survival instructor waist deep in snow

Pack it in!

My day pack has taken many many years to get “perfect”. What do you really NEED if you were to be out for a few “unplanned” days?

This is my contents list. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I hate kit lists. They are very personal and depend completely on aspects such as skill set, conditions, luxuries, ability to suffer, fitness and how much you’re happy to hump over long distances. If anyone gives you the “ultimate kit list” run like hell!

So, let’s start with my pack. It’s nothing special, an Osprey 38L day pack in earth tone colors that I have taken all over the world and abused in the jungle and on mountain trips. It has been an instructor’s pack and carried far too much weight. It has been down rivers, strapped to vehicles, thrown off the roofs of trucks, fallen off a camel, used as a sit pad and generally bashed about.

Osprey 38l pack (photo:

It is a grand old thing and after 11 years is still going strong. It has “character” now and I reckon if a nuclear bomb went off it would still be there, dragging its mutilated body along with one red eye and a stylish leather jacket from the 80’s. However, when we finally kill it, it won’t be back. Unfortunately, I have eyes for another. 

Your pack is super important! Make sure it fits, it is comfy, and it can hold everything you’re carrying including the coat you are wearing. When you layer down on the uphill don’t end up looking like a bronze DofE kid with all your gear strapped to the outside of your pack!

The list of equipment is extensive and marries to the pocket kit to back up the key items. It is also winter at the time of writing, so a few extra things are thrown in to deal with exposure.

  • Map and compass, waterproof notebook, pens etc
  • Laplander folding saw
  • Fixed blade knife
  • Major bleed kit
  • Personal admin bag = Vaseline, wet wipes, loo roll, talc, sunscreen stick
  • Foot care bag = Spare socks and blister kit
  • Heavy leather gloves (Hestra Larsfalt guides), merino wool beanie, Buff
  • Warm windproof layer
  • Spare base layer
  • Full set of waterproofs
  • Head torch and spare batteries (Big jobbie from BlackDiamond, it’s like the sun!)
  • Stainless steel water bottle (1.75L)
  • Big bag of trail mix type things (try to figure out how many calories your packing) 
  • “Bag of things” including – Fire kit, knife strop, cordage, bike inner tube, Millbank bag etc.
  • 3mx3m tarp and lines
  • Big plastic bivi bag (never to be entered!)
  • Blizzard blanket
  • Rucksack cover
  • Orange plastic Sainsbury’s bag. The cheapest signal panel money can buy!

So most of this seems standard and it is for a lot of well prepared hill walkers. However a little breakdown seems in order.

Tools – For me tools make me so much more efficient and paired with my knowledge allow me to light fires and make things with ease.

The heavy leather gloves go hand in hand with the above (excuse the pun) they protect my hands from hot things, spikey things and generally working in the woods and dealing with ropes.

Hestra Gloves (photo:

Stainless steel water bottle – the one most forget. Metal containers are gold dust in the wilderness. How else will you boil water?

Millbank bag – It filters out the particulates and has no moving parts which means I can’t break it.

Bike inner tube – The wild card. You will have to attend a course to learn its many uses!

Feet – Not the top of the agenda for many people but it should be. Clean, dry feet and well attended to blisters will allow you to move. And at the end of the day either you move, or you die. 

Shelter – something to sleep under, in and on. That big orange bag when stuffed with detritus makes a great insulating mattress and weighs nothing. It also has as many uses as your imagination can dream up.

What I hope you are getting from this is that all the items must be multi-functional and or essential to aid in my key areas of survival.

Medical         Communication
Shelter          Fire
Water            Food
Navigation    Movement

With this kit I can live very comfortably for weeks and weeks. In fact, I would starve to death way before injury, dehydration or the cold got me. And ultimately that is the goal. Survive and thrive!