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9 Essential Items for Your Car on a Winter Road Trip

Thinking of a winter road trip? Here are some essential items you'll want to pack in your car.

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Written by Jason Barnette
on January 8, 2021
Posted in
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Snow is gorgeous to admire, but not so much when it has covered your car and the road ahead. The winter months are defined by freezing temperatures, snow and ice, and the inevitably of getting stuck in snow or with a dead battery. When the worst happens, these essential items will make your winter road trip better.

Table Of Contents

Ice Scraper

I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Each morning my brother, sister, and I fought over who had to leave the warmth of the house a few minutes early to scrape the ice and snow off the windshield of the family car.

The AstroAI Ice Scraper and Snow Brush would’ve made that job a little easier and maybe even fun. The brush and ice scraper are detachable from each other so you can use just what you need. Fully assembled it is 27” long with plenty of reach to get across the entire windshield. Bonus: it comes in a nifty little carry bag.

Jumper Cables

I always recommend carrying a set of jumper cables or a jump starter battery pack, but it becomes especially important during a winter road trip. A battery’s Cold Cranking Amps, or CCA, rating is how many amps the battery will output at 0-degrees Fahrenheit to start a vehicle. Below that temperature batteries start to become fickle.

I love the Cartman Heavy Duty Booster Cables because they can usually jump start a car almost immediately. Most jumper cables are 4 gauge, and some are only 6 gauge, which means the cables are thinner and carry less of a charge. I have been traveling with Cartman’s 2 gauge 20’ cables. I have connected them to dead batteries in the past and started the car immediately.

As a bonus, do yourself a favor and get the Rugged Tools Cable Bag to store the jumper cables. I never could get the jumper cables back in the bag Cartman provided. The Rugged Tools bag unzips on three sides and makes it super easy to store the jumper cables.

Snow Shovel

Do you know one place a snowplow will never go? A hotel parking lot. I found this out the hard way when I spent a few days in Abingdon, Virginia and a good 20” of snow fell overnight. I found my little Honda Civic firmly stuck behind a snowbank.

The Cartman Scalable Snow Shovel would have come in mighty handy that day. Fully assembled the scalable snow shovel is just a few inches shorter than a standard snow shovel. It’s pretty solid and works well with shoveling snow or sand, as I’ve done a few times already. The shovel disassembles into three sections (blade, center pole, and handle) for easy storage.

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Tire Chains

I remember this one time I was a freshman in high school we were sent home early because of an approaching winter storm. I lived about thirty minutes from the school. We didn’t get out in time. After loading all of us up the bus driver stopped at the bus shop and had chains installed on the tires. Do you have any idea how loud it was in a giant aluminum box with steel chains rattling on the tires?

Despite the noise, the chains did exactly what they were supposed to do: gave the bus extra traction. But keep in mind tire chains are only meant to give some extra traction; they will not suddenly make your two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive act like four-wheel drive.

There are a lot of cheap plastic devices out there now for strapping to tires, but nothing beats the old reliable steel chain. Security Chain Company’s Tire Chain is about as good as it gets. They are heavy and cumbersome to transport, easy to install but still a pain in the back, and will help in snowy road conditions for short drives.

Tow Rope

This one time I got firmly stuck in the snow while trying to reach the summit of Whitetop Mountain in Virginia. I had no cellular service and couldn’t call for help. About an hour later another vehicle came by on the dead-end road. Luckily, I always traveled with tow straps so he was able to pull me out of the ditch I’d slid into.

Since then I have ditched the tow straps for DitchPig Kinetic Energy Recovery Rope. A tow truck driver gave me the tip while changing my flat tire last year. Kinetic ropes, a fancy term for an auto accessory if ever there was one, are made of braided nylon rope and are super strong.

I have been traveling with the ½”x20’ DitchPig rope. This rope has a break strength of 7,300 pounds so it’s good for passenger cars and small SUVs. Get the ¾” rope for larger SUVs and pickup trucks or 1 ¼” for RVs.

Electric Blanket

If you’re on a winter road trip, chances are good someone will get cold. It’s usually pretty easy to grab a jacket and zip it up – but that just isn’t a fun thing to do on a road trip.

This 12v Electric Blanket by Stalwart is perfect for bundling up in a warm blanket on those chilly days. At 59″x43″, the blanket is big enough for two to cuddle or one person to wrap up like a mummy. With a 96″ long cable, it’ll reach to the backseats when plugged into the front.

Hand Warmers

You know you’re in the 21st century when hand warmers are electronic devices with USB ports for charging. The OCOOPA Quick Charge Hand Warmer is built around a 10,000 mAh battery that’ll last for up to 15 hours keeping your hands warm.

Heating plate on either side will help warm both hands simultaneously. The USB-C charging port is the current standard so it’s likely you already have an adequate charging cable and block to go with it.

But just in case you enjoy the old fashioned chemically induced warmth of a gel pack, these Hand Warmers from HotHands are for you. Shake to activate, give it about 15 minutes, and you’ll have warmth in your hand for about 10 hours.

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Flashlights

Sunset is ridiculously early during the Winter months, sometimes setting before my five o’clock shadow arrives. During a winter road trip, you will probably need a flashlight at least once.

The Energizer LED Tactical Flashlight is one of the best for personal use. The all-metal body is durable and the IPX4 rating means it’ll hold up during a rain – er I mean snow shower.

The Tac-300 provides 300 lumens of light and the Tac-700 a total of 700 lumens, each from a single lithium CR123 battery. The Tac-800 provides a whopping 800 lumens of light but requires two CR123 batteries, making the body of the flashlight bigger.

Need to keep your hands free? The Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp has occupied a place in my camera bag and roadside emergency kit for the past few years. The headlamp was designed for the outdoors backpacker so it’s super lightweight and compact, providing 350 lumens of light output on 3AAA batteries.

Sand Bucket

One of the best tips for getting unstuck from snow or ice is to toss some sand on the ground around your vehicle’s tires. The sand creates friction that can help get your vehicle unstuck from mild situations.

I bought one of the Gamma2 Vittles Vault Airtight Bucket for my sister years ago to store her dog food. The lid is super easy to screw on and off, but when it’s screwed on the lid is airtight and lets nothing escape. It’s the perfect travel bucket for carrying sand on a winter road trip!

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