Survive winter on the road with these tools, tips
Did you know that in an emergency, you can start a fire with shoelaces?
Being prepared for the worst is always a good idea when driving alone at night; doubly so if it’s winter and you’re well off the beaten path.
Making sure you wear warm mitts and carry extra washer fluid in your vehicle are well-known tips. If you remember to stuff a warm sleeping bag in your trunk from November to March, you probably don’t need my help at all. Rubber mat: Chances are, if something goes amiss with you and your car, you’re eventually going to have to kneel in some snow. Or, worse yet, slush. A rubber mat of any kind will do. Wet clothing is the enemy of cold weather survival. If you end up being stranded, drier is definitely better. Traction mats: There are two basic types — soft, bendy one-piece polypropylene jobbies with knobs cast in, and hard plastic versions with more rigid traction edges. The first are cheap but can ride atop loose snow and then fold under the load, while the second are foldable and can be pushed into loose snow for better traction. Self-contained battery jumper: For anyone without a CAA membership — and even those who have one — a self-contained battery jumper is essential. There are plenty of small, portable batteries with built-in jumper cables that will supply enough juice to crank even a bitterly cold engine a couple of times. I recommend the Noco Genius Boost, which also will charge your cellphone. LED tactical light: Normally a flashlight would fall into the warm-mittens-andwindshield-washer-fluid category of obvious. But trading in that crusty old lamp for a new LED one should be considered essential. LEDS shine brighter, meaning you can see better and have a much greater chance of being seen when you’re using it as a beacon. They also use less power, so your batteries will last longer. All-weather reflective blanket: We have mountaineering folks to thank for this innovation, because they need warmth with minimal bulk. Most of these thinnest of blankies have a waterproof outer layer with a reflective inner layer that redirects all your body heat back at you. Fire-starting shoelaces: So you’re cold, stranded and didn’t pack waterproof matches like mom and dad told you. What to do? Why, undo your shoelaces and start a fire, of course. There really is such a thing as shoelaces that will serve as the “flint” to light a fire. Scrape off a protective coating applied to the tips, rub vigorously and eventually your shoelaces will light your way. one of the companies selling these flinty shoelaces is called Survival Frog. I am not making this up. Emergency seatbelt cutter and glass breaker: Something that can get you out of a stuck seatbelt, and then break a window if you’re trapped inside your car is good all-season emergency gear. Store it in your centre console — not your trunk. Winter emergency kit: Of course, you could do the whole one-stop-shopping kit and buy an already selected ensemble of tools and aids. Consumer Reports tested a bunch of these and found the All-in- One Winter Roadside Kit the top ensemble. Included are a tow strap, ice scraper with protective sleeve, battery cables, flashlight and batteries, light stick, reflective triangle, rain poncho, hand warmers, work gloves, first-aid kit, space blanket, reflective vest, utility knife and can of tire sealant. Oh, and a handy-dandy foldable snow shovel. It’s US$68.95 on Survival-supply.com, but Canadian Tire sells a lesser version for $54.99. A couple of tips: First, don’t leave your car. Walking through a snowstorm is a really good way to get lost, or worse. You car is protection from the storm — relatively easy to find, and as long as you have gasoline, a source of heat. If you’re lost and secluded, think of your car as emergency shelter.
And, if you are straying off major highways, bring emergency food. Raisins and peanuts, or better yet, trail mix, Power, Cliff, or whatever other health bars you might find palatable. What you’re looking for is maximum calories with minimal volume.
Snow brushes and scrapers are obvious exterior tools for winter driving, but this season, make sure you’re well-prepared inside the car, as well, in case of emergency.