Winter stuff for your car, your house, and you

yaktrax on a boot

Martin on YakTrax: "These ingenious little cheap accessories saved my ass a few times walking around the city on icy sidewalks..."

By Martin Daley

Winter will be here soon, whether you like it or not. Rather than be a passive complainer, make to the choice to grab winter before it grabs you. Over the next few weeks we'll have a series of posts about how to make winter better/easier/more fun. You should own winter, not the other way around.

First up: Martin's list of items you should have for your car, house, and person. He is both a hardy Northeasterner and the kind of guy who stops to help people get their cars unstuck from the snow. Now is a good time to get these things organized -- before you actually need them.

For the car

Snow tires
I can't stress this enough. C'mon people -- we live in one of the snowiest cities in America. Snow tires help you get going easier, stop better, and are more responsive in the elements than their "all season" counterparts. If you have a 4WD or AWD car, get four of them. If you have a FWD or RWD car, get them mounted on your driving wheels. I suggest getting them mounted to cheap steel wheels to get them on easily in November, and off easier in March. If you can't find a cheap set of steel wheels for your car on Craigslist, try the Tire Rack.

Cat litter
Yes, cat litter. Cheaper the better. Are you slipping and sliding trying to get out of your parking spot? Scatter these clay pellets in the path and immediately behind your drive wheels to add traction. Get the plastic bin of litter, and keep it in your trunk during the winter.

A window scraper/brush
You know the cheap balsa wood ones they sell for a $1 at the Dollar Store? Don't buy those. Invest in a good one.

Window washer fluid
Keep an extra bottle handy (you should have already known this).

Emergency items
Jumper cables, a blanket, AAA, a flashlight -- you should have these anyway, but winter means it's more important to have 'em.

Before we jump into this next list lets just say, if you're living in an area that has access to transit, the "car" items above may be a little superfluous. Just get yourself a $55 daily swiper from CDTA and get unlimited rides Monday-Friday. Some employers pay for the swiper for you (Albany Med and St. Rose, for example). And many will allow you to buy this pretax. You don't have to shovel out the bus and it doesn't get stuck very often. There's also no need to let it warm up, worry about sliding into the car in front of you, or constantly washing off the salt. Instead spending time stressed with road rage and risking your life and others' in the wintry slop, use that time on the bus to read the All Over Albany, update your planner, or stalk people on Facebook. Leave the car at home as much as you can.

For people

The list below will help make your time outside a lot more pleasant.

Good winter boots
I'm talking ugly, purpose built, waterproof take-no-prisoners boots. I see so many miserable people plodding along in wet sneakers or crappy boots. Think more like Gore-tex. Get over to Eastern Mountain Sports, fork over a little extra cash, get some legit footwear.

These ingenious little cheap accessories saved my ass a few times walking around the city on icy sidewalks and over slippery snowbanks. They're cheap (>$20), they never wear out, and they're easy to use. You'll thank me.

You may think I'm going a little overboard, but if you spend a lot of time walking in the wet stuff, you'll understand why this waterproofing spray is a god-send. Google trench foot.

A 3-in-1 coat
Yeah, so these can be a bit pricey, but after shelling out a little extra dough two winters ago to buy one, I'm warmer, more stylish, and better prepared for a quick change of weather.

Sports equipment
Downhill skis, cross country skis, ice skates, and/or snowshoes (for example)- something to get you out of the house and active. It will help beat the winter blues and keep you looking forward to snow. Don't forget, secondhand is best! The Adirondack Mountain Club not only has gear swaps and sales, but outings, too.

A light box
Studies have shown seasonal affective disorder (SAD), driven by the lack of sunlight and exercise in the winter months, can affect the lives of nearly 10 percent of us Northeasterners. A co-worker of mine switches on a light box during breakfast and he swears by it. Sure, it's not for everyone, but if you find yourself suffering from the winter blues, perhaps a little "sunlight" will do the trick.

Stuff for the house

A good shovel
I know, I know, sounds silly right? But if you want to move snow effectively, without hurting yourself, do your back a favor and get one with a bent steel handle. Don't buy any shovel that doesn't have a metal edge. Plastic ones fail in hard snow and you'll wind up breaking it trying to cut through.

Rock salt
Yep, need that.

Roof rake
Not for everyone, but if you're a homeowner and if your roof is prone to trapping snow, this contraption could spare you from potential disaster.

This list can appear a little daunting, sure. But not all of it pertains to everyone out there and by investing in some things, you may not need the others.

If you plan on living in the Northeast and you want to prepare your future self to ward off winter dangers, start getting this survival kit assembled now.

Martin has a great -- and very appropriate -- username on Twitter: daleyplanit.


I cannot say how many times cat litter has un-stuck my car. Just buy a bucket and stick it in the trunk!

I also swear by Canadian Formula De-Icer spray -- it makes clearing the windows on my car take about 2 minutes instead of 15!

For people, Decent Gloves! Seriously. Your little extremities need them!

ajw93 - Where does one purchase this Canadian Formula De-Icer? Intriguing stuff, and safer for application on all materials than its Prestone corollary (the one with the built-in ice scraper). Thanks.

That list is short a shovel -- get one for your car, too, a little one. I've been grateful for it many a time, when I got out of work to find a foot or more of snow surrounding my car, penning me in.

Scarf and/or face warmer! Even if the rest of your body is snuggly warm, you're gonna want something to cover your face. Wind can be wicked!

Actually we do not "live in one of the snowiest cities in America." But who cares about facts:

For the car (especially if you have an SUV or other high roofed vehicle), get and carry a long handled push broom with nylon bristles. It makes cleaning snow off the entire vehicle a snap.

This stuff covers all exposed skin - lips, hands, etc. They have a wonderful cayenne/lemon grass muscle balm that is great for cold weather warming and makes you smell like a Thai restaurant!

@R - I'm not sure; I got it from my mom's husband, who's a general contractor. Upon further inspection, I see that we have a dearth of local distributors...perhaps we can order an AOA case of the stuff!

@Elvin, I don't think that was the intended focal point for the post.

Anyway, a bonus to keeping a bag of cat litter in your trunk-- extra weight to help on slippery roads. Not as relevant in these days of all wheel drive vehicles, but it can't hurt.

@Elvin - Well, depends on your definition of "snowiest", but by my count, out of the 283 cities on that list you linked to, there are 39 with annual snowfall totals higher than Albany's. 40th sounds plenty snowy to me...

Ok, we understand. But does this picture have to be posted on a 70 degree day?
The real party pooper!

Let me enjoy the autumn while I can. Haven't finished planting tulips yet.

@elvin Just to clarify I wrote "CITIES" The spreadsheet you refer to goes well beyond (Mt. Washington, really?)

But who cares about reading comprehension.

I'd like some of those shoe/boot bottoms for christmas! HINT HINT!

Well looks very nice those shoes. I love such ones in the winter months !

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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