Can You Solve this Riddle of Car Survival Kits?

Summer car survival kitIt’s always great when readers of Living Ready‘s magazine and newsletter write in with questions. If the staff can’t answer them, we usually know someone else with the right know-how. But this one has us stumped. Can you solve this riddle of cold weather car survival kits?

Jeff W. lives near Chicago, where the winters can get brutally cold. The summers can get just as hot. This makes it tough to balance the items in his car survival kit, or “go bag” as he calls it.

With the winter approaching, he wrote in with this question. It’s a really good one.

When talking about go bags, most people think of being fully prepared for 72 hours or more. Up here north of Chicago, if I leave my bags in the car for a long shopping stop everything will freeze solid in the winter, and the inside of the vehicle will get north of 140 degrees in the summer.

Anything in a pressurized can, such as Fix-a-Flat, would not only freeze, but you run a real risk of it exploding along with your other supplies. Any cans
of food, even solids like candles, can break to pieces at the slightest good bump.

In the summer, you have chances of your food spoiling or melting, fire starters possibility causing a fire, not to mention ammo and other flammables causing a fire.

Plus, all these huge swings in temperatures have to even affect items like tents, freeze-dried food, and other equipment shortening their life span also.

I have several go bags, but I really can’t see a safe way to carry them on a regular basis in the above conditions in my vehicles. I guess you could always only carry the items that travel safely under the above conditions but that could leave you very short on supplies when you really need them.

I’m sorry but I can’t figure an easy way around this issue.

Here was my suggestion:

You need two bags. One goes in the cab with you. The other one goes in the trunk.

The items that need to stay warm in the winter or cool in the summer (like a can of Fix-a-Flat) go in the bag in the front. That air will be conditioned to be cooler or warmer depending on the season. Even if you don’t have AC, body heat or rolled down windows can help a lot.

The bag in the trunk is for things that need to stay out of the sun during the summer, aren’t as sensitive to temperatures in the winter or just should stay in the trunk.

What about you? Have any suggestions? This riddle is the challenging reality everyone with car survival kits in a cold state (and warm states sometimes) faces with each extreme temperature swing.

Living Ready Store Resources for Survival Kits

Backpack Survival KitHere are a few items from the Living Ready Store to help you out with car survival kits.

Build the Perfect Survival Kit book – This John McCann read is full of easy-to-use information for making custom survival kits.

Wise Company 2 Week Deluxe Survival Backpack – No, you won’t likely spend two weeks in your car. But this pre-made kit comes in a backpack you can keep in the trunk. There’s no such thing as being too prepared.

Adventurer Pocket Survival Tin – Unlike the backpack, this pre-made survival kit product is less bulky and contains fewer items. It’s about the size of a deck of cards, but it makes smart use of the space by including survival essentials. I’ll level with you: You’d be able to make this kit yourself with an Altoids tin and an afternoon. But for family and friends not as into preparedness as you, it’s ideal.

10 thoughts on “Can You Solve this Riddle of Car Survival Kits?

  1. BiffSarin

    Replace the water with a bottle of vodka. It doesn’t do much for your thirst but it doesn’t freeze and if you get stuck somewhere, at least it will ‘improve your mood’ 😉

    Obviously this post was intended as humor…but I couldn’t resist.

  2. rbhcountry

    Have you considered putting the items inside a 12v cooler type system and leave plugged in while driving? Some systems disconnect the electrical circuit when ignition is off, so it would maintain the temp.setting longer and it is a hard case item which can be used in a primitive camp or survival setting if needed. Be safe and shoot straight!

  3. JLA

    Having at least 2 kits, one for summer & one for winter, is essential, and you’re just going to have to get used to the fact that things like food & water–even MRE’s–aren’t going to last more than a single season and have to be changed out regularly.

    Other than that there are a few things you can do to keep the internal temps down in your car during the summer. 1) Put one of those reflective shades in your windshield during the day. Not only will your car stay cooler but your interior will stay in good condition and resist fading & cracking a lot longer. 2) Tint your windows. Most newer vehicles come with tinted windows right from the factory, and this helps a lot. 3) Install window visors like those from Ventvisor (by Lund). They will allow you to leave you windows very slightly cracked to allow the heat to escape without having to worry about weather or prying eyes. Your car will still get hot inside, but, short of leaving the windows open or the top down there’s, nothing you can do about that.

    During the winter you can pack your cold-sensitive items into a small cooler & bring them inside with you at night to warm up. That’s really about all you can do.

    I live in KY now, which has a similar climate to Chicago, and I used to live in the high desert of Idaho where it got to 115°+ in the summer & -25° in the winter. I’ve always kept an emergency 24hr ‘Get Home Bag’ along with all the standard vehicle related emergency items (First aid kit, tools, flares, extra fluids, Fix-a-Flat, etc…) in my vehicle. Doing these things helps considerably!

    BTW, when in Idaho I also carried an emergency Personal Locator Beacon & spare batteries in my glove box. These days I would go with a ‘Spot’ or something similar when travelling in areas where you might not be otherwise found. There’s no point in sitting there for days when you can be home in hours!

  4. rhondamorin

    I was thinking the same exact thing, use coolers. I have never tried them in the winter to keep from freezing but even in my SUV water bottles can be frozen tight overnight. I wonder if using a hard sided regular cooler with locks on it would keep things more shelf stable? It would be worth a try. And then if things get bad you have a cooler to store food….

  5. fortbuilder

    I might add, with fuel especially gasoline it isn’t the gasoline that is combustible rather it’s the vapors. So limiting the concentration of these vapors while allowing for expansion, may be determined by where you transport it or in what type of container as well as the volume you keep in such containers.

  6. fortbuilder

    I also live with extreme temperature changes. For a “Car Survival Kit” I suggest;
    1) Kitty litter, for traction on ice. A spritzer bottle 1/2 to 3/4 full of bleach can help on ice also.
    2) Batteries can freeze especially if not fully charged and in the heat they can leak. Therefor I suggest a wind up type of flashlight and radio.
    3) Fuel should be kept in the trunk or if possible on the outside of the vehicle. Fuel containers should be well ventilated and no more than 3/4 full, in both extremes of temperature. Though gasoline is much less likely to freeze than diesel gelling.
    4) food items should be dry, such as crackers, jerky or dehydrated meals. Any caned goods are susceptible to bursting either from over heating or freezing.
    5) Water should be kept in collapsible containers, such as a plastic milk carton and also no more than 3/4 full. If frozen can be thawed inside the vehicle and if all else fails they can be at least partially thawed with body heat. Also learn means of obtaining water such as a solar still and have plastic to make such items.
    6) Mylar emergency blanket. Both for providing shade when needed as well as warmth when the conditions require it.
    7) Don’t depend on consumables such as fix-a-flat. Have a good spare tire as well as any TOOLs you might need.
    8) As far as ammo, ambient temperature is optimal for a controlled burn rate of the powder and without striking the primer it will take an extreme heat to ignite or a rapid change in temperature. However there are differences in black powder and smokeless powder and their burn rates. Keeping them out of direct sunlight and at least somewhat ventilated should be adequate.
    8) First aid items should be high on your list. But consider the expansion of creams and liquids and adjust the volume to capacity ratio to allow for that expansion from either the heat or freezing.
    As for fire starters, learn several means of starting a fire without the use of matches, lighters and such. It’s not that difficult. The greatest and lightest thing you can carry in a “Go Bag” is knowledge.

  7. shadow56

    I have had good results with soft sided coolers, they keep items cool in the summer and from freezing in the winter. Our temps only ever get into the single digits and the only thing that froze a little was bottled water which got a skim of ice on it.

    1. 111t

      Fixaflat is difficult. Replace any compressed fuel for a cooking device. Butane and propane can be replaced with alcohol or kerosene. Kerosene in a heavy duty msr type spun aluminum bottle is very robust. Summer or winter alike. Military surplus Jerry cans and rotopac fuel cans can be stored safely in all but the hottest summer heat. In the winter i keep water in one of the heavy duty PET gallon jugs. It freezes, but in an emergency I could cut the plastic away, break the ice up and melt it on the camp stove. (Kerosene).

    2. alucardfan

      Easy peasy. Take your heat/cold sensitive bag in with you where ever you go. If you are going to a place that you can’t take it with you, place it in a very good cooler until your return.