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How Winter Prepared Are You?


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Howdy folks, well after reading about the horrendous accident on the M6 today and how drivers have been stranded for upwards of 6 hours, I thought maybe I should give a helping hand in having our own forum members aware and hopefully prepared this winter, as we all know last winter people were stranded not just for hours, but overnight and such. I'm not an expert or anything, but I have been in the Scouts until recently, I have watched a fair few videos on YouTube outlining priorities and kit that you may need (and by this I mean multiple part videos of up to an hour a piece and 5 parts long - I have a fun life) and a good deal is common sense. Oh, and I've watched every episode of Bear Grylls, but I wouldn't really go off that if honest... Well let's get into it then!

Priorities of Survival

Now I don't want to sound like we're all going out in our cars into the wilderness or anything, but think about it, you have a commute that's 15 - 20 miles, and the snow suddenly drops, and you're stranded overnight, even just a mile from home.Chances are, it's going to hit freezing, hypothermia can set in quite easily in these conditions and so you need to be prepared. Even if you only commute locally. Remember, if you're not being proactive in your own care, you are part of the problem.

So, your main priorities are food, water, warmth and if possible, communication.

You need to have these sorted in your car no matter what. Let's face it, a blanket, a box of cereal bars, a bottle of water and a mobile phone aren't going to use a lot of room, and do you want to end up getting into such a situation where you need those things, and don't have them?

As far as food is concerned, 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.

With 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; 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) whilst lowering your body temperature. Water again if you're diabetic for example is vital.

Warmth 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. If it's lower than 10 degrees and you're wet, you have about an hour to two hours to live. Get the wet clothing off and wrap a coat or blanket around the affected area(s).

Finally 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, 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.

Most importantly however - 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 you cannot be found, and in the cold a shelter is your first priority in any situation.

So that's all you really need to read if you're not up for the whole post, after this I'm just going in to items you may want to include but as long as you have the above basics covered, you're fine.

Items to Consider

Here I'm just going to give a brief list of things you may want to consider packing, so not much to talk about here! Just keep in mind 1 thing - everything in this section that you use, can not be used anywhere else, you have to write it off. Obviously coats are a little different, but for example a first aid kit - you take it out of your car and you no longer have it in there, you may forget to put it back in and then when needed, it's not there. Do not remove anything from your kit.

- 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.

- 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) 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. A good one is http://www.gerbergear.co.uk/Essentials/Tools/Suspension-Multi-plier_22-41471

- 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!

- 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.


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!).

Well there we have it! Really that's all I can think of at this late time (took 2 hours to write so a little knackered now), so hopefully with this you can be on your way to being prepared. A lot isn't really too needed as long as you can keep yourself fed, watered, warm and able to communicate.

Thank you for your time reading this, and if you have any suggestions then post away!

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No mention of preparing the car?

If you have to drive fit winter tyres that way you will arrive at your destination providing the roads not blocked.

Failing that check the weather if in doubt stay at home!

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I always have something to eat in the boot of my work wagon, wayfarer boil in the bag meals are ideal.

Big bottle of water, usually for the dogs but just as good for me.

A couple of chemical food heaters, slip the wayfarer meal in and add some water to heat food in about ten minutes.

Waterproof and warm clobber always in there. (spare in case of necessity due to work).

Nice toasty duvet jacket and spare boots.

Booster pack if the car won't start and a blanket to put over the engine in case of severe cold weather.

Big torch and spare batteries all year round.

A couple of reasonable sized pieces of carpet which are good for getting going in slippery conditions and a folding shovel in case things get really sticky.

First aid kit for emergencies in both cars.

As I spend a lot of time working and walking the dogs on the huge area of Dartmoor I tend to have all the sorts of things I'd go hiking with in the boot anyway (work and own car).

My hiking gear is pretty comprehensive and reasonably high tech anyway, foil blankets and bivvy bag, GPS, multi fuel stove (burns everything from meths to diesel), thermal layers and windproof outer layer.

Thankfully I've never got stuck yet but in the winter of 2010 here quite a lot of cars got stuck on the A38 between newton abbot and Plymouth for clout 8 hours, I'd luckily passed through that stretch an hour before and made it safely by driving with care.

As in any adverse weather be it rain, snow or fog etc, take it easy and always try to judge the conditions within the range of your driving skill or confidence.

If the trip is not necessary or you really don't think you can do it safely then knock it on the head or stay at home.

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i have a spade, a blanket, change of clothes, Hi Vis jacket, bottles of water, and shortly snowsocks in my boot currently... not as prepared as some, but i'm always open to ideas!

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I have:

  • De-icer
  • Ice scraper
  • 100 piece toolkit, cordless drill, screwdriver set etc (all my work tools basically!)
  • Snow shovel
  • Sweets & chocolate
  • Soft drinks
  • Blanket & jumper
  • First aid kit
  • High vis & hard hat
  • Phone charger
  • Warning triangle
  • And, of course, winter tyres!

And probably some more stuff I've forgotten!

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I am not prepped at all for winter... oh wait i have an ice scraper.

i am terrible at being prepared for an emergency. Saying that I will take a bottle of water for a long journey in case stranded.

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I'll add preparing the car probably later tonight, I figured 2 hours at midnight was enough! Main reason for not doing is because I don't want people thinking they're only going to be prepared if they're a pro mechanic, but I suppose I can add it too :P Wasn't going to recommend winter tyres (shock! Horror!) because I want people not to think they're able to have their car drive practically up a cliff, I was mainly doing preparations for what you'd be stuck in no matter what.

I'll post when I've updated - long day working and of University and I need a nap!

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Now that's preparation :P

I actually considered saying to hell with boot space and putting my little cooker and coffee maker back in, but then had to put the cat cage in -.- my thinking was, I could make bacon sandwiches while being stuck in snow drifts :P

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Just got done doing a big run from Devon to St. Helen's (Merseyside) for a week. No problem's what so ever apart from a few flakes of snow north of Birmingham. Glad it was last week instead of this week though.

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Grr, again not had the time to update -.-

My 40 mile trip to the vets took a little longer than expected, then had family round. On the plus side, the first time I've seen my nephew, and my cat was perhaps the most amazing thing he's ever seen, he thinks he's seen a cheetah >.<

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I have: folding spade, sleeping bag, clothes, torch, grit, tool kit, cable ties, tow ropes, drinks, food, gloves, de icer and all that, old jeans, snow ramp thngs for grip, umbrella, cards, another torch and a 4ton hand winch.

My commute is about 10 miles of duel carraigeway. My fuel economy is pants and I have no boot space.....but.....

I'm making a point to the misses. She wont let me buy a 4x4 so I say I need all this so I can't fit her shopping in the boot.

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I'm going to write up a section on car prep as well, seems to be popular in discussion so will add that too.

Knew I'd forgotten something when reading about a shovel -.- lol, I didn't even have one in my car! Luckily ASDA had some and picked one up along with some rubber gloves :P

And a legitimate reason if honest, you can't sacrifice your own well being for shopping, though I'm sure most women would disagree :P. All of my stuff packs in to 2 boot tidy's at either side of the boot, or in the spare wheel area :P

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