Here it is mid November, and driving on snow, sleet and icy roads doesn’t exactly give us the warm fuzzies here at High Road. While our Maine roads are well maintained during periods of snow and sleet compared to folks further south, we have SO many snowy days that being prepared while driving in storm conditions is not optional. We’ve read many tips on what to have on hand in the car for winter driving conditions – these are some of our favorites:
Jillee at One Good Thing posted an article with two of my favorite tips. Using a white board eraser to remove fog from car windows was the best. I can’t tell you how many times I could not see out the window while driving in a storm due to fog-ups. I immediately put an eraser in my glovebox.
The second favorite tip from the article was to put socks in the glovebox to wear outside of your shoes should you get stuck on a snowy road for warmth and traction. How many of us keep an extra pair of boots in the car? I only have one pair and I use them for snowshoeing and hiking, so no, the car is not where they live. This is easy, it works and takes up little room in the car. I use an old pair of thick woolies.
She also recommends a DIY mixture of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water to pre-treat the windshield to keep ice from forming. Great idea, I’m going to try it this winter.
See even more good tips in Jillee’s article.
Now we’ve seen many lists of what to have on-hand in the car for snow emergencies. They can vary from 6 or 8 items to 30. To be honest I’m a ‘basics’ person and like to keep the car free from too much clutter, so these are the essentials I keep in my car for the daily commute:
- windshield fluid – I can’t recall how many times I had to pull the car off the road to grab handfuls of snow to clean off my windshield when I ran out while driving. If you’re short on space you don’t have to store the whole bottle in the car. Repurpose a water bottle by filling it with windshield fluid, but be sure to mark it with permanent marker to avoid anyone mistaking it for a beverage.
- snow brush with scraper – In Maine you really need both. A big storm can dump a foot or more of snow on the hood of the car which will blow onto the windshield while driving. South of here you could probably get by with just a scraper. Mine has a telescoping handle for compact storage.
- emergency blanket – I keep a thin aluminized blanket in my glovebox. It takes up very little room in the car, reflects 80% body heat, is very inexpensive, and best of all it doesn’t get dirty or need to be washed. Not to toot our own horn, but we sell one complete with its own resealable storage packet right here
- car charger and power bank – I should have listed this one first, it’s certainly first in priority for me. A car charger alone does zero good if the car won’t start and the battery is dead. A phone is your absolute best friend in an accident or emergency, and the peace of mind of having available power is invaluable. This is a combination car charger, power bank and emergency flashlight for $20. I keep it in my car with the power bank charged at all times, and it takes up very little space.
- flashlight – my charger/power bank has one, but if you don’t have an all-in-one then definitely have an LED flashlight in the glove box. There are small ones that emit very bright light with a wide range, and LED’s are less likely to run out of battery power.
- foldable snow shovel – I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stuck in snow. I use all-season tires and once let them get too worn – must’ve been stuck 4 or 5 times that year. After using the ‘usuals’ (cat litter, sand, shingles, etc.) I finally broke down and got a compact shovel. It simply works best by removing the cause of the problem rather than trying to run over it. I also have plastic grip trax, but haven’t needed to use them with the shovel. This is what I have and it works well.
- jumper cables – A year round essential, there are also power pack jump starters for under $100 for the ultimate peace of mind.
- hat and gloves – Driving to work and back home is where I spend most of my drive time. I park close to my building, so will often rush out the door without a hat and warm gloves. If you wear a warm hat and gloves everyday this isn’t needed – I keep them in the car just in case. If I don’t have warm enough outerwear with me, a good hat will help me stay warmer and water resistant gloves keep my fingers from freezing up while I’m digging snow out from around my tires. I keep a black Mad Bomber, fur lined hat in there, but that’s just me.
So that’s the High Road short list of winter car essentials. We’re not saying it’s the right list for everyone though – do what’s most comfortable for you and tailor it to your region’s weather conditions. And if you’re driving cross-country in the winter and the likelihood of taking rural routes is high then the list should be longer, and include things like extra water, snack foods and tall boots to trudge through potentially deep snow.
Stay safe this winter.