How To Survive A Blizzard In Your Vehicle

It looks like Global Warming (it’s a religion of sorts, hence the capital letters) is on its winter break, as we’ve already faced harsh winter-conditions in certain parts of North America and Europe, long before the astronomical-winter kicked in.

The thing about astronomical-winter is that it officially starts on December 21st. Scientifically speaking, it’s still autumn, and what an autumn this is… But we’re digressing. One of the best things about winter is snow, especially if you’re a kid. Arguably, snow is the best thing ever invented by God, since, I don’t know, sandy beaches and pina coladas.

How would You Survive a Blizzard if Trapped in your Vehicle?

This is a good question by any means, as most of us spend a considerable amount of time in our cars. As I’ve told you in the beginning, winter came early this year in the US, and the same stands true for the last couple of years, when we were hit by tons of snow and cold-waves, not to mention blizzard conditions in many regions. Heavy snowfall working together with strong winds is a recipe for disaster, especially if you’re unprepared for this kind of meteorological event.

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And considering the fact that many people in the US are commuters, and blizzards are known for affecting thousands and thousands of miles of roads, ranging from twisty mountain roads to highways and what not, getting stuck in your vehicle doesn’t sound like a far fetched theory, at least in this writer’s opinion. Our tax-money are generally spent on useless (and seemingly perpetual) wars in the Middle East, not to mention Too Big to Fail/corporate bail-outs, but from time to time, Uncle Sam does something good with our tax dollars, i.e. you can get pretty accurate weather forecasts courtesy of the met-office.

Yes, technology is pretty cool, but meteorologists are known for getting it wrong from time to time. The idea is that they can’t make accurate predictions, even on short term, and that includes the actual amount of snow that’s going to hit a certain area, not to mention wind speeds (goes to blizzard) or the particular areas where ice and snow will accumulate the most. And yes, that means you’ll have to prepare for the worst, provided you don’t live in California or Florida.

To make a long story short, let’s dig deeper into the fine-details of surviving a blizzard if trapped inside your vehicle. Everything depends on gear in this case, i.e. the quality/quantity of your EDC emergency kit (I hope you have one of those in your car. If not, you should put one together ASAP), together with a little bit of season-adjusted maintenance.

To begin with, with winter upon us, it would be a great idea to first winterize your car, then your personal gear, and finally, your EDC emergency-kit.

Starting with Your Car

You should check out and eventually change if necessary the essential fluids in your car before the temperature drops, including the oil, the cooling liquid (radiator) and the windshield washing liquid. All these must be properly winterized. Also, don’t forget to get your tires and your battery checked. With regard to tires, the best idea would be to use dedicated winter tires, or at least all-season tires, provided there’s enough tread left to last you for the remaining 3-4 months of winter, and also check out the DOT to make sure they’re not too old. As rubber ages, it loses its properties, hence traction on snow/ice will be gone baby, gone. Regardless of how much tread is left on your tires, if they’re older than 5 years, you should consider replacing them.

Traction mats and tire chains would be a nice addition to your blizzard-survival kit, along with tow rope, jumper cables for when battery dies, roadway lights or flares, a shovel (the folding kind, but make sure it’s solid), and even a bag of sand (for extra-traction for your tires if you get stuck in the snow and nothing else works). I must emphasize the importance of the tow rope, i.e. you should have a properly rated one, to suit your vehicle’s mass.

Personal Gear

Make sure you winterize your EDC kit in your car with extra mylar-blankets, and/or a sleeping bag/a wool blanket. I would suggest you to go for high quality blankets/sleeping bags. Hypothermia is a very serious condition, and you don’t want to risk life and limb (literally) by using cheap gear when it comes to surviving a blizzard trapped in your car. Check out your EDC kit and make sure it contains a knife, glow sticks, extra batteries for the obligatory flashlight, matches/BIC lighters, candles, and a metal cup, for melting snow if SHTF. Water is important for survival, yes indeed, especially when it’s freezing cold. Cold speeds-up dehydration, check that one out.

High energy foods (calorie/protein bars) and a gallon of water should also be stored inside your car, especially if you’re a commuter. Finally, consider packing some extra clothing; at a bear minimum, you should have an extra winter jacket, a hat, gloves and socks. Again, I am talking about quality/water proof winter clothing.

Now, gear aside, here’s what to do if blizzard strikes and you’re trapped inside your vehicle, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. First, play the CD with Creedence Clearwater Revival, cue Fortunate Son and then:

– Keep calm and carry on.

– Stay inside the vehicle, it’s much safer and warmer; also, a vehicle is more visible from distance than a person; if you get out in a blizzard and try to find help, you may get lost and die from exposure. And that’s not a nice way to go, believe me.

– Don’t waste your energy on stupid stuff, just make sure your vehicle is visible, i.e. turn on the emergency lights as you’re engine’s running, and tie something like a bandanna or something similar, brightly colored preferably, to your roof rack or the antenna. One of those mylar blankets I told you previously could be used as a reflector of sorts if stretched over the roof of the vehicle, provided there are emergency helicopters flying overhead. Or, who knows, Superman, or a friendly alien, of the illegal kind. You can also raise the hood of the car, provided the snow has stopped. Finally, the black plume of smoke from a burning tire (spare tire I mean) can be seen from miles and miles.

– Call 911; yeah, I know, there’s probably no signal; however, it would be smart to have a phone-charger in your car, just in case.

– Ration your gas by turning on the engine/heat for 15 minutes every hour or so; as a general rule of thumb, never leave home during the winter without having the tank at least half-full, just in case.

– Use the extra clothing to keep warm for as long as possible without having to turn the engine/heater on, and remember to keep the tail-pipe from getting clogged with snow, thus avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning. It would be smart to have a downwind window cracked open at all times, to let some fresh air in. Your brain requires oxygen to function properly, remember that.

– Even if you stay inside the car, you can prevent muscle stiffening and keep your blood warm and flowing by doing isometric exercises, i.e. moving your arms and legs, clapping/stomping etc; keep in mind that you lose something like forty percent of your body heat through your head. Yes, wear a hat at all times.

– Don’t forget to eat/drink from time to time, to keep fueling your body in the battle against cold; however, don’t eat too much at once, as the digestive process requires a lot of blood, which means your extremities will get cold.

– If you’re not traveling alone, don’t underestimate the power of shared body heat.

– Look out for hypothermia, frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning, if you’re stuck in your vehicle for extended periods of time; remember to have a window cracked open at all times, and that would be enough to prevent carbon-monoxide from building up. If you’re properly dressed and you keep moving/eating/drinking, as in you’re pumped up, fueled and ready to go at all times, you’ll be safe.

– Never lose hope, help will come, help is on the way; that’s the proper mindset if you’re stuck in a blizzard for long periods of time, i.e. stay focused, stay motivated, think positive. Optimism is crucial in “trench warfare survival” situations. Never panic, fear is the mind killer.

I hope the article helped. Let us know your thoughts in the dedicated comments section below. Drive safe and stay safe this winter.

Written by

Chris Black is a born and bred survivalist. He used to work as a contractor for an intelligence service but now he is retired and living off the grid, as humanly possible. An internet addict and a gun enthusiast, a libertarian with a soft spot for the bill of rights and the Constitution, a free market idealist, he doesn't seem very well adjusted for the modern world. You can send Chris a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • Unless I missed it, keep plenty of fuel in the tank. I recommend at least a half tank, filling it before it gets below half. You’ll be less likely to be stranded, and running the heater can be a life saver. Be sure that you keep the exhaust outlet clear of snow, however, to prevent carbon monoxide from collecting in the vehicle.

    As a backup, I carry a 2 gallon gas can full of fuel (NON-ethanol, as it lasts longer, produces fewer fumes, expands less with increased temperature, and allows better fuel economy). I have Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer added to make it last longer, and I added more than the instructions call for. With enough fuel stabilizer added and not having ethanol, the fuel, it could easily last 1.5 year, like I’ve had it last in a backup generator at home. And maybe longer.

    The article mentions traction mats, but you can also use carpeted floor mats. my Subaru Forester came with both all weather rubber floor mats and carpet floor mats, so I kept the carpet floor mats in back. I had to use them once. I was able to jack up 3 of the 4 tires, place a floor mat under each tire, and get out. The weight of the vehicle made the bottom of each mat grip the packed snow underneath, so they stayed put.

    • Much, much better than Sta Bil is Pri G for gas engines and Pri D for diesel. Although Diesel lasts for years longer than gasoline, I still use both. With Pri G, gasoline will last for 3 years if you add the stuff every year. It even will take bad gas and make it good. I keep 40 gallons in 5 gallon gas containers on hand at home. 30 gallons of diesel for my shop heater, Ford truck and my Kabota backhoe. I try to rotate the fuel yearly, but sometimes I forget. Just found one can of gas from 2014. The Pri G even kept it clean for that 4 years. Wonderful stuff.

  • One Item you missed is VERY CRITICAL ! Depending on the Snow Fall Rate, get out of your vehicle as often as necessary to clean an open snow channel around your cars exhaust pipe with a chimney-sized open channel – open to the sky. If you Do Not do this, You Will Die from Carbon Monoxide toxin. (Your red blood cells choose CO over Oxygen). Also, make SURE that your Engine Compartment is Not Packed In with Snow/ Ice. Always carry a spare Car Battery (Fully Charged), Jumper Cables, and a Steel Boat-type gas tank – No “Jerry Cans” – they Leak.

  • good luck on needing to ‘go.” Drop drawers in the snow? Men have that so easy. But we all have both issues. Care to comment on how to deal with it?

    • Store your emergency supplies in a 5 or 6 gallon bucket. Get a “Portable Jon/Jane” or keep a plastic cup handy for #1. A funnel could help too. For big jobs, sit on the bucket. They make seats that fit on the rim.
      Keep a couple garbage bags in it.

    • Unfortunately I’ve seen spell checkers actually CREATE problems too.

  • All good advice, Chris, as usual. Up where I live, where it’s really cold 13 months of the year (sometimes it feels like it and then we roast in the summertime) dedicated winter tires are a must. Apparently all-season tires become pretty well useless at around 7 degrees C or so. If I was planning a long trip with my car, number one, I would definitely check the weather report and if there was a good chance that I was going to run into a bad snowstorm or a blizzard I would re-schedule that drive for another day. If I had to absolutely go out, basically a case of life and death, and I knew that I would be running into bad weather I would take all my survival gear with me. Make darn sure that my gas tank was filled to the brim. And would have added a can of gas line antifreeze to my gas tank. Also have an extra five gallon container of fuel in the trunk. While on the subject of fuel you may want to think about your use of the word “rationalize” when speaking of extending your fuel supplies. Rationalize doesn’t make any sense. I think you meant “ration” your gas supplies to keep the car warm. A much better idea to keep the inside of the car a little warm, without using a lot of petrol, is to have a few of those candles in a jar type of deal. They’ll burn for at least 8 hours or so and save your petrol. You’d be quite surprised how warm a candle will keep the inside of a car. And there’s no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. And you did mention candles. As for keeping yourself warm either layered clothing or a small sleeping bag will work just fine. Even better a Hudson’s Bay blanket. A warm hat, maybe even a toque to keep your head warm. Good warm gloves. Maybe even 2 pair in case one set becomes wet. And of course good warm boots coupled with warm socks. And up here, in the GWN, we’ve learned to manage quite well in our cold winters. Other than the millenials who for the most part are retarded and should be turned into dog food. For traction there is nothing much better than a couple of bags of kitty litter. Much easier to deal with than bags of sand or mats or chains. You only really need chains if you’re planning to head up into the boonies in the middle of a blizzard. Only a fool will do that. In a grid down situation it’s a much different scenario but right now if someone is stupid enough to head out into a blizzard if they don’t have to, only partially prepared, then they deserve what they get and as far as I’m concerned they deserve to die. One less useless eater on the planet. One last point. You seem like a pretty smart guy, Chris, but you keep murdering the English language. It’s “bare minimum”, not “bear minimum”. Maybe you were trying to make a joke. If you were, this one fell flat. It’s like the difference between “centre” and “center”. Most Americans have no clue. Start educating yourselves so you don’t sound so bloody stupid all the time. I know you’re not for the most part.

    • Aside from sounding like a pompous know-it-all, maybe Mr.GWN (Canadian, eh) You could also stop sounding contradictory.. You state that Americans for the “most” part are not stupid. Yet in the previous sentence, you state, “Start educating yourselves so you don”t sound so bloody stupid ALL the time” What the f……? Oh, by the way, I’m a true Canadian gal, which means that I’m polite and humble. Hello?.

      • Good point, Laura. And he says Americans have no clue and sound stupid, yet makes the INCORRECT and STUPID statement “Apparently all-season tires become pretty well useless at around 7 degrees C or so”. That 7 degrees C claim (which is 44.6 degrees F) is well above freezing, and isn’t even cold enough to have ice and snow on the pavement, unless it’s existing from the night or day before and is already melting. So WHY would all season tires NOT do well at a temperature ABOVE FREEZING, Armin? In fact, I’ve had all season tires with the snowflake symbol do quite well at 10 degrees F (negative 12.2 C) in the mountains of southwest Colorado, going from where I live in Farmington, New Mexico to Ouray, Colorado during a snowstorm.. Granted, they didn’t do as well on snow and ice as dedicated snow tires would have, but certainly well enough that I had no problems with traction and wasn’t scared. So Armin definitely has NO reason to say that Americans have no clue, as it’s obvious that HE doesn’t.

    • With a candle there is no danger of carbon monoxide??? Maybe if you don’t light it. In order to burn, the candle uses oxygen, and it does not accomplish complete combustion, so carbon dioxide IS produced; not as much as if the exhaust was blocked, but it is produced. That’s why a window should always be cracked open.

    • Armin, really don’t understand your not caring about millennials and thinking they are stupid and should be turned into dog food. Sure not much credit given and caring less for human life in general.. Also, if a person is not properly prepared for an emergency, they deserve to die! Would not want you to be in a group looking for lost individuals in a snow storm. Just saying! All human lives are important!

  • Pelagiaeast: There are gadgets made for women to enable us to pee standing up. One is called Lady J. I haven’t tried any, but my daughter uses one frequently. She spends a lot of time outdoors and it’s part of her standard kit. Sorry, I don’t know the brand she uses.

    • There’s one called a Go Girl.

  • What is a bear minimum? Stay in your cave until Spring?

  • I thought that the old rule about losing an extraordinary amount of heat through your head had been debunked. Didn’t Mythbusters do a show about it?

  • For the record, the word when describing tires is “TREAD”, not “THREAD”. Otherwise, nice article.

  • Hate to be a nit-picker, but I believe you want to “RATION” your gas. To “RATIONALIZE” your gas would be to somehow explain why it is behaving as it is. I don’t think that’s what you meant. Darn spell checkers…

  • Best way is to not live where they have blizzards.

  • American here. Sorry you think we sound so stupid all the time. I’m not going to cast aspersions on ALL Canadians, but then neither am I going to “rationalize” my tank of gas, carry a small bear (bear minimum?) nor worry about how much “thread” is on my tires.

    Being one of those SMART Americans you so graciously have admitted exist, I’m going to get a weather report in advance and either stay put at home or work or drive home well in advance.

    BTW, if I were to carry all listed above PLUS that suggested by other readers, where would I and my family fit into the vehicle?