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Category: Survival

What’s in Your Pack?

What’s in Your Pack?

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared!” and I’ve taken this to heart ever since I first heard it. For example, when I wear contacts, I always keep my glasses with me because you never know when you might lose a contact or need to take them out. My eyes get dry, so I usually have a bottle of eye drops in my pocket. There’s also an extra bottle in my desk and one in the car center console. Things like this are easy to do, and if you overlook them, while they’re not life threatening, they can be a nuisance.

When you go for a walk in the local park, there is little reason to take more than your house keys and a few bucks for a coffee on the way home. Maybe take some nuts or bread crumbs for the squirrels. But if you go for a longer hike in wilderness where you could end up with a sprained ankle several miles from your car, you might want to take some extra precautions. Here’s what I have in my day pack: (I also have most of these on my bike, along with the spare tube, tools, and pump.)

  1. Small First Aid kit with:
    • Insect repellent! Don’t let some mosquitoes, no-seeums, or horseflies ruin your outing.
    • Assorted sizes of band aids, some big enough to cover a good-sized blister.
    • Small tube of Neosporin (original formula) This is a good antiseptic cream, and, because it’s mostly petroleum jelly (Vaseline), it can serve as lip balm, hand lotion, lubricant, de-squeaker, etc. It’s also great for rubbing inside the nostrils in very dry climates.
    • Needle for draining blisters
    • Eye drops, ibuprofen
    • Cold pack for heat stroke, sprains, and snake bites.
    • Emergency Whistle – these are extra loud (ear-splitting up close) and can attract attention a lot better than calling for help.

    I like to buy the stock first aid kits you can get at sporting goods stores and then modify them. I get them big enough so that after I take out the fluff (excess small bandaids, first aid manuals, etc.) I can put a lot of the stuff listed below into it. Be sure to check the contents regularly and replace tablets, ointments and dried out bandaids.
    First Aid Kit

  2. Pocket Tool: I used to carry a standard scouting knife for many years. This had a single blade, can opener, bottle opener and awl (a pointed thingy for punching holes in leather or canvas.) Then I carried Swiss Army knives with a few more tools, like scissors and files. I especially loved the tooth pick and tweezers they had. Unfortunately, my collection of Swiss Army knives is collecting dust now because I can’t open them anymore – they require younger, stronger fingernails. Now I have a collection of multi-tools. These are easier for me to open and have some extra tools I can use on my bike. I usually wear this on my belt so it is always close. I also put a miniature one in the first aid kit as a backup.
  3. Fire-starter: There are basically three kinds: matches, butane lighters, and magnesium blocks. Ordinary matches can deteriorate after a while, particularly in damp climates. The flint in butane lighters can crumble to dust in the same conditions, and magnesium blocks are only suitable for starting camp fires. They don’t work well for lighting candles or camp stoves. So, for matches get some good quality ones from you adventure supplier (sporting goods store). For butane lighters, get the electronic kind. The piezo spark generator will never wear out. If you also bring a magnesium block, be sure you know how to use it. Practice with the same knife you’ll be taking. I carry the magnesium block as a backup to one of the other two. It’s unbreakable, waterproof and can start hundreds of fires. Here are some videos showing how to use the magnesium fire starter:

  4. Space Blanket: This is a super strong sheet of aluminized Mylar that can be used to keep you warm and dry. It can be used as a shelter. I’ve tested it as a stretcher by rolling opposite ends around walking sticks, and grabbing the Mylar and the sticks at the same time. Clearly, you’ll need two people to carry the injured one. One drawback to Mylar is that a tiny nick can quickly tear all the way across the sheet. A blanket-sized sheet folds down to the size of a handkerchief.
  5. Strong cord: You’re not going mountain climbing with it, but you need enough to turn your poncho or space blanket into a shelter. It should also be thin enough to be used as a replacement shoelace.
  6. Toilet paper or pocket-size package of facial tissue: You can get special small packs of TP at your sporting goods store, or take a roll that’s about 3/4 used, flatten it, and stick it into a durable sandwich bag. It comes in handy when the local facilities are out, or for field emergencies. Other uses include starting fires, blowing noses and cleaning wounds. Make sure it stays dry and bring a spare bag to pack out the used paper.
  7. Extra water: This is in addition to your other water. Always carry extra, especially in hot, dry climates.
  8. Extra bandanas: These can be made into sweat bands, bandages, towels and bathing suits. The bathing suit trick requires several.
  9. Sun screen, depending on the season and locale.
  10. Poncho: Get the kind that’s made from a plastic fabric instead of vinyl sheet. It will be lighter and stronger. Most come with grommets at the corners for attaching string. Potential uses are almost infinite: raincoat, windbreaker, sun shade, picnic blanket, tent, privacy screen, and so on.
  11. Flashlight: While a flashlight may seem excessive for a day hike, I’ve come across enough caves, hollow trees, abandoned huts, and interesting culverts to appreciate having one handy.
  12. And last, but not least, a plastic bag for collecting trash you might find along the way.

Day Pack
Yes, I know, it seems like a lot. All this goes in my day pack along with my regular supply of food and water for the day, camera, and any other mission-specific gear, and most of the time, they just stay at the bottom of the pack. However, you just never know when some of this might come in handy.

Happy and safe wandering, and BE PREPARED!