Camping 101: Carry a Winter Emergency Kit

Tom Watson
Tom Watson

It is much easier to deal with an emergency if you’ve prepared for it instead of having to scurry around trying to fix things after all heck breaks lose. So it is with emergencies in the field, those that might leave you stranded, cold and wet in some unforeseen situation. Having a good winter emergency kit to rely on could make all the difference when the time comes.

When I was kayaking in Alaska, I started out each season preparing my emergency kit. The first thing I did was to determine the most likely emergency scenario in which I could find myself. It didn’t take much imagination to realize that a capsize, a surprise dunking, in very cold water would be a likely possibility. Even with a spray jacket on and appropriate gear, I would probably be wet and chilled after I rescued myself. I knew I would need to get to shore and change into something warmer.

An emergency kit, like a survival kit and any other gear you need to rely upon, must be carried with you at all times. Stowed in the trunk of your car or stuffed in a bag in your tent is not going to be of much use to you out on the water or five miles down the trail. You need to carry it with you.

Carrying anything within the kayak means it needed to be waterproof. That should be a basic requirement for all emergency gear, too, even if you are a guide on mule trains across the Mojave. A couple of freezer-strength, zip-locking plastic bags are better than nothing. Small stuff sacks lined with compact garage bags or “dry bags,” work well, too. Anything that you can seal tightly will work.

Besides sealing completely, it’s usually easier to pack them away if they are in a flexible pack that can conform to the space in which it is stored. In a kayak, I found that place to be far forward in the bow. I packed my gear at the start of the season and hopefully never had to rely upon it at all.

As far as what to pack, I keep it minimal. I start out at my feet and work up my body to the top of my head:

1)    One pair of wool socks;

2)    One pair of long sleeved insulated underwear;

3)    One pair of wool gloves;

4)    One wool or synthetic stocking cap;

5)    One or two energy bars;

6)    One fire striker starter and/or matches;

7)    One full water bottle (pint or qt.);

8)    One emergency tube tent or space blanket (blankets take up more space so decide for yourself which one to bring);

9)    One 50-foot length of parachute/”550″ cord, and;

10)   A small, rigid blade sheath knife.

Even a partial emergency kit is better than none. Other things to add can include extra batteries for any signaling device you usually carry. Carrying this emergency kit does not preclude carrying a full survival kit and first-aid kit.

Have fun; be safe out there!

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One Response to “Camping 101: Carry a Winter Emergency Kit”

  1. Tom Doore

    Thanks for not fitting everything in an altoid can.

    Reply