How to Create a Winter Survival Kit for Your Car

Living in the vast frozenness of North Dakota for the past 13 years has taught me many things. One of the most important things is you need to have a winter survival kit for your car. 

Things beyond your control happen all the time in the winter

This is The Great Blueberry buried under feet of snow after a two day blizzard

You might hit a patch of black ice and end up in the nearest snowbank. A stray deer might jump in front of you, or a coyote, skunk, raccoon, fox, or any other critter. You might drive over a drift and flip your car end over end landing in the ditch like my sister. And if you’re like me (don’t be like me!), occasionally you might run out of gas in the winter on the way home when you forget to check the gas gauge. 

The point is, stuff happens. 

Sometimes, living in North Dakota is like living on another planet

It’s not that big of a deal when stuff happens in the summer and you aren’t entirely prepared. However, in the winter, it could be life and death if you aren’t prepared. 

My sister and I each got a winter survival kit for Christmas a few years ago and I’ve been grateful to have it on more than one occasion. 

21 Items You Need in a Winter Survival Kit for your Car  

Jumper cables 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve needed to use my jumper cables in the winter. It’s usually only while helping out other stranded drivers. People are usually willing to help others out in the event your car battery is dead, but not everyone carries the cables around. It’s nice to know that you have them if you ever need them for yourself. 


You can never have too many tools

I have a small assortment of common tools. I haven’t needed to use them yet and hopefully, I never have to, but it’s nice to know they’re there if I ever do need them. 

Crank Flashlight/Radio

A flashlight is an amazing thing to have. Whether you need to take a quick peek under the hood of your car or are stuck in the snow. Having a crank-operated one ensures you don’t need to worry about batteries. 

Having a radio included with your flashlight is great. If you’re stuck and need to keep your car off, you can use the radio to keep yourself entertained. Or more importantly, hear weather and other necessary updates. 


I might have a slight candle obsession

You can use this as both a light and a small heat source. If you are stuck in a snowdrift for an extended period. You don’t want to leave your car running as this will 1) use up all the gas, and 2) there is potential for the snow to become compacted in the exhaust pipe, causing a buildup of carbon monoxide in the interior of the car. 


Mitten gloves, glittens, are seriously the best things for your hands in the winter

I had to refill my gas tank on the side of I-94 in the dead of winter once. The wind was roaring and the temperature prior to windchill was well below zero. By the time I had enough gas in the car for it to start, I could not feel my hands. 

It took over an hour for them to warm up and stop hurting. Now I always keep a pair of fingerless glove mittens in the car at all times! 


I had the same experience with a hat. My ears get really cold when I don’t have them covered and when they start to thaw, they feel like they’re burning. Avoid the entire frozen/burning ear situation by keeping a hat in your car

Winter Boots

Love love love my Uggs

I love love love wearing boots in the winter. Especially my fluffy UGG boots. My feet have never been warmer in the winter. The style is unisex so perfect for guys and girls. The one complaint I have about the shoes is that they are not waterproof. But that’s a quick easy fix. Pick up a can of waterproof spray and put on several layers, wait for them to dry and then you have the perfect boots for all types of cold weather! 

Hand Warmers 

Handwarmers are necessary for the winter

Have you ever tried hand warmers? They warm right up and keep your fingers from turning blue. They’re great to keep around during nonemergencies too. 

You can also pick up some gloves/mittens with a special pouch for the hand warmers already sewn in. 


On the off chance you need to spend the night in your car over winter, blankets are a must. And since you have blankets stashed away, you might as well add a pillow to the pile so you’re a little bit more comfortable. 

The best blankets to keep in your car for a winter emergency are the space blankets. They keep body heat trapped in under the blanket with you and keep you warm. 

Electric Blanket

Icicles on the backup camera

Electric blankets are life in the winter. So why not have one for your car too?

Mom got my sister and me an electric blanket as part of our kit. Instead of having a plug for a regular outlet, the blanket can be plugged directly into a cigarette lighter in any vehicle. 

Lightweight Cat Litter 

Many people keep a bag of sand in their vehicles for when the tires are stuck and they keep spinning and spinning. Why keep a heavy bag of sand when a few brilliant people invented lightweight cat litter? Just like sand, sprinkle the cat litter on the ice and you’ll have instant traction for your tires to grab onto. 

Collapsible Shovel 

I am a huge fan of collapsible things! I made this well known when I told you guys everything you need to know about flying with a puppy. Things that collapse take up less space and are just more efficient when it’s not something you need all the time. 

You do need to include a shovel in your emergency car kit. My first winter in college, there was a blizzard and the interstate (my main route to and from work) was shut down. I made it back to campus driving through Fargo on the drift covered streets only to get stuck in the parking lot without a shovel. I had to use my window scraper and arms to move the snow out from in front of my car. I ended up drenched and frozen. Always have a shovel.  


Ice-covered windshield after rain in January, I’m sure you can imagine what the roads were like

Flares are a great way to signal that you need help in the event you get stuck. They can mark your location or even start a fire if you need one. 

Air Compressor 

Air compressors are another great item to keep in your car year-round. Flat tires happen and it’s better to have an air compressor with you can plug in than having to find a place with an air pump. 


A knife is another thing you should be keeping in the car year-round. They are so versatile and can be used for almost anything. One of my favorite things to use a knife for cutting apples and eating them. Ever since I had braces in high school I’ve never been able to eat apples the normal way. But you probably aren’t going to have a ton of apples in a stuck-in-the-snow winter situation. 

A knife can be incredibly useful if you need to cut yourself out of a seat belt and smash the window out with it. There are plenty of other reasons why you should keep one in your car at all times too. 

Can you see the lines down the center of the road?


Cool mint chocolate Cliff Bars are my favorite thing to keep at home, in the car, in my gym bag, at work, and pretty much everywhere for a quick and filling snack. They will keep all winter in your car. Just don’t forget to eat them after a workout come springtime. 

Water pouches

Water is the most important thing for survival. You need it in order to keep your body functioning. The pouches are a great thing to keep on hand and in the car (even though they will freeze) in the event of an emergency where you might be stuck. 

Phone charger

A dead phone is a useless phone. I always keep a charger dedicated to my car in the car. Even if you need to take it with you in the house or a hotel or somewhere, don’t be tempted to. Leave it in the car. You never know when you might need one. 

Lip Balm/Lotion 

I cannot survive without lip balm and lotion. While I do make my own for use at home and on my travels, I prefer keeping store-bought items, like Burt’s Bees (I’m in love with Burt’s Bees lip balm!) in my emergency kit for longevity and not having to worry about using it up right away or if it has spoiled. 


Tissues are great to keep in the car year-round. You never know when you’re going to sneeze, or maybe your nose is just running from the cold and you need something to wipe it on. Tissues (especially the lotion ones) are a must in any car, any time of the year. 


You don’t want all this stuff loose in your car. The best way to keep it all neat and tidy is to get a large toolbox to keep everything together.  

Any other items you would recommend having in your winter survival kit for your car? Do you keep one in your car? 

Don’t forget to pin this post for later and share it with all your northern friends!


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