Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Maine Winter Car Kit

I spent several years in St .Paul, after which I swore I would never complain about a Maine winter again. And I haven't....much. After all, it's rare for temps here to drop below zero; double digits below are almost unheard of, at least in southern and central Maine, where I have spent most of my time. (The western mountains are another story.) Maine winters are highly variable, though; sometimes they are placid as Belties; other times, we get, well, belted. Maine was rated by Thrillist as #5 on their list of shittiest winters, by state.

Snow or extreme cold can both be dangerous for travelers, and I do a lot of driving. Not only that, but I drive thousand-dollar cars, so my chances of breaking down are better than most, even in fine weather. With that mind, I drive prepared to be stranded.

From January to March, you'll find a shopping bag in my backseat, with the following items:

  • Blanket
    My winter traveling kit
  • Knit hat
  • Wool sweater
  • Half full jug of water
  • Jar of peanut butter, with spoon. 
  • Flashlight
  • Book
A cell phone is nice, too, but we have some big blank spots where you can't get service, and even if you can call to let someone know where you are, weather may prevent them coming to get you immediately.

You might wonder why you'd need water, but you can't always count on clean snow nearby; and if you are stuck in extreme cold, it's better not to get out of the car. It's far more dangerous in blizzards or extreme cold to go in search of help than to just hunker down and wait. Maine is not the Yukon, and you are not the Donner party. It will not snow forever. The State police will find you sooner than later.

The jug of water needs to be only half full, because when it is not busy saving your life, that jug is just going to be riding around in your car, repeatedly freezing and thawing. Water expands when it freezes; if the jug is full, it will split.

The peanut butter is another story. The suggestion I usually read is to keep a candy bar in your car for such emergencies, but I find the emergency that usually happens is, I really want a candy bar. I'd have to be awfully damn hungry to just start scooping peanut butter, if I had other options.

You want a book, because you may be stranded for hours, and you don't want to die of boredom before you are found.

My kit serves as a kind of talisman: whenever I have had it, I have not needed it. [Knocks wood]

Only nine weeks - probably - 'til first crocus! Stay safe, stay warm, drive carefully. 


  1. My kit also includes an old cell phone (without a contract, all phones can dial 911), a tow rope, jumper cables, candles in a tin can, spare gloves, rain parka, first aid kit, shovel, hazmat kid (gloves, anticeptic), fire escape hood and mask, Military heating packet (just add water), space blanket, Maglite, EMS knife with window breaker and seatbelt cutter, extra glasses. Of course, the non-winter related things stay in the car all the time.

    1. Forgot: collapsible container for gasoline.

  2. Very thorough! I do have a number of those items as well - cables, obvs, and tow rope, and some first aid.