Posted at 2 p.m. Nov. 1, 2016
Always prepare for the worst
Editor keeps survival gear in case of bad Wyoming weather
A dry box that contains two flares, an emergency blanket, electrical tape, fishing line, fishing hooks, fishing weights and a rain poncho.
When traveling Wyoming or Colorado any time of year, one thing should always be kept in mind. Winter is right around the corner and a traveler can never be over-prepared.
We were somewhere between north Denver and Longmont. It was a clear night when we left the skatepark, but thick clouds and mist had rolled in within the 45 minutes since we left. We were only there for a two-hour session but the drive and cost always motivated us to ride our BMX bikes very hard for the two-hour period, so the fatigue was beginning to catch up with me. My copilot was fast asleep five minutes into the drive home and had no idea what he would wake up to that night.
As we passed Berthoud, snow began to fall. At first there were small, light flakes and nothing was sticking anywhere. But after roughly 10 minutes, the flakes, amount of snowfall, wind and density of the snow began to rapidly increase. After another 15 minutes, I had no way to judge where I was on the road other than the delineator posts flashing by me. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway
Administration, on average, there are more than 5,748,000 vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year. Approximately 22 percent of these crashes – nearly 1,259,000 – are weather-related. I slowed to a 45-mile-per-hour crawl but could still barely see the posts.
At this point, my useless co-pilot woke up and was instantly alerted and terrified by the visibility situation. But for him, being awake did not mean being helpful. He panicked slightly, and I had to calm him down while I kept us on the road and alive. Shortly after he woke, we caught up with a snow plow, and I decided that staying behind the plow was my best option until we emerged from the blizzard. We followed the plow for 30 minutes before we emerged from the blizzard. And once we cleared it, we made it home without incident.
While this trip ended positively with a lesson learned, it easily could have ended in tragedy. Being severely injured, trapped or freezing to death are a few of many possible scenarios for accident victims. People die on Wyoming and Colorado roads every winter because of bad weather or bad driving. Sometimes the deaths could have been prevented if the accident victims had been prepared for the worst.
If you are travelling a long distance, are you prepared for the worst? If your vehicle breaks down, could you survive alone during a freezing Wyoming winter in the woods using only the things you had in your vehicle at the time? I could.
The blizzard incident sparked me to take road safety and travel safety more seriously. I realized failing to prepare is preparing to fail and started researching survival training, gear, tactics and any other preparedness topic that interested me. Fast forward a decade and I am much more educated and prepared for worst-case scenarios. I always remember Ned Starks words when I travel long distances, or anytime I leave my house: “Winter is coming.”
What do you have in your vehicle? CDs? Cell phone cables? Air fresheners? I have those, but I also have a survival pack with everything I need to make it out of a sticky situation. The backpack itself is a heavy-duty military style molle hiking backpack with a stiff metal frame, thick, comfortable padding on all the body contact points and several molle compartments are attached to the exterior. The waist straps are large, and none of the buckles have ever failed.
The backpack contains a set of long johns, pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, two sets of SmartWool socks, a fleece-lined jacket, a winter hat, a winter face cover, a set of thin cotton gloves and a set of wool-lined leather gloves all wrapped up in a dry sack. There is a medium-size first aid kit inside of the pocket on the left waist strap containing enough material to clean, stop bleeding and sew up small-to-medium wounds along with blood-coagulating powder and pads.
A dry box inside of a back pouch contains two flares, an emergency space blanket, electrical tape, fishing line, fishing hooks, fishing weights, emergency rain poncho and water-proof matches. Last but not least, I keep a pair of waterproof Carhart boots in my vehicle just in case I need dry footwear or happen to need to do some serious hiking.
Along with my survival gear I also keep road safety items in my vehicle at all time: The right jack for changing tires, a basic Stanley tool kit for minor repairs, a spare blanket, 5 gallons of water, tire irons, tire chains, a flashlight with extra batteries, an extra quart of oil and an extra half gallon of radiator fluid.
I’m not saying everyone should run out and buy all these things immediately. The costs can add up quickly, but the items provide a good start to helping a person make it home to their family during a bad storm.
This isn’t doomsday prepping, it is just being prepared for a bad day. And before you accuse me of being a paranoid conspiracy theorist, remember, I am not one of those lunatics keeping the government out of my head with used aluminum foil hats. My aluminum foil hats are always brand new, straight out of the box, aluminum foil.