Saturday, January 15, 2011

Essential Survival Kit for Outdoors

I came across this post from the site 'Nature Knights' and thought I should share it as a reminder.

Survival Kit for Outdoors

We have made this checklist for survival based on our practical experience and has not come out of a diploma course on survival. Too often we think of ourselves as separate from nature, forgetting that we are just a part of it. We would not spend much time waxing lyrical about our experience in nature; because you must have your own. So till you develop your own survival kit; here is one that may serve your purpose as a basic survival kit for outdoors; built on it based on your experience with nature and to suit the needs of your eco-adventure.

Clothing for the outdoors must be practical. Choose carefully, and don’t swallow sales-blurbs too willingly. In our experience, once someone has settled on a favorite garment they use it for many years. No single garment will do all jobs – you need a versatile system of layers that can be arranged to suit all weathers. Your clothing will need to cope with hot dry conditions as well as cold, wind and wet.

Clothing for upper body

Loose and comfortable T-Shirt or Shirt (Full Sleeves preferably); full sleeves shields us against Sun; Cold; insect bites and thorny bushes. You may carry spare half sleeves t-shirts for warm evening or morning wears near your camp site.

Always wear clothing in multiple layers and in fabric that can breathe to reduce condensation. My personal favorite is cotton clothing in the inner layer to your body as its texture is more skin friendly. The outer layers can be a mix of natural and artificial fabric.

Trousers / Shorts

For trousers should be preferable light weight; poly-cotton can be a good option as they are strong; dry quickly and can breathe. Avoid heavy Jeans. A mix of lycra in the fabric can give it additional stretch and can be useful while climbing or scrambling mountains.

Always carry light shorts they can be pretty handy; they can be used as extra change and also as swimming short when needed.

Outer Jacket / Shell layer (Seasonal – winter / monsoon)

Keep an outer jacket handy that can protect you against wind; cold and rain. This should be made of light layer; water proof yet its material should be able to breathe.


They are light hence carrying plenty in spare; two pairs per day. If you are going on an expedition which covers more than a week or two you may consider washing and reusing.

Hats, Socks and Gloves / Mittens 

Woolly hat and mittens for winter, many pairs of woolen / cotton socks depending on the season; and some waterproof Goretex socks can also be handy.

Leather Mittens are also very useful they can be used for climbing down from ropes; rappelling, holding hot vessels and protecting hands against cold.

Woolen monkey cap can be another useful item to carry round the year; it is light to carry and can be handy at night. It can get cold in woods during nights even during summer.

For summer; carry hats/ caps with good shade; always carry a spare cap. Wash spare cap / hat whenever you get an opportunity near some pond / stream / river. These keeps your cap bacterial free and clean.

You get shoes in all sizes and shapes that can be useful for different conditions and requirement. Historically most shoes were made of leather but now you have option of having synthetic shoes or synthetic mix with leather.

Go for shoes that are made of though material; that have flexible sole. Do not opt for shoes that have very high and spongy heals; these will put you in a very clumsy situation while climbing steep slopes.

Wear sports shoes that are comfortable to your feet and the ones that fit you just right. Loose shoes can cause blisters; and tight shoes can also damage your feet severely. Brand and shape is your personal choice. Try out the shoes properly in the showroom because it is an expensive investment and one that can make your journey comfortable or painful.

We are not going to cover specialized shoes for professional rock climbing or snow conditions as that is out of scope here.


Gaiters are an additional layer of strap that you wear between your shoes and knee. These protect your trousers from getting wet; from thorns and can also be handy in grass lands as a protective layer against bytes from most snakes and insects.

Sun Glasses

Traveling outdoors over an extended duration of time can expose you to lots of Ultra violet radiation from sun and can be very stressful for your eyes. In snow covered area it can also cause snow blindness. Sun Glasses can be very handy in these conditions; also check the rating of the sun glasses against UV before you buy them. See that they are correct ones as per your need.

Personal Kit
To be comfortable when camping outdoors you will need to carry some basic equipment. In choosing what to include in your kit you should balance strength and versatility with compactness and lightness of the weight. There are plenty of options available to choose from. Personally, we would work on the principle “keep in simple”. So avoid any equipment that involves fiddly little fittings that can be snapped off or easily lost on the trail.
Make sure that you carry only what you need, and not an item more. Overtime assess what you have been carrying and discard things that you don’t use – except of emergency equipment such as whistle and first aid kit.

Mandatory items:

Sleeping bags (with full length zip); select a compact and light weight to carry; also check its rating for withstanding cold.

Sleeping Mats: This should be light; size 2 to 3 feet by 6 feet; with good amount of padding. To give you thermal insulation from ground as well as provide some padding against small pebbles.

Plastic Sheet: Light weight; 3 meter x 3 meters; multi purpose can be used for sitting; laying below your tents; insulate your bags at night against rain / humidity etc. Can also be very useful as a make shift shade (canopy) during day time etc.

Nylon / Carnamental Cords (3 mm to 5 mm): Again multiple purpose use. Tying canopy; tying something to the bag; for hanging clothes for drying; making hammock; as make shift shoe laces etc. You can carry 10 meters of 5 mm cords; and 20 meters of 3 mm cords.

Light weight Plastic bags (2 or 3); can be useful for keeping spare items at camp site; as waste bags; keeping wet / dirty clothes etc.

Soaps, Toiletries & Hygiene
Soap, Shampoo, Hand Tissue / Hand Towels / light towel, Comb, Mirror, Moisturizer, Insect / Mosquito repellent, Water Purifier (Carbon filter or Chlorine drops), hand sanitizer liquid etc.

Plate, Spoon, fork, Pocket Knife and Mug / Glass

Carry Plate or a small pan with a handle (Small Pan with handle can serve as plate as well as for cooking/ warming small items)

Mug / Glass – A Steel mug can be useful for drinking tea, soup and also for cooking / warming tea, noodles etc.

Personal First Aid Kit

Carry –

· Soframycin – Antiseptic cream
· Betnovet-C – Anti-Fungal Ointment
· Mycoderm-C – Anti-Fungal Powder
· Velbet – Anti-Inflammatory Ointment (for insect bytes and allergies)
· Bandages
· Gauze
· Small ball of cotton
· Tiny bottle of Detol / Savlon
· Asprins (Dispirine / Crocine)
· Medicine (Tables / Ointment) for common cold
· Medicine for Stomach Infection / Loose motions
· Thread and Needle
· Ointment / Tablets for Cramps / Muscle injuries
· Tablets / Glucose for De-hydration
· Sugar and Salt
· Any other personal medicine recommended by your family physician

Other Useful items
Flash lights with spare batteries (Head Lamps can be very handy)
Lighter / Match sticks

Nice to have

Can opener
Magnifying Glass
Fire Starters
Hand Book on local edible plants and herbs
Magnetic Compass and Maps
Folding Umbrella (extremely useful for protection against Sun if you are trekking through exposed area while resting; while taking picture during monsoon)

You may call them Packs, backpacks, Haver-Sacks, Rug Sacks, Nap Sacks or summit bags etc may come with different features and sizes. You may select one or more of them as part of your out door gear depending upon your utility and use.

Generally if you are going for an out-door camping which takes more than a day it is advisable to carry two bags one full-size back pack to carry your gear for camping and in the other a day pack that you will utilize once you are near your base camp. All packs should allow you to carry weight close to your body and to centre the load over your hips and legs.

Bags generally come with frames which may be either internal or external. A rigid frame within the pack helps it maintain its shape and bug your back, assisting you in keeping your balance as your climb, walk or scramble. When you shoulder an internal-frame pack, the weight is carried relatively low on your body, which is another plus for maintaining balance. A moderate drawback of this feature is that the weight is not carried high enough to be completely transferred to your hips. Instead, some burden must be carried by your shoulders and back. The body-hugging nature of internal-frame packs also make them somewhat uncomfortable in hot weather.

The volume of most internal-frame packs can be easily adjusted with compression straps, and this is a significant advantage for climbing. A full-size pack with internal frame can be used on the approach and then emptied of most items in the tent and then re-adjusted and transformed into a compact summit pack. The clean, narrow profile of internal frame pack will allow them to be taken through heavy brush or hauled up rock pitches with a minimum of snags.

External frame packs were once the only type of pack in use, but they now see only limited service. The pack contents are suspended from a ladder like frame, which is held away from the back by taut nylon back bands. External frame packs provide some advantages, like holding load high and transferring weight to hips and keep you cooler. Some climbers use them for long, easy approaches, carrying a small daypack inside for the summit day. But external frames have limitation when it comes to climbing steep slopes, they tend to shift without warning. The sudden movement of 20 KGs or so across shoulder blades can easily make you loose your balance.

While buying Backpacks factor what trip you are buying it for typically a overnight trip will require 40 liters of bags; but if you tent to go for more trek that last for 5 to 7 days or more you will require and 60 to 80 liters of bags. For a bigger expedition some times you may event require a bigger bag.

The most important objective while buying a bag is that it fits your body. The pack’s adjustment range must be compatible with you back length. Some packs adjust to a wide range of sizes; other doesn’t. Virtually no individual backpack provides a good fit for everyone, so don’t place all your faith in endorsements from any vendors. Try various packs and be your own judge.

Don’t be in a hurry when fitting a pack. Load it up, as you would on an actual climb or trek. Look in the mirror if it fits into your frame properly also if the internal frame matches the shape of your back.

Loosen all the adjustment straps before putting the pack on, then tighten in the order recommended in manual. Check yourself in a mirror or ask someone, to see if the frame correctly follows your back. If it doesn’t, check whether the frame can be reshaped to match your back. The shoulder strap should attach to the pack 2 or 3 inches below the crest of your shoulders and leave little or not gap behind your back.

Once the pack is adjusted to your liking, check the clearance. Can you look up without hitting your head on the frame or top packet? Can you look up as if you were wearing a helmet? Next, check for adequate padding wherever the pack touches your body. Pay particular attention to the thickness and quality of padding used in the shoulder straps and hip belt. The hip belt should be substantial; its padding should cover the hip bones by good margins. For proper load transfer to the hips, ensure that the hip belt wraps directly onto the top of your hip bones, not around the sides of the hip bones or around the waist.

Other things to check in backpack

· How is the suspension system designed? Does it look durable, or does it look like it could fail at weak spots?
· How sturdy is the pack’s stitching?
· Does the pack rely on zippers to retain the contents? If the zippers fail, can you still use the pack?
· How convenient is it to store, arrange, and access your gear in the pack?
· Does the pack provide means of carrying special items shovels, walking stick, sleeping mats, carabineers etc.
· Does the pack have a haul loops and ice axe loops?
· Are there compression straps to redue the pack’s volume or to prevent the load from shifting while climbing or scrambling?
· It there a means of increasing the pack’s capacity for extended trips, such as an expandable collar with a gloating top pocket or separate side pocket accessories?
· Does the pack have a sterum straps to help prevent the pack from shifting on difficult terrains?
· Does the pack have a smooth profile, or will it get tangled during bushwhacks through thick outgrowth in forest?

Quick Check list while buying backpacks
· Size and frame to match your requirement and body respectively
· 2 inches of buckle
· 4 inches wide padding where it cover hips
· Adjustable straps (Compression straps)
· Loops and straps for Ice Axe, Walking Sticks, Mats etc
· Pockets on top and back for maps; first aid, wallets etc
· Space for hydration pack
· Strength of material and stitching

Note: Also buy a bag cover made of water proof nylon; this will protect your bag from rain, dust and bushes.

Tips on packing

Strategically loading the items in your internal-frame pack can dramatically influence your speed, endurance, and enjoyment of an out-going. Generally, you will feel best if you can concentrate the load on your hips and avoid loading your back and shoulders. But now as per some experts it is also recommended to add some part of the heavy load just near shoulder. But all heavy load should be closer to your body and light load can be at the bottom; top and away from the body.

The lightest and fluffiest arcicles (sleeping bags and extra closing) in the bottom; place the densest items (water, food, stove fuel, rope) up top, near the shoulder blades.

For more difficult terrain, revise your trail-packing strategy. Pack the heavy items slightly lower, and ensure they are as close to the back as possible. This will force more load onto your back and shoulder but will lower your centre of gravity and allow you to more easily keep your balance.

Along with arranging items in your pack for optimum weight distribution, organize them for quick access. Articles like gloves, hats, sunglasses, maps and insect repellent, which are sometimes need to a moment’s notice, are ideally carried in side and top pockets.

Plan your strategy for keeping your pack dry in monsoon with Poncho and/or bag cover.

A quick peek into few essential items

· Extra Food and Water
· Extra Clothing
· Head lamps and flashlight
· First aid kit
· Spare Floater / Slippers
· Seasonal Wear (Woolens / Ponchos)
· Knife
· Map and Compass

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