In the winter, there are all kinds of unexpected things that can happen out on the road. The icy conditions and freezing temperatures affect many different things. Your battery may not work in the cold, or you may have to stay pulled over for awhile because of road conditions. Because of this uncertainty, it’s a good idea to always carry some winter essentials with you.

Here are items you should consider including in your Winter Emergency Kit:



  • Items to help stay warm. Staying warm is a major concern during the winter months.
    • Having more than one blanket or a sleeping bag with you is always a good idea. You never know when you’re going to need extras.  
    • You will also want to have an extra hat, coat, ski mask, pair of gloves, and boots available, especially if you’re traveling for long distances in unfamiliar areas. You probably won’t need them on a regular basis, but in case of an emergency, you’ll be glad to have them.
    • Have an alternative source of heat available. The most common methods of heating are an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) to heat the cab of the truck without running the engine, idling with the heater running, and a bunk heater to heat the bedding. No matter what your usual method, it’s a good idea to have a backup just in case. Bring along a wick candle can heater. If you don’t have more than one option for heating, test yours before every trip. Remember, some lighters won’t work in extreme cold so keep a box of matches in the glove box.
  • Knife. Always have a knife or other multi-purpose cutting tool with you in case of an emergency. Whether it's cutting thread and gauze, collecting firewood, starting a fire; or fashioning a shelter and lashing down windproof material with rope, your knife will frequently come in handy.
  • Extra food. Carry some extra snack food, specifically high-energy food like energy bars, candy bars, hard candies, dried fruit (raisins, dates, dried apricots), jerky, and granola bars. Even if you’re only stuck somewhere for a couple of hours, having these can be a relief. It’s easier to get grumpy when you’re hungry. Being hungry can make you distracted, and affect your driving and your concentration. No one likes skipping meals so having a few snacks tucked away for emergencies is a good idea. They help pass the time, and can keep you in good spirits.
  • Extra water. Bottled water is important to have on hand as well, so keep a couple bottles available for when you need them. You’ll want to make sure you don’t get dehydrated if you get stuck for several hours.
  • Recovery straps or tow chains. Recovery straps and tow chains are another winter necessity. You might need them to get your truck, or someone else’s, out of a snow bank or a ditch.
  • First aid kits. First aid kits are important to have all year round, but especially in the winter. Injuries, even minor ones are common, so there’s no excuse not to be prepared for them. has some first aid kits specifically designed for truck drivers.
  • Flashlight and batteries. If you’re stranded you don’t want to waste your truck’s fuel or battery on lighting. Flashlights are very portable and LED versions don’t use very much energy so they are a good investment. Things like flashlights, phones and computers will lose battery power more quickly in the cold so charge them while you are driving.  Don’t charge them at night unless you have a generator or APU.
  • Hand Crank Radio. Many truckers find that a ‘hand crank’ radio (or a radio with extra batteries) is an essential part of a winter emergency kit. If you’re in a place where you do not have any cell service, or if your cell phone battery is dead because of the cold temperature, these can be invaluable. Although it may not seem likely that you will be stranded somewhere without access to a phone, it is a possibility you should be prepared for.

Once you’ve assembled your emergency kit, you have to find someplace to store it in the cab. You’ll want to keep it somewhere accessible, but not somewhere that it could fly out in a collision. For around $20 dollars you can purchase a truck cab organizer, such as a Bully, to keep all your winter essentials behind your seat.
Roads can be dangerous in the winter. You never know what will happen, so be prepared when you have to deal with the unexpected.

WinterKit What's in your Winter Emergency Kit?



Comments (7)

Kaitlin Cathey

Kaitlin works at ATBS with the sales team. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, from Thomas Edison State College in NJ. She was born in Colorado, but has also lived in Maryland and Illinois. Her favorite things to do are running, reading, and creative writing.

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Good check list now I have to go look.

April 23, 2016 21:06:49 PM

For the flashlight, I would suggest the LED MINI MAG-LITE, which is a fantastic LED flashlight with long battery life. I also carry extra fuel, filters, diesel additives and a filter wrench, because it gets cold in the winter- this morning, the low in Cropsey, IL was 5 below zero, and tomorrow's low is expected to be 5 above. Keep warm out there!

January 23, 2013 18:52:46 PM

I always carry more water than necessary in the rig. I know a major part of survival is not allowing the signs of dehydration to set in. The human body can go longer without food than it can without water!

January 13, 2013 12:00:02 PM

A hybrid lantern is a good option for a flashlight, save$ on batteries.

January 10, 2013 7:21:50 AM

I enjoyed it too. I think I have most of those items in the truck. I broke down during the summer when it was 100 degrees out but fortunately, I was in Charlotte, NC on an exit ramp near a Chick Fil A. My son was with me as we were returning home from a trip out to New Mexico. I was so thankful to break down where I did instead of the middle of the desert where you can find yourself 100 miles from civilization.

January 08, 2013 18:34:26 PM

Thank you! I enjoyed putting it together, and I'm glad you found it interesting.

January 08, 2013 7:19:26 AM

Excellent article Kaitlin. You listed items I hadn't thought about. Thank you for putting this together.

January 07, 2013 14:13:15 PM