Last But Not Least (Ten Essentials)

Last but not least…… (Ten Essentials #10)

The last thing on my personal list of Ten Essentials is a small ditty bag that I think of as my “McGuyver Bag”.  In addition to other Essentials like fire starter, a lighter, and a head lamp, I carry a small assortment of things that I might need to repair my gear and keep myself safe.

Number one in the bag is duct tape.  I wrap a long strip of it around a small pencil so that it is always accessible.  The pencil has come in handy many times when I have needed to leave messages for other hikers in my party, and unlike a pen, will always work.  If the tip breaks off? Well, that is just another use for my knife, right?  J  As for the duct tape, I use it to repair gear, cover hot spots on my feet and close up tears in my rain gear.  It really is true….you can do a million things with duct tape!!

The other thing that always lives in my backpack is dental floss.  I take it out of the plastic box that it comes in and throw it in the ditty bag, where it takes up no room and weighs next to nothing.  Why dental floss?  Because it is really, really strong and can be used to repair just about anything.  Add some duct tape and you might just be able to save the world!!  J

No emergency kit is complete without a space blanket.  We have talked about these before, but you truly cannot beat them for warmth and, in a pinch, extra shelter.  My tent site once flooded in on a cold November night, drenching everything I owned, (including my down sleeping bag).  I spent the night shivering wrapped in my black trash bags and space blanket.  Would I have actually died without them?  I have no idea, but they truly made a difference in my experience that night!

Finally, I always carry iodine tablets for an extra source of water purification.  I usually don’t believe in carrying more than one item for a particular purpose, but when it comes to starting a fire and making water safe to drink, I always carry backup.  Iodine tablets and fire starter are just too small and light to not carry.

You might want to extra medication that you are taking to your emergency bag, as well as small things that you personally find necessary.  The most important thing is that you carry these along with the other 10 Essentials each and every time you go out on a hiking trail.  Like they say, “an ounce of prevention” and all that.  Carrying these items and taking the extra precautions listed here go a long ways towards showing yourself and the rest of the hiking community that you belong out there and that you are doing everything in your power to be a responsible outdoors woman.

What did I leave out?  What else do you carry in your emergency bag?

Send me a message and let me know!

Anna aka mud butt

I.C.E. (Ten Essentials)

I.C.E. (Ten Essentials #9)


Most of you have probably received the email floating around out there asking you to add an ICE entry in your cell phone address book.  I.C.E. stands for “In Case Of Emergency” and gives emergency workers an idea of who to call if you are in trouble.

Well, in the back country it is always essential to have something in your pack that has your pertinent information on it.  What exactly is pertinent?  It should have your name and address to start, and a couple of people that you would want contacted in case you need help.  Also, put any known allergies you have, including medications that you are allergic to.  Finally, put any medical conditions that you have, including whether you wear contact lenses or not.

This card, like so many other things in your backpack, falls under the category of ‘karmic insurance’.  I mentioned this in the post regarding headlamps and flashlights and it is fairly self-explanatory.  If you carry it, you might not ever need it!  J  But it is definitely something that every responsible hiker should carry.  Assume that you cannot speak for yourself….this card needs to speak for you.

This card works in conjunction with the hike plan that you filed with someone back home. Between those two items, if you should become lost or injured on the trail, you will have the quickest chance of being located.  And finally, consider throwing your driver’s license, a little money and your insurance card in with your ICE card.

Here is to never needing a card like this, but to being a responsible hiker that does the right thing!!

Anna aka Mud Butt


We Can Start A Fire! (Ten Essentials)

We Can Start A Fire!!  (Ten Essentials #8)

Cloud Canyon Day 1 10-18-08 (20)

If you ever find yourself stranded in the woods at night, the one thing that will make the biggest difference in your comfort, and possibly survival, is warmth.  You must find a way to stay warm.  In other posts we have talked about using a black trash bag and extra clothes to stay warm.  These are very important, but your best bet will be to start a fire.  Not only will it keep you warm, it will raise your spirits greatly!

Unless you find yourself on some sort of reality TV show, gone are the days of rubbing two sticks together to make a fire.  You should always carry items in your pack to make starting a fire fairly easy.  The items that I always have with me are a lighter, waterproof matches, and fire-starter.  These are all items that you can find in your local outdoor store.  I started with an empty film canister and put fire-starter pellets and water-proof matches in it so that they were all in one place together and would stay dry.  There are also several different fire-starters that you can make yourself.  Dryer lint, itself, makes a great fire starter, as does cotton balls dunked in Vaseline.

Making the fire itself is a topic for another day,  but in the meantime, make sure you are carrying all of the right ingredients to make one!

What do you carry for emergency fire starting?  Comment below and let us know!

Anna aka Mud Butt

Being On The Cutting Edge (Ten Essentials)

Being on the Cutting Edge…..  (Ten Essentials #7)


While you are stocking up your backpack, don’t forget to throw in a knife of some sort.  When it comes to a knife, you only need one and I strongly suggest that you get one that folds into its handle……otherwise, reaching into your backpack could get very interesting!  For most hikers, a small Swiss-army knife or Leatherman does the trick. The idea is to have something that will meet all of your hiking needs without weighing too much or taking up too much space.

What kind of “knife needs” does your typical hiker have?  Well, I have used my knife to facilitate pack repairs in the field, trim off the bottoms of too-long hiking pants, slice through duct tape, and cut off hunks of beef jerky for lunch.  J  In short, I use my knife fairly regularly for all sorts of things.   What will you NOT need your knife for?  You will not need your knife for cutting branches off of living trees or carving your initials into anything.

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to exercise all sorts of caution when you are using your knife.  It would be really nice if your use of a knife on a hiking trip did not also necessitate your use of your first aid kit! J  If you use your knife regularly to prep your food, make sure to clean it completely so that it doesn’t end up carrying all sorts of bacteria.

Finally, when shopping for a knife keep in mind your own particular needs.  For instance, I have used the scissors and tweezers on my knife many times, but never needed the file.  You don’t necessarily need “40 tools in one”.  Look at your own personal needs, the weight and size of knife you want to carry and purchase accordingly.  For me, anything longer than 2-3 inches is overkill.

Have fun knife shopping!

Anna aka Mud Butt

I See The Light!! (10 Essentials)

I see the light!!!  (Ten Essentials #6)


Let’s get back to these essentials…..

One item that I never leave home without is a headlamp or small flash light.  For me, this falls into the category of, ‘if I carry it on day hikes, I will insure that I never, ever need to use it”!  Kind of like a karmic insurance policy!  Even if you never intend to stay out after dark, you should carry some form of light source.

I prefer a headlamp because I always use one backpacking and I love the ‘hands free’ aspect of it. If the sun goes down while I am still on the trail….something that has happened to me many times….I can turn on my head lamp and keep on trekking.  It doesn’t interfere with my ability to hike with two poles and provides a nice warm pool of light wherever I look.  One of my favorite headlamps can be found here

Carrying a flashlight will work just as well, but a note of warning….always carries extra batteries.  Flashlights and headlamps have a way of turning themselves on while rumbling around in your pack, thus running the batteries out without you ever being aware of it.

If you are out hiking and it looks like you might be on the trail as the sun goes down, go ahead and get your light out, and check the batteries, before the sun actually goes down.  In the late afternoon, it is not unusual to see backpackers striding up the trail with a headlamp hanging around their necks.  Trust me, there is nothing worse than having to dig around in your pack in the dark, trying to find your light.  I take that back……it is worse when you find the light and realize the batteries are flickering and about to die.  Changing those batteries in the dark is a real pain!!

A note about night hiking in general….. Give it a try sometime!  A lot of women are scared of the idea of hiking in the dark, but it can be really wonderful.  Once the sun goes down, put off turning on your light as long as you can, because once you do, it will kill any night vision you had to begin with.  But if the trail is rugged or hard to see, go ahead and train your light down towards your feet.  For me, hiking at night is much calmer than hiking during the day.  All you can see is that warm, yellow pool of light at your feet, and all you need to worry about is what is in that pool.  As the woods wake up around you, you will hear all kinds of new noises, but never fear… is just the animals waking up and going about their business.  They won’t bother you.

Don’t forget to look up periodically for trail signs and crossings, as they can be easy to walk by in the dark.  But while you are actually walking through the dark, enjoy being a part of the forest that few ever get to enjoy.  Have you ever hiked at night?  Post a comment below and tell us what it was like for you….

Anna aka Mud Butt