Sur­vive win­ter on the road with these tools, tips

Did you know that in an emer­gency, you can start a fire with shoelaces?

Edmonton Sun - - DRIVING.CA - Driv­ing.ca David Booth

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.

Gavin Young

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.

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