Here in Montana for the last several days we have a blast of subzero temperature emanating from the Arctic and Siberia, where the average has been about -5 to -10 degrees F at night, and only about 5 to 10 F during the day. “OK, JJ, it’s cold: So where are we going with this?” may be your question.
Here’s the answer: “Old Man Winter” is kicking in; now, what happens if a “monkey-wrench” is thrown into the equation and you’re caught out in it?
I have written articles in the past about different things to do to prep for the cold weather , as well as for emergencies. I want to focus on something that I do that may help you if you find yourself stranded in an accident or in a snowstorm where you may be unable to go anywhere for at least several hours or even overnight. This piece can be used by anyone in a rural area (just the manner that I do use it), however, it is specifically tailored for those in an urban setting.
The reason being: urban residents don’t necessarily have the luxury of pulling away from their stranded vehicle  20 or 30 feet and making a fire for themselves. With hundreds or even thousands of cars and only the macadam of the freeway, such activities would be “frowned upon” by the friendly authorities at a bare minimum. So, what are you to do? Try these measures for starters; I promise you, during the winter months, I take these steps every day.
Prep for the basics
Firstly, I prep the food I’m going to need. I always have a bag of frozen carrots and peas in the freezer, and if I’m low or out, I dice up some carrots really small and add some fresh pea-pods after slicing them down into small strips. These veggies go into a Ziploc bag. Next I take about ½ pound of meat (whatever I have in the fridge, such as pot roast, brisket, or chicken) and dice it up into small pieces or even cubes. I stick this into another Ziploc bag. A third bag holds some dried onions.
Now I always travel with “Vitamin R,” as we used to call it in the Army. Yes, there are some of you who are nodding your heads in recognition….as “R” is for “Ramen ,” the mainstay of the “grunt” (infantryman) in the field. I always have about half a dozen in the vehicle with me (winter or summer, for that matter), replacing them each day as I use them. The Ramen is nothing more than a “base,” and you’ll understand in a second.
The key here are the Thermoses …and the good ones, mind you. Not the ones with glass inserts or the insulated plastic ones. You need the ones with a steel bottle for a core that is insulated, such as the Aladdin or an equivalent. This is where the time comes into play. You must boil water to bring up the temperature of the core of the thermos, allowing it to sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes, while an equivalent amount is being boiled on the stove. This is a good moment for that second cup of coffee in the morning (I told you I prefer instant), as your water to heat up the core is poured out, and you replace it with boiling water anew…the water you will tote with you when you leave the house.
Lickety-split! How to Keep Thermoses Warm
Cap that thermos up! Be sure to dry off any water on the threads and the neck, so they won’t have a chance to freeze. Now, you do this for two thermoses. I have a big one, and a smaller one made by Sharper Image (it probably ran about $30 originally, but the Thrift Store sold it to me for $1.50, a true bargain). When you “nest” these thermoses together? Believe it or not, they keep one another warmer. I take these guys and a 20-ounce bottle of water, and wrap them up in an old, thick sweatshirt.
I take care to keep them tightly together, as I fold over the top and bottom of the sweatshirt, and then wrap from the sides. Then this whole “package” I place into my Igloo Playmate cooler (it’s about 2’ x 1 ½’ x 1 ½’), where it fits on an angle. A couple of packages of Ramen go in with it, as well as any instant coffee I take with me. The food? At 5 degrees F during the day, it’ll freeze up just sitting in the front seat of my vehicle. So be it: refrigeration au natural. The Igloo cooler gives just that added “boost” to insulate the thermoses.
Yes, there are times that I don’t use either of them, and they’re still warm 24 hours later. Now, when it’s time, what I do is break out my meat and veggies, and place them on the bottom of a Tupperware container I use for a bowl. I add my dried onions. Then I crush/smash/break up my Ramen and pour it on top. Taking the big thermos, I pour my hot water over top of my meal, covering the food about ¼” beyond. Then I cap up my thermos and stick the top on the Tupperware, letting it sit for about five minutes. I add the seasoning packet after that, and mix it in. Voila!
I just made a meal for myself for pennies on the dollar. For me, the big thermos is for the meals, and the little one is for the drinks, such as coffee or green tea. So, here’s your “deal” for the whole thing:
In a bad situation, you’re going to have hot water for 24 hours and the ability to make yourself a meal or a core-warming drink. At bare minimum, you’re going to have fresh water to drink (albeit warm) that won’t freeze up on you while you’re awaiting the storm to blow over.
How much is that worth when the bottom drops out of things? For me it’s just something I always do. Even in the summer, I take the small thermos with me (either for coffee or just some soup…not so much for survival or a problem). But let’s say it’s not a survival situation. How much is your time worth to you? And your money? By having that prepped and ready, you can eliminate having to go somewhere to eat, exposing yourself to crowds and potential colds and flus, and wasting time to pay for some overpriced meal. You can enjoy a nice hot meal: what you’ve made with your own hands, clean and simple with no one to bother you.
It takes about 20 minutes out of your day each day, but the first time there is the need for it…the time pays for itself. Let’s not forget that anything else can factor into it, such as a nice EMP that leaves you stranded in the wintertime by the side of the road. Remember: it’s better to be prepared and wrong 1,000 times than to be unprepared and right just once. So, pack up those thermoses, insulate ‘em, and set aside the ingredients for your soup with some “Vitamin R” or some precooked pasta and a bouillon cube if you just can’t stand the Ramen! Take the time to prepare, and you’ll be waiting out the storm with soup, coffee, and water that’s not frozen if things go south! JJ out!