As I write this, Colorado is facing the possibility of a second bomb cyclone in a month. It's typically a historic event, but here in the wild west, we do things big. This winter brought record avalanches; last summer we experienced a drought that contributed to deadly wildfires. We're sure to have flooding soon, as the snowpack melts.
Quite frankly, none of that is the reason I carry a car emergency kit year round.
When you live near the mountains, you learn that anything can happen, at any time, without the warning that comes with a bomb cyclone. When it's 95 and sunny in Denver, snow might be falling--and blowing--at the top of Pikes Peak. At least one vicious hailstorm will break windshields every year. Despite the state's best efforts, rock slides happen, randomly shutting down highways.
Add to that your usual traffic accidents and weather concerns, and Colorado drivers really need to be prepared for anything. So I set it and forget it (except to replace expired products). Here's what I keep on hand.
What's in my car emergency kit
[First things first: Any time we're specifically heading to the high country here in Colorado, we prepare intentionally for the trip. If it's summer, we grab our backpacks, which already contain the 10 essentials. In winter, we bring extra coats, boots, gloves and hats. We always pack water and sunscreen, because of the altitude. Our car emergency kit contains more general goods.]
Our bag includes:
- whistles, as well as instructions on how to signal with a whistle (the series of tweets that indicates a rescue needed, for example)
- a needle and thread kit, to sew up torn clothing or blankets (or skin, if it's really urgent)
- a bit of wire
- a length of cord
- a length of string
- a can opener and bottle opener
- a pocket knife
- alcohol and antiseptic wipes, and a sting relief wipe
- bandages and gauze
- rubber gloves for providing first aid
- a solar light that also can charge by USB (it can charge USB devices too!)
- a spare phone battery
- plastic baggies, useful for melting snow into drinking water, among other things
- water purification tablets
- duct tape, handy for patching torn gear or skin, as well as marking a trail, if you step out of your car (though you should try to stay with your car to be found)
- a carabiner
- a first-aid thermal foil blanket, which can contain body heat
- a plastic lined insulated blanket, which is cozy on one side and stays dry on the other
- a safety pin, for all your Macgyver needs
- fire starters
- a rain jacket
- spare tennis shoes and socks, in case I'm driving in dressy shoes
- an extra hat and gloves
- hand and foot warmers
- water and snacks
- a satellite phone
- notes on first aid, emergency best practices, and ways to signal with body and arm gestures, because when you're scared or panicked, it can be hard to remember what you learned in your first aid class
This can all be a lot of clutter or be easily lost, so I recommend putting the smallest items in a sturdy zippered bag like these; then it's easy to toss in the trunk (or throw in the back seat, if I need the trunk for luggage).
You also should fill up your gas tank, so that you can start your car periodically whenever you might be stuck. That way you can occasionally enjoy some heat (or air conditioning) and charge your phone.
Or, if you're really smart and really lucky, you'll just stay home when a blizzard threatens. Many unfortunate people trying to brave the elements during last month's bomb cyclone spent a long day and night huddled in their cars on highways around the Front Range.
Ultimately, though, the weather in Colorado (and other places around the country) can be unpredictable. So can rocks, other drivers and even wild animals. So you may want to pack your own car emergency kit. Set a reminder to check expiration dates on snacks and first-aid items every six months or so, as well as charge up batteries; then you can explore more securely.
Now it's your turn: Tell me on Facebook or in the comments below what you've packed in your car emergency kit?