Leaving for the Rockies (CO, WY, and MT) and the Sierras (CA) in winter ❄⛄, I clearly had NO idea what I was doing. (Despite all the research I did, questions I asked, and friendly advice I got.) Two months later, I’m still alive (barely if we had to rely only on my own driving skills) and I hope I got a thing or two to share and help you with your road trips in inclement weather.
1) Prep your car 🚗🚙
- If you have an AWD/4×4 – GREAT! Still, get winter tires, they are mandatory in Colorado and California on the passes. No, you can’t reach the West Coast on I70 without going through A FEW passes 🙂 If you don’t have an AWD, work with what you’ve got. Get good winter tires and chains/ATDs (alternative traction devices, aka tire socks 😉) They are mandatory in CO / CA and recommended in WY / MT.
- Get your vehicle thoroughly inspected. Repair any issues. ANY!
- Ensure you always have an extra bottle of windshield wiper liquid. Trust me, water💧freezes ❄ in Wyoming and Montana…I may have learned that the hard way…
- Have a winter brush with ice scraper, a small shovel, and ice melt (kitty litter)!
2) Know the roads 🛣
- I often use the saying “My way or the highway” and I love going off the beaten path and taking country roads. Once it starts snowing, PLEASE take the highway. #doasIsaynotasIdo Highways may add 30 min or an hour but if an option, use it. You don’t want to know what country roads I’ve driven on, following my desire to stay away from civilization and off the beaten (cleared) path.
- Don’t drive after dark! #ruleofthumb #nomatterwhat It is the wildlife and distracted drivers I’m worried about, not you behind the wheel.
3) Load gear (or a Lindsay 😆)
- Less clothes, more gear! No, you don’t need 3 bags of shoes! But you need ALL the outdoor gear you can take with you! Trust me, even I didn’t need all the shoes… I doubt I’ve used even one of those bags (oh yeah, they are all tucked in my car, adding weight and taking space…)
- My selection on gear would be: 2 snowboards for the Rockies (155 and 158), 2 surfboards for Cali (fun board and long board), 1 mountain bike, hiking gear, a deflated inflatable paddle board in its bag, hammock, 0 degree sleeping bag. (I don’t camp so I don’t use a tent, but you go for it if you do 🏕)
4) Bring tools/repair kits for your toys
- Snowboard wax / screwdriver (Make sure it fits your bindings 😜)
- Surf wax / sun fix kit
- Bike repair kit
- Put all your toys in BAGS
5) Carry a First Aid kit 🏥
- Assemble your own or buy one from REI
- Check what you and your travel partners may need besides the obvious
- I pack a multi tool knife, disinfectant (high proof liquor in my case), band aids/gauze, oxygen, painkillers, antianxiety meds, and cold medication. Oils, bug sprays, and body butters are part of my cosmetics bag.
6) Food 🍌🍎🍐🍑
- Stock on fresh fruits and veggies often. I try to stop by Trader Joe’s in every town.
- Bring raw or unsalted nuts.
- Have 2 meals of food with you, for when you are late or remote.
- You won’t be that hungry on the road but you want to explore nature and not restaurants. I snack in the car while driving (like a squirrel 🐿).
7) Drinks ☕
- Have soluble hydration liquids (powders, tablets), especially if going over 8,000ft. I don’t need them but my friends use mine.
- Stock up on tea bags or instant coffee (or bring a fancy camping coffee maker). It will save you a lot of $ if you just get hot water from gas stations. Their coffee is terrible anyways.