DIY Emergency Car Kit for Winter
How To Guides | Emergency Car Kits

33 Items to Build a DIY Emergency Car Kit for Cold Weather

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Traveling during the cold winter months can be a dicey prospect, whether you are commuting to work or traveling for recreation.  Careful planning and preparation are necessary in order for you to be safe on the road.

Accidents can happen at any time and preparation is key in order for you to come through safely.  Preparing an emergency kit for the cold weather doesn’t need to be a daunting task.

First, you need to figure out what you are going to need.  Are you going on a road trip? Do you have a long commute? How will you be traveling in the cold snowy weather? So what should you have in your emergency car kit when the cold weather months are upon us?

These items are listed in no particular order. There are so many items that you could pack, but what do you actually need? That depends on what your particular driving situation.   Look through the list and figure out what you are going to need in order to build the perfect emergency car kit for you. 

Items For Winter Emergency Car Kit

ESSENTIALS: EXTRAS:

  • Emergency Car Kit
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves (Winter)
  • De-Icer
  • Blanket
  • Batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Ice Scraper
  • Tool Kit
  • Cell Phone
  • Charger
  • Battery Power Pack for Electronic Devices
  • Shovel
  • (Medications)
  • Kitty Litter / Sand /Safety absorbant
  • Snacks (Non-Perishable/ High Protein
  • Air Compressor
  • Emergency Flares
    • Hazard Triangles or Led Flashers
  • Rock Salt
  • Multitool
  • Extra Clothes
  • Paper Map
  • Lighter/ Waterproof matches
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Rope
  • Tow Strap
  • Traction Mats
  • Tire Chains
  • Jumper Cables
  • Pen and paper
  • Candle Powered Heater
  • Fix – A – Flat

This is an extensive list of items and you probably won’t need everything on this list, but let’s take a look at these items to determine what you need.

Emergency Car Kit:

Let’s just start at the top, an emergency car kit should be a staple for every vehicle.  It contains many of the items that you will need should you break down. For a relatively low investment, you can have peace of mind that if something should happen you will have the basics.  Emergency car kits are available with a variety of choices; so what do you need?

A basic emergency car kit contains only the first aid kit; this is a relatively inexpensive option, but it won’t help you if your vehicle actually breaks down.  On the other end of the scale, there are emergency car kits that contain jumper cables, air compressors, tire repair kits, etc. You would truly be ready for nearly anything that could happen.

Most likely somewhere in the middle is where you would fall. An emergency car kit with a small tool kit and jumper cables would suit your needs.  So, what are your needs, are you commuting back and forth to work? Are you taking a long road trip? Are you going away for the weekend? All of this will determine what level of emergency car kit you need.

Having an emergency car kit is a great start. But most are not geared specifically toward cold weather.  You will need to augment your own personal car emergency kit with items specific to dealing with cold temperatures.

The HAIPHAIK Emergency Roadside Toolkit from Amazon is a great place to start. It’s one of the few kits that come with a shovel. It lacks a first aid kit, but if you want to start building your own kit. This is a good place to begin.

Jumper Cables

If these are not included with your emergency car kit then you should absolutely have a set with you.  You never know when you will need them.

If you don’t know what you are looking for, then click over here to see what size jumper cables you need.

Also, there are some other considerations that you need to keep in mind.  Like what does the red and black on the jumper cables mean?

Choosing jumper cables is not complicated, but you should be educated before you make your choice.

Flashlight:

Another staple that should be in all cars, no matter what season is a flashlight.  However, for cold weather, special consideration needs to be made to the type of battery that your flashlight uses.  

Cold weather will affect all batteries, but your regular alkaline Double A’s will be affected by the cold much more than a lithium-ion battery.  Even though the flashlights are stored in the car, the constant cold will eventually drain them. Then, when you need to use them, and you will, the batteries will be dead. 

Also, look for an LED flashlight.  The LED bulb has much more versatility than a conventional bulb and will be more useful in the cold weather.  The LED bulb does not get hot like a conventional light bulb, so in extreme cold weather conditions, they are less likely to break.  They also draw less power from the batteries, so an LED flashlight will last a bit longer in the cold weather.

Finally, use rechargeable batteries or a rechargeable flashlight.  By maintaining a regular routine of recharging the batteries you will always have a flashlight ready to go in case of an emergency.

Gloves:

An extra pair of gloves is always good to have in the cold.  A nice set of wool gloves or even mittens is essential to have in your car kit because once your hands and fingers get cold it is very difficult to warm them back up again.  

Also, you never know when you are going to need to touch something that has been exposed to the cold.  This will chill your fingers even faster. Gloves are good for keeping your hands and fingers warm, even if you have to do some work outside in the cold.

A nice pair of wool gloves will do the trick nicely.  What you should really look for would be something that is waterproof or at the very least, water-resistant.  Because once your hands and fingers get cold AND wet it will be very hard to recover from that.

De-icer:

This stuff runs along the lines of fix a flat in your car; you don’t know when you are going to need it until you need it.  I have used this stuff to get my car doors open when they were frozen shut; to scraping a layer of ice off my windshield.

I always liked having a can in the car, because you just never know.  The one thing to keep in mind is that it does not work well when extremely cold.  If it sits in your trunk for too long, you may need to warm it up a bit before it will work properly.

Blanket:

You always want to have a blanket in the car during the winter months.  During the cold winter months in Maine, we always had at least one blanket in the car, just in case.  If you break down, you will be very thankful that you have a blanket to keep you and your family warm.

What kind of blanket do you need?  The first thing that people think of when it comes to having an emergency blanket is the metallic space blanket.  To be sure these blankets serve their purpose, however, a warm wool blanket is the way you want to go. A space blanket will not keep you warm when its 20 degrees outside and the temperature is falling.

Think of it this way.  When you go camping, you don’t bring a pad and a space blanket and expect to stay warm.  You have a sleeping bag to keep yourself warm and dry. The same principle applies to ‘camping’ in your car when you break down.

This is especially important when you have babies in the car. Babies tend to get cold quickly, so having an extra blanket or two is a good idea.

Batteries:

Spare batteries are always good to have.  You keep spare batteries in your house, you had better keep them in the car as well.  Again, lithium-ion batteries are the best to keep in your emergency kit. They have a good shelf life and they don’t leak.

Regular alkaline batteries will freeze and leak in freezing cold temperatures.  This will do you no good when you are in an emergency situation. It will also damage the device that they are in.

First Aid Kit:

This should be a staple in any car, any time of year.  Pick a first aid kit that will satisfy you and your family’s needs. 

Your first aid kit should include various size bandages, gauze,  antibiotic ointment, wrap. All the things you may need if you cut your hand changing your spare tire.

Ice Scraper:

Don’t underestimate a good ice scraper.  These things are invaluable because, you know, they let you see where you are going.  You should have one of these in your car during the winter at all times, not just in an emergency car kit.  

I always carried two with me.  One was extendable and had a brush on one end, with a typical ice scraper on the other end.  I would brush any loose stuff off first and then follow up with some hardcore scraping.  

I always liked an ice scraper with a metal handle and rubber blade.  These always did a superior job of getting ice off of my windows.  

Tool Kit:

Again a basic that should be in your car, any time of the year.  It doesn’t need to be a 199 piece set. Just something with pliers, screwdrivers, work gloves, wrenches, and a small ratchet set.

We are not talking about extensive mechanical work here.  I am talking about having a screwdriver to pry the hubcap off of your wheels.

Multitool

In lieu of a tool kit, a multi-tool, such as a Leatherman is your best bet.  I carry one of these around with me wherever I go, regardless of the season.

With a muli-tool, you have a set of pliers, knife, screwdriver (philips and flat head), file, etc.  You never know when you are going to need it, but you’ll be glad you have it when you do. 

Cell phone:

This one goes without saying.  This is probably your most important tool if you find yourself in an emergency situation.  Just make sure it’s charged or that you have an additional power source with you. Which leads me to…

Battery Power Pack for Electronic Devices

These babies are handy to have and inexpensive.  We have one charged up and ready to go for hurricane season here in Florida. The only thing you have to do is make sure it’s charged and that you actually have it with you.  

Like all batteries, it is susceptible to cold weather, so it needs to be brought into the warmth at night.  Don’t leave it in your console or in your emergency car kit. There is a risk that the battery will die when exposed to extreme conditions.  

We use our cell phones for everything, so the likely hood of having a drained battery is pretty good.  It’s nice to know that you have a little extra power if you need it.

Shovel

There may be no more important tool than a shovel when you are traveling in cold weather.  Especially if there is snow in the forecast.  

When you find yourself stuck in the snow or ice, your best friend will be your shovel.  Anytime you need to get unstuck; the shovel is the tool of choice.   Be it your stuck in a parking space because the plow truck pushed snow up behind your car. Or you find yourself on the side of the road because you got stuck in a rut.  

A shovel combined with a good set of traction mats and you could possibly free yourself from a bad situation. 

Medications

This will not apply to everyone.  But it’s something you need to keep in mind if you have specialized meds that you need to take.  At the very least you may want to have some pain relievers with you, just in case.

Snacks (Non-Perishable/ High Protein)

It’s bad enough being stuck on the side of the road and not being able to get where you were going.  It almost adds insult to injury to be hungry at such a time.  

Have snacks, like granola bars, almonds, crackers, beef jerky at your disposal.  You want something calorie rich that will last a while. You don’t know how long you are going to be stuck.

If you have children in the car, make sure that you have snacks appropriate for them.  They will make a stressful situation worse if they are hungry. 

Extra Items, to make being stuck less terrible

The list above describes the essentials that you should have in your emergency car kit for cold weather.  If you want to be uber-prepared for cold weather continue reading. These are items that are not essential, but nice to have if you happen to get stranded in cold weather.

Traction Mats

As I have said before; if I had known about these when I lived in Maine, I would have invested in a set.  

For most of us, we are driving to work, school, dropping off the kids, its pretty basic.  In the cold weather basic can become complicated. A little patch of ice, some packed down snow, and you are not going anywhere.

Traction mats give you the ability to get unstuck and going again, all on your own.  Potentially, with a little bit of digging and placing these bad boys in the right spot. You should be going again.

The best part is, they are portable and don’t take a lot of room in the trunk.

Looking for Tire Traction Mats?

Check out my recommendations on the best tire traction mats for you. Click the button to find out more

Air Compressor

A portable air compressor is always nice to have.   They can either be part of a jump starter pack or a stand-alone unit that plugs into the cigarette lighter.

When you are on the road, an air compressor has one job. To keep your tires inflated.  If you pick up a nail or discover that your spare tire is flat. Rather than using some Fix-a-Flat, an air compressor will get your tire back to where it needs to be so you can continue on your journey.

Remember you don’t want to over or under inflate your tires, so check your PSI before you get back on the road.  Also, keep in mind that you may have a slow leak. Inflating the tire with an air compressor may only be a temporary measure.

You may need to have the tire professionally fixed.  But at least you were able to get moving on your own terms.

Emergency Road Flares

No, these are not the ones you fire out of a flare gun.  As much fun as that is, road flares get ignited and placed on the road to warn other drivers.

These are nice if you don’t want to get creamed while you are waiting on the side of the road.  These signal other drivers that you are in distress. Some emergency car kits come equipped with emergency flares.

Just a word of caution, please be careful when using emergency flares.  They are very hot and can cause serious burns if not used properly.

Hazard Triangles or Led Flashers

A safer alternative and perhaps a bit more long-lasting alternative to emergency road flares are hazard triangles or flashers.  These, too, warn oncoming drivers that there is a broke down vehicle.

However, they do it without the flames.  Also, they are reusable. All in all, these are probably a better solution than road flares.  You do need to make sure that you have a good battery in the flashers though.

Extra Clothes

Why would you need to carry a spare set of clothes?  Usually, when it’s cold, there is snow and ice. Snow and ice melt and make your clothes wet.  Wet clothes make you cold and put you at risk of hypothermia.

Or just having some extra clothing to wrap around you like a blanket.  Anything to keep you insulated if you happen to be stranded somewhere.

At the very least, carry a pair of insulated socks.  Cold feet are the worst and are high-risk candidates for frostbite.  

Paper Map

A what now?  Yes, before Google Maps, there were paper maps that showed where roads would lead. “ Why on Earth would I need a paper map?  I have my phone.”  

Yes, you may have your GPS, I use mine all the time.  But what happens when you have no signal? What are you going to do?  Whenever I am making a trip out of town, I have a paper map with me. There is something nostalgic about being able to navigate with your wits.

You don’t need one for your daily commute, obviously.  However, if you are planning a long road trip, it may not be a bad idea to carry one with you as a backup.  Learn how to read a map, it will be one more tool for you.

Lighter/ Waterproof matches

The ability to start a fire seems to be universal when it comes to survival.  Matches and lighter help that along tremendously. Now obviously no one wants to be caught out of doors in the winter. However, if you are, you will need a fire to keep you warm.

Which leads us to the next item…

Candle Powered Heater

With a few tea lights and a coffee can you can create a rudimentary heater for your car.  Please be careful not to set the interior of your car on fire.

With the proper candles, this will generate enough heat to keep you warm until a tow truck arrives and gets you going again.  

Continuing with this theme…

Fire Extinguisher

If things go badly with your candle powered heater, you need a way to put out the fire.  Fire extinguishers come in a variety of sizes

Check over here for the best fire extinguishers for your car.

If you don’t need it for yourself, you will at least be in a position to help someone else in an emergency.

Tow Strap

What I wouldn’t have given for a tow strap when I got run off the road in Maine.  There I was completely helpless, I was totally unprepared…shame on me.

With a good tow strap, another vehicle, and someone willing to give you a hand; you can get yourself unstuck from many situations.

Find a secure spot on your vehicle and attach it to a secure spot on another vehicle some gentle pulling and you should be back on the road again.

These are almost a necessity if you do any offroading, but that is a different topic.

One last note, while it is good to have one, you should probably have some experience with a tow strap. Or at the very least have someone with some experience show you how to use one.  

You can do some serious damage to your car or the other person’s car if these are placed on the wrong positions.  

Rope 

There are substitutes for almost everything.  A rope is a great substitute for a tow strap. Make sure it is a good length and it is a solid rope.

The same warnings apply to know how to use one. 

Pen and paper

Even in this digital age, a pen and paper are useful to have.  Like many other items on this list, you won’t know you need them until you do.

You may need to write down directions on how to perform a certain task. More likely, you will need to leave a note for someone.  

Whatever the case, it’s good to have.

Fix – A – Flat

Ah, good ol’ Fix-A-Flat.  No matter how you feel about this product; if it means getting you to a hotel for the night, I think you will use it.  I would.

Remember, it’s not a permanent fix, but it may get you to a safe and warm place.

The one drawback to Fix-A-Flat is that it doesn’t like the cold weather.  So don’t leave it in the extreme temps for too long.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

There you have it. A comprehensive list of items you may need for an emergency car kit for winter. Of course, these are just suggestions and ideas.

You may not need all of these items. But that’s what is great about this list, you can read through and choose the items you need.

And after you spend all this time reading this article and building your kit…hopefully, you will never need it. But, better safe than sorry.

Winter is coming, be prepared, have fun and

Safe travels…

PS. Congratulations if you have made it this far. If wintertime is a memory and you are heading into the summer season, check out my article on emergency car kits for summer.

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