Winter is coming. And while many of us may prefer to hunker down inside during spells of cold weather, we’ll still have to come out of hibernation every now and then to buy food, run errands, or celebrate the holidays with friends and family. If we’re not prepared or haven’t gauged the weather correctly, we may find ourselves driving through severe snowstorms, and that carries with it the risk of getting stuck for hours or even days until help arrives. So here are some tips on how to prepare in case that happens to you.
Dress for the Weather
You may think that you can rely on your car’s heating system to keep you warm as you travel from place to place. But resist the urge to throw on some sweats and flip flops and turn the heater up to full blast. Dress for the crash, not for the ride.
Make sure you wear sturdy shoes that you can rely on to support your feet should you need to walk for a few miles to get help. Wear plenty of layers that can keep you warm, and make sure that you have a scarf, hat, and gloves to protect your head and hands from frostbite.
Have Water and Food Available
Yes, you can die from a lack of water even in cold weather. Make sure to have enough water available for everyone in your car. A 3-liter Camelbak-type reservoir should be the bare minimum, and more would be better.
Don’t think that you’ll survive by eating snow. First, the snow closest to the road will likely be contaminated with all sorts of salt, gravel, and dirt. Secondly, the energy it takes your body to melt the snow and turn it into water will sap your body’s much-needed energy reserves.
You’ll be able to survive without eating food, at least for a while, but some emergency food can’t hurt. Think about keeping a few granola bars in the car, or maybe an MRE or two.
Have a First Aid Kit
Your first aid kit should fix all the standard boo-boos: cuts, scrapes, and minor puncture wounds. But you’ll also want to keep medication such as aspirin on hand, or any allergy medication you might need. Splints would also be helpful in case you injure a finger, arm, or leg while trying to free your car.
Keep Yourself Warm
In addition to dressing warmly, have at least a warm blanket in your car too in case you have to spend the night in your car. Don’t even think about running your engine all night to keep you warm, as you risk dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you live in a particularly cold area, you might also consider keeping a sleeping bag in your car just in case.
If your car is damaged and you’re forced outside, you should have a basic fire-starting kit on hand to build a fire to keep warm. A cigarette lighter, some matches, Vaseline-soaked cotton balls or other tinder should be the bare minimum.
Communicate With the Outside World
Make sure that you have a cell phone charger in your car to keep your phone’s battery charged. A spare battery can’t hurt either if your phone has a removable battery. If you’re in an area without cell phone reception, carry a signal mirror and emergency flares to attract attention. Your emergency blanket can also double for signaling if it is a bright color like orange.
Prepare for Getting Stuck
Some people decide to get an extra pair of wheels with snow tires for their car. But if that’s too expensive or impractical, think about getting a set of snow chains. They can be particularly helpful for drivers of rear wheel drive cars. Also, make sure you have duct tape available in case you have to make hasty repairs and keep broken pieces of your car from falling off.
For the worst case, in which you get your drive wheels stuck in snow or mud, it can’t hurt to have a small shovel in your car. Military-style entrenching tools can serve the purpose in a pinch, and you can find them for sale in some cases for as cheap as $10.
Just a little bit of preparation in advance can make the difference between life and death should you find yourself stuck in your car in the middle of winter.