What To Keep In Your Car For Winter Driving

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The phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has about 4 billion applications in the automotive world. One of them is driving during winter. While how you prepare your car for snowy (and salty) conditions is one thing, what you keep in it can be just as important. Here, we’ll go over all the supplies you might need in an emergency, plus some nice comfort items to make the season a little more bearable. Depending on your vehicle, we’d also recommend storing all these items inside a single “Oh S@#%” bag for easy access. If you’ve got a smaller car, distribute them throughout the interior, keeping essentials nearest to you.

Let’s start with the essentials- items that are small, fitting in any car, that you’d want with you should you end up on the side of the road, buried in a snow bank during a nasty storm. We’re starting by making sure you’re not going to be hit while in said snowbank, and the best way to do that is with high-visibility warning triangles. Cartman claims their warning triangles on Amazon are DOT-approved, but what we like about them is their ability to be filled with sand, so that they’ll stay put in tough conditions. Plus, they pack small, into their own 18-inch carry case.

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While those will keep you from being hit, a solid set of traction boards can make sure you don’t have to stay stuck. Here, there’s two routes to take depending on how much space you’re willing to take up on or in your car. For starters, Maxsa offers a pair of heavy-duty traction boards you’re more likely to see on a 4Runner in the Target parking lot, but they’re also very useful for getting you unstuck from the snow. The downside is that they’re rigid, and thus take up a good chunk of space. Fortunately, we’ve found a set of roll-up traction mats that are just as highly rated. These fit into their own bag, which looks to be about the size of a backpack- a much more compact solution to the same problem. You’ll also want Yukon Charlie’s collapsible snow shovel to help get those traction boards in place.

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Of course, if you need any of this, you’re likely to be out in the cold for a bit. We like to keep a designated pair of warm winter gloves in the car for just such a reason. Pro tip: keep a set of hand and foot warmers right next to them for added comfort. Because warm gloves can be used for snow sports too, we’d spring for a nice pair of Hestra’s All Mountain CZone Gloves, which are waterproof, super warm, and great for skiing/boarding. It’s also a good idea to keep a beanie or warm hat with the gloves.

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Let’s finish up with a few items that fall in both the “necessary” and the “nicety” categories. A good ice scraper is certainly both, and definitely, something that should already be in your car. We prefer ones of the extendable variety. Even on small cars, having some extra reach is helpful, and this ice scraper is one of the nice ones, which comes with padded grips and a pivoting brush head for better access and storage. Lastly, it’s a good idea to keep a portable battery pack in your car for emergencies. The NOCO Boost Plus can not only charge your car’s battery for a jump but your phone’s too. These really are invaluable for colder temps, as are any of the other items on this list. Best of all, these should take up very little room in your car, keeping you protected against a really bad day in the cold and snow.

Chase Bierenkoven
Chase Bierenkoven

Chase is an automotive journalist with years of experience in the industry. He writes for outlets like Edmunds and AutoGuide, among many others. When not writing, Chase is in front of the camera over at The Overrun, his YouTube channel run alongside his friend and co-host Jobe Teehan. If he's not writing reviews of the latest in cars or producing industry coverage, Chase is at home in the driver's seat of his own (usually German) sports cars.

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