In this article, we’re going to pick back up on the Adventure series, which we started in Issue 51 (Mindset, Ideas, and Planning). In that article, I laid out a formula for introducing more adventure into our lives. We looked at exploring the local, natural environment, discussed the Ancient Greek Stoic philosophy in assisting the mindset and dealing with mental blocks. We also addressed some simple strategies for preparing and taking action to make adventure a reality.
Now, in Part 2 of the Adventure Series, I’m going to show how putting together a kit list and packing for an adventure is a relatively simple process when a logical system is followed, and all the fundamentals are covered.
What has proven very useful throughout my years of adventure travel has been to have a day-pack list, which takes into account the basics and essentials required for a twenty-four hour period. Ordinarily, I keep this ready and good to go (think grab bag), preventing any excuses for not having the time to pack. From this base level, I can then upscale the contents to facilitate a longer duration out, extremes in weather, and overnight stays.
I choose a durable pack around the 25-litre capacity and one that I can use as carry-on baggage on a plane. Experience with trial and error has allowed me to move minimally and in light order, while still carrying all the essentials, even over multiple days in temperate climates (Obviously a larger capacity pack should be taken when required).
These six considerations should be the underlying theme when deciding what to carry, choosing items that have multiple uses where possible.
The weather and terrain are key factors with the potential degradation of physical and mental performance when out adventuring. With this in mind, we must mitigate the risk with what we choose to carry while being mindful of limiting the overall weight of the pack.
Our clothing choices are the first consideration, covering the temperamental weather systems associated with the exposed natural environment. A weather-resistant system that allows the body to breathe as well as repelling water and providing a windproof barrier is a must. I recommend trialling it on shorter durations in less remote areas first.
My personal preference for more extreme outerwear and insulation is for natural fibres that retain warmth even when wet, without compromising breathability. Ventile cotton (tightly woven fibres that swell when wet to create a weatherproof barrier) and wool (merino and lambs) make up the more substantial layers and will often remain in my pack during more favourable weather. I tend towards manufactured materials for legwear, footwear, and mid-wear (fleece lining, etc.). Materials that dry quickly and are comparatively lighter in weight are a key consideration when moving at speed.
While we can keep warm with clothing and a sleep system (if out for a longer duration), the ability to start a fire to maintain warmth or boil water for purification or heating food is essential if a survival situation presents itself. Carrying a select few items that will assist in starting a fire initially before adding a fuel source is invaluable. A simple flint and steel with some dry tinder is lightweight, can be waterproofed and forgotten about at the bottom of the pack. For more regular use, a basic cooking system is a worthwhile addition. There are several options with regards to cooking systems and pros and cons for each: gas, methylated spirits, hexamine, gel fuel, and wood stoves are among the most popular.
When venturing out, a good rule of thumb is always to carry one litre of water, and the ability to purify additional sources based on the environment. Obviously, the terrain may dictate that more water needs to be carried, so planning and preparation is paramount. Purification options include water filters, tablets, and boiling. Considerations must be made on the state of the anticipated water source. Think about bacteria and virus risk, animal contamination, and farming nearby (chemical runoff, etc.).
Personal preference will have a strong bearing on what you choose to carry as a food source. Still, some general knowledge with regards to macronutrients and calorie content may assist in the decision. While we burn carbohydrates as our primary fuel source when the intensity is higher, fat is double the calories for the weight, and the body uses it at a lower intensity to fuel the muscles. Protein is important for the upkeep of muscle but should be a lower priority when engaging in more endurance-heavy activities.
A good example of a combination that hits the spot with macronutrients is the classic peanut butter and jam sandwich. Wholemeal bread will provide the slow-release carbohydrates, jam the fast release carbohydrates, and peanut butter provides the fat and a small amount of usable protein. When planning longer adventures, more consideration needs to go into food planning.
How long will it stay edible based on the environment?
Does it need to be cooked, or can it be eaten as it is?
How much waste does it produce, and is there an area to offload it?
It is also preferable to carry some emergency rations with a long shelf-life that don’t require any rehydration or cooking; these should be kept in a small waterproof bag that also contains the emergency fire lighting kit.
A small medical pack that covers minor injuries and ailments should always be carried. Think cuts and abrasions, strains and sprains, sudden onset of debilitating conditions like diarrhoea and vomiting etc. Trauma is another consideration, but this opens up a whole different aspect and carrying too much kit to cover every eventuality can be overkill. Best to judge each situation individually and base the considerations on how remote the area you will be moving through, what the dangers are, etc.
In this day and age, we are far too reliant on technology to assist us, dumbing us down and reducing our capabilities to get in tune with the natural environment to make instinctual decisions. Having a map and compass and the ability to use it is becoming a rarely possessed skill, resulting in emergencies that could have been avoided. GPS systems are a great tool, save a lot of time and make adventure more accessible, but they are no substitute for basic navigation skills and should never be solely relied upon.
I will be making my personal kit list and kit recommendations available to Circuit subscribers in the near future.
Fit for Purpose – Packing for Adventure – Part 2
By: Ryan Naish
Ryan is a former physical training instructor in the Parachute Regiment and now specialises as a movement and outdoor skills coach. He is active in the security industry and also runs seminars and workshops, where he shares his passion for cultivating an active lifestyle that’s fit for purpose.
Follow him on Instagram, @fitforpurpose.ffp, for practical tips and advice.