Snowy street in Capitol Hill, Denver
Photo by Rob!, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

15 Items to Build Your Winter Car Emergency Kit

Denver has already experienced its share of cold, wintry weather, and it’s not even February yet. With average lows dipping into the teens and 20s throughout the winter months, residents of the Mile-High City know the dangers of freezing temperatures and slick roads.

Living in the Front Range, it’s easy to get complacent about our road journeys through the mountains. After all, if you live in the foothills, you drive mountain roads regularly just to get to the bank and the grocery store. But, imagine that you’re driving late at night, and there’s a snowslide. Maybe you have car trouble. Perhaps you slide off the road and get stuck. Or, you get into an accident, and now the occupants of multiple vehicles are stranded.

Clearly, keeping a winter car emergency kit could help save your life.

The Basics

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, you should always have the following items in your car during the winter months:

  • Extra windshield wiper fluid. Take it from us: The liquid de-icers they use on the roads can get really messy when the ice starts melting and car and truck tires are kicking up spray. That spray can stick to the windshield, which makes it hard to see. If you run out of wiper fluid, you may need to pull over in a hurry to squeegee the sludge off (been there, done that).
  • Tire chains, even if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and awesome snow tires. You never know when they might come in handy, regardless of which Colorado Chain Law level has been invoked.
  • Jumper cables. It sure seems like car batteries never die on a balmy, summer day; they wait until it’s cold, wet and miserable. Make sure you’re prepared.
  • A scraper and snow brush. Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to clear your windshield and windows without them. Sheer misery, isn’t it?
  • Warm winter coats, hats and gloves or mittens for every person who will be with you. If you get stranded, you’ll need them. Big time.
  • Blankets. Outdoorsy Coloradans often pack their sleeping bags as an effective alternative.
  • A flashlight. Based on experience, we also recommend a spare flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Matches, bottled water and nonperishable food items (such as protein bars, jerky, nuts, trail mix and freeze-dried fruit). People have gotten stranded for long periods of time during major snow events. If it happens to you, you’ll be grateful for every little thing.
  • First aid kit. You’ll want to be prepared for every possibility, including potential injuries. One good idea is buying a pre-packed first aid kit from an outdoor-goods retailer, the ones intended for adventurers. The kits are fully equipped, yet are also compact and easy to store. Of, if you would like to assemble your own, the American Red Cross has some great tips.

Helpful Extras

If you want to really cover all of your bases, The Weather Channel has a few additional items that are worth considering:

  • A snow shovel. This will be extremely important if you have to dig out your vehicle. You might want to choose a metal one rather than plastic, just in case you have to chip away at ice or compacted snow. Plastic may not be strong enough for the job.
  • Siphon pump. If you run out of gas, you’ll be grateful to have these items — and a Good Samaritan’s gas tank nearby, of course.
  • Hand warmers. You can buy a variety of models online or at any camping store. You’ll be grateful for them if you’re outside for any amount of time, whether you’re digging out your car or working under the hood.
  • Light sticks. Not only can these snap-and-glow doodads illuminate a work space, you can wear them on your clothes to make you easy to spot in the dark. This is important for safety, as well as convenience.
  • Flares. These are a way to call for help if you’re in distress. Remember, cell phone coverage can be spotty or nonexistent in some mountain areas.
  • Whistle. The sound will carry better than your voice if you need help, or if you need to scare off a potential threat (animal or human).

If you have an accident or get stuck in serious weather this winter, you’ll be forever grateful that you were prepared.

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