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In the weeks that have transpired since publishing my previous blog "The Importance of the Minimalist Daypack", I have worked hard to gather an assortment of tools/gear in order to build out two identical daypacks for Jax and I. Part of the challenge and goal I set for myself with this project was to complete both day packs using nothing but pieces of spare gear I had lying around, or could cannibalize from other survival kits which were no longer in service for one reason or another. As you will see from the following list, there are clearly ways I could improve upon these packs if I were willing to spend some money (and I'm sure it will eventually come to that). However, for the time being, I wanted to make do with what we already had for one simple reason... A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I would rather have a usable daypack now, than a "dream-gear wishlist" years in the making. With this in mind, here is what I've come up with so far.
I repossessed these bags from a couple of mushroom hunting daypacks I had built for my folks some years ago. Unfortunately they didn't see much use so now I've given them a new life. I like these packs for a few primary reasons. They are:
STORM Survival Whistle
The loudest whistle in the world – pretty much says it all. In a survival situation, for obvious reasons this is perhaps the most important piece of gear in my entire pack. I have attached it to a ball chain so that I can carry it around my neck and keep it close to mouth for quick deployment. I am not sure if this would work as a bear deterrent. However, I am quite confident I would damage my own hearing if I blew this whistle as hard as I could without covering my ears.
Small, light and reliable. A good compass is a must in any daypack. Of course, understanding how to use it effectively and general navigation skills are necessary for best results. Multiple users have suggested that I consider a Garmin Phoenix 6 Smart Watch & GPS for its countless features including health metrics, preloaded maps, solar charging capabilities, GPS, etc. However, these can cost nearly $1000 for one of the fully decked out models, and there's a lot of other gear I could buy with that money if I were willing to spend it (which I'm not). Furthermore I am technologically illiterate and am not inclined to learn how to use a wrist computer. I like my tools mechanically simple and foolproof.
Rescue Essentials Pocket Signal Mirror
One of the most effective signalling tools in existence, it is said that a signal mirror can be seen over 100 miles away. I opted to keep it on a rope with my compass so that it too can be worn around the neck for quick deployment.
UCO Stormproof Matches
If I am ever unfortunate enough to be stuck in the Montana wilderness, I know I'm going to want fire. These storm proof matches are an excellent choice because they are light, have a long burn time compared to standard matches, and best of all they will burn hot regardless of wind or rain. In fact, a lit match can be fully submerged under water and it will still continue to burn. As wet as it can get in North Western Montana, these are essential in my opinion.
BIC lighter w/ Lighter Leash
Fire is not something I'm willing to take chances with. I often talk about building redundancies in to one's kit, and fire is one of the departments where I take this notion to the extreme. A BIC lighter is one of the easiest, safest, and most reliable sources of fire a survivalist can carry with them. Even if you run out of fuel, the sparking element can still be used to ignite tinder if need be. I have attached mine to a Lighter Leash so I can clip it to my belt loop and release the lighter as soon as I have coaxed my tinder to flame. It's good to know that my lighter won't get lost as I turn my attention to stoking the fire. I also like these little retractable leashes because they can conceivably be attached to other tools for secure use.
Collapsible Fire Bellow
If you have never used one of these before, do yourself a favor and get one immediately! Regardless of your skill level, this handy little tool will up anyone's game. Furthermore, if you've ever gotten a face/lung/eye full of burning smoke and ash while trying to get your fire going, then you will absolutely appreciate this indispensable tool. I'm not sure if it has other survival uses (Multifunction is always a plus), but the one function it does provide is so great that it justifies its own weight in my honest opinion.
Olight I3S EOS
Very small and very useful, this keychain light Includes 3 brightness settings and an emergency strobe setting as well. I have also included a spare AAA battery because they are so small and easy to stow that I can't really think of a good reason not to. Furthermore, a battery could conceivably provide further firestarting function if need be.
Thorfire Clip-On Hat Light
This little light clips onto the bill of a hat or a jacket collar and features 5 LEDs which put out 30 lumens. This might not seem like much, but it's more than enough for most nighttime functions. and considering its small size and weight as well as long run time (up to 24 hrs), this one is a super convenient backup.
Spyderco Pacific Salt
An awesome, hard use knife in H1 steel so it is virtually rust proof. I always carry a knife on me, however for my day pack I specifically liked this blade because it is very easy to spot in adverse conditions, can easily be opened/closed with one hand, has a large working blade, and above all else is fully serrated. I like serrated knives because they can cut and saw long after they have already dulled. Furthermore, I wanted to pair a saw of some sort with the primary knife/edged tool in my setup listed next.
Axxis Hand Axe
lol. I'm not sure I really have to go into the uses of this one here. ; D Suffice it to say if Jax or I are in the bush at any time, we are likely to have an Axxis with us. We might be biased here, but the Axxis can pretty much do everything a large knife can, while having the added advantage of turning into an axe should we need it.
Smith & Wesson Airweight .38 Special
It's light, it's compact, it's double action, and it throws a big gob of lead for its size. That being said, bears are everywhere in Montana. This is a fact. There was signage at every trailhead we encountered warning of the dangers that bears threaten. From this perspective, there are a number of other guns that I could carry (and have been suggested by the tribe: Ruger Alaskan, Springfield Armory pistol in 10mm, etc). However, as mentioned above, I am looking to use what I have on hand and unfortunately I don't own either of the aforementioned guns (I will likely have to remedy this once we are moved to Montana). Many of you expressed concern that a .38 special would be inadequate for the Montana wilderness. I can certainly appreciate this, and largely agree, but my thinking right now is that .38 special is still better than nothing for the time being. Some may argue that deploying this gun at all against a bear is more likely to result in angering the bear and inducing an attack vs scaring it away. I won't argue with this perspective, and I hope I never have to find out. Beyond that, I tend to like revolvers for their mechanical simplicity and ease of maintenance. No, they don't shoot as many rounds nor can they be reloaded as quickly as a Semi Automatic Pistol; but as previously noted, I'm a simple kind of guy who likes simple machines.
Potable Aqua Tabs (Iodine)
With water being as plentiful as it is in North West Montana, it is likely I will always be near a good water source. However, just because you can find water doesn't mean you should drink it. Any good survivor knows that just because water looks potable, doesn't mean it is. We've all heard enough horror stories about the parasites that can be picked up through drinking tainted water, and it's clear the threat is not to be trifled with. With these Aqua Tabs on hand, I can fill my water bladder, pop a few of these in and let them sit and I will soon have safe drinking water (or so I hope).
Again this is a redundancy (and perhaps unnecessary some might argue), but I like the additional peace of mind it provides. Furthermore, I had a couple spares and figured, "why not"! Since fresh water is so plentiful in the part of Montana where Jax and I will primarily spend our time, I am less concerned with water procurement than I am with water purification. It's imperative that one do their best to avoid any waterborne pathogens. A LifeStraw won't necessarily remove all harmful chemicals from our water, but its .2 micron filter means 99.99% of parasites will not be able to permeate its filter.
In a tough survival situation, I believe every little morale boost you can give yourself is valuable. In my day-to-day life, I am ashamed to say that I am addicted to chapstick. I carry a chapstick on me all the time regardless of the situation, so it is likely I would also have a tube in my pocket. However, the one inside my day pack also provides SPF protection. Nobody likes a roasted pucker!
Gorilla Super Glue
The uses for super glue are countless, however my primary interest in it is from a medical standpoint. If Jax or I are unlucky enough to be stranded in the wild with a nasty cut of some sort, she and I both lack the medical training to suture a wound ourselves. While this is clearly something we should learn (along with general medical knowledge as a whole), super glue can provide an effective alternative for wound closure in a worst case scenario.
Like super glue, the uses for duct tape are nearly limitless. That being said, it was included again for its medical value. I like the idea of being able to quickly apply a compression wrap to a fresh wound and hold it securely with duct tape, thereby freeing my hands for other urgent needs. Furthermore it can be used to great advantage in blister mitigation. Beyond that, I will allow you to imagine all of the other useful things duct tape could be used for in the bush.
Mountain Series Medical Kit Day Tripper
While I ultimately plan to build my own custom medkit which can fit inside a small mess tin (to use for boiling water) and will be composed of medical tools/gear that I feel comfortable using with my current skill/education level, this small medkit will serve as an adequate place holder. This is actually one area I plan on expanding on in much greater detail in the future, as there are a lot of factors a survivor should consider when building an appropriate medkit for their needs. I don't want to get into here, but my unconventional approach to medical gear may surprise you. Keep an eye out for this in the Minimalist Monday series. (Link this to the MM playlist on Youtube)
Deet Bug Spray
Is it a highly toxic chemical? Yes. Should I be using it? No. Again, morale is everything when you're already up a river of shit without a paddle, so I am more than willing to suffer the chemical repercussions of applying this poison to my skin for a few days if it means keeping my body free of painful, itching bug bites.
Deuce of Spades Shovel
While this might not be 100% needed for an emergency daypack, it sure is nice to be able to dig a quick hole when nature comes calling. And at only 17 grams, it's easily forgotten in a pack. Furthermore, a shovel can have many additional survival uses beyond just digging holes. If weight were of no concern to me however, I would definitely take my Cold Steel trenching shovel.
SOL Escape Bivvy
Of the three bivvys offered by SOL, this is the biggest and the baddest. If I had nothing else, this would likely be more than enough to survive. However, I place an exceptionally high value on comfort in the bush, and I believe this is especially true for one who already finds themself in the unfortunate situation of being lost in the wild. As previously noted, any morale boost you can give yourself when you are already down is well worth it. This bivvy is heavier than the others, but for the time being I am willing to tolerate this in exchange for the added security and comfort this one can provide.
Mylar Emergency Blanket
These are great to have on hand because they reflect an enormous amount of heat, are exceptionally light/compact and are 100% waterproof. It can be used to quickly recover body heat if I get wet, and can also serve in shelter buildings as roof or a heat reflective wall. This is another example of what I would consider a worthwhile redundancy.
Mylar Lined Emergency Tarp
Like the Mylar sheet above, this provides heat reflective properties with the added benefit of having stainless eye holes around the entire perimeter of the tarp. These allow me to easily use the tarp to create a shelter or expansive raincover. Furthermore, the eyes allow me to tie/tension the tarp according to the given environment I find myself in. Additionally, the back of the tarp is a bright, fire engine red which can aid in alerting an aerial search party to my whereabouts.
Eddie Bauer Jacket Shell
I am only carrying this because I don't currently have something better. This jacket is entirely too bulky, heavy, and water permeable. Regardless, it is still better than nothing. A good waterproof windbreaker/jacket are indispensable to any survivor, but especially in Montana where weather conditions can change very quickly and drastically. In this regard, I actually consider a shell a piece of my shelter setup. If I had nothing but a good shell to ball up within if I were stranded in the wild overnight, my chances of survival would go up exponentially. Another good alternative to the shell jacket would be a large poncho (as many of you have suggested). It definitely provides some additional shelter value beyond what a standard jacket can and is well worth further consideration. I am also considering Zpack's Vertices Jacket and Pants. Together they are still smaller and lighter than my Eddie Bauer jacket, and far more functional.
While I have included this primarily for shelter building, the uses for paracord are too many to list. From fishing and trapping to building slings and tourniquets, a good measure of cordage is clearly a must in any daypack. I prefer bright colors for obvious reasons.
Phew! That is everything I have collected for my daypack thus far. Some additional items that I have yet to include/acquire include the following items listed below. To those tribe members who made these suggestions, Jax and I are most grateful!
Small fishing kit
As plentiful as fishing spots are in North West Montana, it would be silly not to include the most minimal in fishing supplies.
Mainstay 3600 Emergency Food Rations
I like the idea of being able to easily catch fish, but I can't guarantee that the fish bite the bait. For those times, I undoubtedly need to carry a small supply of emergency food. These Mainstay packages have enough food to last for three days, which is hopefully more than enough time for help to find me/me to find help.
The obvious alternative to a gun. I will probably still carry both. I am not sure of its effectiveness or deployability but like a condom, I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
With the obvious threat of bears in Montana, it would clearly be a good idea to carry a bear bag in which I can store my open food. They can also be hoisted high into a tree and out of reach of most bears.
Multi Tool w/ Knife, Saw, Plyer, etc.
Perhaps a Leatherman Wave can replace my Spyderco knife while providing a number of additional dedicated functions. I tend to be a "knife purist" in this regard, and have rarely (if ever) carried a multitool on my body. But that doesn't mean I can't learn to change my ways! Of course, the Axxis is still a must.
A Small Pack of Disposable Wipes
I don't know why this didn't occur to me earlier! I thought to bring the shovel to dig the hole, but I didn't really consider what I would do after I had filled it!