Alan’s Tips for Making a Do It Yourself Winter Driving Kit

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Updated 11.01.2019:  We’re all accustomed to seeing Alan’s amazing travel photos, but rarely do we hear from the man behind the lens. In fact, very few readers realize that Alan is a travel planning machine who thrives on the challenges of off-the-beaten-path travel. We’ve already spoken about winter travel and the hurdles that come with it, but today, Alan is graciously sharing the items that he packs in his do it yourself winter driving kit.

Here we are, winter bearing down on most of us. We’re layering on warm clothes and using hand lotion like crazy. But what about the car? Have you included a winter driving kit in case that emergency happens? Unless, of course, you happen to be catching some rays on a Florida beach. If that’s you, no need to read further.

Alan’s winter road trip tips

Going somewhere with snowy driving conditions. The items in our winter driving kit will keep you safe.
Alan and Donna prepared carefully for their winter road trip through Lolo Pass on the Montana and Idaho border .

And, unless you happen to have your own plane to get around everywhere you need to go—while you’re looking down on the rest of us—then your auto is it. When you turn the key to drive into the national forest for some snow play or motor down the interstate for a visit with the kids and grandkids two states over, are you bringing along a winter driving kit?

I’m assuming that you’ve already winterized the car. You’ve confirmed the battery is strong, the antifreeze is good and tires nearly new. Don’t forget the spare tire. When did you check the air pressure last? Okay, now you’re ready to go!

This is where Murphy’s Law always comes into play. You’re fifty miles out of town with near-new tires, right? However, there’s Farmer John, a hundred yards ahead, and out the back of his truck falls that big rusty nail from the barn. Whoops! Nail into the tire, dead center. Flatter than flat! Or, the drive is going great, no problems, and out of nowhere comes the invisible section of black ice. Off the side of the road you go. No damage maybe, but stuck nevertheless.

With the right items onboard, most inconveniences can be corrected and the much-anticipated winter trip resumed. Without them you may be stuck for hours, cold, miserable and mad.

Do It Yourself Winter Driving Kit

Be prepared on a winter road trip. Pack your car with the items in our winter driving kit.
A sampling of the items in our winter driving kit.

What do I carry in the car? My do-it-yourself winter driving kit comes in two levels; the first is for the indispensables — the basic items. The second is my “extras” list for the rest of the tools that will save you from being stuck on the side of the road.

DIY Winter Road Trip Kit Level One: Must-have items for any cold weather driving trip.

  • Warm clothes, gloves and hat, always. If it’s 5 above but just an easy hour drive over to the kids’ house, don’t wear shorts and sandals. Remember Murphy’s Law!
  • Cell phone and car charger. Easy!
  • Extra water and protein bars or other non-perishable, easy-to-pack food items. Hungry travelers are no fun to be stranded with.
  • Extra cash. You slide off the road, completely stuck. Farmer John comes along and pulls you out. Very neighborly of him. You want to show your appreciation and out comes a little cash to pay for his gas.
  • First aid kit
  • Leather work gloves. Spinning off lug nuts and working the tire jack is better with gloves.
  • Battery jumper cables. That strong battery you have can go south at the most inopportune time.
  • Matches. Just in case you’ve gone down the embankment, no one can see you and you can’t climb out. Find something to burn and create smoke.
  • Flashlight and new batteries
  • Windshield scraper
  • Travel blanket
  • Auto fire extinguisher
  • Leatherman utility tool
  • Toilet paper/baby wipes. Just in case nature calls.

DIY Winter Driving Kit Level Two: If you’re headed into a blizzard or enjoy visiting snowy areas for recreation, you’ll be glad that you packed these items.

  • Storage bag to hold the rest of this gear.
  • Shovel
  • Tow straps
  • Cable winch puller 8,000 lb (Come-Along). This simple tool can likely move your car from a stuck to unstuck position.
  • Tree Saver winch strap. The cable winch puller needs an anchor point, the tree is perfect and the strap keeps it from being damaged.
  • 12v air compressor. A very handy item, runs off the battery, a game-saver if there is a slow tire leak and you’re trying to limp home.
  • Bottle jack. A small but useful tool that can quickly jack your car to put rocks and dirt under the drive wheels for traction.
  • Tool kit: pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches/sockets (SAE-metric), hex/star key set, duct tape.
  • Telescoping power wrench. For changing a flat, this power wrench is much easier than using a car wrench.
  • Snatch block + 3/4” shackle. To use with tow strap and Come-Along.

There you have it. I bet some of these items are in your garage already. Use my list to create your own DIY winter driving kit. Short of a rollover you’ll be able to rescue yourself for a safe arrival at your winter destination.

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