How to Build Your Own Emergency Car Kit

Essential gear for safe travels this winter

While the vast majority of trips will be uneventful, you never know when an unexpected event could cause you to halt.



Winter is a great time to hit the road and do some travelling in Northeastern Ontario. Our snowy winters are a beautiful thing, there are a ton of outdoor activities and cultural events to experience, plus you can often find great deals on winter lodge and resort accommodations.

But, if you’re planning to do some winter road tripping or travelling, there are a few extra pieces of gear you should always have in your car! While the vast majority of trips will be uneventful, you never know when a highway closure, flat tire, or other unexpected event could cause you to halt on your chosen route.

For the best and safest travels, make sure to check weather and highway conditions before departure, plan your route, let someone know where you’re going, and make sure you have your emergency car kit on hand just in case! For ease of storage, try keeping all your emergency items together in an easily accessible box or bag in your back seat or trunk. In no particular order, start with…

Your Warmest Winter Gear

You don’t have to wear it in the car, but it’s wise to ensure that your warmest winter coat, mittens, hat, and scarf are accessible to you in case of emergencies. For good measure, throw an extra pair or two of socks into your kit as well.

Bonus: Your warmest winter gear will also double as your outdoor adventure suit when you reach your destination!
Warm winter gear has more than one role to play. Photo: Ted Smith

Non-Scented Candles & Matches

While your triple-wicked scented candle that smells like lilac, spruce, or candy cane may make your house smell amazing, choose the plain, non-scented variety for your emergency car kit. 

If you have to be in your car for an amount of time with the heat off, the non-scented candle will create enough warmth inside to fend off the chill without overwhelming you with fragrance.

A Blanket & Hot Pads

Besides being a comforting item to curl up with, a spare blanket is another key tool in helping you fend off the chill. You can even get special space-saving heat blankets that are designed to capture up to 90-percent of your body heat—but if you don’t have one, a regular blanket will do just fine.

Bonus: For extra warmth, toss some air activated hand warmers into your emergency kit. Tucked into your gloves or boots, they’ll provide another layer of warmth for a few hours.

Spare Water & Food

This one explains itself, but emergency water and food rations are an essential piece of your winter safety kit. Opt for snacks that are high in calories, can last a long time stored in a cool, dry place, and don’t require any extra tools to open or prepare.

Granola bars, trail mix, and emergency ration bars are all great products to get started with for your emergency kit. Opt for bottled water, which is easy to transport and store.

Headlamp or Flashlight with Batteries

Whether you have to change a tire, locate something in the dark, or just go for a walk, you’ll be happy you packed a portable light source. 

Important: Don’t forget the batteries! It’s best to store the batteries and your light source separately, only putting the batteries in when you need to use the flashlight.

First Aid Kit

Summer, winter, spring, or fall, a first aid kit is a great thing to have in your car. A good first aid kit will help you to treat minor injuries such as cuts, burns, slivers, and more.

A standard first aid kit will consist of items such as sterile bandages and gauze pads, adhesive tape, scissors and tweezers, gloves, antiseptic wipes or soap, instant ice packs, and more (see the Red Cross website for a full list). 

Get Some Traction

It’s happened to us all: a heavy snowfall gets us stuck in a rut, literally. Whether you’re in your own driveway or further away from home, there are some easy things you can keep on hand to help you get some traction.

Consider keeping a two litre container of sand or fresh kitty litter (yes, kitty litter) in your car to sprinkle under your tires in a pinch. If you don’t have those items on hand, tree branches and boughs, or even your car's own floor mats can help you get out of a snowy situation.

A mini shovel can also be a useful tool to help you or someone else get out of loose, tractionless snow.

There are many items that are handy to have available to you during a roadside emergency, but the kit above will keep you warm and supplied until assistance arrives! For more information on handling roadside emergencies, check out this article from Wirecutter. A safe trip is the first step to a great trip—travel prepared and enjoy your time up north! 

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