How prepared are you to survive a few days in the frozen wilderness with only the supplies you have in your vehicle?
A family of 6 discovered that they have what it takes when their Jeep flipped over in the middle of the Seven Troughs mountain range in north-central Nevada last week.
Miraculously, the two adults and four children managed to escape the ordeal relatively unscathed, without even suffering frostbite. The family members included James Glanton, 34, Christina McIntee, 25, Shelby Schlag-Fitzpatrick, 10, Tate McIntee, 4, Evan Glanton, 5, and Chloe Glanton, 3.
James Glanton, a mine worker and hunter, showed true resourcefulness, and as one rescuer stated, “did one heck of job keeping those kids safe.” He immediately took charge of the situation and used his survival mentality to prevent his family from becoming victims. He adapted to the situation at hand by using what was available, and because of his decisive actions, succeeded in surviving in an event during which many would have perished.
All of the rescue workers were volunteers, who searched relentlessly for days for the family, with no state emergency funds forthcoming. Some volunteers covered more than 700 miles looking for the missing family.
This real-life story is a perfect example of how disaster can strike when you least expect it. As preppers and survivalists, what can we learn from James Glanton? There were several items that I felt it necessary to add to my own vehicle kit after reading this story.
Identify your priorities
During any winter survival scenario, your priorities are:
- Shelter (including a means of staying warm)
Glanton said that immediately after the accident occurred, his first concern was to keep the family from freezing to death in the negative temperatures. He told reporters that he “knew that they had to stay warm, and the first thing he did was build a fire and he was able to keep that fire going the entire time while they were out.”
Glanton then put large stones into the fire and heated them up. He brought them into the vehicle and allowed the radiant heat to keep the family warm. (You can learn more about this technique HERE.)
Fortunately they had a supply of food and water in the vehicle because they had intended on spending a full day playing in the snow.
Decide whether to go for help or stay put and wait for rescue
Rescuers agreed that in this particular situation, the family’s survival hinged upon their decision to hunker down in the vehicle instead of setting off on foot to search for help. With small children in tow, a storm brewing, and the remoteness of their location, a trek would have very likely been ill-fated. They were 25 miles from the nearest town, so walking for help was really out of the question.
They were fortunate on several counts:
- People knew where they were going and when they were expected home. When they did not arrive home as planned, search and rescue was alerted that they were missing.
- Rescuers were able to triangulate an approximate location from cellphone signals, even though the family was out of range at the accident site. This helped to narrow down the search area.
The take-away from this? Always make sure someone knows where to look for you. Also, invest in some signalling devices to help searchers locate you. (This is something that Glanton did not have.) Consider adding flares to your survival kit, or make something large out of found objects to place on top of the snow to catch the attention of planes searching the area.
The family was located when a sharp-eyed searcher saw their Jeep upside down in the snow.
The right supplies are vital
Without the supplies that the family had on hand, their chances of survival would have diminished greatly.
- Glanton had a magnesium fire-starter and hacksaw in the vehicle – this allowed him to make a fire with the damp wood they found in the area.
- They had food and water, which they carefully rationed.
- The family was clothed for a day playing outside in freezing temperatures, so they had the right clothing for the environment.
The ingenuity of how they survived
Making the best of a terrifying situation, James Glanton used resourcefulness and ingenuity to keep his family safe and warm. Because the accident took place in a canyon housing an old mining site and they were able to use some items from the site to help them survive.
The artifacts left behind Wednesday — a burned tire, rocks and snow-packed footprints — told the great Nevada survival story.
The small canyon houses ghosts of an old mining camp with bedspring wiring, a rusty stove, pipes and what appeared to be steel roofing. A bent piece of steel was used to reflect heat for the fire where the vehicle flipped, said Charles Sparke, Pershing County emergency management director.
Officials say the family was prepared for a day in the snow. Glanton even brought a magnesium fire starter, which can turn wet twigs into ready-to-light kindling, Sparke said Wednesday.
He also had a hacksaw, which he used to cut kindling, and a spare tire to burn.
The Jeep was removed from the scene Wednesday. Inside the vehicle remained an old lighter and burned doors. Officials said Glanton burned rocks and put them inside the Jeep to keep the family warm. (source)
Are you ready?
If such an accident occurred, how would you and your family survive? Do you have all of the necessary supplies to hunker down for a few days in frigid temperatures?
Here are the minimum supplies you should have in your vehicle at all times:
Fully loaded backpacks with the basics of survival should always be handy in the even that you do have to hike away from the scene of an accident. Additionally, have cash in small denominations for other types of emergencies.
Food and Water
You should always have some non-perishable foods in the vehicle, and water filtration equipment as well as water, in the event that your emergency lasts for an extended period of time.
- Peanut butter
- Canned stew or chili
- Canned baked beans
- Canned fruit
- Granola Bars
- A few gallons of water
- A portable filtration device like the Sawyer Mini or Berkey-to-go
Vehicle Emergency Kit
This should always remain in the vehicle:
- Backpacks -if space is an issue, these fold down very small but expand to hold a lot
- Escape tool
- Sleeping bag specific to your climate
- Small tent selected for your climate
- Lightweight emergency tent
- Lighter, magnesium fire starter, waterproof matches
- Lighter fluid (this can help start a fire even in damp conditions)
- Candles – long-burning tea lights don’t require holders and still hold their form if they melted in the summer heat
- Survival knife
- Pocket survival handbook
- Signal flares
- Space blankets – don’t go cheapo on this. The better quality could save your life.
- Up-to-date road atlas
- Police flashlight/taser combo
- Extra batteries
- Mirrors for signalling
- Signal whistles for making noise to help rescuers find you
- A few gallons of water
- Berkey-to-go for each family member (or other portable filtration device – I also like the Sawyer Mini)
- Collapsible pet dish
- Pet food
- Weapons and ammo of choice
First Aid Supplies
Do you know the basics of wilderness first aid? Without that knowledge, your first aid supplies will be less useful. You should always have a well-stocked first aid kit. Be sure to include the following:
- Pain relief pills
- Antibiotic cream
- Allergy medication (Benadryl) and an Epi-pen (My daughter has a food allergy)
- Motion sickness medication
- Alcohol wipes
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
Extra clothing and footwear
Always keep spare clothing and footwear in the vehicle. Particularly in cold temperatures, dampness is the enemy. If your clothing or socks get wet, this greatly increases the risk of succumbing to exposure.
- Snow pants
- Long underwear
- Sturdy, comfortable walking boots
Make sure you have basic tools on hand.
- Basic automotive repair tools
- Heavy-duty booster cables
- Tow straps
- Staple gun
- Assorted screwdrivers
- Bungee cords
- Duct tape
- Lubricant like WD-40
What do you keep in your kit?
If you were in the same situation as the family who survived in the Nevada wilderness, how would you fare? What items do you keep in your vehicle that would help you to survive?
Mattress covers are great and can be used in emergency situation. Fold the mattress cover, then put a sleeping bag (folded) over the mattress cover and tuck it in at the foot of the mattress cover. This will make an extremely warm cacoon you can crawl into. The mattress cover is thick (but not too thick), which keeps out the cold air. With the sleeping bag tucked in at the bottom, it keeps cold air out at bottom of the cacoon.
An empty metal coffee can
A bottle of rubbing alcohol
A roll of toilet paper
Put the roll of toilet paper inside the coffee can. Take out the cardboard tube and squish the whole roll into the can so its a snug fit. Pour the rubbing alcohol over the toilet paper until its evenly soaked but not pooling in the can. After the alcohol has been absorbed into the toilet paper, light it up.
The alcohol burns very clean with virtually no visible smoke.
This can be made ahead and sealed, just keep it stored up right.
Not super warm, but in a survival situation its better than nothing and the can or paper have other uses too.
One more thing…
Probably goes without saying that this method requires ventilation while burning. YES, you cannot see smoke but there are poisonous emissions. Use with caution and common sense.
I drove to the area where they were lost and spoke with the Richard Machado, the Pershing County Sheriff who led the search and rescue effort, who told us there was no phone service anywhere near the site of the accident. Check out our write up
We drove 15 miles out of Lovelock on the same dirt road they took and found several isolated spots where there was a weak mobile signal. We chose one of those locations near the accident site and found that with our signal enhancer it was easy to make a call.
All six people were thankfully found after a massive and expensive search and rescue effort. If they had our mobile app and our signal enhancer, there wouldn’t have been a massive search and rescue effort – they could have simply called for help and asked for a tow. Sheriff Machado agreed that our products can make a huge difference by preventing this sort of costly near disaster.
The mention of including a Sawyer Mini water filter has much merit, but that should be updated to say a “never-used” Sawyer Mini. Why? Because once any water passes through a Sawyer (which uses incredibly tiny capillary-sized tubes), some of that water always remains, at least for some undefined long time. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a problem, but if then that filter ever freezes, there is the likelihood that some of those capillary tubes will be cracked by residual water when it turns to ice and expands. And Sawyer says there is no way to tell if such damage has occurred. And you absolutely don’t want to risk getting sick from water that passed through the filter where cracked filter tubes couldn’t do their work — especially in a freezing disaster.
So it seems that the wisest advice is, whenever there’s any possibility of such a filter being needed under freezing conditions, carry a totally never-used filter to rule out any possibility of residual water freezing and cracking the filter tubes. A Sawyer Mini is only about $20 or so — that’s dirt cheap insurance against getting deathly sick during a worst possible time. And even then, once used at (for example) the beginning of such a freezing disaster episode, you still have the absolute obligation to keep that filter from freezing (even if necessary by using your own body warmth to keep the filter above 32°F to guarantee no ice can form inside it) for the duration of that episode until you can return to warm civilization.
If when you first buy a new Sawyer Mini (or Squeeze model) and decide to open the package to try out hooking up various water bags, connector tubing, etc, it’s completely wise to make sure that whatever bags or water bottles you choose to use with it will fit. BUT … if you choose to run any water through them, including the filter, absolutely label that filter as USED with a FREEZING RISK to avoid at all costs — if there’s any possibility that the filter could be needed under freezing conditions, depending on where you live and the outer limits of the travel range of your possible adventures.
I prefer to carry a Sawyer filter that’s never had water passed through it to avoid the up-front penalty of the freezing risk problem, even if during such a disaster episode the need to prevent that filter from freezing would still remain.
I can’t speak to other brands of water filters — I’ve only done the research on Sawyers — which have some of the most effective, and tiniest, filter tubing on the market.
I don’t anticipate being marooned out in the boonies miles and miles from nowhere in severe temps, but it could happen. What is more likely in my situation is being stuck out in heavy snow or ice and having to spend a cold night out in the vehicle. Happened some years ago when an ice storm caused a section of I64 to be closed to traffic between Charlottesville and Richmond, Va. You couldn’t drive on the heavy accumulation of ice so any travelers on that section had to sit until conditions improved the next day. Imagine, there you sit in your business suit and tasseled loafers with a quarter tank of gas, nothing to drink, and only the left-over crust of a biscuit you ate for breakfast!