Sublime got it right when they sang “summertime and the livin’ is easy,” but just because the air freezes doesn’t mean the gigs do, too. Many bands around the world play shows right through the winter season, which means dealing with icy roads, snow storms and cold gear. As always, it’s important to be ever vigilant while you are on the road, but when the temperature drops to below freezing there are a few extra things you should keep in mind:
There’s no better way to detune a guitar than climate changes. Be sure to bring whatever gear you can inside during show times and overnights. If you have to leave stuff in the van, make sure it’s well wrapped in blankets and turn the heat on whenever possible.
You should never hit the road without being absolutely certain that your van and trailer are in proper shape. During the winter, however, long distance driving takes a bit of extra preparation. Make sure your tires are at the right pressure and the anti-freeze is topped off—Southern bands beware: Water instead of anti-freeze equals disaster! Also, you’ll want to pick up a good winter roadside emergency kit.
Check the weather
Make sure you know what the weather is like in the city you are headed toward and everywhere in between. That way you’ll know what to expect and won’t get caught with your pants down in the middle of a whiteout.
As you’ll hear from some pros below, be flexible with your schedule. Leave time for adjustments. If you get caught in a storm pull over and find somewhere to stop for the night.
We reached out to some heavily touring Canadian bands—hey, they don’t call it the Great White North for nothing—to hear their best advice on winter gigging:
Kyle Fisher of the Dirty Nil
Touring in the winter, especially in Canada, is no joke. Definitely do not try and be a hero on the road. If you’re tired or if you're in a snowstorm, call it. We got caught in a storm last February in Ohio. I was following the Single Mothers’ van to a hotel and it got so bad I almost couldn't see them anymore. That was the scariest drive for me. I was worried I was going to run off the road. Take your time and be fully alert. Be especially careful if you’re out in British Columbia or somewhere like the Rockies. That's probably the most dangerous stretch of road if there's a storm. We've heard a few too many horror stories. Also make sure you bring appropriate clothes, like gloves and everything—Hot Paws hand warmers are a good idea, too. If you do break down you might get caught in the cold longer than you expected. Be safe out there.
Chris Thaung of Like Pacific
I would say my best advice for winter, just like touring any other time of the year, would be to not rush while traveling. The slightest thing can sometimes cause the biggest troubles; add in the slippery road conditions and you could have some serious damage. Take your time. If you need to pull over and chill for minute then do it—it's not worth the risk.
Adam Clarke of Rarity
SNOW TIRES! You need to pack lightly as well. The van will get wet and the last thing you need is to step on everything with your wet shoes.
Heed our advice and your winter touring shall be very merry.