Whats in my backpack?

outdoor clothing

Being prepared doesn't always have to apply to natural or man-made disasters.  Being prepared should be a way of life no matter what you do.  If you are a hiker, hunter, fisherman, camper, etc.  You should always have a bag of goodies in your backpack or other pack, just in case things don't go as planned.

Each activity is different, but I will share what I carry in my backpack and who knows, it could get you out of a sticky situation in the Great Outdoors someday.   My bag of goodies was developed from a list called the Ten Essentials, originally developed by a group of outdoors men in the Northwestern United States in the 1930s.

It has since been adapted to almost every outdoor activity, as the list applies to all.  You should always carry:


A map of the local area (in a waterproof package) can be very helpful whether you are familiar with the area or not.  I always carry a good compass to help get my bearings, no pun intended.

survival kit map and compass pb

Compasses, unlike GPS units, require no batteries and work well in all conditions, wet, dry, or in between.

Sun protection

A good pair of sunglasses is always good to have, even if you leave the house on a cloudy day.

Who knows if conditions might change? Sunscreen is another must.  Even in the dead of winter sunscreen is good to have on hand as you can receive a sunburn anytime of year.


Although as I write this, here in Texas, it is overcast and cool in winter.  You never know when that crazy front will come in.  It's always good to have a warm fleece or windbreaker/rainjacket (or both) in your pack, just in case the weather makes a turn for the worse.


If you are like me, you can underestimate how long a hike or outdoor trip might take.  You might plan on being home way before dark, but Fido runs off, and you have to find him, or you just spend a little too much time admiring the scenery, and it gets dark.

flashlight maglite light lamp flashlight power pb

For this category, I pack a headlamp for hands-free illumination, with a backup regular flashlight, and maybe an emergency candle or two.  You never know when those might come in handy.

First-aid supplies

I am certainly not talking about an expedition level kit, but it is not a bad idea to have a basic kit in your pack in case you or someone else has an accident.

bandages first aid pb 4

It might not be a bad idea to get some basic first aid/CPR training to go along with that kit as well.


Just like illumination, it's a great idea to carry multiple methods of fire starting.  Waterproof matches in a waterproof container, a lighter, and some of those candles mentioned above are good ideas to have with you.  You can also carry some tinder with you like dryer lint in a waterproof container.

Repair kit and tools


A great compact tool kit is a multi-tool, like a leatherman.  A Leatherman is not the only game in town of course, as many manufactures are out there in the multi tool arena.

I always carry a pocket knife with me for cutting jobs, some safety pins, a short length of paracord, and a bit of duct tape rolled up on a broken pencil.  All of those items should help me complete any minor repairs on the trail.


Even if I am going out for the day for some fishing, a hike or a bike ride, I usually take some extra food with me.  Good lightweight compact choices, such as trail mix, granola bars, or energy bars like Cliff Bars, are good to have in your pack.  Even better, you can carry full meals like MREs with you that have everything you need for an entire day.


I drink copious amounts of water when outside in Texas, as It's usually hot.  Most of my day packs will accept hydration bladders and have space for two or more water bottles as well.

It's a good idea to have alternative means to acquire water as well, such as filtration systems or purification tablets, in case your supply runs out.

Emergency shelter

More often than I like to admit, a day trip I had planned turns into an overnight trip.  It's not a bad idea to carry something to make shelter, such as a tarp, emergency blanket, or bivy.  You never know when something might extend your trip.

Build an Overnight Shelter | How to Survive in the Swamp

By keeping a cache of these supplies I went over, you should be prepared for almost anything that might happen while enjoying your outdoor adventure.  Put some of that Christmas money to good use and pick up some things you might be missing in your own kit.

Please comment below if you enjoyed the article or have other suggestions to add to the list.

Learn more with these related articles from our site:

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 18, 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.


25 Responses to :
Whats in my backpack?

  1. mariowen says:

    Great list of things to have on hand. I thought I had thought through the BOB necessities, but you have brought up several things that I hadn’t even thought of. Now I need to go back through my bag and re-evaluate what should be added. Thanks for this great information. The problem is keeping everything you need in a weight that I can handle.

    1. Charles Witt says:

      Good artical covered the basics well in a stright forward no BS way,

  2. Walter Smith says:

    You never mentioned an axe, or a hatchet. Also some fish line and a couple of hooks can score you a tasty meal if needed.

  3. Bruce Boldenow says:

    For fire starters, an invention/discovery of my own, take a book of paper matches, open it and drip candle wax until it’s covered/soaked. Close it while the wax is still soft (carry some in a ziplock). When you need one, the cover, being wax covered itself, will light, or fold out a couple of wax covered matches and light. Between the wax and all those paper matches, you get the hottest fire starter I have found, especially for the space.

  4. Lonna Bertelli says:

    How about some pain relievers, bug spray/wipes, lip balm, extra socks, etc.?

  5. Darrell Baldwin says:

    All Good Ideas! A few things to consider; Good dry boots, 1 mini-entrenching tool to make a trench around your tarp tent to keep water away from your dry bed.
    Mini battery operated lantern last a long time and uses very little battery power.
    A 22-380or9mm pistol w/xtra mags/bullets & maybe a small rifle, according to the situation.
    A machete or hatchet & folding limb saw.
    Zip-locks full of instant coffee & oatmeal & soup packets.
    Lots of zip-locks, garbage bags, grocery bags & produce bags. The produce bags can be worn over socks in wet weather and are easily packed into one zip-lock.
    To filter water, take several produce or zip-lock bags filled with 2-inch small rocks, then 2-inch larger rocks, then fill with sand to filter water. A small hole in the bottom allows water to escape.
    Along with a compass, a small trail GPS w/extra batteries if I need to locate my actual trail.
    A multi-purpose knife set that includes several type of blades from a skinner to filet blades but one handle in a light weight wrap.
    Roll clothing and store & pack in Zip-lock bags from 1qt to-2Gal.
    50-100ft of military surplus parachute cord is great to hang & tie tarps, hang clothes, lights, garbage etc.
    Water proof pelican boxes to store anything from matches & cigs to a computer or even a gun, some hang on D-rings from your pack.
    A telescopic fishing rod with tackle bag or mini box with hooks, lead, swivels, plastic worms, beetle spins and rooster tails will feed you.
    A small lightweight camp cook/eat set of some kind & canteen.
    Good expandable back-pack w/pockets that distribute the weight properly to ease the load on your back.

  6. Roy Teter says:

    Take both matches and a lighter. Matches draw water and lighters need to be kept warm in cold weather because gas lighters need to evaporate to light.

  7. DHConner says:

    I must agree with the comment about the hatchet. A heavy knife, with a 1/4″ thick blade 9″ long is just as good and easier to carry. A smaller- 4″-5″ – blade camping style knife is always a good tool for the medium size jobs. And a Victorinox SwissChamp or SwissChamp XLT finishes out what I have found for the last 50 years to be a very useful and not overly burdensome trio of blades. A zip loc bag with a stip or two of magnesium foil shavings is also useful-if at 5400 degrees you can’t get it to burn, you are in serious trouble. They can be wrapped around the higher quality lifeboat matches to produce a seriously hot flame. Naturally, you will carry your block of magnesium and it’s striker, won’t you? And a light wool blanket and a foil-face survival sheet. Very little room or weight, and in an unexpected rainstorm will keep you warm and dry. Some good clothes pins (the spring type) or line-totent clamp fasteners will keep things to gether. Don’t forget the water and some munchies. With a good reflecting fire facing the open end of your shelter and a nice warm blankie aand some water and food, you will be in pretty good shape for the night.

  8. Ned says:

    For fire, small fresnel lenses are available as bookmarks, etc. As long as the sun is shining you will have fire, and they won’t break like a magnifying glass. And much, much lighter.

  9. Ed Noce says:

    I ordered a book from you folks one month ago and still have not received it. Can you tell me why ?
    What’s going on, did I waste my money ? I enjoy your web page, I hate to see that you are dishonest.

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Ed,
      Please check your email I have had the customer service department respond to you. It should be coming from [email protected]

      Please check your spam folder if you don’t see it

      Let me know if you still have any issues

  10. Barbara Ingersoll says:

    I never leave home without my dog so don’t forget his food and collapsable water and food bowls. Short and long leash, jacket and treats.

  11. Ann davis says:

    A whistle is essential, light and small. If you get lost in the bush you will soon run out of shouting power but you can always blow a whistle

  12. Jay says:

    Take a snack bag of chips–not for eating, but they make a good fire starter, even when wet. Also take a bit of survey tape for marking trails.

  13. Dean says:

    Don’t forget a little toilet paper. Sometimes it is necessary to go where ever you are.

  14. d'Lynn says:

    A good quality poncho is great for several uses., not only for it’s intended purpose of covering you and your pack in the rain/snow. With a little practice you can make a great lean-too., or small tent.

  15. Jake says:

    This is a great list of items to have in your backpack. Here is a review of a Geigerrig 1600 Backpack which has there patented on suck hydration system http://www.survivalbased.com/survival-blog

  16. Marv says:

    You forgot the MOST important item you could have taken with you…. your FIREARM!! Will save your life!! Disagree if you want, but you would be WRONG!

  17. Chuck says:

    I never go on a hike unless I have enough supplies with me to stay overnight. I may not be planning on staying over night, but as the original article pointed out, especially this time of year it is easy to get caught out after sunset. Cloud cover comes in and suddenly although sunset is an hour away, it is dark. I don’t waste weight carrying fishing line and hooks. I carry a couple extra Cliff bars or something along that line. Here in SoCal, unless you are really high in the mountains, trying to catch a fish is a waste of time. I can use that time better lighting a fire, setting up shelter and doing other things to make spending the night more comfortable. Think about using local materials for implements. Someone mentioned an E-tool, but unless you know that you are going to have to do heavy digging, you can dig a cat hole with a stick. You can trench around your shelter with a heavy stick. If you carry something like a Leatherman, the saw blade on the L-man will cut all the branches you need for your fire. You can use the cutting blade for cutting shavings to start your fire. If it is really cold, put your water inside your shirt next to your body. Do the same with your lighter. At the Cold Weather Training Battalion in Sonora CA, with the USMC, at meal time we had to choose which meal we wanted for the next meal. It went between our shirt and undershirt so that it would be warm by the time we wanted to eat it and would be easier to heat. Canteen went there as well as your next sock change. Heating food that is frozen solid takes a long time and uses a lot of fuel.

  18. Nanook says:

    #1. remember you are going to be carrying what you pack. Some of the comments that have been left do not take that into account.
    #2. A very important issue is signaling equipment such as whiste, signal mirror, walkie talkie, strobe light, chem lights for signaling. I could keep going, but won’t. Stay on task. The goal is survival, not creature comfort.

  19. Jim says:

    An Army poncho is an excellent item to have stuffed in your back pack. The grommets and snaps make it useful for all kinds of things. Use some para cord to string it up between to trees to use as a shelter and use sticks as tent pegs to anchor it to the ground. Giving it a tent shape. Only have 1 tree? Use your backpack frame as the other “tree”. Fold in half, snap it together and add 2 long sturdy sticks and you have an emergency litter. Use it to move pine needles or leaves for bedding. Not to mention as rain gear.

  20. Greg from Trail Crew says:

    A good light weight fire starter is: cotton ballls with vaseline. burns like jet fuel. Put several in a plastic vial like your prescriptions come in!

  21. Dave B says:

    I think the best thing to take along is education and experience.

    Too many people feel that to spend an unplanned night in the outdoors is a life or death fight for survival.

    With a bit of education and experience, one learns to accept nature and her environmental tempers and enjoy the unexpected as serendipity rather than adversity.

    Yes, technology and tools can be helpful, but nothing will help if you panic, or just don’t know what to do with your “stuff”, when you find yourself in a “situation”.

    I practice minimalist (not ultralight) camping and intend to teach my grandson this season.

    Remember, you’re only lost when you have to be someplace else…

    1. d'Lynn says:

      Dave B – a great quote i’ve carried around wih me for decades when people ask aren’t I afraid of getting lost when I solo backpack in remote areas. “Lost? LOST!? I may be powerfully confused for a month, or so.., but never ‘lost’.”

      .., and I agree with your post. If you have a bug-out bag., have you actually sat down and used any of the items? Have you even tried to practise and be familiar with what needs to be done? Education and experience are more important then a bag full of things you have no idea how they work and/or under what conditions.

      1. Dave B says:

        d’Lynn… Exactly, and the older I get the more confused I might be from time to time, but lost? Not likely.

        There are numerous accounts of people being found dead right to all the stuff they needed to “survive”.

        Survival appears to be more a state of mind than a physical preparedness.

        I say, if you feel “at home” in the wilderness, then you won’t be so prone to panic and poor decision making (as long as your feeling is based on experience and not just book knowledge).

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