How to make a roadside emergency kit for the Texas winter

December 21, 2020

Learn to create a roadside emergency kit and be prepared for whatever the Texas winter throws your way


An emergency triangle from a winter roadside emergency kit

Nothing is worse than finding yourself stranded on the side of the road - especially during winter. Fortunately, having a roadside emergency kit can turn a disaster into a manageable situation. However, the severity of the seasonal weather where you live can have an impact on the tools you need in your kit. That's especially true in Texas, where winter might mean a sunny 60 degree day in Brownsville and a freezing, snowy day in Amarillo. With that in mind, it's important to consider the weather where you live before you put your kit together. That's why today, we'll show you how to make a roadside emergency kit for the Texas winter.

Basic emergency car kit supplies


Regardless of the weather or the season, you will want to have a basic set of supplies available in your car at all times. Here are a few items that you should keep in your emergency car kit:

Flashlight and batteries. Ideally, we'd only ever have car trouble when the sun is shining. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. If you find yourself on the side of the road in the dark, the simplest tasks become next to impossible without a flashlight, so make sure to keep one (or two) in your roadside emergency kit along with spare batteries. 

You may also consider keeping either a magnetic lamp, which attaches to the hood of your car, or a headlamp. Both will illuminate the task at hand without taking up a hand in the process. 

Spare bulbs for headlights. A broken or burnt out headlight is usually a simple fix, but only if you have spare bulbs on hand. You may not have a need for one during the day, but having a busted light at night requires immediate attention. Your headlights and turn signals likely require a specific type of bulb, so it's important to make sure you have the right type in the event of an emergency. You may also consider carrying a spare set of fuses, too. 

First aid kit. When you're stuck on the side of the road, even minor injuries can become difficult to handle if left untreated. Carry basic medical supplies, like bandages, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, gauze, medical tape, anti-inflammatory painkillers, scissors, and gloves. If you know that you or one of your passengers has a severe allergy to something like an insect sting, you may also want to carry an epipen if your doctor has given you one. 

Simple tool kit. Many vehicles come with a small tool kit somewhere in the trunk. If not, it's definitely a good idea to add a few tools to your roadside emergency kit. Make sure to have a flathead screwdriver, a Phillips-head screwdriver, a set of wrenches or socket wrenches, and a pair of pliers. Before gathering these tools, check your owner's manual to determine whether you need standard or metric sizes, and which sizes you'll most frequently need.  

Reflective vest. A reflective vest will ensure that you are visible, particularly if you are on the side of the road working on your car or helping a passenger.

Hazard lights, cones, or triangles. When you're stuck on the side of the road, it's important to let everyone know and make yourself as visible as possible. Although your vehicle's hazard lights do this fairly well, they may not always work. Having cones or triangles to place around your car ensures that other drivers will know to watch out and give you space. 

Umbrella. If you have to walk to get help or fill a can of gas, an umbrella can protect you from the elements. If you have a passenger, or a second set of helping hands, an umbrella can help keep the sun or rain off of you if you need to perform a roadside task. When choosing an umbrella for your roadside emergency kit, consider purchasing one that is brightly colored and add strips of reflective tape to the top. This gives you the ability to use your umbrella as an additional emergency signal if needed. 
 
Gas can.  If you run out of gas, you're going to need a container to carry a refill - even if you're only a few dozen feet away from the pump. However, not just any container will do! Without the proper gas can, it can be difficult to actually get the fuel into your tank. Furthermore, there are regulations in place that prohibit filling up random containers, like water bottles or buckets. 

Jumper cables. Often the only thing standing between you and the road is a little jolt. That's why jumper cables are an absolute necessity in any roadside emergency kit. However, depending on where you find yourself stranded, you may not have another car to lend you the electricity. Fortunately, you can find small battery packs that carry just enough juice to spark your car back to life. 

Lug wrench and jack.  Your vehicle should come with both a jack and a lug wrench, so make sure you know exactly where those are located in your vehicle. However, it's worth noting that the standard jacks that come with a vehicle aren't always as easy to use or as helpful as you might hope. For this reason, it's often a good idea to go through a practice tire-changing drill at home. This will help you determine if the provided equipment is adequate and give you confidence during an actual roadside emergency.

State and local maps. In a normal situation, we can rely on our smartphones and GPS devices. But what happens when the battery dies, or when you don't have a signal? Having a few maps on hand ensures that you'll find your way to help no matter what.

Creating your winter roadside emergency kit


Your winter roadside emergency kit should be customized for the area you live in and the conditions you regularly experience. In addition to the items listed above, consider adding some of the following items to your roadside emergency kit depending on how harsh the winter conditions are in your area.

Roadside emergency kit for mild winters


If you live in an area that experiences mild winter conditions, such as rain, cool temperatures and higher winds, then these are some items that might be best for your winter roadside emergency kit:

Rain poncho. Late fall and winter can often bring wet weather. When combined with the cooler temperatures, you can quickly find yourself in a dangerous situation on the side of the road. A poncho will keep you dry if you have to work on your car in wet winter weather conditions.

Extra coat. It doesn't have to be anywhere close to freezing for hypothermia to become a problem. In the event that your coat gets wet, or if one coat isn't cutting it, you will have a spare on hand to keep you warm.

Emergency blankets. If you have to wait for help to arrive, colder temperatures can be difficult to bear - especially when night falls. Emergency blankets will help you or your passengers stay warm in cold temperatures.

Hand warmers. It's hard to perform smaller tasks when your hands feel like ice cubes. Hand warmers can protect your hands from becoming frigid or frost-bitten and let you focus on the task at hand.

Roadside emergency kit for harsh winters


If you live in an area that experiences more extreme winter conditions, such as ice and snow, you may need additional items in your winter emergency car kit, such as:

Windshield scraper. Roadside emergencies aren't always mechanical in nature; sometimes a lack of visibility is all it takes to force you to the side of the road, and nothing is more difficult to remove than ice. A windshield scraper may need to be used to remove ice or snow from your car. 

Tire chains. Traction is one of the most important forces when it comes to driving a car - especially when winter weather is upon you. Tire chains can help your tires get a grip when the road is icy or covered in snow.

Traction mats. Tire chains help with traction, but if you're already stuck, you'll need a little help. There are a wide variety of traction mats to choose from, but they all work by creating a surface for your tires to grip on to in order to free yourself from a sticky situation. If you find yourself in a situation where you need traction but don't have mats handy, pouring sand or kitty litter in front of your tires can often do the trick.

Warm winter gear. In more mild climates, an extra coat may be all that you need. However, if you live in a part of Texas that regularly experiences sub-freezing temperatures and frozen precipitation, you'll likely need something more substantial for your roadside emergency kit. Extra supplies, such as gloves, hats, mittens and scarves, can help keep you safe if you are caught in winter weather conditions. Furthermore, if you find yourself sweating while changing a tire, it is essential that you have dry clothes to change into. Even a small amount of perspiration can lead to hypothermia

Camp stove and pot. Texas highways travel through hundreds of miles of sparsely populated land. If you find yourself on a lengthy winter journey through such terrain, having a camping stove and a pot on hand may be a lifesaver. It's important to stay hydrated, and a stove with a metal pot gives you the ability to melt snow if you're running low on water. You can also carry small packets of tea or hot chocolate for a little added comfort while you wait for help to arrive. 

Non-perishable food. Most of the time, you won't find yourself stranded on the side of the road for long. Even in the most remote areas of Texas, roadside assistance should be able to get to you within a day at the most. However, winter road conditions can make it difficult to perform a timely rescue. Although you can go a long while without food before it becomes dangerous, your energy reserves will quickly drop without calories to replenish it. Not only can this make it difficult to perform physical tasks, it makes it much more difficult to think clearly. Non-perishable food, including canned goods and peanut butter, can be stored in your car for a long length of time and can be used in an emergency if you are stranded. Dehydrated noodles can also offer a boost in energy, and can easily be prepared with your camping stove. 

Sleeping bag. Even with ample winter clothing, it can become dangerously cold after the sun sets. A sleeping bag can be a valuable tool for trapping heat to stay warm even if you don't need to spend the night waiting for help to arrive. 

Metal shovel. Sometimes, all you need to free a stuck vehicle is a little digging. Even if you're not stuck, a shovel can help you keep your car from being buried in snowfall, which can make it incredibly difficult for anyone to spot. Your standard plastic snow shovel is designed to move soft, freshly-fallen snow and may not be able to withstand the hard packed snow on the side of the road. For this reason, it is recommended that you keep a metal shovel in your roadside emergency kit. 

Regardless of the type of winter conditions that you experience in your region of Texas, you will want to store all of your supplies in a safe and secure place. A large duffel bag is often the perfect option for keeping all of your winter roadside emergency kit supplies together. Duffel bags can easily be stored in the trunk of your vehicle, and they allow you to carry necessary items with you if you have to walk to get help. 

In addition to creating a roadside emergency kit and storing it in your vehicle, you also should keep your auto maintenance log in your glove box. This log contains valuable information about your vehicle's parts and products numbers, which you may need to provide in the event that a repair is required. If you have a roadside emergency service, keep a copy of the contact information and any necessary account information in your emergency kit. Lastly, if you plan on going on any lengthy trips, make sure to perform routine maintenance on your vehicle to ensure that it won't leave you stranded. 

When it comes to weather in Texas, anything is possible - especially during the winter. But with your roadside emergency kit, you'll be prepared for whatever comes your way. 

A woman placing an emergency signal from a winter roadside emergency kit

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by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.