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What Gear Do I Need in My Daypack?

Outside magazine claims that a reader wrote in to ask “What Gear Do I Need in My Daypack?” It’s answer shocked me, and reaffirmed why I don’t read Outside magazine.

Go look. OK, you don’t feel like giving Outside magazine the click? Fair enough. To adapt a phrase from Joan Jett, I hate myself for clicking them, too. I’ll just list some of the more egregiously ludicrous items:

  • $50 underwear – Because adventures are born from overpriced undies.
  • $140 sunglasses – They’ll save your life. OK, maybe not. Scratch that: Definitely not.
  • Ultra-light quarter socks – Anything less than Darn Tough socks are foolish. These flimsy things will have holes in them inside of three months.
  • $40 sandals – Oh, just cross the stream barefoot. You’ll be fine. (What’s that, Outside? “The Therm-a-Rest footbeds feel like they’re massaging your feet?”)

Here are the fairly legit items:

  • A handful of Kind bars – Everybody needs food. But you’re better off cranking out homemade batches of pemmican. Or just getting some nuts and dried fruit.
  • A Bic lighter with duct tape wrapped around it – Better yet, wrap your duct tape around a Nalgene bottle. And skip the lighter … get yourself some flint and learn how to use it.

Here are the only items I agree with, no strings attached:

  • A decent day pack – Fairly obvious, right?
  • A Petzl headland – Always a must.
  • Sunscreen – Well, yeah.

Outside magazine, in its rush to load expensive items from its advertisers into its “What Gear Do I Need in My Daypack?” list, left out some potential life-savers.

  • A high-quality fixed-blade knife – Too many uses to list.
  • Tincture of iodine 2% – Good for disinfecting water and treating wounds.
  • Something to cover your head – Hat, bandana, shemagh, whatever. All have multiple uses.
  • At least a small first-aid kit.
  • I already mentioned flint and a Nalgene bottle.
  • Some knowledge – You can’t really put it in your pack. Learn before you go.

Look, this stuff is important. How many stories have you heard about people being unprepared when a “simple day hike” turns pear-shaped? You need warmth. You need shelter. You need calories. The items in your pack should give you a fighting chance to create some of these on the fly. Fifty-dollar underwear can’t do that; get caught unprepared, and your ass will be just as dead in it as someone wearing used Fruit of the Looms from a Goodwill store.

In a future post, I’ll break down everything in my pack for my own solution to the “What Gear Do I Need in My Daypack?” question.

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