6 Critical Tips You Need to Know In Order To Survive Being Stranded in Your Car in Freezing Temperatures

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Tess Pennington
Ready Nutrition 

With the unusual winter weather that many parts of the country are experiencing, driving conditions will be harsh and potentially dangerous. Moreover, getting stranded in your vehicle could become a very real threat, especially if you are traveling in isolated parts of the country. If this happens, you have a potentially dangerous survival situation on your hands.
Most people’s instinct will tell them to leave the car and go for help. If you are in a desolate area, you may not know how far help is and leaving your car will expose you and could get you lost in the wilderness if you don’t know where you are going.

6 Critical Tips You Need to Know In Order To Survive Being Stranded in Your Car in Freezing Temperatures


OK, let’s put your survival know-how to the test. Here’s the scenario:
At 3 p.m., a last minute work order has requested you to deliver some equipment but you must drive through a remote area where the road’s elevation is between 4,000 and 4,500 feet. The road is infamous for people who don’t know the area to take in the wintertime and get stuck, but you’ve driven it a few times and feel confident you can make it before dark. Before you set out, you turn on your GPS on your cell phone just in case. You’ve also checked the weather station, which turns out is calling for unexpected snow flurries in the area, but you’re on a deadline and will drive very carefully. 
Not a lot of people are driving on the road and you wish you could be at home too. The snow has been coming down for most of the trip making the roads slick. An hour into driving, you unknowingly make a wrong turn and end up on a remote logging road. The snow is really coming down making it difficult to see and you are losing daylight fast.
You curse your GPS for not telling you where to turn but realize you’ve lost signal and have no idea where you are. You decide to turn the car around and go out the way you came. As you get to the edge of the road, you lose traction and slide into a snow bank. 
As you try to free the car from the snow bank, the car won’t budge. You feel yourself panicking as you weigh all the problems – you’ve taken a wrong turn and are on a remote logging road, no one is in sight, you’re stuck in a snow bank and it’s dark outside. 

How to Survive Being Stranded in Your Car in Winter

So, what would you do if you were in this situation? Do you have the skills to get out alive?
Let’s look at some considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Keep calm. In this type of situation, you could be stranded for hours or in some cases, days. Mental preparedness is key and you must think rationally and logically. This is easier said than done when you’re in a survival situation.
  2. Stay in your car. Above all, exposure will be your greatest threat. Survival experts stress that it is easier for authorities to find you in your car than find you wandering in unknown territory.
  3. Have a vehicle preparedness kit. This emergency kit should reflect the season your area is experiencing and the terrain you are driving through. In winter, you want to have preps on hand to keep the core body warm. Items like a whistle, brightly colored rag or ribbon, thermos, hand warmers, emergency blankets, emergency beacon, a first aid kit, and flashlight. For a more in-depth article on critical items to carry in your vehicle, click here.
  4. Have survival food and water in the car at all times. Keep the basics in mind for food and water. Snow can be melted for water (have a portable water filter in your preparedness car kit. Protein bars, MRE’s or easy survival foods can be utilized for this emergency situation.
  5. Make your car visible. Have a bright colored rag or ribbon and tie it onto your car so that search parties can find you. Even using a reflective sun shade could help alert authorities to your whereabouts.
  6. Run your vehicle every 10 minutes. If your gasoline amount allows, run your vehicle to stay warm. You can bring heat to the interior of the car and charge your cell phone at the same time. Note: Make sure the exhaust pipe of the car is unobstructed from snow. If snow is covering the pipe, this could cause exhaust fumes to enter your car and cause health issues.
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To survive this type of emergency, you must fight your instinct to leave. Staying with the vehicle will provide you shelter, warmth and if you have emergency supplies, you could have all you need to survive. No doubt that these life-saving tips will help you keep calm, think rationally and, ultimately, survive.

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5 thoughts on “6 Critical Tips You Need to Know In Order To Survive Being Stranded in Your Car in Freezing Temperatures

  1. Use a dedicated Sat-nav instead of a cell phone since the SatNav doesn’t rely on a data connection. If given a choice, get the car out of the wind and into the lee of a hill or vegetation. Be mindful of areas that might form an avalanche (even just a mini one that could bury the car). Before you leave, put a sleeping bag in the car that is rated for winter temperatures.
    The best thing to do is just say no if the weather is way below minimums. While you might be capable of driving and navigating in bad conditions, somebody else might not be and turns you into collateral damage or blocks your way and you wind up getting boxed in with traffic coming up from behind, hopefully not rear-ending you, and making you wait for emergency services to show up and route people the wrong way on the motorway to the nearest exit. Something you don’t want to be doing ad hoc.
    If you just gotta, plug your phone into the car to keep the battery topped up and have a “wingman” on the line with you so if something happens they can alert the highway patrol, forest service, etc right away. A detailed route should be left with somebody if you know that you aren’t going to have cell coverage for the whole trip ( and even if you do in case sections go out). Don’t deviate from your planned route without updating your plans with home base.
    Any Boy Scout that has gone to winter camp knows that you can stay plenty warm in your tent snug inside a proper sleeping bag. Be Prepared. Staying near your car is very important as stated, but you can help yourself to be found if you start a fire away from the car if you expect that nobody is going to bother with clearing the road you are on very soon until more major roads are taken care of. A fire isn’t going to be useful while it’s dumping snow so stay in the car and keep warm. Any emergency kit should have a good supply of matches sealed to stay dry and some fire starter material. A pack of “Sterno” canisters and some paper towels work well.
    See YouTube for reviews on really good MRE’s. Some of them are excellent meals by nearly any standard and are usually packed with the calories that you will need to stay warm.

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