Is your car ready for a winter bug out?
As January hits in full swing there’s no doubt winter is here. Over at my place we’ve had the first snow already, and everyone who didn’t prepare yet is hastily fitting snow tires and getting their cars ready for what’s looking like another big winter. Because getting stuck in the snow is no laughing matter, in fact, it’s a situation that can quickly turn deadly for the unprepared. And considering how chaotic the last 12 months have been, it’s important to ensure your car is ready for a winter bug out, so you can safely make it wherever it is that you’re evacuating to when the SHTF. Here’s how I’ve prepared mine.
Sort your tires
If you’ve not done it, now is the time to install your snow tires. These are generally softer than regular tires so they do wear faster, but the benefit is just how much more grip they offer on wet, snowy and icy roads. Depending on how much snow you’ll be facing (or where you may need to drive), tire chains are another option you can consider, but many states do place restrictions on their use, and they are outright banned in many states. I’ve got a set I keep in my trunk in case I need to install them if I need to head down a tricky unpaved road during winter, but I do not keep these on at all times.
Pop the hood
As temperatures drop below freezing, you need to take the time to check and change the fluids in your car. Add things like cold-weather rated wiper fluid, top up your coolant with antifreeze, check your oil, power steering and your brake fluids and give everything in your engine a good once over. If any filters need to be swapped out, do it now, and make sure you’ve not got any cracked or damaged hoses, or any leaks that could cause a larger issue if left to their own devices. If you’re unsure about any of this, it’d be well worth taking your car in for a service and having a professional give it a once over.
There’s two big problems that most people will face in winter. Dead batteries or getting stuck in the ice and snow. Keeping a pair of jumper cables in your car is a smart idea, even more so if you buy a jump starter kit that you can get your car running again alone. Then of course, the traction mats, shovel, and the tow lines and winches you can use to get yourself out of a ditch and back on the road. My truck has an electric winch on the front for this exact purpose, but it might be overkill for your car. A good tow-rope is a must-have, especially in bad conditions when the calls you’ve made for help might not make it through (or they can’t drive to you), and you have to rely on a passerby to get you unstuck.
The biggest risk if you can’t free yourself from wherever you’re stuck is that you freeze during the cold night. It’s not practical to keep your heater on all night, so make sure you’ve got adequate cold weather gear. That’s warm gloves, jackets, pants, beanies, socks and boots to keep you warm, as well as blankets and sleeping bags. I’ve also got a small fire-making kit in my emergency supplies in my car, so that no matter where I am (or what’s going on outside) I can get a small fire going to warm us up. Oh, and a few of those instant heat gel packs too. They work wonders if the weather is too poor for a fire.
Running any kind of features in your car will drain both the gas and the battery (depending if you’ve got the car running or not), but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in the dark. Keeping a flashlight in your glove box is a smart idea, and I’ve also got a large usb-style battery pack that is in there too, complete with a solar charging kit. It’s big, and will charge my phone from 0% at least 5 or 6 times over, while the solar panel works wonders during the day. It’s a god send because I can use my phone to call for help, without concern that my car will run out of gas or have zero battery when they finally reach me.
Waiting for rescue
Depending on where you are in the country, it might be a few hours until help arrives, or it might be a few days. Smart survivalists will prepare the things they need to wait out at least 3 days for rescue, like a tent for shelter and food that’ll last at least 3-4 days. I’ve usually also got my rifle in the gun safe in the cab too, it’s added protection when I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere, and gives me the ability to hunt as well. Basically I’ve got in the emergency kit in my car is pretty much what I’d take on a weekend camping trip during winter, so that even if I do get stuck on the quiet roads out here I won’t be suffering. Just make sure you’ve got flares or another way to attract attention when help does come.
Bugging out in winter is a special kind of task, because it requires so much extra gear that you don’t even really need during other seasons in the year. But with a little forward thinking, you’ll increase your chances of a successful evacuation, and even if something does go wrong, you’ll have the gear you need to survive and get back on the road. Because you really don’t know how long it’ll take help to come, especially on the back roads we’ll be driving to our bug out location. Saving ourselves with the gear we have will be key.