First – the winner of the firesteel is…. drum roll please!
Wen!! (Chosen randomly.) Here’s her comment for identification:
Fire steels! Being fairly new at prepping, I’ve kind of overlooked what to do about starting a fire & I suppose our “strike anywhere” matches and the few lighters we have will sooner or later run out. Having something like that would be wonderful!
Congrats Wen! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll about getting that sweet firesteel in your bug-out bag.
It’s finally starting to warm up here in Maine, the dreaded black flies have made their appearance, and people are dusting off their packs and getting ready to head back out in the woods on the various hiking trails. Of course some of us hike and camp straight through the winter, but not everybody is into the whole winter experience.
During the summer I see many people hiking and the only thing they’re carrying is a light sweat shirt or wind breaker usually tied around their waist. Not all of them, mind you, and that’s great if you’re only going to walk a mile, but I’ve seen cases where that mile suddenly becomes three or they wind up off the path altogether for a few hours and even a few days for the unlucky hiker who gets really lost.
When I hike I always have a minimum amount of gear on me. All of your gear should have multiple uses if possible. Here’s what I carry at a bare minimum for a summer kit:
- A canteen and canteen cup is an excellent low-cost way to have a quart of water and a way to purify it. You can also get a water filter, which is more expensive, or some water purification tablets. If you get the water purification tablets make sure you get the kind that have the taste neutralizer so it doesn’t taste like iodine. Clean water is important, but the iodine chemical doesn’t taste all the good in my opinion. The only way to make totally sure all the germs in the water are dead is to boil it. Having said that I’ve used the Katadyn Water filter and never had a problem.
- A lightweight rain suit. This can also double as a wind breaker and when the sun goes down and it starts to cool off it will help you stay warm. If the bugs are thick it will also help to keep the bugs off.
- Lighter or some other kind of firestarter. You should have at least two different ways to start a fire on you. I use a Bic lighter and have a firesteel as a backup.
- Survival knife – the importance of a good knife can’t be overstated. I use the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion. It’s a little heavier than a lot of knives, but it’s a beast in the field and it won’t let you down.
- Food – energy bars, GORP, or other kind of food that doesn’t need much preparation is a good idea; however, if you have a heat source such as a camp fire then freeze dried foods, Ramen Noodles, or any other kind of light-weight hiking food is an excellent choice. If I’m on a long hike I’ll have oatmeal and an energy bar for breakfast (don’t forget the coffee), an energy bar for a quick lunch so I can keep moving, and for dinner I’ll break out a freeze dried meal and live it up. As a side note make sure you’re drinking a lot of water while you’re moving.
- Map and Compass (I’m counting this as one unit) or a GPS. I use a Cammanga Military Compass for accuracy.
- First aid kit – I tend to pack worst case scenario here. I broke my ankle once hiking on the Appalachian Trail and I don’t mess around with boo-boo kits any more. Mine is a military trauma kit.
- Flash light or head lamp – if you’ve ever been in the woods after dark you’ll understand this one. It gets so dark at times that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Literally.
- Wool blanket – this item has many uses and if it gets wet it still has insulating value. You can lay it out to picnic on, wear it as a cape or shawl with a hood at night around the fire – it won’t burn like cotton or some of the synthetics out there if a coal lands on it, or you can wrap up in it case you get stuck out over night. I’ll write a full post on wool blankets later.
- Contractor bag – these have many many uses. You can stuff it with leaves or pine needles and sleep on it, which creates a comfortable bed and vapor barrier. It can be used to carry water. Some people say to use a condom, but they’re so fragile I’d be scared to death it would break and lose all my water. A contractor bag is tough and you could carry a lot of water if you needed to. (And were strong enough.) It can be used as a rain coat. It can be stretched out and used as part of a shelter to keep the rain off. It can divert rainwater into your canteen. These bags have many different uses and I suggest you get one for your pack if you don’t already have one in there.
This gear will fit in a small pack and shouldn’t weigh more than 15 pounds total – and probably less.
Some of these are to be used during the hike. You’ll be drinking water, munching on GORP and checking your map as you go, etc. Other items are to be used in case of emergency. If you get stuck out over night and it rains you’ll be happy that you have a wool blanket and contractor bag to keep you warm and dry.
Keep in mind that a list like this should be tailored to your own needs and location. You might want to add bug-dope and other things, but keep in mind every little thing you put in costs you in weight.
Two of the most important things you can carry with you won’t be found in your pack. Those important items are knowledge and experience. Take time to get out in the woods and practice your skills! I can’t emphasize this enough.
What do you put in your pack?
Sound off below!