Not Quite Unprepared

Quite a few people have written to me about my recent travels in adverse conditions, mostly talking about the SHTF stuff (or lack thereof) that I was carrying in the car. Let me say that I was not wholly unprepared — I generally make at least some preparations when I travel, as you will see — but my unpreparedness was mostly psychological: mostly, I suspect, because I had been used to traveling around the mild climes of Britishland and the Midi.

So let me itemize what I did have in the car; and if anyone has any suggestions for additional items, have at it in Comments.

  • Weapons: as you can imagine, no problems there; Springfield 1911 and S&W 637, Taurus pump-action .22 rifle and an AK, each with the appropriate quantity of ammo.
  • Cold-weather clothing: one heavy coat, one insulated waistcoat, heavy socks, thermals, insulated boots, one wool blanket, one thermal waterproof blanket. What I forgot: gloves (but I seldom leave home without them in winter, even in Texas; this was a one-time omission). Also, even though my heavy coat had a hood, I should have packed a wool cap, but didn’t.
  • Food: Several cans of food — enough to keep me fed for about 3-4 days, five at a stretch — as well as a jar of peanut butter and two large bags of biltong. Fruit, sugar and six 500-ml bottles of water made up the rest of the grocery bag.
  • Tools, etc.: camp shovel, three flashlights and spare batteries, Anza knife and a couple of folders, screwdriver- and socket set, Swiss Army and Leatherman tool-knives, 100′ nylon cord and a small first-aid bag.

It sounds like a lot but it isn’t, really. What was I missing?

Update:  a cigarette lighter.


  1. Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) with GPS transmitter.
    About the size of a couple of cigarette packets and can alert rescuers to your location within about 20 metres when activated.

    Batteries last for at least three years, probably longer.

    Also a solid fuel or small gas canister stove, mess tins and canteen cup.

    One of your flashlights should have a strobe function.

  2. White, unscented candles. They can produce enough heat inside a car to keep you alive, but you do have to be careful.

    I prefer a sleeping bag instead of blankets, but that’s personal preference.

    Something to heat the water, like a small backpacking stove. (Probably needed more in Indiana than Texas.)

    Snow shovel. (Ditto.)

  3. Three liters is not nearly enough water. A back roads car trip like yours, alone, is at least a case of Ozarka … 12 liters. Double it if your going somewhere like Big Bend. Triple it for the El Camino Del Diablo.

  4. “the appropriate quantity of ammo”? So, you were towing a 1 ton trailer as well?

    For cold weather emergencies you might also consider a pair of insulated over pants, the ones often like full length back and front chaps fastening with velcro, like skiers, snowmobilers et al. use. I find that they keep me warm better than heavier and heavier jackets.

  5. I carry pretty much what you do with minor differences plus jumper cables, a few spare parts like extra belts, a code reader and reference of what the codes mean on my cell phone, a roll of duct tape, a pdf of my shop manual on my cell, a hatchet, a crowbar, a gps receiver and paper maps, and a Baofeng transceiver that covers the 2 meter ham band, frs and that receives noaa weather radio broadcasts. I’ve also got a tent that attaches to the back of my vehicle and doubles as a tarp.

  6. A couple of MRE’s with heaters. All the ex mil guys love to rag on them, but in one small self contained pack you get a high calory meal, some snacks, some coffee, drink mix,vshit paper, matches, gum, fork, etc. Water proof, self contained, lasts forever, and you don’t need to think about it.
    A few liters of water.
    Cheap rain gear.
    A good hat, double thick wool- handmade, can’t buy them thick enough for serious wear.

  7. Just thinking of the stuff from my EDC bag, firemaking came first to mind, but then, you have a car. There’s a cig lighter in the car (hopefully if the nannies haven’t taken over), there’s 12v all over that can be used for a spark, etc. A car is a big fire making device.

    Ideas from my EDC bag (i.e. purse): it’s a good idea to keep a pair of work gloves on you

    A space blanket.

    Some instant coffee packets. Some way to heat the water would be nice, but even instant coffee in the mouth chased with a swig of water is a lifesaver if you need to stay away (or be functional come AM).

    Instant wetnap packets — that handles cleanup in general AND the TP issue. (Just grab a couple of extras next time you get BBQ.)

  8. I’ve started putting a portable air-pump (cigarette lighter powered) in the SUV for trips. If I hit really cold weather like you did, my tire low-pressure warning light always goes off. $25 – 30 on Amazon.

  9. Good stuff to have mentioned above, over 30 years ago for a couple of years I traveled for my job through North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin and alway kept a sleeping bag, ski pants and parka, mittens and gloves, coffee can with candles and other cold weather gear in addition to four and water. Thoughts of sliding off of a seldom traveled road are valid concerns.

    Now most all of my travel is warmer non-icy and I keep some great in my truck box like the stuff above, the only extra thing is a come-a-long thingy with 50 extra feet of cable and block in the middle in case I stuck out hunting or working my dog by myself which I don’t do too much anymore.

  10. Mmmm…OK. I know you’re a gun guy and were headed to the SHOT show but with all due respect, Kim, perhaps next time you venture out into the Great West you should go a little heavier on the food, water and gear and a little lighter on the artillery.

    I travel a lot out West, often by myself. Have been doing it since I was 18. An old S&W and a single box of ammo is all the firepower I typically take.

    I also carry: A portable jump starter, a heavy sleeping bag, food, water and a basic set of tools and recovery gear. Spare gloves (due to frostbite my hands have real sensitivity to cold), spare jacket, stocking caps, cell phone chargers and alternative comms (CB and Ham radio) are also on board.

    In 30+ years of camping and traveling throughout the West, I’ve used virtually every piece of non-weapon gear at least once, some of them a lot more than once.

    The pistol? Other than showing it off to a friend I’ve never taken it out of the case.

  11. In a pinch, socks work as gloves.

    Something to melt snow (which would be the most likely reason to get stuck) would be useful and a pot to melt in in. Sleeping bag.

    Even if my trip plans don’t involve hiking, I toss my day pack in the truck. This gives me a variety of outerwear and a first aid kit.

  12. I’ve always had an old snowmobile suit crammed into a small stuff sack somewhere in my trunk.

    You can sleep in it below zero without heat sources or walk to safety in it. Too warm? Open the zipper a bit. It’s bright orange, and, if you’re alone walking around in the cold, it sort of screams out “ask me if I’d like some help.” It has come in handy several times. Got it for $10 at a garage sale.

    (P.S. I’m in Minnesota.)

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