December is here, and with it comes winter festivities and, by association, all of its social engagements. Just like the weather itself, there’s no stopping the upcoming necessity for holiday travel. Since the holiday season should be filled with cheerful and warm memory-making moments, it’s a good idea to focus on preparing your vehicle now so you can arrive to your destination safely and enjoy what’s truly important this season.
To make encourage preparedness and safety, here are some important items to keep in your car for the holiday season and beyond.
First Aid & Safety
- First aid kits should be in your car regardless of the weather, but especially during the winter. Brush up on how to use the contents, too.
- Flashlight. It’s a good idea to put this in a plastic, zip-lock bag with the batteries taken out and stored alongside it so they stay dry and are fully charged when you need them.
- Toolkit. You don’t need anything fancy, but you will want something with a few more options than a multi-tool.
- Water bottles. Plastic bottles are fine for the most part (and won’t break), but be aware that they may freeze and thaw, so store them away from items that shouldn’t get wet from the condensation. If you’re worried about the harmful effects of plastic bottles, either keep them stored out of the sun, or you can use canning jars as an alternative, but store them carefully.
Alternatively, you may prefer to bring along a tin (as from coffee, for example) with candles inside for melting snow.
- Food. The key is to have dry food that won’t go bad. Things like trail mix, energy bars, MREs, or something similar are all good options.
- Spare clothes/blanket. Whether it’s a completely winter-ready change of clothes or just an extra thick hoodie and a wool blanket, it’s best not to skimp on keeping some backup warmth with you, especially if you are stranded in a rural area and are waiting a long time for help to arrive, where it might be unsafe to keep your engine running. You will also want to conserve as much gas and energy as possible while waiting, too.
- Checkup. Before you set out on any long trip (or plan to do a lot of short trips), it’s always a good idea to ensure that your car is up to date. Also make sure that you have a full tank of gas before leaving.
- Spare tire. This should be in your vehicle anyway, but now is a good time to create peace of mind and make sure that it is in good working condition (i.e. not flat from when it was last used). You should also include all of the equipment you need to replace a tire, too, like a jack and a tire iron, as the spare tire is effectively useless without these.
This is also a good time to consider snow tires, too. All-weather tires are sort of three-season tires, meaning they work great for every season except winter, where temperatures tend to drop below the temperature where an all-season tire thrives.
- Jumper cables. A lot of times you may be able to find a car safety kit that includes jumper cables among other useful items, but it is an especially good idea to search out heavy duty ones that are extra long since they will last longer and be useful in far more situations.
- Sand. For rear-wheel drive cars, it may help gain traction by adding weight to the car, but for front-wheel drive cars, it can be used to sprinkle near the tires for extra traction in case your car is stuck. Alternatively, you may be able to use kitty litter or rock salt.
- Shovel. While an emergency shovel is a great thing to carry along (and portable to boot), you might consider carrying a small shovel that is meant more for a kid. You’ll have the smaller, portable size, but with a bigger surface area to dig with.
- Signal flares. While a flashlight will help you see in the dark, and while candles will provide you with some heat and light, it’s best to have a brighter, more intense method of being seen, like a signal flare or an LED beacon (a kind of strobe light that is meant to get attention) to signal with. Plan for your car to stop functioning electrically so you aren’t relying on it only to be disappointed when you need it.
- Reflective items. Since it’s also the time of year when daylight doesn’t stick around for long, reflective clothing or objects to put on yourself (like a triangle) can be critical when night comes. They also come in handy during the day if you are on the side of the road with a white car during a whiteout. Essentially, anything you can do to be noticed will help you.
- Emergency contacts. Ideally, you might have a spare cell phone that is wrapped in your emergency blanket that you keep with you, but that might not be 100% reliable depending on where you are located. In case your phone does die, it might be a good idea to have a physical list of telephone numbers written out so you can contact the right people when the time does come.
Know What You Need
This is far from an exhaustive list. Plan your trips and know where you will be, and know that what you might prepare for a three-hour drive through the mountains will certainly not require the same items as you will need for a thirty minute-drive to the Denver suburbs. And as always, stay aware and alert as you travel. The best way to prevent having to use any of these items is to pay attention, focus, and take your time. Stay safe out there!