How To: Be Prepared on the Road

Not just for Boy Scouts

The Boy Scout motto is "be prepared". That's also a great motto for anyone taking their car on the road, whether it's winter conditions, a back-road adventure, or just an everyday commute. Most of the time, we get to where we're going uneventfully, but there are a number of easy-to-pack items that can come in handy if that trip suddenly becomes eventful.

Don't leave home without it
No matter what the season, there are several essential items that should always travel with you. Most can be purchased at your local hardware or automotive store, packed in a small duffle bag and stored in your trunk.

broken-down car

- distress signal-a red bandana to tie to your antenna is preferable to a "Highway Help" sign because it's more visible
- emergency flares
- a reflective cone
- water -one or two litre bottles filled with water won't take up too much trunk space, even if you have a small car. Remember to empty the bottles, wash them out and refill them every few months.
- flashlight with extra batteries
- shovel
- jumper cables
- tow rope
- first aid kit
- non-perishable high calorie snacks - granola bars are perfect because they stay fresh in their packaging
- an extra pair of glasses (if you normally wear glasses or contact lenses) in case you somehow lose the ones you're wearing
- fire extinguisher-keep it in your trunk or strapped down, as it can become a dangerous projectile during an accident. Consumer Reports recommends carrying a small 1A10BC or 2A10BC unit.

Packing the car for winter
Four-wheel drive, winter tires, heated seats and interior heating make winter car travel smooth and cozy in even the lowest Canadian temperatures. Despite these innovations, every year a few unlucky motorists find themselves stranded or lost.

If you're heading out on a road trip, be sure to check the weather forecast and the road report. Let someone know where you're going and when you plan to arrive. Also, make sure you take along up-to-date road maps as GPS is not always available or reliable.

If you do get stuck in your vehicle while winter is howling around you, you'll be glad to have the following additional equipment on hand:

- a fully charged cell phone
- warm blankets
- windshield scraper
- methyl hydrate windshield de-icing
- matches or a lighter
- chains
- spare winter jackets and boots (and some for the kids)
- disposable hand warmers, once activated some can generate heat for up to 7 hours
- sand, road salt, or non-clumping kitty litter for traction