Winter Road Trip Preparation: Tips for loading your car

budds winter road tripWe think of summer as road trip season, but what about the skiers and snowboarders?

They need to travel in winter, when conditions aren’t nearly as favorable.

Then there are the Holiday Season family gatherings, which can mean long trips across the province—and maybe further.

Getting your car ready for a road trip is an art any time of year, but in winter there are some extra points to consider.

Here we’ll cover:

  • What to take
  • How to pack
  • Special considerations for winter sports enthusiasts
  • Vehicle preparation

What to take

Every winter people get caught out by treacherous conditions.

We assume you don’t want to ring in the New Year from a ditch, so here’s a list of what should be in your car.

In addition to clothes, gifts and sports gear, plan on taking the following:

  • Ice scraper/snow brush
  • Good quality flashlight (and remember to put new batteries in!)
  • First Aid kit (Band-Aids, gauze strip, antiseptic cream, aspirin and whatever else you think might be useful.)
  • Bottled water (you don’t want to be eating snow!)
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Phone charger (Those devices that provide two USB outlets from the electrical outlet (a.k.a. “cigarette lighter”) are especially useful.)
  • Wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer
  • Duct tape. (Few problems can’t be solved with duct tape!)
  • Jump pack/jump starter (fully charged,) or jumper leads

A note about jump packs or jump starters—these are rechargeable batteries that hold enough juice to start your car.

They have a couple of advantages over jumper cables.  First, you don’t need to find someone else to get a “jump” from.

Second, most have USB outlets for charging electronics and usually a built-in flashlight. If you go this route, just remember to charge it up before your trip!

How to pack

People write books about packing, so we’ll just keep to the basics.

First, emergency gear should be accessible at a moments notice. Put it in the glove box or center storage bin. Same goes for any meds you might need to take. If the worst happens and you get stuck in a ditch, you don’t want them in a case in the trunk. Likewise, your charging accessories should all be readily available.

For clothes and other vacation gear, soft-sided duffle bags are preferred over hard-sided suitcases. The beautiful new Chevy Traverse has 651 liters behind the third row of seats, but those rigid cases won’t let you use it all. That’s why it pays to pack soft.

Modern vehicles have a surprising number of cubbies you should be taking advantage of so be sure to find and use them. That Traverse, for example, has a hidden underfloor rear storage compartment.

Heavy stuff should go low down as that keeps the vehicle more stable. To give an example, if you’re taking a case of IPA out to the cabin, put it down on the floor and not in a roof box.

Special considerations for winter sports enthusiasts

Rather than fill the cabin with skis and snowboards, carry them outside. There are two options: they can go on the roof or on a hitch-mounted carrier.

Chevy has partnered with Thule to offer some durable and good-looking equipment for winter gear. For instance, there’s a six-pair roof mounted ski carrier for the roof and a dedicated winter sports carrier for the tow hitch. You can search for cargo accessories under the ‘Parts’ tab on

Vehicle preparation

Last, let’s talk about how to ensure your vehicle is ready. Start with winter tires. These aren’t mandatory in Ontario but they are highly recommended. And if you’re using last year’s, check they’re in good condition.

Then make sure the washer reservoir is filled with plenty of fluid. Few things are more frightening than driving on the highway and seeing the wiper blades obscuring the windshield because the fluid has frozen.

Lights are another essential. Check you’ve no bulbs out, and keep a cloth in the car for cleaning off the glass whenever you stop. And finally, cold weather lowers tire pressures, so check them all, (including the spare,) before you leave.

Drive carefully, please!

Winter’s a bad time to be driving, and the longer your trip the more effort you should put into preparation. The tips here apply whenever you go out on the road, but especially if you’re making a long journey.

Take it easy out there, and arrive safely.