Although technically winter doesn’t begin until December 21st, in many parts of the country it’s here already. Winter always seems to catch us off guard. It’s no big deal if you love things like making snowmen or using the fireplace, but it can be dangerous if you find yourself out in it with no way to get home.
With frigid temperatures and falling snow, now is the time to make sure your winter preparations are in order. Assuming, of course, that you want to avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Not only will being stuck outdoors in the winter ruin your fun, it could even take your life.
Obviously no one plans on getting into an emergency situation, but having the right gear could mean the difference between life and death. Here are 19 survival items you need to get now before it gets any colder. Keep them in your vehicle at all times.
1. Pack – When putting together any survival kit, you will need a durable pack to carry everything. Tactical or hiking backpacks that use MOLLE webbing are high quality and designed for rugged conditions.
2. Knife – A good knife belongs in any survival kit for every environment imaginable, since it’s the tool you will arguably use the most often. Most survival experts recommend that you keep a fixed blade knife as your primary blade, and a smaller folding knife for backup or for more precise work.
3. Fire Starting Materials – Include a variety! Lighters, matches, magnesium flint strikers, fire laces, you name it. Fire is absolutely critical for warmth during winter, and you should give yourself as many options as you can carry with you. That way when one system fails, you can always fall back on another.
4. Folding Saw – A folding saw is a necessary component of winter survival gear because it gives you the ability to get right into the interior of the wood where it will be the most dry. This is the part of wood that you will need for fire starting.
5. Hatchet – A hatchet is an excellent complement to your folding saw in a winter survival kit. It can chop wood, help start fires, and give you protection. A quality hatchet will hold up for a lifetime even after heavy use.
6. Canteen – Do you really need a canteen for a winter survival kit? After all, you can just melt or eat the snow around you, right? You can, but the reason why you should still have a canteen is because it’s practical and allows you to have water on you at all times while you travel.
7. Headlamp – It’s always a bonus to have your hands free while you prepare shelter or your food at night. A headlamp that is compact, light, and has a long battery life not only takes up little space in your pack and fulfills these duties, but it can also help you see through a thick snowstorm while you travel on foot.
8. All Weather Blanket – All weather blankets have the ability to reflect back up to 80% of body heat. They are also extremely lightweight, and if you get the brightly colored versions, they can double as signaling devices if necessary.
9. Wool Blanket – This blank is soft, large, and fire retardant so you can sit close to your fire without worrying about the blanket being set ablaze. I realize I just listed two blankets in a row, but as with fire starting materials, it’s important to have more than one option.
10. Foam Mat – A foam mat is a critical component of a winter survival shelter because it keeps your body off the snow and preserves heat thanks to the half inch of insulation. When resting atop an extra layer of pine branches, it works even better.
11. Sleeping Bag – Since you already have an all weather blanket, wool blanket, and foam mat in your survival kit, your sleeping bag doesn’t have to be heavy. An escape bivvy, for example, is breathable, lightweight, and fits in your hand when rolled up.
12. Cord – As a general rule of thumb, include at least 50 feet of cordage for the purposes of lashing together a shelter or building snares to catch food.
13. MRE’s – Food is scarce during the colder months in general, which is why it’s absolutely necessary for you to include some kind of food in your pack. MRE’s often don’t taste good, but they’re convenient and nourishing.
14. Folding Shovel – A compact, folding shovel is key for winter survival, especially in areas that can drop over a foot of snow every 24 hours. In places like that, a shovel will come in handy both to dig yourself a shelter, and possibly to dig yourself out of one as well.
15. Extra Clothing – You should always dress in layers in the winter, but even those layers can get wet and cause hypothermia. For this reason, always keep an extra set of gloves, socks, jackets, pants, and a hat.
16. Sunglasses – One of the most overlooked winter survival items is a good pair of sunglasses. Sunlight that glares off of snow covered mountains can be just as bad for your eyes as looking at the sun itself.
17. Sand / Cat Litter – This is another overlooked winter survival item. If you’re working on icy terrain, you risk slipping and hurting yourself. Sand or cat litter gives you extra traction for your boots to grab ahold of.
18. Maps – While a GPS is useful, without batteries or a signal it’s practically useless. For this reason, always keep a map of your local area that displays roads and other landmarks in your pack. These maps should also be adequately protected by a map case to protect them from moisture.
19. First Aid Kit – Your medical supplies do not have to be elaborate, but they should cover all of your essentials such as bandages, gauze pads, pain relievers, scissors, and any prescription meds you need.