After more than one rant appearing on these pages regarding those who embark upon the forest trails unprepared, it’s been suggested that I might want to share my program. It’s a better approach to try to correct a behavior rather than just complain about it, yes?
So here’s a brief rundown of what this old guy hauls into the woods and up and down mountains. We’ll start with what is worn.
For the most part, I wear top layer rags in the good weather. Cotton cargo shorts, and old short sleeve shirts are my go-to uniform for the woods. Some of those shirts are close to 20 years old and they look it- collars hanging on by threads, holes and rips abound. But they are comfortable. I do invest in quality base layers, regardless of the time of year. Synthetic fabrics that wick the moisture away from the skin are best.
Socks and good quality footwear are a must. For hiking I prefer Wigwam Merino wool-blend socks. I have tried others, including the overpriced Darn Tough Socks made here in Vermont. Wigwam has shown me a really good balance between performance, longevity and cost for a long time, and I’ll stick with them until they don’t.
I’m in the sixth year of using my Vasque hiking boots. I use an over-the-ankle boot for better protection in rocky and broken terrain. This pair has held up extremely well- there’s at least another year or two left in them. I only use them when hiking.
That brings us to the bag. Why does anyone need to shoulder a pack when the plan is to spend only an hour or three in the woods, on a marked trail no less? Obvious answer: There are times when things don’t follow the plan, and we all should be prepared for that to happen. People wander off the trail all the time. They also fall and hurt themselves. If you sustain an injury after wandering off the trail you could be there for a while. Having some basics on hand raises your chance of a happy outcome!
Here are the basic items in the pack:
The bag itself is an oldie. I picked it up 10 or 15 years ago, and while it’s a little large for a day pack, it’s performed well. No damage to date, though some of the seams are starting to widen a bit.
For all excursions, I carry a few snack/ energy bars along with a sandwich for lunch; my compass along with a paper map if needed; fire starters and a bag of basic first aid gear. Nothing too fancy there, just enough to stop the bleeding or wrap up a sprain.
I also carry a pair of work gloves, not only to protect my hands but for warmth on a chilly spring or fall day. That hank of paracord weighs next to nothing and has proved itself invaluable on many occasions. I carry the whistle for the obvious reasons- you’d be surprised how far that noise travels through the woods. The mylar wrap is in case it gets colder than expected if you become “stuck”, and the headlamp is for when the sun calls it a day. That bandana is a spare for the two I carry in my pockets.
Speaking of pockets, that is where not only the sweat rags are, but the pocket knife and Leatherman multi-tool. The cell phone also rides in a pocket. It’s amazing how coverage has improved over the past few years. Most everywhere I go I have better signal than at home, especially at elevation. The advent of mobile apps with offline navigation and map features has decreased the need for paper maps.
I always have additional clothing in the pack, depending upon the expected weather and time of year. A warmer top along with a wool hat and gloves are usually in there, as are an extra pair of socks. That negligible amount of weight could save your life.
While many folks have moved towards using packs with hydration bladders, I have not. I typically carry 2 liters of water, and have recently switched to recycled seltzer bottles. These are much sturdier than the throw-away half-liter bottles, and only cost a nickel each.
I find it’s easier to track water usage using bottles, and I think the water tastes better, too.
Rounding out the kit is my hiking staff. I will not go into the woods without it. I also don’t go onto the trails without letting someone, somewhere know along with when I expect to return.
All told, the average weight of my typical day pack runs between 6 and 8 pounds, not counting the water weight, which is a self-correcting problem, isn’t it? I think it’s an inexpensive price to pay to be able to survive in an emergency, or help someone else do so.
The smart folks reading this might think I’ve forgotten a most important and perhaps critical “survival” item. I have not- only saving it for last. 😆
I hope you found this post useful and entertaining. Thanks for stopping by!