When You Need “The Box” For Survival, You Really Need It.

This can happen. If it does, you’ll be glad you have the “Box.”

Most people think driving to a ski area is a routine trip. Before they leave, they check and recheck what they think are the most important items—ski equipment. That’s not the only “equipment” you should bring.

Back in the good old days when the back seats of our all wheel drive van or SUV had two kids, ski gear and luggage went in first. Followed by what my daughter dubbed at age eight—“The Box.”

Mandated clothing for everyone was jeans, boots, long sleeve shirt or turtleneck, and, if they wanted, a sweater. In our ski jackets that were always an easy reach in case we had to leave the car in a hurry, we stuffed our gloves in one sleeve and a ski hat in the other. The boots stayed on at all times.

Why? “Because”… It’s a good parental answer because in this case, just “because” is true.

Anytime you head off to the mountains, you need to think about survival. Black ice, mechanical failure, an accident up ahead that halts traffic for hours, or worse, you get into an accident can turn a pleasure trip into a nightmare. BS, you think, I’m one of those who think the glass is always half empt

Au contraire. Enter “The Box” in the back. Actually, it wasn’t a box. It was and still is a medium size tool box. It contains a hatchet, survival knife, a multi-tool,  small bricks of fire starter, matches in a sturdy waterproof container, six thermal blankets,  a hundred feet of rope, a first aid kit complete with ace bandages to make a splint, tweezers, a scalpel with the blades still in the sterile packages,  hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol in sturdy plastic bottles. And, when they became available, eight MREs (Meals Ready To Eat).  Lashed to “The Box” by four bungee cords were two lightweight shelter halves. Also in the back were two gallons of water either in twenty ounce bottles or large jugs. All this is wedged in the back so if we got into an accident, it wouldn’t fly around. Under the luggage, I carried a snow shovel!

You’re thinking, this guy is nuts! Well, have you ever driven the road between Mojave and Lone Pine, CA? If you haven’t, you’re on the western edge of the Mojave Desert and not much of anything else. I-40 between Amarillo to Albuquerque is arid, and there isn’t a soul for miles. I-91 through Vermont or I-93 through New Hampshire can get really lonely at 11 at night with a broken car in the middle of a snowstorm. On any one of these roads (and many others), you can slide off into the gullies and not be seen from the road.

It can get lonely out there, worse if you’re not prepared.

Don’t think your car will be your lifeboat. If you’re in an accident, the engine may not run or worse. Sitting in an idling car puts you at risk of dying from carbon monoxide. The car is designed to dissipate heat, not retain it!

If you are stuck a long way from the nearest gas station, and do not know how long you are going to be stuck, stay with the car.  Don’t use it for a source of heat unless it is well vented. Heat rises so it goes out the windows very quickly.  If you are on a road, get something or someone on the road to stop whatever traffic comes by. Don’t set off for help unless the weather is clear, and then take your survival stuff with you.  In today’s world, a working fulling charged mobile phone is your best friend.  Small, solar-powered rechargers might be wise to carry in your glove box.

My point in all this is every year, people get stuck alongside the road and the news stories all involve hunger, exposure, frostbite, hospitalization, etc. Don’t be one. Create and carry your own box and be prepared. It’s insurance and you never know when you’ll need it. Not having it could ruin your day.


  1. Jon Weisberg says:

    This is excellent advice, Marc. Thank you! So many of us focus on the destination; not the risks associated with getting there. My “box” has a powerful flashlight, winter sleeping bag, and some sand or kitty litter, useful for traction. A loud whistle is always in my parka. I hope other readers will weigh in with their emergency supplies.

  2. Peter McCarville says:


    Thanks for the tips. I would al;so add into the “box” Jumper Cables and a tow strap. Getting pulled out using shoelaces or barbed wire from the nearby fence does not work, as I have tried.

  3. I don’t know how well they work, but I’ve seen ads for multi-chargers that can power phones and the like, and also give you a jump start. They’re tiny, which makes me skeptical, but when my van refused to be jump started one day last winter, the CAA rescuer who arrived had something similar, and it worked great.

  4. Gus Steadman says:

    Living “Up North” I’ve always had a candle lantern with 9-hr candles, a large can of baked beans (and a p-38 – the army’s best invention) and a can of peaches. The canned food is always “MRE.” The candle lantern provides an interesting amount of heat in the enclosed space of a car and I figure there should be enough oxygen – though I never measured it – to produce carbon dioxide not carbon monoxide. (2O2 + CH4 = 2H2O + CO2, you get carbon monoxide when there is a lack of oxygen, so it’s;
    3O2 + 2CH4 = 4H2O + 2CO.)

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