Survival Tips and Tricks, Part III

This post is about surviving when you have been in a MVA (motor vehicle accident) or are stranded in your car in a relatively uninhabited area.

If you are traveling by vehicle (car truck SUV etc) and you are or plan to be in relatively uninhabited areas, there are several things (plans, preparations, supplies) that are essential to your survival in an accident or stranding (I am talking here of an accident where there are minimal injuries or no injuries at all)

1) Before leaving on a trip check your vehicle thoroughly. Is the gas tank full or are you planning on buying gas at the beginning of your trip? If the vehicle needs an oil change do it well BEFORE the trip. Is your spare tire inflated to the proper amount of psi? Are your other tires also inflated to the proper psi? Do you have a tire gauge to check the pressure? Do the so-called little things (headlights, horn, hazard flashers, air conditioning, heating) work properly? Is your tire jack easily located and can you operate it yourself? Do you even have a jack? Do you have a lug wrench? Can you use it to remove the nuts from your tire rim if needed? Do you have foam sealant or a portable compressor and plug kit? Do you have a GPS unit in your car or is your cell phone equipped with GPS? Do you know how to use it?

1a) Before leaving tell somebody–anybody–where you are going, when you expect to get there, and what route you plan on taking. It’s a good idea to check in with this person (cell phone, landline phone, text message, email) when you get to your destination. Consider if you want this person to notify the authorities (police, sheriff’s office, etc) if you haven’t checked in by a certain time.

2) An in-vehicle survival kit should include a working cell phone, jumper cables or a portable battery booster, extra water, extra non-perishable food, extra DRY and weather-appropriate clothing, extra shoes/boots, ~dry blankets~, extra vehicle maintenance items (such as oil, gas, transmission fluid, etc), a *first aid kit*, a fire extinguisher, flares, warning lights, spare fuses, flashlights (check the batteries inside, and carry extra batteries too), gloves, hand cleaner, clean rags (changing a tire is dirty work!), your auto club card or roadside assistance information, your insurance information, disposable flash camera (or digital camera) for documenting an accident for insurance purposes, a small tarpaulin, $20.00 in currency and coins, a credit or debit card, pen and paper, maps of the areas you will be in, large (33-40 gallon) bright orange or florescent green garbage bags, and extra supplies of any medications you take on a daily basis. Depending on the area you are in or the time of year you are traveling, bug repellent of some kind might come in handy.

If you will be driving in the winter add another DRY blanket, a winter hat, chemical hand warmers, tire chains and tow strap, snow shovel (collapsible one is fine), ice scraper, matches and/or a lighter, and cat litter. You could also add a small camp stove or barbeque grill with appropriate fuel, and collapsible pots and pans for cooking some of the non-perishable canned food (soup, chili, canned vegetables etc) that you also have in your kit.

Some of these items will be stored in the trunk or cargo area of the vehicle, while others will be on your person or in a wallet or handbag.

3) Don’t leave your vehicle unless its unsafe to stay (its on fire, looks or sounds like it might explode, go over a cliff, etc). The vehicle is a ready-made shelter and also makes you more visible to on-ground or in-air searchers. Your contact person may not know what clothes you are wearing, but he/she should know the make model and color of your vehicle–and that is the information they will give to law enforcement when it comes time to look for you. Your vehicle may have GPS installed, if so authorities will track the car not you. Leaving the vehicle also can lead to you becoming disoriented or lost.

4) If you must leave the vehicle, use it for everything you can before moving on (and have a plan for moving on before you do so–studying a map BEFORE you leave can tell you where the next town or source of shelter, water, or food may be). Oil and gas can be used as fire starters in the winter. Seat belt webbing and the foam from seats can be used to make some very ugly (but warm!) winter boots. Do you really care how ugly something is if it saves you from losing your toes to frostbite? That extra food, water, clothing, blanket, etc in your survival kit–if you can carry it take it with you. Be sure to take the matches and/or lighter with you too, as you may need to build a fire later on. Building a fire without matches or a lighter can be done, but it is very hard work. Take the tarp and garbage bags with you too if you think you will need to build a shelter as both are excellent for making leak-proof shelter roofs. Leave a note in the vehicle that can tell potential rescuers when you left and what direction you are heading.

*First Aid Kit* recommended items for first aid kit
1) assortment of bandages (
2) gauze
3) antibiotic ointments such as Neosporin
4) Face mask
5) Tweezers (plastic or metal)
6) Needle (for removing splinters)
7) Antiseptic wipes or sprays for cleaning dirty wounds
8) Cotton Swabs
9) Medications such as antihistamines, pain killers, anti-diarrhea medications, aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.
10) Water purification tablets
11) Disposable gloves
12) Trauma shears or scissors
13) Cotton Swabs

~Dry Blankets~

I emphasize DRY blankets because of my own experience with a not-so-dry wool blanket that had been stored in the back of my 2001 Chevy S-10 pickup truck. In January 2011 I was traveling from Bend Oregon to Eagle Creek Oregon (approximately 200 miles one way) when my heater suddenly stopped working. I was wearing crop pants, a short-sleeve t-shirt, and Crocs. I had not brought along even a sweater, much less a coat! The outside temperature was in the mid 50’s to low 60’s so I was FREEZING to put it mildly. I got the blanket out of the truck bed and wrapped it around my legs. It was NOT completely dry and it smelled pretty bad (wool tends to smell when it gets wet) but it kept me warm–if not comfortable–for the last hour or so of my journey (a friend gave me a non-wool blanket for the trip home, and another friend gave me her Champion sleeveless fleece vest to wear too)


  1. Excellent article 🙂 Made me consider checking my spare tire, since I suppose it hasn’t been looked at since 1999 😀
    If I would store all of that in my car at all time though, gosh I would have no room for any passengers LOL – but when taking a trip like you describe in the future, I will definately pack some of these items!

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