Friday, April 13, 2012

Outdoor Travel Essentials

Sometime back I had written a post on the ‘must haves’ for an outdoor trip, things without which you must never venture into the wilderness. Following that and even otherwise, people have been asking me to come out with a more extensive list of things to pack in when going outdoors. Pack in the thrills without the frills. What should be an ideal check of list for an outdoor trip, where you don’t take too much neither too little. So that it covers the essentials and few more as well. Obviously I had to think like a normal hiker or walker. My personal list would be too little for most people since there are times I don’t even carry food or source of fire. But then not everyone has adequate survival skills or experience, hence missing out on certain items could be calamitous. So here are my recommendations with few additional items that I think are ‘luxuries’ but then we live in different times and these days people often feel an ipod is an essential.

When I do extreme light-weight solo alpine climbs I scatter all the gear and stuff I feel are necessary and then go over each of them with a toothcomb; pointing at each and asking myself ‘if that object is going to save my life!’ if the answer is ‘no’ that object gets left out. Hence things like toilet kit, hand sanitizer often are left at home.

So let’s get packing, a lightweight list of outdoor travel, not too extreme, not too light, but light enough. Use your own discretion as I have given options too, but if you follow this list verbatim, you wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Happy traveling!


1 - Route map and or a guide book with maps (contour is best provided you can read one; else a simple line map is also good for reference). It should be inside a weatherproof pouch and safely stowed to prevent any creases or tear.

2 - Magnetic Compass

3 - GPS (totally optional, normally I never use one. Take one if you can afford and know how to use it)

A good combination of the last two would be an outdoor watch, like my Suunto which in its latest model has GPS along with all other functions like compass, elevation, etc. By the way it also shows the time)

Without these (1 – 3) you may not know where you are and this could be a tricky situation even in broad daylight under perfect visibility.

4 – Some sort of skin protection from sun and insects. I rarely use them, these are luxuries in my book.

5 – Sunglasses. These are imperative in case you are going to snow bound areas. May not be of much use if going through forests and jungles during monsoon. You must know how to make an emergency one in case it gets broken and you have to cross snow and ice fields.

6 – Layers according to the weather and climate. A water and windproof shell is always good to have. Appropriate insulation for your body including gloves, head cover, etc. Clothing system is another confusing aspect and I will write a separate post on this, what to wear in the outdoors.

7 – Source of light, headlamp or flashlight along with at least one set of brand new replacements.

8 – Medical kit (for basic ailments like stomach upset, headache, body ache, fever, eye drops, antibiotics, sterile tapes like band aid, painkiller spray, bandage, cotton balls, antiseptic cream, etc and anything in particular you may like)

9 – Source of Fire, matches (wind and waterproof), flint stone, lighter, fire starter, etc wrapped in waterproof.

10 – Tools like Swiss Knife (with a saw), repair kits for your gear, tent etc. A length of rope not exceeding 10 meters. Sturdy enough to rappel down or lower your equipment, bags etc.

11 – Emergency Ration (over and above your normal ration), packed and stowed safely, to be used only in an emergency. Things like chocolate, nutri bars, dry fruits, etc.

12 – Water bottle or anything to carry water.

13 – Emergency Shelter like a bivouac bag, tarp, reflector sheet, etc

14 – A backpack to carry all the above and your other gear, etc

15 – Shelter like a lightweight tent (this is not an essential where you can find caves and other natural shelters or in a warm weather)

16 – Sleeping bag suitable for the temperatures you are likely to encounter. An outer shell is a luxury.

17 – Foam mattress or inflatable mattress (former is sturdier but heavier with more bulk)

18 – Whistle

19 – Walking poles (for me it is essential as both knee ACL are partially torn)

20 – Ice axe in case you will cross snow and ice.

21 – Sturdy footwear, preferable ankle high and waterproof and well worn. Never ever take new footwear into the outdoors. Even then do take corn caps and blister caps. At least three pairs of comfortable socks and foot anti bacterial powder. I use Mycoderm and it really smells good when you remove your socks in the evening, else I would have been dead long time back. A sandal is also handy for wading pools and streams. A pair of gaiters would be useful in wet conditions, especially in leech infested areas.

22 – Adequate food in lightweight options like dehydrated stuff, bars, trail mixes, etc). We normally tend to carry more food as we are always scared of running out of them. A good way to carry just enough is to first put together all the food you think you need and then reduce each item by 1/the number of days you will be in the outdoors. For example if your trip is for 6 days and you have taken 6 kg of one item, then carry only 5 kg of it by taking out 1/6th of 6 kg. Food packing is an art in itself. Do pack carefully to prevent spillage or food mix up or leaks.

23 – Stove, burner, fuel, cooking pots, utensils, etc. All kitchen stuff for cooking and eating your food. Opt for light weight titanium pots and utensils, else aluminum ones. For eating, I would recommend durable plastic-wares from ‘Light My Fire’ or Tupperware. Also carry a collapsible leak-proof bag for fetching water at the campsite.

24 – Toilet kit with whatever you think are essentials. A toilet paper roll is an absolute must. You can use the used up rolls for starting fire.

25 – A small towel if you would take bath anywhere. I normally don’t and when I do, I let the sun and the breeze dry me out.

26 – Make up kit (you know what I mean, and you know whom I mean). For some this is essential believe it or not.

27 – Any permits that you may need to enter the area like camping fee, etc

28 – Camera (with memory cards or rolls, and batteries), be careful with rain or river crossings. Compact cameras are better in extreme conditions. Don’t be a fool like me to carry a Nikon FM2 with a bazooka lens to the top of Everest (man, was I wasted!)

29 – Binocular is a good option, though I never carry one. I normally focus where my next step would be and not somewhere into the foggy horizon where I may never be.

30 – Radio sets for intra team communication in case there’s a chance of getting lost, else this is a luxury. All other electronic gadgets like ipods, satellite phone, and cell phone are absolutely ridiculous endowments in the outdoors. I would rather venture out without any safety net beneath me and depend solely upon my own survival instincts.

31 – Don’t forget to carry some cash and money

32 – Don’t be a fool like me and tell someone back home where you are going and when would you return and where to look for you in case you don’t, and any emergency numbers or personnel they should contact. And also where did you leave your Will and who the executor is.


So what are you waiting for! Get out and get going. I am already out.

See you all on top. Cheers

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3 comments:

  1. Who in her right mind would carry make up, S???? Am sure you seemed to have experienced this moment and would love to hear about it. LOL.
    When i get out and get going it will be with you and you only, so there's no need to memorize this list since you would be doing all the packing. :-) xxoooxxx

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  2. You have given the basic thumb rule for packing i.e. things that are needed to save life and that is enough as advice. I think this is where your experience won you an extra point over mountain boy from Shimla.

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