There are numerous things that can delay a car journey and all of them are exacerbated in winter. Here’s a list of essential items that really should be in your car at all times.
- Food and water: Snacks, biscuits or even a couple of MRE’s, it doesn’t really matter what you carry as long as long as you have access to food should you get stuck any distance from civilisation. Having a couple of bottles of water is just common sense even on short trips but is even more crucial if you aim to be travelling a considerable distance.
- Extra clothing: A warm coat or jacket, spare socks, hat and gloves are very much the minimum for a winter car journey. The metal box with wheels that you love so much loses heat quickly once the engine is off and keeping hypothermia at bay is an absolute must.
- Blanket or sleeping bag: Although keeping your body core warm on a freezing night in the care is crucial, a blanket or sleeping bag will increase your comfort levels no end should you get stuck. If you do have to leave the vehicle to make your way on foot using these items like a poncho adds an extra layer where you need it most.
- Portable Air Compressors: These are cheap and well worth having. An unblown tyre can be reinflated in a couple of minutes, far better than having to change a wheel in the pouring rain and/or gale force winds. I highly recommend these for those who have a disability or condition which may prevent them from carrying out a wheel change.
- A life hammer: These are an absolute must. Getting out of a car that is rapidly sinking in water, or that has a raging torrent running past it is extremely difficult. Most cars with electric windows will short out when the electrics are sodden leaving the windows stuck in the closed position. A life hammer will take out the window, and cut you loose from a stuck seatbelt in seconds.
- A decent first aid kit: This speaks for itself.
- Fully charged phone: An in-car charger is also a cheap bit of kit that can keep your mobile alive.
- Jump leads/cables: Always a good idea, another way you can get yourself out of trouble without having to wait for a breakdown service to find you.
- Flashlight and spare batteries: Essential for stuck at night situations. Can be used as a signal as well as lighting the darkness.
- Bright red scarf or bandana: Great to tie on the aerial of the car if the snow is building up.
- Warning triangle: A highly reflective red warning triangle is an essential bit of kit that helps avoid breakdown collisions. Place it at least 100 yards behind your car to warn oncoming drivers that you are stationary.
- Emergency Mylar blanket: Unless you are already warm when you put one of these around you they are of limited use, they also make a hell of a noise often rendering sleep impossible. They do have other uses, however. They are highly reflective and useful to drape over you if you have to leave the car for any reason. They are also waterproof so can keep the rain out. In anything more than the slightest breeze they are all but impossible to handle so get it wrapped around you and secured before getting out of the vehicle. They reflect heat very well so if you have the kit to start a small fire for heat put the blanket behind the fire to reflect the heat towards you.
- Plastic bags: Decent quality plastic bags should be included in any emergency kit. They have dozens of uses from vomit bags for car sick kids to gathering snow to melt for a drink.
- Ice scraper: As well as making short work of an iced up windscreen in the morning keeping the windows clear if you are stuck for any length of time allows you see out and prevents many people panicking.
- Shovel-folding or otherwise: Self-explanatory. If you are caught in the snow remember to keep the exhaust pipe clear to avoid fumes building up in the car. Keep the window cracked open to allow any build-up to escape if you fall asleep. Don’t sleep with the engine running, there’s a chance you may not wake up.
- Small bag of sand and grit: Great for getting you going again when traction is a bit of a problem.
Well, that’s my list. These items take up little space and could well save yours or someone else’s life. A lot can happen, and a lot of time can elapse between you calling for help and help arriving. It’s far better to have thought ahead and be able to get yourself out of trouble whenever possible.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.