November is the beginning of the busiest travel season of winter. People are traveling for winter destinations, vacations, and family visits. If you are driving to those destinations you may want to take a couple of minutes and read this article and pack appropriately for the trip. I’ll be giving you some practical advice and a list of things that will be helpful in bad weather. Just the other day, I went to bed with rain in the forecast and woke to snow and ice. If you are on the road this can be treacherous.
The first thing you need to be aware of is the condition of your vehicle. Before you leave, make sure that the oil has been changed, and your vehicle has been serviced. Make sure that your tires are in good condition, have enough wear on them (meaning they aren’t bald), and all the fluids in your car are correct and full.
Make sure that you have an emergency car kit and that everything is also in good working order. These items could save your life and that of your passengers. You can always add to the list, and change items out for the season for which you are driving. The first item is a shovel. You can get a good quality collapsible shovel at a reasonable price at most hardware stores (Most of the items on this list are available either on-line, or at your local hardware store.) Digging yourself out of a bind without a shovel, can be harrowing, cold and unsafe.
Make sure that you have a good windshield scraper with a small broom on one end. This will help you keep snow away from windows and if need be from the tail pipe of your vehicle.
A flashlight with extra batteries is a must. Make sure that your batteries are fresh before you leave for any trip. It’s not fun to be smacking your flashlight trying to get it to work. So a flashlight in good working condition and fresh batteries are a must!
A battery powered radio is also something that is a good idea to keep on hand. Just a small radio will work. We actually have one that you can wind up and uses batteries. This little jewel will keep you updated on the weather and will help you.
Water. We keep a flat of water in the car. It comes in handy for you, your passengers and your car. And while this list is starting to sound long we store it all in a large plastic container with a lid on it.
Snack foods. Small packages of nuts, granola bars, dried fruit (raisins, pineapple, and apple chips) Mini candy like you buy for Halloween are perfect, and jerky is amazing for keeping you fed in times of need. They are also prepackaged so they are factory sealed and keep for long periods of time.
Matches and small candles. Some people use waterproof matches in a pill bottle or something along those lines. You ask me about a small candle, but these little gems are just that. Not only do they provide light, but they also give off heat. We once built an igloo and sealed the inside with a candle. Just that small flame, kept the inside of the igloo warm, if not cozy.
Extra hats and mittens are a plus also. I say mittens because gloves, while allowing free finger movement, don’t keep your fingers as warm as mittens will…body heat, you know.
A first aid kit with a clean sharp pocket knife. You should have a first aid kit in your vehicle at all times, but a good kit and a sharp knife can save your life. Our kit has been added to over time so we have extra things that original kits don’t come with, but a nice kit is pretty important to have with you. We also added medications to our kit. So we know that if we are stuck anyone that is taking medications has them. I always pack extra even if I’m only going to be gone for a set time and flying…you never know when/if your flight is going to be canceled.
Blankets and/or sleeping bags for you and your passengers. You can double up if need be, but you want to make sure that you are covered. So a small thin blanket that will only cover one person is not going to work in colder temperatures.
A tow chain or rope. This covers you for those times that you might have to pull yourself, or others out of unforeseen situations.
Road salt (ice melt), sand, or kitty litter for extra traction. A good piece of wood (double the width of your tire) is also something we recommend. Place it under your tire and tie it on, could help you get out of a muddy situation. It’s also a good idea to keep fluorescent flags with you so that you can let other motorist know you are in trouble.
Booster cables are something that you should always have in your vehicle, no matter the time of year. How many times have you needed a jump start, or others and no one has a set. It’s a good idea to know how to use them before you need to also. I know plenty of people that have them, but when asked if they know how to use them are clueless. YouTube is amazing for watching videos of cats and music, but it also has some really good videos on how to do things. Using booster cables is just another good video to watch.
Emergency flares and reflective triangles are also wonderful. What do you do if the power to your car is out and you need to make sure that you are seen…emergency flares and reflectors are the answer. You can pick these up at most auto stores, Walmart (every town has one – almost), and on-line shopping, all at a reasonable cost.
Make sure that your cell phone always has a good charge on it. This might mean that you won’t be able to play your favorite games, but it’s a lifeline. Most cell phones can be charged with a car adapter. Make sure that your cell has one, and is charged before and during your trip.
While you want to ensure your survival and those of your passengers with these items that you can keep in your car, you also want to make sure that you do survive and with that in mind here are some handy tips to help you make that possible.
Make sure that your gas/fuel tank is at least half full. Never let it get much below that because being able to run your vehicle is important. Always tell someone where you are going and what route you plan to take. Make sure that you are able to check in with someone at regular intervals so they are aware of where you are and when you are traveling. If you are stuck hang a florescent flag on your antenna, or hang it out your window. At night keep your dome light on if possible. Rescue crews will be looking for that. Use your emergency flashers only if you hear other traffic coming so you can reduce on the drain of your battery. Make sure one person in your vehicle will/can stay awake to listen for rescue if you have someone you are traveling with. Stay in your vehicle! Stay with your vehicle at all times. Avoid overexertion as it is a risk for injury/hypothermia. Make sure that you have fresh air. It’s better to be cold and alive. Carbon Monoxide gas can enter your car if the tail pipe is blocked, so make sure that is is free of snow if it is safe to do so. Only run the engine of your car for 10 minutes every hour, and keep a window cracked while running the engine is also a good idea. Don’t expect to be comfortable. You want to survive until you are found.
On that rather somber note, I wish you happy and safe travels during this most Jolly of Holiday Seasons. Merry Christmas from my family to yours.