Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Beyond Jumper Cables

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Beyond Jumpers, Spares, and Flares:  Six Things to Carry in Your Vehicle this Winter

Winter driving can be unpredictable and hazardous, even on short trips or familiar routes you travel every day.  Being aware of the potential dangers and preparing accordingly can make the difference between an inconvenient mishap and a life-threatening situation.

Besides the standard equipment, first aid supplies, and tools you should have in your vehicle in case of emergency, here are six additional items that are particularly necessary in winter, when the chances of becoming stranded for lengthy periods rise almost as fast as the temperature can plummet.

A heavy-duty windshield scraper with brush.  If you live in an area where it routinely snows in the winter, this tops the list of must-haves you carry in your vehicle.  Besides the obvious, intended use of clearing windows, headlights, taillights and even wheel-wells of snow and ice build-up, it can be repurposed for other tasks, as well – a makeshift crowbar or lever, “flag pole” for signaling help, or a stake to help gauge snow depth in a ditch.

Blankets.  Another no-brainer, really – if you’re stuck waiting for a tow because your alternator bit the dust and can’t rely on running your engine to keep warm, a wool or acrylic/synthetic blanket is indispensable.  Sleeping bags are also great for this purpose, and if you want to really splurge, get one that’s rated for sub-zero conditions.  You might also consider an emergency reflective blanket, which is inexpensive, much more compact, and very efficient at helping retain body heat.

Hand, body, and foot warmers.  Also compact, and therefore easy to slip into the glove box or center console where they’re close at hand (i.e. not locked in the trunk with the larger, more unwieldy tools you carry) these pouches heat up automatically when exposed to air, and you can tuck them into shoes or boots, gloves, or in the case of body warmers, inside a coat or blanket/sleeping bag.

Extra warm clothes.  It never hurts to tuck extra pairs of insulated socks, gloves, hats, boots and other warm clothing into your survival kit.  For instance, if your job requires dressier (i.e. not-so-practical) attire and you slide off a slippery off-ramp during your commute and have to hang out in the ditch for a while, you’ll probably be thankful for some added insulation to help keep frostbite at bay.

Shovel (non-collapsible/fixed).  While busting through high snowdrifts isn’t recommended, sometimes it’s the only recourse after a particularly heavy snowfall.  Getting hung up is a real risk, however, and a shovel with a long, sturdy handle is incredibly important to help you dig the snow out from under the chassis –before it melts and refreezes, that is!  It’s also useful for scraping or scooping up gravel, sand, or other grit to place under tires for added traction when the road surface is slick.

Trash bags.  The large, heavy-duty black bags are the most versatile, as they can serve as anything from a moisture barrier, poncho, or receptacle for melting snow for drinking water in extreme situations (though be aware that chemicals from the plastic will leach into the water, affecting the taste and quality.)

While this list could easily be extended to include luxuries like a gas camp stove and other specialized equipment, carrying these basic things in your vehicle, as well as staying on top of weather and traffic conditions, keeping your tank at least half-full with fuel, and leaving plenty of extra time to reach your destination are not only just good ideas for safe winter travel, but could end up saving your life.

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