No one ever plans on becoming stranded on the side of the road.  Whether it be from a crash, car trouble, or impassable driving conditions, it’s just something that happens.  Like a good pair a jumper cables, a winter survival kit for your vehicle is an essential in the situations that matter.  This is especially relevant to those living in or even just passing through an area that regularly experiences sub-zero temperatures and spotty phone signals.

A winter vehicle kit consists of objects the average household already owns. Realistically, you won’t have a vehicle with everything listed below.  These are just objects to strongly consider as they could potentially make the difference between life and death in an emergency.

 Winter Vehicle Kit Checklist

  • Shovel
  • Straps, tow chain or rope
  • Road salt, sand, or cat litter for tire traction
  • Flashlight with working batteries
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Bottled water
  • Stored Food – even just a jar of peanut butter can do the trick in a tight spot
  • Spare warm clothes – hats, socks and mittens
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Emergency flare, reflectors, or roll of neon flagging tape
  • Emergency whistle – 3 short blasts means SOS
  • Matches & thick-wicked candle(s)
  • Contained & Well-Marked accelerant
  • Tin or Copper mug

It would be best to store items in compartments like the center console, glove box, or back seat in case the trunk is inaccessible, jammed, or frozen shut.

Emergency Tips:

  • If it’s a bad situation, call 911. Local communities have resources that can help.  Even if you cannot provide your exact location, it makes people aware that you’re out there.
  • Stay in the vehicle if it is secured and uncompromised. Never leave a viable shelter!
  • If you must evacuate the vehicle due to a compromising position (unstable or risky spot after an accident), write your name, phone number, and any relevant info on a note for anyone who would find the vehicle.

Survival tips:

  • Don’t overexert yourself when shoveling or attempting to free your vehicle.
  • Stay dry. Cold and dry is warmer than cold and wet. This relates to the tip above.  Do not start to sweat!  Lose some layers and stay just cold enough to prevent sweating.  Sweat is moisture and contributes to hypothermia.
  • If stuck, make yourself visible. Tie a neon ribbon, reflector, or even a bright piece of clothing somewhere visible from the road.
  • Keep your vehicle running if you’re able. A lit dome light can be seen from a great distance by rescue crews.  Only use flashers when there are approaching vehicles to reduce battery depletion.
  • Always have someone awake and watching for help at all times.
  • Check to make sure your exhaust pipe is free from snow. Carbon monoxide will enter the car if it isn’t. If you are unable to clear it, keep windows cracked to maintain fresh air flow.
  • Light your candle if you have one and keep it somewhere safe from igniting anything. This serves as a light for others to see and help warm the vehicle.
  • Warm water bottles with your body. They will likely be frozen and need to melt.  Sleep with them against you if that’s the only way to prevent freezing – no one can drink ice
  • Don’t eat snow. This further dehydrates you by using energy and heat in a bodily process to melt it.  It can also lead to hypothermia.
  • Need water? Scoop snow in your tin cup and hold the base over the lit candle to melt it.  Warm water increases your body temperature.
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