In winter, roads can quickly go from safe to treacherous. Carrying the right supplies can help you get your car unstuck – as well as survive if you have to wait for rescue. Your winter vehicle kit, according to AAA Colorado, should include:

  • Windshield scraper, small broom, rags/shop towels and extra winter-grade windshield wash for keeping the windshield clear. Don’t drive without both clearing the whole windshield and rear window and knocking the snow off the roof.
  • A shovel, along with road salt/sand/cat litter to help a stuck car gain traction.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Battery-powered radio.
  • Non-perishable snack food like energy bars and nuts, along with water and perhaps sports drink since it doesn’t freeze easily. Also pack baby formula if applicable.
  • Snow boots, extra hats, socks, mittens/gloves and hand warmers, plus blankets or a sleeping bag.
  • First aid kit that includes a small amount of your family’s prescription medicines in case of an unplanned overnight.
  • Tow chain or rope.
  • Jumper cables or a self-contained jump box in case of a dead car battery.
  • Emergency flares, reflectors, fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention and keep your car from getting hit if stuck.
  • Car charger for your cell phone.

Additionally, consider these tips from the Wisconsin Emergency Management Team (WEMT) and The Weather Channel’s Bonnie Schnieder:

  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full during winter.
  • Tell someone what route you’re taking if you have to drive in questionable weather.
  • Ideally, stay off the road if a storm is forecast.
  • If stuck along the side of the road, put on your hazard lights and keep your seatbelt on. Wearing your seatbelt can help protect you from injury if your car is hit by another motorist.
  • If stuck, tie your kit’s florescent flag onto your antenna. Also, at night, keep your dome light on, as rescuers can see the glow from a distance. Place roadside flares near your car to alert other drivers and rescuers of your whereabouts. To reduce battery drain, turn on your vehicle’s emergency flashers only if you hear another vehicle.
  • When stranded with others, try to have someone stay awake and alert at all times to communicate with rescuers.
  • Absolutely stay in your vehicle. Walking in a storm can result in you getting lost and succumbing to hypothermia – and also it makes it more difficult for rescuers to find you.
  • Know your limits. Shoveling snow and pushing a car take massive exertion, so don't risk a heart attack or injury by exerting yourself more than your health can handle.
  • Keep the inside air carbon monoxide free. Check the tailpipe when you first get stuck to ensure it’s clear of snow. Only run the engine for 10 minutes an hour, keep the window open a crack during this time, and recheck the tailpipe regularly to ensure it remains clear of blockages.
  • Stay hydrated to stay warmer, and avoid alcohol, which increases your susceptibility to hypothermia.

Hopefully you won’t need to use your winter vehicle kit, but if you do, packing your kit now and keeping it in the car will help you survive.