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Snowstorms are occurring more often as less predictable weather patterns, driven in part by climate change, make their way across the country. And if you jump in your car to head out to visit family, play in the mountains or simply grab groceries across town, you could find yourself stranded in a less-than-ideal situation.
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up 10 winter car essentials to keep handy through the season. Some stand to improve comfort while others are included to potentially save your life. No matter where you go this winter, prepare for everything from a minor mechanical mishap to a night on the side of the road.
Below, the essentials to keep in your car through winter.
Your phone’s flashlight setting comes in handy almost every day, but using it in the midst of an emergency consumes battery life that could be used for calls or texts. Instead, pack Coast’s Professional Series Flashlight, which is incredibly powerful and designed to last for hours. The rechargeable battery runs for up to 37 hours and throws a powerful beam whether you’re looking under the hood or pinpointing lost items dropped between the seats. It’s also capable of running on three AAA batteries, which you should keep in your emergency kit anyway.
I recommend packing an insulated water bottle not because you need water in an emergency (which you do), but because the double-wall insulation will prevent any liquids from freezing even if you find yourself overnighting on the side of the road. Rather than pack a water bottle each time you leave the house, consider investing in a secondary Hydro Flask, filling it with water and leaving it in your car through winter, thus ensuring you always have liquids within reach. The bombproof design also comes in handy when you need to use it as a hammer.
An emergency medical kit will collect a lot of dust before it’s put to use, but there’s no substitute for one when you need it in the dead of winter. This one, courtesy of Adventure Medical Kits, contains two days’ worth of supplies for two people and includes bandages, tape, stabilizers, hospital-quality tools, medications and antiseptic wipes. If you need a kit big enough for the whole family, consider the Mountain Series kit that supports four people for up to seven days.
Digging out of a snowdrift by hand takes time and energy you don’t have. That’s why Ortovox designed the Badger with a massive 2.5-liter blade and an ergonomic grip to help you haul lots of snow in less time. Step grooves on top of the blade allow you to use your feet for leverage and the shovel’s collapsible design packs neatly away once you’ve finally freed your car.
Don’t let this compact multi-tool fool you into thinking it isn’t capable. Leatherman somehow fit regular pliers, needle-nose pliers, scissors, three screwdrivers, wire cutters, a wood/metal file, a straight knife and a bottle opener into its handheld design, which means you have every basic tool you need whether you’re fixing your rig or performing first aid. It even comes with a keychain attachment to ensure it’s within reach at all times.
No list of winter car essentials is complete without a good pair of gloves. The North Face built these windproof gloves with touchscreen-compatible fingertips and lightweight insulation to maintain dexterity whether you’re calling for help or simply staying warm. The palms feature a textured silicone finish to improve grip and a DWR treatment to keep your hands dry.
The Co-op’s Frostbreak 5 sleeping bag isn’t winning any awards this year, but don’t let that deter you. It still offers the ideal balance of warmth, packability, weight and price that justifies keeping it in your car through winter. The synthetic insulation is incredibly durable and capable even when wet and the shell material is treated with a DWR finish for good measure. While it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself in need of a sleeping bag, there’s no question you’ll want one as the temperatures fall.
Seeing as my car recently died after spending a night in the frigid cold, I’m endorsing a jump starter box for the moment your car dies and there’s nobody around to lend a hand. Simply keep this puppy charged and it’ll bring your rig back to life at a moment’s notice up to 20 times on one charge. I recommend keeping it in your house to ensure it doesn’t lose power in your car’s chilly glovebox — just don’t forget to bring it with you when you leave.
It might surprise you to learn that Rubbermaid designs more than food containers. This 24-gallon tub, for instance, is big enough to haul everything on this list, ensuring nothing gets lost no matter where you go. The durable construction will hold up season after season, which means your winter car kit is always around when you need it once again.
While overlanders prefer to carry tire traction pads, I recommend a bag of sand — it’s cheap in large quantities, fits in your trunk and is perfectly suited for any type of vehicle. Even if your car is only stuck in the driveway, a layer of traction under the tires can quickly and easily help you get unstuck. After bailing out multiple cars that didn’t have all-wheel drive earlier this year , I can’t recommend this stuff enough.
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