This article may be a bit late but Jack and I have been fielding some questions lately about what we keep in our trucks and why. That got me thinking, I should put together a list of winter-specific items I keep in my vehicle for those of you who may have that very question. Granted my list could be different than yours and this is by no means a comprehensive list (look for a blog article later this spring about items to keep in a vehicle always). For the context of my driving circumstances, I drive mostly in suburbia with weekend trips to hunt or shoot where I do mild off-road driving… and the occasional longer trip out of state. The rationale for this list is simple: imagine the worst-case scenario I could experience with those parameters and build a winter survival kit for that. Recently here in NJ, many people found themselves in a somewhat dire situation; the state hadn’t prepared for a winter storm and the number of plow trucks deployed couldn’t keep the roads clear so the 8 inches of snow that fell brought everything to a standstill. My 20-minute commute home from work took me an hour… I was lucky…. some people were in their vehicles for up to 8 hours and some never made it home at all. Vehicles couldn’t make it up hills on the slippery roads and were abandoned… which lead to traffic jams where vehicles ran out of gas and those were also abandoned… and that lead to worse traffic jams. Imagine you’re one of the people and have to abandon your vehicle, or maybe you have a four-wheel drive and are in a position to pull a car off the side of the road to let a plow truck pass; having the right equipment could be invaluable. So here is a list of things I keep in my truck that are winter-specific.
Snow shovel. I have plenty of room in my truck for a full-size shovel but years ago I purchased a collapsible shovel for my SUV and it still is serving me well. I’ve used it on more than one occasion to get myself to move excessive snow from in front of my tires or to clear a doorway at a remote cabin.
Ice scraper/brush combo. This is a no-brainer but you would be surprised how many people have never seen a heavy-duty brush like this one. Being able to push large amounts of snow off of your stuck vehicle from one side (without having to walk around) could be very handy if you found yourself stuck in a snowbank.
Tow strap and shackles. To some of you, this may seem excessive but then you’ve probably never been stuck in the snow. Having a tow strap like this in your car can save you hundreds of dollars in tow fees… all you need is another car/driver willing to pull you out. Some tow straps come with metal hooks at each end; I’ve seen them fail before and those metal hooks (or what’s left of them) become projectiles. It is better to have a cloth tow strap with looks and use heavy-duty shackles to look and attach the strap to the vehicle.
Traction mats. These are invaluable for traction if you ever are stuck in deep snow and your tires are just spinning because they cannot get traction. I’ve seen people try to use floor mats to serve the same purpose as these traction mats but it rarely works… better to have the real thing. Another decent option (but I admittedly have no experience with them) are tire chains… they give added traction and can be added/removed relatively easily
Blankets. If you find yourself stuck for a lengthy period of time, don’t leave your vehicle. It has a horn and lights to signal passing cars plus it’s a ready-made shelter. But running the engine to stay warm may be impossible due to the carbon monoxide buildup or damage to the engine. In that case, having items to keep warm will be of the utmost importance. Wool blankets and space blankets are the way to go, even if they inadvertently get wet, they will still keep their warming properties.
Winter clothes. Again, a no-brainer but you may be surprised how many people I see driving in winter without proper clothing. You don’t have to go crazy, just keep clothes in your vehicle that you would wear to take your kids sledding or to shovel your walkway. Decent boots are imperative if you have to walk somewhere and work gloves are handy to keep your dexterity while using tools.
You may have or can think of other items to keep in your vehicle that are winter-specific, and if you do, sound off in the comments. Look for a more comprehensive article coming later this year about everyday items I keep in my truck such as tools, medical supplies, etc.