WCRA website promoting Stage and TSD Rally Sport in British Columbia
Page Updated: Monday, July 14, 2003
Rally Survival
Ron Sorem ©2001
You find yourself "off". probably of your own doing. feeling a bit foolish, and begin to assess your circumstances.  Do you have enough warm clothing?  Water?  Food?  Do you have something to use to start a fire?  Do you know how to start a fire?

Rally cars go to some exotic and faraway places.  Whether summer in the desert of Arizona where heat is a problem, or winter in the BC forests, or on the Alcan, competitors should put together a survival kit.  This may be more important than the first aid kit.

When rallying in the snow and cold, small problems can turn into big problems in a hurry.

Our last excursion lasted an hour and a half before first sweep.  We had (.I had) ignored the suggestion at the Novice Meeting (we weren't Novices) to buy a local newspaper and get some matches before you leave town. Just in case.  We did manage to borrow a lighter from second sweep, another hour after the first, and soon had a warming fire growing, away from the car, in the cover of the trees.  We managed to find dry grass and fir boughs under the snow, under the trees.  Adding lichen and moss, then breaking off the dead lower limbs from the trees around the fire, we built up a small flame, enough to hold while we searched for bigger, dry wood--deadfalls and blown down branches, up to 3 inches, which we could drag to the fire and break into a manageable size.  The fire felt good.  We were actually warm enough.  We'd cleared snow away near the fire and piled dry needle litter around to stand on, instead of the frozen ground.  Comfy?  .Not really. 

As good as it was, doubt crept in.  Co-Driver asked, "What if the tow truck doesn't find the road?"  Driver responded, "They will.  But sweep said they'd come back if we didn't check in at the finish." The shortfall of this statement was that they may not come back, they may assume everything went as planned, and you may be waiting for a very long time.  (I was asked by sweep when I did check in, if I'd seen anything of another car, which was still missing and unaccounted for.)  (Pay attention at the driver's meetings, and get emergency numbers.)

Here is a condensed version of RallyBC's "Required Equipment for Tech Inspection"
Reflective warning triangle(s). Basic First Aid Kit. 5-BC min Fire Extinguisher.
(Note that a 10-BC is preferred and probably should be within reach of the co-driver)

Working:  Proper safety belts for all people in the vehicle
Horn. Lights. Brakes.
Windshield wipers. Exhaust system. Safe tires, including spare.
Windshield OK. (Note that defroster operation should be checked too.)

"Significant loose objects" must be placed in trunk OR if kept in passenger compartment must be tied down adequately to hold position during a possible rollover.
No loose gas cans. Roll bars encouraged

 In addition to the above, there is a "Recommended Equipment" list:
4 studded snow tires  Map light  Driving lights Warm clothing
Shovel  Tow rope(s)   Ice Scraper Flashlights
Come-along Tool kit Tire chains Emergency radio

A quick note about running in deep snow (over the bumper powder).  It gets into everything.   Stop as soon as you can and see that the engine compartment hasn't filled with snow, and that the radiator and grille are still unobstructed.  Also, if you park the radiator in a snowbank, dig out the grille and radiator quickly, before the snow melts and then refreezes into one big ice cube. Thanks to all those whose rally stories contributed to the make-up of this list.

 This is only a starting point but I'm hoping this will help, somewhere down the road.

Winter Rally Survival Kit.
  • Water.  you dehydrate even in the cold.  take maybe two liters or more per person. 
  • Food.  energy bars, clif bars, snacks, trail mix, canned fruit with pull-top, several MRE's etc. 

  • (Remember you can last a long time without food, but not very long without water, drink a lot of water!). 
  • Batteries. for your flashlights.  (Also those little LED key chain lights are great). 
  • Tow straps.  maybe two lengths.  2 @ 25' or 30'-you, or someone else may be a long ways "off". 

  • (Note that tow straps usually have "loops" at both ends and coincidentally most cars have "loops" for tow rings or tie-downs.  get something that will hook loop-to-loop like a 3000# carabiner or quick link. or get a tow rope with "hooks" at both ends)
  • "Come-along".In addition to this, a short length of chain for a "choker" to a tree, a rock, etc. 
  • Fire starter.(matches, lighter, flint stick & tinder, etc.) (Highway flares work great but may be considered "hazardous materials" at the border crossing-maybe pick up after clearing customs) 
  • Fire materials. (Paper, sterno, starting fluid for the car and the fire)   (Worst-case scenario you can light a spare tire or seat cushion for a signal fire). 
  • Space Blankets. pack two per person. use as ground cloth, reflector for the fire, shelter, whatever. 
  • Chemical light sticks. put one in your pocket just in case all your flashlights fail. 
  • Chemical hand warmer packets. (Pack a few, they have pretty much unlimited shelf life and can be used for hands and feet and ears).  If you can keep your Head covered, your Hands and Feet dry and warm, you can retain most of your body heat. If you are wet and cold, try to get into dry clothing ASAP! 
  • Gloves or mittens. Extras, to put on after you've gotten wet trying to dig out the car. 
  • Shortened garden hoe. to get under the car and pull snow to the outside. then you can shovel. 
  • Eye Protection. clear goggles. for protection building a fire, working on the car, or while driving the car out without a windshield. 
  • Saucepan. old, two-quart, or similar for digging snow, melting snow, heating coffee, cocoa, tea, soup packets, etc.   Note that if the car's engine still runs, just can't move, you can heat with the manifold. 
  • Disposable coveralls. Tyvek®, they're water repellant; provide an extra thermal layer & cool winter camouflage if you need to hide in plain sight.
  • Camp axe or saw.  the axe could double for possible bodywork, but might take some explanation at the border crossings.  The USFS used to require everyone entering the woods carry a "shovel, axe and bucket" even a canvas bucket. 
  • Jumper Cables. 
  • Lug Wrench. 
  • Siphon Hose. 
  • Antifreeze/Coolant mix. Gallon min. 
  • Oil.  One or two Quarts min. 
  • Fan Belt(s). 
  • Electrical Tape. 
  • Racer's Tape. 
  • Metal police whistle. 
  • Multi-Tool.   with good knife blade. 
  • Plywood pad.  ¾ inch (12x12) so the jack doesn't sink. 
  • Epoxy putty. ready-mix in a tube, for gas tank, oil pan, radiator tank. 
  • Nuts, bolts, and washers.  in the usual sizes that fall off your car. 
  • Tools.  to put the stuff back on your car. 
  • Drop cloths.  a couple of cheap poly tarps for working on or under the car. or for shelter from the weather.  (and maybe a section of clear plastic for a makeshift window, racer-taped to the space where there used to be glass before the roll.) 
  • Detailed Local Map.  to find where you are, to direct someone to pick you up, etc.  Most route books will have some reference to the general area, but most will not have all the roads named.  If you can follow a local map and refer to the turns in the route book, you should be able to get help to you... 
  • Emergency Radio.  If you have access to Cell Phone service great, if not, try Ham, CB, or FRS radios.  Surprisingly even these last two short-range radios may be able to reach great distances at night, depending on the atmospheric conditions and the bounce off the ionosphere. You might not be able to talk to anyone two miles away but might be able to reach a hundred miles away.  As long as they can call for help that's all you care about!
  • Old knapsack or duffle bag.            for "the kit".  stays with the car, in the trunk, or belted in the back. 
  • Use this checklist and check it every trip.
ronsorem@hotmail.com           Subaru RX Rally Team       Renton, WA            joshsorem@hotmail.com 
Page Design and Content Copyright © West Coast Rally Association