You’ve got your phone and tunes, a travel mug full of coffee, and (probably) a spare tire in the trunk—but we’re here to talk about your roadside emergency kit. Oh, you don’t have one? Like thousands of other Americans and Kansas Citians, your lack of a car emergency or safety kit is fairly typical. Most drivers don’t even have jumper cables stored in their car, let alone a full emergency kit. You can imagine how problematic that can be, especially in the winter.
Let’s turn your unpreparedness into super-preparedness. Build your roadside kit for winter now using this checklist as a guide. (Printable PDF can be downloaded here.)
A long pair of jumper cables is essential for any emergency car kit. Try to have at least 15-feet of cable to work with—just in case.
You don’t need a fancy medic bag, but your first-aid kit should be well equipped. Include Band-Aids, antiseptic, tweezers, bandages, gauze, super glue, and aspirin. If you have severe allergies, your first-aid kit should also include epinephrine to treat allergic reactions. If you suffer from other common illnesses like diabetes, be sure you have an adequate amount of medications available.
A small fire extinguisher can quickly put out engine fires not just in your car, but also in others’. You could very well be the hero after a car crash. (Hip, hip, hooray!)
Portable Snow Shovel
To get out of deep snow, a portable or retractable snow shovel works in a pinch. You’ll need to put in some elbow grease, but it’s better than the alternative.
Flashlight with Spare Batteries
Don’t just rely on your phone’s flashlight. Keep a small flashlight and extra AAs or AAAs in your roadside car kit. (Tip: Batteries will leak over time, so be sure to change them each season.)
We don’t suggest cozying up under a blanket when you’re driving, but it certainly comes in handy if you’re ever stranded in a snowbank or on the side of the road without gas.
The best roadside emergency kit includes at least a gallon of clean, potable drinking water. It takes just 3 days for dehydration to become fatal in humans.
Nonperishable foods that are high in protein and vitamins are also essential. Protein keeps your stomach happy, and vitamins keep you sharp as a tack. What are the best foods to include in a roadside kit? Stock some granola bars, trail mix, jerky, and canned fruit—essentially, anything that is non-perishable and can be eaten without a heat source.
Rags or Towels
For cleaning up things. Obviously.
You can’t really carry a full toolbox everywhere, but thankfully there are these things called “multipurpose tools.” Whether you grab a generic tool or an authentic Swiss Army Knife, you’ll want to ensure it has a knife, screwdrivers, hex tools, and a can opener.
Cat Litter or Sand
Sand and kitty litter are great resources to keep in your trunk in winter for three reasons. One, it helps weigh down the back of your car, giving you a bit of added traction in the snow and ice. Two, both can be used on icy roads to help your tires grip onto something. Three, if you ever encounter a cat in the wild, he’ll have a bathroom to use.
Older cars may have trouble with freezing up in the winter. Antifreeze is made of ethylene glycol, which lowers the freezing point of water, allowing your car’s engine to turn over and function as intended. Keep a container in your trunk if your vehicle is prone to these freeze-ups.
The night is dark and full of terrors in the dead of winter. Flares alert other drivers that you’re in trouble while also keeping those terrors at bay. (Plus, road flares are fun to light.)
A dead cell phone battery means no Candy Crush or, more importantly, no way to call for help. A quick charge-up can be the difference between good and bad news.
The glove compartment is the perfect place to store winter gloves. Who would have thought, huh?
Is there any problem that duct tape can’t solve? Every auto emergency kit should have this cure-all.
The one item most drivers keep in their car is a snow brush and ice scraper. Those drivers are doing something right.
A Book You’ve Procrastinated Reading
Stranded in a snowstorm? Who knows how long it’ll take for someone to lend a hand. A good book can keep you occupied while help arrives.
Did we miss anything? Leave us a note in the comments, and stay safe this winter!
Behind the Wheel