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How to Build a Winter Weather Emergency Kit for Less

stranded motorist in winter snow
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Winter as arrived in a big away across much of the United States, with early snow blanketing the Midwest, Northern Plains, and New England. If you don’t already have a winter emergency kit in every vehicle you own, don’t delay! Here’s how to put one together–it’s not as expensive as you think.

Snow and Ice Tools

In areas that get a lot of snow, a sturdy snow shovel should be the first thing in your kit. If you run off the road and get stuck in a drift, you’ll have to dig yourself out. It won’t be fun, but with the right tools, you can do it.

It’s especially important to dig your car out if snow is still falling. Keeping the vehicle clear will make it easier for rescue crews to find you if you can’t get out. It’s not a bad idea to have traction mats if you live someplace where you’re likely to encounter unpaved roads. Otherwise, a bag of kitty litter could get you out in a pinch.

Everyone should have a good ice scraper with a brush attachment, no matter where they live. Even the South can get snow and ice! Always clear the snow and ice from your windshield as well as the hood before you drive.

Staying Warm and Safe

If you get stuck in your car while waiting for help, things can get dangerously cold–fast. If that happens, you’ll need to keep yourself warm. Each person who regularly rides in the vehicle should pack a spare hat, mittens, thick socks, as well as a blanket.

Why socks? Because if the ones you’re wearing get wet, it could become a serious problem. Mittens are warmer than gloves, so it’s better to pack those than gloves. Chemical hand warmers can be used in an emergency.

First-aid kits should be standard in every vehicle. Pick up a pre-packed kit or buy supplies in bulk and divide them up between your vehicles, home, and office. If you already have a kit in your car, double-check the expiration date on the supplies. I like to do this when the clocks change to ensure that I’m never caught out with expired medicine or food.

Basic Emergency Supplies

In addition to the specific cold weather gear listed above, you should include some basics in your kit. Jumper cables, duct tape, a multi-tool, and a flashlight will get you out of quite a few roadside emergencies. Road flares or reflective triangles are important to keep other drivers safe from your stranded vehicle.

Keep an emergency, one-use phone charging kit just in case you find yourself with a car that won’t start and an empty phone battery. Non-perishable, nutrient-dense food will keep your batteries charged as you wait for help. Think dried fruit, peanut butter, and energy bars.

You’ll need water, too. I was reminded the hard way last winter that water freezes when the temperature dips below 32 degrees. And when it freezes, it expands, rupturing the jug and flooding my trunk. Store bottled water in the cabin of your car inside a soft-sided, insulated cooler to protect it from freezing temperatures.


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