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13 Winter Essentials for Your Subaru

Alex Gauthier Alex Gauthier
Education

You probably know that you should be carrying more than a spare tire in your winter essentials kit but we’ve compiled a list to motivate you. Every model Subaru except the BRZ is equipped with Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive and adventurous Subaru owners love the dependability of their cars in adverse conditions. Indeed, it’s tough to beat the Subaru for winter driving. Still, things happen. Not every accident is going to be your fault. Even a Subaru owner could run into trouble and run off the road or need to help others. When it comes to preparing for these situations, it pays to check your ego and get serious about your kit.  These are 13 winter essentials we are carrying in our own Subarus.

The Winter Essentials

tow strap

Tow Strap

A good tow strap is an absolute must. You may not need it yourself but may want to rescue a friend or other person in need. We prefer recovery straps that are two or three inches wide and 2 or 3 ply thickness. The longer the better but a 30 footer is a realistic length to carry around. A strap won’t do you a lot of good if you can’t hook it to anything so be sure and put a couple of clevis hooks with your tow strap. Newer Subarus come with a screw in tow hook but this is more of a closed eye that a tow truck could hook into. So if you want use that, you’ll also need a clevis hook that will allow the connection of the tow strap.

essentials snow tires

Snow Tires

All-wheel-drive is undeniably wonderful, but it’s a whole lot MORE wonderful when paired with good traction. Your summer tires actually render your Subaru INFERIOR to a two-wheel-drive car that has snow tire.  Your first preventive measure should be a good set of snow tires. If you only intermittently drive in bad conditions, you might get away with a set of chains for your Subaru. Practice putting them on in your driveway before you attempt to do it on the side of I-70. Traffic splashing you with slush is apt to have a poor effect on your learning curve.  Snow tires or not, traction devices are a good idea and are actually required in some states even if you have snow tires.

ice scraper

Ice Scraper

You want to see out your windows right? Get one with a long plastic or at least padded handle so your hands don’t get as cold when you’re doing the job.

first aid kit

First-Aid Kit

Prepare to treat severe bleeding, have a mouth guard for CPR and other likely injuries or ailments. Don’t overlook an antihistamine, pain killers of a couple varieties and simple stuff like band-aids. Something like the Mountain Series Weekender from Adventure Medical Kits would work well. Include a couple mylar emergency blankets for their stylish good looks and heat retention. Since your building a kit for your car, you may as well get serious about your away from car kit too. 

nutrition essentials

Food

Mainly water. Keep a few energy bars or some kind of non-perishable food on hand that can be consumed without preparation. Don’t go crazy, 1000 calories total is adequate for small groups of people. You can go a long time without food but lack of water can be a  serious threat.Do have plenty of water. You may also consider throwing some iodine tablets in your kit to purify sources of water you may find.

recharging essentials

Solar Charger

Invest in a compact solar charging set-up. There are many out there these days but the idea is to be able to charge your phone without the use of your car’s engine which may not start. Opt for a small unit big enough to handle your phone or up the ante a little bit to one that will charge your Subaru’s dead battery. You can always opt for something like this Goal Zero kit that can also go in your back pack when you leave the trail head and your Subaru behind.

saftey triangle

Warning Devices

If your car is disabled you want to avoid further accidents or stuck vehicles so bring some reflective triangles and flares. Flares are what you see emergency services folks employing and with good reason. Flares are more visible than triangles which can become coated with snow or dirt. Whichever you use, place one about 10 feet behind your car and two more 100’ in back and in front of your vehicle. You may consider hanging a red bandana or other red cloth on your mirror or raised windshield wipers to alert folks that you need help. Don’t use a white one though, that would indicate that you have surrendered and no will bother stopping.

Jumper Cables

Booster Cables

Don’t skimp on jumper cables. Get booster cables that are plenty long enough in case the boosting vehicle can’t get super close to the disabled one. More importantly, be sure you know how to use them. It’s not as simple as just matching the colors and hooking them to the battery terminals. These should absolutely be part of your winter essentials kit considering cold’s ability to kill batteries.

Tool Kit

Tool Kit

You’re not rebuilding an engine, you need enough tools to massage stubborn tire chains, tighten battery terminal connections or other simple tasks. Consider including a multi-tool but definitely bring a real screwdriver or two plus a small set of metric wrenches. We also like to include a socket wrench and a few sockets. You’ll want wrenches and sockets 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, 17mm and 19mm in size. Think about a few sets of nitrile gloves and some safety glasses. Include pliers. WD-40 or similar is great to loosen stubborn nuts and bolts. Absolutely bring a headlamp or two so you can work with both hands. Only a fool would fail to include duct tape in this kit. Don’t be a fool.

warmth essentials

Blankets

Most of you have a closet full of down and Gore-Tex but don’t overlook some blankets. If you’re engine dies for some reason, you’ll need a means of keeping warm until a tow truck arrives which can take hours depending on where you get stuck or break down. Not everyone with you may be as well equipped as you are either. Would you rather give away your $500 Arc’teryx down jacket to a stranger in need, or a couple of wool blankets?

tent essentials

Shelter

Before you toss your old sleeping bag or tent, consider making them part of your emergency kit instead. If you’re out a couple days wouldn’t it be nice to stretch out in a tent instead of be cramped in a car seat while you wait? Better yet, get yourself one of these amazing rooftop tents from Tepui. We absolutely love these things and use them all the time!

shovel essentials

Shovel

A snow shovel might be a little much to carry in your car but do yourself a solid and toss in a metal bladed avalanche shovel. These don’t cost much and it doesn’t need to be fancy. If you have to do a lot of digging, you’ll be miserable using the small shovel but not as miserable as you would be spending the night in your stuck car.  Don’t even bother with a plastic shovel. Trust us.

Changing Tire

Tire Repair

Your Subaru comes with a spare tire and the tools to put that tire on your car. Unless you have a hybrid model Crosstrek, that is. The large battery in that car uses up the spot you’d normally have a spare. Instead it includes fix-a-flat which can be put in a leaking tire so that it will hold air until you can get to a shop. Even if you have a spare, carrying a can of fix-a-flat and a small electric air compressor is a pretty good idea.

saftey essentials

Escape Devices

In your dash board, or center console you should tuck away a seatbelt knife. In the event you are involved in a serious accident, you may not be able to release your seatbelt normally and it may be necessary to break a window to escape the car. Doing so with your bare hands will make a bad day even worse so carry these simple tools that will allow you to escape a wrecked vehicle more easily. If everyone is ok after your accident, immediately buy a lottery ticket. We are fans of the Lifehammer which combines a hammer and seatbelt knife in one tool that can be easily mounted in your car.

money essentials

Beer Money

You may need to buy gas from someone other than a gas station if you run out. You may need to supply that beer money we mentioned above. Either way, keep some cash in your emergency kit NOT your wallet. You’ll spend what’s in your wallet but you’ll forget that cash stash is there until you need it. While not exactly a “winter essentials” item, beer will never go amiss to bribe a stranger when you’re in need!

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier is the head adventure junky for Subaru Adventure Team and part time outdoor adventure photographer. His first love is climbing of any kind but can also be spotted on mountain bike trails or working on building sea kayaks which he may or may not ever get to paddle.
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