For those of us who are new to living with snow, freezing rain and ice during the winter months or those who may find themselves traveling to a colder location for some fun skiing; here are some items to have with you at all times. A 72 or 24 hour backpack should also be in the vehicle and should not be considered part of the below list.
Car Battery: During the winter, we often discover that the car battery that was working fine in 80 degrees, is suddenly struggling at minus 20. If you are from the south and decide to take that ski vacation, make sure your battery can handle the cold. As it gets dark earlier, some will leave the dome light on by accident, accidentally leave the headlights on when they get out of the car to go skiing or shopping or not close a door properly and sadly find the battery dead within an hour. So a healthy battery and making sure lights are all turned off when not needed, is essential.
Gas: For those very cold days, consider gas with antifreeze supplements already in the mix or add some yourself and that you can easily obtain at any decent auto parts store or garage. Keeping the tank above half way also helps keep condensation down AND helps ensure you have fuel if stuck in your car overnight!.
Tires: Winter tires perform better than four season and four season perform better then summer tires. So buy the best you can. You may also consider buying some traction aids. They have some nice plastic ones these days and some also like having a bag of kitty litter or salt in the car to spread on ice.
Here is a list of items (not in priority) that you really must have in the car at all times. (In addition to your emergency backpack we recommend you always have)
1. Booster cables. 15 feet long at least and with good handles. Make SURE you know how to use them properly before using! If not familiar with them, read your owner’s manual on how to boost a dead battery. Another tip is to make sure all headlights, radio or car interior lights are OFF and door closed when charging or boosting a dead battery. If your car has an engine oil warmer, plug it in on very cold nights, as it will help the starting process.
2. 50 foot tow rope or strap with hooks on both ends
3. USB power packs for charging of smart devices if and when car battery goes dead. Cold temps drain a smart device battery real fast so you want the extra juice. I always have a power pack being charged in my car so it’s ready if needed.
4. You will want any cigarette lighter adapter to charge your smart devices, along with all the cables you need for them.
5. Road flares. There are the old types that you actually use a sand paper type striker (already on the flare) to light the flare and there are newer types that run off batteries. My personal preference is older type because I do not need to worry about batteries or a bulb burning out just when I need it. Either way, make sure you have a few/ one or two for front and rear of a stranded vehicle.
6. Strong flashlight with fresh AND spare batteries.
7. Pair of work gloves or mittens that can keep your hands warm while changing a flat or when boosting your car.
8. A work coat and maybe even a pair of work pants or rain pants to put over your travel wear.
9. A good warm hat or even better, a winter balaclava.
10. A pair of warm boots.
11. Obtain some disposable hand or foot warmers from an outdoor or hunting store. Great to pop into mittens, your boots or pockets.
12. Should you be stranded and run out of fuel or engine stops; you will likely want some heat. Emergency candles are often good to have (see our backpack sections for what we recommend). Regardless of how you heat the inside of your vehicle; you must be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and take the necessary measures to prevent injury or death. Don’t forget matches or a lighter to light the candle/s
13. Decent first aid kit
14. Pack of playing cards to help with the boredom of waiting for help
15. A hard or soft bag to keep all of these items neatly together.
16. If space permits, a nice winter or even summer/fall grade sleeping bag can be nice to have. If there is no room, than buy a few small foil emergency blankets or car blanket. If there is more than one person in the vehicle, cuddle up together and share the heat and any blankets you have.
Additional safety tips: If stranded and you have enough fuel and safe to do so, keep engine running and all lights on. Turn on emergency/ four way flashers.
Contact people and let them know where you are and conditions.
Alert Police if there are any medical or safety concerns.
Keep lights, windows and car cleared of snow. This helps others see you and helps to make sure your car exhaust is not coming back into the car! If low on fuel, turn engine as well as headlights off and only keep emergency four way flashers on. Turn car back on every 30 minutes or as needed and let run for ten minutes to help charge batteries, provide heat and to charge any smart devices you have. To save smart device battery strength, place device close to body heat and consider placing calls only when phone is being charged while running the engine.
Keep wet clothing off unless needed. Wet clothing pulls heat from your body.
Take keys with you when leaving the car to clean it off etc. last thing you want to do is lock yourself out!.
So enjoy the winter or ski holiday but remember to have all the essentials with you.
Take a look at other free lists, ideas and products on our website and feel free to contact us with any questions.