My Rucksack Essentials

Some recent discussions regarding the contents of several colleagues rucksacks got me thinking about one of the most frequent questions I am asked.

What do I carry in my rucksack?

For those who know me well, I always carry my rucksack, even when I am taking a short local walk.  I suppose it could be deemed as my ‘comfort blanket’ but in reality it serves a more important role.  It is my life support system.


With spring/summer approaching, this is the time of year that I change from my winter bag to my summer bag.  I leave behind the specific winter paraphernalia that I like to carry and look forward to a more gentile climate.

I thought this an appropriate time to discuss what I would carry in my rucksack.  The contents can change on a walk by walk basis, depending on what the weather is doing or where I am going.  But there are always items that will remain in my rucksack all year round.

These are the minimum contents, or permanent residents, of my rucksack.

  • Survival bag & space blanket
  • Survival pack including whistle, fire lighter & tampon
  • First Aid kit
  • Kendal Mint Cake & oat bar/trail mix
  • Compass & map
  • Spare socks & boot laces
  • Buff, hat and gloves
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • flexible mini camera tripod
  • mobile phone power pack

So why do I always carry these items?

Survival bag & space blanket – even in the height of summer, an extended emergency situation can lead to loss of body temperature and the on-set of hypothermia.  This is more important if injury is involved as shock can lead to the same outcome.  It is important to remain warm and dry hence the space blanket and the survival bag.  In 50 years of walking I have had to use both items, on other people, and on both occasions it was during the summer.
blanket & bagSurvival pack – this includes a whistle for distress signalling (6 blasts with a 1 minute break) and a fire lighter plus tampon.  Why a tampon I hear you all say?  Well the fire lighter generates sparks which needs something to ignite.  A tampon contains a huge amount of cotton wool compressed into a small space.

Do not waste money on buying snares and fishing lines if you only walk in the UK.  Assuming you have left notice of where you are and when you are due back, rescue in the UK would normally be complete within 12 hours.  It can take several days to effectively set a snare and fishing lines, so why bother.
surv kitFirst Aid kit – the size and contents of your first aid kit depends very much on your skills as a first aider.  There is no point carrying a full set of bandages and slings if you don’t know how to use them.  However, a small pack with plasters, blister patches and aspirin can be very useful to everyone.  In my case I am trained in field first aid and so the contents reflect my requirements.
1st aid kitSnacks – I keep Kendal Mint Cake and a couple of oat bars in my bag.  These are replaced periodically.

Map & Compass – need I say anything!

Hat, gloves, buff socks & boot laces – Even in the summer the temperature can drop especially as evening approaches. Having a hat and gloves is a great why to stay warm.  The same goes for the buff, but this can also be used as a sun shield if it gets too hot.
buffThere is nothing worse than walking with wet feet so I always carry a spare pair of socks.  Having been caught out once with a broken boot lace, I now always carry spare laces.  They can also be used in conjunction with your survival bag to make a simple but effective shelter.
socks and lacesHead torch & spare batteries – getting delayed due to navigation error or injury can mean you are trying to return to your car in the dark.  Carrying a head torch is am important yet easily overlooked item.  However, if you are going to carry a torch, then take spare batteries as well!
head torchTripod & power pack – I tend to be a solo walker, so if I want a decent photograph including myself, I like to use a tripod for my camera.  The one I use has flexible legs which can be bent or wrapped around branches to support the camera.

A common reason for MRT call-out is due to a lack of a phone call from a party running late.  The usual reason for this is flat batteries on your mobile.  I always carry a power pack from which I can recharge my phone if that situation occurs.

Every individual will have different thoughts and needs.  No one person will have the same rucksack contents.  Remember this is my preference not a definitive list, it is also the minimum list.  It does not include all of my waterproof and layered clothing as this is selected on a walk by walk basis.  I have not included drinks as this, again, depends on what I am doing or where I am going.  It will always include a ‘Water-to-Go’ water bottle and maybe a flask or a jetboil stove.

If nothing else, use this as a guide but please remember, there is no such thing as ‘overkill’.  I carry stuff I very rarely, if ever use, but one day it could just save my life or that of someone else.


Ordnance Survey Logo RGB

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s