Do you have your winter car emergency kit squared away? Part of survival might be just getting home from work or the grocery store. Or it might mean getting your car rolling from the side of the road, pulled from a ditch, or just getting your car with a dead battery started – without relying on a roadside assistance membership. Can we say self-reliance? That’s what this article and video are all about. I’m going to cover the basics that I have set-up for my winter car emergency kit.
First, let’s be clear – this is MY idea of a winter car emergency kit, for MY location (S.E. Michigan) and situation. If I lived in southern California, the mountains of Utah, the desert of Nevada, of the sticky mess we call Florida, my car emergency kit and truck EDC would look entirely different.
It’s important that you design your car emergency kit with your particular situation, likely emergencies, and your abilities. Think of likely problems that might arise and what tools, gear, training, and planning it would take to overcome and survive those potential emergencies.
Any of us can get a flat tire, have a wreck, run off the road or have a minor breakdown. How far are you going to be from help? What if help is slow coming or unavailable? Are you prepared?
Do you live in an area prone to evacuations, severe winter storms or tornados? Do you travel in densely populated areas that might have a higher risk of riots or terrorist attacks? Do you have reasonable contingency plans?
Reasonable is is key. We cannot be prepared for every possible emergency and no car emergency kit can cover every base. This is why I suggest a self-brainstorming session and come up with a reasonable preparedness plan. Don’t drive yourself crazy planning for the big nuclear attack or super-EMP, at least not when it comes to building a car emergency kit. What are the most likely events that will interrupt your day when you commute back and forth from your home?
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower
Remember the 5 P’s of Success: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
When I drive to Detroit, I feel I’m more likely to break down in an unfavorable area. Possible carjacking? Absolutely. When I drive out to state land for a weekend hike? Not so much. That trip has its own set of potential risks like breaking down without cell service or getting lost. I make both trips regularly and I have to plan accordingly so what I keep in my car emergency kit should cover some of those basic emergencies.
One more thing – I’m not an EMS, mountain rescue worker or combat sniper. I don’t pretend to be. I caution you into slipping into that “mall ninja” mentality. Gear is fun and it’s easy to get pulled into the romance of being equipped for a zombie apocalypse or foreign invasion but that’s not very realistic, is it? Put that time, money and energy into things like training, prepping and becoming debt free. Hey, no one said working toward a more self-reliant life was going to be sexy every second of the day.
My winter car emergency kit and pick-up truck EDC (Every Day Carry)
Now that I’ve stressed the importance of not “copying” what I have in my winter car emergency kit and pick-up truck EDC, I do feel it would be helpful to share that gear and tools. My hope is it will help inspire some thought into your own car kit and give you some ideas.
Below the video, I’ll try to list some of the gear with a little basic explanation but I don’t plan on creating an eight-page blog post listing every little item. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Let’s get to it.
Security / Protection
I didn’t get into security and protection in the video – especially when it comes to firearms and other weapons. I may cover that in a separate video eventually but I feel that’s more a personal choice. We also have to understand the laws differ from country to country and state to state.
On that note, I will say I am a trained and licensed concealed handgun carrier. I have a couple preferred EDC handguns and those are both Glock 9mm. I take this responsibility seriously and do not carry it as a badge of honor. I hate that I feel it necessary to carry a loaded weapon as a form of protection from bad people but that is the world we live in right now. Nuff said.
Food and Water – I won’t go into the survival rules of 3 right now but if I did food and water would be number three and four on the list. We know food and water are kind of important for survivability. So carry it when you can.
Food – The food you carry in your car emergency kit should be based on what you can/will eat, your environment and situation. The amount of food you carry should be based on that preparedness planning we talked about above.
I like dehydrated or freeze-dried food because I don’t have to worry so much about it freezing in my car or truck. It requires water to use but, as you can see in the next section, I have that covered. I also carry a variety of snack and energy bars.
You can see in the video that I carry more than enough food for several days of survival in my winter car emergency kit alone. I also have food in my EDC bag. Not to mention the lunch I carry to work every day.
Too much food? Will I ever need that much food in a likely emergency? Doubtful. I carry far less in my car and this is overkill for sure, I’ll be the first to admit that. Now ask me how many of these packages of food I’ve given away with a couple bottles of water to the unfortunate and homeless. Everything doesn’t have to be for our own survival, we can help others as well. Again, it’s a personal choice and I’m not suggesting you do everything I do.
There are many options and brands of food for your car emergency kit if you decide to use the same type of packaged food pouches I do. Some that I’ve carried and used, based solely on sale prices at the time, include Mountain House, Wise Foods and Food4Patriots. I like these serving-size packages because they store long term, take up little space, are light and I actually use them on regular bases when hiking which allows for easy rotation without wasting money.
Water – I decided to carry bottles of water and a way to thaw it out since they’re going to freeze in the Michigan winters. It’s not ideal but I honestly can’t think of a better solution short of replacing it daily or spending the bucks on expensive temperature control equipment.
To thaw out frozen water (or snow) in an emergency, as well as heat and cook food, I went with an inexpensive wood and/or alcohol burning stove (Ohuhu camping stove) for my winter car emergency kit. I don’t have a lot of money invested in it and I know it works because I’ve used these stoves many times. I also like that I can use readily available sticks and twigs as fuel, as well as alcohol. In a severe emergency where freezing to death was possible, this could serve as a useful piece of gear for warmth if used properly with adequate ventilation and caution.
As a melting, cooking, heating container, I keep a Stanley cook pot in my car emergency kit. I like this pot because it’s inexpensive and my Ohuhu camping stove nests nicely inside the pot for storability.
I also have a cheap Sterno folding stove as a back-up. Carrying both is probably overkill but I already had the stoves and room isn’t a problem with my large over-the-bed truck toolbox. I only keep a Sterno folding stove in my wife’s car trunk.
Repair parts and supplies
While I consider myself somewhat mechanically inclined, I am not a mechanic. I’ve plugged tires, replaced a U-joint a few times, even done my own brakes. So when it comes to car repair supplies, I keep it super simple. Maybe my list will help you think of what fits for you and your situation.
Spare tire, jack, tire iron, 4-way lug wrench
Portable Car Jump Starter
Tire plug kit, Fix-a-Flat, and a small compressor
Hose repair kit
Electrical and duct tape
Tie-up wire, banding and zip ties
Spare bulbs and fuses
Basic tool kit