We’ve all been there: you’re driving down the road and suddenly, without warning, the truck just stops. Or during the worst snow storm of the year, you hit a rough drift and slide into the ditch, miles from a living soul. Aside from that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you’re all alone. Helpless?
No! Sure, such scenarios are scary and inconvenient, but they don’t have to be as life-threatening as they frequently are. Carrying a little emergency gear in the vehicle just makes good common sense. And it makes just such emergencies bearable. Just as everyone knows it’s sensible to carry an inflated spare tire, a jack, and lug wrench for your vehicle so it won’t get stuck, carrying emergency gear for you and your family’s safety and comfort makes just as much sense.
A good flashlight with fresh batteries is a must in every vehicle. We carry ours under the driver’s seat and check it frequently to be sure the batteries are in good shape. Nothing is more miserable than having some sort of trouble in the night and being in the dark.
Carry as much emergency gear in your vehicle as you can conveniently. If you have the room, carry a gear box, such as we have under the shell of our pickup. It’s large enough for a sleeping bag for each member of the family, a change of warm socks, a warm jacket, a small bow saw, a small propane stove and cartridge, candles, a few butane lighters, a pan, and other gear. Most vehicles will provide room for nearly this much emergency gear in a trunk or other little used cargo space.
Every vehicle should have at least one warm blanket in it. Even during the summer. At night, or during a rain, it can get cold without the heater to run periodically. A few warm clothes, tucked in a dust-proof bag in the trunk, can be a life-saver, especially in wet or winter weather. Be sure to have something for all members of the family. Heat, in the form of a candle or propane stove or lantern, is a good idea. Be careful when using a candle, as they can easily be knocked over inside a vehicle, causing a flash fire of toxic fumes. But even a smallish candle can provide enough heat to keep a family from freezing to death inside a vehicle that is disabled. It will also provide light to attract the attention of rescuers and help prevent the vehicle from being struck by passing traffic or a snowplow.
When using any form of heat, whether it be from starting the vehicle from time to time to keep warm or a candle, be sure to crack open a downwind window, preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. This odorless toxic gas has killed hundreds of stranded motorists, silently, without warning.
A means to make a fire is a must. The fire can draw attention to you if you need help, it can cook food and can keep you warm. Fire starters can range from butane lighters to windproof matches to a flint, magnesium, steel kit. This last is the best.