Growing up in New England, I learned to appreciate the frequency of the seasons changing. When the seasons changed, so did the way we had to live with the corresponding weather and environmental conditions. Spring teaches you to deal with rain, summer teaches you how to deal with heat, the fall and winter provide important lessons about snow and cold. Just when you get used to the season, it changes forcing you to as well. Unlike relatively stable climates, when you live in different seasons, you must be prepared for the weather changes and address your kit accordingly. From what you carry on your person to what you carry in your vehicle and stock in your home, your survival kit must adapt to the seasons. As we get deeper into the winter months, here are some considerations for how to build up your winter survival kit.
Our bodies are mostly made of water and as long as we maintain a core temperature of 98.6 degrees, that water won’t freeze. As winter approaches, we must first address the clothes we wear. Breathable fabric boots should be replaced with full-grain leather. Cotton clothing is replaced with wool. Lightweight jackets are put in the closet and puffy jackets (warmies) are donned. For further protection, gloves, a scarf, and a good wool watch cap ward off the cold. Clothing is the most important factor to the individual survival kit but it should not be the only change. Considering protection first, think about the pistol carried for self-defense. Is the trigger guard accessible and can all administrative functions be carried out and all the controls accessed while wearing gloves? Folding knives conveniently carried in the warmer weather become liabilities with cold fingers. Fixed blades are therefore more practical. Working through the rest of your EDC, consider how it is affected by the weather (including snow), the bulk of your clothing, and the overall efficacy of what is carried weighed against the season. Something you may want to consider is the food carried and its caloric value. As the mercury drops, you need more calories to metabolize into energy and warmth. Don’t shy away from fatty snacks and know if you can chew them when they freeze.
Since our vehicles are an extension of our rucksack, we can use their carrying capacity to increase our capability. Our vehicles need winterization just like our personal survival kit. Keeping with the idea of not letting your body’s water freeze, one of the easiest additions to your vehicle is carrying an appropriate sleeping bag. If space is at a premium, you can carry an assortment of instant hand/body warmer packets and use them in conjunction with a spare set of warm and dry clothing. Emergency bug-in insulation including a closed foam sleeping pad should be part of your winter survival kit for your vehicle Your vehicle provides the space needed to address sustenance by allowing you the room to carry a small iso-butane canister stove and a cooking pot to melt snow and ice for water. You also can carry additional food for not only you but all of your passengers.
Your vehicle will take care of you as long as you take care of it. Winter temperatures can change the tire pressure you’re riding on. Make sure to assess the pressure of your tires regularly. Also, if you’ve been holding off on purchasing new tires, do it before the snow comes or you will be competing with everyone else rushing to do the same. Keep your vehicle gassed up in the winter months as much as possible. As we’ve taught at the Mobility Experience, your vehicle is a mobile generator. It can charge your electronic devices, warm you, signal with the headlights, and more with the engine idling. The more gas you carry, the longer you can run your generator. One of the must-have additions to the winter vehicle survival kit my late mentor strongly advocated for was HEET gasoline additive. In extremely cold temperatures, he noticed a significant difference in engine performance with and without. If you want to use this every time you fill up, consider using it whenever a cold snap is forecasted.
As winter approaches, a surprisingly commonly overlooked and underprepared aspect of our lives is the home. Winter temperatures can burst pipes leading to water damage and costly home repairs. Drafty doors and windows zap heat from your home and money from your wallet. Excess snow on your roof can lead to ice dams and even more water damage. Much like your vehicle, if you take care of your home, your home will take care of you. During winter months, I level up my grocery game and keep extra food on hand in case I can’t make it out during a blizzard or extended power-outage event. I also prepare my home with the snow-removal tools before the first storm. You shouldn’t purchase shovels during a storm much like you shouldn’t fasten your seat belt during an accident. Learn what parts of your home you can lower the thermostat in if you have limited fuel to focus the heat in more important living quarters. As many New Englanders will tell you, take care of your property too. Should a winter storm bring more ice than anything else, nearby trees can knock out power lines, fall on your home, and block your driveway. Be smart with trimming these trees back to avoid issues. An excellent test of your home survival kit is a 72-hour grid-down exercise. Before winter, turn off all electrical appliances and see if you can make do in this emergency power outage scenario. Your home should have the strongest level of preparation and
At Fieldcraft Survival, the pillars of preparedness focus on the individual, mobility, homestead, and community. In the winter months, it is easy to forget about those in our community who don’t have it as well as we do. They are Americans, we are Americans and we should help those if we can. As you upgrade your winter survival kit and purchase new clothing, additional food, and supplies, think about donating your excess and unused supplies to shelters. If you have never tried sleeping outdoors like the homeless population, you won’t understand the sensation of cold they experience. If you have never missed multiple days of meals, don’t say you’re hungry. If you fancy yourself as a protector and patriot, help those who need to be helped. Even if this means sparing a single jacket, a few cans of food, or even a portion of your day as a volunteer at a shelter, give a little back and make a difference.
Remember, this process of modifying your kit for the seasons will take place when the snow melts in the spring. Perhaps you change batteries, treat your clothing and boots with water-resistant sprays, perform a deep inspection and disassembly of your firearms, and do other routine tasks when the weather gets warmer. Whatever schedule you decide is appropriate, make it regular with the seasons, and always look to improve your level of preparedness.