Many of us like to take long drives out into the back country, into the desert, high up in the mountains. One thing we tend to overlook is the fact that the vehicle we travel in is one great survival tool. You can actually prepare your vehicle to help you in survival situations. Before you take the car out of the garage and head off into the sunset, prepare the vehicle. There are possible niggles that are overlooked in the city because help is close by. Do not do that when heading out. Get the vehicle properly and thoroughly serviced. Tell the workshop about your journey so that he knows what to do.
Once you have made your vehicle wilderness-ready, prepare it as a survival tool. A very large survival kit. You can only carry so much on your person and in your backpack, the rest of the stuff can remain in the vehicle.
In the developed world, equipped with Search & Rescue teams who will go out looking for you on foot, with dog squads, even helicopters, you are better off staying near the stranded vehicle since it will be located faster than a single individual walking through the woods. But with almost no Search & Rescue services to talk about, pretty much all over India, you might be better off trying to rescue yourself and walking to a nearby village than to wait for someone to come and rescue you. Unfortunate, but that is the reality of the situation, at least as far as not-so-huge disasters are concerned.
Whether to stay near the vehicle or move on is a decision you will have to take yourself depending on where you find yourself and what time of the day it is. If it is afternoon, it might be better to hunker down for the night and leave the next morning. The vehicle can be a very good survival resource.
We may not realise it, but our vehicle is a useful survival tool. Do not just use it for transportation, extend its capabilities and make use of it when you are out Car Camping. Equip it, prepare it, and keep your mind open to possibilities of using stuff from the car as part of survival equipment.
Survival items built into a car
- In case you are lost or stranded, use the headlights and tail lights for signalling.
- The horn can be used as a whistle … to attract attention. But be careful, every time you switch on the lights or honk, you are draining battery. And once the battery dies, you have lost these as signalling devices.
- The mirrors can be ripped out and used as a signalling device.
- There are enough and more wires and cables in the vehicle to make snare wire to trap small animals, rodents and birds.
- If your tyres come with a tube, take them out and turn them into water storage containers.
- The spare tyre can become your fuel for the fire and burn through the night. And a burning rubber tyre will give off black smoke and can be seen for miles. This can be used as a signalling device by sending out smoke signals. Unfortunately in India, not many people would recognise a smoke signal, so you are pretty much on your own for rescue. In fact carry two spare tyres instead of just one.
- Rip the seats. The padding can be used as dry tinder.
- Use the hub caps to boil water in. They can also be used as a shovel.
- Take the seats out. They will give you something to sit on off the ground. And they will provide a platform to sleep on at night.
- A luggage carrier on the roof will keep your luggage stored away. Bind them with bungee nets and cords.
- Rip out the roof from the inside. The insulation material can be used as a mattress.
- The seat covers can be used to store stuff in.
- The hand brake can easily become a weapon.
- The door handles can be converted into a sling shot.
- The door locks can be trimmed to become small spearheads or arrowheads.
- The radio antenna can become a swing trap or a fishing rod.
- The washer container contains water. You can use this water to drink, but not if it is mixed with soap or detergent. If it is, you can use it to cool down by wetting your scarf. The container itself can be used to store water.
- The floor mats become fuel for the fire or insulation material to sleep on or a waterproofing for your shelter.
- If the vehicle is a hatch back you can use the hatch as a roof. If it is a car with a boot, you could sleep under the car.
- Seat belts can be used for tying things. Or for making a stretcher.
- Many parts of the upholstery can be ripped to start and light a fire.
- Try cutting away a piece of metal from the body shell. Turn the metal into weapons – arrowheads, for instance. A large metal piece can become your pan for cooking food in, even a plate to eat off.
Equipping the vehicle
- In sandy or slushy areas, chances are that the tyres might embed in the deep sand, mud or slush. This is when a shovel comes in handy.
- A pair of tyre ramps can also help you come out of a rut.
- Check tyre balance and alignment.
- Replace bald tyres. Carry extra tubes and know how to change it.
- A puncture repair kit is essential when thorns and sharp rocks are part of your tarmac.
- An air compressor to fill air in the tyres.
- A tyre pressure gauge can be useful.
- Bungee cords and nets hold your luggage in place when going gets rough.
- On sand and snow the tarmac is soft and the tyres get stuck. Keep a shovel to dig the sand or snow out.
- Floor mats work well to provide traction to the tyres when you need to dig yourself out of the sand or snow. Many people deflate their tyres to get extra traction. This is a good idea only when you have an air compressor to refill the tyres.
- Always keep a tow rope in the trunk.
- Spare fuel will ensure that you are not stranded in the middle of nowhere because the petrol station ran out of fuel just when you needed it the most. So many people get stranded because of lack of adequate fuel. A 20 litre can will not take up too much space.
- Carry a pair of jump cables. Disconnect the battery terminals and attach the jump cable terminals to the car battery. By touching the two terminals you will get a spark that can start a fire. You can start a fire using the spark plugs too. The gasoline in the vehicle can be used as an accelerant to start a fire.
- A 20-litre can of drinking water.
- Some ready-to-eat meals.
- Extra torches.
- A car inverter to charge stuff in case you run out of batteries.
- Maybe even a solar charger. There are quite inexpensive ones available these days.
- Investing in a good tyre jack is a good idea, maybe keep two in the vehicle.
- Make sure all the tools necessary are there in the car. And not just the standard kit that came when you bought the car. Make your own kit and know how to use each item, each wrench, each spanner.
To do or not to do
- In case of a snow or a dust or sand or a hail storms, sit inside the car, with the windows rolled up and sit out the storm.
- Even if you have spare gasoline and a working air conditioner, it is not advisable to sleep inside the vehicle with the air conditioning on. It gives off toxic fumes which can asphyxiate and kill you in your sleep.
- When you need to turn around, do so within the surface of the road. If you get off the shoulder, chances are the surface is much softer and you might get stuck in it.