What To Keep Inside Your Truck Or Jeep For Winter
Whether you are commuting, taking a holiday road trip, or going off-road, there are a few things you should have packed in your 4×4 for winter. Some of these items should be in your 4×4 year-round, while others are winter exclusive or specific to what you have planned. There is no way of knowing precisely the predicament you might get into in the future. Your best plan of action is to prepare for almost any scenario.
However, it’s safe to say that you can probably forget about the unnecessary items like a pitchfork for uprisings against the local government. And, you can probably leave the zombie killing devices at home to save space for the real winter necessities. We’ll go ahead and focus on the top 15 things you should have in your 4×4 in winter. Read on to see what gear to fill your 4×4 with this winter.
First Aid Kit
It should go without saying, but every 4×4 should have a first aid kit in it. A proper first aid kit should be considered a year-round item to have. Your kit doesn’t need to be overly complicated and expensive. But it should at least have basic bandages and a tourniquet to stop blood from exiting a significant injury. Several companies offer complete first aid kits with everything you might need housed in a waterproof box. It can be stored away under the seat, in a glove box, or a center console. When you load up for trips, make sure it’s not buried away under all of your gear. Your first aid kit should be quick and easy to access. Sometimes minutes or even seconds can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.
If you’ve lived in a snowy area before, you already know you need an ice scraper for your windows. The rest of us are still trying to make do with whatever we have on hand. Hotel key cards and expired credit cards are creative objects that can clear ice from the windshield in a pinch. Don’t forget to start your 4×4 before removing ice. Turn up the heat and window defrosters. This will give the engine time to warm up and the added interior heat will help with ice removal. Those with 4x4s that feature a remote start can sit indoors enjoying a cup of coffee while the ice melts from their warming vehicle. Raise the wiper arms when parking in icy wintery conditions. If you don’t, the wipers may freeze to the windshield, which could damage the wiper blades.
Snacks and Water
You should consider always having some snacks and water in your 4×4 at all times. You never know when you might become stuck and stranded and need to hunker down in your vehicle until help arrives. Bottled water and non-refrigerated snacks with long shelf lives are the best options. Dry salami, protein bars, nuts, trail mix, and other healthy snacks will typically last several months. You can rotate them out of the vehicle with new stock and into your pantry regularly, so they don’t go bad.
It might be shocking, but you might not get stranded when you plan to. And, you might not be wearing your warmest winter clothes when it happens. Dress shoes or heels won’t get you far in a storm if you have to trek several miles on foot through snow and ice. Pack a small bag with warm clothes and comfortable waterproof shoes that will have traction on winter surfaces. Your stowed winter clothes don’t have to pass muster at a runway photoshoot, they just have to keep you warm and dry. You could use some older winter clothes as your emergency backup attire.
A Flashlight Or Headlamp
Wintertime brings more dark hours to the day and regularly cloudy skies mean less light to work under. Changing a flat tire or digging under the hood can be made much easier with a proper flashlight. While you’re at it, you might as well get a good LED flashlight that emits plenty of bright useable light. A flashlight can also help wave down a passerby for help. Don’t forget to regularly check that your flashlight works properly. You should also consider keeping some spare batteries in the vehicle. Headlamps also make for a good option as you can work on a vehicle hands-free.
Road Flares, Hazard Triangles or Portable LED Flashers
The last thing you want is for someone to hit you or your vehicle while you’re changing a tire or messing around under the hood. Keeping with the low visibility winter theme, road flares, hazard triangles, and portable LED flashers will make your broken down 4×4 more visible, and you less likely to become frozen roadkill. Ideally, you should have at least three warning indicators to lay at 15- to 30-foot increments behind your vehicle. This will warn other drivers of you and your immobile vehicle on the side of the road and give them time to react.
If you’ve ever slid off the road, then you know how miserable digging snow out from under a stuck vehicle by hand is. A proper long-handled shovel makes this a much more pleasurable experience. A fold-up military-style shovel will work. But you’ll be thankful if you have a more extended handle that allows the shovel head to reach under the vehicle much further. You can also dig down to dirt or gravel and throw a few shovelfuls under the tires for more traction in icy conditions.
Sand or Kitty Litter
Icy conditions significantly reduce traction. In some cases, you don’t need much to make forward or backward progress. A bit of heavily sprinkled sand or kitty litter ahead of the tires is usually enough to allow the tires to provide traction on slick ice. If you have enough of the sand or kitty litter, you could make a two-track path up some very icy short grades. The sand and kitty litter are also helpful in getting your vehicle back on the road if you have spun out to the side of the road. The added weight of carrying the sand or kitty litter in your 4×4 will help increase traction too.
Most of us have cell phones that can keep us in touch with the rest of the world. Your cell phone won’t do you much good if it’s not charged and you have no way to power it up. It’s a good idea to keep a charge cord in your 4×4 at all times. Also, cell phone battery performance is poor in below-freezing temperatures. Keep your phone close to your body to keep it warm to extend the battery life. If you frequent areas that have very poor or no cell coverage, consider a HAM radio, a satellite phone, or a satellite messenger. Satellite communication costs have dropped significantly in the last decade and can allow you to reach out for help from almost anywhere.
Sleeping Bag or Blanket
A non-running vehicle won’t have a working heater and proper winter clothing can only go so far at keeping you warm in subfreezing temperatures. If you are stranded and need to stick with your vehicle, you’ll be glad to have a warm sleeping bag or at least a blanket. You can pack it away in the bag that has your spare winter clothes, food, and water. If you generally have multiple people in the vehicle with you, it’s a good idea to pack several blankets or sleeping bags.
In very snowy and icy conditions, four-wheel drive by itself sometimes doesn’t cut it. Proper tire chains will get your 4×4 further down icy and snowy roads and help keep you from spinning out. In most cases, you’ll want true chains and not cables. Cables are acceptable for low clearance applications, but chains will offer superior traction on snow and ice. Make sure they are in good condition at the beginning of each season and inspect the tensioners too. Old rubber tire chain tensioners can rot and break, rendering your tire chains useless.
Every 4×4 should have come from the factory with a recovery strap, but none of them do. It’s not unusual for a vehicle to slide off an icy road and get stuck. You or someone you run into will eventually need a tug to get back on the road. A recovery strap is cheap insurance against an expensive tow bill or being stuck and stranded for the night. In low traction conditions like snow and ice, kinetic style recovery straps are ideal. You can use the momentum and weight of the recovery vehicle to your advantage. Traction is less of a concern when using a kinetic recovery rope.
Winch Accessory Kit
Even if you don’t have a winch, it’s a good idea to keep a winch accessory kit in your 4×4. Many winch owners don’t have a proper accessory kit to supplement their winch. In some cases, it’s impossible to make a simple straight pull with a winch. Pulling at a hard angle can cause the winch cable or rope to bind up and break if you aren’t careful. A winch accessory kit contains the essentials needed to make a complex angled pull more straight by using the snatch block on a tree, a third vehicle, or another stationary object. Plus, a good winch accessory kit will include the items you need, even if you don’t have a winch. These include tow straps, D-rings, and other recovery gear.
The back ends of pickup trucks are notorious for slipping and sliding on slick winter surfaces. You can reduce this slip and increase traction by adding weight to the bed of your 4×4. You can use bricks, sacks of sand, gravel, or aftermarket water-filled bed weights, which are offered by several different companies. Adding 300 pounds or more to the bed of your 4×4 pickup will smooth the ride and improve rear axle traction on snow and ice.
Jumper Cables or Battery Booster
Automotive batteries don’t do well in hot or cold environments. Eventually, the battery in your 4×4 will die, and it’s most likely to happen when it’s really cold or hot. To keep from being stranded with a dead battery, you could install a dual battery system with an isolator in your 4×4. The alternative is to make sure you always carry a pair of jumper cables or a lithium powered battery booster. With the jumper cables you’ll need another vehicle to get you started. The battery booster, if adequately sized and charged, will get you going all on its own.