That last rant aside, below are some recommendations:
There are plenty of pre-made weather safety kits online or some stores like Walmart or Lowes will start putting them out when it gets cold. However, I strongly recommend building your own.
Make sure regardless of purchasing a kit or building your own that you are familiar with the contents and that every year you review the contents to make sure everything is in working condition! Also be familiar with how everything works. Stumbling around to figure out how the flashlight works or how to apply basic first aid is a no-go.
What should a Winter Kit contain?
- Cell Phone
Note: Be sure to have a car charger and preferably an extra battery. Smart phones are known to die within a day and if your car does not start for some reason you will have no way to charge your phone. Also make sure you have all the numbers needed to contact the appropriate people i.e. AAA, Tow Company, Car Assistance Service, Roadside Assistance, Dealership, Friends, Family…etc.
- First Aid Kit!
Note: This should be a must regardless of the season! Target, Walmart, Autozone…etc all carry a bag or box form of a first aid kit. The more the better but having basic bandages, tools, and items are still a plus. Also carry prescription drugs needed! See below on what you should have in a first aid kit.
- Blankets or sleeping bags such as a space blanket.
Note: The blanket should be thick enough to keep you warm for awhile if you are unable to seek shelter or be rescued. Water proof or resistant is a plus.
- Flashlight (Preferably self charging, but plus if it’s rechargeable)
Note: Flashlight should weatherproof and be bright to help you and other people see you. It should be compact for easy carry. Preferably the flashlight should not require batteries or recharging, they make awesome survival flashlights that you can shake and charge, however if you get one that is rechargeable, that would be a plus as well. I also recommend a small compact LED flashlight which takes minimal batteries and can sometimes be VERY bright.
- Spare Batteries (Cell phone, flashlight, radio)
Note: Check batteries for charge every year. If you just keep them in your car, the heat and cold can wear a battery down and they may need replaced.
Note: Preferably a multi use knife, but something with a 3 – 6 inch blade would also be useful.
- Basic Tool Kit
Note: This should contain basic tools used to fix or repair minor car issues.
• Set of socket and open-end wrenches
• Multi-tip screwdriver
• Wire cutters
• Bottle opener
- Small Shovel
Note: Go to a military surplus store and buy a collapsible Entrenching tool or (E-Tool) to help save space.
- Non-perishable food
Note: Should be high calorie, easy open, does not require cooking. Energy bars or high calorie bars are great because they can be exposed to extreme temperatures, won’t leave you thirsty, and the bar helps activate the salivary gland and reduce your demand on emergency water supplies. They also expand in your stomach so you feel full. Be careful that you don’t over-consume them because they are so high in calories. Water is a must!
- Small Fire Extinguisher
- Warning Light, Hazard Triangles, or Flares
Note: Set these up immediately after stopping, getting stuck, or in an accident!
- Tire Gauge
- Jack and Lug Wrench
- Foam Tire Sealant or a portable compressor and plug kit
Note: Do not rely solely on your spare. Trying to change a tire in a blizzard or the snow is next to impossible.
- Jumper cables or portable battery booster
- Gloves, hand cleaner, and clean rags
- $20 in small bills and change
- Pen and pad of paper
- Sack of sand or kitty litter
- Tow Rope
- Windshield Scraper
- Compass and road maps
- Reflective vest
- Water resistant shoes/boots
- Pair of dry clothes.
- Small waterproof bag
Note: This is just in case you need to walk a small distance to reach shelter or to contact someone. A small ziplock bag is also useful to keep your cell phone, matches, and anything else needed dry.
- Snow Chains
Note: There are hand crank radios that are awesome in survival situations that do not require batteries. Just be sure to have a small radio to keep up with weather conditions or emergency information.
- Help Sign
First Aid Kit:
• Sterile adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
• Gauze pads (2- and 3-inch)
• Triangular bandages
• Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
• Sterile roller bandages (2- and 3- inch)
• Safety razor blade
• Safety pins (assorted sizes)
• Snake bite kit
• Cold pack
• Bar of soap
• Moist towelettes
• Non-breakable thermometer
• Antiseptic spray
• Latex gloves
• Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
• Tongue blades and wooden applicator sticks
• Aspirin and non-aspirin pain reliever
• Eye wash
• Rubbing alcohol
• Antiseptic or hydrogen peroxide
• Anti-diarrhea medication
• Emetic (to induce vomiting)
Additional Notes and Tips:
- Make sure people know your timetable and primary/alternate routes, and any detours along the way. Also call immediately with any changes in schedules and routes, or if an accident happens it is very important to contact the appropriate people immediately in case of lost reception or battery.
- Make sure that you can access the first aid kit and important items from inside your vehicle. It’s no use if you’re rear ended and it’s in your trunk.
- Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Try not to travel alone, especially in unfamiliar places.
- Fully check and winterize your vehicle well before the winter season begins. Be sure the tread on your tires is good enough to last throughout the entire season. Install chains on the tires if necessary.
Finally, NO kit can fully prepare you for a winter driving or the worst case scenario. Because preparation is the key, make sure that you think about the individuals you will be protecting in your car or truck. Each may have their own needs. It is a better idea to pack extra of the supplies needed than to be stranded without the proper equipment.