The West has gotten plenty of snow this year, which is good for skiers, snowboarders, and the coming summer’s water supply. But it can also lead to some sketchy driving, with snow and ice coating roads and even avalanches sliding across highways. Here’s the kit that I put together and keep in my car to prevent it from getting stuck, help me get it unstuck if I end up in a snowbank, and aid me while I hunker down and call for help if I’m really in trouble.
BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A KO2 Tires ($145–$402 per tire)
The KO2s are without a doubt the most important item on this list. The best all-wheel-drive technology in the world wont’t do you any good in the snow if your tires can’t get any traction. (My wife and I learned that the hard way three years ago, after sending our all-wheel-drive Honda Element into a snowbank while heading down an access road with bald tires.) The aggressive tread and lugs actively bite into snow and dirt, while its siping draws moisture away from the rubber’s surface. I’ve had the KO2s since January and haven’t fishtailed in the slightest.
Rumpl Jeremy Collins Puffy Down Blanket ($199)
I used to throw a zero-degree sleeping bag in the back of my car. But, while not as warm, the 600-fill down Rumpl is big enough for my wife, daughter, and me to huddle under should we have to wait for help after a crash or breakdown. It packs to the size of a cantaloupe.
SureCall N-Range Signal Booster ($200)
Even if road conditions are stellar, I get the heebie-jeebies driving through areas without any cell service. That AAA membership isn’t any good if you can’t actually reach anyone for a tow. The SureCall’s antenna affixes to the roof, while the phone mount attaches to the vents on the dash inside. The device is good for boosting cell service and data, and now I almost always have enough bars to guarantee a call for help in the most remote parts of my road trips through southern and central Oregon.
Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Explorer Kit ($59)
It’s one of those things I hope I never have to use, but the robust Mountain Series Explorer kit has tools for bigger emergencies, like EMT shears, gauze, bandages, and a proper wound-irrigation syringe. And even if I don’t end up needing it, the $59 is worth the peace of mind.
Uncharted Supply Co. The Zeus Portable Jump Starter and Charger ($150)
With enough juice to start even big trucks, included jumper cables, the ability to power my phone ten times, and a built-in flashlight, the Zeus has all of my potential power needs covered in a package no bigger than a lunch box.
Goal Zero Crush Light Chroma Collapsible Solar Lantern ($25)
This solar- and USB-chargeable lantern has six different color options, which can be strobed to make your vehicle more visible to rescuers (as well as distract and calm down freaked-out kiddos). It couldn’t be less obtrusive, about the size of a tea saucer, and runs for three hours on the high setting.
Kinco 1927KW Pigskin Gloves ($18)
Digging yourself out of a snowbank or ditch sucks no matter what, but frozen, achy fingers will only make it suck more. These pigskin gloves have proved plenty warm for skiing and, at $17, are an affordable option for everyday use in the yard, too.
Mammut Alugator Pro Light Shovel ($75)
It makes sense that if an avalanche shovel is good for moving snow after a slide, it works perfectly well digging out stuck cars. I once used one to help extricate two 16-wheelers in a wild storm. The Alugator Pro Light, with a hardened anodized blade and an ergonomic handle, does an excellent job chipping away at snowbanks on the highway. Is an ultralight $75 scoop the only option for an emergency kit? Of course not. But it’s already my backcountry shovel of choice, so I’m not going to spend the money on a separate one just for the car.
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