You never know when a trip to the Aunt Karen’s might turn into disaster. Or, when a family outing to IKEA might lead to a catastrophe. That’s why it’s important to pack a safety kit in your car. Mother Nature is unpredictable – especially during the winter months. If you get stuck in your car you’ll want to keep hydrated, safe and warm until help arrives.

You don’t want to pack so much that your bumper drags under the weight. But, you don’t want to miss anything vital either. To help you plan your winter driving emergency kit accordingly, we’ve compiled a list of essentials to keep in your car during the coldest time of the year.

  • Water - Water is just as important to have during the winter as it is in the summer. You might think, “But I could just eat the snow! That’s water!”  Eating snow isn’t advisable, especially if you’re stuck on the side of the road. Opt for water in clean plastic bottles. Even if they freeze the plastic won’t split and by keeping them in the main cabin of your vehicle (preferably within reach if you’re stuck in the driver’s seat) the heater will help them thaw while you’re driving.
  • Snacks - If your car breaks down or gets stuck in a snow drift the weather might not be nice enough to safely walk for help. In this situation you may be trapped in your car for a bit. Keep nonperishable nutritious snacks, like nuts or trail mix, on hand in case you need to wait it out for a few hours. Be sure you skip the junk food, like chips and candy, that will leave you eating empty calories and extra sugar.
  • Blankets - It only takes a couple minutes on the side of the road to start shivering, especially if your car (and its heater) have stopped running. That’s why it’s important to pack blankets for everyone onboard. This ensures everyone will be kept as warm as possible.
  • De-icer windshield wiper fluid - Running summer grade washer fluid during the winter months can cause serious problems.  It can freeze in the washer fluid tank, leaving you without any accessible windshield washer fluid. When there is more salt on your windshield than a basket of fast food fries, this can be a problem. It’s important to keep de-icer washer fluid in your washer tank. It’s also a good idea to keep an extra bottle in your trunk – a winter storm and dirty roads can run you through more washer fluid that you might anticipate and you don’t want to end up finishing a long drive with an empty washer tank.
  • Extra windshield wipers - In extreme cold weather conditions, wipers can freeze and get torn off. This can leave you with zero visibility in a storm. Buying an extra set of wipers and stashing them in your car will make sure you’re always driving with the best safety precautions.
  • Phone charger - Without a changer, your phone is nothing more than a brick. That’s why keeping a phone charger in your car is a must. Not only will you be able to keep up on your friends’ Tweets 24/7, but you’ll also be able to call for help in an emergency or look up directions if you’re lost.
  • Warm shoes and a hat - While it’s not always advisable to leave your car and walk for help, especially during the winter when a storm or the scant daylight hours can effect visibility, being prepared to do so is important. While you’re likely wearing a decent winter coat you’ll want to keep a dedicated hat and pair of warm walking shoes in your car in case you need to venture out. In the worst case scenario, these items can also help you stay warm if you’re stuck in the car.

By packing these essential winter car safety kit items you’ll be prepared in the case of an emergency. The key is to leave these items in the car (and accessible) during the winter months. Don’t take your shoes out to use at the gym or consume that water and snacks during your normal commute. If you do remove a safety item, be sure to replace it before you pull out of your driveway. Although cars and roads have improved a great deal over the years, you still want to prepare for the unexpected.