Alexey Turenkov

Winter storms recently left drivers stranded on interstate highways, some for more than 48 hours, sometimes without food or water.

In these situations it pays to be prepared, and one hour of fair-weather shopping can spare you hours of misery if you find yourself stuck in your car during flooding or snowstorms. Furthermore what may cost a few dollars at a gas station or general store could save hundreds in towing fees or thousands in hospital bills.

Making yourself a car emergency kit is fairly straightforward. Consider keeping everything in a durable canvass bag, or plastic storage container to allow for easy transfer between vehicles. If all the various supplies are stuffed under seats, in cup holders and pockets, it’s unlikely you’ll have everything you need when the time comes.

Finally when it comes to considering how many or much to buy of any particular item, remember the old military adage: “two is one, and one is none.”

The basics

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  • Battery powered flashlight, extra batteries
  • Water bottles, and gallons of them
  • Jumper cables
  • Ice scraper
  • Smartphone charger (spare battery or adaptor)
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Non-perishable high energy foods (nuts, granola, sardines, etc.)

These items will do you good in normal conditions as well, because even when the weather is lovely, our species can’t see well in the dark (flashlight), and we all sometimes leave the lights in our car on (jumper cables).

Furthermore they can all be bought in the same place, for little money.

Water is not only great to have in case you forgot to buy some on the way to soccer practice, but it can save your car from overheating in case something goes wrong with the coolant.

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Paper towels, period products, soap, and bags to stow trash can be important for several reasons. Soap not only allows one to stay germ-free, but scrubbing long enough will remove gasoline if it comes to it.

The Five Cs

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An old preparatory rule is the follow the Five Cs, which stands for “Cutting, Combustion, Covering, Container, Cordage.”

In a car breakdown emergency, a cutting tool probably takes backseat compared to a hiking trip, but nevertheless, a combustion device, (matches or a lighter) is still probably the most important tool as it leads to fire, which is the ticket to warmth, rescue, and comfort in almost any emergency situation.

Covering could mean a winter coat and hat, a blanket, or even a tarp. Protection from the sky-born elements is key, and what you don’t need to wear you can insulate the windows with. If you think keeping a blanket in your car is overdoing it, just imagine sleeping in January without a blanket on your bed, and see if you like that idea.

Containers are arguably the most important tool in a car breakdown scenario. Without a funnel for example, it’s difficult to pour gasoline or other important oils into a car tank or engine if you don’t have a jerry can, which is also a container in its own right. A container to melt snow into water, if stuck on the highway in snow for 48 hours, is also important, as well as to boil dirty water in or make coffee.

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Cordage in a lost hiker scenario would mean simple paracord, but in a car breakdown one is probably better off with something capable of towing, or lashing something down to a roof rack: think tow lines and bungie cords.

For the frontier

Michel Grolet

For those who live in remote areas, this kit may not be enough. Here are some things for the motorist who needs to prepare for roads that remain snowed over for weeks.

  • Portable battery or crank-powered radio
  • Tire chains for icy roads
  • Tire inflator
  • Solar-powered device charger
  • Water purifying supplies

It’s difficult, especially for younger people, to remember the utility the radio once had. If cell towers are down, how will you get information on weather or emergency services? Running your car radio will draw battery away, so a battery or crank-powered radio can keep the stranded motorist informed.

Winter tires or tire chains are actually obligatory here in Northern Italy where this author lives, and can come in a 12×12 box to stow in the truck. They are a bit expensive, but cheaper than a tow, and cheaper than a set of winter tires. Plus they can turn nearly any car no matter how dinky into an ice road warrior.

Portable compressors to re-inflate tires may not save you the cost of changing your tire, but can offer a 10 minute to two-hour mobility boost, depending on the size of the puncture, to get out of a tough situation like falling into a ditch.

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Water purification tablets often contain iodine, and are usually pretty cheap. The homesteader may opt for a more permanent solution like the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration system that can fit onto the threads of most water bottles, and is guaranteed to filter 99.9% of bacteria and heavy metals across a lifespan of 8 million liters. This author has used it on four continents across five years.

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Dr john Masawe

Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) |Dancer|Software Developer|Multitalented|??|Entrepreneur|Researcher ?Founder, CEO, Admin and Publisher Of This Website

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