7 Things You Need in Your Vehicle During The Winter

Winter will be here in full force in Indiana quite soon.

With daily snow, winds and blizzard conditions at times, it’s important to be prepared. What would you do if you suddenly got caught in a big drift of snow at 11:30 at night during a snowy blizzard? Do you have the 7 things you need in your vehicle during the winter?

car in winter post

Think something like that won’t happen to you? Yeah, so did we. Last year, with our winter lasting so long around here, we got lazy about it. And for someone who likes to be prepared, it’s almost embarrassing to admit.

We went to our friend’s house one night, despite warnings against travel. As we were even driving there, the snow was blowing and roads were getting drifty. Did that stop us? NOPE… we went the 20 miles and had dinner, played games and enjoyed ourselves.

As we were leaving, I noticed that the snow was a “bit” higher on the steps that when we came in. It wasn’t a big deal, we thought…we’d be careful on the roads. I’m originally a South Dakota girl, you’d think I would’ve known better, right? We traveled down one country road, and there was drifting, but it wasn’t terrible. As we turned down the next one, drifting got worse on one side of the road, but our side was fine. As a matter of fact, we had a clear road. Until about 20 feet later when we drove right into a 12″ high drift.

We did the usual, back and forth of the vehicle trying to get unstuck, but it didn’t happen. The wind was blowing some 50 mph, and it was snowing with rapidly falling temperatures. My poor hubby was out there, dressed in his jeans, tshirt, sweatshirt and coat with his leather shoes. Fortunately, he had heavy wool socks on to help keep his feet dry and warm for about all of 30 seconds.
We called our friend to come and help us, to no avail. There was just no digging out the van fast enough.

The drifts had gone from mid-calf deep to waist deep in 30 minutes. We called a tow truck, and it finally arrived after 2 hours of waiting.

Unfortunately, the tow truck also got stuck as it was pulling another vehicle out behind us. We had to wait for a payloader to arrive to plow the way. There was no way we were going home that night. By the time we got back to our friend’s house for the night, it had been over 4 hours since we left. It was an expensive night for us, as the tow truck/payloader cost us $200 to get us unstuck. It could’ve been worse, though. We could have been without these 7 things:

A cell phone and charger

Even if you don’t want to pay for a service with contract, there are so many options for affordable cell phones. It literally saved us, being able to call for help. There were no houses around us, and we really didn’t know where we could’ve walked to to get help. Please, consider having at least a pay as you go phone and spend the extra bit to have a charger in your car.

Plastic grocery/garbage bags

My hubby was able to rip a plastic garbage bag in 1/2 and wrap it around each of his feet, and under his jeans. It helped insulate him a bit longer against the wet snow. I totally recommend you having at least 1 in your glove compartment for that reason.

A shovel

We were able to move some of the snow with our shovel, but of course, it didn’t move fast enough. Ideally, having a shovel will help you get out from under packed snow. We have a folding shovel like this one (affiliate link) and it folds up neatly and stores under the seats when not in use.

Blankets and Extra Winter Gear

Having a couple extra blankets in the van was nice. Especially when we turned the van off to save gas while we were waiting. The kids cuddled under them together to keep warm. I really recommend you have at least 1 or 2 in your vehicle.

Having an extra hat, scarf, and gloves in the van were life savers when hubby was trying to dig us out. He got to exchange the cold, wet ones for warm, dry ones. Ideally, this would also include an extra pair of snow boots, easily found at thrift stores in July…which I will be looking for more this year.

Full tank of gas

During the winter, you should never let your gas tank be below 1/2 full, for this reason. If we had run it down to less than 1/4 of a tank, there is no way we could’ve kept the vehicle running as long as we did. We would’ve run out of gas long before the tow truck got to us, and it could’ve been a disaster.


Granola bars, individual cheese sticks, and pretzels were awesome to have! No, the kids probably weren’t really hungry, but it DID keep their minds off being cold and worried. Our water bottles were frozen, but putting them on the heat vents thawed them out enough to get a drink every now and then.

An old steel veggie can and candles, with waterproof matches

Yup, having those were a big help for when the van was turned off to save on gas. All you do is have a tealight candle, place it in the center of the can and light it. The heat from the flame will warm up the can and it’ll give off a bit of heat. Not a lot, but enough to help keep you from freezing. See my post here on how to waterproof your matches for the winter!

And above all, if the forecast calls for travel advisories AGAINST you traveling, stay home! It’s not worth putting yourself and family at risk! Or, spending an exorbitant amount of money to get you rescued.

What other things would you recommend keeping in your vehicle during the winter? Be sure to pin this for later!

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29 thoughts on “7 Things You Need in Your Vehicle During The Winter”

  1. Considering how unusually brutal this winter has been all across the country, this list is vital! I will be making sure Eddie follows through and gets this things in both our vehicles. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Krystyna @ Spring Mountain Living

    This is no joke! Around here, we don’t even run 4 miles to town w/o those things, along with other gear we wear. Could save your life!

  3. Such a needed post! Considering all the poor people in Atlanta…I think they could have really used this advice, most of us southerners aren’t used to this nasty weather.

    1. Handheld. Games…
      Coloring. & Puzzle. Books….. Emergency. Blankets (the kind that looks like tin foil) Will. Help. U. Retain. Warmth. Also…..
      Each. Family. Has. Their. Own. Ideas…
      Act. Like. U. R. Packing. Ur. Car. For. Camping.
      Food. Water. Drinks. Games. And. Comfort.
      There. Is. No. Right. Or. Wrong. Way. To. Do. It….

  4. The husband and grown son laugh at me when I tell them to put blankets and kitty litter in the car…but those are things I’d rather not need and have than not have when they’re needed. Ohio is BRUTAL in the winter…and the older I get, the more I hate winter 🙁

  5. Growing up in Utah, we always had a shovel in every car and we frequently used it to dig ourselves or others out of the snow! Always had blankets too just in case and never less than a quarter tank of gas. Great list.

  6. My best friend’s son-in-law was stuck in that Atl traffic for about 22 hours when he was trying to get home from work. “Home” is about 45 minutes to an hour outside of Atl. He’s safe at home now, but his vehicle is apparently still stuck. I was thinking of him the whole time I was reading this post – will be forwarding this to them promptly.

  7. I can only echo what the other comments have said. This is a life saving preparation. Every time we have a freak storm like what just happened in Atlanta, we hear stories about people who did not take basic care to prepare. I like this list. thanks

  8. This is a great post with some Awesome Tips! Our weather here has been outrageous some of these I have but I am surly going to add the rest!

  9. Great list of items, all of which we have in our car. We live in northern New England so we’re accustomed to being prepared for big snow storms. We also keep ice melt and kitty litter in our car.. you never know!

  10. I also keep a #10 can to heat snow for a warm drink or to rehydrate a dehydrated MRE type meal. If you are going to be there a while, I use a crisco candle or home made candle heater to keep wsrm even just a little. I keep all the winter gear listed, but also keep a sleeping bag under my bsck seat. I would take off my shoes, put on heavy socks and crael into the sleeping bag and sit upright in the seat. Reserve as much body hest as possible.
    Navy sea bag(duffle bag) from militart surplus store to store all equipment in.

  11. We spent over an hour in a snowbank about a month ago–without much gas so we left the car off and it was getting very chilly inside the car! There’s a shovel in the back of my husband’s car right now, and we also have a handcranked flashlight/phone charger. About a year ago we were in car trouble and 4 of us in the car had cellphones…all of which only had low batteries, which wasn’t great for calling insurance, calling tow trucks, etc, so we learned to have a charger in the car!

  12. Add chains to this list! This winter, our car skidded on an icy, snowy street. We put chains on and drove home, past all the other stalled cars.

  13. Another item that I always have available in the car is toilet paper. It’s come in handy more than once. I’d also suggest for food items crackers & a jar or peanut butter. Maybe a deck of cards in the glove box for while you are waiting. Always have a swiss army knife in our cars and back packs. And lastly, make sure that before you leave the house everyone is dressed for the weather you are having. How many times have you seen people go without a coat or proper shoes because they weren’t going to be gone long. Great Article …Thank you !!

  14. Great article. Besides all of the gear you listed, I would add either a pair of insulated coveralls or ski bibs for each occupant along with an extra pair of boots per person. Never thought about the duffle bag/great idea cause it is more compact and organized.

  15. Thanks for posting! After the disaster here in Atlanta 2 weeks ago, I started working on car emergency bags for hubby & me.

  16. Even if you’re not where it snows often, you need these things! We got stuck in Winter Storm Leon in Atlanta last winter. It was awful – we had friends who were on the road for fourteen hours!

  17. Great reminder! I keep a 3 day survival pack in my car, along with several other items based on the situation. One thing often forgotten is to make sure if you have a medical condition, you have extra meds with you.

  18. I also keep a metal pancake turner in my car. They are great for removing ice and snow right down to the pavement if it isn’t too deep. Then you can get traction on pavemen if you get stuck. I found it actually worked better than a shovel for small jobs.

  19. Great post! In addition to your list, I carry the old-fashioned sulphur flares, a tow chain, and a case of those air-activated hand warmers (for hands, feet, inside a hat and the breast pocket near the heart).
    Each one lasts 8-10 hours and can certainly lives in the cold.

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