On a fairly cool day in February of 2016, I had to unexpectedly drive from Niagara Falls, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario. A distance of about 140km. In the Niagara Falls area is was slightly below freezing. I had on an insulated vest, and regular street clothes and moccasins (I don’t wear socks). By the time I got to Toronto it was after midnight and -14C.
My vehicle was running low on fuel and I stopped to pay-at-the-pump. I inserted my bank card and noticed that fuel was very expensive ($1.06/l) and just across the street it was only $0.89/L. I proceeded to go across the street and try to fuel there.
Something went wrong with the system, and it kicked back my payment and would not authorise. In my freezing cold state, shivering uncontrollably I drove off and left fuel pump.
Some time later my fuel light came on, and I was forced to leave the comfortable +25C truck cabin and go out for fuel. As I pulled up to the pump I realised I had made a horrible mistake. I left my bank card about 50km behind me at the last fuel stop.
I had no cash on me. I had no bank card. It was after midnight, and I wouldn’t be able to make it home.
I was faced with some difficult choices:
1) Spend the night in my truck and visit the bank in the morning
2) Call someone wit a credit card and hope they would answer
3) try to make a 100km trip with the fuel light on in the vehicle
None of these options seemed to make me feel any better. Just like that, I was in a survival situation. I wasn’t properly dressed to be outside. I had no money, no fuel, and nowhere to go.
As I picked up my mobile phone to call someone to borrow a credit card for fuel, it donned on me that I had done something to assist my situation a few months ago. I had put $40.00 cash in the back of mobile phone case! I was saved! I bought fuel, and headed home warm and unscathed.
This brings us to a bunch of innocent mistakes that are made daily in bad weather that cause people to get injured or killed each year. Women, in particular are very bad for dressing to look amazing, but not to stay warm. It’s very common in cold, snowy conditions for women to wear high heel sandals.
There is nothing wrong with wearing open toed shoes in the freezing cold weather, or being under dressed, as long as you are prepared. A few simple steps can ensure that inappropriately dressed people can survive in an unfortunate situation and life can go on unchanged.
The first step is to get a gym bag from a thrift store. Do not buy a beautiful new sexy tactical bag with MOLLE on the sides as it can become a target for theft. The older and uglier and more common the bag is, the more it will go unnoticed. This bag will serve as your winter survival bag and can save you and your partners life in the cold weather.
Pack your bag with at least the following items:
– Blanket or sleeping bag
– Lighter & Matches
– Food such as freeze-dried camping food or pull-tab can of food
– Electric torch (flashlight)
– Foldable Shovel
– Pocket heaters
– Pocket / Swiss Army Knife
– Extra Socks
– Winter boots
– Toilet Paper
As stated above, I also keep $40.00 or more stuck inside my mobile phone case. There are few emergency problems that $40.00 cannot solve. Including cab ride, food, fuel, or clothing from a thrift store. Take this bag, and put it in your vehicle somewhere that it won’t get in the way, and won’t be seen as a target for theft. More sophisticated bags can include road triangles, flares, orange garbage bag for signalling, and even hand held radios if you choose. Your options are limited to your environment and imagination. In summer, I include bottles of water in my kit.
The above kit and bag can easily be put together with items found around the house, or at a thrift store. The idea is that if you ever find your self or your vehicle stranded in inclement weather, or in a bad situation, you can easily be warm, and survive the night. If absolutely necessary you have tools to make fire. Matches and a lighter. You can also use the toilet paper if necessary to help with the fire.
Always stay with your vehicle if it becomes stranded (Unless it is unsafe to do so). Your vehicle provides wind protection, can be easily heated, and will be easily found by rescue workers and crew. If you are stranded in the vehicle, be sure to open a window a few centimetres to ensure that you do not get carbon monoxide poisoning. If you start a fire, be sure you are close to your vehicle, but a safe distance so it cannot catch fire during the night.