Winter’s coming and it’s time to prep the car again.
There’s a lot of people that don’t think about putting some essential items in the car for winter in case the car breaks down or is caught in a snow storm and can’t go on. During a time like this, hopefully you can stay warm and keep the car running, but what if that’s not an option?
This is a small list of items that I keep in the car during winter months just in case there’s emergencies
1. Staying Warm
Staying warm is usually not an issue. While you’re stuck, you can keep the car running and stay warm. If you’re forced to stop due to engine failure though, you chances of keeping warm drops drastically. I pack a few items to help maintain enough heat to survive if there wasn’t a way to keep the engine running.
Sterno 100 hour Emergency candles – Normal candles can keep a car warm enough that you won’t freeze, but having two liquid candles can actually warm up the car to a more comfortable level.
Hand Warmers are essential for keeping your extremities warm. Most hand warmers have an 8 hour usefulness time, so keeping enough for the whole family is essential. On a side note, two hand warmers placed in a cheap Styrofoam cooler will keep your water bottles from freezing. Place the hand warmers at the bottom of the cooler, and put bottles on top. The rising heat will keep the bottles from freezing for at least four hours. I have a 36-pair box of hand warmers in the car (72 warmers in all).
Mylar Space Blankets are cheap plastic sheets made of mylar that are incredibly good for radiating heat. You’ll want at least one blanket per person, and one to cover front and rear windows at a minimum. If you can cover all the windows/doors in your car from the inside to insulate the heat inside, you’ll survive a lot longer.
2. Food and Drink
If you’re stranded, you’re going to be stressed out. The last thing you need is to be hungry. I keep a bag of dry foods that won’t freeze in the trunk that will last the family 24-48 hours.
Trail Mix is an awesome way to go as far as foods that are editable in freezing weather conditions. I usually have a “bulk” bag or two of trail mix that has nuts and dried fruits. Trail mix provides some energy and can temporarily stave off hunger.
Beef Jerky is an awesome item to have, but it’s expensive if you purchase it over the counter. You’ll find that just a couple jerky strips might cost between $2 and $5. You can make your own easily if you have a dehydrator. If you do have to purchase it, buy in bulk to save money. $80 gets you 5 pounds of jerky here.
When it comes to drinks, there’s a bit of a conundrum. You body needs water, but water freezes at 32°F. You want to store water in your car, but it’s going to freeze. How can one keep water in their car when it’s freezing outside?
Simple answer is that you can’t easily. My answer is that if there’s snow on the ground, it can be boiled (hence the portable camping stove) in an aluminum camping cup. Boiling will make the snow safe to drink (make sure you have some peppermint and black tea bags with you too). Another way to do it is if the trip is over 25 miles, take a few bottles of water from your house. Put them in the glove compartment or center console. These areas stay warmest the longest, but also have a few hand warmers ready in case you have to keep the water from freezing too.
3. Extra Clothes
While you can’t really take a whole wardrobe with you, I pack a set of thermals and fresh, dry socks for every member of the family in the car. If worse comes to worse, which it never has thankfully, you can add an extra layer.
4. If you’re forced to leave the car
If you can’t stay with your car, you will want to make sure you have heat, shelter and food for sure. All our supplies are in a medium size gym dufflebag so we can just grab the bag and go if needed, and food and drinks are carried in another bag.
If you do have to leave the car, the Mylar blankets can be folded over. Use duct tape to seal the long side and one of the short sides to make a “sleeping bag” of sorts. Toss in two hand warmers and put snow or leaves on top to insulate the heat in. You can also make tents from the blankets provided you have paracord or similar and trees around.
You also will want to have both a reliable lighter (like a Bic) in your pocket to stay warm, and a couple boxes of weatherproof camping matches so you can light a fire if needed. My fire kit includes two small boxes of weatherproof matches, two Bic lighters in a waterproof case, alcohol based hand sanitizer or 80 proof or higher liquor (as a lighting agent), lint from the dryer, and a box of crayons. If I think I’m going to need to make a fire, I’ll put the lighters in my pocket to warm them up so they’ll light, hopefully saving the matches.
5. Other items that you really should have in your bag
Besides for what I listed above, I’ll reiterate that you should have duct tape and paracord to start. You also should have a good AAA or AA LED flashlight and at least four extra batteries. Keep the batteries and flashlight in the glovebox or center console so they stay moderately warm while you’re driving. The batteries might not work well if they’re extremely cold. If worse comes to worse, you can put them in your inner coat pocket to keep warm.
You might want to also have Zip ties, a multi-tool and extra socks, gloves and hats for all in the family.
Packing a small shovel, a 5 to 10 pound bag of salt and a couple cheap floor mats that you can get at an auto store is also a good idea if your car gets stuck and you have to try and get it out.
Ok, so I now it sounds a bit excessive, but at the same time, if there comes a time when you need it, you’ll have it, and you’ll be thankful that it’s with you and you did the work to get everything together.