How Familiar Are You REALLY with Your Survival Equipment?

By Toby Cowern

Recently, a 48-hour severe weather warning in the region I live was issued. We were warned of strong winds and exceptionally heavy snowfall. Weather warnings happen often, and it’s not anything to stress over.

One bit of advice always comes with it. And that is, of course: don’t travel unless absolutely necessary.

Would you know what to do in severe weather conditions?

With these known weather events come known risks and known issues. Surviving a blizzard or winter storm is something that people in northern climates do quite often.

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What came into my mind as I was hearing this warning was that owning all the gear and equipment is worthless without the knowledge and the ability to utilize it properly. A classic thing that happens in these events is cars getting stuck, either just in general due to the conditions or going off the road’s side into the large drainage ditches. 

The most important thing to understand in this type of weather is: dig the snow out from around the car first. Many people overlook doing this. The snow is a friction coefficient. The grabbing effects of the snow will keep the vehicle from moving. 

80% of the time, with the help of another vehicle, you can get that vehicle unstuck. There is a degree of technique to it. Most of the time, people will try this and then try that, and none of those work. So, you will try these measures again more aggressively. Finally, what people end up doing is getting a solid tow rope, leaving slack in it, connecting the two vehicles, then driving hard to bounce the car out. (At least, that’s what you are hoping for.) Knowing the proper technique of using a tow rope and a car is important. 

If that doesn’t work, you call for a tractor or a tow truck. Doing either of those takes time and costs money. So, it is advantageous to know how to get a vehicle unstuck without those services. However, this isn’t a lesson on how to unstick your car

It’s the principle of those who know, know. And those who don’t, don’t.

We had another severe weather warning not long ago. One of the guys who lives next door to me, here from abroad to work, got his vehicle stuck. He had no clue what to do. He didn’t even have essential protective gear in his car. He had no hat, no gloves, nothing. He had always relied on the vehicle getting him to wherever he wanted to go. 

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Rather than seeing them wandering down the road, very poorly dressed for the conditions, getting blown by the snow, and then pulling over and asking what was up, I quickly realized what the problem was and saw the issues in advance. 

A key takeaway whenever traveling: local knowledge is phenomenal. Whenever I’m traveling, I always get the local knowledge. Sure, you can read what the guidebooks say. I do that exact thing. But, a 10-minute cup of tea chat with a local will often tell you about hazards and issues that you wouldn’t discover any other way, along with fixes and solutions.

If you don’t familiarize yourself with equipment and techniques you are likely to fail.

You must have an understanding of specialized equipment and be confident in its use.

Here’s the thing, I could do a very nice video on how to unstick a vehicle. But there are several safety aspects that really unless you “live-fire it,” it just wouldn’t resonate with you. I could highlight the essential aspects in the video, but it’s not going to stick with you until you are in that situation.

A situation like this is a perfect chance to utilize the walk-through-talk-through concept. Familiarization is highly desirable. You can’t just think. “Okay, yeah, I’ve got this.” You must have confidence in your ability to utilize “x” correctly, or you will fail. 

Another consistent failure of utilizing “x” efficiently or confidently is around firearms or self-defense weapons. It is this talisman effect for many people. They put a few rounds down at the range on a static target and feel like, “Yep, okay, that’s me.” And it’s not even about utilizing the weapon. It’s about being able to strip away, clean, maintain, and troubleshoot the weapon. Many folks are not getting it, and it is a big problem. It is also a danger to yourself and other people.

Back to the basics reminders are necessary sometimes

Some of this may seem very basic, but even knowledgeable people tend to forget the basics at times. Ensure you are familiar and comfortable with your essential equipment, especially the everyday items you carry on you at all times. Familiarize yourself with your gear and equipment in layers. With each layer, ask yourself if something is working for you. Also, think about alternatives and replacements or modifications. All those things are available. 

It’s only when you start to use these things and use them with confidence that you really begin to understand if these things are fulfilling the function you need. 

Are you familiar and confident with your skills, gear, and equipment?

Are there things you need to work on? Have you already done so? If you have, tell us what that was and how you did it. Or, if you are unsure about something, ask us in the comments below. 

Toby has an extensive background in the military, emergency services, risk management, and business continuity, combined with applied wilderness and urban survival skills. He discusses personal safety, security, and the crossover of military skills to the average civilian. He is the co-author of SHTF Survival Boot Camp.

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