Winter is upon us! Thousands of us will soon be hitting the roads to visit family, friends and to escape the office for a week or two. We’ll be hitting the slopes for some epic ski adventures, fat biking and snowshoeing through forested trails and cosying up by the fire afterwards for a steaming hot mug winter cheer. It sounds pretty amazing to me and there is only one thing that could put a damper in it, an accident.
An accident is just that, an accident. Unplanned, unwanted and unpredictable. There is nothing you can do in advance to avoid a winter road trip accident, but there are a few things you can do to make sure if one happens you are prepared to survive it.
Here are five things to do before you begin any winter road trip. Most are just pure common sense but we often are in such a rush we skip over the things we know we should do in advance.
Make a road trip preparation checklist including these items so that you are always ready for the unexpected.
1 Auto Emergency Kit – every car and truck should have an up to day roadside emergency kit. If you already have one make sure everything is in good working order before your trip begins and if you need to replenish old batteries or other items the time to do it is before the trip begins. I found a great kit from Costco and it costs less than $50 and includes all these items. You could also make your own kit up if you have all the supplies.
- 44-piece Blizzak auto safety kit
- Durable hard foam carrying case
- 12 V air compressor
- Tire gauge
- 8-gauge 3.6 m (12 ft.) cable designed for large cars, mid-size trucks and SUVs
- Tie-down strap 61 cm (24 in.) long)
- 4.6 m (2 in.) duct tape
- 5 cable ties
- Utility knife
- 10 LED headlamp
- 3 AAA Duracell batteries
- Window-mount safety triangle
- Emergency survival blanket
- Nitrile gloves
- Emergency poncho
- 24-piece first aid kit
2 Portable power supply for an engine jump-start – Having your engine not start because your battery died is not only awful it can often leave you stranded in an area where no one is around. With the NOCO GB40 safely stored in your glove box, you will never be without power again. The GB40 has enough battery life for 20+ jump starts and comes with everything you need to get you back on the road including jumper cables. It also acts as a flashlight with a strobe mode to help flag down passing vehicles if you are in an accident and need traffic to slow down as they approach.
Another cool feature is the USB in and out connectors. You can charge the GB40 just like you do with your smartphone and if your phone or tablets are running low it can also charge them up for you. Priced at over $100 it is an investment but one that is well worth it.
3 Food and water – Chances are your car trunk is packed with luggage but you should always travel with a few bottles of water and some energy bars just in case you get stuck on the road. Keep the bottled water inside your car so that it doesn’t freeze in the trunk if you are short of room stow the energy bars under the driver or front passenger seat.
Luckily I’ve never been stuck on the road for more than 30 minutes but I’ve witnessed and seen it happen plenty of times on the news. Highways can be closed for hours due to an accident ahead of you or poor road conditions. Avoid salty snacks as they will just make you even thirstier.
4 Tire Chains – If you live in the city you probably don’t even know how to put tire chains on but these can a lifesaver if you are travelling on a road that doesn’t get ploughed every day. An investment that only needs to be used once to prove how vital they can be. Check with your auto body shop to make sure you get the right chains for your vehicle tires and make sure you ask them to show you how to put them on. Having them means nothing if you don’t know how to use them.
5 Always check road reports – Never leave home without checking the road conditions and weather ahead of time. You may need to take a different route or adjust your start time based on the information you gain ahead of time. Bookmark the road condition website on your smartphone ahead of time so you don’t need to search for it when you are on the road and if that service offers an alert advisory, sign up for it.
With these five tips, you should be prepared for anything that comes your way during your winter road trip. Remember the NUMBER 1 tip is to drive safely and if visibility is poor slow down. Better to arrive later than planned and alive than get in an accident because you were going to fast. Slow and steady gets you to your destination every time.
Happy winter road tripping!