Life saving items for your backpack

Ein Outdoor Rucksack

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I went hiking today with friends. It started out beautiful and sunny, but by late afternoon it had turned cold and windy, with rain on the way. Thanks to a lady Park Ranger I talked to many years ago, I was prepared!

When I got home, I checked out my pack to see what was there. Many of the items had sunk to the bottom in the years since her lecture (when I visited REI and stocked up). It was fun rummaging about in the hiking equivalent of the stocking on Christmas morning.

Here is what I found, and why it’s there. Also some things I took out (marked with a *) and some more that I will be adding:

A ziplock containing

comb (In addition to curing ‘hat hair’ is useful for pulling jumping cholla out of careless ankles here in the southwest.)

cough drops


eye drops. Total Wt. 5.0 oz

Moleskin .7 oz

Florescent orange Whistle (kept on lanyard on outside of pack). My LR explained that if you needed it, you are probably either dehydrated or wounded, and in either case in no shape to be scrounging around in your pack. .5 oz

Big trash bag. Good for sitting upon on damp ground, collecting water, and making temporary shelter. 2 oz

Driving gloves. To protect hands if climbing out of rock canyon 1.4 oz

3 first aid kits (9.4 oz, 9.4 oz, 1.7 oz)* Took out one of the heavy ones and the light one as well. One is enough, I figure. Not sure why the others were there?

Ziplock containing

3×5 cards,

pencil AND pen. Good for writing notes about where you are headed if you get lost. (And composing poetry if you feel so inspired) 2.4 oz

Waterproof matches and punk to start fire. 2.4 oz

Ziplock with extra first aid supplies:

ace bandage,

alcohol swab packets,

big patch bandages 2.0 oz

Space blanket rated to reflect up to 90% of body heat, size large. Package says 3.5 oz, but was 3.3 oz on my scale.

Bandanna. Useful to shield neck from sun, makeshift sling, and for ahem, other emergencies. 1.0 oz

3 assorted Luna bars. 4.1 oz* Getting pretty scuzzy. Time to replace.

Ziplock containing

compass with mirror,

duct tape (of course!),

another whistle (it was free),

water purification tabs 4.6 oz

GU high energy supplements: Flavors of orange burst, strawberry banana, tri-berry, vanilla bean. My absolute favorite, double espresso chocolate, didn’t make it through the first hike. Time to replenish at REI. 4.8oz

Lara bar, cherry flavor. I really like these: just dates, nuts & dried fruit. Oh, yeah! 2 oz

Ziplock containing 4 quarters. (Yes, Virginia, there still are pay phones around.) Note to self: Probably need to add another 4 quarters for the ubiquitous vending machine at the ranger station, full of COLD cokes. 🙂 

Leatherman-type knife. Got this one at our local WalMart, so it’s a little heftier, but hey! It’s got a fish-scaler. Can’t ever tell when you might need one of those in the desert. AND a set of pliers for pulling out cactus thorns. 11.8 oz

One dead banana in ziplock.*  Do you have any idea what a dessicated banana looks like after six months.  (Tossed that one.)

Extra pair of socks. 2.3 oz

Packet of Kleenex 1.5 oz

Miner’s light for hands-free use, with extra batteries and dime for change-out screw. 4.3 oz

Waterproof poncho. 11.8 oz

To this I add, whenever I travel:

ID and credit card, plus some spare cash

Cell phone (charged, with ICE numbers dialed in)

Extra plastic sack to pack out litter I find on the trail. 😦

WATER. I use a Camelbak, plus in the summer I usually carry some extra bottles of water I can give out to crazy tourists who forgot to bring any and are having heatstroke right in front of my eyes.


Pocket belt camera.

I dress in layers: underwear, T-Shirt, long-sleeve shirt, jacket, depending on weather. I check the forecast before I start.

Because I use glasses, I invested in a pair of transitional lenses that change when the sun does.

Now that I’ve looked it over, I find I’m missing my sunscreen. (I think I lent it to someone) Need to put in a new tube of that and some chapstick. Also replenish my double espresso GU. 🙂

In the car, I also usually put an ice-chest with COLD water for the drive home. I also throw in a pair of comfortable shoes for the drive and some plastic baggies to capture my (often) mud coated hiking boots.

So that’s it.

What, you may ask, of all this paraphernalia have I actually USED?

Well, the GU of course.

And the poncho. A number of times it has been a real lifesaver when an unexpected storm has blown in.

The miner’s light once, when I went on a moonlight hike.

The extra baggie to pack out trash.  All too often, unfortunately.

The rest is not all that heavy. It took me an afternoon to assemble, and it goes where I go. I figure I only have to use it once to have it all be worthwhile.

Happy hiking!


About Author, Pegasus Quincy Mystery Series

I write a mystery series about a young rookie deputy on her first assignment in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
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