Winter vehicle stuff – Pt. I

I’m fond of saying that if you wind up stranded in your vehicle in any climatic extreme, cold winter or hot desert summer, that you are better off staying with the vehicle than you are trekking off, ill-equipped, to get help. From what I’ve read in the news, I’d say that nine out of ten times staying with the vehicle is the smart choice. I’ve posted plenty of news reports about people who wandered off ‘to get help’ and were never seen alive again. But the key to staying with the vehicle and surviving is to have a certain base level amount of gear to make such a stay more conducive to your survival.

In the land o’ preparedness, we often talk about bugout bags, get home bags, and a handful of other such things. No one really gets too into their ‘stranded in the vehicle’ kits. Maybe they aren’t sexy. The notion of the rugged individualist donning his bulging backpack and setting off to find help is far more exciting than that same rugged individualist wrapping himself up in a blanket, reclining his seat, and reading a copy of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ while waiting for the Highway Patrol to find him.

Since it’s the winter season and this sort of topic is the low hanging fruit of the survival blogging world, I figured I’d go on a bit about what I usually tote around in the winter. Sure, there’s always the usual winter get-me-unstuck gear like a shovel (or two), traction sand, etc. but for actually staying in the vehicle and waiting for help gear…well, here you go:

20161209_111854The container in question is a Pelican 1650. It’s large enough to hold a complete military sleep system and a buncha other gear. The problem with listing the contents of a kit of any kind is that invariably someone will chime in with ‘what about…’ or ‘do you really need….’. So, let’s forestall that by saying that this is an incomplete list of whats in there: sleep system, food ration bars, water packets, complete change of clothes vacuum sealed, candle lantern and accessories, toilet paper, parachute and hand flares, flashlights, spare batteries, knife, pen and paper, a couple thick paperbacks, poncho, water filter, portable radio (takes same batts as flashlight), first aid kit, entrenching tool, backpack, Esbit stove and tabs, canteen and cup, and a few other niceties.

The Pelican case keeps everything protected, tidy, and in one place. I can simply roll it out to the vehicle, toss it in the back, and we’re good to go. The case is rugged, waterproof, crushproof, and because of this I can either leave it in the vehicle or outside the vehicle exposed to the elements and the contents will remain safe and dry. But…suspenders and a belt: any piece of critical gear (warm clothing, electronics, etc.) gets vacuum sealed anyway as an extra layer of weatherproofing. (And this is why having a vacuum sealer is a smart idea even if you never plan on using it to put away bulk pork chops you bought at CostCo.)

Why the backpack? Because, if for some reason you do have to leave the vehicle it would be nice to take as much of that gear with you as possible. When you read about the people who left the vehicle and died, invariably the cause of death was one of two things: hypothermia or dehydration. Being able to take your gear with you lowers that risk factor tremendously.

The logistically-minded of you will think “Hmmm…why not just keep everything in the backpack and that way you’re ready for anything”. Great idea, but unfortunately it wont fit in the Pelican case loaded up, and I very much want the convenience and protection of my gear that is afforded by using the case.

Keep in mind, also, that the things in this case are in addition to the usual stuff-kept-in-the-vehicle…things like road flares, water, flashlight, USB charger, batteries, first aid kit, pioneer tools, etc. (And, yes, there’s a few redundancies.)

In a perfect world, I’d be sitting by the side of the road, after the blizzard has shut down the interstate, tucked safely far enough off the side to avoid crash trajectories from soccer moms in their four-wheel-drive SUVs, sitting in my sleeping bag, reading a book, listening to the radio, awaiting notice that the roads have re-opened and are safe to travel. Worst case, I pull further off the road, fold down the seats, roll out the sleeping bag, and spend a quiet night asleep or playing games on my phone.

I’ll pull some of the stuff outta the case and show you what I carry around in the winter. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it should be entertaining nonetheless.


16 thoughts on “Winter vehicle stuff – Pt. I

  1. Reading material is an excellent idea. I was stuck for several hours one time (my own fault & I learned from it) & was bored to tears. I didn’t want to run the engine too long because of being a tad short on gas, so I couldn’t listen to the radio much.

    I now carry emergency equipment & am much better prepared, but hadn’t thought about a book. For me, some crossword puzzles would be a good idea.

    • I try to have most of what CZ mentions in our vehicles in the winter months, but we never get appreciable snow in the Charlotte NC area, so we don’t have any real fear of being stranded somewhere.
      That being said, I still make sure each car has a Kid Bag or Kid Things in them at all times. Glow sticks, couple of those tilt-a-maze ball games, magazines, playing cards of all types; ‘would you rather’, ‘fact or crap’, regular cards, sparklers, and so on.
      *just in case* we get stuck somewhere. Luckily our kid is not glued to technology and needs to constantly be doing something but it’s good to know there’s options around if we do end up stuck on the side of the road for any reason. At least we won’t have a bored kid nagging at us 🙂

  2. Great post. Down in GA, (wearing shorts and a t-shirt today 12/29) winter worries don’t hit us as soon or as severely as other areas of the country but as we saw a few years ago in Atlanta, 1/2″ of ice can bring the South to it’s knees. Always good to have supplies in the vehicle for just such a thing. Good reminder to make sure my kits in each car are squared away and up to date for the conditions.

  3. I keep a ” similar ” box of stuff in the trunk, of course I don’t have a pelican, don’t I wish! But I we make do with what we can. I look forward to seeing what you carry.

  4. I use my car mostly for longer trips out of town and there’s always a base level of food, warmth, meds, and safety gear (glow sticks I can hang off the car to mark its location and such). I approach things from the stand point of “base level +.” My small winter kit being a small “base level” and add to it, the “+”, based on where I’m going, expected conditions, how long I plan on being gone and so on. It would be a PITA to use my system if I was using my car daily, but with it mostly reserved for out of town trips I means I’m set up well for my trips, while not being overly loaded down and with a little practice it became second nature.

  5. As for the book don’t forget your reading glasses, and if you don’t need them I would still go for a large print book and add a large magnifying glass (may be with a built in light) after all the light may not be great.

  6. Have you made sure ever thing will fit into the rucksack when it’s not vacuum sealed? I know someone who vacuum sealed every thing to go on holiday with less luggage but when it was time to come home it would not fit.
    I hope you have a water proof liner and or cover for the rucksack.
    A couple of packs of cheap playing cards is always a good idea.

    • Thats probably several orders of magnitude more gear-intensive than most people are willing to be.

      • Huh.

        I keep it in my car, and carry it on me whenever I go out past the woodline.

        When I was little, when camping with the Scouts, we came across a guy who had fallen and broken his leg like a day’s hike from the trailhead. Might have eventually died where it not for the lot of us… since then I always worried about being able to summon aid when in the wilds

  7. I succumbed to laziness and put together two cases (Boyts, the poor man’s Pelican equivalent), one “warm weather” one “cold weather” in addition to the usual stuff that’s always in the vehicle.

    Because I’m in the same climate region as Matt (above), the biggest issue here is ice rather than snow. I picked up two spare wheels for the truck and had identical tires mounted (wheels match, so I do a 7-tire rotate schedule). During summer the tires not on the truck are deflated to 5 PSI and kept away from heat and sunlight, but when winter approaches those two assemblies get inflated and have reinforced snow chains mounted because I can swap wheels in the garage in a very few minutes (breaker bar and cordless 1/2″ impact wrench). And, based on weather forecasts, I can toss them, the tools and a scissors jack in the back of the truck (lockable shell) for a few days.

    Pro tip: there’s always a folding GI shovel in the truck kit, but in winter I strap a steel square point D-handle shovel inside the shell because it’s better at snow (and ice) shoveling.

  8. Cool.
    I like and applaud the Pelican case, but cabin constraints have me opting for just the backpack option. With some serious jockey boxes in the offing.
    Any quibbles would merely underline the difference between my winter situation here at balmy 35 degrees N latitude in CA, and yours in blizzardy Montana.
    When heading through snowy mountains like the Sierras hereabouts, my gear-up looks more like your EDC.

  9. For you folks that drive front wheel drive.Be sure and have a box of cat litter in your trunk or back of your SUV. You get stuck throw some under and in front of your wheels. Road flares are good to have as they show up very well.Have lots of snacks for the kids and for your self. Peanut butter cracker are great and lots of water. Most people don’t understand you can get very dehydrated in the winter. When I worked in the north of Alaska we needed to drink at least a gallon of water a day. Coffee doesn’t count.

  10. May I humbly suggest a hiking penny stove that burns alcohol, five hour energy plastic bottle (measure), and either a quart or gallon of air brake alcohol (methanol) SOMETHING METAL TO PLACE IT IN / ON. This a portable, controllable, independent heat source.

    Thirty plus years ago a Canadian trucker told me about a large tin can, a roll of toilet paper, and air brake alcohol for heat. For a trucks larger cabin, it works great.

    Keep in mind the fire hazard!!

  11. Or you could move to South Texas where it only snows every 100 years or so (last time was X-mas of 2000, 12″ of powder. No one remembers this happening in the last 100 years).

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