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Gear falls under one of ten categories: tool, fire, water, food, clothing, shelter, medical, navigation, communication, and transportation. Do not underestimate the value of these headings: they are the key to thinking straight about what to own and what to buy.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I joined a friend at our favorite dive to drink breakfast and pray for the city. Katie, who had lived there twelve years, said that the people of New Orleans had no field skills and no place to learn them. For that morning, my friend put aside her running joke about how every native Seattle woman has her own chain saw.
Specific items for the field change with technology and the mission. The following is a list of featherweight accessories to carry any time you’re beyond walking distance of home base. They are very good for morale.
Tool: a Swiss Army penknife with tweezers. Airport security makes this expendable. You can improvise a cutting tool by breaking a glass bottle and taping one edge for a handle. Use your head-play safe. Wrap a length of gaffer’s or duct tape around a butane lighter.
Fire: a half-empty butane lighter and a birthday candle.
Water: the bottle is now ubiquitous. Add a small bottle of water purification tablets.
Food: an energy bar or any little something, even a sugar packet or a cellophane packet of crackers.
Clothing: a disposable plastic poncho or plastic garbage bag. Improvise a jacket by cutting arm and neck holes in the bag. Line shoes with produce bags if you get caught in foul weather.
Shelter: a mylar survival blanket, sunscreen, and dark glasses. Carry cash, traveler’s checks, credit card, and spare batteries to use as currency.
Medical: hand sanitizer, a couple of bandages, a needle, pocket tissues, and extra meds.
Navigation: a pinch light with extra battery, spare glasses, and local map.
Communication: a whistle painfully loud in sound and color, a one-inch length of black wax lumber crayon, change for a pay phone with out-of-state contact numbers taped to the back of your principal ID. Lie down to wave at a plane.
Transportation: first-rate foot gear with good insoles and socks for the weather plus the right side bag for daily necessities.