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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 7: Miscellany Comment
    Gregory Morris, 6/11/09 10:38:19 pm
    See parts one, two, three, four, five and six of this series.

    Simply put, there's a lot of "stuff" that comes in handy for both backpacking and survival. Since it doesn't fit nicely into any other major category, I'm going to list all my miscellaneous items in one mega-list.
    • Knife - Discussed before, at length. This is so simple and obvious, but I can't count the times I've been in the woods with someone and they had to borrow my knife because they forgot theirs, or theirs wasn't sharp enough, or it broke... Just get a good knife! Spend the money and do it. This is the one thing that I can't possibly stress enough. In addition to my primary knife, I usually also keep some kind of backup. I also usually keep a razor blade, with my first aid kit.
    • Headlamp/batteries - Headlamps are better than flashlights because they can be used hands-free, and they will illuminate whatever you are looking at. I don't even bother packing a flashlight or lantern. You can get a cheap LED headlamp that will work just fine, and have long battery life. For short backpacking trips, I usually change my batteries before I leave, and don't bring spares. However, I keep extra batteries with my gear at home just in case.
    • Duct tape - Duh! You can use duct tape for everything! I won't even bother discussing all the uses, because that could fill volumes. I carry a small roll, which has been flattened so it takes up less space. There is no excuse not to have duct tape in your survival gear. If your gear is stored somewhere that gets hot (like a garage) then your duct tape will need to be replaced every year, as it does degrade when exposed to prolonged heat. I generally recommend against storing your gear in a non-temperature-controlled environment anyway.
    • Light cordage - I keep about 20-30 feet of cordage that is theoretically strong enough to hold the static weight of an average person in an emergency. You don't need something for repelling out of helicopters. You just need something strong enough to tie down a tarp in a wind storm. Rope will come in handy, so make sure you have some.
    • Pack towel - Strictly speaking you don't need this. However, there are invariably times when you'd like to dry something off (like yourself skinny dipping in a freezing cold mountain stream... not that I've ever done that... *ahem*) I have an MSI pack towel that is extremely absorbent, but incredibly thin and light. It also can be rung nearly dry, and will completely dry quickly. Think "Shamwow". Also think "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
    • Bandanna - The bandanna almost made it onto the "Must Have" list. You can wear it as a head covering. Or a face covering to block the sun. Or you can use it like a bag to hold things. Or you can use it to filter particulates out of water. Or you can soak it in water and put it across your neck to keep cool. Or you can use it as a tourniquet. Or a bandage. You see what I mean?
    • Hiking poles - The most underrated piece of hiking equipment you can own. They save your knees, help steady you on difficult traversals and stream crossings, and give you something to lean on if there are no trees around. Obviously, hiking sticks can be improvised if you are in a wooded area, but lightweight aluminum hiking poles are a luxury I recommend. They can also be used to construct a pup-tent style shelter with a tarp if you are out in the open.
    • Ziplock bag* - I carry an extra zip lock bag when I'm backpacking to collect my trash. To be honest, in a real survival situation, the environment wouldn't be my first concern. However, zip lock bags have plenty of other potential uses. Namely, you can use it to keep important stuff like maps and electronics dry.
    • Bugspray/sunscreen* - Believe me, you don't wanna be trudging through a central Florida swamp in the summertime without some 100% DEET. I keep a small travel-sized bottle with my gear, although I tend to leave it at home 99% of the time, because it is extra weight. The best defense against mosquitos and biting flies is not chemical, but proper clothing.
    • Toiletries
      • Camp soap - This is good stuff. Environmentally friendly, works well, and in addition to personal hygeine, you can use it on your pots and pans.
      • Toilet paper - Also goes without saying. I keep a half-roll, flattened, in a heavy duty ziplock bag. You can make do without it, but why would you want to?
      • Toothbrush* - A toothbrush is something that can be improvised, and that won't kill you if you forget it.
      • Wet wipes* - In lieu of actually being able to wash up, it is extremely convenient to have some wet-wipes available to clean both your hands and face, as well as your various nooks and crannies.
      • Hair Dryer - Hah! Just kidding.
    • Clothing
      What you are wearing may not be ideal in a survival situation, and there's not much that can help that. Some people don't keep clothes in their bugout bag, assuming they can make do with what they are wearing at the time. If you are always in t-shirt and jeans, then you can probably get away with that. But if you regularly wear a dress or a suit, then you'll want a change of clothes. I keep a few basic clothing items with my pack at all times, just in case I need to bug out quickly. It goes without saying that the clothing you choose should reflect your climate and likely situations.
      • Boots - Lightweight and waterproof boots or hiking shoes are a must. Extra weight carried on your feet is equivalent to many times that amount carried on your back. You can always add extra layers of socks for warmth, but you can't take away built-in insulation. I prefer high-top leather boots with hard soles, and good soft inserts (Dr. Scholls, etc.) Hard soles protect your feet better when you are rock-hopping. High-top boots provide better ankle support, which is important when you are hiking down a rocky trail with 50+ lbs strapped to your back. Waterproof footwear is obviously important, but don't expect even properly cared-for leather, or high quality Gortex boots to actually keep your feet dry (think Murphy's Law.) I also keep a pair of sandles with my gear. Sometimes you don't want to be wearing boots (stream crossing, moving around base camp, etc.) Some people prefer ultralight flip-flops or similar items, but I find that good 'technical' sandals can carry you over rough terrain, should that become necessary.
      • Socks - Having fresh, clean socks is not negotiable when mobility may be important. Healthy, happy feet are important! Preferrably, you want something that wicks away moisture. Some people like silk liners under wool socks, but I find most purpose-made "hiking socks" do the trick just fine.
      • Belt - I nearly always wear a belt. One reason is because I carry a firearm, but it is also part of professional attire. If you don't wear a belt all the time, I'd consider stashing one in your pack. Belts can be improvised, obviously, but a good belt will support a lot of gear (guns, flashlights, knives, whatever.) As I've mentioned before, a belt is also the first and best option for an emergency tourniquet.
      • Hat - This is a personal preference, but hats can provide a lot of warmth if it is cold, and can protect your head/face/neck from a nasty sunburn.
      • Waterproof jacket or poncho - You can get a cheap, ultralight poncho just about anywhere. Just make sure it is either big enough to fit over you and your pack, or sturdy enough to survive underneath the weight of your pack.
      • Gaiters - Once again, don't expect your feet to stay dry, but drier is better, especially when you are dealing with northern climates in the winter. This is really more of a comfort item, but you'll appreciate it if you have to trudge through a bog and you only have low-top hiking shoes.
      • Synthetics and Naturals - There are endless debates about the pluses and minuses of fancy new high-tech synthetic fabrics, and time-tested natural fabrics. For instance, wool socks last forever, and will keep your feet warm regardless of how wet they get. On the other hand, synthetic hiking socks will keep your feet dryer by wicking away sweat. For me, weight is more important than long-term durability. So, in addition to extra socks, I keep at least a pair of light synthetic pants and an extra synthetic shirt in my bag. They are very lightweight and dry quickly.

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

    Re: Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 7: Miscellany
    BillH, 6/13/09 11:32:23 am
    headlamps: pay up and get one with the red filter option... lets you develop your night vision while you walk or set out your decoys (I use mine for duck hunting). Buy one for your buddy too. That way, when you ask him a question and he looks at you, his headlight won't ruin -your- nightvision ;-)
    Re: Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 7: Miscellany
    Gregory Morris, 6/14/09 9:07:06 pm
    Totally. Excellent point. Most of the cheapy LED headlamps now actually come with red LEDs as well, which is totally awesome. I also use them for shrimping, because the red light makes their eyes glow. But when backpacking, I hate how you have to click through the bright white light to get to the red light... so it is best if you can find one with either a separate filter (as you mentioned), or a separate switch for the red light.
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