You find yourself on a long hunting trip. You’ve been out in the woods all day and the common creature comforts of modern life seem farther away than that 12 point buck you’ve been tracking all season. You grow weary from the lack of luck and civilization is expecting you back. You chalk this trip up to an unlucky one and start heading back to your vehicle. The snow is falling and as the sun goes down, so does the temperature. Your heavy-duty boots are keeping your feet from freezing, so you aren’t that bad off. You reach your vehicle, climb in, and turn the key. “Oh crap.” Your vehicle doesn’t start. No problem you say to yourself. You pull out your trusty idevice and try to dial for assistance. No signal. Great, now you are stuck out here alone, miles from anyone, and it is getting colder. You were smart enough to tell people when and where you were going, so by morning help would surely be on the way. It is a five-mile hike back to the nearest public road, so you think your chances would be better in the daylight. In this situation, what kind of equipment do you need to ensure you don’t become an early morning popsicle? Really, if you aren’t going to be stuck out there for days, the list isn’t that long, but there are some things you need to make sure that you take care of.
The most important item to have on hand is actually the most common compound found on earth, good old H2O. Staying hydrated in cold weather is something that is often overlooked by people. When your body is properly hydrated, it does a better job of just about everything. You can think more clearly, you sleep better, and your body does a much better job of regulating its temperature. Just remember that if you are storing water in your car, keep in mind that water bottles have temperature and time limits where they are safe to drink. Unless you absolutely have to, don’t drink out of a plastic bottle that has been in the trunk of your car all summer. The plastics can actually melt into the water, causing you to get sick. During my time in the service, we airdropped supplies to several less fortunate parts of the world. I got used to seeing pallets of canned water. These cans had a 30+ year shelf life. I’m pretty sure these things would last longer, as long as you store them in a dry location.
First, keep warm. It is possible for the human body to die of exposure at temperatures as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I keep a warm sleeping bag in my trunk for all sorts of reasons. In case I end up stuck somewhere, whether just at a friends’ house after too many cocktails, or stuck out in the wilderness, it is always a good idea to have a high-quality sleeping bag at the ready. This will keep you from freezing to death, as well as offer a hood shield in case you find yourself caught in a hail storm. (I’ve actually done this, and I didn’t have to call my insurance agency like everyone else in the neighborhood.)
While it is a good idea to stay out of the wind and in your vehicle, building a fire would give you something to do, and provide some additional light and warmth. Always keep a fire-starting kit in your car. A magnesium starter will hold up better than anything. I used to be smoker, and guess what happens when you leave a cigarette lighter in your glove box all summer? Kaboom. I thought someone with road rage was shooting at me. Matches are fine to keep in a car, but they run out quickly and don’t work well when wet, so a magnesium starter gets my vote as the most effective way to give you that flame when you need it most. In addition, if you don’t have a starter, use your car battery to close a circuit and make a spark.
The human body can literally survive for weeks without food. While I am all about survival, there is no reason why I can’t be a little comfortable as well. I always keep a small amount of food in my vehicle for emergencies. Military MREs work well for survival situations, and they hold up well to the drastic temperature changes in your vehicle. I got used to eating these things in the service, and while they don’t taste like dinner at a high-end steakhouse, they fill you up with warm food that doesn’t taste horrible.
These are just a few items that everyone should keep with them at all times. Even if you aren’t the outdoorsman type, there are always news stories of vehicles getting lost in blizzards, or getting stuck in the mud. You never know when you will have to break out your survival gear to get through to the next day. Always remember to tell someone who you are leaving to go into the wilderness, and if you can help it, never ever go into the wilderness alone. Following these simple guidelines will help ensure that you are a survivor, rather than a statistic.