Surviving a Road Trip in the Summer Heat
The heat can be as deadly as the cold. Hypothermia is diagnosed when the body is cooling faster than it can warm itself while hyperthermia is the body absorbing more heat than it can dissipate. Both are medical conditions that can be deadly.
You have to prepare your car and yourself for summer driving just as you need to prepare for winter driving. Mechanical breakdowns, accidents and any number of other reasons can leave you stranded along the highway, and if the weather is hot, you have to take steps to survive the deadly heat.
Your Vehicle is Your Shelter
You do not have to do much research to find cases where people have run off the highway into some heavy brush or into a ravine and have been injured and stranded there for days while cars raced by literally just feet away in some cases.
There are stretches of highways that run through desert regions where you may not see signs of life for hundreds of miles. Imagine your car blows a tire and you swerve off a desert highway. You can be stranded for days before someone spots your vehicle, spots your vehicle, not you.
This brings us to the main point when you do become stranded in your vehicle you must stay with that vehicle. It is your shelter and it can be spotted easier than you can be spotted stumbling around among the sagebrush and cactus.
Driving back and forth to work every day gives you a sense of contentment because you are in your comfort zone. You do not worry so much about mechanical breakdowns because you have provided options for the event. You may have roadside assistance on your car insurance or belong to a motor club, your friend is a mechanic, and is just a phone call away, or you are mechanically inclined yourself. In other words, you may let things slide because you think you have options.
Mechanical problems while not seemingly a big problem on short trips can leave you miles from civilization if on a road trip. Do not let problems simmer on the back burner until they boil over. Once you decide to take a trip beyond your so-called zone of comfort, it is time to give your vehicle a checkup to make sure it is ready for the trip.
Tires are affected by the heat so get them inspected by a qualified mechanic. Make sure your cooling system is checked out as well. Small leaks can turn into big problems out on the highway. You can get away with adding coolant to top it off while driving around town but out on the highway in the middle of summer a small leak can spell disaster. Radiator coolant is designed to withstand high heat, much higher than water before boiling over so do not carry water to add to the radiator, carry the proper coolant.
Every mechanical part of your vehicle is affected by heat (in particular the engine and transmission) and long hours of driving in the heat will put a tremendous strain on all parts. This goes for new vehicles as well as older models.
What to Carry
- Water is important for hydration, so make sure you have enough for at least 48 hours for each person in the vehicle, warm water will not hurt you to drink it, convenience stores are nice but unless you breakdown in front of one water will be a serious concern as you sit stranded along the highway
- Food that can be eaten as is and keep temperatures in mind when packing, coolers of ice only last so long, so make sure you have foods that will not spoil in the heat
- Coolant and motor oil for the vehicle and a jump starter that can be used as an emergency power source, can jump start a dead battery also having an air compressor is ideal.
- Tools for tire changing and make sure you know how to use them, unless you have removed the tools, your vehicle will have the tools for tire changing attached either under the hood or in the trunk/ cargo area
On some vehicles, the spare tire is mounted under the vehicle and may be secured with lock and cable, make sure you know how to lower the tire and have the key to the lock. A special tool is required and is included with the vehicle for lowering the spare tire. The tool is often times mounted under the hood of the vehicle or is the folding type stored in the cargo area.
- Sunglasses, lip balm and sunscreen, hat and/or bandanas for shielding the face and neck from the sun, pack long pants and long sleeved shirts to protect the skin from the sun
- Insect repellent
- Various tools for tightening hose clamps and to make minor repairs
Keep in mind unless you are a qualified mechanic tinkering around under the hood can cause you more problems and expenses in some cases and may void any mechanical warranties on the vehicle
- Flashlights, road flares, and colored signal flags that can be attached to the vehicle
- Lightweight nylon tarps that can be used for shade outside of the vehicle, you cannot sit in a vehicle in direct sunlight sun so you will need a way to provide shade outside of the vehicle
Keep in mind in desert regions the air temperature can drop below freezing at night, so if planning to travel in an arid region pack clothes/blankets for cold temperatures at night
- Fire starting materials, in some cases you can start a signal fire in a safe area away from the vehicle if you are in a remote area
Some forested regions have fire access roads and people have been stranded along theses roads for days at a time, fire safety is important however if in areas prone to wild fires and it may be illegal to create a fire. However, as some survival experts will tell you “it is better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6”.
- Shovel for extraction from sand or mud
- Walking shoes in the event you do have to walk
- Work gloves
- Poncho or other rain gear
- 50-100 feet of quality nylon rope for use in shelter construction or if you find yourself in a ravine you can use it for self-rescue
- Nylon towing strap rated for your vehicles’ weight so if someone does respond to help you have the means to be extracted from a ditch, mud or sand, steel cables and chains are heavy and dangerous and when used for towing, the cable or chain can snap and “whip” around causing serious injury
- Medical supplies
- Backpack to carry your supplies if for some reason you must abandon your vehicle for a safer area
- Cell phone charger
- Compass and maps of the expected travel routes as well as a map of the country you are in
Stay with the vehicle and if it is not safe to use the vehicle for shelter then stay close and make shelter. Rescue personnel will be looking for a vehicle so make sure they do not find an abandoned one. People seem to always want to set off on foot when they are stranded, then they get lost or simply cannot go any further because of some injury. Then the vehicle is spotted but the driver is a mile away collapsed in the brush. The driver may not be found in time or found at all.