My Portable, Transferable, Multi-Sport Essentials Kit

I think most backpackers and hikers agree on the importance of the ten essentials, even though we might quibble about what exactly those essentials are.  Here is my list:

  •             Map & Compass
  •             Headlamp
  •             Extra Food & Water
  •             Extra Clothes
  •             First Aid Kit
  •             Pocket Knife
  •             Waterproof Matches & Fire Starter
  •             Whistle
  •             Insect Repellent
  •             Sunscreen

In addition to hiking and backpacking, I also cycle and kayak, often miles from civilization. Therefore, I include most of these ten items in a nylon zippered pouch that I can quickly and easily grab out of my pack to carry on my bike or kayak.

Essentials Together in the Kit Container

I usually carry a map of the area as well as a compass, but I still keep a spare compass in my portable kit. Thanks to an orienteering course and years of navigating by map and compass, I feel more proficient with a map and compass than I do a GPS. I never want to be without a compass.

If I plan to be out overnight, I always take a headlight; however, I keep a spare headlight in this transferable kit because one never knows when they will forget their primary source of light, or it will quit working. Nor does one know when a planned day hike, paddle, or ride will take longer than expected, and they will benighted and need a light source.

I try to always carry some food and water with me whether hiking, cycling, or kayaking, even if only for a couple hours, but I do not keep any water this multi-sport kit, but I do keep a Clif bar. On a couple of rare occasions, I have eaten my emergency ration while out on the trail, and have always been sure to replace it when I get home.

The extra clothes I carry will depend on the weather, time of year, and activity I am engaged in but usually includes at least a wind/rain jacket. I also carry a small and light weight Adventure Medical Kits brand Heatsheets Emergency Bivy in case I need emergency shelter for myself or someone else. While I have never had to use this emergency shelter, it could someday be a lifesaver.

I always carry a separate First Aid kit. The only First Aid item in my portable kit is a generic SAM Splint. Since I practiced with one in a Wilderness First Aid course I am well acquainted with its use. It does take up some room, but is very light weight and could serve as a windscreen for a small fire or stove, and myriad other uses limited only by imagination.

Kit Essentials Spread Out for View

While I usually carry a Swiss Army Knife when hiking and backpacking, and other knives when cycling or kayaking, I still keep a small metal multi-tool in its nylon case in my kit. I have used it more than once, usually for its pliers capability. It also serves as a backup knife in case I forget or lose my primary knife.

For waterproof matches and Fire starter, I carry the UCO brand Survival Matches which include additional striking material as well as a small piece of fire starter in its waterproof plastic case. I once forgot my lighter, which I usually keep with my stove, and these matches served me well. They easily light, burning hot and long. I also carry a small folding fuel tab stove and in a small waterproof container three fuel tabs. I have never “had” to use this but occasionally choose to use it to heat up a cup of soup, hot chocolate or tea on a cold day just so that I can remain proficient in using it.

While most sternum pack straps now contain a whistle built into the buckle and I always have a whistle attached to my PFD, I still carry a small, plastic, inexpensive Coghlans whistle which also contains a small thermometer, compass, and magnifying glass. I have never had to use it and hope I never will.

I do not use a lot of insect repellant but carry some in my kit, a Repel Sportsmen Stick with 30% deet that works like stick deodorant. I also do not use a lot of sunscreen but still keep some Coppertone Sport SPF 55 in a small tube.

In addition to the “essentials” I include an orange cotton bandanna with emergency survival information printed on it. Using a fine line Sharpie, I have also written emergency contact information on it so I will always have it with me. Since bandannas have so many uses and I can so easily forget to bring one, I find peace of mind knowing there is always one in my portable, transferable, multi-sport essentials kit.

While not an “essential” for hiking or backpacking, I also carry an ACR Signal mirror, an essential signaling device for kayaking during the day on open water that could easily come in handy in other situations like an exposed bald or open field during a sunny day. It can also help if I need to see to remove a small foreign object from my eye or otherwise check the appearance of my face.

I also include in my kit a couple pages of Rite in the Rain all-weather paper torn out of a small spiral bound notebook and a pencil in case I need to take notes or leaves a message.

In addition to the above I carry a small monocular for better seeing distant objects, a small thermometer in an aluminum case, and a plastic spork. I have used the monocular to read distant signs. I  have used this thermometer to check water temperature when kayaking and before crossing a stream while hiking as well as to track the high and low air temperature while backpacking. I have used the spork on day hikes in the winter when I made a warm beverage but forgot to bring a spoon. I keep them in my kit because they are small and I could easily misplace them otherwise.

Keeping all these items in my portable, transferable, multi-sport essentials kit keeps me from having to look for them separately every time I head out onto the trail, be it cycling a rail trail, kayaking a water trail, or backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.

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