How to Build Your Own Emergency Car Kit

While the vast majority of trips will be uneventful, you never know when an unexpected event could cause you to halt.

Winter is a great time to hit the road and do some travelling in Northeastern Ontario. Our snowy winters are a beautiful thing, there are a ton of outdoor activities and cultural events to experience, plus you can often find great deals on winter lodges and resort accommodations.

But, if you’re planning to do some winter road-tripping or travelling, there are a few extra pieces of gear you should always have in your car! While the vast majority of trips will be uneventful, you never know when a highway closure, flat tire, or another unexpected event could cause you to halt on your chosen route.

For the best and safest travels, make sure to check the weather and highway conditions before departure, plan your route, let someone know where you’re going, and make sure you have your emergency car kit on hand just in case! For ease of storage, try keeping all your emergency items together in an easily accessible box or bag in your back seat or trunk. In no particular order, start with…

Your Warmest Winter Gear

You don’t have to wear it in the car, but it’s wise to ensure that your warmest winter coat, mittens, hat, and scarf are accessible to you in case of emergencies. For good measure, throw an extra pair or two of socks into your kit as well.

Bonus: Your warmest winter gear will also double as your outdoor adventure suit when you reach your destination!
Warm winter gear has more than one role to play. Photo: Ted Smith

Non-Scented Candles & Matches

While your triple-wicked scented candle that smells like lilac, spruce, or candy cane may make your house smell amazing, choose the plain, non-scented variety for your emergency car kit. 

If you have to be in your car for an amount of time with the heat off, the non-scented candle will create enough warmth inside to fend off the chill without overwhelming you with fragrance.

A Blanket & Hot Pads

Besides being a comforting item to curl up with, a spare blanket is another key tool in helping you fend off the chill. You can even get special space-saving heat blankets that are designed to capture up to 90 percent of your body heat—but if you don’t have one, a regular blanket will do just fine.

Bonus: For extra warmth, toss some air-activated hand warmers into your emergency kit. Tucked into your gloves or boots, they’ll provide another layer of warmth for a few hours.

Spare Water & Food

This one explains itself, but emergency water and food rations are an essential piece of your winter safety kit. Opt for snacks that are high in calories, can last a long time stored in a cool, dry place, and don’t require any extra tools to open or prepare.

Granola bars, trail mix, and emergency ration bars are all great products to get started with for your emergency kit. Opt for bottled water, which is easy to transport and store.

Headlamp or Flashlight with Batteries

Whether you have to change a tire, locate something in the dark, or just go for a walk, you’ll be happy you packed a portable light source. 

Important: Don’t forget the batteries! It’s best to store the batteries and your light source separately, only putting the batteries in when you need to use the flashlight.


First Aid Kit

Summer, winter, spring, or fall, a first aid kit is a great thing to have in your car. A good first aid kit will help you to treat minor injuries such as cuts, burns, slivers, and more.

A standard first aid kit will consist of items such as sterile bandages and gauze pads, adhesive tape, scissors and tweezers, gloves, antiseptic wipes or soap, instant ice packs, and more (see the Red Cross website for a full list). 

Get Some Traction

It’s happened to us all: a heavy snowfall gets us stuck in a rut, literally. Whether you’re in your own driveway or further away from home, there are some easy things you can keep on hand to help you get some traction.

Consider keeping a two-litre container of sand or fresh kitty litter (yes, kitty litter) in your car to sprinkle under your tires in a pinch. If you don’t have those items on hand, tree branches and boughs, or even your car's own floor mats can help you get out of a snowy situation.

A mini shovel can also be a useful tool to help you or someone else out of the loose, tractionless snow.

There are many items that are handy to have available to you during a roadside emergency, but the kit above will keep you warm and supplied until assistance arrives! For more information on handling roadside emergencies, check out this article from Wirecutter. A safe trip is the first step to a great trip—travel prepared and enjoy your time up north! 
About Jordan Nicksy

Jordan is a writer, digital marketer, amateur photographer, and experiences severe wanderlust. After backpacking parts of Southeast Asia, she knew she wanted to work in travel and tourism, and joined Northeastern Ontario Tourism. She is passionate about food & culinary arts, history, spending time outdoors, photography, and travel.

Recommended Articles

The Seven's Best Hikes, Biking Trails and Lakes

Scenic vistas, white pine, and waterfalls await!

7 Best Spots to Check Out in The Seven

From Killarney to Kirkland Lake, Mattawa to Manitoulin, here are all the best things to see and do in Northeastern Ontario.

No Hustle

These budget-friendly spots in The Seven offer affordable (and sometimes free) fun for everyone.

Bring Your Fam!

7 family-friendly places to explore in The Seven.

Time to Unwind: 6 Spa Havens to Discover In The Seven

Check out these next-level ways to pamper yourself on your Northeastern Ontario getaway

5 Amazing Places to SUP in Northeastern Ontario

From Stormy Lake to Marathon Beach, there's an incredible SUP adventure waiting for you here.

5 Amazing Bike Rides to Discover

Varied terrain, quiet roads, and flowy trails—The Seven is calling.

Northern Lights in Northeastern Ontario

5 great spots in The Seven to find the Aurora Borealis.

Northeastern Ontario's Best Pride Festivals

Get ready to celebrate inclusivity, diversity, and community in these vibrant Canadian areas.

Fish for one of the World's Rarest Species of Trout

Found only in 12 remote Ontario lakes–and nowhere else in the world–the aurora trout is a special fish.

An Insider's Guide to Manitoulin Island

12 communities, sights, hikes and experiences that most first-time visitors miss!

Small-Town Gems to Explore in Northeastern Ontario

Award-winning distilleries, quirky theatres, boating adventures, and historic museums, Northeastern Ontario is yours to explore.

11 Best Things to Do in Kapuskasing, Ontario

Gourmet cheese, hammocks in the park, and Canadian-Szechuan cuisine await in this historic lumber town

Best Things to Do in Kirkland Lake: The Town that Gold Built

Check out a self-guided gold mine tour, a northern chateau museum, and get some beach time!

Search Northeastern Ontario