER DIE.
✔️ Tow rope
Another self-explanatory one. Comes in handy if you end up in a ditch and need someone else to pull you out.
✔️ Road flares
Normally, if you pulled over to the side of the road you’d put your hazard lights on, but what do you do when it’s getting dark out and your car won’t start? Lighting some road flares solves two problems in one go—making sure oncoming cars don’t plow into you and also alerting drivers to the fact that you might need help.
✔️ Drinking water & non-perishable snacks
Ideally, you’ll never be stuck on the side of the road for long, but it’s best to be prepared! Nothing worse than dealing with car trouble and an empty stomach at the same time.
Make sure the water is stored in plastic bottles and not glass or metal so the bottles won’t break when the water freezes.
✔️ Sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter
Any of the above will do if you find yourself spinning your wheels on an icy road or bogged down in deep snow. Sprinkling some cat litter (or sand, or salt) at the base of your tires will hopefully give them enough traction to get you moving again.
✔️ Snowbrush with scraper
Because if you’re sitting outside during a blizzard, those pesky snowflakes are gonna pile up.
They’re loud and attention-seeking, but only when you need them to be (unlike that baby 3 rows back on your last flight).
✔️ Shovel multitool
These pseudo-military gadgets look like something that only the Bear Gryllses of the world would carry around, but they’re undeniably useful in an emergency.
This one can shovel snow, crack ice around your tires, or even break a car window if necessary, and its adjustable, razor-edged head converts from a shovel to an ax to a hoe as needed. More practical tools are hidden inside the handle, including a tactical knife and a magnesium fire-starter.
✔️ Heated base layer
When your car breaks down in the dead of winter, your biggest enemy suddenly becomes the cold. Depending on how long it takes for help to arrive, you could be in real trouble—which is why a battery-powered heated base layer (like ours!) makes an excellent addition to your emergency car kit. It’ll keep you nice and toasty while taking up way less trunk space than bulky winter layers would.
Even with your heated base layer on hand, it’s a good idea to keep a warm blanket in your car for extra protection from the elements. (They’re also great for making forts.)