Organizing your pack is as essential in your overall comfort and readiness as the pack and gear themselves. While each pack must be customized to the user, some common guidelines should be followed to allow the quickest and easiest use of your gear.
The layout of your gear should be considered when you research your pack choices and taken into consideration when purchasing your pack. The pack must have the ability to keep some items close to hand for immediate use, without removing the pack. Others need to be accessible easily and quickly to react to a hazard or threat. These items are not a replacement for the items kept on your person at all times.
The ability to utilize certain gear items without removing your pack increases safety. By removing your pack, most people will twist, turn or bend while moving a weight at odd angles than their body is accustomed to or stepping on a stone, log or other trip hazard can lead to a slip or fall, resulting in an injury.
- Map and Compass- You should be able to access and use your map and compass without removing your pack. Land navigation is a critical skill and the tools to carry out this task should be available while on the move.
- Water Bottle- You should be able to get a drink without taking your pack off, whether using a hydration bladder or a water bottle.
- Pack Balance- Heavy and bulkier items should be packed close to the middle and closest to your body for maximum balance. Also, keep the pack from resting on your gluteus muscles. This will keep the weight of the pack from hindering your blood flow and muscle movement while hiking, thus maintaining stamina and endurance for long hikes. Your pack should ride above the hips to allow the free movement of the muscles and free blood flow to your lower extremities. (They call it a “kidney pad” for a reason)
- Food- Trail food (food that is easily eaten while still moving) should be packed so you can reach it for consumption while still moving. A small snack can help replace burnt calories and maintain the energy to continue. Food items should also be kept packed as to be easily gotten once you stop. You will be tired and still need to establish camp (if an overnight trip) once stopped, so digging through your pack to find food is wasted energy and time.
- Water Purification- At least one main source (tablets, filter, etc) of water purification should be kept easily accessible for when water is located. Time spent looking for your filter is wasted time.
- Flashlight- This should be easily accessible even when moving.
- E-tool- Your digging tool will need to be accessible in a hurry in case you must dig a cat hole without much warning. You do not want to chance an accident or being unsanitary because your tool was in the bottom of your pack.
- Knife- You will want your knife available even while moving. You may need it to cut a vine or other obstacle.
- Food gathering- Traps, snares or fishing kits will need to be ready once you get to camp. You may be using the last rays of natural light to set your traps or trot lines, so time spent digging for these items can mean using a flashlight and thus using battery power.
- Fire starting- Your fire making kit should be easily accessible and in an outside pocket if possible. If you slip into water in freezing temperatures, you’ll need the ability to create fire as soon as possible and digging for your kit can mean the difference between life and death.
- Weather Gear- Your rain jacket, poncho, etc needs to be accessible in case a sudden storm rolls in. These can be adjusted day to day, but know exactly where yours and any children’s are in the group for ready use.
- Safety Whistle- This can have several uses that makes it needed while on the move. It can be used to make extra noise to deter predators or signal someone seen from a distance to save your voice.
- Field Guide- You should have a book or pamphlets available for quick identification of plants, trees, tracks, and animals while on the move. The best way to forage is to do so while on the move, so identification of what you find is ideal. You should be familiar with your local plants already but the hike you are on may be a training session.
- First Aid- You should have your kit (and everyone’s in your group) easily accessible without getting inside the pack. First aid needs can be an immediate need and time lost looking for the kit can mean life or death. *More on First Aid under Section VIII) Medical*
- These are but suggestions and the reasons why we suggest them. Each person will make their own choice but groups should organize in a similar layout to allow each member to find another’s gear if needed. Also, create an inventory of each pack and where each item is located. Organizing each task’s gear into smaller pouches or bags will help keep things organized and from becoming “lost” in the pack. Ziploc’s can be used to organize many smaller items and keep them dry and offers uses to carry foraged items if needed. If using a pouch or other opaque method to carry items in the pack, make a label or write the items carried on the pack, even if using a standardized symbol for the items known to everyone in your group.
Each Tier should be planned to add to the previous Tier and they should complement each other. The lists created are what the basics are and each person will need to balance their skills and need to the lists. You will also find many items are listed on each Tier. The idea is the item(s) is needed on every level of preparation and one should always have a spare, but the overall number (multi-tools are listed at every Tier for example) is up to the person/group packing.
The hunting and defensive tools have not been covered as much, as firearms use and ownership are an individual decision. Being able to provide food for yourself or your family is tantamount to being prepared and there are several options available to accomplish this need. While calibers and actions will vary by personal/group choice, this very basic “battery” will offer the widest range and probably the best options available for an emergency; a 22LR rifle/carbine with quality optics, standard caliber sidearm (revolver or pistol), shotgun, medium/high powered rifle with optics and open iron sights. The 22LR will offer the best and widest range of game animals to be harvested; the shotgun offers the advantage of a wider shot pattern for moving targets like birds in-flight, plus a wide variety of ammunition choices for hunting or defense; the sidearm should be sufficient to neutralize the predators in your area and act as a defensive tool; the main rifle should be able to take big game easily without destroying the meat and will be your primary defense against aggressors to maintain distance. Firearms considerations for emergency preparation will be discussed in more depth later.
We have written many different items of gear to consider but you must be the final decision maker in your purchases. What works for one person may be a liability or hindrance to another, so each kit/Tier is customized to the individual or group needs. The biggest item to remember is that gear will NOT replace skills and knowledge, so when you purchase the item you need (after much research…the knowledge), practice, practice, practice and when you have it mastered to a science, practice some more until it is an art form (the skill). The time to open your gear is NOT during a crisis.
Get Trained. Be Ready. Stay Prepared.