Here we were this past February, minding our own business amid a typically rainy climate here in Douglas County.

Then, it happened.

It snowed. A lot.

I’m going to refrain from calling it the aptly-named “Snowmagedden” since I’ve spent much of my life in Colorado, so the piles of excess snow on the roads we got weren’t that big of a deal to me. But watching people raid grocery stores, ransack fast-food places and pick up the pieces from the thousands of uprooted trees and snapped tree limbs across the area seemingly gave people a glimpse of what an apocalypse might look like.

Everyone, it seemed, was caught off guard.

Now? There’s no excuse.

Granted, there’s not much we can do about the uprooted trees and tree limbs — we can’t just up and replace the soil, terrain and vegetation in an area. We can, however, be prepared for another — ahem — snowstorm, weather you’re headed up Highway 138 to brave the elements in the tent or hunkering down in your home. Oh, and driving places is pretty much required here, so knowing how to do that correctly on snowpacked roads would be helpful.

You could spend a lot of money getting everything you’d need — I’m sure hundreds, or evem thouands, of people out there did — but there’s plenty of ways to prep yourself on the cheap. That’s kind of the personality of people here. If wallet gripping were an Olympic sport, we’d sweep the medal stand.

But like most things, higher price means higher quality. It’s just a matter of knowing what’s worth shelling out money for and making the right decisions.

Without further adieu:


SOME IDEAL ITEMS: Mummy sleeping bag; stainless steel water bottle with an insulator; foam sleeping pad; wool-based socks, gloves and hats; nutrient-dense or dehydrated snacks; shovel; hand warmers; fire-starting kindling and/or fire wood; Two- to four-person tent.

NECESSITIES: All of the above except for hand warmers.

KEY POINTS: Making sure of the material on the sleeping bag is a big key. Having a cotton sleeping bag in cold and wet conditions is a sure formula for being miserable at night. Having a waterproof mummy sleeping bag that covers the head but still provides breathability and a warmth rating of 10 degrees or lower is huge. This past week, they were listed for as low as $35.99 for a Imountek 4 bag at Walmart or as high as $299.99 for a Marmot Never Summer bag at Amazon. ... Having a sleeping pad helps with comfort not only with padding to sleep on, but warmth. You’re sleeping on a foam pad, which is substantially better than frozen dirt. ... if you don’t have an established fire pit to work with, it’s not a bad idea to grab some rocks in the area, and your shovel, and make one if you can. Having that encloses the fire to make it hotter and protects from wind gusts. ... Close quarters means more comfort in extreme cold, and keeping close at night is a good way to use what space you have to your advantage.

BONUS POINTS: If you’re camping in a place with heavy snowpack and you’re not claustrophobic, building a snow cave would be an option. Tents need flat, dry surfaces, and those can be hard to come by in snowdrift country. Plus, tents typically don’t stay very warm at night in a below-freezing environment. Snow caves, on the other hand, offer shelter from arctic winds and the opportunity to sleep at a comfy 32-degrees Fahrenheit. A quick tutorial on how to build on can be found here:


SOME IDEAL ITEMS: Tire chains; triangle reflectors; traction pads; all-weather tires; thermal blankets; wool-based socks, gloves and hats; nutrient-dense or dehydrated snacks; jumper cables; ice scraper/brush; shovel.

NECESSITIES: Triangle reflectors; traction pads; ice scraper; jumper cables.

KEY POINTS: All of the ideal items are great if you plan on making the trek to snow country, but not if you’re staying in the immediate vicinity of the Interstate 5 corridor. What many inexperienced winter drivers do in the snow is slam on the brakes, which almost always ends badly when roads are icy. Give yourself extra distance from other cars and drive slower during snowy and icy weather. And instead of slamming on the brakes, let gravity be your brakes. ... Be as proactive as possible when it comes to fluids. That’s obviously true for oil and anti-freeze, but it’s especially true for window-washer fluid. There’s no worse feeling than having your wipers spread mud across your windshield and not being able to see. Plus, bottles can cost as low as $2. A trip to DutchBos. costs more than that. ... It’s good to be prepped in case you’re in an awful situation and slide off a road. That’s where the blankets and snacks come in. Both mean warmth, with snacks like beef jerky giving you expendable protein to help generate body heat. ... Jumper cables are good to have in your car regardless of the weather, but older batteries have tendencies to lose their charge when it’s colder. That’s why it’s good to have one in case you’re in trouble and need a good samaritan or, likewise, want to help someone.

BONUS POINTS: If you feel like splurging for a worst-case scenario, there’s a product called the ARB Bushranger Inflatable X-Jack. It hooks to the car’s exhaust and inflates a large air compartment that can lift your car, or truck, out of a massive snowdrift. It truly would be splurging, though. Their price starts at around $250. ... Always put tire chains on where your drive train is. If you’re driving a front-wheel-drive vehicle, put them on the front. If you’r driving a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, put them on the back. All-wheel-drive vehicles need tire chains on the front. ... NEVER, for crying out loud, drive more than 35 miles per hour with tire chains or cables on your car or truck, and NEVER have them on your wheels to drive on dry, or even slushy, roads. Doing so can severely damage a vehicle’s tires or, even worse, its axle. Case in point: During last year’s snowstorm, while driving past Green near Robert’s Creek Road, I approached 50 mph on a wet, but not snowpacked, road. A red truck drove past me with chains on its back axle with sparks flying everywhere. If it hadn’t been snowing so hard at the time, that driver probably would have started a fire.


SOME IDEAL ITEMS: Flashlights; extra batteries; snow shovel, candles, bottled water; thermal blankets; wool-based socks, gloves and hats; nutrient-dense or dehydrated snacks; canned goods, power generator, sidewalk salt.

NECESSITIES: All of the above, although a generator isn’t a necessity unless power is a necessity for someone in the house.

KEY POINTS: A lot of us have been in pre-prep mode for the impending Cascadia earthquake that could, well, liquefy the ground if it happened during the rainy season. So for many here, asking to keep two weeks worth of food on hand at your house isn’t an unheard of, or unreasonable, request. And keeping around high-protein items — peanut butter, canned baked beans and jerky, for example — are pretty vital when you can’t leave your house. ... Having salt on hand can melt snow in a hurry and provide traction enough to move your car in the event you do need to leave the house. Kitty litter also works. ... Trust your neighbors. When things get tough, people tend to come together to share resources and supplies. But if you’re in a place where the nearest neighbor is a ways away, it’s best to have everything YOU need.

BONUS POINTS: When the power goes out, the house gets cold. Use what’s available to stay warm: Put towels in front of drafty windows, layer your clothing, pile on the blankets and close the doors of the rooms you’re not using. And if that’s not enough, well, there’s always the sub-zero sleeping bag.

Jon Mitchell, who was born and raised in Colorado and has been camped and driven in the snow since he was a teenager, is a page designer, photographer and writer for The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4214, or at Or follow him on Twitter @byJonMitchell.

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