Winter weather, its severity, and tracking where and when it will hit, is now increasingly hard to predict. As the effects of climate change start to become more apparent—unusual temperature swings, increases in natural disasters like wildfires, and sea-level rise—it’s critical to prepare for unpredictable weather. Which is why it’s important to always have a stash of supplies in your car for if you’re ever unlucky enough to get stuck in an environmental emergency, like a brutal blizzard or unexpected snow squall.
Luckily, heavy snowfall, one of the most dangerous and more commonly encountered weather conditions, is something you can easily prepare for when out and about in your vehicle. Most of us have a few winter emergency-preparedness items in our car, especially those of us who live in typically snow-blown areas. But few of us have an extensive array of some of the gear that would be needed if a true survival scenario arose on a snow-covered road.
We put together an all-inclusive list of the 20 essential items you should consider packing in your car when winter weather threatens. Not all of them will be applicable to someone living in area with a mild winter, but most of the gear here should be supplies always stowed away in your vehicle if you live in a snowy climate.
UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit
Take your old-school safety matches out of your vehicle survival kit and replace them with these matches-on-steroids. Packed into a waterproof container, the 12 matches are rated to burn at up to 25 seconds each, and can burn in windy or rainy conditions (and will even relight after being dunked in water). Includes three strikers for quick lighting.
For the minimalist looking to have a water-purifying solution on hand, tablets like these from MSR will do the trick nicely. They will clean up to 60 quarts (one tablet per 2 quarts) of water and offer protection from viruses, bacteria and giardia after letting one dissolve in suspect agua for 30 minutes.[From $10; msr.com]
LifeSaver Liberty Bottle and Purifier
Don’t just pack a water bottle in your emergency kit; toss in this bottle with inline water purifier instead. Billed as the “first and only” portable water bottle with integrated pump, this handy H2O cleaner will remove 99 percent of viruses, bacteria and cysts while filtering 2,000 liters of water at a brisk 1.2 liter-per-minute flow rate. It also comes with a 5-foot-long hose so you can purify water that pooled in hard-to-reach spots.
Before heading out on a potentially hazardous trip in winter weather, fill this multi-use flask with a bit of bourbon (or your favorite tipple) to help keep spirits up during any unexpected strandings. The sturdy aluminum flask is waterproof, natch, holds two collapsible shot glasses and includes a quality compass on one end (with the other housing a four-mode 200 lumen LED flashlight).
Esbit Solid Fuel Stove and Coolest
This simple and robust stove is a great option to pack in your car kit if you don’t want to haul around a propane or isobutane bottle in your trunk. Made from anodized aluminum, the self-contained unit includes a 16-oz pot and wind-shielded stove base that uses solid fuel tablets (sold separately) and fits into the pot, which has a handy pour spout and heat-resistant silicone handles.
Mountain House 2 Day Emergency Food Supply
As long as you have a stove handy to boil some water, these freeze-dried meal packs can keep you full for two days, or, if you stretch them out, help you survive for multiple days (though you could probably munch on them unheated up if you were desperate). This emergency supply comes with two breakfast options and four entrees, all surprisingly tasty—when cooked, that is.
OtterBox Fast Charge Power Bank
Slip this compact battery pack into your glovebox to always have a little extra power to top off your smartphone or charge up dying flashlights when stuck in a hairy situation. The durable, drop-resistant pack, rated at 15,000 mAh, also can pump out 18 watts of fast-charging juice when you use the USB C port, and has a USB A slot for charging at a slower pace.
Ledlenser MH10 Headlamp
A quality headlamp is a must in any car kit—working in and around a stuck vehicle at night usually means you’re gonna need both hands. Ledlenser makes solid, long-lasting lights and the MH10 offers three modes—high, medium, and low—with IPX4 protection against moisture, lock to prevent inadvertently turning it on, and with a rear red light to alert anyone coming up behind you while trudging along a snowy highway.
Ortovox Shovel Beast
Another essential for your vehicle if you live in a particularly snowy climate is a small, light and packable snow shovel like this Ortovox. Though made for ski touring and avalanche rescue, it’s a great addition to a car kit as it weighs just over a pound, is made from hardened aluminum, and has a removable and collapsible oval-shaped handle.
SOL Emergency Bivvy XL
The budget-conscious traveler who doesn’t want to pack a bulky sleeping bag (and isn’t living in a harsh climate) can stow this inexpensive and useful option. The Bivvy only weighs 5.8 oz and packs up small, but offers life-saving benefits like reflecting 90 percent of your body heat back to you (and can fit two people). It’s also tougher than traditional space blankets and is waterproof so it can even help you survive a night or two in the elements.
Ignik Heated Sleeping Bag Liner
For those living in more extreme climates where getting truly stranded by a snowstorm is a real possibility, a neat, heated electric sleeping bag liner like this one from Ignik could be a lifesaver. Simply plug it into a typical vehicle 12-volt socket (or 12- or 5-volt portable battery) to generate a quick blast of warmth of up to 140 F in 2 minutes. The toasty sack is filled with carbon strands instead of bulky wires, so it’s extra comfy and also machine-washable.
Big Agnes Torchlight Camp 20 Sleeping Bag
Though not always needed in your survival stash in warmer climates, those in higher elevations should stow a decent, and not down, sleeping bag. This inexpensive Big Agnes bag is filled with synthetic insulation that will keep you warmer when wet, and, for comfort’s sake, has expandable baffles on the sides (also insulated) to allow for less-restricted movement during the night.
[From $180; bigagnes.com]
Rab Cirrus Flex 2.0 Jacket
Stuffing an extra puffy jacket in your kit is a good idea in case you get stuck in some seriously chilly conditions, or are with a friend that needs the additional layer. Go with a solid and inexpensive synthetic insulated jacket like this new Rab. It’s packed with exclusive PrimaLoft Silver Luxe stuffing which is 100 percent recycled, and has stretchy fleece side and under arm panels to help free up movement.
Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Beanie
This winter hat is so nice, you may end up stealing it from your stash. Made from soft and warm alpaca fiber, the NC-made beanie has special qualities since it’s sourced from alpacas, like being thin but warmer than other kinds of fleece, insulates when wet, and won’t absorb much sweat or melting snow while drying super-fast.
Hestra Kobolt Winter CZone Flex Gloves
There’s nothing worse (or more dangerous in emergency situations) than to have cold and wet hands in winter weather, so don’t pack your old leather work gloves in the kit. Instead, stuff these sweet gloves from Hestra that have a soft yet durable goatskin palm with stretchy Spandex back that’s wrapped around a waterproof membrane. A neoprene cuff with hook-and-loop closure also works to keep wet snow or water from chilling your hands.
MyMedic Moto Medic Stormproof First Aid Kit
Along with a trusty multi-tool, a solid first aid kit is another of the essentials you should already have in your vehicle. There are lots of great, all-in-one options out there, but we dig this self-contained kit that’s specifically made for keeping in your car. The burly, waterproof case holds pretty much everything you would need to help treat and manage the most frequent injuries and ailments, and, besides the usual supplies, includes a tourniquet, EMT shears, and glow stick.
Gerber Multi-Plier 600 Pro Scout
If you don’t already stow a multi-tool in your vehicle, take this as the opportunity to rectify that oversight with this stout Gerber that’s U.S. military’s No. 1 choice. Crafted from stainless steel so it won’t easily corrode in harsh conditions, it has 14 tools at hand, like needle nose pliers (that open with one hand), wire crimper, removable saw blade, nine driver options, and Fiskars scissors.
The Zeus Portable Jump Starter & USB Charger
Your dad’s dusty old jumper cables are a thing of the past with the advent of compact and powerful self-contained jump starters like The Zeus. And not only can it quickly coax a dead car battery to life, but this 20,000 mAh lithium-polymer power pack has two USB ports for charging essentials like phones and lights, but it has its own light. Just be sure it’s charged up before heading out into inclement weather.
Matador Beast 18 Ultralight Technical Backpack
If you get stuck somewhere and need to hike out for gas or to be rescued, having a solid backpack with you can be key. This Matador pack, though it folds down small, has high-end features like a flexible spring steel frame, hydration pouch, and 210-denier nylon construction with YKK zippers, allowing you to haul heavy loads securely and in comfort.
Front Runner Wolf Pack Storage Containers
You’ll need to have a durable, and roomy, place to store all of your winter emergency gear in your car and this 20x16x9 inch, double-walled plastic box will fit the bill. Though not waterproof as they have small holes in the bottom, the latching lid will shed any water and is formed to fit into the bottom of additional containers for easy stacking.
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