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If you’re a frequent driver and can’t avoid snowbound conditions, it’s important that you have a winter survival kit in your car. When building your kit, you’ll need items to prepare you for two scenarios: One set for getting your vehicle back on the road, and the second is a contingency kit should you be unable to start moving again on your own.

Here is a list of ten of the most important items to have as part of your winter survival kit.

I. Items for Getting Unstuck 

  1. Traction Mats

Some people would prefer to use sand or kitty litter, and these are fine, until you find yourself stuck again and you find your bag of sand empty.

Traction mats are easy to use and are reusable. They’re also light and easy to store, making them a good alternative to the ol’ bag of sand that takes up too much room in your trunk.

  1. Tire Chains

Extra traction is always a good thing especially during packed snow conditions. Tire chains provide that extra bite on the road. However, different states have different laws when it comes to using tire chains, so make sure you consult local laws first before buying a set for your car.

Tire chains help improve traction over snowy conditions, but laws on their use may differ between states. Photo by Devchonka.

  1. Snow Shovel

A shovel is a must-have item in your winter kit, especially during snowy conditions. Even a small, foldable snow shovel will make getting your car out of the snow easier.

In a worst-case scenario, a snow shovel can help you make an emergency shelter or rescue someone buried in deep snow. It’s one of those items that you shouldn’t leave home without when traveling during wintertime.

  1. Portable Light Source

One of the few things worse than getting stuck or stalled in the snow is fumbling in the dark while trying to fix things. A light source or two like a flashlight, headlamp or small lantern will make roadside repairs or treks to the gas station when it’s dark safer and easier. It’s also useful for signaling other motorists, either to warn them of your stalled vehicle or to seek their assistance.

When packing small light sources, make sure you include spare batteries and a charger as well, since rechargeable lithium-ion batteries drain faster when exposed to cold temperatures.

Modern LED flashlights are more compact while at the same time provides better illumination in the dark.


II. Items for Hunkering Down 

  1. Tarp

While it won’t make reaching for the underside of your car or putting on its tire chains easier, a tarp can help keep you dry and keep you from using your stash of extra clothes. You can also use it to cover your car if you need to park it while it’s snowing outside, making it easier to get snow off your vehicle.

  1. Duct Tape

A couple of rolls of duct tape won’t take up much space in your trunk and can be one of the most versatile items that you can have with you. Stick a couple of parts together, seal a hole, waterproof your electronics and more with one of mankind’s most indispensable inventions.

While there are different kinds of tape for different kinds of jobs, duct tape is the most versatile and an indispensable addition to your kit.

  1. Extra Clothes

Being wet and cold can be dangerous during winter but hard to avoid, especially during heavy snow. If you do get stuck, a couple of extra pieces of clothing, like thermal underwear and gloves, will keep you dry and toasty for a longer period. Also include a spare jacket, hat and gloves for venturing outside, either to free your car or wave down passing motorists.

  1. Food and Water

One of the things that can make getting stuck in your vehicle during winter worse is the lack of anything to eat or drink. Along with basic utensils, keep some food items that will last a long time in your car and won’t require cooking, like dried fruits, nuts and energy bars.

More important than food, water to keep you hydrated should be in your car. A cooler will help keep your water cool in the summer, and it can work the opposite way by helping it keep from being a block of ice in the winter.

For drinking purposes, a gallon of water should last you for two days. If it comes in a plastic bottle, in most cases, you can keep it from freezing by putting it on the rear passenger’s seat of your car instead of the trunk.

  1. Reflective Emergency Blanket

An emergency or “space” blanket may not be as comfortable as fabric ones like wool, but it takes up less space and is very effective at trapping body heat and keeping you warm, in case you need to hunker down in your car for a night or two until rescue arrives. Its reflective outer shell also aids others in spotting your location.

  1. Road Flares

If you get into an accident over slippery roads, it may take a while before you can get help. Warn other drivers from getting into the same predicament as you as well as keeping yourself and your car safe from a pile-up, especially at night, by setting up road flares.

Road flares also come in electronic models, which provide a longer lasting emergency signal to other drivers.

While there are other items that you can include in this kit, these ten are some of the most important. The list doesn’t include other items that you should already have in your car regardless of the time of the year, such as a first aid kit, a basic vehicle tool kit, map and compass, jumper cables, spare tire and jack.

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