How to Survive if You Become Stranded in the Wilderness During a Winter Storm

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Many Drivers Find Themselves Stranded In Winter Storms

Already this year we have seen winter storms strand people on roads.. This can be very dangerous as we have already seen winter storms steal lives this year. Most often the lives that these winter storms steal could have been saved. It is often not one decision or event but a series of poor decisions that leads to one getting stranded in the wilderness during a winter storm.

Six Ways to Survive Driving Through a Winter Storm

1. Slow Down!

If you are forced to drive through a winter storm be sure to drive slow. Most drivers think that they can handle their cars at speeds faster than they should. You have to remember that when you are driving through a winter storm you really are at the mercy of the conditions.

2. Always Tell Someone Where You Are Going

Although Aron Rolston was not trapped in a snowstorm when he was trapped in a Utah canyon for 127 hours and was forced to amputate his arm to survive but we can all learn a good lesson from his mistake to not tell anyone where he was going. This one is really easy to do but really easy to ignore.

3. Have a Survival Pack in Your Car

If you do not have one in your car then make one. A survival pack does not necessarily have to be a pack, it is really just a bunch of things to help you survive if you happened to get caught in a storm. You should plan according to how many seats are in your car. Items you should consider packing in your car:

  • Heavy Blankets or Sleeping Bags
  • High Calorie Non-Perishable Food (energy bars, candy bars, trail mix, etc.)
  • Water and Sports Drinks
  • Gloves, Hats, Scarves, Socks, Snow Boots
  • Lighter, Matches
  • Small Snow Shovel
  • Bag of Melting Salt
  • Snow Chains

Maybe you could include a couple of luxury items to help you enjoy being stranded:

  • Couple of Good Books
  • A Pot and Hot Chocolate (if you are prepared you may be able to warm up some water)
  • Crossword Puzzles or Sudoku

4. Don't Take Unplanned Shortcuts

Most often when drivers get stranded it is because a road has been closed or they took a wrong turn so they look at their map to find the fasted way back. This can be dangerous because there are many mountain roads closed in the winter regardless of the current weather conditions and you may find yourself miles down a closed road that no one will be on until the spring. Earlier this month a woman passed away when a couple took a wrong turn and decided to take a forest service road as a short cut back. It is hard to tell with most maps if roads are maintained or open in winter months, a forest service road closed for the winter can look the same as a well maintained county road on your map.

5. Get OnStar

OnStar uses satellites so you should be able to contact on star for help even if you are out of cell phone range.

6. Don't Leave Your Car

Leaving your car is usually a last resort, unless you packed snow skis in your care as a luxury item and you know where you are going. Your car is your shelter and will protect you from the elements. Once you are away from your car you are exposed. You will be surprised at how quickly frostbite and hypothermia will set in if your are exposed to the wind and snow and not properly dressed. An ASU student did not leave her car and survived for nine days in the wilderness after a strong winter storm stranded her this month.

If you have to leave your car it is because you have made multiple bad decisions. You may want to think about leaving your car if you have ventured down a closed mountain road that no one will be on until spring, your cell phone does not work, your car is not equipped with on star, you either told no one where you where headed or you where taking an unplanned shortcut. But if you do have to leave your vehicle be sure to use everything that you can from your car to protect you from the elements. Keep your feet warm with whatever materials you can.


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Comments 5 comments

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Excellent advice. I'm just glad I live in Southern California where we don't have to deal with severe winter weather. Voting this Up and Useful.


OutsideYourWorld profile image

OutsideYourWorld 4 years ago from Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada

I doubt most people even think about having a survival pack in their vehicles. At most, they have a medical kit, hah.

Good advice. It only takes one break-down of your vehicle in sub-zero temperatures to threaten your life.


David Legg 7 profile image

David Legg 7 4 years ago from Trout Paradise, Colorado

Good advice! I always keep blankets, hand warmers, an extra coat, water and high calorie food items like canned fish in the car when I am travelling into the mountains, and if I am going off the beaten path I add other items like fire starting gear to my list.


Outbound Dan profile image

Outbound Dan 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

Excellent advice and something that people rarely think of until they are along stuck in a snowbank at below 0 wind chills.


Marie Gail profile image

Marie Gail 2 years ago from Olathe, KS

I find survival in extreme conditions interesting. As someone who has lived in the Midwest most of my life, I generally keep emergency blankets and non-perishable food in my car during the winter months. The one recommendation I would add is NEVER drive on ice. It can't be done successfully. Snow is one thing; ice is an entirely different matter.

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