10 items every Canadian should keep in their car when driving to the cottage this winter

couple packing the car in winter Photo by SeventyFour/Shutterstock

Listen to the seventh episode of the Cottage Life podcast about driving in traffic and what we’re doing wrong.

Even for Canadians who grew up driving through the whitest of blizzards and across the blackest stretches of ice, travelling in winter is no easy feat.

That’s why you should always be prepared. In case you get into an accident or simply come across one, here are 10 items you should always keep in your car.

A snow scraper and shovel

Chances are—unless you’ve fully committed to a credit card as your snow removal tool of choice—you’re already covered on the snow scraper and brush front. This is Canada, after all. However, if you’ve put off on loading in the requisite shovel to save room in your trunk, think again. You wouldn’t get into a leaky boat without a bucket. Likewise, if you hit the ditch or get snowed in somewhere, you won’t want to dig yourself out with your hands.

Jumper cables

The truth is, your car battery never dies on a beautiful day when you have nowhere to be. No, instead your battery is guaranteed to die when it’s sleeting out and you’ve got to get back to the city in time for work on Monday.

An emergency kit

Load up your first-aid kit with all the essentials, then add in some extras for winter emergencies: a multi-tool, hand warmers, matches and a candle. Throw it all in an old coffee can, which you can use as a candleholder in a worst-case scenario.

Food and water

We’re not talking about road trip snacks to tide you over until you hit the highway. In case you have to wait for help for any length of time, you’re going to need to keep your energy up. Pack some non-perishable food items (such as granola bars), along with bottles of water. Keep them on hand and remember that they’re strictly for emergencies-only.

Winter clothing

If you’re not planning on spending any time outdoors, it might be tempting to just jump into your car without fully layering up. But think back to what your mom told you — in addition to clean underwear, you should always have a toque, mittens, jacket and proper winter boots. Even if you’re not wearing them for the drive, make sure they’re easily accessible and ready for action.


This item should actually be kept in your car year-round. In addition to keeping your warm, it can also be used if you come across and accident and need to help someone who may be going into shock.

Cat litter

Even with winter tires, it can be difficult to gain traction on sharp inclines. Kitty litter or sand can help get you out in a pinch.

A flashlight

It’s wintertime, which means it’s going to get dark early. You may need a light to change your tire, check your engine or signal for help. While most phones now have flashlights, their batteries will drain quickly in the cold. On that note, make sure to pack some extra batteries for the flashlight itself.

A fully charged cell phone

Murphy’s law dictates that if you need to make a call, your cell phone won’t work. Show Murphy you’re boss by having a car charger on hand, as well as a fully charged battery pack. If you have an old flip phone kicking around (you know, the kind where the battery lasts for days) load it up with pay-as-you-go credit and keep it in your glove box as a backup.

Windshield washer fluid

With all the dirt, salt and grime on the road, you’re going to be using your windshield washer on the regular. Save yourself a trip to the gas station by stocking up before you go.


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