Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you need to forgo camping. With the right knowledge and preparation, getting out into the snow can be an awesome experience and one not to be missed. We’ve put together our top tips and things to know before you head into the winter wilderness.
Carry & use snow chains
If you know you’re going to be exploring somewhere that is going to be snowing, packing snow chains is essential. While alpine locations generally dictate if and when chains are required, having them on hand and knowing how to use them is always better than getting stuck without. Snow chains wrap around your tyres and give added traction on slippery, icy roads. If you’ve never used snow chains before, it pays to do a test run at home before you go so you know exactly how to use them. Alternatively, many shops in the alpine regions including ski rentals and petrol stations will offer snow chain hire and fitting if you do get stuck.
Wherever you’re travelling, always make sure to check the state regulations on carrying snow chains. Often four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles can get further in the snow without having to fit chains but in Victoria, for example, you must always carry chains in alpine regions or risk a fine if caught without them. The best advice is to follow the road signs, and fit chains when advised.
Tip: Having a pair of thin gloves packed with your snow chains means you won’t be fighting frozen fingers while trying to put them on in the cold.
Have the right tyres
Driving in the snow is like driving on sand and requires the right type of tyre. You’ll need something with good traction and lots of tread, so we’d recommend an all-terrain tyre. While winter tyres exist, it can be an expensive upgrade if you’re only planning on driving through snow once or twice a year, so an all-terrain tyre is a good compromise.
When driving on snow an easy way to get more traction is to lower your tyre pressure. If it’s your first time driving on snow, it pays to experiment with different tyre pressures to find what works for you. A good place to start is 25psi, and then drop to 20 or 15psi and see what works best. It can also be good to experiment with using chains while out on the tracks to see if they give you more traction.
Tip: Driving through snow can make driving through mud seem easy as the quality of the snowy surface is often dependant on the quality of the ground below. The weather can also have an effect of the terrain as the snow can melt and make the ground below slushy. Having an air compressor on hand means you can adjust tyre pressure as you go to ensure you get the best driving experience.
Slow and steady wins the race
Driving slow and steady through the snow is the easiest way to stay on track. Leave lots of stopping distance in between you and the car in front and keep your steering, acceleration, and braking steady. Driving in the ruts or tracks of vehicles in front of you is another easy way to stay on course. This is due to the snow being compacted and firmer, hard packed tracks guide your wheels and mean you’re less likely to lose control.
Tip: If you get stuck in the snow, back up and try again. Each time you drive over the snow it compacts it further and improves the traction.
Carry recovery & emergency gear
When driving through any sort of different or risky terrain it pays to have recovery gear in case of an emergency. While in the snow though you shouldn’t limit your recovery kit to items to dig yourself out, you’ll also want to be prepared for the cold as well. Having warm, dry clothing, a blanket or two, water, and food is essential as you never know when the weather will change and how long you’ll be stuck for. Having a dual battery setup means you'll also have power in case of an emergency. The weather can change in the blink of an eye and the snow can be deadly.
Tip: Always drive in daylight hours when you can but in the case of minimum visibility or white-out conditions, bring your vehicle to a stop, keep the engine running and switch your hazard lights on. Driving on alpine roads requires a lot of concentration and it’s better to be patient and wait out bad conditions if possible rather than risk your safety and continue.
Have the right brake controller
If you’re planning to tow in the snow, having the right electric trailer brake controller is essential. Having a trailer brake controller that has a ‘user-controlled mode’ means you can adjust the braking strength to suit the conditions. It also means that you can hit the trailer brakes from the control knob. So, should you go into a slide, this manual override can pull you out of it. The Tow-Pro Elite has both a Proportional (inertia sensing) mode for highway driving as well as a User Controlled mode for your off road and snow adventures. This makes it the perfect trailer brake controller for use all year round.
Clear snow from your trailer before you go
While this might seem like an obvious tip, it is often forgotten or overlooked. By clearing most of the snow from your trailer you prevent a chunk of snow dropping onto your tow vehicle when you brake, which can inhibit visibility and potentially damage your vehicle. It also keeps other drivers safe by not shedding snow and ice onto the road as you drive.
Tip: While it can be difficult to get on top of tall caravans and trailers, having a step stool and broom on hand is an easy and inexpensive way to clear all those hard-to-reach places.
Winter is a beautiful season and can make for some awesome travel experiences you just have to be a little more prepared should you choose to head into snowy conditions. For more information on a versatile, all terrain electric trailer brake controller check out the Tow-Pro Elite. For more information on tyre pressures, have a look at out our tyre pressure basics blog before heading out on your next adventure.