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If you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow, winter storms are often some of the most dangerous situations you could find yourself in. Planning ahead for a long, cold night could be the difference between making it out alive and not making it out at all. Creating a car survival kit is especially important, since you might end up stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Everyone who knows the snow carries a windshield scraper, and a few intrepid survivalists keep cat litter or sand to help them out of a slippery ditch, but too few people have a fully-stocked emergency plan for when things get scary. We’re adapting our list of survival gear from the list that ReadyWisconsin, a group managed by the Wisconsin Emergency Management Team, put together, to give you all the essentials you’ll need to survive being snowed into your car.

  • Snow Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • High-powered flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio
  • Water bottles
  • Snack food and energy bars
  • Chocolate bars, raisins, or survival chocolate.
  • Matches and small candles
  • Chemical hand warmers
  • Extra socks, hats and gloves/mittens
  • First aid kit
  • Pocket knife
  • Any necessary medications
  • Warm Blankets
  • Sturdy rope or tow chains
  • Road salt, sand, or kitty litter for traction
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares, reflectors, fluorescent distress flag
  • Whistle
  • Cell phone adapter or spare phone battery

Creating a car survival kit is especially important, since you might end up stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

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Steps for Survival

If you get trapped in the middle of nowhere in your car, doing a little maintenance for your situation will drastically increase your survivability. If you can get a signal, call 911 as soon as possible. Be sure to get the name of the person you’re talking to, the steps you need to take in order to survive, and the time it’ll take until someone can come and help you out. Keeping a few key pieces of your kit (like your windshield scraper and some hand warmers) in the cabin of the car can help you access the rest of your tools in case your trunk is frozen shut.

After you assess the situation and are able to grab the rest of your kit, you should immediately work to make yourself more visible by putting out your reflectors and fluorescent flag. These will help any passers-by to spot you and lend a hand. Keep your lights off to conserve battery unless you see or hear another car coming your way.

Above all, stay warm and stay awake. Add a layer, put on a hat, and wrap a blanket around yourself. Don’t bundle yourself up too tight, since tight clothing can restrict your blood flow and cool your body down. Don’t go outside any more than you need to.

Survival experts recommend that you only turn your car on for 10 minutes out of every hour to help preserve fuel and battery life. Before you run your car each time, get out and make sure that your exhaust pipe isn’t covered with snow to prevent the carbon monoxide from being bottled up and getting into the cabin.

It’s also wise to open your window a crack to make sure that you’ve got a steady supply of fresh air. Stay inside your car as much as possible, and be sure to keep as dry as possible, since wet clothing is worse at insulating you than dry clothing. To offset the chill from the window, make heavy use of candles and hand warmers, since they provide free, long-lasting heat using their own fuel.

Take the time to put a survival kit together – you never know when it might help. If you’re able to stay warm and signal for help effectively when you’re snowed in, you’ve got a much better chance at making it out of a scary situation.


Photo Credit to Marcin Wichary


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About the writer

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Eric Lindholm

Communications Coordinator

Eric started in Quotacy's sales department, but moved to marketing after helping hundreds of people through their life insurance buying journey. Aside from writing about buying life insurance, he also edits Quotacy's monthly newsletter, runs our YouTube channel and produces Real Life, our podcast. Eric lives in Minneapolis, where his coworkers are trying to convince him to take his humor into the spotlight. Connect with him on LinkedIn.