12 Essentials You Need to Keep In Your Car Winter Emergency Kit

Post Updated Nov 2021: What To Put In Your Car Winter Emergency Kit

Going back and forth across the mountain pass, Berty and I have learned the necessary things to have in our car during these cold winter road trips. We’ve gotten stuck behind accidents for hours, had to take huge detours, and dig ourselves out of some pretty gnarly situations.

Basically, we wrote this post in hopes that it will help you be more prepared than us! In this post, we’ve put together a car emergency kit to handle unexpected situations en route.

Building your own car emergency kit with everything you may need ensures a safer journey to wherever the holidays or snowy season takes you!

If you are holiday drivers like us, consider reading this post and gearing up before you go.


Make sure your car can get across that mountain pass!

That means checking all car fluids. How are your brakes? Do your headlights work? When was the last time your oil was changed?

Here’s a link to winter-specific car maintenance. All these questions are SUPER important to ask before you go, because getting stuck in a snowy pass with a broken car is actually the worst thing, ever.

However, when you’re ready to make the drive, read on and have a car emergency kit stocked and in your trunk for those unexpected winter surprises.

12 Essentials You Need In Your Car Winter Emergency Kit

How Do Your Store Items In Your Car Emergency Kit?

It’s helpful to pack all these items in a small, clear plastic bin. Store in the trunk for easy access! Label it “car winter emergency kit” so that passengers recognize it easily as well.

12 Essentials You Need For A Car Emergency Kit - TheMandagies.com

1. Water Bottles + Power Snacks

GSI Foldable Water Jug

Pack several water bottles and snacks to keep you energized if you get stuck in an unexpected place. Try buying them in bulk to save money!

Don’t want to use plastic? Purchase this reusable 5-gallon tub. Just make sure to fill it up before your trip and don’t leave sitting water in the trunk!

Our current favorite energy bars are from GoMacro. These vegan bars have all the essentials for a quick energy boost and come in tons of different flavors.

2. Jumper Cables

If you’ve been running the car battery too long and need an extra boost to get your car started again, jumper cables are essential to have in your car emergency kit.

You can also use them to give your neighbor a boost if they have trouble too! Make sure to get one with an extra-long cord to ensure you can handle a jump start in any situation!

3. Hazard Triangle

If your car breaks down/gets stuck/other emergencies, a hazard triangle will let other drivers know that 1.) you are in the area and please don’t hit me, and 2.) you are in some sort of trouble and can use some assistance.

These are especially helpful in the dark because the reflective material will keep drivers aware of you on the road.

If you’re consistently driving on dark backcountry roads, you’ll absolutely need hazard triangles in your emergency kit for your car.

4. Extra Gloves And Winter Hat

Smartwool Tech Liner Gloves

If you need to work on your car in the freezing cold during an emergency roadside stop, it helps if you’ve got warm hands to work quickly.

Keeping an extra pair of gloves (not mittens) and a hat will help you last longer outside.

Additionally, if you are in a worst-case scenario and need to spend the night in your car, you’ve got essentials to keep you warm.

5. Blanket

It’s always good to have a blanket or an extra layer packed. Choose one that packs light (like this down-filled one from Rumpl) for easy storage.

Alternatively, you can find an extra one around your house, and throw it in the car, OR you could pick up a ultralight reflective survival blanket.

6. Extra Phone Charger

Phones are definitely our main source of communication these days.

Make sure to keep your phone charged so you are able to reach help at any time.

Make sure to get a car converter that easily hooks up to a car’s AC Inverter (that “cigarette lighter” in the front). We have this one in our car and we use it every single time we travel- near OR far!

If you need a lighter one, check out this portable phone charger that can easily store in a backpack or coat pocket.

7. Pack A Small Shovel And Ice Scraper In Your Car Emergency Kit

This is important if you need to park your car somewhere snowy overnight.

An ice scraper can clear your windows fast. A lightweight and portable car shovel can help you dig out your car in a snowstorm, as well as shovel gravel under your wheels to get some traction on icy roads.

12 Essentials You Need For A Car Emergency Kit - TheMandagies.com

8. Tire Chains

Washington State Department of Transportation actually requires you to carry chains in your car from Nov 1 and April 1 on specified routes.

Being prepared with chains in your car can help prevent accidents and keep roadways clear and safe for all drivers. Also, make sure you’ve got a spare tire tucked in the back on your trunk! A lot of vehicles have them on the underside of your trunk. Double check!

9. Tire Jack + Lug Wrench

Nothing is worse than a flat tire in the snow. Make sure to have the proper tools (like a tire jack, lug wrench, and/or and air compressor) tucked away in your winter car emergency kit for quickly and efficiently changing a tire.

10. Hand Warmers

Hand warmers make working quickly and efficiently sooo much easier in cold weather.

Store a couple of these in your car at all times.

11. First Aid Kit

Emergency Car Tool Kit

A first aid kit should really be #1 on this list. It’s an essential part of being prepared on the road, no matter the situation.

Pack a small one like this with all the essentials like band-aids, cleaning agents, tweezers, gauze, and more.

12. Flashlight (+Extra Batteries)

Fenix LD30 Rechargeable Flashlight

Breaking down in the middle of the night is pretty scary. Make sure to have a flashlight in your car survival kit in order to work on the problem, flag down help, and see your surroundings.

Bonus points if you can recharge it with your portable charger!

What do you keep in your car emergency kit? Let us know what you pack in the comments below!

Follow our Pacific Northwest board on Pinterest for more inspiration too!


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  1. I love this list. I didn’t know about the chains so that’s good to know. I feel like I should have more of these things in our cars..

  2. Hi Albert! Totally agree with you – safety is so important, especially when the weather is bad outside. I’m glad I covered a lot of those things in my list! Thanks for the additions. 🙂