ATV Riding Safety: Winter
January 4, 2018
Winter doesn’t mean ATV riding is over for the season. But before you tear off into the snow, read our winter preparation guide From packing the right gear to knowing about cold-weather health threats, ride prepared with knowledge and the right tools.
Having the right gear and tools decreases the odds of danger. We recommend a few things: a First-Aid Kit, a Survival Kit, and a Tool Kit.
- Hot hands, Hot Hand's Insole Foot Warmers, or other portable heat pack device. We champion the foot warmers because cold feet are the worst.
- Gauze and bandages
- Disinfectant. Spray on kind is easiest to administer in cold weather conditions provided it doesn't freeze
- Space blanket. In the event something happens or you get stranded, warmth is crucial
- Non-perishable food (trail mix, protein bars, MREs)
- Multi-tool (Swiss Army knife, etc)
- Paracord (multi-use applicable) and tarp for convertible shelter if needed
- Beacon and probe if in an area where avalanche happens
- Waterproof material. Choose a material with grip as moisture will accumulate on the seat as you ride. You don't want to slip around!
- Moisture-wicking clothing. Trapping moisture close to the skin increases your chances of hypothermia. Stay dry under all those layers!
- Gloves with warm inner lining. If you want to get really fancy, heated gloves sound like the best way to ride
- Helmets are a must but consider a face mask under for added warmth and protection
- Shoes with traction. Insulated boots with good flexibility are the best choice
- Eye protection, preferably with tinting for the sun; glint and glare off white snow can impair eyesight
Know the dangers you face. Winter is not the time to go for an adventure unprepared. Check the terrain. Is avalanche a possibility? Pack a beacon and probe. Is there reception in the area? Take a GPS instead of relying on your phone. Do snowmobiles ride there? Drive with caution. What’s the ice status like? Local fish and game offices will have lake freeze information, but it's a good idea to check satellite image maps of the area and contact DNR, too.
What’s the weather forecast? Make sure a big storm isn’t lurking, and delay trips if inclement weather is likely. Getting stranded in a snowstorm is not good for anyone. Also, how’s your knowledge of frostbite and hypothermia? You’ll want to brush up, and we’ve got the information right here.
Outfit Your ATV
- Plow for chores, track kits for footprint improvement, sport atvs can have snow skis
- Lift kit for winter job but also better performance in the snow, less bogged down, and more ground clearance
- Storage container, like a luggage rack, etc. Store your kits in here!
Midwest Traction stocks a variety of ATV tires, but as it's winter, you'll want to outfit your ATV with some snow tires. Here are a few to get you started:
- Kenda Bear Claw ATV tire is a great all around tire that will get you through mud, snow, rocks, and hard pack terrain
- Maxxis Snow Beast ATV tire features wide spaces between the lugs that help clean snow while you drive wide spaces between lugs for snow cleaning
- AMS Swamp Fox features a deeper tread with self-cleaning capabilities
Before You Go
- Know the area you’ll be riding. Check satellite view maps and let someone know where you’ll be with rough estimates of when they can expect you
- Check your tire pressure, brakes, air filter, and fuel
- You’ll want to inflate your tires a bit higher than normal. Not only do cold temps cause pressure to drop, but tires perform better on snow when inflated to a higher psi. Why? Lower psi’s provide more contact with the ground. This is great for dry, hard terrain. More contact on snow, however, decreases traction. Instead, higher inflated tires center the weight over the centerline, which provides better steering and fuel economy
- Check your ATV battery and make sure it’s a full charge. Check your phone battery, too. We recommend carrying a portable phone battery pack, just in case.
- If you have a winch: Check for ice. If you didn’t check for moisture after your last ride, it’s possible it froze to your winch line. This impairs the performance of your ATV accessory, so check for functionality before you’re in the elements. You’ll want it to work if you get stuck
- Stay on the trail. Avoid ice and lakes, and pack ATV tire chains. Avoid getting wet, and if stranded, prioritize seeking shelter and warmth. Remember: 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food
And most importantly: do not ride alone.
Socialize With Us
Stay safe, enjoy your winter ride, and tell us about your favorite ATV snow travels on social media!