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Do you carry redundant backups of critical gear?
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Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
RE: Do you carry redundant backups of critical gear? on 08/14/2012 15:03:35 MDT Print View

I basically agree with Dena. There is no right or wrong answer to what any of us should carry as backup, but hearing what others consider essential is very informative. At the very least, It constantly reminds me how grateful I am that I don't have to worry about bears or water purification. The down side is that I worry about getting stuck the wrong side of a swollen river, or large slip that can't be navigated around, or other unexpected and unpredictable weather repercussions. I also choose to worry about an injury that makes me unable to walk out on my own, even though I carry a PLB. Sometimes the weather is bad enough that it can take many days for things to improve enough for rescuers to safely extract me. I have been in these situations, which is why I worry about them. Food I can live without for a long time. Water is never contaminated or hard to find. But keeping warm in one of these situations is critical to me. So spare firelighting supplies are pretty important. A knife not so much. Even day hikes can turn bad quickly, so I even carry emergency keep warm supplies on these. On overnighters or longer of course I have a shelter, sleeping bag and ground insulation. On day trips I carry a rain poncho (doubles as shelter), UL bivy bag, sit pad and a warm jacket, gloves and hat, and firestarting. Many would consider these 'redundant' even though I don't carry two of each, but you only have to get caught out once to appreciate how important they become. My PLB always goes with me too. I also agree that if is often easier to keep warm in colder wather (if there's dry snow around then it is easier to dig a pit and provide dry-ish shelter out of the wind). In cool, wet and windy conditions it can be much harder.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re Do you carry redundant backups of critical gear? on 08/14/2012 15:22:19 MDT Print View

Dena, thanks-

Here are a couple of things I do/use:

I use a mini bic, but have a fire-steel in my kit for back up and it has a small striker (might be a piece of a hacksaw blade or something)

My Swiss Army classic has scissors that I use for cutting most everything, i.e. Moleskin (haven't used in ten years)
Cording and twine, I seem to have to cut open others prepackaged stuff (I use freezer bags), they like my scissors.
I use my fingers to cut duct tape.
For tent stakes I use a stick- they always seem to be sharp on one end or my small blade could do the trick in a pinch, or I use a couple of rocks and a stick as a deadman.
For a spoon, the times when I've forgotten it I was with someone else who happen to have a "redundant" spoon available, but I could have made chop sticks with my small blade.
The scissors could be used to cut down you packaging, maybe not as fast.

Of course all of this is because I hike in a fairly well used and not remote area- refer to my first post- so I don't worry about stuff.

If left to the wilds of Alaska I would probably want something more robust- though when Andrew Shurka did his trip he only used my knife for his whole trip. I guess I would just use what I have out of habit.

Ben H.
(bzhayes) - F

Locale: So. California
Re: Re Do you carry redundant backups of critical gear? on 08/14/2012 15:36:00 MDT Print View

"...what you do that makes it that you don't require a knife?..."


" I don't have my moleskin pre-cut, or my cordage pre-cut, or my duct tape pre-cut..."

I haven't gotten a blister, so I haven't used my mole skin. And if I did, I use donuts, so I guess pre-cut in the package. I don't have the need for cord. If I did have a need for cord, I would try to keep it all together as much as possible, probably because I'm cheap. I've used duct tape once... I tore it with my hands.

I also use the original packaging on freeze dried meals. I just fold down the sides or get my fingers dirty. If the stiff sides bothered me I would re-package into freezer bags. Lighters seem much easier to use than fire steels to me, plus I wouldn't really count that as use of the "knife".

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 15:50:27 MDT Print View

I take 2 lights almost always. I use a Princeton Tec Impulse and I just hook one on my hat on one on my pack. I think they weigh .5 oz. each.

I like to take a few extra Chlorine Dioxide Tablets but have never used them. I always come home with unused tablets. I am drinking more and more untreated water and if I were in an emergency drinking clear water in the Sierra Nevada is just fine.

In response to Dena: I repackage all of my meals. That way I just dump the meal into a tub. No cutting required. I used to hate when I had to eat out of the pouch the meal came in and I would cut it down with a knife (or a scissor would do the same). So, since I really haven't needed a knife for a long time I use either a Dermasafe blade or a single edge razor. I think knives are cool but ever since I left my Mora knife on a log in Yosemite a few years ago I have not traveled with a knife.

I like to have a MiniBic and maybe a few matches but have never used the extra matches.

One other thing: I really prefer Leukotape to moleskin. It sticks much better, can cut without a knife, and you can take what you feel you will need and wrap it around your lip balm or lighter.


Edited by scottbentz on 08/14/2012 15:53:14 MDT.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Thanks for the replies on 08/14/2012 16:16:58 MDT Print View

Tad and Ben- I appreciate your replies on why you don't carry a knife. I doubt I'll ever get to where I don't carry at least a small one but I'm getting more comfortable with the idea of carrying just a small folder.

Scott- thanks in particular for the comment re Leukotape, I will have to check that out. I had heard about it before but can't find it locally, but I see Amazon sells it. I am prone to blisters and maybe this will be the answer. :)

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 17:39:19 MDT Print View

I would also consider a knife to be a redundant item...for me. I DO carry a very small knife to cut salami and cheese, etc...but hardly an essential item that I couldn't live without. However, I always carry a small pair of scissors which I use for many things. Cutting tape that I can't tear with my hands, cutting cord, opening bags, cutting finger nails etc..., but the scissors too I could easily live without in an emergency situation. Sometimes I think it is easy to be swayed by the likes of watching Bear Grylls that a knife, and a decently grunty knife at that, is an absolute essential, but I never put myself in a situation where I have no emergency shelter or fire-starting options, even on a day trip. If I can't cross a river, I will wait for it to go down rather than trying to build a raft. I don't need to hunt/kill/or skin anything. And I don't have the skills and knowledge of a Bear Grylls (or the filming crew). Maybe if I did, I would leave the shelter and PLB at home and just carry a knife instead, make insulation from forest duff and start a fire with friction ;) However, I would be very keen to hear of other uses that folks have found for their knives in situations that I haven't yet encountered...

Jim L
Do you carry backups of critical gear? on 08/14/2012 17:48:22 MDT Print View

Depends on where I'm going and for how long, but usually more than one way to carry water (bladder and bottle, two or more bottles, whatever); a small folding knife for comfort and a dermasafe in my FAK; a couple of ways to make fire; and a second pair of glasses. I know that for some folks that stuff belongs in my next paragraph.

Beyond the first paragraph my backups truly are redundancies and are sequestered in my "don't die in the woods" kit which is where I put backups for my insecurities. To control this some, I put a hard limit on the weight allowed here - currently 8 oz, but it's down from a pound last year. This kit seems to change all the time depending on which insecurity elbows its way to the front of my consciousness. This is stuff like second form of water treatment, backup shelter, an extra unneeded clothing layer, a Real Knife, extra rope, a second compass, extra batteries, etc, etc.

For me, it was like a light bulb switched on when I could unemotionally recognize the difference between what I evaluated rationally as backups versus my packed insecurities. At least now I can work on reducing the insecurity list.


Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 18:57:33 MDT Print View

The only redundant items I carry are fire making materials. Matches and a fire steel w/wax coated jute or cotton string.
I also carry a fixed blade knife most of the time. Especially on a day hike because I have no sleeping bag or tent.
But I have taken bushcraft/survival coarses and feel comfortable that I know how and what Im going to use it for. The most important use is to get at the dry wood in a wet rainy situation so as to start a warming fire if I was in an emergency situation, or even if its not an emergency but I was caught out overnight unexpectedly. Yes I could build a debris shelter and even get a fire going without any tools, but the knife and extra firesteel weigh only a few ounces. That 3-4 ounces would make fire building and shelter building ( shelter is the least likely thing I would need to make)a WHOLE lot easier and faster.
Thats not a small deal in an emergency situation. if I was hypothermic it would make a big difference if I could build a fire faster and with shaky cold hands when everything in the woods is soaking wet.
If I have to wonder the woods for half an hour to find enough dry kindling and decent wood while injured or freezing thats not a good situation. Its so much easier and safer to simply pull out my Mora and split any old stick that happens to be near me and make feather sticks and piles of dry shaving ect,ect, thats worth the few unnoticeable ounces for me.
But I also have carried nothing but small folding scissors on 1-2week hikes (JMT)where Im carrying shelter,sleeping bags and have to travel through the airport ect. I also use my wood burning stove now and its easier to carry my knife and even sometimes my folding saw simply because its so much faster and efficient to get my water boiled with out hunting for dry wood/kindling.
I also live and hike where the fire danger is nothing at all like out west and the biggest problem is wet wood and rain and not dryness and fire hazards.

* I also always carry an extra 1-2 liter platy just in case I need to carry more water for any reason.

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 08/14/2012 19:01:23 MDT.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 20:16:17 MDT Print View

Hi Brian

Just curious if you have ever tried this for real:

"if I was hypothermic it would make a big difference if I could build a fire faster and with shaky cold hands when everything in the woods is soaking wet.
If I have to wonder the woods for half an hour to find enough dry kindling and decent wood while injured or freezing thats not a good situation. Its so much easier and safer to simply pull out my Mora and split any old stick that happens to be near me and make feather sticks and piles of dry shaving ect,ect, thats worth the few unnoticeable ounces for me."

When I have been this cold, with hands shaking uncontrollably, I haven't even been able untie my boots. I can't imagine how I would hold a knife with enough dexterity to make fuzz sticks. Even striking a flint, match or using a butane lighter wasn't easily do-able. Thankfully I had someone else with me who wasn't as cold and could light the fire. However, even shaking as bad as I was, I could (and did) still search for and gather dry wood. This required less coordination than using a a long shot. Not saying YOU couldn't do it, just that I couldn't.

But a fire, however you go about making it, is IMHO the most important thing to make work if you get stuck in a bad situation, not only to keep warm (it is not always cold when a swollen river blocks your way), but also can provide long distance signalling if needed, and I personally also think the psychological benefits of having a fire in times of stress can't be over-rated. I carry a flint, and a stormproof butane lighter, as well as some dry waterproof tinder, even on day walks. That's how important I consider the ability to make a fire. I used to carry stromproof matches, until I got caught in a storm where I really needed them, only to find that the striker I needed to light them couldn't be kept dry long enough to do the job. Then again, I'm not sure it would have made a difference in that situation. The wind and rain were so strong, without any sign of shelter, that I don't know if I could have got the stove to stay lit anyway. The windscreen had disappeared in a gust of windI don't think a fire would have kept burning either. The wind reached gusts in excess of 200km/hour that day, so was not a day that anyone should have been in the area, even in a well-built house! Obviously these winds were not forecast, otherwise we wouldn't have been there...

Jen Churchward
(mahgnillig) - F
Re: Re: Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 20:45:17 MDT Print View

I admit I have quite a bit of redundancy in my kit... but I like to be both prepared and comfortable! I carry waterproof matches & a mini Bic, plus some vaseline soaked cotton balls for reliable firestarting, in addition to my Jetboil. I carry a few water purification tabs in addition to my Sawyer filter. I carry a small folding knife AND scissors... best of both worlds! And I'm probably one of the very few who has actually used pliers on a camping trip... but try getting cholla cactus out of a dog's paw without them! I made a little CYA kit that I carry with me even when I don't have my pack on that contains just the essentials I consider I would need in a dire emergency. I hope I don't have to use them, but it does give me some peace of mind to have them.

Then there are the silly redundancies that probably no-one else has, but that make me happy. I hate drinking different beverages out of the same cup. I use a bladder strictly for water, a small Nalgene for flavoured cold drinks, and an insulated mug for hot drinks. I don't know why... that's just the way I like it. I tried just using one cup and decided I would rather carry the extra weight. I also carry a bowl in which to put my freezer bag meals while I'm eating. I used to dump out the cooked food into the bowl, but now I just put the bag in the bowl and eat from the bag. There's something about eating out of plastic bags that makes me cringe... the bowl goes some way towards relieving that. Plus, there's nothing I hate more than getting the spoon handle all covered in food when eating from a bag... yuck!

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 21:00:53 MDT Print View

"When I have been this cold, with hands shaking uncontrollably, I haven't even been able untie my boots. I can't imagine how I would hold a knife with enough dexterity to make fuzz sticks. Even striking a flint, match or using a butane lighter wasn't easily do-able."

Hi Lynn,

You don't actually need any dexterity to split wood and only need a small amount to male "fuzz sticks". But there's fuzz sticks and then there are fuzz sticks. I mean the way I was I taught you have your hand firmly around the handle no fine motor skills required. I know there are "survival" books and videos out there that show fancy and unrealistic fire making techniques. You could argue that any technique that requires fine motor skills is not a legitimate survival technique.
Even if I was not able to carve good feather sticks its not the end of the world, you can just do the best you can and make a pile of shavings after you split the wood and you still have a good pile of dry shavings even if you can't manage a proper feather stick. So it still works.
But, no thankfully I have never been truly hypothermic and needed to light a fire under high stress while shaking uncontrollably. But I have lit plenty while cold and uncomfortable with little patience to get a fire going already!
So I feel pretty confident I could get one going if need be. But its good to practice before your in that situation! Still, I feel its far better than not having a knife or dry tinder with me. There are no guarantees, just risk reduction.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 21:02:09 MDT Print View

+1 on the when hypothermic you aren't going to have the dexterity to make fuzzy sticks. That was my experience as well.

My redundant / overlapping items:

Fire: the most important to me is to be sure I have a way to start fires. My primary firestarter day to day is a mini-bic lighter which lives in my cook kit. I typically also have a small number of water resistant / wind resistant matches and tinder in my firstaid/emergency bag, and some some sort of fire steel, right now it's a UST Sparkie that typically lives in my pocket. I typically carry some extra fuel (esbits or alcohol) which can be used if i end up wanting to cook something extra or can be a way to quickly get a fire started without having to make a fuzzy stick :)

Water Treatment: I typically use tablets. I bring some extra because they take up almost no room. They can also be the basis of an irrigation wash if someone has a nasty wound.

Sleeping/Clothing Insulation: I bring a quilt or bag which should keep me warm enough to be comfortable (by itself) in expected conditions, and alive in likely worst case situations. I bring clothing that will keep me warm enough while doing low level activities given worst case expected conditions. This means that if everything is dry, I can combine my clothing and sleep gear into a system which keep me comfortable if I get worse case conditions, or alive if one piece of the system gets too wet to function properly.

Battery for camera... because I have found them to be unpredictable.

Map/Compass/Flashlight: I always have a printed map, compass, and flashlight. I also carry my iPhone, which is turned off. The iPhone's primarily a platform for journalling in the evening and reading ebooks... but it has a flashlight app and an GPS app that I pre-cache maps of the areas I will be in. On one trip I dropped my map without realizing it... and used the iPhone for the rest of the trip rather than going back to search for the map.


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 21:30:10 MDT Print View

This is OT, but something I do (occasionally) is to practice making a fire and pitching my shelter using only my non-dominant hand. This is to 'practice' for the unlikely event that one hand or arm is badly injured and becomes unusable. This is why I prefer a butane lighter or a one hand operated flint fire starter. Using a flint and separate steel with one hand is tricky, but can be done with practice. For me, it's just easier to carry things I can use reliably with one hand, I.C.E. Are strike-anywhere matches still available in the US? I wish I could get my hand(s) on some of those!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Do you carry redundant backups of critical gear? on 08/14/2012 21:33:06 MDT Print View


Edited by jshann on 08/16/2012 03:54:21 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 21:37:30 MDT Print View

Lynn, on the first cross-country ski trip of the season, I always ski off on my own, then stop and try to build a fire in the snow. All I allow myself is one butane lighter and one metal Sierra cup. I have to find some burnable wood twigs. The cup is filled with snow, and the fire melts it. As soon as I drink warm water from that, my exercise is done.


Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Redundant Items on 08/14/2012 22:13:54 MDT Print View

I take the matches for the simple reason that they are easier than the firesteel/ tinder method. But I still use the fire steel most. Simply because I like the practice.
I use the matches when Im in a hurry and just don't feel like using tinder.
You can light matches one handed but its certainly a pain, maybe I should practice that?
The reason Im no big fan of lighters is that you burn your hand quickly if you try to light something. A match and certainly tinder can be held longer and even thrown/dropped into some kindling. A butane lighter like the ones made for lighting grills is a good idea because the fire is away from your hand. I would just find a brand that is easy to light or learn how to hack it so the child proofing doesn't make it difficult in a survival situation. I find them a pain to light when at home!
The reason I like the firesteel more than all others is simply because its the most bomber. Its water proof, hard to break, no moving parts, won't run out and can light a huge variety of natural materials thats only limited by your knowledge and skill set. but, ya a butane lighter is easier and a good idea but I will always have a firesteel as a redundancy.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Re: Redundant Items on 08/15/2012 08:51:41 MDT Print View


Diamond makes strike-anywhere matches. I think I found my last batch at the hardware store.

The only thing I will always carry is a backup fire starter. Other redundancies depending on trip and weather are a light source, space blanket, and extra insulation. And extra food, but that's less planned redundancy and more just my eyes being perpetually bigger than my stomach.

Richard Fischel
for me it's on 08/15/2012 13:31:38 MDT Print View

extra days worth of food, fire starter, gloves, socks and sunglasses. I don't go out unless it's pretty cold, preferably with snow on the ground.