What should I pack in my car’s emergency winter kit?
It's easy to forget just how serious winter travel can be after weeks of mild weather. Winter in rural parts of northern England and Scotland means that simple car trouble could become a matter of life or death during winter storms such as Arwen. Once the calendar has turned to December, It is a good idea to make sure your car is packed for proper winter weather travel.
As well as considering the list below, make sure you start any long journey with a full tank of fuel, check all of the fluid levels under the bonnet and the tyre pressures, and text or call whoever you're setting out to travel to so they know you're on your way. That way they can raise the alarm if you don't arrive when expected and can't send for help yourself.
Here’s a list of what you should pack in the car boot for winter:
- Sand If you have a rear-wheel-drive car this one does double duty. A bag or two adds weight over the driven wheels for better traction. If you do get stuck, a couple of handfuls thrown down under the tyres can quickly get you on your way again.
- Shovel After a snowstorm, or worse yet, after a snow plough buries your car, you're going to need a serious implement to dig it out. Perhaps more importantly, if you skid into a snowbank, it may be the difference between getting home or getting frostbite. You'll find lightweight plastic shovels on the internet or at your local DIY store.
- Warm Clothing/Boots Chances are you commute to work, or head to the shops without dressing for an Arctic exhibition. That’s fine, but if the weather takes a turn for the worse, or you break down or get stuck, you are going to appreciate a warm jacket, gloves, a hat, and warm winter boots. Pack for the whole family before you go on a holiday road trip.
- Space blankets These tin foil-like blankets you see marathon runners wrapped up in fold up small enough to pack several in the glove compartment – and they work. If you break down or get stuck and have to stay in the car and wait for help (which is safer than going out into the cold dark night), these may save your life.
- Flashlight You should always have a small LED flashlight in your car. They take up hardly any room, and are super useful. LED bulbs use very little power, but still make sure the batteries are fresh and pack a spare set just in case.
What else should I include in my emergency kit for winter driving?
- Candles and Matches Yes, this might be the 21st century, but there are many reasons to pack a few candles, including light, heat, and melting snow for drinking water. Pack a few into a tin can with one end removed to use as a candle holder, and to scoop up snow to melt.
- Brightly Coloured Ribbon If your car gets stuck on the side of the road, or in a snowdrift, tying a ribbon to the antenna will make it easier for tow trucks, snow ploughs, and police to spot it.
- Warning Triangle Some cars come with these in the boot as standard when new. If not, buy one and use it to warn oncoming traffic (or rescuers) of your predicament.
- Whistle or Air Horn You are going to want to get attention if you are stuck in a ditch in Cumbria. A loud whistle or air horn (or even a bell) can be heard easier than you screaming for help, especially after the first few screams.
- Snacks Pack something high in energy and non-perishable, such as trail mix or energy bars. When the temperature drops your body burns up a lot of energy just staying warm, and you'll appreciate having a snack while you wait hours for a snow plough or a tow truck.
- Portable Loo Not a nice thought, but nature will take its course. So make sure you have a receptacle to take care of the liquids – his and hers are available.
- Hand Warmers These little chemical wonders are great. Once activated, the chemicals inside react to produce heat; not enough to start a fire, but enough to thaw your digits.
- Permanent Marker & Paper If you have to leave your car on the side of the road, or in a parking space because of breakdown or bad weather, you’ll want to leave a note for the authorities on top of the dashboard or under a wiper blade. Use a marker with ink that doesn’t wash off easily, so any note you leave will be legible, even if it gets wet.
- Power Pack Everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket and a charger in their car, right? But what if the car battery goes flat and you have to leave the car to go on foot? Be sure to have a booster battery and charging cable – you don’t want to be stranded in white-out conditions with no GPS and no way to call for help.
- Jump Leads Of course, you had your battery tested for cold-cranking ability under load at your last oil change, right? It takes more energy to turn an engine when the temperature is low and the oil is thick, but at the same time, a battery has less power when the temperature drops. Having jump leads and knowing how to use them is neighbourly. Getting a boost, or giving one can mean the difference between having a merry Christmas or waiting in the snow for a tow truck.
What’s the A-Z of storms for 2021-22?
Every year, The Met Office, Met Éireann, and KNMI (The Dutch national weather forecasting service) jointly compile a new list of storm names. Here's the storm list for 2021 and 2022:
- Storm Arwen
- Storm Barra
- Storm Corrie
- Storm Dudley
- Storm Eunice
- Storm Franklin
- Storm Gladys
- Storm Herman
- Storm Imani
- Storm Jack
- Storm Kim
- Storm Logan
- Storm Méabh
- Storm Nasim
- Storm Olwen
- Storm Pól
- Storm Ruby
- Storm Seán
- Storm Tineke
- Storm Vergil
- Storm Willemien