Gear, Parts and Accessories

Winter Preparedness: Building Your List

Two cars in the snow after an auto accident.

Due to a recent move, I now have to consider cold weather in my preparedness calculations. Prior to the move, I lived in Florida for more than a decade; three months of freezing temperatures initially had me off balance.

For me, there are 3 layers of preparedness outside of the home: vehicle, everyday carry and extended. I will touch on all three, however, for me, the distinction between them is important.

My vehicles have ample space and carrying capacity, so I set and forget certain items in the trunk or under a seat. Everyday carry is the exact opposite of that.

Each item needs to be judged versus space, weight, likelihood of use and importance in an emergency.

The last one is when you are doing a specific activity where you leave the bounds of civilization and could be stuck for an extended period of time.

In my vehicle, I always have a rugged change of clothes. This is a durable pair of jeans, a t-shirt, spare socks, underwear as well as a sweatshirt and a rain jacket/shell.

In the wintertime, a second set of socks, a pair of thermals, a light pair of neoprene gloves, a flannel-type shemagh, a well-insulated pair of over gloves and a performance fleece are added.

This buys me lots of extra insulation and a means of getting out of wet clothing should I somehow get drenched.

My normal vehicle bag has the basics of starting a fire, water purification and the other all-weather items.

For the cold, I add in hand warmers, road salt, penetrating oil and a jar of O’Keefes working hands. The first two should be for obvious reasons.

Penetrating oil has several purposes. It can help to access a frozen lock or act as an accelerant to start a fire. The Jar of O’Keefes is great for fighting wind/cold burn on your face and hands.

I would also add a come along and a 20-foot tow strap, but that already lives in my vehicles. In the warmer season, it works great for getting unstuck from mud.

In the winter, it has helped more than one person be pulled out of a ditch or snowdrift.

On my body I carry my M&P 9mm with a spare mag, a single AA 120 lumen flashlight, a 3.5-inch folding knife, my cell phone and keys.

I also rarely leave the house without a Drago Assault pack that has an overstuffed IFAK, 12 Datrex bars and a bottle of water.

The first aid kit has two tourniquets, two chest seals as well as all the bandaids, gauze, tape and minor medicines needed for daily encounters.

I also carry a Mylar thermal blanket year-round. I double the Mylar in the cold season. They are small, cheap and so effective.

In addition, I throw in an insulated beanie for head warmth and a pair of 2 mil neoprene gloves.

All told, it adds about 7 ounces to my pack’s weight, but considering I carry the above plus two spare 17-round mags for my M&P, I don’t notice it at all.

The reality is, most of us don’t venture that far from our home, work or vehicle most of the time. So our provisions in those locations will do us fine.

The problem comes in when that magic communications box in our pockets lures us into a sense of invulnerability. We are most vulnerable when we leave those well-worn paths for some backwoods winter fun.

I can’t tell you how many times I have met friends to go winter 4-wheeling, snowmobiling or just a winter hike and had someone show up without a go-bag.

When the plan for the day is to leave cell service behind and explore a wildlife area, that isn’t planning for survival win.

I bring my EDC bag listed above with a few additions. In a pinch, I can grab most of them from my winter vehicle pack. The minimum assortment for a partial day outing:

An extra water bottle 1 Mylar blanket per person
Water purifying tablets Large blade knife / small machete
Complete change of “technical” clothes Extra face shield / shemagh / balaclava
Waterproof matches Fire accelerant *
12 Datrex or similar concentrated calorie bars Minimalist emergency shelter
Signal mirror Compass
100+ lumen LED flashlight (AA) 6 spare (AA) batteries
Folding or compact shovel

*(I use petroleum jelly saturated cotton balls stored in a small prescription container)

Yes, I know all of this is overkill for a partial day outing. However, when something happens and that 3-hour fun ride turns into 3 days in the cold… a fire, a few thousand calories and a place to keep water will all be very welcome and may well be the difference in how or whether you survive—to be even better prepared next time.

What do you keep in your winter preparedness kit? Share your answer and location in the comment section.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. I include a bag of potassium permangenate, small bottle of glycerin and a ziploc bag of cotton balls. The potassium is a great water purifier and disinfectant and a tremendous fire starter when combined with glycerin. Soak a cotton ball in the glycerin and then sprinkle on a small amount of the potassium. Viola a fire without matches.

    1. For emergency preparedness, I want items to be safe and stable and intuitive to use years after I stash them away. So baggies of reactive crystals and unsealed bottles of fluid don’t float right to the top of my prospects list.

      Also, I’m not a chemist, and I don’t play one one TV. I asked my friend Google whether this kind of home cooked solution might be a great idea — or if it might set my head on fire and get me on a terror watch list. My conclusions:
      1) no apparent advantage over butane lighter, waterproof matches, and suitable tinder;
      2) SHTF is better served learning spark and friction methods; and
      3) don’t drop this trick in your go bag before due diligence.

      A couple links to get you started:

  2. One thing that I can add is a good quality multitool. I daily (including Church and date nights) carry a Victorinox classic. 20 plus years old and use it daily. Just me but I have to have a flash light, multitool and pocket knife on me at all times and a extra set in the truck.

  3. For fire starters, I carry a few sticks of pitch pine and 2″ squares of egg carton or berry carton (the old paper pulp kind) saturated with paraffin in a ziplock with a variety of ignitors — spark, match, Bic, etc.

    For warmth, I shop the seasonal bargains to acquire low-end, “single-use” or semi-disposable items that can just live in the car until they need to be replaced from aging or storage wear: 3-season synthetic fill sleeping bag for hunkering; insulated coveralls and waterproof insulated boots for working or moving. The overalls are 1-2 sizes larger than normal to fit over everything else I might have along to wear or be able to stuff inside.

    Your vehicle and a tow strap rarely get you unstuck. If you travel where nobody else might pass by for days or weeks or months, make sure your shovel is what you’re willing and able to dig a high-centered vehicle out of snow or mud with — trust me, fingers, spoons, snowshoes, even entrenching tools are very exhausting ways to get the job done. In snow, a decent scoop shovel is shelter — in forest, so is a decent axe or saw.

  4. My daily carry “ALWAYS” includes a Sig, two extra mags, flashlight, cigarette lighter, folding flip blade knife, boot knife, cellphone,

    The car, for local travel, has small tool kit, trauma kit, blanket, air pump, extea clothes.

    Also have a 4×4, which is also a rescue vehicle. I am a search and rescue diver, certified in first aid, AED, oxygen administration, CPR.

  5. Nice article to stimulate thinking about preparedness in our emerging winter environment. I personally prepare for all season EMP. Maybe an extreme approach to preparedness but if it ever happens you’ll be one of the few who has a chance to get home. This truly expands concept of a go bag in your truck. The one item which is essential and is not usually covered, is my folding wagon. Rolling friction is 3% of straight carry. If I have to go miles or even a couple of days, old legs need a lot of relief, so the wagon takes the freight, all the things you listed plus. But in winter the wheels maybe more of a drag, so you need something to convert it to a sled for snow and ice but retaining wheels when encountering cleared paths or roads. Often how you facilitate getting from A to B is a key to survival.

  6. I think you should have at least 1 woolen blanket so you have some warmth, even if you are wet. But that is just me.

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