Make an affordable Winter Survival Food Kit for your car

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A couple of years ago, my family spent 2 weeks camping around the beautiful and very cold country of Iceland. (You can read about our adventures in this article.) We had a cozy camper van with a propane stove, a small sink, a table, and bunks, and as you might imagine, coming up with plans for hot meals every day became an interesting challenge!

There’s something deeply satisfying about a hot drink or hot meal on a cold day, but have you ever thought about how you could manage that on a long, winter drive or if you were stranded in cold weather? A Winter Survival Food Kit might save the day, and you can put one of these together quickly and frugally.

This list will get you started, but remember, it’s totally customizable!

image: cars on freeway stranded in blizzard need winter survival food kit

The Basics of the Winter Survival Food Kit

While you can survive on cold food and beverages, the warming morale boost of a hot drink or meal cannot be overstated. If you can’t afford this, start with cold items but start saving!

A Heat Source

immersion heater for winter survival food kit

This very, very simple, inexpensive, and very portable Winter Survival Food Kit will provide you and your family with warm drinks and small, hot meals, and it all begins with a $12 gadget, the immersion heater. (see image)

An immersion heater like this one heats up almost instantly and if you were stranded in the snow, which happens to thousands of people every year, having the ability to melt snow into drinkable water could be life-saving. Although it might seem like a good idea to eat clean snow if you don’t have water, the fact is, that icy snow will lower your core temperature, making it even harder to stay warm and avoid hypothermia.

A Metal Container

With an immersion heater in hand, you’ll next need a metal container that can hold at least 16 ounces of liquid/food. The one I have in my kit looks something like this pot. In a pinch, you could use an empty, clean aluminum can but without a handle of some kind, you would need to have a potholder or something similar.

You now have a heat source and a container for food and/or water, so the next step is to think about what you could pack that wouldn’t be affected by very cold temperatures, and here is where small packets of food, like oatmeal, are the perfect solution.


Plastic works fine for this. Depending on your foods, you may not need a fork, spoon, AND knife. Think, and then choose accordingly.

Foods for Your Winter Survival Kit

Some of the foods I’ve found to be perfectly sized for a Winter Survival Food Kit are:

  • Packets of dry soup and bouillon
  • Hot chocolate and cider packets
  • Packets of sweeteners and honey
  • Teabags of different varieties  (Teas containing ginger, lemon grass, and lemon verbena are very good for fighting colds.)
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Ramen (bulkier but more filling)
  • Single-serve peanut butter and jam cups
  • Freeze-Dried food pouches
  • Packets of instant coffee and lemonade mix
  • High-calorie meal bars
  • Emergen-C (You may lose some of the nutrients when added to hot water but you will still get a healthy jolt of the ingredients, including Vitamin C, electrolytes, and zinc. It comes in a few different flavors as well.)
  • Theraflu Flu and Sore Throat Powder  (There is also a nighttime version that will put you to sleep. Avoid that one if you’re driving!)
  • Protein powder — You will probably have to make these yourself.
  • Small bottles of energy shot drinks, such as Liquid Focus

You’ll be surprised by how many of these packets can easily fit inside your kit’s metal pot. If you store them in a Ziploc or, preferably, a vacuum-sealed pouch using a Food Saver, it will help keep the packets dry.

Also, check out for even more travel-sized packets of foods. It’s a very handy site!

What About Water?

One final and necessary ingredient for all these foods and beverages is water. If snow is your only source, then choose snow that hasn’t been plowed, appears to be clean, and, preferably, is snow that has fallen during the middle or toward the end of a snow storm. That snow will have fallen through cleaner and less polluted air. Heat it first, so you’re not creating another problem by lowering your core body temperature.

Purifying melted snow is possible, and the easiest way to do that is by using a Sawyer Mini Water Filter. It’s super compact and can filter thousands of gallons before needing to be replaced. However, don’t let it freeze or the filtering membrane will rupture. If there is risk of it freezing, insulate it or keep it on your person and use body heat.

You can store water in your vehicle using the tips in this article to keep it from freezing. I always have a case of water bottles in the passenger area of my SUV and even if a few get partially frozen, I’ve never had the entire case freeze.

Your Winter Survival Food Kit is now complete! Read this post if you’d like a comprehensive guide about surviving a blizzard in your vehicle.

Is there anything else you would add? If so, add it in the Comments section.

10 thoughts on “Make an affordable Winter Survival Food Kit for your car”

  1. I have only one email address. I entered it twice with the same result. Your response was to say that I needed a different address which I don’t have. How do I subscribe?

  2. Yeah, the immersion heater is only good IF you have electricity!
    If you have fires, you can heat rocks to wrap & keep feet & hands warm, especially at night. I have 2 bags with zippers, made from towels to keep hot rocks in for my hands or feet at night, which work MUCH better than just rag or old sock!

    Use whatever light you can in your car windows for solar heating, to melt water/snow. Having a magnifying glass could be good for heating small things & starting fires. Have a heat & light kit in your car kit.

    Plan on having metal bottles or Thermoses to heat water in over a fire for each person. Then a pan for cooking is for everyone. Or better yet, have a mess kit for each person.

    Have warming herbs in your food /first aid kit too. Cayenne, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, chili powder are warming herbs. They will make your food taste better & keep you warm while you are at it! Cayenne is good for heart attacks/stroke too. Sprinkling cayenne in your shoes is supposed to help keep feet warm too. Honey and cayenne are really good for burns. Since you’ll be using fires, you may get to experience this great healing combination! You’ll need electrolytes in the winter too. A tiny 1/8 t cream of tartar in a quart of water is good, or a salt/sugar solution, ratio of 2 sugar to 1 salt.

  3. I’m sorry, this little gadget might be handy but it relies on 1.Your vehicle battery is in working order (i.e. not drained). & 2.the actual gadget is in working order. From the sounds of it this gadget doesn’t get hot enough to boil water. Winter/cold temps do not go hand in hand with snow in all locations. Sure we can carry water with us and should…but there will be times when someone hasn’t, and wont have “clean snow” to melt. this gadget is pretty much null and void in any true survival situation other than camping or at the beach house. In fact I would say it’s almost dangerous.

    1. The Survival Mom

      While it’s true the immersion heater relies on the car battery, I don’t think it would be wise to discount it altogether just in case a dead battery could happen. Of course it could.

  4. Remember
    Once you use a quality water water filter, you will NEVER be able to properly dry it out!!!
    So you must always have a NEW water filter in your vehicle, gobag, etc… if there is ANY CHANCE of FREEZING.
    If it freezes when wet, it could have many of the micro pores ruptured unknown to you, and let all containers through!!!
    Be Safe!

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