Minimalism or Unprepared???

3:54 a.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I want to get into backpacking soon, and i have MOST of the essentials. I have a sleeping bag, tent, stove, and a sleeping pad. All i'm waiting for is to buy my pack. Does having only this in my pack seem to be too little for an overnite trip?

7:22 a.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
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Overnight? Many a person has spent a night (or more) sleeping in a field with nothing more than a tarp, blanket, or less. It is my opinion that the more experience and skill (they are NOT the same thing) a person has, the fewer things they need. Gather the proper gear, learn to use it well, and you will eventually learn exactly what you need and don't need.

Here is an older thread that offers some packing lists posted by others. You may gain some insight into what you should pack/carry there.

4:33 p.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
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...and once you add food, water, a poncho or rain jacket, flashlight, couple garbage bags, spare socks, etc., you'll have a pretty full pack for an overnighter.

And I do believe f klock is correct: the more you learn, the less you need to carry...

6:16 p.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
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It depends on where you are going, and prevailing weather conditions.

As F Klock alludes, an overnighter can be as simple as a night walk, hot dogs, a six pack by fire light, and a nap up against a rock. But it can entail much more gear if in the snow, rain, or you desire more comfort.

You list is incomplete, however, by most people’s habits. Few personal essential were described, ommiting things like as foot wear, clothing, shell garments, toiletries (including a trowel for a cat hole), the means to treat and carry water, flash light, food storage considerations, pot to cook in, eating utensils and plate, etc.

Most lacking is no coffee and no whisky. How are you going to survive?
Ed

6:56 p.m. on May 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Clothes and food are already things that i considered. And those are taken care of, as is the water problem. But what i was meaning was GEAR. As in other things that you have to have. Or would consider being essentials for a beginner.

9:40 p.m. on May 15, 2010 (EDT)
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There are certain items of gear which are indispensable and others that are merely nice to have with you when camping. There is a current fad for extreme "ultralight" backpacking and this can mean doing without many of the items that most carry, it is best suited to developed trails and supported treks by couples or larger parties and not to truely remote wilderness and harsh environments.

I seldom carry much of the gear that many others do and some of the items considered a "must" by many packers such as a GPS are completely foreign to me and I have never used them and have no idea how they function....don't much care, either.

Skill in wild places has very little to do with being proficient with hightech gadgetry or with carrying items that you seldom use just because you "might" need them. For many years, over a span of 45+ years, I would spend long periods alone in BC's wilderness and with rucksack that with all contents would not weigh 20 lbs. and that includes food for a few days.

I might suggest sitting down and thinking about yourself, how YOU deal with emergencies, where and when and for how long you will be out and if this is solo or with a convivial group and, how strong, fit and healthy you are. Be honest with yourself and ask JUST how calmly confident you are that you can deal with an unexpected injury or getting "lost", especially if alone and start from there.

In summer, a simple tarp shelter, light bag, pad and titanium pot with a canister stove and spoon plus a good first aid kit and knowledge of how to use it and a little protective clothing plus your hiking shoes and you are good to go....with some grub of course. I NEVER take alcohol into the bush as I have seen too many serious accidents, etc., due to people imbibing, but, that is a personal decision that each person must make fro themselves.

You can add a camera, a binocular, fieldguides, fishing gear, and whatever other stuff you want, start with decent gear and then, if you really know that you ARE into it for life, you can buy the best and gradually extend your range and langth of stays. Remember that every person carrying a pack, even the most skilled on the internet, was a novice once and had to begin just as you do.....keep it simple, be careful and have fun.....which is what it is all about!

12:00 a.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
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To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld's infamous press conference musing, there are things you know, things you know you don't know and things you don't know you don't know.

I suspect with most newbies in any sport like backpacking, much of what you don't know falls into the last category.

In other words, how will you know you don't have something you need if you don't know you need it?

The necessary gear for any kind of outing, as already, said will vary from trip to trip, but can be broken down into categories such as clothing (including footwear), shelter, bedroom, kitchen, navigation, emergency kit and misc.

There are many gear lists posted on the Internet. A good introduction to camping is Colin Fletcher's book, The Complete Walker, 4th Ed. Fletcher's book is the "Bible" of backpacking. Fletcher is gone, but his book lives on with co-author Chip Rawlins. There are others, but TCW is the place to start.

There is a huge variety of gear and clothing of all types and qualities available. If you have ever been in an REI, you know what I mean and REI carries only a small percentage of brands. Looking online at REI's website or any of the other Trailspace sponsors will give you an idea of how much gear is out there. Knowing what to choose can be maddening since much of the gear and clothes perform the same function. Just choosing a stove means picking among dozens of them that burn everything from white gas to alcohol to natural gas (butane/propane).

My suggestion is figure out what you need, then start narrowing down particular items in your price range. Try to keep the weight down and buy the best gear you can afford.

10:01 a.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Overnight? Many a person has spent a night (or more) sleeping in a field with nothing more than a tarp, blanket, or less. It is my opinion that the more experience and skill (they are NOT the same thing) a person has, the fewer things they need. Gather the proper gear, learn to use it well, and you will eventually learn exactly what you need and don't need.

Here is an older thread that offers some packing lists posted by others. You may gain some insight into what you should pack/carry there.

I've heard this comment over the years, the more experience--the less gear, but I've found the more experience I have, the more stuff I like to take out with me. A 15 or 20 day trip can really be more enjoyable for me when I have 3 or 4 books and plenty of stove fuel and a nice thick 2 inch Thermarest and, of course, the usual 3 stuff sacks of food.

11:07 a.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the insight. I appreciate it. I'm not that new to camoing though. I've gone on a float trip and have been car camping. I've also spent a nite out in the woods with only my knife and a sweater. Most of my gear is decent gear for someone of my experience. I don't have anything that is for the extremes...yet.

But what i'm starting out with is a closed cell foam pad. (Those blue ones everyone loves to criticize). Its light and i don't want to have the burden of an air mat deflating on me yet. I also have a The North Face sleeping bag that goes to 20 degrees. I live in Arkansas and the weather gets to atleast -10 degrees on the worst winter nights. I plan on just going during spring-fall.

I have an Earlylight tent from Marmot that i'm hoping will be able to handle some thrashing. i plan on setting it up in my lawn when there is a bad storm, that way if it gives out on me, I can be 20ft. from my house and not 14 miles from my car.

I also have a MSR PocketRocket. I've used it in my house to see how fast it boils water. I does a good job and all i need are those backpacking meals.

Answering to Dewey, i don't get scared when i'm lost. I'm really calm and collected. With the injury, i honestly would just try to get out as fast as possible, but i will have someone with me during these things.

2:22 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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...t what i'm starting out with is a closed cell foam pad. (Those blue ones everyone loves to criticize). ...

You certainly will not find me "criticizing" blue foam pads, certainly not from the perspective of having spent a lot of my sleeping hours in the woods and hills for close to 7 decades. They are a vital piece of gear for my expeditions, backcountry ski treks, and most outdoor treks which involve an overnight. My climbing pack (actually the last several) were designed with a foldable closed cell pad in them - handy for unintended bivuoacs, sitting comfortably for lunch stops, etc etc, as well as for emergency splints.

Actually most of the highly experienced folks here on Trailspace recognize that blue foam serves a very good purpose in the outdoors. Some people with bad backs need something else, and it is true that inflatables occupy less space in the pack. But even so, get out in the winter or on a glacier, and the blue foam (in combination with an inflatable) is a necessity, as a backup to the occasional "air-out" of inflatables, if nothing else.

7:36 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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I have an Earlylight tent from Marmot that i'm hoping will be able to handle some thrashing. i plan on setting it up in my lawn when there is a bad storm, that way if it gives out on me, I can be 20ft. from my house and not 14 miles from my car.

Excellent idea, I camp out in the backyard several times a year, my excuse is that I'm testing gear, well I am, but it's fun too.

9:12 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey, don't knock the best piece of gear in your pack (or soon to be). The guides on Rainier had the same type- you could always pick them out because theirs were orange/yellow instead of blue and they would cut them down to 3/4 length to save weight. (I never did find where to get them in orange/yellow) I have personally used them to make camp sandals when I forgot my camp shoes, made them into makeshift snowshoes once when I was caught in a freak March blizzard (don't know how else we would have gotten out) You don't have to feel so bad about laying them on the ground and sitting on them, even in a briar patch! And i've used them to insulate under my butane stove to keep the fuel from freezing while sitting on galcier ice. I even used them to wrap packs and ice axe's with to protect gear from baggage handlers on airplanes. (they can tear up an anvil!). As far as gear goes- the beauty to this sport is not in the gear, its in the experience! I remember one of my favorite articles about some guys that decided to use nothing for a week long excursion but what could be found at the local Wal-Mart. They were sometimes disapointed and sometimes pleasantly suprised. You will find a natural rhythm after a while. Don't expect to get everything right the first outing. It would take the fun out of the trip! I have yet to go on a single trip that I am not tweeking my gear for the "perfect" list. Have fun with it and clean out your closet, cause you are soon going to have a lot to put in your pack!

10:13 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Much as I love my thermarest, the blue pad is always along on snow and cold trips, due to its insulating qualities in addition to the foam comfort. Your opinions on your pad are probably more the result of gear salesmen pitching the “latest and greatest” than any valid facts (blue pad are cheap thus less profitable than a cadillac thermarest). Keep that in mind whenever the Stanley Livingston look-alike sales clerk attempts to sell you stuff.

Sounds like you have the basic core elements. Spend your ducketts heretofore on the best, quality gear you want, since it is a long term investment you'll enjoy each and every time. “Quality” and “best” defined as workmanship, field proven materials (beware of bleeding edge technology), and your personal subjective opinions as well. Two items to add to your current kit: Get the best storm shell garment you can afford, given your intended activities. Get the best backpack too. I swear by external frame packs for on-trail use, but I am old school and often mule heavy loads. I also own an internal frame pack for snow and cross country treks. Just make sure the pack is big enough to accommodate your ambitions, and try to exercise discipline and avoid filling it up on shorter trips!
Ed

11:21 a.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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...Just make sure the pack is big enough to accommodate your ambitions, and try to exercise discipline and avoid filling it up on shorter trips!
Ed

I recently saw a quote to the effect that, no matter the size of pack you select, the gear you try to fit in it is 10% greater in size.

From this observation, my advice is select the smallest pack you can get by with. Otherwise, your pack will weigh more than you could possibly hoist on your shoulders.

5:23 p.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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I recently saw a quote.. .. my advice is select the smallest pack you can get by with. Otherwise, your pack will weigh more than you could possibly hoist on your shoulders.

Actually my reply was inspired by that quote too. I would agree with you, if one lacks self discipline, but I remember the days when I tried to go on extended trips with my weekend boy scout pack, lashing gear all over the outside, and ending up with a pack that didn’t ride properly on my back, and all the misery that entails.
Ed

9:46 p.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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I have been using a 4500 cu pack for quite a while, the size is right for me if I do a good job of packing it, and it does helps me to leave some stuff behind. Even with some extra warm clothing added and enough grub & fuel for 4-5 days it fits, I have to lash my Ridgerest & fishing rod tube to the outside.

So I guess I'm using a pack that is barely big enough for the stuff I take.

3:25 p.m. on May 22, 2010 (EDT)
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All good comments! Noobie, the first thing I consider is safety. If the lack of an item in my kit impinges on my safety in an accident, then I take it. Of course, you can't take everything. Some extra parachute cord, a small first aid kit, a knife, compass, matches, extra socks etc. are lightweight and can make a difference. The next thing to consider is personal comfort. In my climbing days, I spent many uncomfortable hours huddled on a ledge with all my clothes on and my feet stuffed into my rucksack. It can be done, but you must decide what you need to raise your comfort level enough that it is still an enjoyable experience.

12:49 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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All of you are a disappoint except the Noobie. With all your years of hiking experience, no reference from any of you regarding survival gear in general reference or specific such as a signal mirror or whistle as a minimum or suggesting wilderness survival knowledge or training. The wilderness is no place for the unprepared.

3:53 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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A whistle and signal mirror are fine to carry if you want to, but, they are just not very effective in the remote wilderness and weather conditions of BC, northern Alberta and the "Territories". I know this from firsthand personal experience and as to ...training..., well, some twenty years ago, I worked with the Canadian Forces Survival School at Hinton, AB., in the "East Slopes" of the Rockies.

These are, with the Norwegians and perhaps the Russian "Spetsnaz" troops, the most proficient and professional cold weather, deep wilderness military in the world. I have a fair amount of very thorough and professional training and, frankly, you missed the important point I attempted to make here, which is, that training is useless as is gear UNLESS you have the mental where-with-all to use it properly.

I have witnessed a number of self-styled "mountain men" freak out at Grizzlies, become helpless in sub-zero cold and be unable to cope with the constant, pounding, wind-driven rain of the winter on the BC coast. I have been so frightened by huge, sudden avalanches when miles from any possible assistance, alone, on snowshoes, that I nearly vomited from terror and I was born in these same mountains.

It's your mind and not your whistle....try blowing one beside a large mountain stream in spring spate or using your signal mirror in the same place when it has poured rain for 26 consecutive days and the fog allows you maybe 15 ft. of vision among Cedars that are 10 feet thick.

8:07 a.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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There are certain items of gear which are indispensable and others that are merely nice to have with you when camping. There is a current fad for extreme "ultralight" backpacking and this can mean doing without many of the items that most carry, it is best suited to developed trails and supported treks by couples or larger parties and not to truely remote wilderness and harsh environments.

I seldom carry much of the gear that many others do and some of the items considered a "must" by many packers such as a GPS are completely foreign to me and I have never used them and have no idea how they function....don't much care, either.

Skill in wild places has very little to do with being proficient with hightech gadgetry or with carrying items that you seldom use just because you "might" need them. For many years, over a span of 45+ years, I would spend long periods alone in BC's wilderness and with rucksack that with all contents would not weigh 20 lbs. and that includes food for a few days.

I might suggest sitting down and thinking about yourself, how YOU deal with emergencies, where and when and for how long you will be out and if this is solo or with a convivial group and, how strong, fit and healthy you are. Be honest with yourself and ask JUST how calmly confident you are that you can deal with an unexpected injury or getting "lost", especially if alone and start from there.

In summer, a simple tarp shelter, light bag, pad and titanium pot with a canister stove and spoon plus a good first aid kit and knowledge of how to use it and a little protective clothing plus your hiking shoes and you are good to go....with some grub of course. I NEVER take alcohol into the bush as I have seen too many serious accidents, etc., due to people imbibing, but, that is a personal decision that each person must make fro themselves.

You can add a camera, a binocular, fieldguides, fishing gear, and whatever other stuff you want, start with decent gear and then, if you really know that you ARE into it for life, you can buy the best and gradually extend your range and langth of stays. Remember that every person carrying a pack, even the most skilled on the internet, was a novice once and had to begin just as you do.....keep it simple, be careful and have fun.....which is what it is all about!

Dewy

I could not have said this any better, good solid advice I was going to post a reply but after reading your post....why bother you said it all nice job

RR

2:54 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Dewey and Rescue_Ranger: Perhaps the two of you missed my clear reference to survival knowledge and/or training. Additionally, your point about the uselessness of the whistle and signal mirror during loud background noise or lack of sun relates to the obvious limitations of the devices. What is the probability that neither condition existed? What percent of the time during survival are you going to near a roaring stream or that the sun doesn't shine? If you were on the opposite side of your argument you would have placed yourself in a canyon providing ample whistle echo or the desert where the sun shines 98% of the year. Conditions will be conditions. You work with what you've got. The mirror and whistle, perhaps 20% of my survival gear are essential. I carry orange smoke bombs and high altitude report rockets as well for signal purposes. The rockets and smoke bombs prevent my need to expend precious energy gathering tinder and wood during a survival situation as well in the event the tinder and wood are not available. The majority of the gear I carry is survival related. Trivializing the importance of potentially life saving equipment is irresponsible.

3:17 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I am enjoying this discussion. I learned years ago that there are certain things that you never leave home without regardless of the current conditions. Things can change within minutes and you need to be prepared both with the right equipment and mental attitude. I've been caught in that unexpected July snow storm more than once. Making sure that we had the basics, we were able to get through it, maybe a little uncomfortable, but confident that we were safe. Always pack for possibility of changing weather or having to stay out a little longer than expected. I choose equipment that is dependable, durable and useful. Some of the gear I've had for decades.

That said, going lighter is a great goal and can actually enhance your trip. Taking too much stuff can drain you physically but can also be a drag just packing and unpacking it on a long trip.

3:19 p.m. on May 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Oh, I see.

Here in BC, you will NOT hear a whistle beside a rushing mountain stream from 25 yds. away, come here, try it and see for yourself.

If, you think I am ...silly... and an ...inexperienced hiker...., well, carry on and be happy, I don't waste my time with forum p***ing contests.

12:31 a.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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You know what I can't stand- honestly, Is a pissing match. This outdoor experience from a newcomer and you guys make it sound like if you can't survive using nothing but a rock and a piece of chewing gum, you don't have any business being out of doors. Give me a break! I love jumping into a new hobby then learning a little as I go. That dosen't mean I buy a parachute and take it out of a box and go jump off the nearest building. Use proper judgement, but lets face it- this thing we do- walking with a majority of what we need on our backs- is not rocket science. The renewal of our spirit through nature, solitude, or commradarie, or the challenge is what draws us to this. I say Noobie has the makings of a superb outdoorsman/woman as long as this desire is not quelled by the egoism of people that think you need some "special knowledge" to do this thing. Perhaps special skills help you in a particular environment, to be sure. But they are all skills learned through experiences. So Noobie, hopefully you tuned out long ago, if not, put all of your gear into your pillowcase, go out sometime this summer to a relatively short easy hike to a little piece of real estate that, Lord willing, will be devoid of naysayers with the Biggest Hat in the salloon. Check the weather before you go. Whatever happens, make it a grand adventure!

9:09 a.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Dewey,

That all sounds very inhospitable. Perhaps it is inappropriate that even your average experienced outdoorsman spend time in such an environment. In fact, I dare say that most sensible people don't venture out alone into areas where their entire arsenal of emergency gear is rendered useless. That just seems foolish.

10:23 a.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't remember stating that ANY of my gear was ever ...rendered useless..., I am simply trying to make the point that GEAR is not the most important aspect of backpacking, your personal attitude and ability to systematically learn skills from progressively more demanding situations/environments is the most crucial issue.

A novice in some situations and environments MAY try to rely on gear, rather than turn back when conditions become a bit more than he/she is capable of dealing with, an example is the seemingly worldwide reliance on cell phones and GPS units and other such technological tools to keep one "safe".

In much of BC, there is NO cell phone reception and a GPS will not always function under the forest canopy, however, an emergency camp in one's rucksack, a calm and focused attitude and the willingness to sit down and figure out your safest course of action will probably prevent a tragedy.

Knowledge of how to live in truely wild areas comes from learning skills in less inhospitable situations and that is what I am trying to convey here. Training, per se, is excellent, no sane person would question that, however, for a novice and even old geezers with decades of trekking in remote places, the ability to adapt to situations through calm, rational and realistic thought is still the most important aspect of safe backpacking or wilderness activities in general.

Being alone in remote wilderness is not more "dangerous", than being with companion(s), it is all in how you approach it. Caution, alertness and being willing to admit to yourself that, for example, walking a slippery log over a deep, rushing, mountain creek is pretty stupid is what will keep you safe and enjoying the situation. Anyway, that is what I have found.

10:37 a.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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@ yock: It is inhospitable if you are unprepared. To say something further is quite daring indeed. I've noticed in my life that fools tend to think things foolish.

But I don't take you for a fool, yock; perhaps it's just that your spirit has diminished. Either way, I'm sure you can appreciate first-hand experience from someone who hasn't rolled over yet, or perhaps your ego has gotten the best of you?

Or perhaps there's others here on trailspace who like their advice free of any sugar-coated BS, or perhaps Dewey just provides a perspective not found in anyone else?

Or perhaps...

11:48 a.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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You misunderstand. I'm all for gaining the requisite knowledge, training, and experience to enjoy such adventures. I just got the impression that Dewey assumed that we all trapse around in the woods, any ol' woods, expecting salvation by means of an Acme Thunderer.

I also don't agree that being alone is always just as safe has having hiking partners. Even the most experienced and independent of adventurer is less independent with a broken ankle. No one is perfect.

4:49 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey Dewey, you know those fire-and-forget missiles, like the AGM-25 and the AIM-54? You put in the right guidance, and then just let them go -- no further aiming needed.

That's what you gotta do, bro -- just fire and forget. Your point was clear: mental preparedness is the key. Gear is secondary. True in every situation, not just backpacking, in which gearheads (of which I am one, unrepentantly) participate.

8:27 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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.... I just got the impression that Dewey assumed that we all trapse around in the woods, any ol' woods, expecting salvation by means of an Acme Thunderer.....

Unfortunately, yock and performance, that is precisely what happens way too often. Dewey is right on the money - all the gear in the world, whether simple and light like a whistle (I usually carry one) or mirror (my compass has one) will do you no good in way too many locations on this planet. Far too many people head out without the knowledge, "fat, dumb, and happy" as the old saying goes, lacking knowledge, skills, and experience, complacent in their hubris ("This is an urban park, so I am safe.") Even here in the populous SFBay Area, you get out of hearing range of even a Fox 40 very quickly (Barb and I, along with others, have done some experiments, using ham radio and GPS receivers to measure distance to hear the whistles under various circumstances - you lose it in an amazingly short distance with the loudest whistles available, even when warned via radio link to "can you hear me now?". If you are disabled in many places in the local hills (urban parks and Open Space Reserves), it is impossible to use a mirror to catch the attention of a helicopter who knows where to look. In testing various electronic devices in these conditions (I am testing one of the "latest greatest" currently), there are many places where the signals do not get through. Too many people get out there with various devices, complacent and unreasonably confident that these things will work, blissfully unaware of the limitations.

Number 1 tool for anytime anyplace, wilderness, front country, in the city, is your brain. "Brain" means your accumulation of knowledge, skills, talent, and experience in putting them all together.This means - know the situation, know the terrain and environment, know yourself and your strengths and limitations, know your gear and its limitations. Know what can go wrong and how to mitigate it to lower the probabilities.

The first real piece of advice (which was actually given by f_klock in the very first response to noobie, seconded by pillowthread in the second response, and expanded on by Dewey in the fourth response. I suspect from noobie's responses that he "gets it".

I will state it slightly differently - noobie, start out with small steps. Go out to places that are close by, not far from the trailhead, and with plenty of people around (yeah, I know, this isn't solitude, but it is the way to get ready for the Grand Adventures), especially if you can get an experienced friend to go along to speed up your learning curve for those important skills. And stick to well-travelled trails the first few times - time enough for cross country bushwhacking later, after you develop the skills.

Now noobie asked explicitly about gear. Since I am sure that by now he well understands the need to build experience, knowledge, skills, and judgment. I will comment about gear -

noobie, since you will have the good sense to build the skills and knowledge in small steps, and will heed Dewey's (and my) advice to NOT plunge off into the remote wilderness for your first outing (or first 10 outings), do not worry so much about the gear. It would be a big mistake to take some gear list, buy everything on it, stuff it into your pack (even if it would fit), and set off for even a short backpack. All you really need is what is often called "The Ten Essentials". EXCEPT -- all published lists (in books or especially on the internet) are tailored to the writer's personal experience and for a specific area. The "Official Ten Essentials", as published in that bible of the outdoors, Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, was devised by the Seattle Mountaineers, and is very much for the Pacific Northwest. If you are where I grew up, the Sonora Desert of Arizona, much of the Mountaineers list is inappropriate. So let's do a list that is more fundamental, with you tailoring it for your area (remember, you are going to be close to the car for the first few outings, maybe with the very first one being in your back yard - ummm, if you are in Manhattan, maybe on the roof of your apartment building).

1. Appropriate clothing - layers (so you can adjust for changes in temperature from the heat of the day to cool of the night, and for the predicted rain/snow/whatever). For the first few, you don't need a change of clothes, but be sure to deal with the warmest and coldest expected temperatures during that time.

2. Food and water - You might as well try out some backpacking food, even if you are going to stay close to the car. You will learn a lot about how bad some backpacking food is. But take some "comfort food" as well - premixed "trail mix", sometimes called "gorp" falls into that category. And since you have a stove (which you will have practiced starting at home - in the back yard, of course, for fire safety), include a small pot to boil the water for coffee/tea/cocoa and rehydrating that freeze-dry backpacking food (some of which is actually quite good). And do bring enough fuel for the stove. But do include some "non-cook" food, just in case. You will need a cup, which will serve for your dish (though the pouches that freeze-dry comes in serve as a dish) and a spoon (you don't need a fork). Someone is going to jump on this and say "you left off water purification." Well, no, you can purify the water by boiling it. So you do not need a filter, chemicals, or SteriPen.

3. Map and compass - this is mainly to learn how to use them. Or, if you are out here on the Left Coast, you could participate in my upcoming Land Navigation (How to Find Your Way in the Woods and Hills) workshop June 11-13 at the Sierra Club's Clair Tappaan Lodge at Donner Pass, and really learn to find your way in the woods and hills. Since you will be close to the car for the first time or two, you will get a chance to practice in benign and somewhat familiar terrain.

4. Matches - in case that piezo-electric slicker on the stove doesn't work. Forget the campfire the first few times out. Oh, yeah, you may very well need to get a fire permit, depending on the area.

5. Knife - you may need this to open the camp food bag, or to trim the guy lines for your tent (though if you set it up in the back yard or living room, you will have done this already). A simple, basic folding knife is more than adequate for the first half-dozen trips at least. Wait to get that 50-blade multitool until after a few times out and you see what you really will use.

6. Electric torch - I use the Brit term intentionally. Inevitably, the first few times, you will end up doing things in the dark. In fact, you will find that over half the time after you gain a lot of experience, you will still be doing things in the dark. Carrying a flashlight in your hand is a real pain. Be kind to yourself and get a good headlamp. There are a number of excellent ones out there by BD, Petzl, Princeton Tec, and, yes, RayOVac. Get one of the LED that takes AA batteries. These are as bright as the old "police baton" 8-cell monsters, but much lower in price, much longer battery life, and much much lighter and easier to use.

7. Tent, sleeping bag, and pad - well, you don't really need a tent, but since you have one, they do protect against the unexpected rain storm and the bugs that bite. Sleeping bag should be rated warm enough for 10-15 degrees colder than the expected low temperature. I hope you planned ahead when you got your bag and got one that will be warm enough for the next couple of years of outings. The pad can be the "blue foam" closed cell foam for at least the first dozen backpacks. You can always get one of the inflatables later if you find it uncomfortable.

8. Pack to carry the gear in - Well, you don't plan to carry it in your hands, do you? Get one big enough for your gear, but not so big you are tempted to stuff more in it. Take only enough to get along the first time or two.

9. Notebook - this should be number 1, actually. Make notes on what you actually use and what you wish you had with you that you really really really NEEDED. Not what would have made it nicer, but what you NEEDED. Include a record of how much stove fuel you use for future planning purposes.

Gee, that's only 9, though if you look at the original Ten Essentials, you will find everything (and more) is there.

Going back to your very first post - the only two items that are not on your list that you have to have are (1) Appropriate clothing and (2) Food and water.

While you are out there on your first few trips, think about scenarios of what could go wrong and what you need to do to prevent those occurrences, and how to mitigate them if they happen. If you think about it, I built in some preventions in this discussion. You are not taking an ax and you are taking only a small knife, so you won't chop your foot off. You were exhorted to practice with your stove at home (outside, in the back yard), so you are unlikely to get more than a superficial burn. You will go only a short distance from the trailhead and in a popular area, so help should be pretty close at hand.

As you go through scenarios, you will figure out (with help of that mentor I recommended) what you need in the way of a first aid kit. Better yet, take a Wilderness First Aid course - that will teach you what you really need in a first aid kit and, more important, how to use it and how to improvise.

Again, small steps at first, think, get mentoring, and learn - build your skills and knowledge along with your experiences.

10:11 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I like what Bill says. I don't care how many fingers he has!

10:29 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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All of you are a disappointment.. ..no reference from any of you regarding survival gear... The wilderness is no place for the unprepared.

I mentioned whiskey, but forgot about the space blanket. Me bad.
Ed

11:29 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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One of my favorite campfire sayings I've heard over the years is:

"Oh yeah, well I got a story better than that one...."

Here's mine, been told before, but bear with me if you've heard it.

When I was 17 or so I was already very interested in adventuring into spooky places. These were mostly day hikes into the woods around my house since I had to be home for supper at 6.

I loved camping & hiking although I had no real experience other than front country stuff. I had become a regular at the military surplus store where I bought my first backpack, sleeping bag, wool clothes, etc.

I had also found an old dusty army survival book and read it religiously.

So...I was quite prepared (I thought) to go on my first long day hike into Buck House swamp with my brother and a friend. Don't worry....we took that army survival book just in case, after all we were not completely stupid.

After walking about three hours into the swamp, and this was a real swamp, we smartly decided to turn around as the sun was starting to drop a bit. We walked for an hour or so and then we lost the trail, we back tracked in several different directions leaving one person standing put where we started from and staying in yelling distance so we would not get separated.

Every direction we walked in ran us into swamp muck, and we soon realized we were surrounded by swamp and could not find the trail we had walked in on. Soon frogs started croaking all around us and it was getting dark.

No flashlight! OOPS

We decided to just stay put and find our way out the next morning.

We had not let anyone know exactly where we were headed! We had no matches! We had no shelter!

This was supposed to be a day hike on a known trail.

No map, No compass!

About the time we realized how many things we needed to spend the night out in the swamp (that were at home) we heard a very loud bellow that is hard to describe, it was a long, very low pitched rumble, and it was close by. At the time we did not know what it was.

We were not knowledgeable about our environment!

We spent a very uncomfortable night on the cold ground.

No extra food or water! No extra clothes! Not a single luxury!

The next morning we woke at daybreak after barely sleeping, we were tormented with bug bites, very hungry and thirsty, and befuddled as to which way to walk. After about 30 minutes we found the trail that had brought us to our near demise. We had mistakenly veered off on a spur trail that followed a very narrow strip of dry land into the heart of the swamp.

In about an hour we had made it back to the paved road in our neighbor hood, we were so relieved to have lived!

And then there he stood.....my very upset but relieved father in the front yard. I was sooo glad to be home alive.

I have been back to that area several times recently and now realize how stupid that was. We were in an area known for huge Cotton Mouths, huge Alligators, quicksand, and multiple other dangers.

That loud rumbling bellow we heard was a male alligator, it was mating season.

But not to worry....we had that army survival manual. Too bad we didn't know how to avoid getting into a survival situation to begin with.


BTW....I did own all the essential gear I SHOULD have carried, but it was just a dayhike.

11:56 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Trouthunter, it would be my honor to sit at a campfire with you sometime if we ever meet on the trail. I love a good story. Especially when the story is as funny as that one! I bet you have a bunch more too, eh?

6:57 a.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Y’all this here be the real backwoods survival kit ten ‘sencials.

1. Whiskey.
It’s fire starter, firewater, warmth in a bottle, ‘n courage in a bottle. If you git lost Step One is commenc’n to start drinkin’; that’ll keep yer from running off scared and gitting more lost. If you have whiskey, you also have a vessel to carry water (‘n case you run out of whiskey). If you bring enough you won’t feel cold, nor the need for shelter, or want for much of anything else for that matter.

2. Lighters
Ya need something to start the fire starter. I said lighters, not matches, not flints, nor flares. Carry one in each pocket, so you can always find one in case you can’t remember where you misplaced yer lighter from too much fire water. I’ve had all forms of matches fail in severe conditions, and have been too cold to muster starting fires with a flint, but always could start up a lighter, and never had to resort to my third back up lighter.

3. Slim Jims
Best ‘mergency rations, period. With all that there grease n fat they’s has to be the compactest nutition source ever! They got so much preservatives they’ll never go bad and need no ‘fridgeratin. I heard a theory that the preservatives will also help ya live longer in da wood too.

4. Smokes
Can’t go anywheres without my smokes, I’d die without ‘em, ‘specially if I’ve been drinkin’.

5.Tshirt
Where else you go’na store yer smokes, than up yer sleeve (unless yer one of those who likes that whacky tobacci, in which case ya need a tie died t shirt).

6. Big ass knife
Git yerself the biggest scariest knife ya can, n wear it on yer hip. Ya need something ta cut wood. keep ya finger nails clean in the woods, to butcher whaterver ya kill, and something to whittle with, ta keep you calm ‘till help arrives. Just don’t whittle while drinkin however; did that one time and nearly cut my nose off while taking a snort and slicing me a piece of Slim Jim, but that there’s ‘nother story.

7. Nature book
Since TP isn’t one of the ten ‘sentials, ya need a book so ya can tell what poison ivy looks like, and not end up makin’ things worse that they already be. ‘Nuff said!

8. Lawn Darts
Actually they’re called Long Darts. I know ‘cause my cousin bubba ‘nvented them an that’s what he named them ‘cause they’re long. (The guy who stole his idea had a funny accent, an’ probly did understand bubba too well.) Anyways, dem lawn darts are versatile. Ya can hunts with ‘em, fend off cougars (see thread on dangerous critters http://www.trailspace.com/forums/beginners/topics/70968.html#70973), an keep yerself ‘ntertained 'til help arrives. Horse shoes are good fer all these thangs as well, but weigh too much.

9. Cerrent copy of Field And Stream Magazine
Good fer tips how to use that knife, ‘n other survival stuff, (I think). The magazine can also be a back up to TP ‘n case yer too drunk to be able to read the nature book to identify poison ivy, or as fire starter when ya run outta whiskey.

10. ‘Mercan Flag
Git one big ‘nough to wrap around yerself. It’ll keep yer warm when the going gits real tough, an instill ya with all the fight’n spirit ya need to git yer ass out of most any bind.

Ed

3:15 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Whomeworry that's the same list I got from a 'spurienced outfirter in Hemet. He also knew of a few backwoods places near the trails to buy moonshine if I dun run outta wiskey...

Bill nailed it.

August 30, 2014
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