Gear You Need For Winter DrivingJim Perry
There aren’t many folks out there who love winter driving – most of us dread the first snowfall.
Like it or not, if you live almost anywhere north of the equator, you’re going to have to drive through sleet, snow, and ice at some point in your life. When that time comes, you’re going to want some gear in your vehicle in case the worst happens and you find yourself stranded in a snowbank.
You should know that we’ll only be talking about gear in this article – that means that, while you should have a set of winter tires on your vehicle (and a spare winter tire in the back), that won’t be the focus.
Instead, we’re going to look at three categories of gear: staying warm, getting out of trouble, and staying safe. Let’s get started.
A big blanket – or two!
We don’t recommend using heated blankets – unless they’re battery-powered or solar-powered. You don’t want to drain your vehicle battery if there’s an emergency. Just keep a big comfy blanket or two in your car – they’re great for staying toasty even if you have to turn your vehicle off while you wait for assistance.
In the winter, dressing in layers is key. That goes double for winter driving – you want spare clothes in your car in case you need extra layers. Spare clothing can also come in handy if the clothes you’re wearing get damp when you’re trying to get your car out of the snow.
Your spare clothes should include, at the very least:
- A winter jacket
- Heavy-duty socks
- Long underwear (both pants and shirt)
- Spare boots
Getting out of trouble
From low visibility to treacherous road conditions, the biggest hazards of winter driving involve skidding off the road – and ending up in a ditch or snowbank. In the city, you can get help pretty quickly – but when you’re out in the country, things can get a little more difficult.
Either way, there are a ton of tools available to get you out of trouble:
Sometimes, all your vehicle needs to get out of the snow and ice is a bit of extra traction. When there’s no one else around, and you need to get out on your own, you can trust Trac-Grabbers.
Trac-Grabbers are portable, inexpensive, and easy to use. You simply wrap the strap around your tires, pull tightly through the D ring, then secure the Trac-Grabbers using the Velcro on the strap. From there, the Trac-Grabbers add traction to your wheels, and you can use your own vehicle’s power to get unstuck – no help required.
These handy little devices can also be used to get you out of the sand, mud, and other sticky situations where your wheels can’t get enough traction. We recommend keeping them in your vehicle all year round – not just in the winter.
When you’re out of power, your cell phone is out of juice, and you need to get the attention of roadside traffic at night, you need road flares. When you hear a vehicle nearby, fire one up – they won’t have any problems spotting you.
Of course, it will be hard to get you out of the snow if the passing vehicle isn’t a tow truck and you don’t have a tow strap. Get one of these – they’re inexpensive, and they can come in handy whether you need to be towed, or you meet another vehicle that needs a tow.
If your battery dies and you need a boost, jumper cables are essential. Don’t count on other drivers having them – get your own set of high-quality cables.
All of these materials share one thing in common – they’re coarse, and that can help your vehicle gain traction when your wheels are stuck on ice. Use these in combination with Trac-Grabbers, and there’s almost no slippery situation you won’t be able to get out of.
A shovel, a scrapper, and a snowbrush
The purpose of all of these tools should be more or less obvious. A shovel can get you out of snow and can help you clear a path to drive through. The scrapper and snowbrush ensure that you’ll have the visibility you need to drive.
Simple stuff, but important!
A cell phone/charger/satellite phone/extra battery pack
Another 3-for-1 deal here. You want a cell phone (obviously), and a car charger for your cell phone in case it runs out of batteries before your car does. An extra battery pack for your cell phone can be a boon, too. If you’re going off the grid, a satellite phone is essential, as well.
Last, but not least, you might find yourself stuck in one place for a long time. In worst-case scenarios, there may also be injuries. Here are a few pieces of gear you can use to stay safe:
A fully stocked first aid kit
You can use the Red Cross First Aid Kit list to get a better idea of what “fully stocked” means. You want everything from painkillers and ice packs to gauze pads and triangular bandages.
Sometimes, you’ll be unable to move your vehicle in the dark. You may need to walk to a nearby gas station (though doing so in the light of day is often best) – a high-power flashlight is essential.
Non-perishable food and bottles of water
Hope for the best, and plan for the worst. You might end up stuck for hours, if not a day or more. Food and water are essential, especially if you’re going off the grid.
Maps of the area
You won’t always have access to your cell phone or vehicle’s GPS. When you need to search for help, maps are of the essence.
There are plenty of other items you should have in your winter driving kit. Tire repair kits, a long-burning candle for heat – the list goes on. These are just a few of the most important things to have.
Don’t get caught in the cold. Prepare a winter driving survival kit with all of the equipment we listed here and anything else you can think of. Stay safe!
Stephen Cast is a part of the marketing team at Canada Custom Autoworks Edmonton, your industry-leading one-stop shop for tires of all kinds, aftermarket wheels, lift kits and accessories.