12 Winter Survival Items That Should Be In Your Car Right Now
I vividly remember growing up in Colorado. We lived in Lakewood, a suburb on the west side of Denver, which put us right up against the mountains.
We used to have a saying in Denver: “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes, it’ll change.” Anyone who has ever lived there understands what that means. The thing is, the weather in Denver comes over the mountains, and we’d get little warning of what was to come. I could literally leave my house in the morning with clear skies and find it raining or snowing by the time I got to work.
Maybe the weather can’t sneak up on you quite as quick where you live, but the truth is that the weather you leave behind when you walk in the door at work may be very different than when you walk out the door eight hours later.
With that in mind, it only makes sense to stay prepared for winter weather, as long as there’s a chance of it showing up. That means more than just dressing for cold weather; it means taking along what you need for winter survival items. A simple drive to a friend’s house out in the country could easily turn into a dangerous survival situation, especially if you end up spinning out on the ice and go off the road.
Survival in this case means surviving until someone can come rescue you, and we’re assuming you already have a cell phone. We’re not talking full-blown wilderness survival here. Call someone, stay with your car and allow them to come rescue you. That’s your best chance for survival.
Important winter survival items include:
A shovel gives you the chance to dig your way out of being stuck alongside the road. While that won’t always be possible, there are many situations you can get out of with a quick 15 minutes of digging. A simple folding shovel, like an entrenching tool, is enough as that doesn’t take up much space and is small enough to get under your vehicle.
2. Sand (or, something for traction)
I remember many a time when the only problem was getting enough traction to get up a slight hill or even out of a parking space. Keeping a bag of sand in the trunk, or something else to give you traction, may be all you need to get unstuck and back on your way. Of course, if your state allows studded snow tires, that will solve the problem for you as well.
3. Space/rescue blankets
With three or four of the cheap rescue blankets, you can create a cozy cocoon in your vehicle. Line the roof, windshield, rear window and doors with the blankets, taping them in place with duct tape. That will reflect the heat back to your body, rather than letting it all escape.
Rescue blankets don’t provide insulation, so you need something between you and them. They are heat reflectors. However, as a heat reflector, they are excellent and will help you to stay warm.
4. Candles & matches (or other heat source)
A couple of large candles will help keep the inside of your car warm, even if you can’t run the engine. Granted, it won’t be summer on the beach warm, but it should be enough to keep the ambient temperature above freezing, when used in conjunction with the rescue blankets. While that may not seem comfortable, it will help you survive.
In a pinch, those matches can be used to light your spare tire on fire. The rubber will burn, providing you with heat. It will also provide a lot of smoke, so keep it on the downwind side of the car. Let the air out of the tire before trying to light it so that it doesn’t explode.
If you’ve got an old blanket or two, one of the best places to store them is in your car. That will help keep you warm while you’re waiting to be rescued. And at other times, keeping a couple of blankets in the back seat can help keep the kids or any other passengers from complaining about the cold.
6. Hats and gloves
There are a lot of people who don’t like wearing hats or gloves in the wintertime, even when it is cold out. But those are important for keeping you warm. A quarter of your body’s blood supply goes to your head, so wearing a hat will go a long way toward keeping you warm. Keep some spares in the car, just in case you left home without them. Please note that I’m assuming that you always wear a coat when you leave your home in the wintertime.
7. Charger for your phone
Actually, I carry two: one for the cigarette lighter and a battery-powered one. That way, I can recharge no matter what, even if my car battery is dead. That call for help is important, but it’s not going to go through if your phone is dead.
8. A full tank of gas – even extra gas
Maybe this one seems a bit simple, but it’s amazing how many people run out of gas in the wintertime. You tend to use more in the winter, simply because of the time you spend waiting for all the other people who are driving slow or slipping on the ice.
But even more important than that is having that gas if you get stuck somewhere. As long as your engine is still running and your exhaust pipe is clear, you can run your engine to keep you warm. I’d recommend running it every 15 minutes, for about 10 minutes, to make your gas last as long as possible. That may not be enough to keep you really warm, but it will be enough to keep you from freezing.
9. Energy bars
Your body needs sugar to burn and turn into heat. Keeping yourself well-fed is an important part of keeping yourself warm. Don’t count on your body using fat reserves; those take time to convert to sugar. Some high-energy bars will give your body that extra burst of energy needed to help keep warm.
When eating these, take lots of time to chew them. Sugar begins being absorbed into the body at the mouth and carbohydrates are broken down into sugar by saliva. So, by chewing thoroughly, you’re getting some of that sugar into your bloodstream immediately, where it can start helping your body produce heat.
10. Plastic bags
In order to avoid having to go outside to go to the bathroom and expose yourself to the cold, keep several plastic bags in the car. You might want to keep some toilet paper, too. While it’s inconvenient to try and go in the car, at least it’s warmer than outside. Then, tie the bag closed, open the window or door slightly and put the bag outside.
11. Flashlight with extra batteries
A bright flashlight might make it possible for you to signal anyone who passes by on the road. Make sure you have spare batteries, as high intensity flashlights go through them rapidly.
12. Piece of rope
You’re best off if you don’t have to get out of your car. But you might need to get out for something, such as clearing the snow from your tailpipe. If you do and you fall in a blizzard, you might never find your way back to your car.
This problem is solved quite simply the same way that astronauts accomplish their space walks. Simply tether yourself to the car, each and every time you need to go out the door. Tie one end of the rope to the steering wheel and the other end around your wrist. That way, if you get lost in the snow, all you have to do is follow the rope back to the car.
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