Everyone knows better, you know better, than to go outside in poor conditions and not be prepared for a bad situation to occur. There is no worse time of year in our area of the world for such things than winter time travel. The simple reason for this is that each of us have priorities of needs to stay alive. It doesn’t matter if you are seasoned Navy SEAL or a suburban soccer mom, under certain conditions it is easy to succumb to the elements under stress and duress.
However, a little knowledge of these priorities and a few inexpensive items for a winter-time car survival kit. Can go a long way to making sure you stay safe should some sort of emergency occur. The first thing to recognize is that we all have priorities when it comes to staying alive. Let’s take a look at what our priorities should be in a survival situation. When I say priorities I am referring to our needs and not our wants and or comfort. In order those are: personal safety, maintenance of core body temp, hydration, and then energy (food). We are going to take a look at these individually and then provide you with a checklist at the end. We have also made a video to show you these items and some important consideration on how to safely and easily just leave it in your car so you always have it.
For a winter time car kit we can assume that we have either had a mechanical issue, misdirection, or had some sort of wreck. In the first two the issue may be resolved with some simple information. That is to let others know where you are going and when you expect to return. This is so simple yet so misunderstood. In our desire to be independent, self-reliant individuals we often move out on our own without regard to other’s opinions of such things. We are entirely secure in the thought that if something should happen, that our phones can get us out of trouble. However, please know that you should never be dependent on anything that uses batteries. There is also that issue of having no signal. If you were to slide off the road in white out conditions and have no cell coverage it could easily mean trouble. If someone knows you should have been home at a certain time, and you are not, then they can get help on the way. Remember our connection between a Navy SEAL and a soccer mom? You can be guaranteed that military operators regularly “check-in” with their command whenever possible. If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for the rest of us to check in with someone as well.
Let’s all consider our personal safety from an injury perspective. What if the wreck you just had is serious enough that you or passengers in the car are injured? By all means you should have a first aid kit in your car. That first aid kit should include more than hand sanitizer and adhesive strip bandages too. It should contain some rolled-up and 4X4 gauze, duct tape, and triangular bandages (or similar) for non-life threatening injuries. You should also get training on and have available, a tourniquet, Israeli bandage, an airway opening device, chest seal, nasopharyngeal airway, and chest decompression needle. These latter pieces definitely require a good first aid class to use them appropriately.
You should also include an extrication device that will help you get your seatbelt off and break a window. Once such device easily fits on your key chain, so that it remains close to arms reach should you need it.
As for basic maintenance that will help you. Always have jumper cables or and some fix-a-flat. Both of these are easy to use and can get you back on the road quickly. If you have never changed a flat then you must do that before you actually need to do it.
Another important item to have for personal safety is a signaling device.
Maintenance of Core Body Temp
These situations rarely occur when we are heading out with all our best gear and our best outdoor clothes on. They often occur right in the middle of everyday life when you least expect it. This means you may have on your business attire or gym clothes or similar. Guys and gals listen to me on this. You look good in those nice shoes and heels and the socks or hose that go with them. However when a situation arises you are going to want to have better footwear and clothes on. If you are “just going to the gym” like a lot of us do, then make sure your car kit always has in it an extra set of winter appropriate clothing, including a coat, jacket, or vest. Also put in a blanket for each pair in the car. Two people can easily share a blanket and each other’s body warmth. We all know cotton is a poor insulator, so make sure your blanket is wool, fleece or poly pro. Your strategy should be to stay in your car if at all possible, it will provide you with a good shelter from the elements until help can arrive. Again, if you have told someone when you expect to arrive, and you don’t, they will get help on the way.
You should also include a tarp or poncho should you need to get out of the vehicle to help reduce air on your body and to build a shelter outside. Please stay close to your car as it will be easier to see and find than you on your own.
Hand/Body Warmers are very nice addition that do not take up much space and provide warmth if huddled under a blanket. Another one is candles. They will surprisingly put off a fair amount of heat in a small space such as a vehicle and are not detrimental to your health in the way that fossil fuels are. You should also include a fire starting kit to include a lighter, ferro rod, and fire starting cubes of some sort. These can be used outside the vehicle should you need to leave it.
Water is an incredible resource that we take for granted. Trying to find water that is clean or to clean it yourself is difficult under the stress of a situation similar to what we are working through. You should always have bottled water in your car. Whether that is simply a few plastic bottles or some you filled yourself is of no matter. Just make sure you have some available. This is one of those items you should definitely ration if an event occurs.
You can also include a water decontamination device (water filter) of some sort. There are a range of these to fit your budget and your short term needs. For this particular kit please consider you are needing something that will take of your needs on and expedition. Please keep in mind that to stay healthy you should be drinking at least ½ gallon of water each day. Being hydrated before an event occurs is as important as carrying water with you.
Having food is last on your list of needs. However your stomach and mind will let you know that it thinks it should be first. Strategy wise, ration food sparingly and make sure you have nutrient dense food. For our needs here I would recommend any number of the carbohydrate-laden trail bars or similar. Do not carry jerky or similar meats. Meat protein takes about 50% of the calories in the food simply to digest it. Get something that will give you energy, packs up small, and can be eaten in any weather condition. For example, certain bars are nearly impossible to eat when they are frozen without risking a chipped tooth or utilizing hacksaw.
There are a few other simple items that you should have in your kit. These are not necessary for you to stay alive but they definitely make it easier for you to do a broad range of things. Duct tape, bandana, and paracord are your and MacGyver’s best friend. With a bit of improvising you can take those and the other items in that kit and build a shelter, a litter, a wind break, sun break and so much more. You should also make the bandana a bright color so you can tie it on the top of your car and use it to signal to others you are there. Road flares are another nice addition for the obvious use as a signaling device as well as to start a fire in poor conditions outside the car. Last but certainly not least, have in your car a knife to do what knives do. Just use it safely so you do not make a bad situation worse by cutting yourself.
To summarize please note I spent a fair amount of time on personal safety and core body temp. Our research indicates that the vast majority (nearly 90%) of victims of tragedy involving a vehicle and poor conditions could have been resolved by following the considerations and the kit items presented in those first two area of priority. However, if a situation goes long, these others items are going to be needed as well.
What am I missing? You may have some other suggestions that fit the geographical area specifically or similar. Please share those in the comments below. We enjoy hearing from our followers. At Nature Reliance School, we always encourage everyone to “Come on, join in, and let’s learn together!”
- Where/When you are going to others
- Cell phone
- Jumper Cables
- First Aid Kit (Knowledge to use it)
- Winter Clothes
- Hand warmers
- Fire starting Kit
- Bottled Water
- Nested Cup
- Water Filter
- Energy Bars
- Duct Tape
- Road Flares
About the Author
Craig Caudill is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Nature Reliance School. He leads wilderness/urban survival, land navigation, scout/tracking, defensive tactics classes and more for private, public and agency sponsored events on the federal, state and local level. He has an incredibly active online school with students worldwide in which he teaches many of these same skills as well. He has been interviewed numerous times for TV programs on the topics of survival and preparedness. He actively writes for several blog sites, magazines, as well as does free instructional videos for two youtube channels. Craig also has advanced rank in both Judo and Aikido and continues to teach and train after 20+ years of training in each and is also an avid student of all things gun. Forever a student, Craig always attempts to find ways to help others to develop their mindset and critical thinking skills so they can think on their own and for themselves.