How to be Prepared for a Winter Emergency
When it comes to winter safety, you can never be too prepared. To help with the worst-case scenarios, we have created 3 separate bags or kits which we suggest anyone who is trying to spend time in a cold winter zone to have on hand.
Each bag has similarities and tries to fill the need for food, heat, shelter, and water. They are also complete with a full first aid kit as well as water purification tablets and a burn kit. Though the water should be in an insulated sleeve, it likely won't do a lot when it's -40°C. To help make surface water safe to drink, water purification tablets eliminate many of the bacterias found. While you hope to not have to rely on these, it gives peace of mind to always have them on hand. Another common item in each kit is a small burn kit. If you are stranded somewhere and are using fire for warmth, things can easily go wrong. Add in poor judgment from cold weather, lack of food or water, and the fire can become outright deadly. The burn kit includes soothing ointments and several "gel nets"- a mesh that is placed against the skin after skin grafts.
The 'Emergency Bag' should be accessible and stored in a spot that you spend lots of downtime such as your bedroom. This bag is likely your largest and focused on long-term necessities. As it is not moved around everyday weight and size are less of a concern. Bulky items like a change of warm clothes are important as you never know what time an emergency may happen. The specific items to point out are the bear horn and reflective strips. While the name bear horn may suggest a specific use, anyone who explores the wilderness knows that they are so much more. A number of years ago during a camping trip, a heavy wind storm beached our boat and even with 5 people trying for hours to dig it out, it wouldn't budge. A few quick blasts of the bear horn at a passing fishing boat ensured our rescue and continued safety.
Along with the bear horn, the reflective strips are very important. If it is pitch black out and you are walking through the snow, a bear horn may call attention, but if people don't know where to look, sound can only do so much. Remember, in these extreme cold temperatures, your cell phone will die in just 3 or 4 minutes meaning it will be about as useful as a brick. The same can be said about most flashlights as their batteries will get zapped by the extreme cold as well. Having the combination of reflective strips and a bear horn will hopefully mean that you can be both heard and seen from quite a far distance. Like most emergency kits it’s the combination of what you have to give you the best success rates.
Next is the super accessible 'To-Go Bag' for days that you venture out but stay close to home. Think of it as a bag that contains anything needed for an emergency when you are out and about. Whenever we go for a walk, a drive on the ice road, or even ice fishing, it is the bag we take. Along with all of the items in the photo above, the one that sticks out is flagging tape. The fluorescent tape can be seen on many of the trees that line trails around North America and is a well-known sign that you are on a proper path. In an emergency, when you are lost in the wilderness you'll need to give yourself or someone else a marker. Just like Hansel and Gretel, ensuring you know your way back is key in emergency situations.
No matter where you adventure, an emergency kit in your car during the winter is extremely important. The mats and sand are if you slide off the road or if your car gets stuck in a snowbank. By digging out the front half of your front tires (*note if you are front or rear-wheel drive) and placing the mat and sand there, the hope is you can get enough traction to make your way out. If that doesn't work or you don't have a shovel, you can always use your jack to lift your car enough to slip the mat underneath. As a solid base for the jack, your spare tire can always be used though it may be an expensive option as the rim may be permanently bent. While we are by no means experts on snow/ice safety, we hope to have enough knowledge to help get us through the situation. Lastly, ensure you have blankets and your to-go bag which will hopefully keep you warm until rescue can come.
There is lots to consider when planning a winter adventure in the Great White North and safety should be a top priority. While it is dangerous to be underprepared being over-prepared just means you have more things on hand to help if a situation arises!