The next important thing was the gas tank. In the wintertime, I’d always keep a minimum of half a tank of gas. That way, if I did get stuck somewhere, I could use the engine for heat. Used cautiously, running the engine only in short bursts, that half a tank will last the night.
In addition to those two items, I’d put some things in the trunk, to help my car or the car of someone else who was stranded:
1. Sand – The extra weight of two bags of sand made a huge difference in traction. Of course, that was rear-wheel drive, so it’s not so important today. But if you drive a pickup truck, you’ll need to add some weight over the back wheels, where they are notoriously light.
2. Chains – If your state allows chains, get some. Just be sure to take them off, if you get to dry pavement or even spotty drive pavement. Otherwise, they’ll break.
3. Shovel – You never know when you might have to dig your own car out.
4. Tow strap – I prefer the nylon straps to a chain, but to each his own.
5. Basic tools – For emergency repairs.
6. Spare battery – Batteries are one of the things that go out easily in the cold. I’d carry a spare, as crazy as that might sound. Today, I’d use a lithium ion backup battery pack, such as a http://www.muehlenfreunde.ch/site.php/management-of-natural-resource-in-the-us/.
I also carried the following:
7. Plastic bags – To use as a makeshift toilet. You don’t want to have to go outside for that. Just do it in the bag and set it outside.
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8. High energy food – High calorie food bars will help your body produce heat.
9. Water – The trick here is keeping it from freezing. I kept mine in the passenger compartment.
10. Flashlight — With extra batteries.
11. Rope – Avoid getting out of the car. But if you have to go outside for some reason, tie one end of the rope to the steering wheel and the other to your wrist. That way, you can always find your way back, even in whiteout conditions.
12. Blankets – A couple of wool blankets makes a world of difference. I carried a couple of old Army blankets. Wool is the only material that maintains some of its insulating value even when wet.
13. Gloves, hats and scarves – An extra set you won’t wear anywhere else.
14. Space blankets, duct tape, candles and matches – More on that in a moment.
Additionally, I carried a full survival kit. Since I didn’t have to carry it on my body, I carried a rather robust one, more along the lines of a bug-out bag. That way, I had enough with me to use, in case I was actually caught in a situation where I would have to walk out. That never happened, but there were places in the mountains where my car might not have been seen if I went off the road.
As part of that kit, I had a portable stove and fuel. That allowed me to prepare warm drinks. You don’t want to eat snow for water, as your body has to warm it. Better to melt that snow and drink hot water, which will add heat to your body, rather than take it away.
Preparing For My Survival
Even with the best driving practices and a properly equipped vehicle, you still might end up off the road in a ditch somewhere. I remember once when the snow had drifted up over the road and I couldn’t get through. So I turned around. But by then the snow had drifted up a couple hundred yards behind me, as well. I was trapped on the road until the next day, even though I had done everything right.
Whether you’re off the road in a snow bank or sitting on the road as I was, you want to stay with your car. While a car isn’t the best shelter there is, it will protect you from the snow, wind and to some extent from the cold. When you’re trapped, you can help it to keep you warm by improving its ability to hold in heat. You’ll need:
- At least three space blankets.
- Something to cut them.
- A roll of duct tape or other strong tape that will stick in cold weather.
- Some large candles.
Line the inside of the passenger compartment with the space blankets. If you’re alone or just a couple, you can line just the front seat, allowing one of the space blankets to form a curtain behind the seat. So, you’d use one for the dash, down to your feet; one for the roof and curtain behind you; and cut one in half to cover the doors. If you have a family, just extend to include the back seat, as well; but you’ll need a couple more blankets to do that. Fortunately, they’re cheap.
What else do you carry in your car during winter? Share your tips in the section below:
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