16 Winter Emergency Supplies You Should Always Keep in Your Car
When you're driving on the coldest, most blustery days of winter, stow these items in your car and you'll be ready for just about any problems the weather may bring.
Snow, sleet, ice, and freezing temperatures make winter driving treacherous and unpredictable. Be prepared for even the worst weather by stocking your car with supplies that will keep you comfortable, and keep your car moving safely, all season long.
1. Pet-Friendly De-Icer
While municipalities usually plow and ice city roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and concrete steps on private property don’t fall within their purview. If you’re faced with a treacherous and unavoidable dismount—for instance, a slippery sidewalk where ice has melted and refrozen—a bit of de-icer can make the trip from your car to your destination a little less dangerous. Just keep in mind before you pour that not everyone may appreciate your taking matters into your own hands.
2. Kitty Litter
When you’re stuck in the snow, the best thing to do is put your car into low gear and accelerate slowly to give the wheels the best chance at gaining traction. If the wheels spin too fast, your car could just end up further entrenched in the snow. To get that extra bit of traction, you can sprinkle some kitty litter in the path of your tires to give the treads something to grip so they can pull you out of your rut.
3. Windshield De-Icer
A good spray de-icer can solve myriad problems. Spray it on the windshield to break up ice and frost—especially useful if your car’s defroster is not in working order—or apply it to headlights and taillights to keep them from freezing over and losing brightness. It’s also a good idea to keep a small container of de-icer in your purse, backpack, or briefcase for those times when your car’s locks freeze over and you can’t get in.
RELATED: 8 Easy Ways to Winter-Proof Your Car
4. Snow Brush
A snow brush is a winter-weather must-have. Ideally, opt for a combination snow brush and ice scraper like the Snow Moover, a top performer in our researched guide to the best ice scrapers. This one has thick bristles that help brush away snow from the windshield, hood, headlights, and roof of the car so you can get going as quickly as possible and stay safe on the road.
5. Mitten Windshield Scraper
It can be tough to scrape ice from your car windows when it’s really cold outside. If you’re wearing bulky gloves, you end up awkwardly fumbling and doing a so-so job with even the best ice scraper. Then, when you take off the gloves to gain better control of the scraper, your fingers go numb from the cold. Enter the Traderplus ice scraper mitt, a mitten with an integrated scraper. It will get the job done and keep your paws toasty warm.
6. Windshield Cover
If snow flurries threaten to cover your freshly scraped car while you run into the grocery store, or if freezing rain is coming down while you’re inside working, you might want to throw a cover over your windshield. Not only will it keep your windshield free of snow and ice, but it will also protect the wipers from freezing to the glass, allowing you to get on your way quickly and easily.
7. Traction Mat
When you need extra traction to get out of a slippery situation, these 36-inch polypropylene traction mats can handle it, whether you’re stuck in snowy, muddy, or sandy conditions. Lightweight (just 2.5 pounds each) and easy to carry, there’s no installation—or shoveling—required to get you on your way again.
In extreme winter weather, you could become stranded on the road at any time. If you’re stuck in your car, the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable and shivering. To keep your hands warm while you’re waiting for help, stash a few packages of HotHands in the car. This popular air-activated hand warmer is a favorite of campers, hunters and fishermen, tailgaters, and anyone else who needs to keep warm in far-from-balmy conditions.
9. Nonslip Boots
Winter weather is unpredictable. You never know when you’ll have to get out of the car and shovel snow out from under your tires or change a tire while icy rain is pouring down. To make these unexpected challenges safer and more manageable, be sure you have a pair of sturdy, slip-free boots, such as Moab 2 waterproof boots from Merrell, stowed in your vehicle. A pair of these will provide the traction you need in an emergency, and they’re even handy when all you need is a warm, dry change of shoes.
10. Heated Blanket
Hand warmers aren’t the only way to keep warm when you’re stuck on the road. Several top-rated heated electric blankets on the market can be plugged into a 12-volt power outlet (in other words, the socket for the cigarette lighter). Look for a blanket that’s large enough to keep two people warm and that has a cord long enough to reach the back seat.
11. Emergency Flashlight
Flag down help, even in the worst weather, with a pair of trusty emergency flashlights. These lights by HeroBeam, sold as a twin pack, can also be used as work lights. The lights are water- and shock-resistant, and each one is outfitted with a strong magnet that allows for mounting on steel car panels or the hood or fender and has a clothing clip to hook onto a coat or belt.
12. Protein Bars
Horrific storms in recent years have led to road closures and delays that have left drivers stranded in bumper-to-bumper conditions for up to 12 hours. Prepare for trouble now by stashing high-protein snacks in the glove box. You’ll need water, too, but it’s not a good idea to keep water bottles in your car indefinitely, since they can freeze and crack. Instead, always carry a bottle or two in your backpack or purse so you’ll be prepared for whatever winter dishes out.
13. Portable Car Battery Starter
While having jumper cables in the car is good practice year ‘round, you definitely don’t want to be caught without them when winter winds blow. There may be no other drivers out when your battery decides to quit, so consider carrying a portable car jump starter, which dispenses with the need for another car to jump yours. Charge it up once a year via USB, then carry it in your car to jump-start your battery whenever needed. It also functions as a power bank and a flashlight.
14. Snow Shovel
Not all emergency supplies have to be high-tech. A humble snow shovel might be all that’s needed to get you out of a jam when the white stuff piles up unexpectedly while you’re out to dinner with friends. Look for one that folds down or disassembles into a compact package for easy storage.
15. Portable Phone Charger
Portable phone chargers are handy to have when you have no other power source to charge your potentially life-saving method of communication. If your phone battery is dead from too much snow-covered-mountain picture-taking, and your car battery is dead because of course it is, a portable charger might just save you. Consider purchasing a dedicated “car emergency” charger and committing yourself to leaving it in the car.
16. Road Flares
In whiteout conditions, a bright red flare might save your life. Keep a pack of these emergency beacons in your car to alert others that you need help or to let passersby know that your car is parked on the shoulder. Flares that come in a bag will remain safely contained in your trunk. And don’t forget to also carry a lighter, stored in a separate place, to light the flares.