Why You Should Keep a Winter Emergency Kit

Keeping an emergency kit in your car during the winter months in the Midwest is a necessity.

St. Cloud, Minn., saw its fourth coldest winter on record in 2014, and I remember it all too well.

Bundled up, the icy wind blowing, I scrapped at the windshield as my car warmed up, slowly. I had to work that evening.

The temperature dipped far below zero, and the windchill took the frigid air to record lows, hitting around 60 below. Temperatures like that can be extremely uncomfortable, and more so, dangerous.

Here’s why you should keep a winter emergency kit in your car this winter:

Being Prepared For Winter Is Half the Battle

It doesn’t seem like it’ll happen, but it does. Tires spin, brakes don’t work quite right, gas runs low. These situations are preventable, but even they still occur to the best of us, springing up unwanted situations that call for conscious and prepared actions.

In general, there isn’t a limit on how many items you choose to include in an emergency kit. However, there are a few that are must-haves.

Here’s a list to start you off:

  • Extra clothes, blankets, sleeping bag
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Rain jacket, poncho
  • First-aid kit
  • Shovel, trowel
  • Snacks, water
  • Rope

This doesn’t seem like much, and really, it isn’t. Having these items strewn around your car or in the trunk can be a lifesaver (sometimes, literally) during snow storms or frigid nights on the road.

If you’re looking to add to the list, here’s what I recommend:

  • Zip Ties
  • Mutli-tool, knife
  • Backpack, small bag
  • Duct tape
  • Sand, salt, cat litter
  • A deck of cards
  • Phone charger
  • Newspaper
  • A lighter, matches

Each of these items can be used to your advantage when it comes to any number of situations, even the deck of cards.

Hopefully it never happens, but what if you slide off the road because of a nasty patch of black ice?

If you’re not able to make it out of the ditch or up the snowy bank for one reason or another, it helps to keep your mind occupied while the tow truck — or a friend — comes to bail you out.

The important part is, first, avoiding running into any potential issues on the road or a day trip, and second, to be prepared for it. Emergency kits can help keep you safe, which may or may not include a deck of cards.

A few last notes on safety during the winter time:

  • Communicate your plans with somebody, so that if things do go sideways, you’re accounted for.
  • Don’t over do it. Try to stay calm, because exhausting yourself trying to get out of an icy situation could do more harm than good.
  • Use your car as basecamp. If a blizzard runs through, don’t go wandering out into it. It’s safer that you stay put. Just remember, run the engine every hour for about 10 minutes, with the window cracked slightly to avoid potential carbon monoxide poisoning.