As the days grow shorter we know the Summer season is winding down and Autumn is quickly arriving behind it. September is usually the month that we begin to think of the eventual arrival of Winter and begin the transition that comes with it. Especially where I’m at up in Alaska. We pack away our Summer toys and clothes, such as short sleeve shirts, shorts, backpacking gear, jet skis, kayaks, and the majority of our camping gear. We slowly replace them with warmer coats, shoes, hats and gloves, and all the accessories associated with cooler fall and winter weather.
This time of transition should also be our time of reassessment for our emergency preparedness clothing and gear. It’s the perfect time to dig into our Bug Out Bags, emergency rations and medical supplies to make sure everything still works, fits, and is safe to use. It’s essential to any well thought out sustainability plan to have periodic reevaluations. These evaluations allow you to replace any expired medication and food products, along with any clothing you may have outgrown. One area that we ought to not overlook and inspect is our Vehicle Preparedness Bag, which should be in our vehicles whenever we drive them.
What is a Vehicle Preparedness Bag and Why Do I NEED one ?
Simply explained a Vehicle Preparedness Bag is a bag or backpack that is kept in your vehicle in order to sustain you while you are away from your home during an emergency situation. This bag has been referred to by many names: 72 Hour Bag and Get Home Bag are some of the most popular names associated with a vehicle preparedness bag. The idea behind these types of bags is to allow you to have an easy to carry stash of food, supplies, and clothing to assist you in getting home or to your prearranged meeting place in the event of an emergency event.
You don’t NEED a Vehicle Preparedness Bag, but I can promise you a well thought out and assembled bag will increase your chances of getting back safely into the arms of your friends and family. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you then disregard the rest of this article.
When making a Vehicle Preparedness Bag, there are several variables to consider. Weather conditions, potential threats, caloric intake and medical needs should be taken into account. In our scenario, we will be building a Get Home Bag to be used during the Winter months in an area where sub freezing temperatures and snow might be present. This template can be applied to more than 50% of the continental United States during the months of October thru April.
Where to Start?
First thing you are going to need is a backpack or bag. We have covered several types of bags from top manufacturers such as 5.11 Tactical, Osprey, and REI, Inc. We actually have an entire section of the web page dedicated to packs and bags. Browse our Bag Section under the Adventure Tab and get started. If you don’t find anything to your liking there send us an email via the Comms Link and I’m confident we can recommend a bag to fit your needs.
Your bag doesn’t have to be the biggest or most expensive, so choose a pack in your price range with features that are important to you. It’s important to remind yourself that this isn’t a pack for a fourteen day safari across the Serengeti Desert or Invasion of Iraq, it’s a basic get home bag.
What goes Inside the pack?
One you have selected your pack, start the task of trying to decide what is a need and what is a want. Determining what to bring and how much that item weighs is the hardest part of the equation. Trying to pack correctly but not overpack is a balancing act we all have gone through. We have some ideas on what should be in your bag
- Medical Kit: We really like the Get Home Alive Medical Kit from Wild Hedgehog. It’s simple, compact and comes in zippered pouch and only weighs 1.5 lbs. The folks at Wild Hedgehog really understand how to make affordable well stocked simple kits. It also features a zippered exterior pouch to hold our second and third items on the list
- Knife: The knife you carry in your bag doesn’t have to be a giant bowie knife or a machete. It only has to be well built and and have a sharp edge. We have featured several folding style knives in the recent past that would be ideal for your Get Home Bag. Zero Tolerance, Kershaw, Emerson, SOG, and Victorinox have all been tested by authors here at The Loadout Room and been deemed good to go by our team. I will say without a doubt, that collectively we have abused many brands and styles of knives, and if they pass our tests they should pass your tests.
- Emergency Whistle: Everyone laughs at the idea of an emergency whistle until they try yelling for a few hours trying to get the attention of anyone who can help them. Emergency whistles are cheap, small, and they are loud as hell with some reaching 120 decibels. That’s comparable to standing 125 feet away from a jet engine
- Emergency Blanket: Don’t stuff your favorite blankiee that grandma made you when you were six into your bag. Although it may have sentimental value it most likely won’t keep you warm enough. I recommend a quality space blanket or reflective emergency poncho like the one pictured AND a military poncho liner known affectionately as a woobie. I believe strongly in layers, and back up plans. An old wool military blanket is also a suitable substitute for the woobie
- Shovel: We aren’t talking about the shovel you use for your driveway, we are talking about a packable shovel. The shovels we are taking about are the ones commonly used by snowmobilers, snowboarders, skiers and other winter recreationists. These are available at nearly any shop that would sell winter outdoor gear. Black Diamond, Mammut, and Arva all make high quality shovels. For the cost conscious, although much heavier, a military issue entrenching tool can also be used
- Food and Water: You might be stuck in your vehicle or away from your house for quite some time, so it only makes sense to have some amount of food and water in your pack. Stay away from junk food, avoid soda pop, candy and sweets. I personally keep Clif Energy Bars, trail mix and U.S. Coast Guard approved emergency rations in my pack. They may taste like lemon flavored cardboard but they are enough to sustain you.
- Reading material: I always keep a magazine or a paperback in my bag, it gives you something to pass the time and keeps your mind occupied. Boredom is your enemy in times when you will need to dig into your pack.
- Toilet Paper: This may get a laugh out of some but like we all learned in elementary school “Everybody Poops”. What happens when you are stuck on the side of the road and you are sitting in your car patiently waiting and that feeling hits. You know the one, the slight stomach pain that makes you sweat a bit and pray it goes away. The discomfort that doesn’t go away but only gets worse. That’s when you are thankful you have toilet paper in your pack. Nothing is as humiliating as having to cut the sleeve off your own shirt to wipe your ass. I’ve done it and everyone knows what you’ve done. It’s a walk of shame.
- Warm Clothes: It sounds basic but we often times are in a hurry and forget this simple solution for cold conditions. When driving in the winter always have appropriate weight gloves, socks, winter boots, and a stocking cap with you. Yes it will mess up your hair ladies and may make you look like an extra on the set of Fargo but you’ll be warm and alive.
- Hand warmers: Instant hand warmers like the kind sold in nearly every big box style department store are cheap insurance. Anyone who has worked outside in the elements can attest to the fact that once your hands get extremely cold, even the simplest tasks become difficult. There are several kinds on the market today, but the most common types are single use and reusable. Reusable hand warmers often times just need to be submerged in hot water for a prescribed time and they are ready to reuse again. Instant hand warmers were, in my opinion, instrumental in myself not falling victim to the onset of hypothermia during a winter photo shoot. That is described at the later sections of the story from March 2015 entitled: Hypotehrmia, Photography and the Iron Dog
It’s no secret I live in Alaska, and living here I end up having to drive farther distances than most people in the lower 48 states to get where I am going. I am keenly aware of the hazards of winter driving and the fact that where I live, first responders and emergency medical personnel may not be five minutes away. Every year there are news reports here on the local Alaska television stations of people getting trapped in their cars because of accidents or vehicle malfunctions. Some of these stories are tales of minor aggravation and longer than expected commute times, and others are tales of tragedy that end in death. Winter anywhere can be a gorgeous season full of excitement and breath taking beauty, but mother nature can be a cold vicious creature.
The snow ice and freezing temperatures that come along with winter in most areas is not a respecter of person or gender. It doesn’t care if you are a trained Navy SEAL with hours upon hours of winter survival training , or a house wife on the way to the gym to get in a workout. Winter weather can and does kill. It’s just that simple. Luckily like everything else in life, if you make a plan, and practice that plan, you stand a much better job of coming out with the desired result.
I know that it may sound boring or redundant to some that I repeatedly talk about checking your preps and gear to make sure you maximize your chances of survival and sustainability. I do this because I know there are people out there that will read this or talk to me about their plans or have questions and they have never moved past the planning phase. They have been in the planning stages for months, even years. That is dangerous, it will eventually get those people and their families in a situation that will be detrimental to their health and sustainability.
Be intentional about your preps. If you don’t know how to do something, ask questions. If you don’t want to ask a question below, feel free to use the Comms Check and we will put our collective brains together. We want to hear about your growth as outdoorsmen and preppers. Telling your growth and story may save someones life. Be sure to check back to see what is coming up in winter recreation and travel – see what Leo, Scott, Isaiah, and all of us are up to.