Getting your vehicle prepped for cold weather emergencies really is as simple as stocking it with the gear to keep you warm, hydrated, and fed while you’re stranded. A recent winter storm followed by a cold snap gave me the perfect opportunity to review how well I have prepared my truck for cold weather emergencies. The temperature plunged below 0 F, and if I had been stranded on the road, I would have been in dire straits unless I had prepped the truck.
Here’s a list of items I store in the truck:
- Water. Keep the water in containers that will expand without bursting as the water freezes. Keep it in the cab to reduce the risk of freezing. You’ll notice in the video that I forgot to move my water supply back into the cab, and when the temperature dropped, all the water froze.
- Food. Dried or canned prepared food is best, something you can eat without heating, if necessary. By all means heat it if you can; it tastes better and warms you up, but just be sure you can eat it cold if you must. If you store canned food, make sure you have easy-pull tabs. Your multitool will have a can opener as a backup, but if it gets lost or forgotten, you still need to eat. Choose high calorie foods with lots of fat. I like Spam and sardines in olive oil. The oil in the sardines can be eaten, or it can be burned off as a candle.
- First Aid Kit. In this case I have just a minimal kit. For a more elaborate vehicle kit, take a look at what I keep in the family SUV.
- Wool Clothing. Not to beat a dead horse, but wool is best. It keeps you warm even when damp, it is fire and ember resistant, it breathes, and it is water repellent, anti bacterial and anti fungal. I keep a hat, a scarf, and socks, all made of wool, plus a few other items.
- Wool Blanket. I have a down sleeping bag which I use as a cover, but the wool blanket I put under me to insulate me from the frigid leather seat. Down will not insulate you anywhere it is compressed (like under you) because it depends on its loft for insulating value.
- Down Sleeping Bag. A high fill power down sleeping bag makes the warmest, lightest, most packable cover you can get. I recommend the Marmot Hydrogen. TIP: zip the bag open, leaving about two feet zipped at the bottom; put on two pairs of thick wool socks, and tuck your feet into the bottom of the sleeping bag.
- Rope. Paracord or Dyneema make outstanding cordage for hundreds of uses. Paracord is much cheaper and readily available, but Dyneema is much stronger and lighter.
- Multitool. In my case, a camping type of Swiss Army Knife is perfect. Leatherman and others make excellent multitools, but the SAK is my favorite standby.
- Flashlight and Spare Batteries. I like Surefire, and there are many good options, such as Black Diamond.
- Whistle. Your voice will give out, eventually. Besides, the higher pitch of the whistle will be more noticeable at a distance.
- Fire Starting Tools. You might have to cook, dry off, or just warm up — a camp fire could save your life.
- Toilet Paper. Camping without toilet paper can be a miserable experience. Don’t forget the toilet paper.
- Reading Material. Reading helps to pass the time, and stimulates the mind. I have a King James bible in the pack. Just choose something you’ll be able to read and re-read.
- Backpack. I use the Granite Gear Leopard 58 in my truck, and the Maxpedition Doppelduffel in the family SUV. The latter has stowable shoulder straps so it can be carried like a backpack.
My truck is equipped with an auxiliary fuel tank/tool box combo. The extra fuel gives me a total range of around 1200 miles, with a total idle time of around 120 hours. These are conservative estimates based on the actual fuel usage, not manufacturer fuel economy numbers. If you do idle the truck to warm it up inside, be sure nothing — like a snow drift — is obstructing the exhaust pipe. You should be able to keep it warm by idling for 20 minutes every 60 t0 90 minutes. While the truck is running, go ahead and blow the horn. A long series of three one-second blasts is widely recognized as a distress signal.