Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Lurch » September 8th, 2018, 4:59 pm

Aimless wrote:
September 8th, 2018, 11:08 am
Situations that develop into search and rescues don't always involve one big mistake caused by inexperience. Occasionally, a "sensible, experienced hiker" will make a series of misjudgments, each one seemingly small and not necessarily a dangerous decision until it is viewed in retrospect. Pile a few of these misjudgments on top of one another and add a last piece of bad luck, and you're in deep trouble.

Not carrying sufficient food/water/clothing/gear to survive a night out is just one misjudgment that will rarely be enough in itself to cause a problem. To many experienced hikers, confident of their ability, ditching the extra weight looks like a good idea, not a bad one. If so, just be sure to bring a supply of good luck with you. You might need it.
I would also say, that many 'experienced' hikers are truly fair weather creatures, and I would almost say that most have not tested themselves in foul weather. I really can't understate that. Your goal (IMO) should be to be skilled to the level that an unexpected night in the woods is just that, an unexpected night in the woods, an inconvenience, not a legitimate life and death struggle battling exposure, injury, and panic. Don't fool yourself into thinking you know more than you actually do, and expect to excel in situations you've never been in. (speaking generally of course)

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Chip Down » September 8th, 2018, 6:31 pm

Just by chance, I happened to run across a one-strap pack when I was out shopping today. Google this: rothco tactisling transport pack.

I don't want to get too far off-topic here, so I'll limit myself to one quick comment on the essential-gear discussion: I see a disproportionate number of SAR events that could have been avoided if a hiker had either kept a time budget, or carried a good headlamp. Getting caught by dark seems to be high on the list of mistakes.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by arlohike » September 8th, 2018, 6:46 pm

Hey, thanks for all the feedback! I'm thinking I'll keep all the gear I have, but experiment with different shoulder padding this fall, and look into a larger waistpack or a one-strap setup if I still can't make that work.
retired jerry wrote:
September 8th, 2018, 8:01 am
a "space blanket" gives a lot of warmth for the weight and bulk. You'd want it on the outside for it to work optimally. Maybe have it instead of insulated jacket? Or a thinner insulated jacket?
Right, I love how tiny those are. Even in my small waistpack, I kept a space blanket, whistle, small tube of Tecnu and a few band-aids. Practically no space or weight for that stuff.

One thing I added that isn't part of the ten essentials and is relatively heavy is a pruning tool for doing a little volunteer trail maintenance when the need arises.
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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by VanMarmot » September 9th, 2018, 6:05 am

I recognize that what constitutes "enough" gear is based on a series of highly personal decisions - ranging from "It'll never happen to me" to "OMG, what if I'm hit by an asteroid?" So one size isn't ever going to fit all (or even one person all the time). This post sums up my many years of fooling with gear in various climates: STUFF. I've scaled it back a lot from when we winter hiked in Colorado and thrashed through wet foliage in Hawaii, but it's still more than I see on most folks on the trail (when I see anyone at all). Well, to each their own. But this gathering of stuff is designed to keep me alive :) - but not necessarily comfortable :( - until rescue arrives or I make it out on my own [or The LovedOne finds that life insurance policy ;) ].

If your pack straps bother you, consider the strapless ME-2 pack - The LovedOne got one when a neck injury made straps impossible - it's not perfect but she's been able to keep on hiking.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by jalepeno » September 9th, 2018, 5:17 pm

It all depends if you are hiking alone or with friends.
If you are with friends, everybody doesn't need to carry a first aid kit or water filter.
You can spread those things out among everybody.

If I am alone, a different calculus is involved.
The central question is, " Would I be able to spend the night out and survive with what's in my pack?"
As a result, I usually have a heavier pack than others.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Webfoot » September 16th, 2018, 10:18 am

I have never carried "shelter" and I wonder if that's foolish. My expectation is that I would have to stay awake to say warm, whatever I bring, and that good clothing is the priority. Lurch, do you have a comment about this?

jerry, I tried a "space blanket" once and it didn't impress me. I've still got one in my backpack but I think of it as an extra rain layer rather than for warmth. Maybe I used it wrong?
Last edited by Webfoot on September 16th, 2018, 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by retired jerry » September 16th, 2018, 10:48 am

It has to be the outer layer

It doesn't provide a lot of warmth

You see them in emergency situations sometimes, or after an athletic event

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by Lurch » September 17th, 2018, 8:53 am

Personally, I despise the ultra lightweight mylar "space blankets". They're not very functional, one time use only, fragile, and in all honesty are probably more of a false assurance than an actual asset. I much prefer the heavier (preferably ripstop) emergency blankets, you can also get military surplus versions.

You've got a spectrum of eblankets, starting from the cheap one use mylar ones, a SOL would be somewhere in the middle, up to heavier duty tarp style blankets like this:

Something like this is a good middle ground, as good or better than a SOL blanket, but not as annoying to pack as the full deal:


The problem with the mylar ones is that they aren't durable, one small puncture and the thing practically shreds into confetti. They're difficult to manipulate in windy conditions, (without shredding them) and even more so if your dominate hand happens to be injured, which is a fairly common scenario if you're in an emergency situation anyways.

Jerry is right though, it needs to be on the outer layer, you *need* to have the dead air space in there.

Hypothermia 101 Lesson time!

There are 5 methods of heat loss that apply to us out in the wilderness.
  • Convection: Wind
  • Evaporation: Wetness/sweat
  • Conduction: Physical contact to another object
  • Respiration: Breathing in cold air, and out warm
  • Radiation: This is just what warm bodies do, nature tries to create balance
Your battle with nature, and half the reason we have clothing in general, is to balance those to keep yourself in a happy middle ground. Sometimes you need a little heat loss though, since activity naturally generates heat. In survival bivy mode it's all about locking in and retaining as much as you can.

Thermal blankets are *awesome* heat reflectors. They'll capture that radiated heat and bounce it back towards you. But they need insulated airspace in between to truly be effective. Similar to how different a thick down puffy jacket vs a thin compressed one. Those small pockets of air help to retain the heat, and mitigate the other heat loss methods from sucking it away.

Thermal blankets however, due to their nature, are also pretty good conductors of heat, and when pressed directly on skin without that airspace, (or tight on wet clothing on skin) they tend to be counter productive and suck heat away.

If you're a trail runner, or someone that hikes hard and intentionally dresses light due to your activity level, you're going to be extremely susceptible if you need to make an unexpected overnight stay without additional gear. You've worked up a sweat, and we humans are "designed" to purge excess heat through sweat evaporation (some estimates say during heavy activity up to about 85% of your heat loss is through sweat evaporation). Your clothing will retain some of that wetness, and continue to cool you through evaporation long after your activity level has dropped and your body is no longer generating sweat. Your lightweight clothing is most likely not windproof, (to aid in shedding the moisture and heat from hard activity) and will make you susceptible to convection.

A simple change of clothes (even base layers) to remove the sweat soaked stuff will provide you with a lot of security. STAY DRY. A good shell to protect you from outside moisture and wind, or appropriately 'burritoing' up with a decent thermal blanket will help to retain that. Try not to breath into your shelter or jacket, since you expel a lot more moisture from your breath than you think, (think about when you have foggy breath during cold weather), and you don't want to introduce that moisture into your now dry closed system. Breathing through your nose, and through a balaclava or bandana or something will help retain a bit of heat. Either bring a pad, or nest up and make a little bough bed or something to get you up off the ground or rocks, and help reduce the conduction factor. (both the pad, and bough bed help by creating lots of little pockets of dead air space). Pee, so you're not wasting energy heating useless liquid, and have snacks, calories = heat, and food slowly nibbling food can be a glorious mental distraction from the cold and the boredom.

If it's a true SHTF kind of scenario, make sure you're visible and provide some sort of clues from the surrounding area. Building out a natural sort of shelter can help immensely for your heat loss, but it also has a side effect of camouflaging your and hiding you from rescuers. If it goes to the point where you're unconscious and unresponsive, you want a way to be found.

The main reason that I would recommend a heavier thermal blanket is that they have multiple uses, and *using* it often will give you a much better understanding of what it's capable of and how to be most effective with it. Those heavier ones can be used as your normal groundcloth if you're stopping for lunch, with a little bit of cord (or even without if you work it right) you can throw it up as a quick rainfly. It can be tight, but if you do it right you can build a little C frame shelter to be both a rain fly and ground cloth, build a small fire in front of it and your shelter will radiate the fire heat back on you and you can have a relatively cozy in night in cold conditions. (Throw in wind/rain and it gets a little more complicated).

I may be rambling now, but I just want to make it clear that you don't need to be packing a full tent and piles of gear to survive a night, but you do need to know your gear, how to use it, and awareness on your activity and condition through the whole day, to prepare for those 'just in case' scenarios. People not wearing shells in the rain because "they're hot", or not wearing hats (especially with long hair) and letting their head get soaked are peeves of mine. It may feel good now, but if you need to stop moving for more than 30 minutes it's going to be uncomfortable, and then it's going to be dangerous, all because the immediate 'easy' overshadowed the long game.

We need to be prepped for more, and need to be able to function in any scenario we can land in, but we always pack a tarp, medium-to-heavy duty thermal blanket (those mylar ones don't cut it for us), and some sort of fleece blanket, along with extra clothes and such. It may not be a comfortable night in the woods, but you should be able to make it a survivable night in the woods in all but the worst of circumstances.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by retired jerry » September 17th, 2018, 10:46 am

I agree space blanket doesn't provide a lot of warmth.

If it's on the outside, then you won't radiate as much heat away, that helps.

If you could have the reflective layer inside, and there was an air space, it would provide some warmth. But there isn't much of an air gap between layers. A neo air mattress has reflective layers, and the mattress provides an air gap next to the reflective layer, so that works. If you have a jacket, for example, over the reflective layer there is very little air gap so it provides little warmth.

It will also prevent evaporative heat loss.

As an emergency supply it has some value, because it weighs so little. It's not really re-usable, but for an emergency that would be okay.

It might keep you alive, depending on how cold it was and what else you brought with you.

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Re: Minimum pack size / emergency supplies

Post by dirtman » September 18th, 2018, 10:48 am

I really like my chest pack which is an original kit bag v2 from Hill People Gear. It is comfortable for me to wear with my full backpack at the same time. It also works well in combination with a hip pack or a day pack. The best part about it is the ability to have quick access to items without having to take a pack off - GPS, camera, binoculars, map, handgun, snacks, fish gear, etc. When I am driving back roads and stopping at various places looking for mushrooms, I dont even have to take it off when I get in and out of my vehicle.

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