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A Winter “Utility Belt” for Your Car

A man standing next to his car calling for help on winter day.

Winter driving can be unpredictable. Slippery roads, poor visibility and extreme cold can strike at any time. While you can always try your best to practise defensive safe winter driving, you also need to be ready for the unexpected, and the chance that you may end up stuck in your car for a long period of time. Having a proper winter emergency kit can be essential.

Your standard road safety kit (kept in your car all year long) should include items like booster cables, traffic cones, emergency signs, and other items to help you be seen on the roadway if your car has broken down. A winter safety kit can help you with situations specifically caused by the weather.

  1. Water – While you could eat some fresh snow to help quench your thirst in a pinch, it’s not the healthiest option. Keeping a few bottles of water (plastic bottles that won’t break if the water freezes) in the trunk is a far better way to stay hydrated and alert if you become stranded by the side of the road.
  2. Non-perishable food – You’ll want items that can be opened easily, won’t spoil, and can be eaten cold. Energy bars are a great option.
  3. Candle in a deep tin (and matches!) – If end up stuck in your car for an extended period of time you can’t run your engine or the heat for the duration. Surprisingly, the heat from a single tea light candle can provide much needed warmth in an enclosed area. Just be sure to practise safety when the candle is in use. Open flames can be dangerous. Another great option is disposable warming packs that are quickly activated and can be tucked into mitts and boots.
  4. Warm clothing – A warm pair of mitts or gloves, and a toque stored in your car can help conserve heat and protect extremities. A dry pair of warm socks is also a good idea to keep your toes toasty.
  5. Blanket – A warm blanket is a great option for keeping your body temperature up if you’re going to be stuck for a prolonged period, especially when you’re trying to preserve gas.
  6. Shovel – You may find yourself in a situation where you have to dig your car out of a little snow. A small, light shovel can be just the thing you need to get your car moving again. That said, be careful not to tire yourself out too much. Shovelling can be dangerous if you don’t exercise caution.
  7. Sand or salt – If you’ve ever been stuck in an icy situation you already know that the more your tires spin, the slicker and more slippery your predicament can become. Sometimes all you need is some well-placed sand to provide the traction you’ll need to get moving again. Salt will help melt the ice.
  8. Windshield washer fluid – You can never have enough washer fluid on hand in the winter. With all the slush and snow the season brings, there’s always a danger of running out at the worst possible time
  9. Tow rope – If you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck in a snowbank or ditch, you might need a pull from a friend. Or, if you’d like to be a “good Samaritan”, you may be the one doing the pulling. Either way, a length of strong rope in your kit is always a plus.

Check your kit at the start of each winter season to replace any older food and water and to ensure all other items are in good shape. Once your kit is loaded and stowed in your trunk, hopefully you’ll be able to “weather” any situation until help arrives.

Have more ideas for your winter emergency kit? Let us know in the comments!

Originally published January 2016