Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More Winter Survival Tips

This is another list from Carolyn Nicolaysen's article, "Surviving the Hazards of Winter Travel". You may think the list looks extreme, but survival is key to a healthy life :). Thus, personal preparedness for emergencies is extremely important. With a little time gathering the items we already own, and a small investment to buy a few others, we can all be better prepared and survive quite well, any winter challenge that awaits us.

These tips apply to traveling by car, for road trips, peaceful drives up Provo Canyon, the joy ride to Utah Lake, or your daily commute to work. However, consider applying these tips in your everyday life! Designate a bag/backpack with a 72 hour kit and items that increase your chance of healthy and successful survival.

1. Glow sticks/Flashlight (self winding) for light during the nighttime hours for you and to make you more visible to rescuers. I love the 10-inch glow sticks that are sold with a bipod. These are great to use in place of flares, to mark a path, to direct traffic after an accident or during an emergency or to signal rescuers at night. They can be seen for a mile.

2. Work gloves to change a tire or put on chains and Warm gloves/Snowproof gloves, because it gets freaking cold and you'll need your fingers for many things.

3. Snow chains for cars. And the bottom of your shoes if you're hardcore.

4. Sand or kitty litter to help with traction if your car spins out in the snow. Or you meet friendly hermit crabs and cats doing the potty dance.

5. A small shovel to build a snow cave or dig out a car. VERY VERY VERY important.

6. Waterproof matches or lighter.

7. A metal container to melt snow for drinking.

8. A mirror, flares, or extra mylar blanket to signal rescuers. Fireworks may also work by attracting police officers to your position (from my non-emergency firework experience: loud and obnoxious illegal fireworks work best in attracting police officers to my non-emergency position, but i don't recommend this as an emergency backup plan. )

9. An umbrella . Instant shelter. Eric, from Vale, Arizona, tells us that Ray Jardine, in his book Beyond Backpacking, says an umbrella is one of the most useful tools in his arsenal for long distance hiking. It allows him to keep hiking when unfavorable weather has other hikers holed up for the duration. He goes on to say that when hiking in the desert in summer, covering his umbrella with a space blanket allows him to hike in the daytime when it would otherwise be infeasible. It places the entire body in the shade, which no hat can do. Consider these possibilities for umbrella and mylar blankets in summer. A tent will also work, but not while you are walking.

10. Safety vests to be worn so you can be more easily seen by rescuers or while near the roadway (bright orange vests, cheap ones). You will all be safer if you need to leave the car, and each passenger wears one. These can also be attached to your car as a distress signal.

11. Cell phone charger for the car, or a wind-up charger.

12. Small candles . If placed on the dash this will help keep the air in the car above freezing. Candles will provide you battery-free and useful light- as well as ambiance. BUT don't go to sleep and leave it lit. You can also run your car engine for 10 minutes every hour to warm the car and charge the phone. Make sure before running the engine that the tail pipe is not blocked. Also, leave a window, which faces away from the wind, open very slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have room, I recommend carrying some firewood around. Carrying firewood around has never hurt any of my adventures, and has come in handy on every camping trip I've been on. Fire = warmth, signal, and cooking.

13. Wool blanket or sleeping bag. And if you can, there's no harm in carrying around a sleeping pad.

14. Knit cap and mittens . Most of your body heat is lost through your head, so the cap is important. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Remember wool or manmade fibers are better in cold/wet weather than cotton. I always carry gloves and a hat, as well as a bandanna.

15. Body warmers , the instant heat type. Make sure when purchasing these that you buy the ones rated for 20 hours, not 20 minutes. These are small and easy to stash in your auto emergency kit. But don't eat them.

16. A whistle can be heard much further away than the human voice. I would have at least 2 in the car. If one member of your party needs to leave to look for help you can signal each other every few minutes and help guide them back to the car. It is not wise for anyone to leave alone, and go further away than “whistle distance.” It is just too easy to become disoriented and lost. If in a group, its good to have a call in order to communicate safety to members of your group. At girls camp, i learned a call that started with ".. High low, minnie minnie cow cow.." and used it often on hikes. When I go climbing or hiking, we constantly use our calls in order to check in with or locate other crew members. I use the call of a morning dove as a signal.

17. Flashlight with extra batteries and an extra bulb.*

18. A portable radio is great to hear news and weather reports without draining your car battery. Make sure you have both AM and FM bands. Look for the ones that are also a flashlight and siren. Handcrank and solar power portable radios are SUPER! If purchase a portable radio, make sure it is powered by handcrank and/or solar powered. Its the best idea. Seriously

19. Tool kit. Tools like screwdrivers and wrenches are already SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO useful. Why not keep some in your car? Also, Leatherman makes fantastic multi-tool utility knives (among other fine and useful products). These are easy to carry around and small enough to keep in a pocket or car compartment. I never travel without mine, unless i'm going on a plane.

20. Tow rope, slack line, or climbing rope . Some people who could help pull you out of the ditch are not equipped with a rope. Think of how smart you will look, when you say “I've got one!”. Also, its just a great idea. You can use a rope to make a lean-to, clothes line, safety line, leash, lasso, snares, and whatever else you need. It holds things together, and is also one of those things I use constantly, at home or on wilderness adventures. And did i mention they make lassos?

21. Maps . I LOVE MAPS! When you are traveling, pay attention to where you are on a map. You will be able to locate water and people SO MUCH easier if you are using an up-to-date map . If you don't know where you are, how will you find where you want to go?

22. Compass . Know how to use it? The arrow points north. Unless you are in the Bermuda triangle.

23. Roll of TP . Essential.

24. Fire extinguisher . What good is your emergency gear if it's burning up with the car? More than once, we've seen cars fully ablaze at the side of the highway, and not from a traffic accident. Gasoline + heat + leaking fuel line = fire.

25. WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!- This goes for car, travel, or home. Store and transport in thick plastic, metal, or glass containers- our stake says "use only food grate containers". Thin plastic containers can get warm and melt chemicals into your water, as well as be porous and allow contamination easier. But there are a certain types of plastic that are okay to store water in- heavier plastics and PETE or PET plastic containers. I stick with metal and glass containers for travel, plastic for home.


            • DO NOT use plastic milk containers.
            • DO NOT use a container that was previously used for non-food products (ie. gasoline, nuclear waste, nails, ect )
            • Containers should be emptied and refilled regularly (weekly or bi-weekly).
            • Clean each container thoroughly and sanitize before use. A sanitizing solution can be prepared by adding 1 teaspoon of liquid house hold chlorine bleach to one quart of water - only use household bleach without thickeners, scents, or additives.
            • Always keep at least a three day supply of fresh drinking water (our stake recommends one gallon per day)

Lists like this one, along with the LDS church preparedness guidelines (found at, suggestions from your grandmother and others will help you become personally prepared! Share them, and even add to them. But mostly, these suggestions are to get you thinking about what you can do to become personally prepared. You may never face an emergency or need to use these suggestions; but if you do need them, they will be priceless.

You can follow these steps, use them as guidelines, or add to this list. Remember, preparedness is for the well being of yourself and the people around you. Please share this info to any family or friends that may find it useful!

-Hannah Smith

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