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What To Put In The Car For Winter Trips


Essential Items To Have In Your Car This Winter

Ok, I know it’s only September and the kids just started school, but winter is just around the corner for us northern states, and with the holidays coming up, travel plans being made, it’s also time to think about what gear i’m putting into the car this winter for safety, emergencies, rescue and creature comforts.

What To Put In Your Car For Winter

I am going to cover just the essentials for this post. Further on down the road (I’m so punny, I kill myself!) I’ll do another post where I go into all the other stuff we’ve stocked the car with for winter.

To begin with, we have a Toyota Prius, so there’s not a lot of room in the back for extra stuff, so our winter car supplies are kept at a minimum, and only the essentials: Heat, Food and Communication

Items to keep you warm enough to stay alive in your car during winter

One of the first things you should have in your car is enough blankets to cover everyone. Preferrably wool, these blankets need to help retain warmth and buffer the cold if you have to lay on the ground.

Mylar Emergency Blankets
Since Mylar Emergency Blankets, or Space Blankets come in small 2″ x 3″ packs, I recommend having two per family member plus enough to create emergency tents with if the need arises. Usually two emergency blankets can make a tent, one on the ground and one draped over a line of 7 strand 550 paracord or similar. You’ll want to try and close off at least one end of the tent with the excess mylar from the one used for ground cover. Youll also want to have rope to run between two trees or poles, and foil insulation tape to stick the mylar together (will stick and remain stuck at temps down to -40F – available at home depot or Lowes for about $10 (150 feet).

Hand or Foot Warmers
Have at least 4 pairs of hand warmers for each person in your family. Each hand warmer gives at least 8 hours of usuable heat, and when combined with a mylar emergency blanket, one pack is enough to keep the extremedies from frost bite. 8 packs per person can give you up to 64 hours of continous heat.

You may also want to stock extra warmers to thaw small amounts of snow for MRE heaters. We bought a pack of 80 off Amazon and put 40 in the car, the other 40 are in storage until next year (shelf life of 3 years).

While you can use regualar house candles in a pinch, we recommend using emergency candles designed for such a crisis. The Clear Mist Emergency Candles have a 100 hour burn time per candle. You can order in packs of three, six or 12 on A single emergency candle puts out enough heat to keep your family alive in a car if the need is so dire.

Food for 72 hours

In the event that you do get stranded out on the highway in a blizzard, get stuck and have to survive, you want to make sure you can get through the first 72 hours without the additional stress of worrying about food. Obviously, you can’t just pack fruit, sandwiches and juice boxes… If you’re stuck, you’ll need to conserve resources, and heating the frozen food up just so you can eat it is an additional stress you don’t want to have to worry about.

Meals Ready To Eat
Meals Ready To Eat, or MREs are excellent sources of food in winter condition. You will want to find the MRE’s that come with a heater to heat up the food. The MRE heater will heat up a meal in about 10-15 minutes but will stay hot for about 30 minutes, giving you time to thaw some water in a water bottle as well. The only downside are that MREs are expensive, usually costing around $10 per MRE.

TIP: We made two purchases on MREs – we got 2x 12 pack of MREs and also a 24 count box of MRE heaters that would be used to keep water from freezing.

Frozen bread (sliced sandwich bread specifically) is very easy to thaw, and can even be thawed using your body heat. Make sure to pack a loaf or two!

(Family guy tip: Butter makes the bread taste better, so make sure to pack a small tub as well and a plastic knife)

Dried fruits
Like bread, dehydrated sliced fruits are easy to warm up and provide a tasty, nourishing snack between meals.

Water is a big concern. Since temperatures are assumably below freezing, it’s likely that any water that you’d have put into the trunk would freeze within 12 hours. While you can go to great lengths to warm the frozen bottles up, it might be the best idea to put the bottles of water at the beginning of your trip somewhere inside the passenger compartment. They will stay unfrozen during your travel, and if you should get stuck, it’s much easier to keep them from freezing using hand warmers if necessary. If you do happen to run out of gas, or otherwise are unable to keep the car heated (above freezing), keep the water against your body to keep it warm enough to stay liquid. Go for smaller 6 or 8oz bottles because they take less time to warm up.

If there is ample snow on the ground, take a few cans of “sterno” and a metal camping cup or even a metal 1 cup measuring cup. You can heat the snow to boiling if necessary to provide water for the MREs and drinking. A single can of Sterno can burn up to two hours, so you can likely get a gallon of water from snow from each sterno can.


Most of the time, you’ll be in cellphone range, and there’s enough juice in the car’s battery to charge your phone over 20 times, assuming that you don’t have to keep the car in the “accessory” on state to charge.

Your best friends should the batteries on your phone die, are a CB radio, long range laser and tactical flashlight that has strobe or beacon capabilities. A Handheld CB gives you the best chance of alerting nearby truckers that you’re in need of help.

When all else fails, look for any signs of life, either on land or in the air. Using the laser on ground movement or the tactical flashlight for airplanes, try and get noticed by flashing or strobing the light at the movement. If you think they’ve noticed you, then send out a “SOS”, or three short strobes, three longer flashes, three short strobes in succession.

Being stranded is no joke

Just ask the Kim family that was stranded on Bear Camp Road in Oregon back in 2006. Without any of these supplies, it was a miracle that the family was rescued. While they were able to beat the odds, I don’t want to take the chance, and will be properly outfitting the car this year for the winter.

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