10 essentials for the Two-Four

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It’s almost the “Two-Four,” what I call “the long weekend pilgrimage to the country” that ideally marks the true end of winter and the tentative launch of summer in our province.  Given the weekend’s traditional tendency for climatic drama – anything from snow to sun and everything in between, I always try to be prepared for whatever hallowed holiday’s weather throws my way.

I never leave home without my common sense – it is the most essential of the essentials in my kit.

 As I am often asked what I take along when I go outdoors, I decided to share my version of the 10 Essentials: items crucial to my survival if I get stuck outside unexpectedly.  I like to tuck all of the items mentioned below into a stuff sack and toss into the bottom of my pack at the beginning of the season so I don’t have to think about it each time I’m headed out the door.

  1. Emergency shelter: This can be a tarp or space blanket or something as simple as a large garbage bag. With this item, I can construct a simple shelter in which to spend a night.
  2. Water and water purification supplies:  I carry two litres of water and water purification tablets to purify more if my supply runs low.
  3. Fire starting materials: Waterproof matches and a pocketknife combined with fire-starting sticks or paraffin filled egg cartons help me start a fire in the wettest of weather.
  4. Extra food: I always pack an extra meal in case I can’t get back home. Having extra food reduces stress and helps me make good decisions.
  5. Extra clothing: I plan for the worst possible weather even if the forecast calls for a beautiful day. I pack enough clothes to be warm, dry, and comfortable no matter what the weather throws at me.
  6. Whistle and cell phone: The human voice does not carry very far and is easily tired out. A whistle is an excellent signaling device and can help me attract attention if I’m injured or lost. The cell phone may allow me to call for assistance if there is coverage and I’ve remembered to keep it well charged.
  7. Flashlight or headlamp: Sometimes an adventure takes longer than expected and darkness falls. A flashlight helps light my way and can be used as a signaling device. A headlamp fits around my head and operates hands-free.
  8. Sun protection: It’s critical to protect my eyes and skin from the UV rays in sunlight. I take along a good pair of sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm of at least 15 SPF.
  9. First-aid kit: I pack along first aid supplies that allow the treatment of cuts, burns, blisters, and sprains.
  10. Map and compass:  A topographic map and compass help me know where I am. My compass has a mirror so I can also use it as a signaling device.  I often have a GPS but I don’t depend on it for navigation.

Additionally, there is always one thing I leave behind at home: a “trail or float plan” that lets loved ones know where I am heading and how long I expect to be out. This makes it easy for them to know when I might be overdue back. Finally, I never leave home without my common sense – it is the most essential of the essentials in my kit.