Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (but not really)

All right, I’ll be honest with you. Despite the title of this post, I am not ready for it to start snowing. That, as they say, is tough crap because it is November and I live in Michigan.

I don’t really mind snow, mostly because I don’t have to deal with it all that much.
1 Don’t get me wrong, I hate shoveling as much as the next person,2 but I try not to let impending snow bother me. I live in a northern state. I enjoy having four seasons. One of those seasons is Winter. It’s going to snow.

I haven’t seen any dire predictions regarding how horrible this year is going to be with regards to snow accumulation. I am sure that we will have some big snow falls at some point. I refuse to get all worked up about it, even if it does happen to dump on a day that I need to be somewhere.

It’s just snow. It’s not going to kill you unless you do something stupid.

That being said, there are a number of stupid things that people do in the snow. These include:

Driving on snow as if the streets were clear.
Thinking that Four Wheel Drive = Automatic Traction.
Not being properly prepared for the weather (going out without proper protection).
Getting drunk and going to sleep outside.

Now there are many more things that can go wrong in the event of a sudden storm, but these are some of the biggies. Fortunately, most of them can be avoided with a little forethought. If it is snowing out, give yourself a little extra time to get wherever you are going. Pay attention while you are driving.
4 Make sure you have a little emergency kit in the car, just in case.

This last sentence hit pretty close to the impetus for this post. It snowed a tiny bit yesterday. I jokingly stated on the NSA information gathering service (
Facebook) that I was a true Michiganian (or Michigander if you prefer) because I knew where my snow brush/scraper was. It was in my car because I never take it out. Some people were surprised that I actually keep a pair of gloves in the glove box. Well, now that it is winter, why don’t I give you a quick peek at some of the things which I carry in my car. Some of these are only in winter, some are year round. Keep in mind that I am ultimately a pessimist AND someone who has done his best to prepare for the zombie apocalypse.5 The things I carry may seem a bit odd to some. I’ll try to provide the rationale for some of the odder ones.

A breakdown kit: I believe all cars should have at least the following items: a flashlight (more on this later), road signals (either reflective triangles or flares), and jumper cables. This, of course, is assuming that you also have a spare tire and jack
and know how to use them. You don’t want to be searching through your car’s instruction manual for the proper jack placement or how to get the tire out of the trunk while sitting on the edge of an abandoned freeway in the middle of the night.6 If you have locking lug nuts, make sure that the key is in the car. My kit has all of these things as well as Fix-a-Flat, a small air compressor, and radiator sealant.

First Aid Kit: Just the basics. Bandaids, gauze, tape, antiseptic cream. You don’t want that cut you got while changing the tire to get infected or to bleed all over the steering wheel. If you have small children you might want to add more band aids. If you are a camper you should also include items to make a sling, to immobilize a broken bone, and water purification tablets. I also recommend having a few energy bars in case you get stranded or have to hike to safety.

A snow brush/ ice scraper. This is essential in northern climes. You don’t want to try to chip a quarter inch of ice off of your windshield with a credit card. I’ve got two in case one breaks.

A flashlight. I mentioned that this is an essential piece of gear for your break down kit. I actually recommend having more than one. A small one that you can hold in your teeth or the kind which straps to your head is perfect for changing tires, looking at the engine, and other up close things. I also recommend having a second, larger light. One which doubles as a warning flasher can come in handy. Equally important is that you check the batteries in the flashlights regularly (at least every time you change the batteries in your smoke detector). You should also know where the flash lights are so you can get to them easily in case of an emergency. I carry three: a mini Maglite in the glove box, the four battery Maglite which doubles as a weapon in the pocket behind the driver’s seat, and a hand crank flashlight in the door.

An extraction tool. I don’t know what else to call these things. They look like little hammers. One portion is designed to break auto glass. The usually have a sharp point to puncture airbags and a blade to cut seatbelts. Good things to have in case of an accident. I suggest you put them somewhere near the steering column so you can get to them in case you wreck.

Phone/tablet chargers. Having your phone to call AAA will be useless if the battery has died from an extended game of Candy Crush. Keep charging cables for the electronic devices you use frequently in your car. Conversely, you can get a power converter which will allow you to charge items directly off the battery (usually through the cigarette lighter). These can be a little bulky, but are great if you go camping. Look for them at any computer/gadget store. Be careful not to drain the car’s battery, however.

Blanket, jacket, change of clothes. Another easy one. I usually have a windbreaker in the car just in case I get caught in a storm. A good blanket can keep you warm if you are stranded or come in handy for an impromptu picnic. Camping style “space blankets” take up very little room and are relatively inexpensive at sporting good stores. Having a pair of sweats to change into can be a life saver. Cold, damp clothing is a quick way to get hypothermia.

Gloves, hat, ear warmers. Sometimes it is just nice to be able to change out of the gloves that got all wet while you were digging out the car. Keep these items in the glove box.

A multi-tool. It never hurts to have a knife/wrench/screwdriver/pliers/whatever on hand. Small and fits easily in the glove box or First Aid Kit.

Entrenching tool. Perfect for snow or mud, the trenching tool can be used as a shovel or a pick
7. This is essential if the snow gets higher than your car’s ground clearance.8 Mine takes up about the same amount of room as a large paperback book. I’m sure you can buy them on-line, but it is easier and cheaper to go to a military surplus store.

Kitty litter. Another handy item to have for snow or mud. Placing the litter under the tires of a stuck vehicle provides extra traction. If you have a rear wheel drive vehicle, a large bag also helps way down the back end and protect against fish tailing.

Duct tape and tie downs. Duct tape is amazing. You can use it to hold together a cracked windshield, support a broken arm, and everything in between. Those stretchy clip things are also great to have, not only for when you are hauling home the Christmas tree, but also in case of an accident. They can hold closed your hatchback or hood, hold up your bumper, tie down fidgety children…

I’m sure that I am forgetting something, but that is a pretty good start to get you ready for winter. Weigh your needs, space limitations, and paranoia and decide what you think you might need.

1 One of the benefits of working from home is that if it looks like icy Hell outside I can avoid driving in it.

2 Yard care, the downside to having a double lot.

3 Guess what, Sparky, it doesn’t. If you hit a patch of ice is just means that you are going to have four tires not grabbing instead of two.

4 Which, to be honest, you should be doing anyway.

5 I have a machete and a crossbow in my house, just in case.

6 We all know that is when the guy with the axe shows up.

7 Or, in a pinch, to behead a zombie

8 I’ve used mine to dig Molly out on 8 Mile and on Woodward, so it’s not just the never traveled roads that are a problem. Turn arounds after the streets have been plowed can be treacherous.

9 I learned this when I owned my first car, a ’78 Mustang.