There are a plethora of kit lists out there that tell you what to take when embarking on an adventure, expedition, extreme sport, camping or hiking trip. Some are clearly commercially based, luring you to buy a particular bit of ‘shiny’ or ‘Gucci’ kit. Whilst others lack context and therefore may miss the mark. Such lists should never be considered in isolation (to include this one!) with consideration given to the type of adventure being undertaken, the environment, time of year, experience of the user/s, the resources and support mechanisms available.
This list is pretty basic by design so if it’s the latest flashy gear on the market you’re after, then this isn’t your list! However, the items listed, whilst basic are all useful and have been used frequently on trips, expeditions and adventures. The items listed have been chosen with the basics of survival in mind
The Big 5:
Additionally, these items are typically easily sourced and readily available.
The ‘Top 10’ items are:
- A good knife
- Fire lighter
- Warm kit (cold weather clothing)
- Plastic bags
An interesting point about all of these items is that they can typically be carried on the person quite easily, depending on the type of clothing being worn (pockets are a good thing!). Alternately, it is easy to fashion a crude but effective ‘swag’ or shoulder bag for equipment carriage using the warm kit (cold weather clothing).
Whilst some the majority of items seem common sense and self-explanatory at first glance some further detail is required.
- Plastic bags – A curious choice you may say! A collection of sturdy plastic bags of various types is a handy addition to your outdoor kit. The type and use of plastic bag is as follows:
- 2 x large bin bags – Can be used to water proof a daypack, an improvised raincoat, provide shelter from the elements or to carry things in.
- 1 x medium/large clear plastic bag – Can be used to collect water, for transpiration or basic protection from the elements.
- At least 2 x medium zip lock bags – Can keep items such as wallet and phone dry or dust free; can also be used to boil water (you need two bags)!
- Compass – A good companion to the map! Solar and Celestial navigation skills are good base navigation aids, but nothing beats a quality compass. If you carry a compass, might as well make it a good one – a Silva or Sunto prismatic style compass is a good option.
- Map – Always good to know where you are, where you’re going and where you’ve been! Basic ‘map to ground’ navigation can not only keep you out of the Poo, but also make an outing that much more enjoyable… it also adds realism to your stories around the camp fire if you can reference the route taken! A good 1:50,000 scale topographical map is recommended – a lot of these can be downloaded from the internet for free. Oh, it’s always good to know how to read the map as well…. See our ‘How To’ series for more info.
- Umbrella – We’re not talking a beach or golf umbrella here! We’re talking about a light weight and compact travel or hiking umbrella that is easy to carry. An umbrella is a versatile bit of kit; it provides protection from the elements (sun, wind, rain), it can form the basis of an improvised shelter and is useful in collecting rain water. A bright colour also aids as a identifying panel or marker in an emergency situation.
- Warm kit – Again this doesn’t have to be expensive or bulky. Something to keep you head and hands warm (wooly hat/beanie and gloves) at a minimum. The addition of a light weight and compact ‘fleece’ style pullover or jacket is a good thing as well. The material chosen should provide warmth when wet.
- Fire lighter – In order to get warmth, cook food or start a signal fire you need a way of igniting a fuel source. A good fire lighter is a handy addition to any outdoor pursuits inventory list. It doesn’t take up too much room, in fact these days it can go on your key ring or on your wrist. Take some cotton wool balls in one of your zip lock plastic bags (mentioned below) to provide ideal tinder for the spark.
- Hydration – A good sturdy water carriage vessel at least 2 litres in volume. It doesn’t have to be ‘Gucci’ or expensive, but must be robust and durable. I’m a fan of bottles as they can be used for a multitude of other things and make water collection that much easier – a wide neck to the bottle is a good thing.
- A good knife – “That’s not a knife, this is a knife!” How true! There are knives and there are knives…. If you are going to carry one, make it a good one and know how to use it. For survival situations and general bushcraft you should be looking at a sturdy fixed blade knife. Note that big isn’t always bigger, so don’t go buying ‘Excalibur’ unless you’re expecting to be slaying dragons! Choosing a knife is quite a personal thing, as it should be, so some research and trail is recommended. If a fixed blade is too bulky or not practical a folding blade is an option. There is nothing wrong with the traditional Swiss Army Knife, but choose a simple model. Leave the Multitool at home unless you are expecting to repair the Space Shuttle on your trip, or you want to carry it as an additional tool and not your primary blade. Last words of advice on knives – care for them and they’ll care for you, also they need to be sharp and kept that way!
- Comms (military term for all means of communication equipment) – The obvious choice is the now omni-present mobile phone (smart phone) provided that the ‘adventure’ has at least GSM coverage to allow at least a text message to be sent and received (a quick look at the mobile provider’s coverage map should provide this, atmospheric conditions dependent!). There are now several commercially available ‘sleeves’ available for smart phones that provide a satellite phone capability. However, some form of emergency beacon is advisable for the more remote destinations and higher risk activities. Something like an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) or a Spot Tracker are both recommended options – the Spot Tracker also allows text messaging.
- Torch – “Let there be light!” Even if you plan to be finished your adventure well before last light, it is a good idea to always carry a torch. Now, were not talking about a large search light style torch that can been seen from Mars. Something smaller and robust will do the trick – although a lot of the smaller torches on the market today do provide a very strong beam of light. A cord attached to the torch is a good idea to allow it to be hung around the neck or attached to the person so it doesn’t get lost or dropped. A head torch is a handy option that allows the use of both hands.