How to Prepare a Winter Driving Survival Kit

It’s winter here in Oregon, and it’s cold. Like, unusually cold for our region. Like, instead of our typical grim, gray rain, it’s more sub-freezing, Dementors-are-coming-to-suck-your-soul kind of cold. All of which got me thinking about how well we’re prepared in case we find ourselves stranded while we’re out.

What if the car breaks down?

What if I’m stuck on the side of the road with my whole chaos of children?

How will we stay warm?

How can we avoid going all Donner Party on each other?

So I took a look around my hip minivan with an eye to survival, and I realized we’re more ready than I thought. I mean, sure, we could stock up on a few things like road flares, a flashlight, water and a move to the Bahamas, but we’ve got some of this stuff nailed.

For example, we’re prepared to stay warm

photo 2 (4)

with a child’s coat, a child’s Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, a dishtowel, two paper napkins, and, of course

photo 2 (3)

three left gloves.

And we’re prepared with food.

Foods that are high in carbs like crackers

photo 2 (2)

and toast.

photo 5

Foods that are high in protein like half a Luna bar

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and a meatball.

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Foods that are high in carbs and protein like week-old pizza.

photo 1 (2)

And foods that are high in French fries and cupcakes, like, um, French fries

photo 1

and cupcakes.

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Look. I don’t want to brag too much about our level of preparedness, and I certainly don’t want to bore you, so I’m not including photos of everything I found in my car. All the silverware and bowls. And half-sucked mints and banana peels. And paper plates and dried out markers. And plastic toys and Pokemon cards.

photo 5 (3)

But I do want to encourage you to be prepared as much as possible. And being prepared starts with attitude and training, friends. Preparation for anything as a family requires buy-in and a sense of team spirit. Every single person in our family contributes to this effort, often anonymously. Even when I say, “Hey! Who left this in the car?” no one hogs the credit or seeks any recognition at all, and, in fact, it’s not uncommon for my kids to try to shine the light on their siblings’ efforts with a kind “he did it” or a sweet “not me!”

Now please don’t worry if this all takes your family some time to learn. More than any of the items listed above, the most important thing to have on hand is consistency. For example, we cleaned our car out just a couple weeks ago, but because we’re committed to consistency, we’ve restocked every single thing and more in that amount of time.

Remember, practice makes perfect. And I believe you can do it.


P.S. If you’re looking for a more, um, thorough (read: real) Winter Driving Survival Kit, check out this one put together by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. I figure Minnesotans know more about being frozen than Oregonians. If you ever need to know about Vitamin D deficiency, though, we’re here for you.

P.P.S. Sorry I didn’t picture the M&M’s I found. I ate them. There’s a reason I’m heading to the gym, folks.


So! What’s in your car right now? For *ahem* winter survival? Spill it. You know, just like that sippy cup of milk. 😉


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16 responses to “How to Prepare a Winter Driving Survival Kit”

  1. I can honestly say that the floor on my car was crumb free at one time. It was a couple of weeks ago and I immediately knew something was wrong. I am not sure how long the mouse was living under the seats, but I am sure he was well fed. I was sad to have to remove my natural vacuum cleaner.

  2. In bad weather I guess we’ll have to stick close to other cars. I doubt that we could survive very long on breath mints and a half-empty water bottle. And that one smashed box of Kleenex won’t keep us very warm. We’re doomed!

  3. What most boggles me is how the cupcakes didn’t get eaten? That would never happen near me.

    I had a friend’s child in my car and she asked to go to the bathroom. I told her she could as soon as we got home. She said, ‘Why can’t I just go in the car?” Um, cuz cars don’t have toilets. “My mom’s van does.”

    Ok- I guess I’m not really that prepared.

  4. there’s totally a foldable potty seat in my car! and a bunch of plastic bags. So, if we were stranded in the snow (here in southern california…) we’d totally be ready to pee at will!

  5. My kids are teens now and so I no longer drive a van from which I can gather snacks, drinks and clothing at a moment’s notice. (But I sometimes long for those days, as the last time I lent my college-age son my vehicle for a weekend, the trash I found in it upon its return was an empty condom wrapper! OMG. Apologies for the R-rated entry on a G-rated post.)
    Anyway, just wanted to say that I love your blog. Your entries are so interesting, fun, well-written and uplifting, that I enjoy them even though my family and yours are at such different stages.

  6. I often complain about the condition of my husband’s car, and to my dismay I find myself in a similar situation. I eat my lunch in my car every workday, and you’ve just reminded me that I dropped my spoon on the floor yesterday and forgot to pick it up. And this morning, on my way to work, I heard a really scary “POP” and turned around to see a frozen-therefore-broken bottle of Pelligrino on the rear passenger seat. There goes my emergency preparedness.

  7. Nope dude, we would definitely freeze/starve to death. My minivan is crap-free. That few square feet is the only thing in my life that really belongs to me and I’m insanely anal about keeping her that way. Now, I try not to look at the muddy/snow-melt marks on the carpet next to the kid’s carseat, and last week I discovered a half-empty sippy-cup of frozen soymilk of indeterminate age (I had to put my head between my knees to make the shock and dizzy go away), but otherwise, it’s my own clean little universe. The house is a tornado of dinosaurs, raisins, dog hair, cat poo (yup, we have an out-of-the-litter-box pooer), boots, snowsuits, socks, stickers and so on…none of it passes my slidey automatic minivan door. None of it. I’ll prolly regret this as I serve my child some juicy part of my own body in a snowy ditch someday, but dammit she’ll have a nice clean car to eat me in.

  8. In our car we currently have 5 cups of Dunkin donuts coffee that have about 1/8 cup left, put it together and I have half a cup of coffee! There are several half eaten soft pretzels that were leftover after bribing my boys to behave at Whole Foods, part Ida banana with pieces of the peel spread around the third row of my van, two sippy cups that I pray only have water in them, a bag of Cheerios, 5 different varieties of baby food pouches, an assortment of different sized diapers, along with several mismatched socks.

    I may have missed something in the rubble, but looking at it in print makes me feel all the better prepared for car-pocalypse! Thanks for helping me realize the true potential of our survival kit, Beth!

  9. Thank you. I’m so glad to know that other families are joining us in emergency preparedness. (Sometimes we are only one water filter away from landing in doomsday prepper company.) My car, which is actually a pickup, always smells vaguely ( or strongly) of McD French fries. When the smell starts to fade we go buy more and sprinkle them around.

    Right now we have six empty aluminum soda cans, half full Gatorade bottles, half bag of sunflower seeds, several coats, an old sheet that the dog lays on, some books, some shoes, a stadium cushion…and those are just the things that don’t actually live in the truck. And in the bed a full bag of trash that needs to go to the dumpster but has been riding around for two days!

  10. …And a meatball…

    Oh my, I know we have enough food to survive for a while, if we can get over the initial yuckiness of all the lint stuck to it. And speaking of lint, I’m sure we have enough lint and paper and other flamables to keep us warm. We can use the cigarette lighter to light them. We even have a pair of scissors in our vehicle, which I’m sure would come in handy…for something. Cutting our hair if we’re stuck long enough?

    I love you. I’m old enough to know better, but I honestly felt (before reading this post) like I was the only one who had a gross, I mean *emergency prepared* car. I especially love Heidi’s frozen caramel latte. What an excellent idea.

    I love you for telling it like it is.

  11. I feel so much better about the half box of animal crackers, 6 half empty and stepped on water bottles, the frozen caramel latte I’ve been spoon feeding myself for a few days, the zipped off hood of my sons coat, the Taco Bell hot sauce packets, and the endless skittles and m&m’s in the seats. I live in frozen Wisconsin… there is probably a hunk of cheese in there somewhere:)

  12. I – of ALL people – support, encourage, and defend the right of an author to never let a few facts get in the way of a story well told. Time lines altered, occurrences re-ordered for narrative clarity, names changed to protect the innocent – all’s fair in love, war, and the blogosphere. But every now and again honor and integrity demand that the yellow card gets flashed, the flag flies, the whistle gets blown.

    “… we cleaned our car out just a couple weeks ago…”

    ??? Seriously? Who is this “WE”? I want to meet them. Like angels, superheros, and teens with social skills I’m sure the “WE” who cleans out your car(s) exist – it’s just that I’ve never had the pleasure of a personal introduction. Can’t wait to meet this covert car cleaner!

  13. Tons of paper coffee cups, wrappers from fruit snacks, books, jackets, socks (?), 2 first aid kits (because I forgot I already had one, and I’m too lazy to figure out where I should keep the extra), jiujitsu belt, various Sunday School papers, granola bar wrappers, a plastic plate, a couple of crusts from toast, some Legos, several water bottles. Feeling good about the water bottles and first aid kits!

  14. My son is now 3 months old and I still have dishes rolling around on the floor of my van that I need to get back to the kind souls that fed us the first few weeks home. Among the items you already listed. 😉

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