Skip to main content

As sub-zero cold brings risk to the roads, every car should have a winter survival kit

Don't go on long drives without one.

The wind chills seen in parts of Minnesota this past week have been sufficiently dangerous to present the risk of frostbite in as little as 10 minutes.

So if you're out on the roads, it's all the more crucial that car trouble doesn't become a life-threatening situation.

Every winter there are examples of this happening. Just on Sunday in fact, two motorists had to be rescued from Pillsbury State Forest in the early hours of the morning after their car ran out of gas. 

For decades Minnesota parents have been drilling into their children's heads that they need a winter survival kit their car – but time and time again at least some of us forget to prepare properly.

And it can happen to the best of us. State lawmaker Carly Melin recounted how her father's insistence she have such a kit in her car proved vital almost immediately.

So to serve as a timely reminder before you head out on even a short trip in the depths of winter, here's what the Minnesota and Wisconsin road safety departments says you should have in your car.

Basic equipment

  • A shovel
  • Booster cables
  • Sand/cat litter/grit
  • Tow cables/chain
  • Sleeping bag
  • Road flares/reflectors
  • Warm clothing and heavy boots
  • Cord (to use as a "homing line" should you exit your vehicle)
  • A first aid kit
  • A windshield scraper/broom


Keep snacks like raisins, energy bars and chocolate to hand. The Minnesota DPS even suggests keeping some canned soup, meat or poultry in the car.

You should also keep some water in the car.

Other useful items

  • A cellphone adapter
  • A spare cellphone battery charge (in case your car isn't running and you can't charge it using the adapter).
  • Small candles and matches
  • A small, sharp knife
  • Safety pins
  • A whistle
  • Plastic flashlight with spare batteries
  • A pencil and notepad (to make a note of numbers given to you by an emergency dispatcher)
  • Portable air compressor (Family Handyman suggests this in the event of tire pressure-related failures)
  • A small toolkit (to carry out minor repairs)

It's advised that you keep most of the above items – those not too bulky at least – in the cabin of the car so they're not frozen when you come to use them.

It's also important to check your car is in the right condition for winter driving before you set off. Wikihow has a 13-step checklist you can find here.

Next Up

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.

Kirill Kaprizov

Kaprizov gets into the holiday spirit to rout Jets

Kirill Kaprizov's four points led the Wild to a 7-1 victory.

Kirk Cousins

Coller: Cure to Vikings' disrupted season lies in an explosive passing game

The Vikings go to San Francisco knowing that a win would be a huge boost to their playoff hopes.

unsplash football helmet ground

Judge upholds star QBs suspension for state championship game

Sam Backer, of Chatfield Senior High, won't be allowed to play in Friday's title game.

Screen Shot 2021-11-25 at 7.53.37 AM

Another 5,000 lbs. of goldfish removed from Carver County lakes

It all likely stemmed from people dumping their pets into local waters a few years ago.

Rosaleia Shelton

Appeal to find 19-year-old missing from Bloomington

The teen left her home on Monday afternoon.

hospital, emergency room

Deaths of twin fetuses after woman was shot ruled a double homicide

The woman was shot in the abdomen in mid-September.


overturned semi truck

Winter storm creates whiteout conditions, closing roads and causing crashes

Roads in southwestern Minnesota were closed early Friday, while slippery conditions elsewhere in the state led to crashes and spinouts.

2017 was the safest year on Minnesota roads since 1943

The state registered one of the lowest road fatality counts on record.

La Niña Watch issued: Minnesota at risk for snowier, colder winter

Is there a direct correlation between La Niña and snowfall in the Twin Cities?

Winter survival app for smartphones

Two software developers in Fargo, North Dakota have created the Winter Survival Kit app for iPhones and Android smartphones. The Crookston Daily Times reports the creators wanted to help after a powerful blizzard left hundreds of drivers stranded last winter. This free app can notify help and provide some potentially life-saving alerts. It can also help you prepare for winter travel.

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 8.32.29 AM

Every county in Minnesota is in a flood or winter storm watch

Green and blue go together really well, don't they?

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 6.18.55 AM

Metro roads covered in snow, very slow morning commute

It's going to be a long ride to work and school.