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Colorado Winter Driving Survival Kit and Tips

Stranded Roadside in the Winter

Being stranded roadside in Colorado, in the winter, is unthinkable but it does happen and could happen to you. The best defense is to be prepared for this unlikely but very dangerous situation. Get your roadside winter survival kit organized before you start winter driving through Colorado's mountain passes.

Before You Head Out

Don’t forget to give your vehicle a thorough check before your mountain road trip. Even consider having your mechanic go through your car. This will give you peace of mind. Driving mountain passes is dangerous. Make sure your vehicle is in good shape and up to the task. If you know your road trip will include high mountain passes and possibly some lesser-known off-road routes, a four-wheel drive vehicle is mandatory. A higher clearance vehicle is helpful for navigating rocky roads or traveling through snow. Colorado’s roads are considered some of the worst in the US ranking 37th in highway performance and cost-effectiveness. Keep your gas tank as full as possible, check the winter weather report and view CDOT’s live webcams for a real-time report of Colorado’s major passes.

Auto Checklist Before a Colorado Winter Road Tripwinter driving survival kit

  • Tire condition, plenty of treads, and no bulges or signs of damage. 

  • Tires that are suitable for mountain and winter driving.

  • Correct tire pressure.

  • Wipers are working and have plenty of winter wiper fluid.

  • Check coolant. Flush the radiator if needed.

  • Check oil, power steering, and brake fluid.

  • Check fuses and horn. Have extra fuses.

  • Check high and low beam headlights.

  • Check the heater.

Be Prepared for Winter Driving

Having a winter survival kit in your car is the best insurance for surviving being stranded roadside. Sure you have AAA, but being stranded roadside on top of a mountain pass is a more complicated situation. It’s not uncommon for tractor trailers to jackknife once traffic stops or comes to a crawl. Mountain passes are steep and can become packed with black ice quickly. Once traffic stops or is reduced to a crawl, vehicles can lose traction and slide backward.

Worst Case Scenario

So you’re stuck in this winter icy mountain highway mess of bumper-to-bumper traffic, a jackknifed semi-truck, and its pounding snow or worse sleeting rain-snow mix. Hopefully, you get the picture, there is no tow truck that is going to make the save in these conditions.

Or don’t forget the possibility of sliding off the icy pass road and plunging down 500 feet or more. Oh, and the unlikely event of being swept away in an avalanche… 

Colorado Winter Driving Survival Kitwinter driving pass accident

Most likely you have a few items already in your car like a tow rope or a flashlight. However, if you’re serious about your survival, it’s worth the effort to get organized and become prepared. First, be mindful of where your gear is located. Things like extra clothes can be in the back seat or nearby. Flashlights, camp stoves, cell phone charges, and similar items need to be in an accessible compartment. While flat tire equipment, jumper cables, and other mechanical equipment will occupy yet other locations. It’s best to categorize your winter survival kit and locate where the items will be stored. Remember that freezing temperatures, snow, and ice add to the complexity of being stranded roadside. It’s not uncommon for the trunk and car door locks to become frozen. Wipers stop working, and wheel wells become jammed with frozen ice and snow. This means including items to help you deal with freezing conditions.

Emergency items that need to be most readily accessible (in the vehicle)

Being caught in the dead of winter means you need to be able to access your winter driving survival kit. The following list of items should be available in the backseat or in an easy-access spot. Most winter Drivers will already have these items but just as a reminder.

  • Warm clothing, hats, and gloves. 

  • Snow boots (something you can walk in) and warm socks.

  • An extra blanket(s) or sleeping bag, pillow(s).

  • Survival food such as energy bars, nonperishable snacks, and instant hot drink mix.

  • Water in a container that won’t freeze.

  • Towels, paper products.

  • Insulated thermos or cups.

  • Cell phone charger and other electrical cables.

  • A notepad and a pen or pencil.

  • Map or road atlas.

Next Level Winter Survival Gear (in an accessible compartment)

Not so common items that need to be boxed together and stowed under a seat or compartment that is accessible.

  • A compact camp stove with fuel.

  • A lighter and matches.

  • Candles or a lantern.

  • A LED flashlight, and or other flashlights.

  • Flares and or hazard lights.

  • First Aid Kit

  • More emergency food.

Freezing Weather Defense Tools

Other less common items could be stored together with the above items or have another specific location.

  • A basic tool kit: screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, hammer, duct tape.

  • De-icer fluids for locks and frozen parts.

  • Ice melt products for traction issues. Could be cat litter, floor sweep, or safety absorbent.

  • Tire chains (In addition to your 4-wheel drive)

  • A foldable shovel or two. 

The usual roadside auto repair equipment

Most vehicles come with a spare tire, a jack, and other equipment neatly tucked away. If the spare tire is located in the undercarriage of the vehicle, for example, you should consider relocating these items for winter driving. This is also true for items locked in the trunk. Locks can become frozen and the undercarriage of your vehicle can become packed with snow and ice. Even if you are able to clear all the packed snow, bolts and other mechanical parts will be frozen and hard to deal with. 

  • Jumper cables.

  • A spare tire.

  • A car jack.

  • A tow strap.

  • A lug wrench.

  • Portable air-compressor

  • Extra fluids, oil, coolant, wiper fluid.

  • A funnel and a gas can.

  • Fix-a-Flat tire sealant.

  • Bungee chords

Winter Driving Roadside Kit - Get it Together

Winter in Colorado is super fun; however, keeping it fun means staying safe. Making the effort to create a checklist of a winter roadside survival kit is time well spent. Dealing with the hazards of winter driving is something you have to prepare for. If you're not prepared, a bad situation can quickly become much worse. It's not worth the risk.

 by Kathleen Fitzsimmons

 

 

 

 

 

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