If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you know that the weather can be unpredictable, especially during the winter months. That’s why it’s important to be prepared year-round, especially when you’re driving outside of the city. Today, we’ll look at the most important items you can keep in your vehicle to make sure you’re prepared for an emergency situation.
1. Cold Weather Supplies
Nearly 25% of car accidents are related to the weather. Here in the Portland area, most of our severe weather occurs during the winter months. That means it’s very important to make sure you’re prepared for an accident or emergency situation during the winter.
A simple ice scraper can be really useful when the temperatures drop in a hurry and ice forms on your car’s windshield, windows, mirrors, and lights.
If you’re going to be driving in the mountains, or even on steep hills in the city, a set of chains can help you get to your destination safely. Just make sure you know how to install them. Don’t try to learn in cold, wet weather!
A small snow shovel can come in handy if your car gets stuck in a snowbank near Mt. Hood or if you need to dig away snow that’s accumulated near your tires.
A mylar space blanket (like those handed out at the end of the Portland Marathon) packs down small and can really keep you warm, even in wet conditions. If you’re ever in an emergency situation and need to stay warm, or treat someone for shock, you’ll be glad you packed one in your emergency kit.
Chemical hand warmers can keep your hands and feet warm if you need to change a tire during colder weather or if you’re stuck in your car for a long period of time. Remember: if you’re stuck in your car during snowy weather, running your heater can be dangerous if ice and snow clog your exhaust pipe. Hand warmers and a blanket can help keep you warm and safe!
Dry Bag with a Change of Clothes
The only thing worse than being cold is being cold and wet. If you’re stuck out in cold, wet weather, you’ll be glad you brought along a dry bag (like one you’d take on a rafting trip) with a change of clothes. Pack warmly– an old sweater, flannel shirt, heavy pants, and wool socks, for example.
A simple inexpensive rain poncho can keep you dry if you have to work outside of your car during rainy weather. If you do use it, replace it. Cheaper ponchos tend to develop holes quickly.
2. Emergency Food & Water
The best foods to pack in your car emergency kit are those with a long shelf life, like protein and energy bars. Make sure to pack a flavor you like, but remember that it’s more important to buy food with plenty of calories and protein.
Dehydrated meals intended for hikers and backpackers are often calorie-rich and easy to store for long periods of time. If you’re in a pinch, you can even rehydrate them with room temperature water– just let them sit for a few hours. They won’t be as tasty as if they were hot, but they’ll still give you energy!
Water & Purification Tablets
Carry a gallon or two of water in a specially made container (gallon jugs from the grocery store can weaken over time, leading to messy spills) as well as a few reusable water bottles to drink from. Water purification tablets can also be useful if you’re near a stream, lake, or river!
Tupperware & Utensils
Don’t forget to pack tupperware and a fork, knife, and spoon to eat with. Of course, you can also use your tupperware to store other small items in your emergency kit.
In an emergency situation, it’s important to avoid being over-reliant on technology. You never know when you’ll have a cellular signal or access to electricity. That said, packing a phone charger and a (fully charged) external battery pack for your phone is always a good idea. If you really want to be prepared, invest in an inexpensive pre-paid cell phone and extra battery (make sure to store the phone with its battery removed to minimize how much charge is lost over time).
3. Tools and Hardware
Jumper cables aren’t just for an emergency situation, they’re something you should always have in your car. You never know when you’ll need a jump or need to help someone else out. And make sure you know how to use them, so you’re ready when the time comes!
Foaming tire sealants can be an easy way to get back on the road until you can get to a repair shop. But remember that they’re not a longterm solution to punctures and flat tires.
There aren’t many problems that duct tape can’t solve! Pack a roll of heavy duty duct tape. You never know when it’ll come in handy.
A length of high-strength tow rope can be invaluable– even if your car isn’t equipped to tow anything. You never know when you might need a tow and having the right rope on hand can be a big help.
Did you know that the Leatherman multi-tools are made in Portland, Oregon? They’re versatile and really handy tools to have in your car emergency preparedness kit.
Don’t bother with those old-fashioned Maglites full of heavy D-Cell batteries. Modern flashlights with LEDs are brighter and stay bright longer. Plus they’re less expensive! Another option is a crank-operated or shakeable flashlight that you can recharge without the need for batteries.
3. Medical and First-Aid Supplies
For most people, a simple pre-packed first aid kit is all you’ll need to be prepared for most situations. However, if you have special medical needs make sure you pack the items you’ll need too, like an Epi-Pen (make sure it’s not expired), an extra pair of prescription glasses, an inhaler, and any necessary prescription medications.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed!
When reviewing this list of car emergency preparedness supplies, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry! Just do your best to have a well-stocked emergency kit and add to it slowly over time. Eventually you’ll be prepared for most situations.
It’s also a good idea to review what’s in your kit once or twice a year to make sure no foods or medications have expired or to remember to replace anything that you used recently.