Are You Ready to Get Out of Dodge in Winter Weather?

Here in the northern hemisphere, winter is rapidly approaching. So it is timely that I write about vehicular mobility in winter weather.

Every well-prepared family should have one or more four wheel drive vehicles with snow tires or chains. For those of you that have “11th Hour” Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) plan, I trust that you have pre-positioned the vast majority of your food and gear at your intended retreat. Towing a trailer on icy winter roads is a dicey proposition even in the best of times. In my estimation, piloting an overloaded vehicle with an overloaded trailer WTSHTF is tantamount to suicide. If you’ve planned things properly and pre-positioned your gear, then there is no need for a trailer. Just one quick trip with fuel cans, bug-out bags, backpacks, web gear and weapons cases should suffice. Enough said.

So what do you need in your vehicle to make sure that it gets you from Point A to Point B? I assume that at all times you carry a tool kit, flashlights, road flares, engine starting fluid, first aid/trauma kit, chemical light sticks, a CB radio, and your usual “Bug Out Bag” basics including food and water. So lets talk specifically about mobility essentials:

Traction sand. You probably already have a couple of bales of USGI sand bags. Just fill a bag (or two) with coarse sand and tie them shut with a pair of plastic cable ties to prevent leakage.

Single-Bit Axe, at least 3 pound. (Such as Northern Tool & Equipment Item# 119922)

Shovel. A proper USGI folding entrenching tool (not a cheap Asian knock-off) might suffice, but I prefer a more substantial 40-inch D-handle round nose shovel, such as the Kodiak, available from Hector’s hardware.)

Hi-Lift Jack (aka “Sheepherder’s jack”) (Such as Northern Tool & Equipment Item# 14421)

Choker/tow chain (such as Item # 26083.) These should also be available from 4WD Parts and most local auto parts stores.

Ratchet hoist aka “Come-along”. (Or better yet, carry two.) I like the Dayton and Tuf-Tug brands brands. (Such as Northern Tool & Equipment Item# 152911)

Several short lengths of chain, steel sleeve-locking carabiners, and large Grade 8 bolts with nuts that can be used to connect/secure chains. (Sometimes you need to improvise.)

Tire chains (Yes, even if you have studded snow tires.) And if you must depend on a trailer for winter G.O.O.D., then get chains for the trailer, too.

And to risk some controversy: Bolt cutters–at least 24″ length. I prefer 36″. (Such as Northern Tool & Equipment Item# 558397). Sadly, very few of these are now made in the States like my trusty old Woodings-Verona brand. Note: Please don’t do anything illegal. Also be advised that in some of the liberal Nanny States, carrying bolt cutters in your rig could be considered “criminal intent.” But here in The Un-named Western State, they just call it a “A real good idea.”

Other Cold Weather Essentials (this list assumes that you will be transiting snow country–modify it accordingly if you live in the South):

Warm Clothing, pile caps, and gloves

Extra pairs of dry socks

Ice creepers (such as “YAKTRAX”, available from

Snow shoes and spare binding parts (Such as the Huron-made snowshoes available from

Sleeping bag(s). I prefer the Wiggy’s brand FTRSS. We have five sets of them here at the ranch, and they have served us very well for nearly 15 years.

Fire starting kit with plenty of tinder.