Archives for May 2016

Backcountry Essentials- What do you bring?


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The Boy Scouts say there are 10, some people bring a two pound First Aid kit, and some say all you need is athletic tape and pain killers. My essentials kit tends to change a little seasonally, for instance, I add a small repair kit for long ski trips. However, generally, my essentials fit in a quart Ziploc bag, weighs 9oz,  and is ready to go for an afternoon hike or 3 day trip. For the purposes of this post, I’ll break up my kit into two categories: First Aid, and survival items/general use items.


First Aid




–          5’of 2” Coflex (stretchy self-adhesive wrap)

–          One vile Dermabond

–          Steri Strips

–          Gauze pads

–          Quik Clot Sport

–          .03 ozAquaphor packet

–          4Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

–          6 Ibuprofen

–          Tiny tweezers

–          Pin

–          Two feet 1” 3M Micropore tape.

My PA friend who works in an ER recommended Coflex. He says it is one of the most effective for bleeding control tools, especially for extremities. It can be stretched very tight, like an ACE bandage but is also self-adhesive and can be reused.  It’s also cheap. It seems like it would be very effective for splinting broken bones as well. Dermabond also came recommended for the same friend. This is medical grade super glue. It is effective for closing smaller wounds or could be used in conjunction with Steri-Stips for larger wounds. I have used this on my kids a couple of times. The Dermabond vile is breakable so I wrap it up in my Coflex roll. Gauze is good for bleeding control and bandaging.  Quik Clot has been used for decades by the military and as the name suggests, it controls bleeding with bandage treated with a clotting agent called Kaolin. It’s probably something that I would only use for heavy bleeding miles from the trailhead. The Aquaphor is good for chaffing. Diphenhydramine is for allergic reactions. I occasionally get runner’s knee and ibuprofen not only eases the pain but also helps reduce the inflammation that causes the pain.  The tweezers and pin are for pulling thorns and lancing blisters. Micropore tape is something my wife (who is an RN) brought home from her old job. I think it’s normally used for securing IV’s, but I’ve found it’s awesome for blisters. It’s super breathable so it seems to stay on better duct tape or moleskin. I usually keep a foot or two on my chap-stick so it’s handy.


Survival/ General Use Items




-SOS Signals/Numbers, Helicopter Landing Zone Card

-‘Dermasafe’ razor knife

-‘Maratac’ signal mirror

-Small Compass (REI)

-‘Fox Forty’ MicroWhistle

-Mini Bic Lighter

-3’ duct tape

-Small container of clear zinc (also sunscreen)


-6’ 1.25mm Z-LineDyneema cord (available from

-Toilet Paper (6’ plus 2’ per day for trips longer than overnighters)

-Headlamp (BD Storm)

-Sunscreen .17oz

-Dental Floss and Needle


The SOS/Helicopter Signal Card I received with an order from Brooks Range a while back. It’s pretty basic but it could be useful in an emergency. The razor knife is pretty light duty but works in a pinch. The signal mirror is small and light and has a small cross hairs for sighting in. I don’t carry a GPS as I usually have a good idea where I’m going, but having a small compass on hand has proved helpful a couple of times in really poor visibility. The Micro Fox 40 whistle is super loud and works when it’s wet. I love the Mini Bic lighters because they are small, reliable, and are the same width as a strip of duct tape. I usually wrap a few feet around the lighter for general purpose repairs, first aid, fire starter, or duct tape sunglasses (which I’ve had to make on two occasions, possible future blog post). With 200lb tensile strength the Z-Line Dyneema cord has endless uses. I use this cord on all my guy lines on tents and tarps. I carry my sunscreen is a small .17oz container that I refill with a syringe between trips. A lot of essentials lists call for extra batteries for your headlamp, but with the lengthy burn time on modern LED headlamps, I just don’t find it necessary. Waxed dental floss is pretty strong and can be used to sew things back together. I wish I would have some when a snaffle hound (pack rat) ate half of my rock shoe while I slept before climbing the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart!