With the winter recreation season in full swing, Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service officials want to remind visitors to be well prepared. By taking the time to plan for whatever adventure lies ahead–downhill skiing, snowshoeing, taking a scenic coastal drive or something else–you’ll be safer and have a better time.
Be ready to navigate changing situations by bringing the “10 essentials,” packing a winter car kit and checking road and weather conditions before leaving home. Those essentials include appropriate footwear, a printed map (cell phone coverage can be spotty in certain areas), extra food (power bars, jerky and chocolate are a few good options), extra water, extra clothing (layers of non-cotton clothes give the most options to regulate your temperature if the weather shifts), emergency items (flashlight, extra batteries, whistle, matches), first aid kit, multi-tool or knife, backpack and sun protection (yep, even in the winter).
Other items to consider are a compass, a signaling device (foil, pocket mirror), prescriptions, radio with extra batteries, space blanket or piece of plastic (to use for warmth or shelter) and trash bag (can be used as a poncho).
Your winter car kit should include a shovel, blankets and tire chains. Make sure that the chains fit the vehicle and that you are familiar with how to put them on. Remember, you can only find a YouTube video instructing you how to put them on if you have cell phone coverage.
Since gas stations can be few and far between in some areas, start with a full tank of gas and stop frequently for fill ups; keep your tank at least half full as you travel.
Especially if you’re going to a place that you haven’t been before, research how to get to a specific location, don’t rely on GPS alone. Not only may cell phone coverage be spotty, “navigation apps may take you on unmaintained roads in the winter,” says David Ballenger, BLM Oregon-Washington recreation lead. “Call ahead if you’re unfamiliar with road conditions and always carry a paper map since many areas don’t have cell reception.” Remember that travel conditions can vary between your house and your destination. It may be warm close to home but that could change quickly as you venture out.
Besides making sure you have all the gear and supplies you need, another safety step is to let someone who isn’t traveling with you know where you’re going and when you expect to return. Also make sure to park only in authorized areas when you reach your destination. Illegally parked vehicles may block emergency vehicle access and interfere with snow removal.
Finally, be an active part of making the outdoors safe, accessible and welcoming for all identities and abilities. Everyone deserves to experience a winter wonderland.