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I like to think that I am a prepared person. The type of guy that always plans ahead for upcoming situations. A regular boy scout. My wife will tell you that's not the case and that I'm actually a terrible planner and that I usually wait until the last minute for everything. Her assessment is probably more accurate.

This morning, I tried to start gathering all the winter stuff that normally sits in the trunk of my car for the next six months of Montana winter. When spring rolls around, I take all the winter crap and put it somewhere safe for next season. Except that "somewhere safe" is more like randomly hidden spots in the shed. The kids take or lose some of my stuff. Some of it gets broken and some of it just straight up disappears.

With the nasty winter weather headed our way this week, I'm making sure I have these items back in my car:

  • Ice Scraper. I feel like I buy at least two new ones every year and they always seem to disappear. Don't be cheap when it comes to scrapers. The big, extendable ones are great for reaching across your windshield to remove snow and ice.
  • Winter-blend washer fluid. We're not quite at the twenty-below-zero type weather that is coming in the next few months, but it'll be here before you know it. Did you know there are summer blend and winter-blend washer fluids? One of them will freeze in extreme cold and crack the plastic tank that holds your fluid. So hurry up and use what's left of your summer squirter juice and then refill the tank with a gallon of the winter blend. It also works relatively well to remove thin layers of frost when you are too lazy to use your fancy new ice scraper.
  • Gloves. Duh. Always keep a pair of warm gloves in the car. That way when you stop to help someone push their car, at least your fingers won't freeze.
  • Emergency blanket. It doesn't have to be a real emergency blanket, just make sure you have something you can bundle up in, should you get stuck in a snowbank for hours at a time and your car runs out of gas and you have no heat. I've never had to use my emergency blanket for an actual emergency, but it has come in handy for chilly fall sporting events.
  • Folding shovel & traction devices. These items could be considered optional in my book. I figure if I've buried my car so badly that I need a shovel, it's probably going to take more than a shovel to get me out. Some people recommend carrying a bag of kitty litter to help with traction if you get stuck. Tire chains are another option to consider throwing in your trunk. You can only go like 35 mph with them, but if roads are a sheet of ice they really are a lifesaver on 2WD vehicles.
  • Emergency kit. There are tons of various roadside emergency kits available, like this one, that includes a shovel, tow rope, jumper cables, basic tools, etc. My car came with a basic emergency kit and I don't usually travel with anything more elaborate on my normal workday commute. However, if you are planning a longer Montana winter trip that may include snowstorms and nighttime travel, it never hurts to put together some basic items. Here is an example of what should go in your kit.

All of the items listed above are substantially more expensive when you buy them at the last minute at the gas station. Planning ahead and buying the stuff online or at your local discount store ahead of time will save some bucks. Stay safe driving this week. It won't be the only storm of the year, just the one where everyone forgets how to drive in winter.