Winter comes with chilling winds, dropping temperatures, and dangerous road conditions. If you live in or frequent an area with snowfall, it’s best to be prepared in case of a roadside emergency.
Being prepared doesn’t necessitate an emergency-gear shopping spree (unless that’s what you’re in the mood for). Rather than stowing away your summer camping gear until spring hits, you can use most of it as emergency gear for winter.
If you’re a camping enthusiast, chances are you already have everything you need to navigate a roadside emergency. But you may want to purchase a few new items, such as replenishing food items that have gotten low, or one or two durable boxes to store everything in.
What follows is not an exhaustive list; consider it a jumping-off point and source of inspiration. Here are the basics for making a winter emergency kit out of summer camping gear.
Winter Emergency Kit: Reuse Your Summer Camp Gear
When you’re putting together a roadside emergency kit, keep in mind that your gear needs to be housed in something. It’s not as useful and infinitely more annoying if it’s rolling around in the back of your vehicle. Depending on what you’re going to pack, you may want to invest in a couple of containers to make sure you have enough storage capacity.
Front Runner makes a gear bin we’ve tried and still use. It’s burlier and a little more pricey, but that also makes it dependable. But if that’s more than you need, a basic bin from the big-box stores will do.
You’ll want a blanket that keeps you warm (for obvious reasons), but a blanket that’s spillproof, water-resistant, and can cinch down small to save space in your emergency bin is a huge plus. That’s where Rumpl comes in. The brand makes compressible down and synthetic blankets that will keep you cozy and warm despite the elements.
If you don’t have a camp-specific blanket like Rumpl’s, opt for a wool blanket for the most versatility and safety.
Canned food is heavy and bulky. So for your winter emergency kit, we suggest repurposing some dehydrated meals that didn’t get consumed from this summer’s backpacking trips. Not only is dehydrated food lightweight, easy to pack, and long-lasting, but if you buy from a company like Patagonia Provisions, you know you’re getting quality and sustainable food options.
We particularly like the brand’s Stock Up and Save options. But rest assured, any dehydrated camp meal will do.
Low-fi options sometimes get looked over in the tech-focused zeitgeist of today, but there’s nothing like a shovel to get you out of a tight spot. Gerber’s E-Tool Folding Spade packs down to a tiny 9.25 inches when folded and will be able to fit in your gear bin no problem. Its serrated steel blade will slice through vegetation as well as snow, making it ideal for any emergency.
While you can use any shovel, the sky’s the limit here. You could even try this $200 multipurpose overlanding shovel.
Want a step up from the now-ubiquitous insulated water bottle? Try YETI’s Rambler One Gallon Jug. It’s everything you know and love about the brand’s water bottles in a bigger package. And the magnetic screw cap is genius!
If you’re like us, you keep water with you at all times. With a large, insulated vessel — we recommend at least 64 ounces — in your emergency kit, you’ll be able to stay hydrated and prepare your dehydrated meals without having to choose between the two.
There are a plethora of stoves on the market, and while there are cases to be made for many of them, we suggest the MSR WindBurner Group Stove System. When you’re preparing an emergency kit, you want items that work together. Knocking together a hodgepodge selection of gear has its time and place, but not during an emergency.
The WindBurner Group System is windproof, modular, able to nest together, and simultaneously big enough to prepare shareable meals and small enough to fit in your emergency kit during the offseason.
Crushable. Dependable. Solar-powered. Not many lights check all three boxes, but then again, not many brands make lights like Goal Zero does.
The brand’s Crush Lights are small, collapsible lights that are easily stowable in an emergency kit. They’re able to be charged via the solar panel on the top of the light, or, if you’re in a pinch, they’re also USB-compatible.
The cherry on top? They’re less than 20 bucks. Go ahead — buy a couple and stock up.
Note: We also love the LuminAID PackLite Nova inflatable lantern!
Wool is renowned for its antimicrobial properties, dependable warmth, and comfort. With that being said, stashing a pair or two of wool socks in your emergency kit is a surefire way to stay comfortable in case of an emergency.
One suggestion: Just make sure you wash them before sticking them in a bin for 4-6 months.
An emergency kit for your car won’t need to have every medical instrument known to man, but it will need the basics, and it will need to be minimal. That’s why we suggest the Adventure Ultralight/Watertight Medical .5 Kit. Use it in the spring and summer for backpacking and day hikes, and use it in the winter for your emergency kit.
Most headlamps made for camping and backpacking sit within a similar weight range. That’s why when one breaks the mold, we pay attention.
The BioLite HeadLamp 330 is lightweight at 69 g, but it’s the ultra-slim profile that sells it for us. Not only is it comfortable to wear, but it’ll also fit nicely in your emergency bin.
You don’t need to pack the whole tool chest for an emergency bin to feel complete. A Leatherman multitool like the Wave+ Set will come in handy for a variety of situations and take up minimal space.
Work gloves like this Milwaukee option keep hands safe if you need to work on your vehicle.
One key to virtually every emergency or survival situation is fire. Igniters on camp stoves wear out all the time, and at the very least, fire offers peace of mind for staying warm, making food, or signaling for help.
A deck of cards is both simple and complex enough to keep you entertained for hours in any situation. We recommend having one on your person as often as you can, but especially during a potentially long and drawn-out situation like being stuck on the side of the road during a storm.