If you live in a colder part of the country or have ever traveled across a colder area during the winter, you probably already know how harrowing driving in winter weather can be. Snow limits your ability to see into the distance—and for other cars to see you. Water and ice make the roads particularly slick. If you’re driving in a rural area, you might even have to contend with roads that haven’t been plowed recently.
If conditions are particularly bad in your area, you should only drive when absolutely necessary, and you should make sure that you always keep a winter survival kit in your car. If you do break down in the middle of a blizzard or end up in a snowbank, it could be days until someone finds you. In that kind of a situation, the following 5 types of items could mean all the difference.
Blankets and sleeping bags.
You should never leave your car running just to keep the heater on if you’re trapped in a snowstorm—snow can plug your car’s exhaust pipe and cause carbon monoxide to leak into the vehicle. A good rule of thumb is to never run your car for more than 10 minutes every hour when you’re stuck, and leave a window slightly cracked when the car is on. In order to avoid needing the car heater, make sure that you have heavy blankets and sleeping bags to wrap yourself in. Staying warm is one of the most important things you need to remember when stranded in a cold environment.
Extra winter clothes.
Little things like gloves, a hat, a scarf, socks, and waterproof boots can help keep you from getting hypothermia or frostbite. A lot of people are already wearing those items when they’re driving in a cold climate, but you should have an extra set of clothes on hand in case the ones you’re wearing get wet. You might also want to consider battery-powered foot warmers offered by companies like Cozy Products, which can fit inside your shoes or boots and quickly warm your feet without exposing you to the potentially hazardous substances in chemically reactive foot and hand warmers.
Non-perishable food and bottled water.
Store non-perishable, calorie dense foods like energy bars and trail mix in your car in case you’re stranded for a long period of time. Even more important than food is water. A gallon jug of water will likely be difficult to thaw if you are stranded in your car, so opt for either smaller individual water bottles or a large cooler full of water. It’s a good idea to keep at least a few days’ worth of water in your car, and the more you can bring with you, the better off you’ll be in the event of an emergency.
LED emergency beacon, flashlight, and extra batteries.
It’s already difficult to see the road when it’s covered in snow, and it’s even harder to see a car that’s off in a snowy ditch. Keep a battery-operated LED emergency beacon in your car so that if you hear another vehicle approaching, you can signal for help. Even in snowy conditions or during a dark night, these intense strobe beacons are still visible from a distance. You should also pack a flashlight with a long battery life and extra batteries so that you’ll be able to see after dark.
The idea of being stranded on the side of the road in a snowstorm is scary enough, but it’s even scarier to think about you or a loved one being hurt in the accident that left you stranded. Make sure that you have a first-aid kit stocked with adhesive tape, a bulb suction device, disposable gloves, bandages, cotton swabs, antiseptic ointment, and scissors. Hopefully you won’t need to use those supplies, but it’s much better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
About the author: Juliana Weiss-Roessler runs Weiss-Roessler Writing with her husband Josh. Together, they offer press releases, blogging, website copy, and other writing services to small and mid-sized businesses. Her writing has been featured on high-traffic websites, such as Yahoo.com, and in major publications, such as PARADE and People. Along with her husband, Juliana lives in Austin, TX, with their two tiny-but-rambunctious dogs and one tiny-but-rambunctious baby boy. Learn more on www.WeissRoessler.com, or follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.