Timber Wolf, Lake Superior, Ontario

A lone timber wolf greets
paddlers along the north shore
of Lake Superior, Canada
(Photo by Michael Neiger)


He carried his
and a blanket
and the
Blessed Sacrament
on his back,
and I
carried the provisions--
smoked eels
and cold grease--
enough for three days.
   -- Willa Cather
   Shadows on the Rock,


these days
seem to rely
on high-tech solutions
to living outdoors
instead of
developing basic skills.
When trouble hits
and it's up to them
and not their equipment
to bail them out,
many can't
take care of themselves.
   -- Garret Conover


That man
is the richest
whose pleasures
are the cheapest
   -- Henry David Thoreau
   Journal, 1856


On fame's
eternal camping ground,
their silent tents
are spread,
and glory guards,
with solemn round,
the bivouac of the dead.
   -- Theodore O'hara
   Bivouac of the Dead,


there is something
in the unruffled
calm of nature
that overawes
our little anxieties
and doubts:
the sight
of the deep-blue sky,
and the clustering
stars above,
seem to impart
a quiet to the mind.
   -- Jonathan Edwards


For me,
and for thousands
with similar inclinations,
the most important
passion of life is the overpowering desire
to escape periodically
from the clutches of a
mechanistic civilization.

To us
the enjoyment
of solitude,
complete independence,
and the beauty
of undefiled panoramas
is absolutely essential
to happiness.
   -- Bob Marshall


Nature gives
to every time
and season
some beauties
of its own;
and from
morning to night,
as from
cradle to the grave,
is but a succession of
changes so gentle
and easy
that we can scarcely
mark their progress.
   -- Charles Dickens


Nature is the living, visible garment of God.
   -- Johann W.
   von Goethe


How great
are the advantages
of solitude!
How sublime
is the silence
of nature's
ever-active energies!
There is something
in the very name
of wilderness
which charms the ear,
and soothes
the spirit of man.
There is religion in it.

When ever
the light of civilization
faces upon you
with a blighting power...
go to the wilderness...
Dull business routine,
the fierce passions
of the marketplace,
the perils
of envious cities
became but a memory...
The wilderness
will take hold of you.
It will give you
good red blood;
it will turn you
from a weakling
into a man...
You will soon
behold all
with a peaceful soul.
   -- Estwick Evans


Into the woods
we return to
reason and faith.
Whoso walketh
in solitude,
and inhabiteth the wood,
choosing light,
and bird,
the money-loving herd,
into that forester
shall pass,
from these companions,
power and grace.

...in the wilderness,
I find something
more dear
and connate
than in the streets
or villages...
in the woods
we return
to reason and faith.
   -- Ralph W. Emerson

The Rucksack Masthead
By Michael A. Neiger (aka: LandNavMan), Marquette, Michigan
Wilderness tripper: backpacking, winter camping, swift-water canoeing
Web site URL: http://therucksack.tripod.com • E-mail: mneiger@hotmail.com
Contents copyright © 1984-2007 by Michael A. Neiger • All rights reserved.


A RuckSack primer on...
for minus
40 degree

Print this list
out and use it
to check off
each item as
you stow it
in your
or sledge

By Michael A. Neiger
Copyright 2001

Last revised November 12, 2009


Sand River, Ontario

Crossing Sand Lake
en route to the Sand River in
Lake Superior Provincial Park,
Ontario, Canada
(Photo by Michael Neiger)



Notice to Go-Liters

The gear listed below is intended to see you through if you encounter foul weather--such as two days of cold, wind-driven rain--injuries, equipment failure, or some other unforeseen problem during a three-season trek. Winter treks, as well as early and late season treks, may require additional equipment.

Follow this list closely as it's based on the successes and failures of literally 100's of demanding, foul-weather wilderness trips--some of which have gone bad, so bad that trekkers have nearly died.

While there's a lot to be said for the emerging go-lite philosophy, do not cut your reserve clothing to save weight, or simply because you've not used it lately. The backup hat, balaclava, set of polypro underwear, and extra insulating layers are your main line of defense against hypothermia in foul weather. To save weight, cut back on stoves, tents, camp chairs, inflatable pads, candle lanterns, and foods that are canned or moisture-laden.

FACT: Hypothermia is the number one killer of trekkers like us. Over the years, it has nearly killed several people on my trips. Too far gone to change into their dry, spare layers on their own, I had to do it for them. Make sure you've got some dry, backup layers stowed deep in your rucksack when your number comes up. I'll be reaching for them.

Triple-check your gear, especially for an early or late-season trip--your life, or the life of a fellow tripper, may depend on what you stow, or fail to stow, in your rucksack.

See you in the bush.

Contents of page

   Emergency gear
      Survival kit
      Ice-rescue picks
      Fire building gear
      First-aid kit
      Repair kit
   Bush clothing
      Head and face gear
      Upper-body clothing
      Lower-body clothing
      Rain gear
   Wilderness travel
      Land navigation gear
      Hydration gear
   Wilderness bivouacs
      Bivouac gear
      Ration heating gear
      Lighting gear
      Personal items
      Hygiene gear
      Vehicle checks


Looking for
wilderness tripping
equipment and
For 100's of sources for wilderness tripping equipment and supplies, visit the sources for gear page on this Web site.

Need help
finding a book?
Trying to buy a new or used copy of a book, but can't locate one? Want to find a library somewhere in the country that will lend you the book at no cost? Then visit the handy book finder page on this Web site.

a book, catalog,
or Web site.
If you know of a useful outdoor-related book, catalog, or Web site not listed on this Web site, e-mail the book's title, subtitle, author, publisher, date of publication, and short description; or the catalog's address and phone number; or the Web site's URL to Michael Neiger at mneiger@hotmail.com.


Contacts for vendors listed below




L.L. Bean


Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)
   Note: all prices are in Canadian dollars

Mountain Gear

Northern Outfitters

Outdoor Research


Piragis Northwoods Company

Recreational Equipment, Inc., (REI)


Sherpa Snowshoes


Steger Mukluks

   Contact: Connie Hankins
   Custom-made expedition gear supplier for NOLS


Additional backpacking equipment vendors


Emergency gear



In-pocket survival kit (mandatory)

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 prepared.

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.

[  ] Waterproof matches

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.

Note: 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.

[  ] Waterproof firestarter sticks

Source: Campmor no. 23132

Tip: Cut to size and carry same as matches listed above. Carry extra ones in your rucksack.

[  ] Sturdy lock-blade knife

Source: Campmor no. 25995 (Victorinox Adventurer)

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.

[  ] Whistle

Source: Campmor no. 84731 (Silva Sportsman's 4-in-1 tool)

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.

[  ] Compass

Source: Campmor no. 81200 (Silva Polaris 177 $10)

Tip: Stick with a high-quality compass from one of the big three manufacturers--Silva, Suunto, or Brunton. Attach to a lanyard.

[  ] Magnesium Fire Starter (metal match)

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.

[  ] County map or topographic map for area of travel.

Source: See info on the Land Navigation Page

Tip: Waterproof and carry in heavy-duty zip-lock bag. Bury a spare copy deep in your rucksack.

Optional items

[  ] Signal mirror

Source: Campmor no. 83003 (1 oz, 2-by-3 inch "Ten Mile")

[  ] Snare wire

[  ] Fishing hooks, line, sinkers, & artificial bait

[  ] Plastic survival crib-cards

Source: Campmor no. 81328

Tip: These four pocket-sized cards are packed with survival information.



Ice-rescue gear

[  ] Ice-rescue picks--these are essential for rescuing yourself when you break through rotten river or lake ice.

Source: Piragis Northwoods Company no. E00266 (comes with handy case) or Rock-N-Rescue no. POL-1 (no case).

[  ] 50-foot, floating, throw rope in throw bag

Source: Campmor no. 96466

Note: This rope is not suitable for high-tension rescue situations, such as a Z-drag rig.

[  ] One carabiner

Source: Campmor no. 30276




Emergency fire-building gear

[  ] Saw--A small folding saw can make all the difference in getting a fire going in the winter.

Source: Campmor no. 22144 (pocket saw) or 81032 (Sven; drill a hole in the wing nut and attach a lanyard to prevent loss); Piragis no. 5206 (Sawvivor) or 5203 (Schmidt Packsaw).

[  ] Waterproof matches

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.

Note: 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.

[  ] Waterproof firestarter sticks (Campmor no. 23132-P)

Source: Campmor no. 23132

Tip: Cut to size and carry same as matches listed above. Carry extra ones in your rucksack.

Note: Laid on its side, just below damp twigs and tinder, the candle listed in the lighting module below makes an excellent firestarter too.

[  ] Fire pan--you should carry a small steel cookie sheet (a 9" by 13" one from Wal-Mart weighs 7 ounces) to build a small warming/snow-melting/cooking fire on so you don't burn the ground, or don't have to dig down through five feet of snow. To use one, simply lay fire pan on two or three limbs or logs, either on the ground to protect it, or on top of five feet of snow to keep the pan from sinking into the snow. A fire pan will also allow you to pick your fire up and move it around if the wind changes and smoke enters your tarp shelter.

This fire pan can also double as a stable base for your stove too. If your stove fails, it's very easy to switch to a twiggy fire to melt snow and cook your meal.

Source: WalMart

[  ] Spark screen (optional)--A piece of 1/8-inch wire mesh makes an excellent spark screen to protect your expensive clothing from flying sparks. Make it twice the size of the cookie sheet and then fold it in half, or loosely wire the two halves together so they hinge. Very handy.

Source: Hardware or building supply store

[  ] Hatchet (optional)--handy as a splitting wedge for getting at dry heartwood.

Source: Cabelas no. 51-2472 (Back Pax ax)




First-aid kit

[  ] Elastic ankle wrap (with keepers)

[  ] Tweezers

[  ] Scissors (small ones)

[  ] Povidone-iodine wound cleaner

[  ] Triple antibiotic ointment

[  ] Moleskin

[  ] Standard Band-Aids

[  ] Butterfly Band-Aids

[  ] Sterile gauze pads

[  ] Waterproof first-aid tape (small roll)

[  ] Pain reliever (Aspirin, Tylenol)

[  ] Anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen)

[  ] Decongestant med

[  ] Hydrocortisone crème (for poison ivy)

[  ] Cold & Flu medications

Other handy meds include an antihistamine; anti-diarrhea (Pepto-Bismol tabs); Nausea/motion sickness; laxative; and high-power pain & antibiotic prescripts.

Source: local drug store




Repair kit

[  ] 50 feet of 1/8-inch-diameter nylon cordage

Source: Hardware store

Tip: Important for equipment repair; rigging extra tent deadmen or high-wind pullouts; splints; emergency snowshoes; lashing a raft together; repairing broken snowshoes and sledge traces, etc.

[  ] Duct tape

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, splints, etc.

[  ] Sewing kit

Source: Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts, or other sewing shop

Tip: Include 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 rethreading drawcords).

[  ] Critical repair parts for snowshoes





Head & face clothing

[  ] 2 very thin polypro balaclavas

Source: Campmor no. 92872, or check with your local running or cross-country ski shop.

Tip: Essential for staying warm, preventing hypothermia, while hiking in windy, wet weather. Very thin ones can be worn dry.

[  ] 2 thick fleece or wool hats

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.

[  ] Neoprene facemask

Source: Campmor no. 47128 (Seirus Neofleece Comfort Masque)

Note: very essential when taking on head winds in deep cold.

[  ] Hoods: both the heavily-insulated over-parka and the uninsulated wind shell listed below must have large, over-sized hoods.

Note: it is essential that the above garments be oversized enough so that you can wear them all at the same time when it is severely cold.

[  ] 2 Bandanas

Source: Campmor no. 00393

[  ] Sun glasses

Tip: Essential to prevent snow blindness.

[  ] Ski goggles

Source: Campmor no. 83311 (Smith Sun Valley Goggles)

Note: Essential in high winds and blowing snow if you don't have an extended, tunnel-type hood on your windshell.

[  ] Clear Safety glasses (optional)

Source: Hardware (safety glasses) or sporting goods store (shooting glasses).

Note: Essential to protect eyes from sharp sticks when bushwhacking.




Upper-body clothing

[  ] Uninsulated outer wind shell parka--Should be synthetic and oversized (huge) so all insulating garments can be layered underneath. Must have a very large hood. If you are not carrying separate rain gear, this garment must be waterproof.

Source: Northern Outfitters no. 192 (EXP Wind Anorak Full-zip)

Note: it is essential that this wind parka is oversized enough so it can be worn over every layer you carry in the coldest conditions. I'm 6-2, 185 and I use a size 2XL.

[  ] Heavily-insulated over-parka--should be large enough that is can be slipped on over your trail gear when we stop for five minutes and it should fit over all of your other insulating layers at night for comfort in camp. Must have hood.

Source: Travelite (North Ridge Expedition Parka, No. 03-B-02)

Note: it is essential that this insulated over-parka is oversized enough so it can be worn LOOSELY over every layer you carry in the coldest conditions.

[  ] 3 thin polypro underwear tops

Source: Patagonia (Lightweight Zip-T Capilene)

Tip: Zip-turtlenecks offer the widest comfort range. Several lightweight layers offer the most options and dry much faster than a single heavier layer.

[  ] 2 synthetic insulated medium-thick jackets/sweaters

Source: REI no. 648177 (Mountain Hardwear Chugach Jacket) or 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 weighs a bit less.

[  ] 1 synthetic insulated vest

Source: Mountain Gear no. 260009 (Mountain Hardwear Chugach Vest) or MEC no. 4016-648/649 (MEC Northern Light 2 vest, 1.8 oz. PrimaLoft)

Tip: While thick fleece or wool garments work just as well, synthetic micro-fiber weighs a bit less.

Note: it is essential that the above garments be oversized enough so that you can wear them all at the same time when it is severely cold.





[  ] Mittens shells--these should be uninsulated and oversized so they can be worn alone or with one, two, or three of the liners listed below. Note: gloves alone are not sufficient for severe cold.

Source: Outdoor Research "Professional Modular Mitts"

[  ] 3 pair mitten liners--Should be oversized fleece or wool. Keep in mind that mittens are much warmer than gloves. (In an emergency, an extra pair of socks can double as mittens.)

Source: Outdoor Research "Professional Modular Mitts Single Liners" and "Professional Modular Mitts Double Liners."

Tip: You should have a total of two single thickness liners and one double liner. If the shells and liners are big enough, you should be able to nest a single layer in the double layer for extreme cold around camp. I use the XXL.

Note: it is essential that the mitten shells and the liners are oversized enough so that you can wear them all at the same time when it is severely cold.




Lower-body clothing

[  ] Windpants--Should be synthetic, uninsulated, and oversized so all insulating garments can be layered underneath. Note, if you are not carrying separate rain gear, this garment must be waterproof.

Source: Northern Outfitters no. 191 (EXP wind pants)

Note: it is essential that these wind pants are oversized enough so they can be worn over every layer you carry in the coldest conditions. I'm 6-2, 185 and I use a size 2XL.

[  ] 2 pair thin polypro long-underwear bottoms

Source: Patagonia (Lightweight Capilene)

Tip: do not wear cotton underpants under these as this defeats the purpose the wicking layers and you'll be wondering why you are not staying warm in all of your expensive, high-tech layers.

[  ] 1 pair synthetic, medium-thickness, insulated inner pants

Source: REI no. 648178 (Mountain Hardwear Chugach Pants) or 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 conditions change.

[  ] Insulated over-pants--Should be very thick, synthetic-insulated, and large enough to fit over all other garments when we stop for five minutes on the trail and for comfort in camp. Full-length, fully-separating leg zippers are essential for quickly adding, ventilating, or removing this item--with snowshoes, boots, and windpants on--as conditions change.

Source: Travelite (North Ridge Expedition Pants, No. 03-B-03)


Note: it is essential that these insulated over-pants are oversized enough so they can be worn LOOSELY over every layer you carry in the coldest conditions.





[  ] Boots/Mukluks--These should be consist of uninsulated shells with removable liners, most likely felt or foam. For snowshoing, the lighter the better. Liners should be at least 1/2-inch thick. An additional, removable insole is essential.

Source option no. 1: Steger Mukluks no. ARWM 620 (Arctic Weathermates; order these double-wide models big enough to fit one felt liner inside of another [yes two nested liners for extreme cold], plus an insole or two; consult Steger staff for proper size; order two sizes to check fit??)

Source option no. 2: LaCrosse no. 298200 (-100 Snowdonia 17"). As warm as any pack boot, but lighter due to nylon upper.

Note: Both of the above boots may lack the necessary support for backpacking without snowshoes. Backpacking may require a stiff, leather-topped pack boot with a felt liner.

[  ] Extra pair of insulated liners for mukluks or boots listed above

[  ] High-density, 3/8" foam insoles

Note: unlike almost all other foam on the market, these will not compress as easily under the weight of your body and will therefore insulate your foot from the cold ground, the greatest source of heat loss. Another option is extremely dense industrial carpeting, but it is heavier and very difficult to dry when wet.

Source no. 1: Contact a Neos Performance Overshoes dealer and order one or two pairs of the 10mm insoles (perfect fit innersoles) used in some of their mukluks and sold as an accessory. Order the XXL and then trim them to size. To locate a dealer, visit their Web site at http://www.overshoe.com and go to their dealer page at http://www.overshoe.com/dealer.html

Source no. 2: Campmor no. 78952 (Neos Removable insoles)

[  ] Vapor barrier socks

Note: use these to keep perspiration from soaking your socks and mukluk/boot liners by wearing them over a polypro sock liner and under an insulating sock or two. Very large plastic bread bags used by bakers work very well. Get them very long so the top can be tucked well down into the boot to prevent the bag from working its way down the foot. Carry a spare pair in case one gets ripped.

Source: Grocery store bakery

[  ] 4 pair thick socks

Source: Campmor no. 19654 (Smartwool Expedition Trekking Socks)

[  ] 2 pair polypro liner socks

Source: Campmor no. 19902 (Fox River X-Static liner sock)

[  ] Blister prevention kit

Source: Drug store

Tip: Should include Vaseline, moleskin, and duct tape.

[  ] Gaiters--Depending on your footwear and how your pant legs fit, you may need gaiters to keep snow out of boots.

[  ] Heavily-insulated sleeping booties

Source: MEC no. 4005-853 (MEC Hollofil Booties II)

Source: Travelite (North Ridge Expedition Booties, No. 03-B-06)

Tip: Synthetic insulated (not down) booties are essential for sleeping warm in colder weather and keeping feet warm around camp.







Rain gear

[  ] Rain parka

Source: REI no. 10445 (Gore-Tex Stowaway Jacket)

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.

[  ] Rain pants

Source: REI no. 10446 (Gore-Tex Stowaway Rain Pants)

Tip: Should be oversized so all insulating garments can be layered underneath in foul weather.

[  ] Wide-brimmed rain hat (optional)

Source: Campmor no. 00493 (Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero Gore-Tex)






[  ] Snowshoes--semi-rectangular aluminum-frame snowshoes should be about 9" by 30" for women and 10" by 36" for men for deep powder in subzero conditions.

Source: Sherpa Snowshoe Company "Pemba Mountain Legend" model in 9" by 30" or 10" by 36" with Sherpa Classic (Flexible) Binding (not Lotus Comfort Binding). This is THE original mountaineering snowshoe with THE original all-conditions binding. The rectangular lacing around the entire frame allows it to climb well in powdery snow conditions.

[  ] Ski pole--one, or two, poles with large baskets are handy for off-trail travel in deep snow and for probe-checking ice conditions on lakes and rivers.

Tip: Get a good solid aluminum backcountry pole that adjusts by way of a push button, not a cam that is useless in subzero temps, and that has 5 or 6 inch diameter deep powder basket.

Source: A very good backcountry pole is the Leki Quest Backcountry Pole by Leki http://www.leki.com. (One vendor for this pole is The Ski Rack http://www.skirack.com 1-800-882-4530; make sure to order the Deep Powder Basket accessory as it does not come equipped with it.)





[  ] Roomy sledge provided--These sledges weigh just under 8 pounds and are 5 feet long by 16 inches wide.

Note: Five (5) club sledges are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. A rental charge of $5.00 per trip is charged. A waistbelt harness is not provided, so each participant must bring a heavyduty waistbelt. These can often be removed from a sturdy backpack. If the hood of the pack can be removed and installed on the removed waistbelt as a buttpack, this is a good idea also.

Tips for Building a Single-Pole Skiing Sled by Tim Kelley
(Note: this sled may be better for open-country travel as opposed to bushwhacking.)

[  ] Deicing kit--If you are not pulling a club sledge, you must carry a plastic ski scraper and a very coarse synthetic (not metal) pot scrubber pad. The bottom of the sled will ice up after stops and create tremendous friction. Deicing your sledge is a regular and somewhat time-consuming activity.

[  ] Waterproofing gear--To keep the contents of your pack or sledge dry during freezing rain, 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, which should be available where garbage compactors are sold, or at Wal-Mart. A 4-ounce, silicone-coated pack cover will also help keep your gear dry; it'll save you weight too since you won't be carrying a water-logged pack (Campmor no. 60858-D).




Land navigation gear

Land navigation team members should see the land navigation page for a list of recommended equipment.




Hydration gear

[  ] Two, one-quart water bottles

Source: Campmor no. 80880 (Buy the best--Nalgene)

Tip: Store them upside down since water tends to freeze from the top down. This will keep the drinking end open longer. In extreme temperatures, start with boiling water in the water bottles.

[  ] Insulated water-bottle parkas--these are essential to keep your water bottles, especially the cap threads, from quickly freezing.

Source: Campmor no. 80752 (Outdoor Research water bottle parka).






Shelter gear--for tenters

[  ] Solo tent

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.


[  ] Interior ground cloth

Source: Local building supply store or hardware store

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.

[  ] Small dining fly

Source: Campmor no. 20255 (4.75' by 7.5' ultralite poncho/shelter made from silicone-impregnated nylon)

Tip: The above poncho can be rigged as a shelter during the day or to eat under at night when it is raining/snowing. Requires 50 feet of 1/8 inch or thinner cordage for rigging.

Shelter gear--for hardcore tarpers

[  ] Tarp (8' by 10' or 10' by 10'))

Source: Campmor no. 22220 (10' by 10' urethane-coated nylon) or 20069 (8' by 10' silicone-impregnated nylon)

Note: both of these tarps require sealing of the center seam, the silicone tarp requires a special sealant. All tie loops should have a 12-inch-long piece of 1/8-inch cordage attached in a loop fashion with a fisherman's knot. The following 1/8-inch rope lengths should also be carried with a large, fist-size bowline loop in one end for easy pitching in all situations: 6 five-footers, 3 ten-footers, and 3 fifteen-footers.

TIP: Laying a tarp over several logs placed across a narrow trench in the snow and then covering it with six inches of snow makes a nice warm winter shelter--without a lot of sweaty work.

[  ] Oversize bivy sack

Source: Campmor no. 41332 (Sleeping Bag Cover)

Note: Most commercial bivy sacks are zero-clearance units which do not lend themselves to comfortable bivouacs. While far from optimal, the Campmor unit is a good start. It is has a very generous girth which is hard to find. However, it needs a bit of retro work. The seam across the foot should be let out and an oval wedge of fabric sewn in to increase the toe box area. A hood should be added: A flat piece of fabric (long enough to overlap original edge of zippered top by one foot) should be attached to the head portion of the bivy. It should be sewn along both sides and the top, with an oval piece of fabric added along the top end, just like the foot modification. Entry is then by way of the 1 foot overlap of the hood and the original lower top portion.

[  ] Ground sheet

Note: Avoid clear plastic as it is far too slippery on snow. Either make a nylon one or cut down a cheap PVC tarp. A poncho works well too.

Bivouac gear

[  ] 2 closed-cell foam pads--carry a full-length, 1/2- or 3/8-inch-thick closed-cell foam pad and a 3/4-length 3/8-inch-thick closed-cell foam pad. Don't bring old, broken-in pads as they may compress too much and let your hips and shoulders get cold. Open cell pads should are for comfort, not warmth.

Source: Local camping store.

Note: one pad alone is not enough for extreme cold or sleeping on lake or river ice.

[  ] Sleeping bag--Should have synthetic insulation (not down) with at least a minus-40-degree rating.

Source: Campmor no. 49131 (North Face Dark Star -40)

TIP: If you cold-weather bag is old and the loft has fallen off, bring a second bag and lay it open, comforter-like, over your main bag. Pre-sewing some short shoelace like pigtails on each bag will keep the bags mated all night.

The bag should have enough shoulder girth (width) so you are not cramped when wearing all of your warm layers, including a bulky parka. In addition, the bag should be long enough so you can stow your boots and liners in a plastic bag in the foot of the bag to keep them from freezing (sweat accumulation).

[  ] Sleeping bag expander--if you need extra room in your North Face bag for thick winter 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. 47617 (The North Face Expander Panel)

[  ] Snow shovel--a shovel with a wide, flat 13" by 18" plastic blade is best since it will allow you to move large amounts of loose powder snow or cut and lift blocks of snow from compacted areas, which are very common in Michigan.

Source: Local hardware or discount stores




Ration heating gear

[  ] Lightweight backpacking stove--Make sure you have cleaned it thoroughly--from the inside out--and tested it before the trip. Be prepared to cook over a small fire just in case your stove fails. While conventional Coleman-fuel stoves are popular, consider an simply alcohol-fuel stove.

Coleman stove source: Campmor no. 80052 (MSR XGK Shaker Stove)

Alcohol stove source: REI no. 657906 (Trangia Mini 28-T)

[  ] Adjustable flame butane lighter

Source: Wal-Mart, drugstores, gas stations, and supermarkets

Tip: Use a lighter for lighting stoves and candles as discarded matches end up littering campsites. An adjustable-flame lighter suspended from a loop of shockcord (use duct tape to attach) around your neck to keep it warm and functional is essential in deep cold.

[  ] Windscreen for stove

Source: Campmor no. 58855 (MSR windscreen)

Tip: The MSR windscreen is an excellent, long-lasting, ultra-lightweight, inexpensive way to get the most heat and efficiency out of your stove.

[  ] Fireproof base for stove--An insulated base is essential to keep your stove from melting into the snow. Placing the fire pan listed in the emergency firebuilding section above on a couple sticks will give you a nice stable surface for cooking and eating. And when your stove fails, you can quickly build a small snow-melting fire without digging down to the ground through several feet of snow, only to scar the ground.

[  ] Stove repair kit with instructions

[  ] Stove fuel & fuel cells

Source: Campmor no. 80088, 80057 (MSR Fuel Bottles) or 80356 (Nalgene polyethylene fuel bottles)

Coleman fuel: Plan on 13 liquid ounces per day, per person. Keep in mind it takes more fuel in the winter because it is much colder and snow must be melted into water before boiling.

Alcohol fuel: Plan on 15 ounces per day, per person

[  ] Aluminum pot holder

Source: Campmor no. 23064

[  ] Aluminum 2-qt cooking pot w/ wire bail & lid

Source: Campmor no. 82008

Tip: Small pots are useless for efficiently melting snow. A wire bail is essential for open fire cooking as well as attaching a rope to reach otherwise inaccessible water sources (e.g.: overhanging snowdrifts along creeks). A snug lid conserves heat, saves fuel, and limits smoky-water taste. To keep your rucksack light, avoid heavy stainless steel pots--use aluminum or titanium.

[  ] Spoon

Source: Campmor no. 80756 or 80758

Tip: Save weight by using lexan or titanium--avoid stainless steel. Forks and knifes are unnecessary weight.

[  ] Large insulated cup/mug

Source: Campmor no. 80921 (4.8 ounce 12-ounce-capacity insulated plastic mug)

Tip: Save weight by using plastic or lexan mugs.

[  ] Garbage bag

Source: Grocery store

Tip: Gallon-size plastic storage bag.




Lighting gear

[  ] Small LED flashlight

Source: Campmor no. 29650 (LED-type Infinity Task Light by CMG Equipment)

Tip: This an excellent, ultra-light flashlight which runs for 40 hours or more a single AA-size lithium battery.

Note: Do not use a light with alkaline batteries unless it has a remote battery pack that you can suspend around your neck to keep the batteries warm. Lithium batteries are unaffected by cold weather, unlike alkaline batteries which may last only 20 minutes in deep cold.

[  ] Hands-free headstrap for flashlight

Source: Campmor no. 78140 (Jakstrap)

Tip: Very handy.

[  ] Spare bulbs

Tip: necessary for non-LED flashlights only.

[  ] Spare alkaline or lithium batteries

Source: Wal-Mart, Target, or Radio Shack

Tip: In the above LED-type light, one AA-size lithium battery should last 40 hours or longer. Always carry at least one spare battery in case of malfunction.

If you are using AA-size alkaline batteries in a remote battery pack, allow 4 hours of burn time per set of batteries. Carry one change of batteries per night in the bush.

[  ] Candle

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. A candle-lantern-type candle burns for about 9 hours. You may want to carry enough candles so you have at least four hours of light each night. In the winter, it gets dark early and stays dark longer. One candle throws a lot of light, especially in a white snow shelter. It also gives off a bit of heat too. Plumbers candles make excellent, long-burning winter candles too--check at your local hardware or plumbing shop. Laid on their side, candles make excellent, long-burning "matches" for getting damp firewood going.




Personal items

[  ] Personal medications

[  ] Driver's license

[  ] Canadian trips: birth certificate and/or passport

[  ] Emergency phone numbers

[  ] Credit cards

[  ] Cash, travelers checks

[  ] Medical/dental insurance cards

[  ] Sunscreen

[  ] Lipbalm with sunblock

[  ] Wrist chronograph

[  ] Paperback book

[  ] Spare pair of prescription glasses




Hygiene gear

[  ] Toilet paper

Source: Camping section at Wal-Mart, Target, etc.

Tip: Carry biodegradable RV-type toilet paper in a plastic bag. When there is 100% snow cover on the ground, burn your used toilet paper with the lighter suspended around your neck so it does not make an unsightly mess in the spring, or blow into a nearby waterway.

Always cover bodily wastes with snow.

[  ] Synthetic "Pack Towel"

Source: Campmor item 80965

Tip: Save weight by trimming towel to one-foot-square size.

[  ] Small travel-type toothbrush

Source: Wal-Mart

Tip: Look for 2-section travel toothbrush that stores brush end in hollow handle

[  ] Tooth powder

Source: For a list of vendors as well as formulas on how to make your own tooth powder, read the tooth 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 be swallowed.

[  ] Toothpicks & dental floss

Source: Wal-Mart

Tip: Stim-u-dent-brand toothpicks work very well.

[  ] Personal medications





Vehicle checks

[  ] Extra set car keys

Tip: String on lanyard and give to someone else on trip.

[  ] Registration papers

[  ] Proof of insurance certificate

Tip: In Canada, you must have a "Canadian Nonresident Insurance Card" for your vehicle. Call your insurance agent to get one.

[  ] Locking gas cap

Tip: Make sure you have a spare key. This is much cheaper than having to go get gas, or have your engine repaired because of vandals.

[  ] Heavy-duty battery

Note: This is essential in deep cold. Get the biggest, high-amp battery that you can stuff in your battery storage compartment. Visit an auto parts store that has their batteries out on display and, after comparing and contrasting the amp ratings vs. physical dimensions of the batteries in their catalogs, get the highest-amp one you can safely mount in your vehicle. This may take some time and cash, but it is cheaper than the alternative: having your vehicle towed a long distance, hotel fees, etc.

[  ] Light weight oil

To make your engine easier to turn over in cold weather, have the oil changed to a lighter weight, like 5 W 30.

[  ] Check anti-freeze rating

Make sure your anti-freeze can handle 40 below temps.

[  ] Consider installing an engine block heater.

Consider having a block heater installed in your engine. Even if your engine can not be jump started, you can have it towed to a place with electricity where the block heater will rewarm the engine within a few hours. The alternative may be an expensive tow and then a two-day thaw job in a heated garage, hotel fees, etc.

If you install an engine block heater, carry a very long extension cord or two.

[  ] Jumper cables

Avoid short, thin cables.

[  ] Tow chain or strap

[  ] 36" Buck saw

[  ] Single-bit ax with 3.5 pound head

[  ] Proper tire pressure

Tip: Check all four tires as well as spare tire.

[  ] Road maps

Tip: Michigan and/or Canadian road map.

[  ] County map book

[  ] Spare tire

Tip: Don't forget to check the pressure in this tire.

[  ] Tire jack and lug nut wrench

[  ] Snow shovel in winter, spade in summer

[  ] Snow scraper and snow brush in winter

[  ] Check wipers

[  ] Check fluids

Tip: Check engine, transmission, and front and rear windshield washers

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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
— John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

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