Hey guys, well with the bad weather rolling on in for the next week+, I figured I'll help you guys out a little with a reformed car survival guide! The first one I wrote was a little basic, and I've been swamped with University and work, as well as cat care but alas, here is an updated guide! This first started off after hearing people on the M6 were stranded for up to 6 hours in their cars, but we all know last winter was a pain for many people, and some people even stranded just a few miles from home. Now I'm no expert, but I have been in the Beavers/Cubs/Scouts for many years, only recently giving it up due to my other commitments, I watch a good deal of YouTube videos on relevant stuff, and most of all? I have watched every episode of Bear Grylls' Man vs. Wild!... Well, maybe don't take too much attention of that last part
The layout of this is first going to be a 'Priorities of Survival' which outlines the mind set you need to be in if you're stuck, as well as what to do if you get yourself into the situation, I recommend reading this if you're not so well up on what you should do, or if you just want to brush up a little on what to do. Secondly, I'm going to be giving you a brief load-out of items to have in the car, as this is going to be important to consider, and lastly how to outfit your car! And no, I don't mean add car eye-lashes to the lights...
Now, this is the most important part of this entire post;
DO NOT TRAVEL UNLESS IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!
Seriously, you're only risking your own safety and that of others by being unecesserily travelling, if you need groceries then use local shops rather than travelling to Tesco or wherever. If you have no choice, stick to main roads that you know are well used and most likely gritted. If HGV's use the road a lot, then that's a fair bet, and keep off roads with weight/size restrictions as if HGV's can't use them, neither can gritting vehicles.
Remember to increase your distance between the vehicle in front, drive slowly (who cares if Mr. BMW wants to fly around? He can wait, you need to consider your safety, not his time schedule!), and make sure ALL WINDOWS ARE CLEAR OF SNOW AND ICE! Let's face it, there's nothing worse than seeing someone with a letterbox to look through! Also, make sure all lights are in good working order and all levels are topped up, and that your screen-wash is topped up with good quality non-diluted solution.
Priorities of Survival
Well now on to the meat of this topic! I feel this best here because no matter what, if you cannot prepare yourself most of this still applies! Perhaps you're already stuck and are wondering what to do? Or you're already out and can't get to somewhere to buy preparations, or let's face it, perhaps you're on a tight budget and need to travel.
Your main priorities are going to be in this order; communication, warmth, water and food.
Communication first? Yes, that's right, communication. Communication, communication, communication! If you can't communicate, how does anyone know you're stuck? Help isn't going to magically appear, and quite possibly the rest of this guide won't be needed if you have it!
Now in all honesty, there is no need for you to not be prepared in this fashion no matter your budget, a packet of cereal bars costs what, £1? We're not talking Kellogg's here, we're talking about food of any kind, and they're handy to have, and a bottle of non-sparkling water from ASDA is about 30 pence (even less if you do it yourself and fill up from the tap!), and let's face it, you're a spoon if you go out without a coat in winter! So, now for a little more detail;
Communication - your mobile phone is your most important piece of equipment you have. With this you can call for help, call relatives to let them know where you are (the more people who know where you are the better) and also be able to get information, for example if you came across an accident, do you have first aid training? If not, emergency services can talk you through very basic procedures, which is always a plus. Now I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, it's a very good phone, does pretty much everything except make a cup of tea, and I would never ever rely on it. Battery's on smartphones are terrible so I have also a backup old Nokia phone (3310 I believe, the indestructible one) with a spare battery just in case. Now if you have no way of getting a second then on your smartphone, you need to turn 3g to 2g if you can, turn off internet, wifi, gps, auto sync, bluetooth, and your screen to minimal darkness; and make sure all applications are shut down and that you have a plain black background as your screen doesn't have to use any light to display blacks.
Warmth - this is essential. You need a way to keep warm, and like I said before go with the idea your car is going to be unusable for anything but a shelter. Blankets are the easiest way of keeping warm, with layers of clothing, 2 thin layers are better than a single layer, for example shirt, gilet, fleece, coat. However if limited on space, try and get a 3 in 1 coat, with a detachable fleece, as these are great, they have an extra pocket of air between layers. You could also go with a survival bag, but these aren't essential if you have a blanket and some layers. If you feel yourself getting too cold, you should exercise. Yes that's right, exercise - nothing beats star jumps in snow conditions. I wouldn't recommend push-ups or lunges as you'd end up being in the snow with your hands. Also wet clothing is worse than nothing at all. Chances are you're maybe at most a couple of degrees above freezing, if you're wet and that cold, you possibly have 2 hours left before your body temperature is so low, you'll have a lot more to worry about than being stuck!
Water - you need to be having plenty. You can get dehydrated in the cold, not just on a warm day, so you need water bottles and such. I don't really say have flasks of warm water, as you're never going to be able to keep it warm all day (unless you're willing to pay for a good flask); though if you want to have a flask of hot water or a hot drink, be my guest, if you can do that all the better. My favourite water bottles are metal, they conduct heat well and are sturdy. You may also want to think about military canteens, but there's no need to go all out unless you want too. Always make the most of the weather, if it's snowing or raining, you have water - but do not eat snow whatever you do, you can give yourself burns (frostbite) or hyperthermia, whilst lowering your body temperature. Water again if you're diabetic for example is vital, as I'm sure it is for other dietry requirements.
Food - you don't need lots of food. Go for something high in nutrients, but easy to keep in the car such as a box of cereal bars - don't bring things like pot noodles, how do you cook them? Don't think you'll rely on your vehicle for anything other than shelter, this way you are best prepared. Sweets are good for the sugar and a little boost too. Morale is always a good thing to have high, so some nice tasting sweets are always a little bonus. If you are diabetic, or have other dietary needs, the need for being prepared is all the more serious. You need to more than double your food supplies, with sweets and high sugar sweets; I'm not saying you'll need them and I'd hope you wouldn't, but when you consider 2 boxes of cereal bars and a packet of sugar tablets take up a small amount of room, it's a no brainer.
And importantly, keep calm. People will be trying to get to you and will not abandon you, you just need to keep calm and keep put - do not go wandering off! If you leave your vehicle then potentially you cannot be found and will require more resources in order to b found, resources that may not exist! And in bad weather conditions a shelter is your first priority in any situation.
Items to Consider
Here I'm going to run through a brief list of things you may want to consider packing in to your car if you have the option. Tesco and ASDA have good 'car-care' isles (unsure about others but I'd imagine they will have) which are worth checking down, as a good few items I've picked up are from these!
1 important reminder before we go into the list though, if something goes in to your car preparation gear, it cannot be used for anything else, you remove and use it, you've lost it for when you may need it! You may forget to replace it or put it back, it's just not worth it. Anything you do use, take note of it and replace as soon as possible.
So, without further delay here we go;
- Food and water; you need the ability to get water from surroundings whether rain water for example, and food is obvious.
- Blanket; all about keeping warm, fleece is good, but ideally you need a heavy blanket if room in your boot permits, if not then layers are important.
- Clothing; spare clothes are handy but not required, but you may want to consider a coat with a fleece liner, or a 3 in 1. A fleece gilet is always good too, for in case you need to dig your car out of snow, make sure it's tight fit, a loose gilet is ineffective. Gloves and a hat are important, I have a pair of hunting gloves that are waterproof and thermal, very very handy and cost £10. A reflective jacket is handy so that other people can see you, also if you break down it's handy as well. I personally keep walking boots, socks, waterproof outdoor pants and clip-on ice boots (sort of a rubber mesh with studs in) as not to be too sissy, I don't want my clothes getting ruined by snow and salt, as well as the fact that wet denim can lead to hypothermia very quickly.
- First aid kit; quite self explanatory, quite handy to have. Every car legally should have one in my eyes, as it helps in so many situations not only for yourself but for others, if you can help others then they can help you. Remember if you're just sat there, you're not part of the solution, you're either part of the problem or just useless. Most buy in store first aid kits will suffice for a car, but if you want to take it a little further, then on YouTube look up, "Level 1 First Aid Kit by Nutnfancy. I have a kit similar to his level 2 kit, which may also be worth looking in to.
- Medicines; if you have any medicines that you need, it may be handy having a 2 day supply in the car. Pain killers, anti-diarrhoea tablets and antacids are always handy too. Also, keep a spare packet of cigarettes if you smoke!
- A multi-tool or knife; this is a very controversial bit here, not everyone likes knives or believes in having them, but I do. Knives are possibly the most handy tool ever invented. I personally have a Gerber Suspension multi-tool in my car which is a good knife. Leatherman knives are a little better, however my Leatherman is in my outdoor pack. I also have a small multi-tool in my first aid kit (another Bear Grylls branded Gerber, but they're cheap at my local outdoor supplier). Other options are Swiss Army style knives, which can even be picked up for under £5, I personally have a Victorinox Rescue Tool attached to my door which is an amazing piece of kit. You may want a fixed blade knife too, with a sheathe and such, but this MUST be in your boot, and secured in the boot. Don't get a folding knife, you're not going to carry it so there is no need, and they lack some of the great features of a fixed blade, and stability.
- Cordage; I have 100 feet of para-cord personally, it has a 350lbs limit (depending on the cord) and is great stuff, it's possibilities are limitless seriously. If you're not well up on knots, get a small book or leaflet. YouTube has a mass of great videos on knots.
- Torches; I carry 3 torches in my car, 1 big one (a HID torch actually, works amazingly), a smaller CREE chip torch, and a pocket torch. Don't bother with button torches, unless it's an extra in a pack or something. Can be used for signalling (my CREE torch has an SOS feature on it) as well as finding where to go! LED Lenser T7 is an excellent torch, but is £28 from eBay.
- Ice-busting kit; Nothing beats having some de-icer and a scratter in your boot, it really helps with ice-busting really, nothing sucks more than having to wait for ice to melt, and looking like a prat with your windows covered in ice driving around.
- Entertainment; Let's face it, it sucks to have to stay put. You need something to keep yourself entertained, I always have my University bag with me, so I have a few magazines and maybe a book, but I keep one of my Wildlife Encyclopaedia's in my car, and a British Wildlife Encyclopaedia's and pocket books. You keep what you want in there, just don't rely on electricity! I also keep a few book lights in my car.
- Batteries; Always keep batteries, and make sure they're Lithium and not alkaline, alkaline are junk as they discharge and corrode quite quickly.
- A shovel; this could be handy if you need to dig yourself out of some snow, or even mud.
- An air pump; handy if you need to let down tyres for extra traction and pump them back up really. A manual one is best, don't rely on your car's power, you might need it for heat.
- Tow rope; chances are, not everyone with a 4x4 has these in their car, you may not even get a 4x4 to come get you out, a passing Volvo or Audi with tow bar can help you most likely, and they probably won't have tow ropes. Don't assume someone else might have equipment, you're responsible for yourself!
- Carpet/snow ramps; basically you're going to be stuck because you have no traction most likely, so old carpeting or snow ramps can really come into their own, or sacking. Just something to put down to give you grip really.
Got any more suggestions? Please add them to comments!
Organising your boot - just a short one here, but you can't have everything flying around in the boot, so some handy ideas are boot tidy's. Either the ones you can strap in against the back seats, or the ones that Velcro against the sides of the boot (I have 2, from ALDI which are fantastic). I also have a hiking pack in my boot, but don't if you need the room, this takes up room and is generally useless as you shouldn't leave your car, I just keep this in my car because I keep a lot of stuff in the boot). So it's about how you want to go about it. If you just want a First Aid kit, food, a water bottle and a blanket, then a small day pack may be fine on it's own, or even just a toiletry bag with the blanket and food in a bag of some sort (always keep your First Aid kit handy and organised!).
Not too much here as a lot is common sense so really just a quick check list, followed by a couple of recommendations from me!
- Make sure all fluid levels are topped up
- Make sure you have plenty of fuel
- Make sure tyre pressures are at recommended levels
- Make sure all lights are in full working order
Now, you can if you wish use winter tyres, personally if we all had the money we should all have them, but alas not everyone has £300 to just throw away on tyres that are usable for a few months a year generally. They're not good on ice, but help in snow and cold conditions, meaning more traction in snow and heavy rain.
Snow socks are also a pretty good idea if you have the money, they seem to be usable and work well. Chains really aren't needed in this country, they're expensive and 99% of people will never use them.
A tool kit may be handy also, I personally have a hex set that clip in to screwdrivers, and seeing my EDC is a Leatherman TTi, they fit into that as well. I have torx bits, hex bits, phillips bits, straight blade bits, socket set from 5mm - 16mm, so pretty much all you need really. The hex bits were £7 off eBay.
Well folks, that's 3 hours of my evening spent! So let me know what you think really, discuss, suggest ideas, share stories and so on! Remember, in the ideal world you'd have all this, but lets face it we have size and weight constraints, and money constraints too! Just keep what you feel you'll need, I've tried to give an overview really.
I hope this wasn't too difficult to read! I have tried to make it as reader-friendly as possible.
Thank you for your time reading this, and if you have any suggestions then post away!