James Kim, a motorist from San Francisco traveling with his family, died in 2006 after his car got stuck in snow on a mountain road in Oregon and he headed out to find help. That was the year I equipped our cars with small shovels, cat litter and backpacks filled with flashlights, candles and waterproof matches, water, extra clothes, power bars, space blankets and anything else I thought might come in handy if we wound up stuck in a winter storm. Admittedly, we weren’t the kind to venture into the wild if bad weather was on the horizon (James Kim, by all accounts, wasn’t, either), but we were prepared for a disorienting blizzard on Lyndale Avenue.

I’ve been teased for my over-the-top preparedness. But those backpacks still get stowed in the car when we decide to head far from home in wintertime.

I hope no one gets stranded in a snowstorm this winter (though I admit to hoping for snow). Before heading over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house by car, tend to these tips, just in case.

Go ahead, ignore the ridicule, and prep your own winter survival backpack.

Keep the gas tank at least half full. That decreases the chance of any moisture in the gas line freezing.

Outfit the car with jumper cables, an ice scraper and cat litter, which provides traction when scattered around tires prone to spin.

Keep enough antifreeze in the system.

Check your windshield wipers and consider replacing them with winter-ready wipers. Fill up with washer fluid.

Be sure there are no leaks in your exhaust system that could release dangerous carbon monoxide into the car.

Do this, and your car will be ready for winter condition on city roads and beyond.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter: @kerriwestenberg.