The traffic on I-70 isn’t the only daunting thing about winter travel; the roads themselves can be pretty darn treacherous. Last year, hundreds of cars skidded off mountain roads, resulting in accidents and stranded motorists. To spare you a long, uncomfortable—and potentially dangerous—wait on the side of the highway, we consulted the Colorado Department of Transportation, AAA, and our friends’ winter-driving horror stories to create this roadside survival kit. One important note: Keep these items inside your vehicle, not in the trunk, in case it freezes shut. Seriously. It happens.
5280.com Exclusive: Five more items to winterize your car.
Orbit DriftMaster Shovel
This 11-inch shovel is heftier than its collapsible competitors, but it makes up for the added bulkiness with efficiency: The blade can move more snow faster than flimsier fold-up versions. $19.99, orbitonline.com
Adventure Medical Kits SOL Emergency Blanket
You’re better off with a compact, lightweight cover in your car than you are with your grandmother’s trusty wool blanket. This survival item retains 90 percent of your body heat, which will keep you warm on the off-chance you have to sleep in your car overnight. And it doubles as a ground cloth for fixing that flat. $6.50, adventuremedicalkits.com
Petzl Tikkina 2
With a run time of 190 hours, Petzl’s lightweight, compact LED headlamp is one of the most affordable and longest lasting of its kind. What’s more, it ensures your hands are free to handle more pressing matters, like shoveling snow from around a buried tire. $19.95, petzl.com
Coleman 5-in-1 Survival Whistle
An affordable and versatile lifesaver, the Coleman 5-in-1 tool has a waterproof match container, a signal mirror that should get the attention of any passersby, a whistle, a flint fire-starter (in case things get really desperate), and a compass, in the event there’s no signal to use your iPhone’s GPS maps. Just remember: You need to actually know how to use a compass for this feature to be of any use. $4.99, coleman.com
Halo Pocket Power 2800
If you’re unlucky (or forgetful) enough to run out of gas on a mountain road, you’re probably going to want to call for help. In this scenario, the last thing you need is a dead cell phone. Grab the Halo Pocket Power 2800 before you hit the road (it comes with a USB plug-in that fits most phones) to give your cell enough juice to dial a friend. $49.95,
Slip and Slide
Winter driving instructor Bruce Davisson from the Center for Transportation Safety explains the three things that will help you in a skid.
1. Don’t panic. Suddenly jerking the steering wheel or slamming on the brakes could cause you to
completely lose control of the vehicle.
2. Ease off the gas. Until you have control of the vehicle, you don’t want to speed up. And lay off the brakes: To steer your vehicle out of the skid, your tires need to be rolling.
3. Look where you want to go. Using a firm grip, steadily steer in that direction. Driving instructors have started to phase out the phrase “steer into the skid” because it was commonly misinterpreted.
(It means to turn the car the same direction that the vehicle’s back wheels are sliding.)