Winter Survival in Your Vehicle
I can’t believe it is already February, Spring time is not far away! Here in Colorado we are getting pelted with a lot of snow and cold right now, and the snowiest months are still ahead. But there are still many outdoor activities to do during the winter; like snow shoeing, skiing, ice fishing, some hunting, and even fishing on any rivers that haven’t frozen over completely.
In the mountains, you can find yourself in a survival situation at any time, and exposure to the elements is the one survival factor that is the most deadly. From September through April in Colorado and other mountain states you can be subjected to a blizzard and freezing temperatures at any time. Winter survival extends beyond the mountains though, look at what happened in Atlanta this week! But the focus of this article is what to have in your vehicle in case you find yourself stranded in the wilderness.
The first rule is that if you are in a vehicle and get stranded in the wilderness, stay with your vehicle. There was a story last year about a family in the northwest that got stranded in their vehicle on a forest road in the mountains, and they stayed with their vehicle, except after three days the father thought he should leave and find help. He died in his attempt, but the rest of the family was rescued. There was another story this year about a family being stranded who stayed with their vehicle, and they all survived.
Your vehicle provides you an instant shelter from wind and moisture, and it is more likely to be seen by search and rescue teams. If you are completely stuck with no hope of getting out, you can use the materials of your vehicle to help you survive. For instance you can take oil from the engine and ignite the spare tire to create a thick, black smoke signal. Use can use the head light lens to start a fire from the sunlight. You can use the rear view mirror as a signaling device. There are many wires in a vehicle which could be used to construct tools or additional shelter.
I know it would be very difficult emotionally to cannibalize your vehicle, but your life is much more important, so you have to do what you have to do. But you can avoid that if you are prepared. As I say in any article having to do with survival, the key is preparedness. There are a certain amount of things that are always in my truck for emergencies, but in the winter I add a survival bag that contains additional items that I might need. Below is a list of what you should always carry in your vehicle if you venture out into the wilderness, or even a cross-country drive through desolate areas.
· 2 gallons of water
· 6’x8’ tarp
· 50’ of ¾” rope
· 100’ of paracord
· Tow strap
· 4 emergency solar blankets
· Basic Tool Kit – wrenches, sockets and driver, screw drivers, electrical tape, pliers
· Compact cooking kit with a small pot, stove and fuel, and eating utensils
· Freeze dried food packets, enough to last for three days
· Knives – A big camp knife, and a few smaller lock-back folding knives
· Folding Saw
· A lighter and tinder for a fire
· Survival Matches in a waterproof container
· Fishing kit that includes line, weights, hooks, lures and flies
· 2 Flashlights with extra batteries
· Battery powered lantern and extra batteries
· Candles – 6 short, thick candles
· Compass and map
· First Aide Kit
· Jumper Cables
· Tin foil – a complete roll in a box
· Toilet paper
· Trail marking tape
Other than the 2 gallons of water, all of this can fit into a small bag that you should keep in your vehicle at all times. You may not need most of it, but my philosophy is “It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” In my truck I also carry an axe and shovel, but those items take up more space than the survival bag containing the items listed above.
It is important to understand some basic signaling techniques in a situation such as this, you can read an article I wrote about signaling by clicking here. Below are a few other survival tips for this type of survival scenario:
As I always say, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to get there. Knowing that someone is looking for you is a comforting feeling.
Connect jumper cables to the car battery, then touch the other ends together to make spark for starting a fire.
Heat large rocks by the fire, then bring them into the vehicle for warmth.
If you have gas, start the car and run the heater only long enough to warm up the interior.
Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow, and never leave the car running while you
Pile snow up high around the vehicle to give it added insulation, but don’t completely cover it so it can be seen by search and rescue teams.
Break off the side mirrors and place them face up on the ground to create a constant signaling device.
Those are a few tips about survival if you are stranded in your vehicle. As always, preparedness and knowledge can make a survival situation bearable, and you will come out alive.