What’s in the Bag?

Patience - Logic - Strength

Things to consider when packing for an adventure.

Looking at taking a trip out for the day then you probably need a bag. Let’s call it a day bag, for obvious reasons. But what should you look to take with you? This is short list of personal preferences I would look to pack on any trip.

Every adventure will come with its own unique set of issues to contend with. Hills, trees or trails all have a different verity of potential problems not to mention trying to take in to account the seasons. Trying to prepare for every eventuality will require you to strap a caravan to your back every time you want to set foot out of the house. Let’s take a look at some of the basics I would look to carry on a daily basis. Light weight versatile bits of kit that could get you out of the poop in any environment. Ill try not to go to in-depth with each item and just skim over the highlights, I have a tendency to chops on a bit when I get excited.

  1. A Bag – not hand, not man, nor carrier but a ruck sack bag.
  2. Foil blanket – Yep, the ones that make you look like a jacket potato when your teeth are chattering.
  3. First aid kit – unless you are a paramedic then this shouldn’t be any bigger than a wallet.
  4. Water bottle – No need to be a camel a single litter is more than enough.
  5. Food – Egg muffins and hummus or pie and chocolate, I don’t care, but count those calories
  6. Whistle – Sticking your fingers in your mouth and letting rip is a cool trick in the play ground but it wont cut it if you snap your wrist.
  7. Head torch – Yes with batteries and in working order, you wont know unless you test it.
  8. Knife – Simple single sided sharp knife, leave the Rambo shit at home.
  9. Navigation  – Map and compass, gps if you must.
  10.  Phone – Not to be confused with navigation. See, it’s a separate item on the list.

The most important item is your bag, it’s true to say that there are other items that are far more life preserving but unless you have bloody big pockets you are going to need a place to put them all. My bag is the first item ill select when packing for an adventure and there is a hole list of things to consider but let’s keep it simple.

Size dose matter, don’t believe what they say. Too big and you’ll end up carrying stuff for the sake of it, to small and you’ll find yourself having to empty and repack every time you want something out of it. For an everyday out and about bag 15 to 20l is more than enough. I’ve no real interest in reviewing bags or forcing my preferences on you here, a bag is a bag, and as long as it has two shoulder straps your off to a good start. Having a sternum strap is a massive advantage though. A Sturman strap is the short strap that links both shoulder straps together across the chest. Its non-load baring but dose serve to keep your shoulder straps in place when your bag is loaded. As for waist straps, they really are not necessary, unless you plan on running and then they can be a huge help. A waist strap not only helps keep your load secure and tight to your centre of gravity, a small tweak that will make a colossal difference over long distances, but it also helps distribute the load through your hips instead of it all just hanging off your back. Don’t get me started on bags, ill chew your ear off all day. A simple ruck sack will do, let’s get packing.

“Why do I have to carry a space blanket?” Yer, it’s a fair point, it does seem a little OTT but hang in there. We are looking at standard bits of kit that can be used for a variety of purposes and a space blanket not only fits the criteria but it’s also super lightweight, inexpensive and can provide the single most important commodity in a survival situation, insulation! Forget water and food, shelter is king if things go tits up. We are not packing for the apocalypse here but these things are crazy useful in the hands of a human with a good understanding of basic thermal dynamics and survival skills. All their insulating properties should be fairly obvious, stuffing it up your jumper, as a scarf or ground sheet but the survival applications are huge if you have the imagination to see them. Water catcher, fishing lour, signal sheet, sling, even a bag roll to replace your lost or bust up ruck sack, the list goes on. Let’s not be selfish here either, if you stumble across someone in a bad way this could be there ticket to a decent recovery too. Its probably an item you will carry for years and never use but trust me for all the weight in them your better off having one and not needing it rather than the alternative.

First aid kits come in a verity of sets but for the most part there are broken down in to Personal and Leader. A Leader kit will be much larger and contain equipment for administering first aid to others. A personal, the kind normally specified on race kit lists, is for general maintenance on yourself. Customize its contents to suit you. Personally I like to have some top end fabric tape, its like medical gaffa-tape and fixes anything from blisters too pumping wounds, it’s a bastard to get off but dose the job. I have tweezers, tick removers and a decent amount of antiseptic cream with a few sachets of burn cream for good measure. A triangle bandage, the Swiss army knife of any first aid kit, a few water purification tablets, spare batteries and a long roll bandage for sprains. Another nice little addition iv made is a couple of packs of hand warmers, again because with the right skill set they have a multitude of uses. As far as I’m concerned first aid should be on the national curriculum and taught to all school kids but sadly I’m not prime minister yet so we are left to secure our own training, Nice one parliament! There are two basic types of first aid training, emergency first aid, that teaches you to stabilise a situation and get help. The second is first aid at work, where you become the help. Either of these will give you a good understanding of the basics and most employers are more than happy to have staff trained so ask the boss for some support to get on a course, I promise you the most important kit you will ever carry is in you head so get learning.

Hydrate! No other single action will affect your level of out put than not taking on enough water. Its easy to forget even when its lashing it down with rain you need to drink. A camel back or bladder is great if you are going on a really long walk and opportunity’s to refill are scares. I find low level trips and woodland walks are trickiest to secure a decent supply of fresh water. There are just way more animals and farming going on. Up high in the hills you stand a better chance of finding a clear flow. Don’t real on finding any some, its always best to plan ahead. For an average day out a decent water bottle is more than enough. I like my glass water bottle, it just tastes better. I know what your thinking, SNOB. Yep. I’m partial to a nice Sig bottle too but for me glass is best, even better with a nice napoleon cover, oooo I’m getting thirsty thinking about it. Golden tip here is maintains. Clean your water carrying device, whatever you chose, clean it. Every time your home. Getting the shits can ruin your day at the best of times. Getting the shits outdoors will ruin everyone else’s day too. No one wants to see you squat down venting demons.

Calories are a tricky one to judge and are very personal. What I can advise it its better to go over the top. Ok so you may not burn off 5000 calories on your average day out but food is great for moral and after all we want to enjoy our time out as much as we can so scrap the diet, and pack the cheese. All of the cheese. Salted nuts are a good snack too, not only do they help with your hydration levels but they are calorie heavy as well. What ever you decide just make sure to bring all the rubbish away with you, and yes that means apple cores and banana peels. I will slap any one that pipes up with the “but its biodegradable” bullshit. How many banana trees have you seen growing in the UK? Well then for the love of my sanity put it in your bag. If it doesn’t grow there don’t plant it!

A whistle is another tiny little item that can genuinely save your life if things go south. It may not have a multitude of handy tips and tricks allocated to it but if you need to be recused then this little sucker is going to get the job done. There are a hoist of ways to signal you are in destress, 3 fires in a triangle, sounds cosy but bloody hard work. Launching of red flares, handy if you have them. The release of orange smoke, again not an ideal item of kit to lug about all the time. Raising and lowering slowly and repeatedly both arms outstretched to each side, again not really ideal if you are injured or stuck on the ground. No, when it comes to efficient signalling for help your whistle is king. 3 solid blasts followed by a 60 second pause, then another 3 solid blasts. Repeat this paten until you are recued or you pass out. Like the blanket before, its better to have it and not need it than to die.

Your head torch is an essential bit of kit and they have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. A head torch that would have cost 60 or 70 quid just a couple of years ago can now be picked up brand new for less around 30. I have a battery pack one I use for running and events but my day one uses batteries I can replace easily. The two main things to look for when picking a head torch are battery life and lumens. How long its going to last and how bright is it when its dark. Lets cut to it here 7 hours is more than enough and Lithium batteries are always better than alkaline. Xenon and Krypton bulbs may give a better light but LED are far more reliable. Your just walking, not piloting a speeder bike the forest moon of Endor. As long as you can see where your putting your feet in the dark you are good to go. My day torch cost me less than 20 quid and iv had it for years.

Lets get tooled up! Wait that sounds irresponsible but you know what I mean. Picking a knife can be exciting and if your anything like me you’ll be distracted by shiny full tnag blades, with single bevel edges and hickory carved handles. All very nice but it is important to get the right one. A knife is an important item of kit because of its difficulty to replicate. Let me explain. Your triangle bandage in your first aid kit is super useful but if you have lost it you can achieve many of the same uses with a buff or a space blanket. Trying to cut something without a knife will have you looking for sharp rocks or trying to bite your way around the problem like a savage dog. Unless you have the time and inclination to mine copper and tin, build a forge and craft your own bronze blade, trying to replicate a good knife if tricky to say the very least. Items of kit that are neigh on impossible to replicate are quite literally worth there weight in gold.

Now the law states that to carry a blade for no spersific poupous then it must be non-locking and no longer than 3 inches. If your off for several days then something a bit larger will become more versatile but honestly a well made decent legal carry is all you need to open cheese and make lunch.

So your all packed and ready to go, but where are you off? I could go in to great depth here about the importance of navigation and how being lost is a sure fire way to ruin your day and the days of a rescue team sent to help you out. If this happens then I’m quite sure they will assist you no matter your situation but if they arrive and see you are ill prepared and have attempted something without any form of navigation they are going to be calling you every name under the sun behind your back. And rightly so. You should always know where you are heading, where you have come from and how you intend to fill the gaps in-between. GPS units are incredible bits of kit, but do you know what datum to set your unit to? Have you checked your batteries? Have you secured connection before heading out? Having a GPS dose not mean you are impervious to getting lost. I believe that navigation using a compass and a map is another subject that should be on the national curriculum, taught to everyone from a young age. MAT FOR PRIMINISTER RIGHT?! Its very basic maths with simple addition and subtraction with a light coating of areas and angles. Is a skill that can be grasped in the time it takes to watch a movie, YouTube is crammed full of videos on the subject. After you have grasped the basics get out there and practice on a local path you know well to help you tune in and get a feel for how to track your progress on a map. I don’t want to undersell the art of navigation, it really is a skill that comes in various levels of ability. I do want to encourage you to get involved and start to build you understanding of the process. Like shelter is king in any survival situation, navigation is lord almighty of any adventure so start filling your head kit as well as your bag.

Smart phones these days come with a variety of navigation apps and I my self use the OS app on a regular basis. I use it to plan and prepare routs and familiarise my self with the general lay of the land before heading out but the phone is on the list so you can call for help if something or someone has gone belly up. Lets not be lazy, every trip out is an opportunity for you to improve not only your general fitness but also your skill set and map reading should be the one skill you are practicing constantly. Its great that we have a phone as a plan B to confirm our location and dismiss and doubt about dissensions to prevent you getting in to bother in the first place. We are lucky to have that safety net but a phone is defiantly for calling and taking pictures. Always check your battery is full and remember all batteries will dissipate a lot faster when they are cold so look to keep your phone on your person for both heat and easy access should you take a tumble. Pop it in flight mode and enjoy the environment around you. Most smart phones still track GPS information when in flight mode so your location will still be assessable providing you have already downloaded the necessary maps. The accuracy will be poor and I stress, it is no substitute for a map and compass

And that my friends is all she wrote. Again this is just the bare naked basics for an average day out. There is scope to carry cordage, stoves, shelters, layers and all manner of other location and seasonal items of kit depending on your objectives, these are just the bits I wouldn’t leave the house without. Think ahead, collect information, make a plan and see it through.

Patience – Logic – Strength