I don't know about you, but I put a whole lot of trust in my car. It's my lifeline. Where we live in the states it's a pretty remote area, and once you get out of the villages the cell service is patchy at best. I've been fortunate that I've not suffered a breakdown, but that doesn't mean I'm not prepared.
I'd like to ask you, what would you do if your vehicle broke down in the middle of nowhere?
I'm asking as I've seen two horrible reports in just the last few weeks from Australia. People who died from exposure after being stranded in the wilderness. The first, a young family of four were found dead after making it only 11 miles from their vehicle towards help. The other, a solo motorcyclist was found dead next to all of his gear. How does this even happen?
Simply put, they weren't ready. As harsh as that sounds, if you want to survive no matter what, your car needs to be equipped with the gear you need to last in the wild. There are also a few key things you can do to help rescuers find you, and I'll cover these too.
Don't ride around with an empty trunk
What good is your bug out bag if it's sitting in a closet in your home, miles away from being of any use to you? Your first task is to create a bug out kit for your car. Start with enough food and water to last you at least 72 hours, along with a change of clothing, some cold-weather gear, and a sleeping bag or two. I've also got a fire making kit, a small tent, and some signal flares that are all packed in a large plastic trunk, that essentially lives in my trunk. And if I'm heading somewhere remote, I'd also throw in at least a week or two's worth of food and water. No matter what, even if my bug out bag is at home, if I'm in my car I know I've got the gear I need to survive.
Stockpile basic necessities for your car
Of course, you won't be able to fix everything in a breakdown, but if you've got a few key items you may be able to limp yourself back to civilization. Check your spare tire is roadworthy, and you've got a small compressor to inflate it just in case. It goes without saying you should also have a jack and a tire iron, and I'd also throw in a pair of jumper cables and a tow rope. I've also got a spare bottle of oil, brake and power steering fluid, and some coolant ready to use should any of these ever drop to dangerous levels, and may keep my car going just a few miles longer.
Don't leave your vehicle for any reason
Let me make this very clear, as often people think their best course of action is to hike to civilization. The reality is the opposite. Your best chance of survival is to stay with your car. Do not, under any circumstances, leave your car and try to hike to town. This is a recipe for disaster. Once people start looking for you they will always find your car first, so your best chances of being "rescued" is to sit tight, get warm, and munch on your rations until help arrives. Don't try to be a hero.
Learn how to make signals from your car
One of the key reasons your car will be found first is that it's highly visible. To a chopper from the air, it's much easier to spot a vehicle on the side of a road than it is to see you in the woods. Especially if you're camping out under a makeshift lean to. But you can also make it easier to spot. When you're in danger and signaling for help, the rule of threes is what you need to remember. Three means you need help. Light three signal fires. Create three big "X" marks on the ground. Whatever you can.
Ensure there's always someone expecting you
This last one is a habit I got into with my folks many years back. You could do it with your family, a friend, whoever. Whenever I'm headed off somewhere far, like driving a few hundred miles to a new hiking spot, or picking up a great deal from a random on Craigslist two towns over, I let my dad know. It's a good way for us to stay in touch, and it's as simple as this. I'll send him a text like:
"Hey dad. Headed up to Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree. Will get in a bit later tonight and stay two nights. Be back home on Sunday by 9pm."
He'll hit me back with some random string of emojis.
But it's important. Because now there's someone, someone who isn't with you, who knows where you are, where you're planning to go, and when you're planning to be back. If my plans change, I make sure to find somewhere with enough signal to send an update. Of course, there's not always signal to send updates when you're in a truly remote area, but dad knows that if I've not checked in when I'm supposed to, he's going to start following up on me, and eventually getting the authorities involved. If my car happens to break down in the middle of nowhere, with no signal and no hope of getting it started again, I just need to wait, and help will come.
My plans ensure I could last at least a week in my car, perhaps even much longer if I've got enough food and water. How about you? If your car broke down in the middle of nowhere tomorrow, how long would you last? And how long would it take your family to raise the alarm that you were missing? That's what's really important, and if you can't make it at least a few days, you're going to be in big trouble if you ever find yourself stranded in your car.