I travel a fair bit for work, sometimes flying, but more often driving long distances into Michigan or Ohio. One way trips can be anywhere from four to six hours, and my preference is to get in, do the job, and get back, which can result in up to twelve hours on the road in a single day.

My preferred route is to take the 401 to Windsor and cross into Michigan from there, but sometimes it makes more sense to take the 402 and cross at Sarnia. For anyone who knows the 402, you know both east and westbound it’s about a hundred kilometres of two-lane highway with nothing but scrub, bush and some farmland to either side. It’s the place where, a few winters ago a snowstorm trapped three-hundred some drivers for several hours. When the rescue teams arrived many of the drivers couldn’t be extracted because they weren’t dressed for the weather, so could not be driven out on the back of the rescuers’ snow mobiles.

So last week, that was my trip. The weather going in was pretty good, dry and warmer than average for the first day of March. But coming back, late evening, after the sun went down, was a different story. After crossing the border at Port Huron and getting on the 402, the next seventy kilometres became a challenging drive complete with an unlighted highway, ice pellets, wet snow and high winds. Miles ahead I could see red taillights, and miles behind the headlights of another traveller, but around me, not a living soul.

As a “prepper” I had set out equipped with my get-home bag, my everyday carry I guess you could call it. Apart from my laptop, charging cables and mobile office the bag also contains my version of the SAS survival kit: compass, mylar blanket, water container, portable stove with fuel, signalling devices, water purifier tablets, and fire-making supplies, plus emergency food, instant coffee and hot chocolate. In deference to cross-border travelling I had left my SOG Aegis clip knife at home, but my bag did contain my SOG multitool.

Sounds pretty good, right? In the event of an emergency I could stay warm, stay sheltered (in the car), stay fed, and signal for help.

Except I made several big mistakes:

  1. As the day had started out warm, I had on only my tweed sports coat, and had brought no winter coat. By evening the temperature was approaching zero, with a high wind chill factor.
  2. I hadn’t brought any water. Instant coffee and hot chocolate aren’t much use without water.
  3. My gear was stowed in the trunk of the rental car. Not much use if I had slid off the road or became trapped in the car and couldn’t reach it.
  4. When I drive alone I habitually leave my cell phone on the passenger seat beside me. In the event of a roll-over or collision my most valuable communication tool would have likely been thrown out of reach and quite possibly damaged beyond use.

So for all my eagerness to prepare, in the event of a real emergency I could probably have been as stranded and helpless as any other driver who never gives their security a second thought.

Preparedness is more than having the right equipment at hand; it also requires the right mindset to envision what could happen, and be ready to react. You have to keep asking yourself “what if?” until you can cover as many possible scenarios as you can reasonably imagine, and then you will stand a good chance of coming out of any negative situation relatively whole.