People often stock their first aid kits and gather supplies in case of emergencies — but during the winter, you need to plan for safety outside your home, too.

In addition to regular maintenance, it’s important to make sure your vehicle has weather-appropriate tires with good tread and to fill your car with gas before driving in severe weather.

Also, consider putting together a winter survival kit for your vehicle. In case of an emergency, it could save your life and the lives of your passengers. Having the right supplies on hand will give you peace of mind when driving in hazardous winter conditions.

Having the right automotive tools and supplies in your vehicle provides self-sufficiency in the event of a breakdown or accident during winter weather. The following items can keep you safe on the road.

Essential Automotive Supplies

These items should always be in your vehicle to prepare for breakdowns or accidents:

  • Auto/travel tool kit: Contains essential tools for minor repairs.
  • Cell phone car charger: Lets you charge your phone if your car stalls.
  • Compass and road maps: Navigation aids if you become lost.
  • First aid kit: A comprehensive kit to treat your injuries until help arrives.
  • Flares/reflective flags: Alert other drivers of your disabled vehicle.
  • Jumper cables: Cables allow you to jump-start your battery if it dies.
  • Seatbelt cutter/glass breaker tool: Helps cut jammed seatbelts or break glass.
  • Spare tire: Allows you to replace a flat tire and continue driving.
  • Tire repair kit: Temporarily patch holes in your tires.
  • Tow rope: Used to tow or be towed if your car breaks down.
  • Vehicle manual: Review the manual to understand the emergency features of your car.
  • Whistle to signal for help: Use to call out for help if stranded.

Essential Winter Weather Gear

In addition to your year-round automotive kit, you’ll want to supplement it with winter-specific gear to handle storms and cold conditions. Consider packing the following extra items during the winter driving months:

  • Bag of cat litter: Can be used for tire traction if stuck in snow or ice.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries: Illuminates your surroundings if stranded at night or in bad weather.
  • Hand-crank weather radio or battery-operated radio with extra batteries: Provides weather updates if cell service fails. You can also use it to call for help.
  • Rock salt: Melts ice on pavement, steps, or windows.
  • Small shovel: Digs your vehicle out of snow if stuck off-road.
  • Waterproof matches and candles: Provides heat and light if your car shuts down.
  • Windshield ice scraper with a brush: Removes frost, snow, and ice from windows.
Today’s Homeowner Tips

Severe winter weather can knock out cell service, stranding you without communication. Having backup options like a radio and extra batteries ensures you can receive weather alerts and call for assistance. Other gear like salt, a shovel, and a scraper allow you to clear snow, melt ice, and maintain visibility to escape safely.

Survival Items in Case of Extended Stranding

These additional items that could save your life if stranded for an extended period:

  • Blankets/sleeping bags: Protects against cold temperatures if stuck overnight.
  • Bottled water: Prevents dehydration if stuck without access to water.
  • Extra set of clothes, gloves, and hat: Allows you to layer up or change out of wet clothes.
  • Manual can opener: Allows you to open canned goods in the absence of power.
  • Necessary medications: Be sure to have several days’ supply of prescriptions with you to treat conditions if you are stuck waiting for help.
  • Nonperishable food, dried foods, and energy bars: Provides nutrition if stranded for long periods to avoid hypothermia.

If your vehicle breaks down in a remote area, you may be stranded for hours before help can reach you. Having food, water, warm clothing, and blankets prevents your condition from deteriorating while waiting for assistance. Any necessary medications could also be vital.

So, Is a Winter Survival Kit Worthwhile?

A winter survival kit is absolutely worth keeping in your car at all times. You should tailor your safety kit to the hazards in your region. For example, in areas with frequent heavy snow, include a high-quality ice scraper and collapsible shovel. In remote areas, pack enough food and water to sustain you for several days, along with blankets and clothing to keep you warm. Customizing your kit allows you to address likely risks on your travels.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Without the proper gear, you may find yourself stranded in dangerous winter conditions. A well-stocked survival kit provides safety, security, and peace of mind. Though you may never need to use it, you’ll be thankful to have emergency supplies if the need arises.

FAQs About Winter Survival Kits

Where is the best place to keep my winter survival kit?

Store your kit in the trunk or cargo area of your car. Emergency items stored in the cabin risk becoming projectiles in an accident. The trunk keeps them secure yet easily accessible.

How often should I check my winter kit supplies?

Check your kit at least once per season. Replace expired food, water, and batteries. Update clothes for proper seasonal fit. Refill any depleted items.

What items should I pack for the kids?

Include warm clothes in children’s sizes. Bring diapers and wipes if traveling with babies. Pack snacks, bottles, and formula or milk if needed. Add toys and books to keep kids occupied.

Should I build multiple kits for each vehicle?

Yes, it’s wise to assemble a dedicated kit for each car you drive. You can’t guarantee having the right supplies if you leave them behind in another vehicle. Customize each with gear to meet your car’s needs.

Can I just build my own kit rather than buy one?

Absolutely. Purchased kits save time, but DIY kits allow you to cherry-pick exactly what you want. Take inventory of your needs, assemble supplies, and pack them in a tote or storage container.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Jonathon Jachura

Jonathon Jachura


Jonathon Jachura is a two-time homeowner with hands-on experience with HVAC, gutters, plumbing, lawn care, pest control, and other aspects of owning a home. He is passionate about home maintenance and finding the best services. His main goal is to educate others with crisp, concise descriptions that any homeowner can use. Jon uses his strong technical background to create engaging, easy-to-read, and informative guides. He does most of his home and lawn projects himself but hires professional companies for the “big things.” He knows what goes into finding the best service providers and contractors. Jon studied mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana and worked in the HVAC industry for 12 years. Between his various home improvement projects, he enjoys the outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with his family.

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Jeff Zoldy

Jeff is a writer, editor, and marketer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been editing on the Home Solutions team for over a year and is passionate about getting homeowners the information they need when they need it most. When he’s not working, Jeff can be found at baseball games, golfing, going to the gym, reading, watching movies, and playing video games.

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