This week in Minnesota, the temperatures dipped to -20 F. That’s dangerously cold (they actually close schools when it gets too cold!). Today it’s 20 degrees ABOVE zero which comparatively seems like spring. If that sounds even remotely like where you live, you’ll want to make sure your car winter survival kit is up to date. If you’re from a more temperate region, feel free to skip ahead to pet paw stockings and cookie baking and try not to gloat too much on your way out.
As much as I sometimes wish I could just stay home and make snowman cookies, life goes on in sub-zero temps. There are events that I have to get to for work, no matter what the road conditions are like. And while I hope I never have to use my car emergency kit, I know it’s something I have to have (at least until spring, when I can celebrate by eating the fruit and nut bars out of the tin).
What to include in your winter car kit
In case your car breaks down in winter, stay as safe and comfortable as you can until help arrives (obviously call 911 with your cell phone while you wait).
- A tin to hold everything in. This is a great use for the cookie tins you’ll have left over after the holidays.
- Food. In case of emergency, you’ll want food to keep your blood sugar (and spirits) up. Wrapped foods that don’t perish easily such as beef jerky or energy bars are good choices.
- Candles and matches (could also be flares and/or flashlight).
- Blankets. I keep a fleece blanket in my car, as well as Mylar blankets which are made to keep your body heat in if you car breaks down.
- Hand and foot warmers. I used these when I worked outside at Ice Castles. These little packets heat up when you shake them and stay warm for a few hours. They are sized to fit into gloves or boots.
These are the bare minimum you should absolutely have on hand when driving in the winter. There are bigger things you should also probably have that won’t fit in a tin, such as a bag of sand or litter and snow shovel. The state of Wisconsin has a Winter Safety Checklist. The website recommends keeping your emergency kit in the main compartment of your car because the trunk can become frozen shut.
And one last piece of advice from a Midwesterner: every time you leave the house bring warm boots, warm coat and winter hat and gloves. If you’re dressed up really cute and don’t want to mess up your hair, take off your heels or look like the Michelin man, just throw them in the backseat. The important this is you have them if needed. Stay safe this winter!