Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)
Note: all prices are in Canadian dollars
Recreational Equipment, Inc.,
backpacking equipment vendors
IN-POCKET SURVIVAL KITS ARE MANDATORY
ON MY TRIPS! The items listed below represent your LAST LINE
OF SELF-DEFENSE in an emergency situation and, as such, you
should never, ever, under any circumstances, become separated
from them--don't carry them in a removable fanny pack, backpack,
or an outer garment which may be removed during the day.
You should travel with them, swim
with them, eat with them, search for firewood with them, relieve
yourself with them, hang your food bag with them, and sleep
with them. You won't understand the importance of this habit
until you find yourself without them one day.
Group tripping tends to breed a false
sense of security--don't fall into this deadly trap. People
have gotten separated from their gear and the group in the
past and it's only a matter of time before it happens again.
Carry these items religiously and practice using them so you're
Notice: If you don't agree with this
trip requirement--and many trekkers do not--then you should
not participate in this trip.
An easy way to keep these items
together is to string them on a lanyard and then loop the
lanyard around your neck or through a belt loop, buttonhole,
or safety pin to prevent accidental loss. Another excellent
way to effortlessly carry these items is to disperse them
on individual lanyards among the pockets in a pair of hiking
shorts that you wear as an undergarment. Just make sure to
tether each and every item to a belt loop, button hole, or
large safety pin to prevent loss.
Source: Campmor no. 23130
Tip: Keep them in their box as
these are safety-type matches and can't be lit without the
striker. To prevent wear and tear, store the matchbox in
a plastic bag in an empty dental floss container; to prevent
accidental loss, thread a loop of cordage through holes
in opposing sides of the upper edge of the container and
then secure lid with duct tape. Carry
an extra box in your rucksack.
either add additional matches, staggering the heads, or
add packing material so the matches cannot move about in
the box. If you fail to do this, you may find nothing but
several match sticks and some fine powder (ground up match
heads) in the box when you need them most. Also, these matches
are more water-repellent than waterproof: If you get them
wet and fail to dry them out, the match heads will turn
to mush. If the box and striker stay wet, they too may become
useless. This is one more reason to carry the magnesium
fire starter or "metal match" listed below. Keep
this in mind when fording the next river.
Source: Campmor no. 23132
Tip: Cut to size and carry same as matches
listed above. Carry extra ones in your rucksack.
Source: Campmor no. 25995 (Victorinox
Tip: This knife should be a sturdy, high-quality,
lock-blade pocket knife or fixed-blade knife. Of all of
its uses, the most critical one is getting at the dry heartwood
of wet wood/sticks when you have difficulty getting a fire
going during, or immediately after, foul weather. This is
a skill you should hone until it becomes second nature.
Attach to a lanyard.
Source: Campmor no. 84731 (Silva Sportsman's
Tip: Pea-less whistles are the best.
Avoid metal, ball-type whistles as they tend to jam with
sand or snow and in extreme cold, the metal can stick to
your lips. Attach to a lanyard.
Source: Campmor no. 81200 (Silva Polaris
Tip: Stick with a high-quality compass
from one of the big three manufacturers--Silva, Suunto,
or Brunton. Attach to a lanyard.
Source: Campmor no. 23131
Tip: These come with a built-in flint
striker and are standard issue in military survival kits,
and for good reason. Keep in mind that they can't be used
without a knife or other sharp object (carry a 3-inch-long
piece of a hacksaw blade, threading it on lanyard through
a hole at one end, in case you loose your knife) and that
they require a high level of proficiency to be effective
as a fire starting tool. Learn how to use this tool ahead
of time. Attach to a lanyard. Ask leader for help on the
trip if you can't master this essential skill.
Source: See info on the Land
Tip: Waterproof and carry in heavy-duty
zip-lock bag. Bury a spare copy deep in your rucksack.
Source: Campmor no. 83003 (1 oz, 2-by-3
inch "Ten Mile")
Source: Campmor no. 81328
Tip: These four pocket-sized cards are packed with survival
Source: Campmor no. 22144 (5.5 oz., Sierra
Tip: A pocket saw can make all
the difference in getting a fire going in foul weather.
For canoeing and winter-camping, where weight is not so
much an issue, the 14-ounce, Sven Folding Camp Saw is hard
to beat (Campmor no. 81032).
Source: see above
Tip: Laid on its side, just below damp
twigs and tinder, the candle stub listed in the lighting
module below makes an excellent firestarter too.
Source: local drug store
Source: Hardware store
Tip: Important for challenging
two-rope, bear bagging situations; equipment repair; rigging
extra tent deadmen or high-wind pullouts; splints; emergency
snowshoes; lashing a raft together; etc.
Source: Wal-Mart (Small 1.5-inch-wide
by 4.72-yard-long roll of 3M Scotch no. 127 "Cloth
or Duct" tape).
Tip: Essential for repairs, blister prevention,
Source: Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts, or
other sewing shop
extra fabric, buttons, leather thimble, heavy-duty carpet-type
thread, heavy-duty needles, light-duty thread, light-duty
needles, 4 large safety pins, and cotter pin (for easily
Source: Campmor no. 92872
Tip: Essential for staying warm, preventing
hypothermia, while hiking in windy, wet weather. Very thin
ones can be worn dry.
Source: Campmor no. 90041, etc.
Tip: Make sure both are sized so
they can be worn together in very cold, damp weather, with
a balaclava against the skin.
Source: Campmor no. 00393
Tip: An emergency headnet for bug protection
can be made by laying one atop the other and tying each
pair of corners together. Wear by sliding head through one
side, closing back and top slits, and peering out through
Source: Sporting goods shop
Source: Campmor no. 00493 (Outdoor Research
Seattle Sombrero Gore-Tex)
Source: Hardware (safety glasses) or
sporting goods store (shooting glasses)
Tip: Essential to protect eyes from sharp
sticks when bushwhacking.
Source: REI no. 10445 (Gore-Tex Stowaway
Tip: A long Gore-Tex parka is the
best choice; a poncho is generally a poor choice. A parka
should have a large hood and be oversized enough so every
insulating layer you're carrying can be warn underneath
in foul weather.
Source: Patagonia (Lightweight Zip-T
Tip: Zip-turtlenecks offer the
widest comfort range. Several lightweight layers offer the
most options and dry much faster than a single heavier layer.
Source: MEC no. 4016-644/645 (MEC Northern
Light 2 jacket, 3 oz. PrimaLoft)
Tip: While thick fleece or wool
garments work just as well, synthetic micro-fiber weigh
less for backpacking purposes.
Cool weather note: In cooler spring
and fall weather, a second synthetic-insulated layer, possibly
hooded, is essential.
Source: MEC no. 4016-648/649 (MEC Northern
Light 2 vest, 1.8 oz. PrimaLoft)
Source: Campmor no. 13587/64328 (Trekmor
Tip: Important in hot, buggy conditions
or cool, windy weather. Should be synthetic and oversized
so other layers can be layered underneath as needed.
Source: Campmor no. 13598
Tip: Should be fleece or wool.
Keep in mind that mittens are much warmer than gloves. In
warm weather, an extra pair of socks can double as mittens.
Tip: Mitten shells are very handy as
they can be worn alone or with a combination of liners underneath.
Source: REI no. 10446 (Gore-Tex Stowaway
Tip: Should be oversized so all
insulating garments can be layered underneath in foul weather.
Source: Campmor no. 11222/11223 (Trekmor
Tip: Should be synthetic and oversized
so other insulating layers can be warn underneath as needed.
An even more versatile alternative is too always wear shorts
with survival gear in pockets and carry oversized nylon
pants with full-length, fully-separating leg zippers so
you can quickly add, ventilate, or remove them as conditions
Source: Patagonia (Lightweight Capilene)
Tip: if you wear these on the trail,
you should carry a second pair.
Source: MEC no. 4010-397/398 (MEC
Aurora Pants, 3 oz. Primaloft)
Tip: While fleece or wool work
well, they are much heavier that synthetic-insulated pants.
Full-length, fully-separating leg zippers are essential
for quickly adding, ventilating, or removing this item as
Source: REI no. 650614 (Vasque Gore-Tex
Sundowner MX2 Hiking Boots)
Tip: Should be all-leather,
high-top, off-trail hiking boots with lug soles that
are broken in, waterproofed, and equipped with new laces.
Tough, all-leather, supportive hiking boots are essential
for rugged, off-trail hiking in rocky areas with a
heavy pack. They can help reduce the chances of a season-ending
ankle injury or a career-ending knee injury.
Partial-leather boots are OK if they
offer adequate ankle support for heavy loads off trail.
Source: Campmor no. 19654 (Smartwool
Expedition Trekking Socks)
Source: Campmor no. 19902 (Fox River
X-Static liner sock)
Source: Drug store
Tip: Should include Vaseline, moleskin,
and duct tape.
Source: Campmor no. 00171 (Outdoor Research
Rocky Mountain Low (short) Gaiters)
Tip: Important for keeping boots
free of blister-causing debris, mud, water, and snow.
Tip: Nike Aqua Socks or Teva sandals
Source: MEC no. 5006-079 (MEC Hut
Booties with Hyperloft Synthetic Insulation)
Tip: Synthetic insulated (not down)
booties are essential for sleeping warm in colder weather
and keeping feet warm around camp.
Source: Check out the women's Ariel (90)
or the men's Aether (90) from Osprey at http://www.ospreypacks.com
Tip: Internal-frame packs are regarded
by many to be the optimal pack for cross-country travel.
Source: Campmor no. 60858 (Silicone nylon
Source: Outdoor Research no. 34500
(Bottle Tote, unisulated); 33410 (Water Bottle Parka, inuslated)
Tip: These are essential for keeping
a water bottle and snacks available for on-the-go consumption,
thereby preventing dehydration and hypothermia.
Source: Building supply stores; Wal-Mart
Tip: To keep the contents of your pack
dry after an all-day rain or when partially immersed during
a stream crossing, line pack compartments with heavy-duty
contractor-type plastic bags, which are typically available
at building supply stores. Individual stuff sacks should
be lined with garbage-compactor-type plastic bags that are
available at Wal-Mart where garbage compactors are sold,
Land navigation team members should see
the land navigation page for a list
of recommended equipment.
Source: Campmor no. 80880 (Nalgene),
or one-liter Mountain Dew bottles
Source: Campmor no. 12321 (2.4-liter
Platypus collapsible water bladder) that weighs only one
ounce (Campmor item 12321-D).
Source: Campmor no. 53038 (Potable
Source: Campmor no. 82160 (Ben's Max
Source: Campmor no. 81276 (No-see-um
Source: REI no. 682-293 (3 LB MSR Zoid
1) or 680-588 (3 LB Sierra Designs Light Year CD)
Tip: A solo tent should weigh 3 pounds
or under to keep total pack weight down.
Hard-core alternative: 13-ounce
8' by 10' silicone impregnated nylon tarp (Source:
Campmor no. 20069), 100 feet of very thin nylon cordage,
and a highly breathable bug bivy (waterproof nylon ground
cloth bottom sewn to roomy no-see-um netting at the bottom
and along both sides).
Source: Local building supply store or
Tip: Unconventional, but effective interior
ground cloth always keeps you dry--Simply cut a piece of
clear plastic or PVC tarp to the size of the floor, adding
six inches all around for a bathtub effect. Conventional,
but ineffective exterior ground cloth only keeps you dry
while tent floor coating is very knew--Simply cut a piece
of clear plastic or PVC tarp to the size of the floor and
then trim off 3 or 4 inches on all sides to reduce chance
of water getting between ground cloth and tent floor.
Source: Campmor no. 20255 (4.75' by 7.5'
ultralite poncho/shelter made from silicone-impregnated
Tip: If you're using a tent, the above
poncho can be rigged as a shelter during the day or to eat
under at night when it is raining. Requires 50 feet of 1/8
inch or thinner cordage for rigging.
Source: REI no. 358173 (9" aluminum
CT-Peg) or no. 358182 ( 8" Durapeg I-beam plastic peg)
Tip: Replace nearly useless nail-type
stakes that come with most tents with Y-shaped aluminum
alloy stakes or I-beam Durapeg plastic stakes.
Source: Campmor no. 41312 (3/8"
by 20" by 72")
Tip: Carry a 3/8-inch-thick pad
for mild temps; use a 1/2-inch-thick pad for colder temps.
Save weight, and leaks, and repair kits by leaving inflatable
pads and camp chairs at home.
Source: Campmor no. 48306/48307
or REI no. 667-904/900/899 or 898 (20-degree, 2lb-12oz,
Polarguard-Delta insulated North Face Cat's Meow)
Tip: Should have synthetic insulation
(not down) with a 20-degree rating. The bag should have
enough shoulder girth (width) so you are not cramped when
wearing all of your warm layers, including a bulky parka,
during cool spring and fall weather (very important). In
addition, the bag should be long enough so you can stow
your boots in a plastic bag in the foot of the bag to keep
them from freezing (sweat accumulation) on cool nights.
Source: Campmor no. 47617 (The North
Face Expander Panel)
Tip: If you need extra room in your North
Face bag for thick, cold-weather clothing, purchase an Expander
Panel from North Face. It is a 9-inch-wide wedge
of lightly insulated material which simply zips onto your
North Face bag (newer bags only) just as another bag would.
Source: Campmor no. 81290 (Esbit
Pocket Stove, a foolproof 3.25-ounce German-made standard-issue
NATO stove that burns solid fuel tablets (trioxane or hexamine,
A lighter stove, the 1.3 ounce Wing Stove,
is available from http://www.thru-hiker.com.
Tip: Esbit fuel tabs are very reliable
and lightweight as compared with the other problem-prone
liquid/gas-fuel stoves on the market. It is the hands-down
favorite of most participants on my long-range, 3-season
trips through remote areas.
Source: Campmor no. 81292 (12-pack
of Esbit hexamine fuel tablets).
Tip: Regulars on my trips should
contact me for information on how Esbit fuel tabs can be
purchased at a significant discount.
Tip: Carry 4 or 5 tablets per day for
standard, boil-and-stop cooking under non-winter conditions.
One 1/2-ounce hexamine tablet will boil 1 pint of water
under ideal conditions.
Source: Wal-Mart, drugstores, gas
stations, and supermarkets
Tip: Use a lighter for lighting
stoves and candles as discarded matches end up littering
campsites and they've also started numerous, disastrous
forest fires. An adjustable-flame (very important) lighter
works the best. In cold temperatures, keep it warm and operable
by duct taping it to a loop of shock cord suspended around
Source: Campmor no. 58855 (MSR
Tip: The MSR windscreen is an excellent,
long-lasting, ultra-lightweight, inexpensive way to get
the most heat and efficiency out of your solid fuel stove.
Carry extra fuel tablets if you don't carry a windscreen.
Source: Hardware or building supply
Tip: A piece of aluminum, such
as an old pot lid, placed on top of a one-inch-thick layer
of dirt works well to prevent a ground fire and stabilize
Esbit solid fuel stove.
Source: Campmor no. 23064
Source: Campmor no. 82008
Tip: A wire bail is handy for open
fire cooking as well as attaching a rope to reach otherwise
inaccessible water sources (e.g.: overhanging cliffs). A
snug lid conserves heat and saves fuel. To keep your rucksack
light, avoid heavy stainless steel pots.
Source: Campmor no. 80756 or 80758
Tip: Save weight by using lexan or titanium
and avoiding stainless steel. Forks and knifes are unnecessary
Source: Campmor no. 80921 (4.8
ounce 12-ounce-capacity insulated plastic mug)
Tip: Save weight by using plastic
or lexan mugs. Some trekkers like a big plastic measuring
cup with a handle.
Source: Grocery store
Tip: Gallon-size plastic storage
Source: Wal-Mart, hardware stores
Tip: Should be a 50-foot-long piece
of 1/8-inch-diameter nylon cordage (slippery polypro rope
is even better). The additional 30-foot-long piece of nylon
rope in the repair kit module serves as a second food hanging
rope in challenging situations where suspension between
two trees is necessary.
Source: Campmor no. 29650 (LED-type
Infinity Task Light by CMG Equipment)
Tip: The is an excellent, ultra-light
flashlight which runs for 40 hours on a single AA-size alkaline
battery. A lithium battery makes it run much, much longer
and lithium is unaffected by cold weather, unlike alkaline
Source: Campmor no. 78140 (Jakstrap)
Tip: Very handy.
Tip: necessary for
non-LED flashlights only.
Source: Wal-Mart or Target
Tip: One AA-size alkaline battery
should last 40 hours in an LED-type light. A lithium battery
reportedly lasts much longer, possibly up to 3 times longer.
Always carry at least one spare battery in case of malfunction.
Figure on 4 hours of burn time for two AA-size batteries
in a conventional, Mini Maglite-type light.
Source: Campmor no. 22141 or 80648
Tip: A lightweight, wind-resistant,
field-expedient candle lantern can be fashioned by partially
filling a one-gallon-size zip-lock bag with sand, mud, or
snow and inserting the candle stub.
Source: Camping section at Wal-Mart,
Tip: Carry biodegradable RV-type
toilet paper in a plastic bag.
Source: Campmor item 80965
Tip: Save weight by trimming towel
to one-foot-square size.
Tip: Look for 2-section travel toothbrush
that stores brush end in hollow handle
Source: For a list of vendors as
well as formulas on how to make your own tooth powder, read
powder page on this Web site.
Tip: Carry 1
tablespoon per week of travel. Unlike conventional toothpaste,
tooth powder does not freeze and it requires no water for
rinsing or spitting. Works well with just saliva and can
Tip: Stim-u-dent-brand toothpicks work
Tip: String on lanyard and give
to someone else on trip.
Tip: In Canada, you must have a
"Canadian Nonresident Insurance Card" for
your vehicle. Call your insurance agent to get one.
Tip: Make sure you have a spare
Tip: Check all four tires as well
as spare tire.
Tip: Michigan and/or Canadian road
Tip: Don't forget to check the
pressure in this tire.
engine, transmission, and front and rear windshield washers