Freezing temperatures are on the way in the northern hemisphere, and have already settled in some places, so it’s time for a seasonal check of your emergency gear and supplies. I thought this winter emergency checklist would be helpful. You blokes Down Under, check back in a few months.
General Approach Preparing for Winter Emergencies
For the last several days I’ve been trying to make the next video in the Survival Cache series, but I’m in the grips of a head cold, and you wouldn’t understand anything I said. But the cold did remind me that one of the most important goals of any survival or emergency plan is to maintain your health and peak performance. This is the overarching objective in winterizing your preps. Make sure you will have the means to keep well fed, warm, and dry, and if you get sick or injured, make sure you’re prepared to doctor yourself.
EDC and BOB Gear Check
Your everyday carry bag is your first line of attack in a survival situation. We have previously detailed the contents of an EDC, so we won’t repeat here. But what you carry with you every day will change with the seasons.
For a bugout bag, I have recently switched to the stupendous Eberlestock G4 Operator pack, which was generously donated by the company for placement in the Jack Phoenix movie. I’ll be posting a review of this bag soon. You’ll find tons of details about packing a BOB here.
- Freeze protection. Keep your water bottle partly empty in case it freezes. If you use a Sport Berkey filter bottle, like me, you can fill it to about an inch from the top, and if it freezes it still won’t rupture. (Read a review of the Sport Berkey).
- Winter clothes. Get a wool hat and socks, and a pair of gloves for your bag. I always have a thin nylon shell in my EDC anyway, but if you don’t, now’s the time to add it.
- Extra energy. Add a chocolate bar to the bag; you might need the extra energy. Just remember to eat it before the heat returns, or you’ll have a mess.
- Battery check. If you haven’t done so recently, go ahead and rotate the spare batteries into your flashlight, and get a fresh set of spares. Or check them with a volt meter.
- Fire starting. Rotate your lighter. Make sure the matches and ferrocerium striker are working. Making a fire. Video: recommended contents of a survival kit.
- Lighter gun? Consider swapping the full-frame .45 for a smaller caliber to offset the extra weight of all that winter gear you just added. That way you won’t be tempted to leave the bag behind. I like the Ruger LCP, reviewed here.
- Different EDC bag. If you’re looking for an EDC bag that holds all this stuff but isn’t too bulky, consider the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger or the Falcon 2, (video review). For something smaller, check out theLunada,Remora, orVersipack.
Even if you plan to bug in, like me, you still should have an alternate bugout location in case of storm, riot, or war, and now’s a good time to make a trip to the BOL and check on things.
- Food stock check/rotation. Check canned goods and discard swollen cans or jars that have lost their seal. Inspect dry goods for signs of pests or moisture. Stay the night and cook a sample. If it smells or tastes weird, discard and replace.
- Freeze protection. Make sure your home canned food jars and water supply are protected from freezing. If you can’t keep your goods in a cellar or otherwise keep them from freezing, make sure the water containers have room for freeze expansion without bursting. This means filling no more than about 90% of total volume. NOTE: home canned goods must be kept from freezing, or they will lose their seal and spoilage will result.
- Fuel check. Test your gas supply, and top off or rotate if necessary. Check firewood for signs of dry rot.
- Medical kit. Check expiration date on any medicines, and rotate if necessary. NOTE: I store medicines vacuum packed, cool, and dark, so I keep them long past the expiration date, though I may regret it someday, and certainly don’t recommend this procedure.
- Clothing. You might have put on weight since you stocked the BOL, so try on those pants and add a larger size if you need to. But keep the old ones — they’ll fit again about two weeks after you move in. Also, revise your clothing store if you’ve added anyone to the list of invitees, especially if there are new kids on the list.
- Batteries. Check the date, rotate as necessary. To be thorough, test with a volt meter, but be sure to reseal them thoroughly.
- Mechanicals and tools. Regular maintenance on motors, like a generator, and clean and oil guns, knives, and common tools.
- Ammo. You know what they say — keep your powder dry. Make sure your ammo boxes have kept their seal. Look for signs of corrosion. Replace or recondition the desiccant.
- Structure. Inspect the roof, walls, windows, and doors. Patch as necessary.
While I have a bugout vehicle in mind, your everyday vehicle will benefit from some of these procedures too. Regular maintenance is the key to avoiding many unexpected breakdowns that might be inconvenient in summer, but frankly dangerous in cold weather.
- Battery. Cold weather weakens batteries, so as they near their end of life cycle, you’ll often discover it in the winter. Don’t be caught by surprise — check them now, and replace as needed.
- Tire pressure. Cold weather reduces tire pressure measurably, so check them when consistently cold weather sets in. Remember to use the recommended pressure specs on the sticker in the driver’s door frame, not the maximum pressure indicated on the tire sidewall. Don’t forget the spare!
- Emergency kit. For a lot of people, it makes sense to keep a modified bugout bag in the car at all times. For me this means blankets or sleeping bag, candles, a ham radio, and extra food and water. I keep more than what’s useful in a BOB, because I can always just abandon it with the vehicle if necessary, so there’s no harm in having extra. Check the flashlight batteries and test the flashlight.
- Food and water. Rotate your emergency food. Add chocolate for the winter and remember to eat it before the heat. Make sure your flexible water bottles are no more than 90% full to account for freeze expansion.
- Flares. Rotate your emergency flares.
- Luggage rack. Test/tighten the luggage rack fasteners. Confirm that you have straps or twine to fasten gear down on the roof.
- Tire changing and tool kit. Make sure your spare is in good shape, and that all the jack tools work. Inspect your basic car tool kit.