Snow. Black ice. Freezing temps. Winter driving conditions can run the gamut from slight nuisance to extreme hazard. But with the right gear and a little prep, you can put yourself in a better position to deal with an accident or unexpected delay while on a cold, wintry road. Here are 10 items to stash in your winter driving kit.

1. A folding shovel

If you find yourself suddenly snowed in or stuck in a snow bank, a good shovel can be a lifesaver. Check out compact, lightweight folding varieties that store easily in the trunk.

2. A windshield scraper and de-icer 

Make sure you carry a decent windshield scraper to get snow and ice off your windshield and mirrors. For extreme ice build-up, consider using a de-icer to save you precious time and energy.

3. Extra water and high-energy snack foods

Even in cold weather, staying hydrated is extremely important. Bring along a few bottles of clean water with you before you head out. And stow some high-energy snack foods with a long shelf life (like energy bars, unsalted trail mix, and hard candy) in your car at all times.

4. Emergency signaling device

Flares are incredibly useful if you’re stuck in snow they can be used to start a signal fire, and the heat they emit helps them stay visible in heavy snow conditions. Battery-powered signals are valuable too and have the benefit of staying lit longer than a flare.

5. A flashlight with extra batteries

Save the battery power on your cell phone and use a spare flashlight instead.

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6. A way to charge your cell phone

Being able to use your cell phone is going to be a huge help in any emergency. Whether you carry a portable charger, power pack, or adapter, make sure you have a reliable, remote way to charge your cell phone when your battery gets low.

7. A wireless beacon

Going off the grid or into an area with no cell service? Consider picking up an emergency beacon, which can wirelessly transmit your GPS location to family and emergency services using satellite technology.

8. A first-aid kit

A basic first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, a cleaning agent, and pain relievers is a must-have for your car kit in every season.

9. Warm clothes and a blanket

If you need to use your car as a temporary shelter, you won’t be able to run the engine for heat indefinitely. Bring extra layers that can keep your extremities warm (think knit hats, a pair of socks, gloves, and a warm blanket). Hand and feet warmers are also easy to store and can help keep you toasty in case of emergency.

10. Snow socks or chains

If you get stuck and need that little bit of extra traction to get your car moving, snow chains or snow socks (which are easier to install than chains) can help give you the grip you need.

Take extra precautions when driving in winter and do what you can to help reduce your risk of a weather-related accident.

Safe and smart | Car safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.