11 Essentials for Your Winter Survival Kit

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winter survival kit

Winter is just around the corner, especially if you live in a state where inclement weather is the winter norm. But regardless of where you live, it’s a good idea to have a winter survival kit on hand, both at home and in your vehicle. Getting stranded outside at night or in your home without power, even in fair weather climates can be a chilling experience if you aren’t properly prepared. Today we’ll go through a basic list of winter survival kit necessities for both your home and your car.

Five Essentials for Your Car

Between ice, snow, cold weather, and the increased chance of accidents during the winter season, it’s a great idea to have a winter survival kit in your car in case you become stranded on the road or in a ditch. Within minutes, your toasty warm car can become cold should you experience a loss of power, so you’ll want to have some basic supplies on hand to stay safe and warm until help arrives.

What are some of the things you might want to have on hand?

  • A warm blanket (or two), big enough to accommodate the number of people you have in your car. Hand and foot warmers are also a good idea to help keep people warm while waiting for help to arrive. Also, make sure hats and gloves are always in the car, as well as socks and a pair of boots if you don’t normally wear them during winter. It’s easy to get caught in the habit of not being prepared as we assume we’ll only be running from the house to the attached garage and from the underground parking at work to the office, and therefore not have enough warm clothing with you if an emergency arises.
  • A shovel, sand or kitty litter (the non-clumping kind), or ice melt to help get you out of an icy spot if need be.
  • Snacks and water to keep hunger at bay (your body burns extra calories when it’s trying to keep warm) in case of longer term hiatuses in the car, and a flashlight or battery-powered lantern to provide light should you become stranded at night.  Also: make a habit of keeping your gas tank over half full to eliminate the risk of running out of gas in winter.
  • Flares, lightsticks or other reflective tape-type items to put around your vehicle or on your coat will make both you and your car visible to other drivers should you become stranded at night.
  • A fully charged cell phone. Turn it off if you need to in times of non-use in order to preserve power for when you really need your phone.

Six Must Haves For Your Home Winter Survival Kit


Ice and snow storms can cause long power outages that can result in an inability to heat your home. If the power outage is going to be long-term, get to a safe place with power, such as a family member or friend’s house, or a nearby hotel or Red Cross facility that has working power. If it’s going to be a short-term power outage and you can stay home and tough it out, there are some things you’ll want to have on hand to make it through.

  • A fully-charged, battery powered lantern and flashlights to provide plenty of light.
  • Extra blankets and sweaters nearby so people can bundle up as the temperature in the house drops. Sleeping bags are also a great option for a chilly house.
  • A decent supply of non-perishable food and snacks that are already cooked, as well as a gallon of water for each member of the family per day that you want to be able to survive at home without power.
  • At least a three-day supply of both over-the-counter medicines and prescription meds on hand at all times, in case you can’t leave the house to get more.
  • A fully charged cell phone at all times. Don’t let those cell phones get too low on power so that you have no options for outside communication if you’re stranded inside due to a big storm, and turn off the phones when not in use to save battery power.
  • Consider installing an alternative heat source, such as whole-house generator, a wood-burning stove or fireplace if your climate warrants it, in order to give your family more options for staying warm during a winter power outage.

Being stranded, whether at home or in your car, is never fun. However, being stranded during the cold winter months changes the game entirely. Make sure you’re prepared well to “weather” any cold weather emergencies.


Have you ever been stranded during a winter storm? What other items would you add to these lists? Do you have a winter survival kit? If so, what’s your ‘must have’ item that you can’t weather winter without?



Photo courtesy of: Jason Jenkins

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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.


  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way says:

    Great lists Laurie! I make sure that I have over-the-counter medicines and prescription for my medicine. There was an instance that I didn’t notice that ran out of medicine and I felt a sudden pain on my right side, it was totally a traumatic to me.

  • Amy says:

    Laurie, this is so depressing!! But you’re totally right. I need to stock up on batteries and water, and the tip about keeping my cell phone charged is a very important reminder, since we don’t have a landline at our house.

    We’ve never been stranded without power for very long, thank goodness, but my in-laws were without power for five days after Hurricane Sandy. My parents were without power for three days after an ice storm, and they put in a generator after that experience.

    • Laurie says:

      So many people really struggled after Sandy, and I think it opened a lot of eyes. One thing we have to be better about is having more bottled water on hand – I forget about that one a lot.

  • Kathleen Smith says:

    Be careful when buying cat litter. Many packages are marked as “do not use in inclement weather” as it can become slick rather than serve as something for traction. Good clumping is not good for stuck cars.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    This reminds me to get my car decked out for winter. Kitty litter has saved my butt a few times.

  • Brian @ Debt Discipline says:

    Great tips Laurie. No winter storm impacts that cause any major issue for us, but Hurricanes Sandy and Irene kicked our butts pretty good. Lucky they were both before it was too cold out. I’d add a full tank of gas to the list.When power is out for an extended period of time you can’t pump gas.Certainly if there is heavy snow you wouldn’t be on the roads, but you never know.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s a great point, Brian – I’ll revise and add that in. Our rule at home is to never have less than a half a tank, just in case we need to drive a long way to get to a safe place.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    Awesome post! I think we are good on our home, but you make a great point about winterizing the car! I always feel as though as long as I have an ice scraper I will be fine, but I really should have at least a warm blanket and flashlight.

    • Laurie says:

      I used to be terrible at that when I worked outside of the home, b/c we had an attached garage and I parked at the ramp and I never really had to go “outside” during winter. That made me forget to be prepared in the car.

  • Kayla @ Femme Frugality says:

    Great lists Laurie! I have most of these items in place already, so I’ll just have to add a few more things to make sure I’m prepared for the horrible winter that’s just around the corner.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    We actually do keep emergency winter stuff in our cars- or at least we did last winter. I should probably check to make sure. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    Thankfully I can get away with skipping out on most of this living in NYC. Though I remember after Hurricane Sandy, people were walking all the way uptown to power sources just to charge their cellphones

  • Myles Money says:

    Living in a mild Mediterranean climate, this is something which never occurred to me: it almost sounds like you’re expecting a zombie apocalypse, but that’s just because it’s hard for me to imagine what a harsh winter is like. Brrrr!

    • Laurie says:

      Myles, last year we had temps of 30 below zero F for nearly a month straight. It was dangerous to even leave the house! 🙂

  • Poor Student says:

    Supply of food at home is definitely important! It’s probably our most essential item. That, and stuff to make us warm in case there’s a power outage.

    • Laurie says:

      Smart move, PS. Those of us who’ve suffered through a power outage or being stranded at home during a winter storm know the fears of being without food or heat.

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    WE don’t have many natural disasters where I live, and I don’t know when or why we would need a survival kit but I guess it’s always a good thing to have around. One example might be in the case of an earthquake or even a power outage if the roads are shut down.

  • Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    It’s like every year we experience snow storm that we have to stay indoor. I remember just last month we had one that there was a massive blackout. I had to ask extra batteries from my neighbors. It was hard to wait for the right timing to walk over to their house. But I’ve learned my lesson. 😀

  • Gary says:

    Great list! Medications are a must…last winter my wife and I both had the flu and we got snowed in. We still had power, but we couldn’t dig out. Having the right medicines on hand (OTC as well as prescription), along with other necessities, made it bearable.

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