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Basic survival gear – don’t leave home without it

December 28, 2018 GMT

This is a topic that Tristan Winder and I talked about recently on KODY’s Mugs in the Morning and it is an important topic for this time of year. Whether you are planning a trip into the backcountry, or just driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, you need a few basic items in your vehicle for survival. Accidents and emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime.

Read any book on survival and it will tell you that you need four basic things: shelter, water, fire and perhaps food. For most survival situations, food is actually the last thing you need to think about. The majority of survival situations last only a couple days, so food is not the most critical element.


Being officially winter now, shelter is probably your biggest concern. Simply wearing adequate clothing goes a long way to help you survive. Don’t wear just the minimum you need to get from the house to the car, wear what you would need to stand out in the environment for an hour!

Your vehicle, regardless of what you drive, is shelter from wind, snow, rain. Staying with your vehicle provides you two advantages; it is shelter and it is much easier to see a vehicle on the landscape than a single person. You will probably be rescued faster if you stay with your vehicle.

A simple item you need to carry in your vehicle is a poly-tarp. One that is 10x12-foot is adequate. This can help with shelter and you would be surprised how warm you can stay by wrapping up in a tarp like this. Get a brightly colored poly-tarp to drape over your vehicle so it can be seen even easier.

A candle, one of those big ones in a jar, is a nice thing to have in your vehicle. If you are stuck in a ditch overnight…a cold night…a candle can make a lot of difference. A candle will provide light, not only so you can see, but also so people can see you. It can also provide a lot of warmth in a closed vehicle. Just make sure you have a slight window opening somewhere so carbon monoxide doesn’t build up.

Being able to make fire for warmth is a big item to consider. I carry several methods of starting a fire with me all the time. I personally carry a lighter and my vehicles have a couple lighters tucked into glove boxes and center consoles. Not just any lighter though (although any lighter is better than nothing), I prefer the Scripto disposable lighters. They have a “safety” on them that makes it very difficult to open the valve and let the fuel out accidently. I have found that BIC lighters are notorious for being empty when you need them.


You can buy waterproof matches, but you pay a lot for something you can easily make yourself. You’ll need some “strike anywhere” matches (this may be the hardest item to find in this list) and clear fingernail polish. Just dip the head of the match in the polish and let it dry. You now have a waterproof match that you can strike on any hard/rough surface. Pretty simple!

If you read the caution statements on many of the adhesives you have for jobs around the house, many of them are very flammable. Squeeze out a ribbon of such an adhesive on the ground, even in a puddle of water, as long as some of the adhesive is above water, and it will burn. A couple inches of adhesive will burn about 10 minutes. You can get the wettest tender to burn in that amount of time!

One more easy way to start a fire is to make your own “fire balls”. Take a cotton ball and coat it with Neosporin. One of these “fire balls” can burn for about five minutes. Not only will you have an excellent fire starter, you’ll also have a ready treatment for minor cuts and scrapes.

You should have a knife. You don’t need a “Rambo” knife, but a sturdy knife with at least a 4-inch blade is about right. A 6-inch fixed blade hunting knife is a good choice, too. There are a thousand uses for a knife, but you must have one with you to be able to use it.

I also recommend that you carry about 50-feet of a small diameter rope. You don’t need anything real heavy, just something you can use to tie up the corners of your tarp or lash a set of boards around a broken leg. Rope has many uses!

I keep a few food items in my vehicles during the winter. Dried foods are good but canned goods will stand up to some freezing and thawing. I carry a couple cans of canned meat and something like apple pie filling. I have adequate protein with the canned meat and lots of energy in the pie filling. You will need extra energy to stay warm.

And…if you have cans, you need a can opener. The simplest can opener I ever saw was given to me by the Marine Corps. I think everyone who has been in the military will recognize it. It is called a P-38. Great invention…works every time…never needs batteries.

I hope you never need to depend on any of these items, but if you have them with you, you will be ready to handle the situation.