If you live in cold country, you know that almost anything stored in your vehicle overnight is susceptible to freezing, especially water. You also know how handy a stash of bottled water can be in an emergency.
One of the most important items in any winter survival kit for your vehicle is water. It will stave off thirst and help you stay hydrated if you become stranded during a winter storm or blizzard. Unfortunately, water is also one of the things most quickly affected by sub-32 degrees temperatures.
So how do you protect your emergency water supply from turning into a block of ice encased in plastic with a screw top and keep it available for when you may need it most?
Keep Your Water Warm — Low Tech
There are three ways to help keep your emergency H2O from freezing:
1. Store your water in the passenger compartment of your vehicle with you, not in the trunk, because you will likely run your car’s heater during winter travels. This will help both you and your emergency water stay nice and warm, certainly much warmer than if you store your liquids in the trunk. I always store some extra water or drinks like Gatorade under the seats of my vehicle all year round, just in case.
2. Keep your emergency water in a soft-sided insulated container, such as what Igloo, Coleman, and other manufacturers make for keeping your food and drink cool in summer. This will provide initial and ongoing protection from the cold regardless of where you store the H2O in your vehicle.
3. Wrap your water containers in a Mylar survival blanket either in the trunk or main compartment of your vehicle if freezing temperatures are imminent. Don’t use your emergency wool blanket, sleeping bag or clothing, in case one of your water containers leaks!
Ideally, you should take at least 2 of these measures to help ensure your water doesn’t freeze.
If Hell Does Freeze Over…
In spite of your best efforts and precautions, if your emergency water is partially or fully frozen, do the following.
All of your water should be moved immediately from the trunk into the main part of the vehicle with you if it not regularly stored there already.
1. Use chemical hand and/or foot warmers placed around your bottles of water. If you have or are using an insulated container, place the activated warmers right in with the bottles. I keep a modest supply of these chemical warmers in my winterized emergency kit for this and other uses.
2. Instead of an insulated container, wrap a mylar emergency blanket around your water containers and activated chemical warmers -sort of like “pigs in a blanket”.
3. Lastly, place your water containers near the floor heating vent so that when you run your vehicle’s engine for 10 minutes every hour (read this article on How to Survive a Blizzard in Your Vehicle for more details), the heated air will help thaw your water.
When All Else Fails
As a last resort use a metal cup or can from your emergency kit (like a soup can or larger) along with a heat source like Sterno, to melt snow from outside your vehicle.
SURVIVAL TIP: You can use an emergency road flare as a heat source to melt snow into water. Just place snow in a metal cup or can. Ignite the flare. Hold the cup of snow above or to the side of the flare until snow melts. Be careful if you use this method. Safety flares burn at about 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit and emit phosphorus gases when burning.
One BIG Caution!
Do not be tempted to place frozen water bottles next to you in an attempt to melt the fluids inside. You will only cool yourself down faster which will promote the onset of hypothermia more quickly.
QUICK TIP: Use no larger than a pint to quart-size containers to store your emergency H2O in. Although the liquid stored in larger containers will take longer to freeze than the smaller size bottles, the smaller bottles are easier to store in small places in your vehicle and are quicker to thaw if they become frozen.
Water is a vital part of being prepared. How much do you need? How should you store it? To get the information with everything you need to know about water storage, containers, and what to have in your vehicles and check out these articles.