How to Make a Winter Survival Kit

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Last Updated on January 15, 2015

With the approaching winter season and headlines like “Monster Storm on the Way” it’s time to consider your auto preparedness with a winter survival kit. I am not talking about your bug out vehicle, but I guess that is relevant. If you are stranded in your car like thousands were last January in Atlanta, will you have basic supplies to stay alive? Granted, these motorists could have had it a lot worse, like maybe Boston, but by taking simple steps now you can ensure that no matter where you live, you are better prepared this winter season if you are forced to survive overnight or possibly two days in your car.

A winter car survival kit is simple to pull together and a lot of these items you probably already have either in your home or your car or garage. This article we are going to pull all these items together into one container you can store in your car and make sure that you won’t be stranded with nothing more than the clothes you left work in. For a simple reference, you can print this list out.

What items do you need in your winter car kit?


For snow removal/general purpose

  • Shovel – If you need to dig out of snow, it sure helps to have a shovel unless you want to try and use your windshield scraper. SOG makes an Entrenching tool that is the perfect price for your car survival kit.
  • Windshield Scraper – If you get stuck in a snowstorm and are forced to wait, you will likely need to scrape off your windows.
  • Tow Rope – Many times a call to the tow truck isn’t necessary if someone with a four wheel drive can pull you out. If you simply slide into a shallow ditch but can’t move due to traction (this happened to me), wrap a tow rope around your axle and get back on the road.
  • Gas Can – If you don’t follow the advice of every single other prepping blog out there and keep a minimum of a half tank of gas, you might need to get some and bring it back
  • Jumper Cables – Self explanatory
  • Can of Fix a Flat – Of course a full size spare tire is best but you might be in conditions that don’t permit a jack easily. These temporary solutions save time and money on the road, but be sure to get the tire repaired quickly.
  • Cat litter – No, this isn’t if you have to go to the bathroom, it is for traction. Just last year I decided to see if I could make it out of my neighborhood in my front wheel drive car. Guess what? I couldn’t so the cat litter was deployed under the front tires to help me get traction.
  • Emergency Flares – Great for signaling others if there is an accident or for help. Flares can be seen for a long distance so if you need to get someone’s attention these could do the trick.
High Heels look great, but they don't make sense in the snow.

High Heels look great, but they don’t make sense in the snow.

To stay warm

  • Sturdy Shoes – Most of the time this applies to women more so than men. Ladies, do you want to break down in a blizzard and be forced to try and walk to safety wearing those cute high heel shoes you have on? Keep a backup pair of sturdy shoes or boots if you are forced to walk.
  • Warm Gloves – Gloves will keep your paws warm which will make you feel warmer as well.
  • Hand warmers – If the gloves aren’t enough some hand warmers are amazing. They will safely store in your trunk for years. Great for sporting events too!
  • Wool Blanket or Sleeping Bag – A good wool blanket will keep you incredibly warm. A good sleeping bag like Elite Survival Systems Recon 3 packs small and can be used for camping as well.
  • Fleece Toboggan – You lose a lot of heat through your head, so wrap that bad boy up in something warm.

To stay comfortable

  • Flashlight/Headlamp – Let’s face it. Being in the dark alone on the side of the road sucks out loud. Just having some light makes a world of difference. I prefer headlamps for their hands free simplicity. Make sure you have spare batteries too.
  • Battery powered radio – Or hand crank if you prefer. This serves two purposes. It can entertain and inform you. Good to have one of these around the house as well if the regular communication methods are down and this won’t wear down your cell phone battery.
  • Water – two days’ worth – Throw 2 gallons of water in your car and you are golden.
  • Snack Food – two days’ worth – Something that won’t easily go bad and doesn’t need preparation. Snack bars, jerky, power bars, trail mix.

Just in case

  • Matches or Lighter – I prefer the cheap Bic lighters. I doubt that you would need to start a fire in your car, but you never know…
  • First aid kit – Something that has more than band aids. Chances are if you are stranded and hurt it will be more than a Hello Kitty band aid can fix. Make sure you can stop blood lose and medicate for pain until help arrives.
  • Knife – I see some people packing a big survival knife in their car. I guess if the grid goes down, you are forced off the road and into the woods for survival this could be necessary, but we are talking about getting stuck and spending a day or two in the car. Not becoming Rambo. A nice folder will do the trick for just about anything you could need it for.
  • Any medications you need for daily use – Pack two days worth of your regular medicine in a travel container and always have it with you.
  • Whistle – It is easier than yelling “Is there anyone there? Help Me!!!”
  • Cell Phone Charger – This is the last on the list because if you are stranded and your can still runs, you should be able to charge your phone unless you don’t have a charging cable in your car, or you ran out of gas.

Where do you put your winter car survival kit?

Once you have all the items assembled, remove them from their packaging and estimate the size container you would need to stow all of the materials. Some of the basic automobile items like jumper cables and road flares might have their own container. Hop over to your local store and buy a simple plastic bin with a lid on it, load up all of your survival gear and place it in the trunk.

Good luck and I hope you never need to use it.


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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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I’d agree with everything on this list except the water. If you are stuck in freezing weather then your car (with water in trunk) has been in freezing temps longer than you have. You will have 2 blocks of ice instead of 2 gal of water. Without a way to melt the ice, that water is just weight in your trunk. I suggest small (16oz.)bottled water. Much easier to thaw than a gallon jug. You should keep them inside the vehicle with you, and the car heater will help thaw them while driving. I also keep a couple of the… Read more »

Old Alaskan

You forgot a very important item. What goes in must come out. Pack everything into a 5 Gal. Bucket and have several large garbage bags and a roll of TP


Great idea if you are stuck somewhere remote but if you (like my wife 3 years ago) are trapped in your car bumper to bumper on Lakeshore Drive in downtown Chicago for 14 hours before being ordered to abandon your car you will need something more discrete. This goes double for women, I added this to her GHB:
Now she can go in a bottle just like a man without having to get out of the car.

Illini Warrior

if you filling an entire bucket … toss in a 12V beverage cup and your fav hot drink mix ….

H. Nelson

Hmmm.. My list is a wee bit different. Logging chain jumper cables window wiper fluid quart of motor oil Road flares and triangles 8 60# sacks of pea gravel 1 60# sack of traction sand 1 safety stick (telescoping police baton) Deployment bag- 1 carrhart arctic coveralls. 2 coats 2 t-shirts 2 pair heavy worsterlon socks 2 fleece hats 2 bakalavas 1 pair monkey mitts 1 pair trigger finger mitts with inserts 1 pair airforce mukluks with sorel liners 1 reflective safety vest 4 bottled waters 3 cold weather rations 1 alcohol camp stove 1 16oz bottle of denatured alcohol… Read more »


I’m an OTR driver. My list is like yours. Helped a lot when I got stranded on the road during a blizzard/ice storm in NC of all places. Myself, the more water the better , along with concentrated fruit drinks


I miss living in the snow.

I really like the reflective vest and hatchet H. Nelson listed.

I would also add an altoid tin/asprin bottle of waterproof tinder ( ), some of those chemical hand warmers, and a neon orange/pink drape or flags on a pole for signalling in case you are snowed in or go down an embankment / off the road a ways.


The suggestion to use cat litter as a traction booster has always puzzled me. Most cat litter is granulated clay. Have you ever put some in water? It turns to slime! I had a very nasty fall when I stepped on a spot of wet, spilled litter at the bottom of my back-door steps […landed on my tailbone against the steps!]. What tends to happen when you loose traction? Your wheels spin! What does that do? creates heat! Heat melts snow or ice – which dissolves the litter, forming afore-mentioned slime, which is as [more?] slippery than ice! I suggest… Read more »

Melanie M

We live in the Midwest, where we have lots of winter storms. We have gotten stuck in traffic on the interstate before, but never have had to be stuck for a day or more, thankfully! Every Autumn, I stock our cars with: water, food bars, jerky, dried fruits, toilet paper (1 roll), hand warmers (those ones you smack and they get warm, and you place into your pockets), *extra* gloves (besides the ones you are wearing already), extra knit/crocheted hats, *blankets*!!!!! And first aid kits. You know those windshield reflectors you can use in the summer, so your car doesn’t… Read more »

Pat Henry

Sounds like you have given this a lot of thought and are prepared Melanie! Thanks for sharing.

Nancy Knight Jantzer

The trunk is not the best place to keep a survival kit. If you are rear ended, chances are you will not be able to access the kit.

Peter Davidson

Very informative article. What I liked most are the items for the winter car kit. The shovel and flares are my top two items that should always be in your car wherever you go. I’ve also written an article on how to prepare your car for the winter. Please check it here: . As well as other essentials to consider when you are to choose your personal survival gear:


I’m glad you list the various brilliant experiment.Thanks for sharing this article with us.

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