Situational awareness is important when it comes to traveling in the winter. Before heading out be sure to listen to the radio or television for the latest weather forecasts and road conditions. If bad weather is forecast, drive only if absolutely necessary.
If you must drive and you live in a winter storm prone area, you should have in your car a winter storm kit. Winter weather can change quickly so equip your vehicles with storm kits to keep you and your passengers comfortable and safe while waiting for roadside assistance or weather conditions to clear. Imagine being stuck in your vehicle in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone reception, what can you possibly do? Events you might find yourself in include both road closings in the midst of a blizzard or your car breaking down leaving you stranded alongside the road.
Driving along Interstate 70 in Western Kansas headed to the Colorado ski slopes, I experienced one of those unexpected events. Our car stopped running leaving us alongside the highway in the midst of a typical Western Kansas snowstorm. It was cold and since the car wouldn’t run, there was no heater. While we did have along our winter ski clothes which helped keep us warm, we didn’t have otherwise much of a winter storm kit. Cell phone service was not available and we did eventually flag down a passing truck which took us to the next little town where we were able to find an open (it was on a Sunday) auto mechanic who towed our car into his shop. Apparently we had picked up at our last fuel stop some watered down gasoline and thus it froze in our fuel lines. Once that was thawed out and the gasoline replaced, we continued on to Colorado where we had our planned fun on the ski slopes.
Of course, I learned from that event and now keep an emergency kit in my car.
Here are a few recommended items to consider for your auto winter storm kit:
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Mylar thermal blankets
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Extra clothing to keep dry
- Heavy duty gloves
- A folding camping shovel
- Sand or kitty litter for tire traction
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Seatbelt cutter
- Basic Tool kit
- Jumper cables
- Tow rope
- Triangle reflectors or flares for nighttime visibility
- Bottled water
- Emergency contact list
- Battery operated or hand crank radio
- Cell phone charger
Auto breakdowns are generally pretty short-term events so you don’t need to have long term supplies in your car. But, having some basic winter gear is highly advisable. Besides, having a good emergency kit in your car can come in handy any time of year, not just the wintertime. Only winter and cold weather seems to put an additional burden on our vehicle and it seems if something is going to go wrong (a dead battery for example), it’s more likely during cold weather.