The Ultimate Car Kit for Winter Driving in Siskiyou

With lots of fresh snow on Mount Shasta and more winter weather on the horizon, we thought we’d put together the ultimate insider’s guide to a winter driving kit, whether you’re assembling your own or trying to measure up the effectiveness of one that’s ready-made. A few extra minutes planning could make all the difference in an emergency (especially if you’re planning a trip into the back country!) and being prepared will keep your journey through California’s north fun – and hopefully minimize any stress of getting stranded in the snow! 

Minimal Supplies

If you’re just driving up Interstate 5 and through Siskiyou’s quaint towns, you can likely get away with a smaller winter kit.  But at the very least this is what we recommend:

  • Tire Chains  (Cable chains are easiest and there are often checkpoints throughout the county that are put in place to make sure you’re carrying chains so they’re always good to have on hand. Some places like Les Schwab in Yreka and Redding will even let you return unused sets of chains so there’s no excuse not to carry them!)
  • LED Headlamp (hands-free!) or flashlight (preferably with batteries and a strobe function for signaling)
  • Bottled water
  • Snacks (especially high protein bars that won’t freeze)
  • Road flares or reflective warning triangles
  • First Aid Kit
  • Jumper Cables
  • Winter clothes (gloves, boots, jacket, insulated hat)
  • Collapsible Shovel
  • Tire gauge to check inflation pressure in all four tires and the spare 
  • Jack and lug wrench to change a tire
  • Ice scraper/Snowbrush
  • Lighter and box of matches
  • Spare change and cash
  • Phone charger

Wise Additional Supplies:Ultimate 

Depending on where you’re headed in Siskiyou, many of these items will be overkill.  But an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure – and make you feel like you’re on a true adventure!

  • Multi-wick survival candle (Surprisingly cheap, these are great to have on hand in the event you get stuck in the snow as both a light source and heat source since running your car can be dicey – either by running out of gas or having ice block the engine’s exhaust and sending poisonous carbon monoxide into the cab.)
  • Duct Tape (use it to fix radiator hoses, a hole in your clothing, or just about anything.  You can even attach your keys to your person so they don’t get lost in the snow!  Pro-Tip: Orange and pink also work especially well as signaling tape from your car’s antenna.)
  • Portable air compressor (Powered by the 12v outlet this handy and compact tool can help fill a low spare or fill a flat because in cold weather, pressure-related tire failures are quite common)
  • Can of Fix-A-Flat
  • Simple toolkit (like screwdrivers, pliers, multi-tool and an adjustable wrench)
  • Baby Wipes (to clean hands)
  • Rain poncho
  • Battery– or hand-crank–powered radio
  • Paper maps & compass (and know how to use them!)
  • Tow Strap
  • Carpet Strips 1’x 4’ or a bag of sand or kitty litter (this will help with tire traction to help get you un-stuck in snow)
  • Notepad & Pencil
  • A stainless steel or enamel cup to melt snow in (either put the cup on the engine block or over your candle to heat)

A Few Pro-Tips

  • Clean snow and ice off your headlights and tail-lights so you’re more visible
  • Observe the ‘quarter tank is empty’ rule
  • Carry matches AND a butane lighter.  Matches don’t work if they’re wet, and butane won’t go to a gaseous state below 15 degrees F. If a Bic is all you’ve got, warm it in your hand (or armpit!) a little while before using it.
  • Carry a fully charged, unactivated cell phone in your glove box. 911 service is a mandatory feature and usually no SIM card required.  It will ensure you’ve got a lifeline!
  • Restore proper windshield wiper blade action by smoothing the rubber blades with fine sandpaper
  • Before you head out, fog-proof your mirrors and windshield with shaving cream. Just spray and wipe it off with paper towels.
  • Always put your pack where you can reach it!

True MacGyver Status

Chances are you will never need any of these in Siskiyou, but who doesn’t want a few wilderness survival hacks in their back pocket? 

  • Carry a couple of cans of tuna fish in oil, and a can opener.  If you need a survival candle, poke a hole in the can, insert a wick (you can always use a cotton shoelace!) and let it burn.  Once the oil burns up, eat the tuna.
  • Use the car mirrors and your headlamp or flashlight as signal mirrors
  • Brush up on SOS in Morse code (or bring a manual for reference!)
  • If you get stuck, change the answering message on your cell phone (before it dies!) to alert people to send help.  Let them know where you are and what the date is in the message.
  • Magnesium Metal matches.  Just about foolproof once you know how to use them!

At the end of the day, if you have to drive in bad weather, the best advice is use common sense and don’t panic!  Usually getting stuck is nothing more than an inconvenience that will make for a good adventure story when you return to warmer climes.