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5 Cheap Items to add to your car emergency kit this winter

Winter is upon us and the temperatures are starting to drop. If you happen to live in a more temperate climate this might not mean much other than needing to throw on a jacket or grab an umbrella. For us here in Idaho and across many other states, the winter means snow and frigid temperatures.

An unhappy Jack
Don't end up like this poor fellow

When I moved to Idaho from a place with zero snow and pretty moderate temperatures, it was a bit of a wake up call realizing that simply being stranded outside could literally kill you. During the cold spell last December there were at least 48 cold related deaths across the nation including a 22 year old woman who got stuck in her car in a blizzard. First responders were unable to reach her, and she was later found deceased in her vehicle.

Being prepared for the cold, and the potential of being stranded, could mean the difference between life and death. Last year I posted an article on some vehicle recovery gear to make sure you don't get yourself trapped.

Now, I've got 5 simple and cheap items you can throw in your car this winter to increase your chances of survival if something goes wrong. I am certainly in favor of a much more comprehensive kit, and I carry much more than the listed items here, but these are some items you probably already have lying around that you can throw in your car right now to make a difference.

#1 Blanket

A simple blanket or spare sleeping bag could make a big difference if you are ever forced to spend the night in your car in cold weather. My personal choice is a military surplus poncho liner, but surplus wool blankets are great too, and really any blanket or sleeping bag is going to be better than nothing.

#2 Battery Jumper/Phone charger

Batteries tend to die much faster in cold weather, this includes your car battery and the battery in your phone. Carrying a combination battery jumper and air compressor is a great option. Not only can it jump-start your car but it can also fill up a flat tire and charge your phone.

#3 Spare Clothes

Winter gloves
Don't forget a good pair of gloves that won't get soaked through in snow!

Here's an easy once since you can probably scrounge up some spares from your closet. Make sure to include a hat and gloves and I'd add some kind of jacket and a spare pair of pants. A cheap rain suit or poncho is also not a bad idea. If you end up getting wet and the temperatures drop you are at extreme risk of hypothermia, so having a spare set of clothes could be a life saver.

#4 Headlamp

A headlamp or flashlight will make your life a lot easier if you need to fix something on your vehicle, or simply to provide you illumination if you are stranded. The days end very quickly in winter and it gets dark fast. Having a headlamp allows you to keep your hands free and to save your phone battery.

#5 Lighter and candle

Hobo stove
A simple set up like this with a candle puts out enough heat to keep you alive

Running your car for heat can be extremely dangerous when you are trapped in the snow. If the tailpipe of your vehicle gets blocked by snow without you realizing it, you are at a huge risk of being incapacitated by carbon monoxide. If you ever do use your vehicle to stay warm while stuck in snow, make sure the tail pipe is clear, keep the windows cracked for ventilation, and only do it for short periods at a time. With a lighter and a candle and preferably some kind of can or tin to place the candle in, you can make your own little heater. Drape the blanket over your head like a little tent and place the candle heater between your legs. This set up will become warm very quickly and can be repeated enough to keep you defrosted. Another great inexpensive option is simply throwing some hand warmers in your glovebox. If needed in an emergency use them in your armpits/groin/chest to keep your vitals warm.

I strongly suggest you put together a more comprehensive kit, but if you currently have nothing in your car for the winter at least do yourself a favor and grab the things off this list and throw them in the trunk, you won't regret it!

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