Winter driving And exploring

  • Hi Guest, you may choose a LIGHT or DARK theme that works best for you with the "Style Chooser" button at the bottom left on this page!

Yngstr

Rank 0

Contributor I

Winter is my favorite time to go exploring! Snow and ice bring a solitude and challenge that are not faced any other time of year. With the right mindset and a few extra pieces, winter exploring and camping can become some of your most memorable exeperiences.
Chaining up and slowing down allow us to take in beauty that a blanket of fresh snow provides.
To stay safe in winter weather, you should have a few extra things with you especially if you travel alone as I do.
Bring along agood size piece of cardboard, or an old insulite foam sleeping pad for chaining up. Some good work gloves- waterproof and insulated. Your hands will be in snow and the gloves will be wet. Industrial chemical gloves are best for winter. An old ski or trekking pole with the basket at the bottom removed for probing the depth of snow and providing stability to you when you need to walk ahead and check the trail conditions before continuing. Add a good full size snow shovel to your kit. Regular shovels are nice, but don't move much volume when you are stuck. Also an extra blanket and full set of extra clothes for when you get wet. A few tea lights (candles) should also be tossed in your kit. A single tea light/candle lit in your car (with the window cracked for fresh air) can provide 10-20° of heat if your engine isn't running. I have used candles in my rigs while in North Dakota blizzards at -60° and had a cab temp of +29° from just two candles. An external thermometer is quite handy to let you know when ice conditions exist. With a light breeze and cold temps recently, you can have black ice form at 37°. With a stiff wind, you may find ice at 41°
Snow chains and a rubber bungee strap for each chain. Regular chains work just fine for most of what we do. Ice chains may be something you want to consider for the trail but should not be needed on pavement to get to your trailhead. There are plenty of videos online to show you how to install them. I lay the chain over the top of the tire, cams to the outside, j hooks at the front, tucking the downhill end of the chain under the tire. Do this for all tires being chained up. Then roll downhill letting gravity help you until the tire is just on top of the chains. Get that piece of cardboard or insulite pad out, lay it down so you don't get soaked and hook the inside chain up first, then hook the oustide up. Get them as tight as you can. Use the bungees on the outside rail of the chain to take up any slack that might be present. If the chains are too loose, the bungees should help to pull the chain off the tire instead of allowing it to get wrapped around your axle. Chains can be used on pavemet to get to your trail, on the trail and even in mud for extra traction.
When you are chained up, 30-35mph is the speed limit. No faster. Go faster and you'll throw the chains off and start doing damage to the bodywork of your vehicle!
The most important feature of chains is the traction they provide for braking. Yes, they help you go forward too, but they allow you to stop first and foremost. Just as with not overdriving your headlights, don't overdrive your chains or the vehicles ability to stop!
Lighting. I have LED headlights on my rig for work. They're great in normal weather. Add some snow and ice and within 4-5miles, they are covered in a thick layer of ice and lose 50% or more of their effectiveness. Your LED lights will do the same. 25 years of driving in bad weather (normally heading into blizzards on purpose for work) have shown me a good set of incandecsant lamps in a yellow color will give you the light you need. Snow reflects every bit of light on it so you don't need megawattage lamps. I run a set of PIAA 540's in the ion crystal lens on both my work truck and personal truck. The color provides contrast on the surface of the snow (which white light doesn't do well) , and more importantly, the heat from the bulbs keeps them ice free and shining brightly through the worst storms you can imagine. Make sure to aim them low so you don't blind yourself with reflected light!

Driving tips. Slow down. No more than 35mph if you are chained up. Learn to read the road surface. Crack your window, turn the radio down or off so you can listen. When driving on snow covered dirt or pavement, listen to your tires. Quiet tires mean you're on snow or ice.
When you're driving through town, practice listening and looking . Look and listen to the tires of oncoming trafffic. If the outside temps are at 37° or below, the road looks wet but the tires of oncoming vehicles are dry- you're on ice. Same conditions, listening to your tires, if the road looks wet but you don't hear water from your tires or see any spray while looking in your mirrors, you're on ice.
Ice isn't a bad thing. When you drop below 15°, it actually start to get stickier giving you a bit of unexpected traction. Not much but a little.
Again, these tips for determining whether you're on ice or not work on both pavement and dirt. When in doubt, chainup. Chains are cheap insurance to keep your vehicle on the road and out of the ditch. With practice, you can toss a set of chains on in about 5-7 minutes. Some vehicles have enough room that you can use them on your steer tires as well- check amd double check at home and in your manual before doing this.

Going off road. Leave a route plan with someone staying back at home. Include gps coordinates if possible. Have regular checkin times. You might consider carrying a PLB like the SPOT system or something similar. Use gps in your vehicle. Snow can be VERY disorienting and missing turns and getting lost happen quickly and easily during storms. Bring a topo map and compass. Learn to use them both. Learn how to read the gps markings on the topo so you find your way of the gps loses signal. Turn on the track back feature of your gps so if it does lose the signal, youncantake the track log and work out a rough position of your location using the map and compass.
Try out your gear beforehand so you know how to use it when your hands are frozen and your mind is slow.
Finally, the most important thing to remeber when exploring in snow is to keep yourself dry. Hypothermia comes in quiet and swiftly. It makes you want to close your eyes and just take a nap. Where you previously felt cold and were shivering, you'll feel warm and won't be shivering. The brain starts shutting down and you start making poor decisions.
 
Last edited:

Brandon Harvey

Rank IV
Member

Enthusiast III

1,066
Oregon
Member #

7371

Maybe I missed it but I didn't see a point in here about letting someone know your plan:

1. Provide a set maps for them.
2. Let them know your check in points or approximate times. If you have On Spot or In Reach them that person should have access.
3. If you don't have On Spot or In Reach or some sort of remote GPS tracker and you are travelling alone then you should get the service.

Great post though.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Wired_

Yngstr

Rank 0

Contributor I

It's in there. Since I travel alone most of the time, it is second nature to leave my itinerary as well as contact numbers should I not check in or return when expected
 

Brandon Harvey

Rank IV
Member

Enthusiast III

1,066
Oregon
Member #

7371

It's in there. Since I travel alone most of the time, it is second nature to leave my itinerary as well as contact numbers should I not check in or return when expected
Okay I found it. Maybe some formating, and bulletting would help with the reading. Thanks for this.
 

Jeepney

Rank IV

Pathfinder I

1,212
MN
One thing i can add re driving. Check traction condition (whether onroad or off-road) by purposely accelerating and braking heavily to determine where the threshold is (where your ABS kick-in or with no ABS, when it locks up). A lot of times you may feel like you have decent traction but slick ice may just be underneath that snow. Of course, do that while there are no cars around you (i.e. don't brake check!!) . Doing so allows you to gauge a proper distance between cars in front or behind you. Unfortunately there is no answer to the other drivers around you, they will take your buffer zone by cutting right in front of you :D.
 

Yngstr

Rank 0

Contributor I

I have watched many car drivers try that and end up in the ditch before they can utter a sound. It is better to just slow down and keep moving. Just because the surface provides sufficient traction in one location doesn't mean the traction won't disappear in 50 yards.

I'm more about getting to where I want to be in one piece and less about getting there quickly

In my line of work we have a saying: safety takes time.

When I'm out exploring my watch is left at home. Once I'm on the trail, I'm where I'm supposed to be

I will take a look at the formatting suggestion. Good call
 

Kenny Wong

Rank 0

Traveler I

Great read. Thanks for the info.

I've got a pair of cables, but have been thinking if I need to pick up another set so I can chain up all four tires and not just the rear. Is just the rear enough for winter driving or should I opt for all four tires if clearance allows for it?
 

Yngstr

Rank 0

Contributor I

If you’re on pavement (like Donner Pass) chaining only the rear is normally enough. In off road situations, you might find it advantageous to chainthe front or both front and rear wheels.
Make sure to put the chains on in your driveway or friendly parkinglot in good weather and especially on the front wheels, check for clearance issues while turning. Make sure the end piece of the chains does not and cannot come in contact with the brake lines!

Also remeber to slow down when driving in snow and ice with or without chains. Many states have a basic speed law for snowy weather of 35mph. Faster than that and you could be ticketed!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Desert Runner

Desert Runner

Rank V
Member

Traveler III

2,327
Southern Nevada
First Name
Jerold
Last Name
F.
Member #

14991

Ham Callsign
/GMRS=WREA307
If you’re on pavement (like Donner Pass) chaining only the rear is normally enough. In off road situations, you might find it advantageous to chainthe front or both front and rear wheels.
Make sure to put the chains on in your driveway or friendly parkinglot in good weather and especially on the front wheels, check for clearance issues while turning. Make sure the end piece of the chains does not and cannot come in contact with the brake lines!

Also remeber to slow down when driving in snow and ice with or without chains. Many states have a basic speed law for snowy weather of 35mph. Faster than that and you could be ticketed!
One thing I have not seen mentioned, is to make sure you are putting them on correctly. Specifically that they ''ARE NOT' installed inside out. This is where the chain connections are to the inside, and not the correct way of the buckle openings to the outside. Doing it the incorrect way can and most likely will, damage your sidewalls. If you use V-Link chains, this is less likely to occur, as the V-Links face outward from the tread. But when your freezing cold, or in a crowded chain-up area, mistakes can happen. Take the time to double check your work before heading up the road.

If you have up-sized your tire size from OEM, the front clearance issue should be carefully checked. The rear has a little more forgiveness in most cases. As was mentioned in other postings,......CHECK.....before hitting the road.