My Go Bag

I started writing about another one of my adventures and realized I should cover something very important.

For lack of a better term, I am calling this my Go Bag.  It is a bag that I carry with me pretty much anywhere I go.  It comes and goes with me to and from work and thrown behind the seat when we head to the city as a family.  But more importantly it is taken with me when I go out on an adventure.

Depending on what the ultimate plan is, more is added to it, or the contents are even removed and added to a larger pack as additions to the necessities for that occasion.  But the intent is that I have some basic items with me, always.  So it is a bag that I can simply grab and go, without having to think about what I am taking or worry that maybe I forgot something important.

I have recently upgraded to a larger bag.  I am still a bit unsure about this bag, I really liked my old one.  But with the new addition of photography to my life, a safe carrying system for my camera and accessories called for it.  So here is a quick run-down of what I carry in my Go Bag.

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I guess we will start with:

Camera – My phone used to serve this purpose.  But too often I found myself not being able to capture what my eyes saw with the basic camera on my phone.  This is a big adjustment as a Nikon DSLR, two lenses, batteries, filters, etc not only weigh quite a bit, but also take up a lot of space.  It is counter intuitive to carry all of this with me as I have always been conscious of weight and size as I have packed for adventures.  But I find something driving me to capture these images, so I am trying to adjust and find a system that works.

Headlamp – I have found this to be invaluable.  I used to carry a flashlight but too often I needed my hands.  I have gone through several headlamps until I found a Black Diamond Revolt.  There are a few things I love about this headlamp.  1 – it is a single strap around the head.  I hate the over the top straps.  2 – it’s small and light weight.  3 – it’s super bright.  4 – different modes including the ability to adjust brightness. 5 – it’s rechargeable and takes AAA batteries, so I can easily carry spares. 6 – it lasts a loooong time.  I have proven this on a good 3-4 hour hike off of the mountain in the dark with it running constant on high.  This is an item I would label as a must.

GPS – I carry a Garmin Oregon 450.  It is an older model but has been great for my needs.  I try to use it sparingly as I want to keep my natural sense of direction sharp.  But I always try to mark specifics, like base camp or a vehicle, just in case.  I have also been able to download maps as a compact way to see where I am and what landmarks are around.  Finally, with the ability to save tracks, I can often look to see where roads are that I have been down before or trails I have previously traveled.  It is handy when heading into a previously visited area from a different direction.

GPS Case – I have a case that I carry my GPS in.  It also holds spare batteries for it and my headlamp.

Velcro Straps – These are light weight straps that have Velcro, or hook and loop, on them.  They are designed to since down something but are handy for so many uses.  They are super light weight and don’t take up any space.

Snacks – Granola bars are great.  They last forever and can be filling.  I also have cliff bars and usually some candy.  Another must, for me, is sunflower seeds.  They aren’t filling, but a good munchy type snack to munch on while you hike, ride, or sit.  My favorite flavor is Chili Lime.

Water – I usually carry at least one bottle.  This is one of those things that is added to depending on the destination.  But it never hurts to have a little extra and you never know when you might need a container.

Paracord and Small Bungies – Again, these are light weight and can come in handy for so many things.  I have used it for many, many non-emergency situations.  So if that emergency ever does arrive, how much more grateful I will be to have them.

Toilet Paper in Ziplock bags – I specify in a ziplock bag because the bag is important.  I carry dry toilet paper and also a biodegradable wet wipe.  The dry gets the job done and, frankly, sometimes we need to do some extra cleanup and that’s where the wet ones come in. The ziplock bags keep the dry ones dry and the wet ones wet.  Also, you never know when a bag may be handy.  Again, it doesn’t take up space, and is light.  So having the extra item is a no-brainer.

While we are on a personal note:

Chafing Relief Cream – This has been a life saver more than once and for more than just me.  I used to carry vasoline, or petroleum jelly,  because of the fire-making bonus.  But I found the specific cream to bring more relief and it is so much less messy. I carry a Monistat brand, packaged in beautiful purple and soft-orchid coloring.  You may chuckle now but if you ever need it, you’ll be so happy to have it.

Battery Bank – This is a new addition.  My brother-in-law actually turned me onto these on a recent outing.  I realized that with this bank I could charge my phone, my Garmin watch, my hand-held radios, my headlamp…. You get the point.  I bought an Anker 10000 mAh.  It is about the size of a credit card, about 3/4″ thick, and fairly light.  It comes with  a small pouch and two short cords cover all of my chargeable items.  It is supposed to be capable of recharging my iPhone 3 full times.  I haven’t used it that often, but so far, so good.

Gloves – I have a pair of Legendary gloves I carry with me.  They are thin and fit my hands well allowing me to operate zippers, clasps, and such without having to remove them.  I have used them in some pretty cold weather and been happy with how snug they have kept my hands.

Paper Map – I do have some basic maps loaded on my GPS but I have found that printed maps can be easier to navigate, not having to mess with the little screen, and can also be more detailed.  So I try to carry a few maps of the areas I spend a lot of time in.  These are also compact and light weight and can act as fire-starter if necessary.

And that brings me to:

2-3 forms of Fire – I carry a magnesium stick with striker, waterproof matches with cotton balls, and the almighty lighter.  Ideally the lighter is going to be the quick solution to making a fire.  But you never know.  Because fire is such an important piece to survival and general outdoor life, I make sure that I have a way to make one.  These are critical items.

Drugs – I carry a little ziplock bag with some Aleve, ibuprofen, and cough drops.  I have a knee that want’s to act up once in a while so having these with me has been helpful to relieve some discomfort.  None of these are super powerful but they can help and, again, they are small and light weight so why not?

And that leads into:

First Aid Kit – I have this “pack size” kit that I carry.  It is small and light weight.  It also comes with straps and a clasp so it can easily be attached to the outside of a pack if needed.  Now, I recently had to use this kit.  I was prying teeth from a bear jaw-bone I had found while taking a squat in the woods and slipped.  I found out how sharp my newly sharpened knife was as it hardly nicked my hand but left a deep, cleanly cut I might add, wound.  I know….dumb moved prying with a knife blade but that’s not why I am telling this story.  As I accessed my kit I found that the alcohol wipes were completely dry.  Also, there was no tape and no gauze.  I was able to flush the wound with water and then wipe it out with some re-hydrated alcohol wipes.  I then did my best to spider-web the wound with band aids that didn’t stick very good anymore.  Luckily another member of the party had tape and gauze and I was able to re-bandage.

The moral of the story?  In my opinion, tape and gauze are a must.  You won’t bleed out from something a band aid can cover.  Yes, infection could be an issue down the road if it isn’t covered well.  But for immediate first aid in emergency situations, a band aid isn’t going to do you any good.  Also, keep your kit up to date.  My wipes were dry, my antiseptic was nearly hardened, and my band aids weren’t sticking.  What’s the point of carrying it at that point?

Okay, we’ve covered the Go Bag contents but there are a couple of other items I carry with me at all times.

Watch – I would call this more of a comfort item then a necessity.  I wear a Garmin Vivioactive watch.  I’ve only had it for less than a year but have come to love it.  I have found it to be more durable and resilient than the prior Fitbit I wore.  I don’t have to baby it, which is good, because a lot of what I do is wet, dirty, or rough.  I don’t think about what is on my wrist before diving in.  I say it is a comfort item because I don’t really use it as a tool.  It’s more “for my information” that I use it.  I can see how many miles I’ve hiked, what the elevation is, sunset and sunrise times, etc.  It doesn’t have some basic track-back features that might be handy in a pinch but I haven’t used it for that yet.  Also, it does have a live track mode that could be useful letting loved ones know where you are and such.  But if you don’t have cellphone reception it doesn’t work and that’s often the case with me.  Even when there is reception I haven’t been able to get it to work consistently.   But anyways, this isn’t a review of the product.  I love my Garmin because of the information it gives me at the touch of a button.  It is interesting and informative and another item I usually always have on me no matter how rough my adventure gets.

Sidearm – I know this is a touchy subject in the world today, but yes, I am talking about a gun.  I have a couple of sizes I carry depending on the occasion.  I do this for a few reasons.  First, there are predators in the areas I go out in.  We are talking bears, mountain lion, and wolves.  While I don’t intend to hurt them, a warning shot from a loud gun can startle and scare them off.  If that doesn’t work, I will defend myself and my family.  Secondly, if I do get stranded it is an opportunity to get food in desperate circumstances.  Thirdly, it is a scary world we live in.  You see it on the news every day.  I want to be able to defend my family and myself in situations where help is a long ways away.  You never know who you are going to meet out in those situations.  If their intentions are not good, I want to be able to defend myself and my loved ones.  I once had a friend of mine, an avid outdoors man,  who had worked a long career in law enforcement tell me that “….animals don’t scare me.  It’s the people that I’m afraid of…”

I’m not looking to write an article on guns, I am just stating that it is an item I choose to carry with me because of the advantage it can give me in unpleasant circumstances.  These are worst case scenarios and I don’t like to think about them.  But just like the First Aid kit, paracord, and other items, I need to consider these situations in order to be prepared.

I prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

Leatherman – My Leatherman Charge muli-tool was an impulse buy nearly 10 years ago.  But it has become an extension of my right arm.  I have come to depend on it the way most of us depend on our phones.  To me, it is an outdoor must!!!  With a knife, pliers, saw, screw drivers, and so much more, it is an invaluable tool.  Just like most of these other items, I haven’t had to depend on it in an emergency situation.  But I would estimate conservatively that it is handled and used more than 10 times each day.  To have access to such a variety of tools right on my belt is huge!

I want to re-iterate that these are just the basics that I try to carry everywhere.  This is not a survival pack guide.  It’s just my list of items I keep in my bag, just in case.  I add to and alter this package depending on the occasion and circumstances.  But to have some of the basic, important necessities, packaged up and ready to go, has been so handy and could someday, save my life.

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