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The Essential Gear You Should Keep in Your Car All Winter Long

Want to stay safe and warm while navigating the cold, hard world? Here's what you need.

man setting up ignik heated blanket in car
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On many a day this winter, I woke up, made a mug of coffee — and drove into a snowstorm.

Heading up Teton Pass that connects Wyoming and Idaho, I watched rear tires spin fecklessly, ABS systems bring cars to a lurching halt, and drivers erratically turn off Highway 22 at full speed, unaware that friction and inertia were not on their side.

And as always, I thought to myself, “We have some learning to do here.”

No one is born knowing how to drive in the snow. Even I — a student of physics, with a childhood split between Alaska and Minnesota — didn’t have innate skills for driving in the snow when I acquired my license. I had to pay my dues, including getting stuck in a ditch more times than I've ever admitted to my mother. Eventually, I came to realize that winter driving is comparable to the race between turtle and hare; you win by going slower.

But let's face it, you’re not going to listen to the advice from some random guy on the internet. So, instead of offering tips for safer and more respectful driving, I’ll write about the opposite side of the coin: the stuff you’ll want when you’re stuck in the snow, embarrassed as hell and waiting for AAA to save your cold butt.

These probably aren’t gifts you’re likely to get at Christmas, or currently fawning over in a curated online shopping cart. No, these are tools — tools to help you become a better driver, help you wait for help more comfortably should the need arise, and — for the real go-getters — help you get unstuck without the aid of a tow truck.

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Hestra Torun Primaloft Mitten
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Durable leather gloves are, quite literally, worth their weight in gold–and these are some of the best. I often drive with them, too. Bonus points if you add hand warmers.

HotHands Hand Warmers
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It'd be kind of silly for us to award bonus points for hand warmers and not include them in this list. 

Backcountry Access B-1 EXT Bomber Avalanche Shovel
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A portable shovel has helped me out of a few miscalculations, and I bet it’ll help you do the same. Durable and easy to stow, one of these punches above its weight class.

Ignik Heated Blanket
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A good blanket can be the difference between life and death if you're stuck in the cold. This one offers the added bonus of a heating function that can work off either a car's 12-volt power or a USB charging brick. 

Muck Boot Arctic Ice Extreme Conditions
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Warm, waterproof, and easy to slip on and off, these are the perfect winter boots to throw in the car. I use them for shoveling the driveway, walking the dog — and pretty much always when driving in winter.

ABN Tow Strap
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Now 13% off

For most oh-shit-I’m-sliding-into-a-ditch mistakes, the solution is simple: waive down a friendly stranger and have them pull you out. To do that, it helps to have a tow rope. This is a great one.

The Best Winter and Snow Tires You Can Buy
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We picked the best tires to help you stay mobile through the winter months.

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Maxtrax MKII Blaze Yellow Vehicle Recovery Board
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If you happen to be on a less-traffic road, another solution: get yourself unstuck. To do so, first dig out the wheels and make an exit, then use these for added traction.

Darn Tough Men's Heavyweight Hiking Sock
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This merino wool sock is made for all kinds of outdoor adventures, and will keep you warm and comfortable even in wet conditions. It’s worth packing an extra pair in your glove box, just in case. 

Subzero Hopkins 52" Super Extender Snowbroom
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Wait, you don't have a snow broom in your car already? Stop messing around and buy one. 

Security Chain Super Z6 Tire Chain
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Even snow tires sometimes can't handle the worst that winter throws at you. For those circumstances, you'll want a good set of tire chains. These are our go-to choice; just throw them in back and forget them until you need them. 

Tacklife T8 18000mAh Car Jump Starter
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Now 20% off

There are enough problems to worry about in winter without adding in the usual all-season issues — like a dead battery. Make sure you're never stranded for lack of a charge with a good portable jump starter.

The 12 Best Down Jackets of 2021
Chandler Bondurant

These top picks for lightweight, innovative down jackets will keep you warm from when the leaves fly until the snow melts in the spring.

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