Get winter ready: Don’t forget the dog food

Adventure pros have an unusual piece of advice for motorists: pack a can of dog food and a can opener in your emergency kit — even if you don’t have a dog.

That’s because while a grumbling tummy may prompt you to idly snack on a granola bar or two, the only way you’re going to consider going for the calories and water content in that can of dog food will be if you really need it.

And let’s hope you don’t ever need it. But since just about any winter drive can turn into an adventure, it’s advice I’ve taken to heart. So there, nestled between my tin can and little tea light candles, is a big ol’ can of meat mush… just in case.

Last January, an historic winter storm left drivers stranded on roadways throughout the Greater Toronto area. The chaos was so severe that Toronto police temporarily shut down the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. Some drivers were left stranded for more than eight hours. A hobbyist drone pilot captured the scene:

And while your Subaru all-wheel drive and winter tires mean you may have better agility in tough conditions than the average driver, sometimes you’re at the mercy of somebody else: a jack-knifed tractor trailer closes the highway for everybody.

Public Safety Canada, in cooperation with Transport Canada, recommends motorists carry with them a winter safety and emergency kit containing the following:

  • Non-perishable food, such as energy bars
  • Water in plastic bottles that won’t break if the water freezes (replace every six months)
  • Blanket
  • Extra clothing and shoes or boots
  • First aid kit with seatbelt cutter
  • Small shovel, scraper, and snowbrush
  • Candle in a deep can and matches (for heat and light with the engine off)
  • Wind‑up flashlight
  • Whistle—in case you need to attract attention
  • Roadmaps – in case your cellphone goes out
  • Sand, salt, or cat litter (non-clumping)
  • Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid
  • Tow rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Warning light or road flares

And what do you do if you get stuck during a storm? Experts advise you to stay in your vehicle and plan to run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat (clear snow from the exhaust pipe and crack a window first, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning). Also, maximize your visibility to rescuers by turning on the dome light at night when running the engine, tying some brightly colored cloth to the exterior of your car and, when the snow stops falling, opening your hood.