Stranded in Your Car: Survival Techniques

When it comes to survival techniques, in our modern age of cell phones and continuous communication, very few people consider the possibility of being trapped somewhere in their car for an extended period of time. Most of us, when encountering car trouble, simply call up the nearest tow truck or roadside assistance organization. While it is true that many highways have adequate cellular coverage, there are still parts of the country that are too mountainous or remote for a guaranteed cellular signal; and there’s always the chance of being stranded with a dead cell battery. Unfortunately, remote areas are often the same ones that are hit by the kind of inclement weather that can leave you stranded. In the case of a regional weather catastrophe, such as a heavy snowstorm or flooding, even if you can get in contact with rescue services, it could be hours or days before they can get to you with any help. It is important to make sure that your car is outfitted with a survival kit that can help keep you comfortable and safe during these situations.

Your car will most likely provide you with excellent shelter against snow, wind and rain. It is water-tight and provides a decent amount of insulation against the cold. However, over the course of a night or even a couple of nights, you will need a way to stay warm without running the car. Your vehicle will only have a limited amount of fuel, and you can’t leave it idling continuously. A good survival technique is to run the car for a few minutes every half hour or hour, depending on the temperature – enough to keep the cabin warm and not have the engine ice up. In addition, you should keep a couple of blankets in your trunk – one for each person you normally have as a passenger. It is always a good idea to have spare gloves, hats, socks and smaller items that can be put over limbs and digits to keep them warm as well.

Some people bring a can of Sterno as an emergency heat source. This is an effective solution for camping, but in a car it can be dangerous, as there is often no place for the noxious fumes to escape. If you do burn Sterno in your car, make sure to leave the windows down enough for ventilation.  Many people find that this requirement is enough to negate the heating factor of the fuel, and so they opt for chemical heat packs. These heat packs can be placed in your boots, gloves and pockets to help keep your body warm. They are a vital part of your car’s survival kit.

Once you are warm, there are a few other basic needs you should attend to. The first is food; keep a small supply of energy bars, trail mix and nuts in the car with you. Since you won’t be able to cook in your car, you will want enough calories to keep you warm and alert. Storing water in your car in the winter is a bit tricky – you may very well have to defrost it with your car heater, or break off chunks of ice and suck on them. Remember that ice contains more water than snow, pound for pound, so if you have to venture out to seek water, prioritize ice. In addition to food and water, your kit should ideally contain a small LED flashlight, an extra pack of batteries, and road flares so your car can remain visible even if it gets buried in a ditch or a snow bank. You will also want to keep a small folding shovel, a first aid kit to deal with any scratches or headaches, road salt for getting unstuck and a pocket knife.

The first rule of getting rescued is to stay where you are for as long as possible and make yourself visible. This means a fire, flares, anything you can do to be seen. If you need to travel to get out of your situation, bring your emergency kit with you and layer on your extra clothing. be sure to leave a note on the dash of your car telling people which direction you have gone in. Don’t forget your cell – you may find an area close by where it works.

Survival equipment doesn’t have to be elaborate to be useful.  All of these items will fit in the trunk of your car, and can go a long way towards helping you deal with an emergency situation while out on the road.