What’s in your vehicle survival kit?
You’ve no doubt heard of Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will.” Munson’s Law, which I named for myself, is the corollary to Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will. And you will feel like a jackass because you knew better and you let it happen anyway.” One of the places where our survival strategies can go full Munson is in our vehicles. Everyone–not just jackasses like yours truly–has a tendency to think of our cars as little mobile extensions of our homes. This is a mistake.
It takes only a moment for your car to go from “vehicle moving at 60 mph” to “half a ton of crumpled steel.” It only takes a storm shifting off-track at the last second to turn a highway into a flash flood. When that happens, you may not even have the luxury of using your car as a temporary shelter from the elements. (If you’d like to know how I learned this, it’s “the hard way.”) So, in order to beat Munson’s Law, this is what I now keep in my trunk at all times, for every trip, no matter what.
1. Full-size camp axe
You’re going to want to cheap out on your trunk axe. Don’t do this. You may need it to break up a felled tree, or to cut branches to make shelter. This is not the time to discover that yes, there are grades of steel and some of them barely qualify as tinfoil. Boy, did I feel dumb.
2. Cat litter
It’s bulky, it’s heavy, it takes up space and you’re going to want to take it out of your car. Do not do this, even if it’s summer and you want to make room for your bear tent. I did that once in late May, and managed to get my car stuck in a snowdrift at 7,000 feet the following day. The cat litter I left on the floor of my garage was, therefore, not available to be scattered under my wheels.
3. Space blanket and tea candles
You already know what the space blanket’s for…fashioning an emergency shelter or warming oneself up. I used to think it was dumb to bring a space blanket in my trunk because I had plenty of room for a real blanket, and my car would certainly serve as an emergency shelter. And it would have, if the car had still been car-shaped and not some new weird defiance of Euclidean geometry.
Here’s the trick: You take the space blanket and set it up around yourself like a little teepee. Then you take a single tea candle and light that bad boy. In about two minutes, you will be very warm and you will stay that way for up to 12 hours (depending on the tea candle).
4. Paracord, rope, and more rope
Do you know what you need for just about every single survival strategy humankind has devised? Rope. Do you know what you absolutely will not have at the moment you need it? You guessed it: rope! That’s because the nature of rope is to tangle itself up in your tire tools and other random crap you keep in your trunk, and if you are Trace Munson, one day you will get annoyed with it and pitch it on the garage floor to make room for the other stuff you want to bring. Don’t be like Trace Munson.
5. Lighter, steel wool, flint, striker
From Jack London to Bear Grylls, everybody understands why it’s paramount to build a fire. We can live a long time without food and a few days without water, but hypothermia kills in just hours. So I won’t spend too much time emphasizing the fact that lighters love to just quit working and that flint is a pain in the ass to use…I’ll just mention that you really need to have redundant capabilities here. That’s because I have a secret survival tool that everyone should have with them at all times, and it can’t work without a fire.
6. The biggest, nastiest dog-turd of a cigar you can find
Sometime after midnight at 9,000 feet and 20 below zero, you exit your wrecked car and look around you at the empty, howling wilderness. Your cell phone has no bars, and the nearest town is a day’s walk away. Nobody’s expecting you, and nobody’s coming to get you. What to do?
Take that cigar, bite off the end, and get your firestarter. By the time you exhale your third big puff, someone will be along to tell you to PUT THAT DAMN THING OUT.
What’s in your vehicle survival kit? Tell us in the comments!
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