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, Every Day 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 winter time, 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. The 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 snow drift.
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 band aids, 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|
|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, a place to keep water will all be very welcome and may well be the difference in how or whether or how you survive—to be even better prepared next time.