Cables, Kitty Litter, and Kafka: 11 Must-Haves for Your Winter Car Kit

Survive any winter mega storm with these 11 must-haves for your car.

An empty road during a snowstorm.

If your hometown’s familiar with extreme winter weather, you know how important it is to be prepared. And while nothing beats a cozy cardigan, replete with jolly snowmen and frolicking reindeer, having a winter car kit can come pretty darn close if you ever find yourself stranded between the middle of nowhere and the boondocks on a frigid December night.

With that in mind, we compiled a list of the top 11 winter must-haves for your car.

  1. Chains. You never know when you may need them, and having them with you could mean the difference between winding up stranded or not.
  2. Jumper cables. Cold weather can wreak havoc on your car and make it difficult to start. Keeping jumper cables on hand is always a good idea and could help you avoid an unpleasant or potentially dangerous situation.
  3. Cat litter. Sure it may seem weird to lug kitty litter around all winter, but if you get stuck, pouring a little around your tires can create the traction you need to get unstuck. (Tip: the non-clumping kind works best.) Need to dig out of the driveway? Try these eco-friendly alternatives to salt.
  4. Shovel. Duh.
  5. Basic tool kit. Pliers, screwdriver, adjustable wrench, pocketknife, duct tape, rope. You don’t have to be MacGyver to make use of a few handy tools, and your ingenuity may surprise you in extreme circumstances.
  6. Flashlight. Winter days are short, so make sure you’re prepared once the sun goes down. (And don’t forget extra batteries!)
  7. Warm clothes. If you’ve been out in the snow and ice trying to free your vehicle, you’ll likely be wet and freezing. Keep a change of clothes, including socks, gloves, hat, and boots as well as a blanket or sleeping bag. If you have to wait it out in your vehicle, at least you won’t have to do it as a human popsicle.
  8. Food and water. In colder temps, the body can last longer without water, but nevertheless, it’s still highly recommended that you include water as an essential part of your winter car kit. You should also include nuts, energy bars, or high-protein snacks. (And why not throw in a bag of your favorite candy while you’re at it.)
  9. First aid kit. Keep a fully stocked kit and an extra supply of any additional medications you need. It’s also a good idea to know what’s in your first aid kit and how to use it. (Just saying).
  10. AM/FM radio. (Battery-powered.) In addition to hits from the ’20s and ’30s, you can find traffic reports and emergency messages on your AM dial. A radio is especially useful if you’re driving through an area where your smartphone doesn’t have service. (Bonus tip: Local maps could come in pretty darn handy as well.)
  11. Kafka. Ok, of course it doesn’t have to be Kafka, but we recommend keeping a good book in the car, in case you have to hunker down and wait it out. Just because your car’s stuck doesn’t mean your mind can’t escape.

Just as important as having an adequately stocked winter car kit, is making sure all maintenance is performed on your vehicle before cold temps hit. Get a full tune-up, winterize your car, and for crying out loud, remember to keep a full tank of gas!

Other helpful winter tips

Winterize your home: avoid these 6 extremely unpleasant scenarios
From ice and snow to rain and sleet, find out everything you need to know about winter driving

Related links

How to Winterize Your Car

How to Tell If You Live in a Flood Plain

How to Use Snow Chains

How to properly transport a Christmas tree

How did Black Friday get its name?

8 Responses to “Cables, Kitty Litter, and Kafka: 11 Must-Haves for Your Winter Car Kit”

  1. Avatar for Heidi Wallis
    February 19, 2014 #

    Number one to should be too look in the mirror…….say, "Am I prepared mentally and physically to drive?" In the winter that means, "Do I really need to make this trip?"

    AWD/4WD gets you going, but all cars stop the same on icy/snowy terrain.

    • Avatar for Heidi Wallis
      Scott Madajewski
      December 22, 2014 #

      hmm you forgot on thing that is vital…toilet paper

  2. Avatar for Heidi Wallis
    February 21, 2014 #

    I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I know how to drive in the worst of the snow and I know how to respect it. Most of all, I know not to go out in it unless it is absolutely necessary – having all those "must haves" won't do you a lot of good if you have no business being out there. George is right on point! "Do I really need to make this trip?" And the people with the AWD/4WD can be the worst. "I can make it through anything." Even their car commercials say the same thing. It is very irresponsible.

    Be safe!

    • Avatar for Heidi Wallis
      cleveland rocks
      November 18, 2014 #

      Cleveland native here with a booya to that comment…but would like to add that I'm on the roads and coming down the highway at 65 no matter what so just stay out my fast lane and let my driving skills impress you ;)

  3. Avatar for Heidi Wallis
    Roy Taylor
    February 22, 2014 #

    Wonderful article. I'm remiss as I did not think about getting stuck in the snow. As I don't drive much doesn't mean I should not think ahead. Thank you for this article.

  4. Avatar for Heidi Wallis
    Lynn Jeffords
    November 17, 2014 #

    Thanks for the Winter Car Kit ideas! Some of these items make good stocking stuffers!

  5. Avatar for Heidi Wallis
    Scott Madajewski
    December 22, 2014 #

    Oh if if you don't have kitty litter newspapers will work too to get some traction. I know I live in Calumet Michigan and normal snowfall is around 250" a year here.

  6. Avatar for Heidi Wallis
    December 26, 2014 #

    Batteries? Today there are small hand-crank units containing LED lights and an AM/FM radio. I keep one of these in each vehicle, and crank it every month or so to keep it fresh and ready. People tend to forget the need to keep fresh batteries and, even when you have to use them, they have limited life. Hand-cranked units are 'forever,' and very little maintenance is required.

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