This post is a significant collaboration, and is much longer than the team here at Gunslinger Research would normally produce. In the end we have only skimmed the surface. So this is truly part 1 of…hmm who knows.
Review where you will be well ahead of your trip, noting inclement weather, fire ordinances and your travel routes. Print any required maps, and laminate them or place inside a waterproof map bag, or 1 gallon zip top bag.
Notify at least two people that you will be potentially unreachable for the duration of your trip. Establish emergency procedures should something happen. If you will have basic cell phone coverage make a point of checking your phone every 4-6 hours, and notify your love ones that you will do so.
Whenever you attend an event, hit the trail or generally take yourself into the unknown expect to be tired afterwards, and I mean really tired. If you are not trained to perform in a state of sleep deprivation, plan for a travel day before and after the event, or take a nap before you depart. This is for your safety and the safety of others! Moreover, caffeine and B vitamin dump energy drinks are not your friend. There is a reason why we advocate the three pillars of warrior fitness here at Gunslinger Research. A conditioned body does not tire easily, learn how you respond, and develop a warrior mindset.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs actually clearly defines the bare minimum: The Physiological base of the hierarchy says we need food, water, warmth and rest. Once you have those, Safety is the next part of the hierarchy, which includes security. Let us use these needs as a base for a short event or hike (18-24 hours.)
Pack enough food! Remember that you will be expending a lot more energy than sitting in an office. Pack around 4000 calories per day: it’s the standard that most military use for soldiers in the field. We recommend a variety of food, stuff that’s compact but nutritionally dense. Beef jerky, granola, MREs, etc. A little tip that I’ve learned over the years is include some sugar (candy, chocolate bars that won’t melt, etc.) as a morale boost.
A small backpacking stove is a great idea, as it provides a safe, fast way to make warm meals, or a warm beverage (tea bags, instant coffee or dry soup mix are also awesome to warm you up.) There are many makes and models on the market, research a model that fits your budget and philosophy of us.
Water is heavy. Take what you can carry, or take a smaller amount like 2 litres, and bring a small water filter setup. They aren’t overly expensive, compact and light. Make sure you get a good one, because getting some bad water could ruin the rest of your trip: there is nothing enjoyable about a less than quality bowel movement.
Bring warm enough clothing for the climate, and remember how much colder it gets at night. Bring stuff that layers well, dries out quickly, and wicks moisture away from your body. Generally speaking fabrics such as Marino Wool are excellent choices here.
Socks, we could write a whole post about socks. If your feet are bothering you, your trip, event etc is over. Pack at least 3 pairs of socks for a 24 hour event (or 1 pair for every 8 hours.) To this point the same applies for undergarments. I strongly advocate athletic style, moisture wicking underwear for both men and women.
When packing your clothing take steps to ensure that it will remain dry. Use 1 gallon zip tops, or if you can purchase a vacuum sealing machine and vacuum seal your clothing prior. Clearly label each garment pouch. In addition, purchase a waterproof pack cover.
Basic fire starting tools are critical as well. Including a quality lighter, waterproof matches, and some sort of flint system that will not fail.
Bring some type of sleep system. At a minimum, I recommend a self-inflating air mattress or foam mat, and a sleeping bag of some sort. The type of bag will depend on the climate you are in. A light tent is highly recommended as well, as it will give you a dry place to store your gear, and keep bugs away while you are sleeping.
Some type of emergency communications are vital. The easiest, of course, is a cell phone if you have coverage in the area you are going. Bring a small USB power bank and a charging cable, so you have some extra battery life. A quality (non-blister pack radio), and a HAM license if required are also good choices.
Basic orienteering is a life skill. Take a course, or at minimum read a book. Do short day trips so you become comfortable with basic orienteering skills. A compass, or small GPS are excellent purchases if you know how to use them!
A pocket knife is critical, as it has a million or two uses from a survival and safety perspective. If you are attending a tactical sport event (e.g. airsoft milsim) make sure that there are no specific rules or provisions for knives on the field.
A flashlight is required equipment for anything that involves planned overnights, or even the possibility of being in the elements overnight. I recommend a quality LED headlamp, so you can comfortably use both hands while lighting up what you are doing. Extra batteries. Extra batteries. Extra batteries (get it?)
You need to bring a basic first aid kit: don’t trust that someone else will bring one. If you do not know basic first aid, sign up for a local course they are very affordable and first aid is a life skill you should have. Avoid buying military type kits unless you are trained to use the items contained within, you will do more harm than good. Above all, should the worse happen, immediately contact 911, if you are trained offer to help the person. You MUST ask the person’s permission before you touch them for your legal protection (unless they are unconscious or otherwise incapable of doing so.) Again only offer first aid if you are trained to do so and have the necessary skills!
One last safety/security item I’m going to mention is bug repellent: getting eaten alive by bugs is a good way to not enjoy yourself, and, with the prevalence of ticks and Lyme disease, it is even more important.
Putting it all together
So you have developed your personal/basic kit list from the above. Now it’s time to pack everything properly.
The first step is to purchase a quality pack. A quality pack will last you for life. With this being said no matter your budget there are some basics to look out for.
Your pack needs to be the right size. It should store all essential items, and be compartmentalized for ease of use. Many manufacturers now offer 24, 48, 72 hour type packs that were designed for modern soldiers on short patrol/section attack type missions. However, if you can only afford one pack purchase a quality ruck. A ruck is a framed pack with lumbar support. There are numerous models and manufacturers, however if I could offer one piece of advice for our readers on a budget. Do not try to be “tacticool” on a budget. Quality military packs are expensive for a reason. Cheap knockoffs will not last under load. If you do not have the budget for a quality military type pack, purchase a quality hiking/backpacking pack. It may not be coyote or multicam but it will serve you far better than a cheap Asian knock off of a military pack.
7 Days before event
This is your first pre-pack. Assemble every item you need. Lay it out and perform a basic pack of all your kit. Don your pack. Check the weight and movement. Make a list every item, review your requirements. Are you missing anything? Is anything broken? Need new batteries, socks, or boot laces now is the time to address this.
3 Days before event
Your second pre-pack. Waterproof your clothing. Label as required. Address any necessary compartmentalization.
Day before event
Your final pack. Carefully pack each item, checking it off from the list you made on your first pre-pack. Grab a solid 8 hours of rack time.
Take a moment to do a critical self-evaluation and use this info to determine what you really need. Don’t over-estimate your ability, and don’t trust weather forecasts, always be prepared for things to be worse than you would expect.